Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has singled out traditional rulers as the brains behind the successful stoppage of militancy in the Niger Delta as well as truncation of the secession plot by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in the South East.
He said these led to relative peace in the two regions.
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This was even as traditional rulers in the country have 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 monarchs have played crucial roles at points when Nigeria was threatened by Niger Delta militants and the IPOB.
The vice president challenged monarchs in Nigeria to take greater responsibility in resolving conflicts and added that dialogue and engagements are just as important as law enforcement in tackling disputes.
“Traditional rulers are 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 co-opted 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.”
In his welcome address, Chairman of Governing Council of the National Development Summit of Traditional Rulers, the Ovie of Uvwie Kingdom of Delta State, 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 has remained inclusive for over a decade while resolutions at the 2014 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.
“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 threatened. Administrations come and go but none has been courageous enough to address conclusively the issue of structural flaws…”