The Roles Of Traditional Rulers In National Development

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The Roles Of Traditional Rulers In National Development


This research work is centred on ‘’The Role of Traditional Rulers in National Development with a case study of ‘’The Maigari of Lokoja. The major objective of the work is to access the impact of traditional rulers in nation building, primary and secondary sources of data were used while simple percentage method was used in analyzing the data. The findings revealed that traditional rulers contributes to national development, equally that they are an agent of change in the society. At the end of the research, the researcher recommended that: traditional ruler at present and in future be allowed a conducive environment to perform their operational roles towards the conventional nation building.

Chapter One


1.1 Background to the Study

Nigeria traditional rulers often derive their title from the rulers of independent states or communities that existed before the formation of modern Nigeria.

Although they do not have formal political powers in many cases they continue to command respect from their people and have considerable influence within their domain and the people.

Modern Nigeria encompasses lands traditionally occupied by highly diverse ethnic groups with very different languages and traditions. In broad terms, the southeast including the Niger Delta was occupied mainly by Igbos and related people, the Southwest by Yoruba and related people and north by Hausa and Fulani people, with a complex intermingling of different ethnic groups in the middle belt between north and south.

Before the arrival of the British in the late 19th century, the history of the area was turbulent, with periods when empires such as those Oyo, Kanem-Bornu and Sokoto gamed control over large areas, and other periods when the state were more fragmented.

Although political structures different widely between different ethnic groups, it was common for each town or collection of towns to have a recognized ruler, who might in turn be subordinate to the ruler of a large polity.

Thus the Sokoto caliphate wad divided into emirate, with the emirs loosely subordinate to the Sultan of Sokoto, although at times, acting as independent rulers.

Europeans had long traded with the coastal, primarily exchanging cotton and other manufactured goods for slaves and palm oil products at centres such as Calabar, Benin and Lagos. The Niger Coast Protectorate was established in 1891 holding a small area along the coast.

During the period 1879-1900, the Royal Niger Company made a concerted effort to take control of the interior, using disciplined troops armed with the maximum and making treaties of ‘’protection’’ with the local rulers.

The company’s territory was sold to the British Government in 1900, with the Southern region merged with the Niger Coast Protectorate to become the Southern Nigeria Protectorate and the Northern Nigeria Protectorate remaining separate.

In 1914 the two were merged into the colony and protectorate of Nigeria, with roughly the same boundaries as the modern state of Nigeria.

The first British High Commissioner for Northern Nigeria, Fredrick Lugard, tried to rule through the traditional rulers, and this approach was later extended to the south. Lugard’s successor Hugh Clifford left this system in place in the north, where the emirate system had long traditions, but introduced a legislative council with some elected numbers in the south, relegating the traditional rulers to mainly symbolic roles.

Overtime, the relationship between the colonial administration and the traditional rulers evolved. For example the Tive people, the fourth largest ethnic group, had always been extremely decentralized with no single ruler. The British created the office of Tor Tive in 1947, appointing Makere Dzakpe as the first builder of the title in order to have a ‘’TRADITIONAL RULER’’ to speak for Tiv people.

With independence in 1960, followed by alternating democratic and military governments, the status of the traditional rulers evolved even further. In the north, the emirs finally lost power to the government administration, through said administration was often staffed by traditional notables.

Where rulers had previously acquired office strictly through inheritance or through appointment by a council of elders, the government now increasingly became involved in the succession. Thus, in May 1994, the military ruler General Sani Abacha deposed subsequently reinstated in January 2000.

In some cases, the government has merged or split traditional domains. For example, there had been two rulers of the Efik people in the area around Calabar, but in December 1970, it was agreed to combine the office into a single one that was to be held by a ruler known as the Obong.

The government has maintained colonial classifications. Thus the appointment of monarch are attached with grades and level of monarch into FIRST GRADE, SECOND GRADE and THIRD GRADE Monarch.

Traditional ruler today are still highly respected in many communities, and have considerable political and economic influence. Although, they have no formal role in the democratic structure, there is intense competition for royal seats amongst the finite pool of eligible dynast.

The rulers plays useful roles in brokering between the people and the state, enhancing national identify resolving minor conflicts and providing an institutional safety-value for often inadequate state bureaucracies.

One reason for their influence may be that the people of many ethnic groups have limited ability to communicate in the official English Language; so the traditional ruler serves as an interpreter and spokesperson.

1.2 Statement of Problems

The utmost concern of this study is to examine the major or primary roles of traditional rulers in national development.

Nigeria had hoped to attain or achieve a sustainable development since the attainment of independence to build a strong, self reliance and initial nation with a great and dynamic economy, it is also hoped to resuscitate the economy with a just and egalitarian society and a land of bright full opportunity for all citizens.

However the study will proffer answers to some fundamental questions like;

  1. To what extent are the roles of traditional rulers in the attainment of national development.
  2. How effectiveness of the roles played by traditional rulers to the grassroots development.
  3. What are the political, economic and socio-cultural implications of the roles of the traditional rulers to the development of a nation.

1.3 Aims and Objectives of the Study

The aims and objectives of this study are manifold. They include;

  1. To provide a better understanding on the concept of traditional institution, it roles, potentials and relevance as an agent of national development.
  2. To look at the short comings and problems faced by the traditional rulers and how to proffer lasting and enduring solution to them.
  3. To examine the landmark achievement of a particular traditional ruler in Kogi State (The Mai-Gari of Lokoja) in the course of its impacts in the development of a nation.

1.4 Significance of the Study

This research project is significant in a numbers of ways, it offers a basis for further academic discourse and the extension of the frontier of knowledge in the area of study.

It acts or serves as a form of handbook for historian, policy makers and administrators in general especially towards the formation of effective policies needed for national growth and development.

The research work also gives insight into the operations, potentials and necessity of the traditional rulers in national development

The significance of this study can also be seen in the topically of issue and its contentions nature.

1.5 Research Hypothesis

In the words of Asika (2000:14), hypothesis can be defined as ‘’a prediction or a conjecture stated well in advance of observation (or actual collection of data), about what can be expected to occur under stated or given conditions’’. As for Ofo (1999:45), hypothesis could mean ‘’a prediction or expectation about the differences or relationships between variables identified in the problem to be studied’’. In the case of Omolaye (1986), he views hypothesis as ‘’a suggested answer to the identified problem under investigation’’.

With the understanding of the concept of hypothesis, the following are the hypothesis formulated for the testing.

  1. Ho: Traditional rulers as an agent of grassroots development has significant roles to national development
    Hi: Traditional rulers as an agent of grassroots development has no significant roles to national development
  2. Ho: The existence of traditional rulers brings about development
    Hi: The existence of traditional rulers does not bring about development.

1.6 Scope and Limitations of the Study

The scope of this study embraces a consideration of the operation, impact and potentials of traditional rulers, it contribution to the national development.

However, the study is limited by factors, such as time constraints, financial impediment (No enough fund to guarantee access to some sources of information and all information in this research project is obtained within the confines of data the researcher is disposed to:

1.7 Definition of Terms

The key words or idea utilized in the research work have their own operational definition as to give insight to the subject matters. They are;

Traditional ruler:

This refers to as the traditional head of ethnic unit or clan and whose title is recognized as a traditional ruler by the government of the state.


The process of economic and social transformation that is based on complex cultural and environmental factor and their interactions.

National development:

National development refers to the ability of a country or countries to improve the social welfare of the people, this can also mean the expansion and growth of people in an area or government.

1.8 Organization of Work

This research work, The Role of Traditional Rulers in National Development, a case study of the Maigari of Lokoja encompasses the standard project guide with five chapters.

The chapter one which is the introduction has the following sub-headings, background to the study, statement of problems, aims and objectives of the study, significance of the study, scope and limitations of the study, research hypothesis, definition of concepts, organization of work and references.

The chapter two of this research work, which is the literature review covers the concept of traditional institution, meaning and operations of traditional rulers, history of Nigeria traditional rulers, concept of development, concept of national development, the roles of traditional rulers in national development, appraisal and summary of literature review and reference.

The chapter three of this research work is the research methodology, with the following sub-headings. Source of data collection, method of data collection, sampling method, population of the study, research design and problem of data collection and references.

The chapter four of the study focuses on the data presentation, data analysis, discussion of findings, and references

The chapter five, holds summary, conclusions and recommendations, it also contain the reference, bibliography and appendix including questionnaire.

Chapter Five

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Introduction

It is important to ascertain that the objective of this study was to ascertain the role of traditional rulers in national development.

In the preceding chapter, the relevant data collected for this study were presented, critically analyzed and appropriate interpretation given. In this chapter, certain recommendations made which in the opinion of the researcher will be of benefits in addressing the challenges of the role of traditional rulers in national development.

5.2 Summary

This work examines the role of traditional rulers in national development. It realized that traditional leaders are not highly recognized in the Kogi state, unlike the traditional leaders of some other tribes like Yoruba, Edo, Hausa, etc. But in Kogi state traditional leaders can be regarded as embodiment of local custom in administratively defined autonomous communities, they act as patrons and mediators within the community and serve as transmission belt for government policies into a local sphere. Although among them are numerous wealthy businessmen with excellent official connections, but majority of them claim that they are just successful farmers. Within them are the descendants of colonial warrant chiefs claiming a hereditary character for their position, but there are also numerous traditional leaders whose selection was based on support by their town union members, and who seem to view their office in more humble terms, as an honour given by the community. The study equally looked at the symbolism employed by them and also their characters, the Igbo land traditional leaders are more of civil servants and have their private businesses. They received formal education and are adherents of the Christian religion. They combine Democratic leadership style with autocratic, style. They use imbibed local and foreign symbols. Their leadership style has in most cases no traditional roots.

5.3 Conclusion

In this study, the various definitions of a traditional ruler are given. The role of traditional rulers in the sustenance of our democracy cannot be over emphasized. The traditional rulers play a vital role in maintaining law and order in our society. This is achieved specifically by the settlement of land disputes in their various communities as presented in this paper. Land disputes if not properly handled with create problems of unimaginable proportions. By being closer to the people, and by virtue of the respect people have for the traditional institutions, the task of settling disputes has gone a long way in maintaining and sustaining peace in the country. The government both at the federal, state level have found it necessary to effectively use traditional rulers for promoting peace among the various communities. A lot of government programmes are carried out with massive support of traditional rulers in various communities across the country through their enlightenment, mobilization and sensitization drive. However, there are certain challenges being faced by the traditional rulers some of which have been highlighted above and the prospects and recommendations. Their diminishing authorities notwithstanding, their prestige in the eyes of their subjects are still intact.

5.4 Recommendation

Government at all level need to demonstrate readiness to the role of traditional ruler in other to build and enhance local capacity, we need to understand the roles of traditional rulers in the chain of land disputes so as to place land administration in a stronger position, both countrywide and at the local level. Traditional rulers must not abuse their office in order to command public respect. In fact, traditional rulers are the effective access to the people. In most communities, the structure is that the elders and traditional rulers enjoy very powerful position in the communities. This highly influential position can be explored by government to the advantage of the general public. The reliance of the local community and their ruling structure offers great advantage. It is possible to strengthen the local capacity for management and settlement of disputes rather than imposing the formal state legal system.

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