By Musa Azaki writes from New Nyanya, Karu, Nasarawa State.
On Tuesday, 25 April, 2023, Gov. A.A. Sule of Nasarawa state held a ceremony at the state capital Lafia where he promoted different traditional rulers to various grade levels. Not that I care about the political façade ceremony, but I am compelled to comment as I am appalled by the seeming ignorance or blindness of the people who are applauding this move. I wonder, whether they that clueless as to the underscore of this bandaged act and its far-reaching implications, or are they culprits of the political malady being brandished as goodwill?
Anyone who has been keen enough to observe the trends of political undertakings in Nasarawa state in recent years as well as the events that led up to the 18 March, 2023 governorship polls can surely see that the last Tuesday show was more than a mere investiture ceremony. For one, you would recall that Engr. A.A. Sule’s predecessor, Tanko Al-makura, pioneered the act of using traditional rulers’ promotion as a lure-and-reward system for garnering political favours from gullible traditional rulers. A.A. Sule has just simply drawn from that cue to keep up with the traditions of his party, the APC. You would also recall that prior to the elections, traditional rulers in the state were formed into unofficial campaign organization for the APC, tactically driving the cause of the party and boycotting candidates of other political parties. By this, the traditional rulers failed in their constitutional requirement to be non-partisan in their character, disposition and the exercise of their offices.
Well, with last Tuesday’s show, we can say its payday for them, those who sold their offices. Essentially, what we witnessed last Tuesday has three implications. The first is that Gov. Sule was serving emotional palliatives to the people of Nasarawa state, unbeknownst to most of them. How? Constitutionally, the remuneration and upkeep of traditional rulers falls in the purview of local governments. And we all know how strangled local governments in Nasarawa state have been for many years, with the state siphoning huge chunks of the allocations that should go to them for development and service to their people. Yet, the local governments are the closest government to the people, but constantly wanton in the adjudication of their constitutional responsibilities. Now the Governor has graded chiefs to first class, second class and third class appellations. These come with attendant costs that will be billed to the local governments. Some Local Government like Karu and Lafia have 6 and 4 respectively. The question is, how would these local governments that are already on life support cater to these added burdens – which we know the state will not lend a finger to help lift? Therefore, while the people are being fed with emotional gusto through this palliative, the true situation is that they are being further repressed by the state government. This means that the chances for grassroots development are being further reduced, as these new chiefs will surely expect their full dues and benefits whether the people get duly served or not.
Secondly, as I alluded earlier, this move is nothing but post-election compensation for the traditional rulers who served the purposes of the APC and their own bellies against the concerns of their people. Apparently, they held up to the mandate occasioned by their gullibility and subserviency, hence the Governor has to uphold his end of the bargain.
And thirdly, the flip side of the compensation plan is that this move seeks to “punish” the traditional rulers who held on to the fabric and integrity of their offices and sided with the people instead of their bellies. A careful look at the nature and distribution of the promotions easily reveals this. The majority of these appointments have no backing from our cultural history or any good logic to underscore the necessity of such promotions. Whereas, what is clear is that the true history of these communities and their cultural heritage have been violated and people have been crowned with undeserving honours and privileges. This is not only wrong, you see, it is setting a disturbing precedent that one can only hope gets stopped in its track before it degenerates into further sociocultural chaos.
Is it not funny that a state as young as Nasarawa, founded in 1996, has the highest number of first-class traditional rulers in Nigeria, ahead of states that have existed since Nigeria’s independence in 1960. Talk about skewed priorities! Is it any wonder, therefore, that the state lags far behind on almost every socioeconomic development index?