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The Relevance Of Chieftaincy Institution In The Contemporary Nigerian Society

The chieftaincy institution is traditional organ which administers the affairs of the local people. Hence, the relevance of this ancient institution can not be overemphasized.

The New International Webster’s Compact Dictionary of the English Language defines relevance as “fitting, pertinent, or applicable, it is also defined institution as an established principle, law or usage. It is pertinent to note that the chieftaincy as an established institution preserves the culture of the people.

Before the advent of the colonial masters, the chieftaincy institution has been the major instrument that our forefathers used in directing and administering the affairs of our communities. In the north for instance, the institution was established with the Emirs as the arms of affairs and other traditional officers like the Hakimi, who makes report directly to the Emirs, the Igbos have the Council of Elders (Ndichie). The Chief Priest (Ezeala) whose functions centred on prescribing the dos and don’t in matters that concern the tradition of the people. They also have the youths or the age grade incharge of civil defence etc. And in the West the Yorubas have the Obas whose functions as the administrative heads and other king makers known as Oyo-mesi and the Alafin of Oyo and the Balles (the village heads).

All these are the major traditional chieftaincy institution and traditional structures that hold the Nigerian society from the beginning. Infact, it is noted that the beauty of these structures is what the colonial masters saw that make them adopted the machinery and used it as an instrument of governance called the ‘indirect rule”.

And the system has the chieftaincy institution as the only machinery that represents the people and therefore plays mediating roles between the government and the people and this make it possible for a cordial relationship in the society, despite the inevitable challenges that accompanied the indirect system.

Today, the functions of chieftaincy institution are not only relegated to settling of minor communal issues. The society has realized its core value and created in every government setting the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Traditional Affairs to keep the chieftaincy institution connect.

In the political system, the chieftaincy institution is also a cardinal aspect of governance that helps in the sustenance of peace in the society. At the community level, issues that concern the local people are first and best handle in most cases, by the chiefs and elders because most times the chiefs are most available to attend to the raising issues in the communities they give first hand assistance and advice and perform a referral functions where necessary, and in history, the chieftaincy institution has not abdicated in its duties.

The chieftaincy institution also stands as symbol of unity in the modern day society, the search for greener pasture among many individuals errand the world has made it difficult for some people to come back to their homes after many years, but one distinguished function of the chieftaincy institution is that they call for village and kindred meetings which make it possible for people to always unite themselves, they also stand out to protect our cultures and heritage, in the recent time, the treasure of any nation is its rich cultural heritage and the chieftaincy institution acts as an ambassador of our culture, they oversee cultural activities and festivities that bring people together.

This unity is only achievable where there is an established chieftaincy institution. The fact about our society is that the chieftaincy institution is the custodian of the people’s culture and heritage.

In this 21st century, where every aspect of our life is westernized with the smartlife experiences, the younger generation is fast growing into the western dance style, dressing pattern, language usage etc, the only agent that fights in sustaining cultural heritage of the people is the chieftaincy institution, as this institution in some tribes as promulgated the use of indigenous languages, dress code and dance style etc during certain festivities in a bid to promoting culture.

Also in the administration of rites, the chieftaincy institution serves as a point between man and the gods of the land. In Africa, prayers are offer by the chiefs (or chief priest) as the case maybe, during marriage ceremony, burials and some special consultations. This duty also make the chieftaincy institution more relevant in the Africa tradition religion as they promote worship through deity, serve as home builder and peace promoter, it is clarion call to all and sundry to promote the chieftaincy institution in Nigeria for effective and peaceful co-existence in our villages, towns and the society at large. ###

By Joe Maxims

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