By Lawrence Olaoye
President Muhammadu Buhari has said that traditional rulers in the country were not accorded roles in the constitution in order to preserve their neutrality.
According to a statement made available to newsmen yesterday by his Spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, Buhari made this disclosure while responding to request made by the Oba of Benin, His Royal Majesty, Omo N’Oba Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, at the State House.
The traditional ruler had in his speech urged the President to support and facilitate the inclusion of roles for traditional rulers in Nigerian Constitution so as to foster national unity and development.
But, Buhari, in his response, noted that their exclusion from the constitution was probably the best thing to preserve their neutrality and said “I know and respect the traditional institution. I try as much as possible to understand why the authors of our Constitution kept silent about their role. Your Royal Majesty, you are safe where you are.”
The President also expressed delight with the stabilizing roles that the Eweka Dynasty of Benin Kingdom had been playing in the affairs of the country. He said that Nigerians have reasons to be proud of the stabilizing roles Benin chiefs had played right from the colonial era to the current period, not only in the Delta region but the entire country.
Buhari singled out the role of the immediate past Oba of Benin, Oba Erediauwa I, whom he described as his “back bone of support” when he was Federal Commissioner of Petroleum Resources and the late Oba was a Federal Permanent Secretary.
“I cannot hold back my emotions, talking about my relationship with your predecessor. After General Murtala Mohammed was assassinated, I was moved from the North-East as governor to Ministry of Petroleum. Your father was then Permanent Secretary. My relationship with him was very strong. I have lost count of the number of visits to his palace as Oba,” he said.
He praised the late Oba for “stabilizing that part of the country because of his firmness. I must also commend the immediate past governor, Adams Oshiomhole for stabilising Edo State.”
Welcoming Oba Ewuare’s delegation made up of chiefs from other parts of Edo State, including the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, the President commended His Royal Majesty for following the footsteps of his predecessor while reiterating his support for the traditional institution.
In his remarks, Oba Ewuare II, who commended the President for his handling of security matters in the country, urged the Federal Government to establish industries in the rural areas to curb unemployment, rural-urban migration and human trafficking.
He also assured the President that traditional institution in the country will encourage Nigerians to go on with one Nigeria. “We intend to continue to use culture to foster Nigeria’s image both in Nigeria and in the comity of nations,” he said.