Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has singled out traditional rulers as the brains behind the successful stoppage of Niger Delta militancy and the truncation of the secession plot by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in the South East, leading to relative peace in the two regions.
This is even as Traditional Rulers in the country have expressed described Nigeria’s foundation as deficient and threatened.
Speaking on Wednesday at the opening of the 10th National Development Summit of Nigerian Traditional Rulers in Abuja, Osinbajo noted that the monarchs have played crucial roles at the point that the country was threatened by Niger Delta militancy and the secessionist group, IPOB in the South East.
The Vice President challenged monarchs in Nigeria to take greater responsibility in resolving conflicts in the country, saying dialogue and engagements are just as important as law enforcement in tackling disputes.
According to him, “traditional rulers were better placed to champion this vision of continuing dialogue and engagement because of the respect you command from the widest possible range of stakeholders and parties.
“Dialogue and engagement are just as important as law enforcement, especially in situations triggered by misunderstandings and disagreements between people and communities who have existed peacefully side-by-side for centuries.”
Osinbajo added that although security agencies are critical elements in checking criminality and ensuring that perpetrators are brought to justice, overlooking the place of non-coercive conflict prevention and resolution mechanisms would do a great disservice to the people of Nigeria.
“You are also repositories of important intelligence that can be useful in detecting suspicious or criminal activity. The partnership between traditional authority and government is therefore crucial,” he said.
He said it was against this background that government coopted the monarchs in its approach in dealing with Nigeria’s most pressing security issues in the Niger delta and in the Middle Belt.
“I can say without fear of contradiction that the New Vision for the Niger Delta would not have happened without the support of traditional rulers and leaders in the region.
We have made it a priority to meet with them and carry them along, and ask for their wisdom and their support in resolving issues with stakeholders and communities. This was also our approach in the wake of secessionist agitation by IPOB in the South East.”
He added that the Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has been engaging traditional rulers in the flashpoint regions, counting on the influence they wield to chart a new and collective course of understanding, instead of the default approach of resorting to violence as a way of dealing with grievances.
“As custodians of our rich history, we also believe that you have a duty to remind us of the things we have got right in the past, but from which, for some reason or another, we have departed from, to our detriment,” Osinbajo said.
He noted said the traditional cultures have long perfected timeless dispute-resolution and community-engagement mechanisms that are now under threat of being lost forever.
“As traditional rulers, your forebears and ancestors were the initiators and implementers of many of these mechanisms, and our cultural institutions have evolved ways of passing this knowledge down the generations – even if we have not been paying attention as we should.
“May I therefore most respectfully ask that you take this as a call to you, as royal fathers, as traditional rulers, as elder statesmen, to commit yourselves to deepening your partnership with government, to achieve our shared goal of laying the foundation of peace and security that will guarantee true greatness for Nigeria.”
In his welcome address, Chairman of Governing Council of the National Development Summit of Traditional Rulers, the Ovie of Uvwie Kingdom of Delta State, His Royal Majesty, Emmanuel Abe, called for more roles for traditional rulers by the government.
He said it was disheartening that the constitutional review embarked upon by the National Assembly had remained inclusive for over a decade, while resolutions at the recent national conference, have not been considered for adoption in the interest of national survival and progress.
Abe said the country needs a good leader that will create jobs and build bridges, adding that as a result of the security challenges in the country, most traditional rulers were unable to attend the summit that started with over 400 members when it was inaugurated by the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua ten years ago.
The Monarch said that the country has incredible potentials and uncommon ideals that could make it soar into greatness, adding that Nigeria was not meant to crawl or stagnate.
According to him, “Here is a country born with incredible potentials, established on goodness and trust, with uncommon ideals and dreams that could make her soar into high altitudes of greatness. Like the eagles, Nigeria was born with powerful wings, in the form of enormous natural endowments. Nigeria was never meant to crawl or stagnate.
“Whatever we may say or do, the fact remains that our foundation as a nation as designed by our founding fathers has been visibly deficient and threatening. Administrations come and go but none has been courageous enough to address conclusively the issue of structural flaws.
“We cannot do anything against the truth. The only way the eagle will fly is for it to realize that it is gifted with better wings than other birds and make a decision to use the wings effectively.
“We must resolve to build a new nation on a foundation of equity, justice, fairness, labour and high moral standards. This is what makes the United States of America and other advanced economies to tick.
“It is amazing how constitutional review has remained inclusive for over a decade at the National Assembly in spite of the exigency of the matter. It is equally disheartening that the resolutions of all recent national conferences were never considered for adoption in the interest of national survival and progress, the huge funds sunk in these projects notwithstanding.”