By Lawrence Olaoye Abuja
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has charged the traditional institutions in the country to support the security agencies with necessary intelligence to enable them succeed in their task of combating crime and criminality.
Speaking yesterday at the opening of the 10th National Development Summit of Nigerian Traditional Rulers in Abuja, Osinbajo noted that the natural rulers have played crucial roles at the point that the country was threatened by the Niger Delta militants and the separatist group, Indegenous People of Biafra, IPOB.
Dr. Emmanuel Sideso Abe, Ovie of Uvwie Kingdom of Delta State, who doubles as the Chairman of the Governing Board of the traditional rulers, in his welcome address cautioned that the nation’s foundation has become threatened and shaky due to inequality and injustice.
Osinbajo challenged the natural leaders to take greater responsibilities in resolving conflicts in the country, stressing that dialogue and engagements are as important as law enforcement in tackling disputes.
He said that 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.
According to him, “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.”
The vice president said even though the law enforcement agencies are critical elements in deterring 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.
He said, “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.”
According to him, it was in recognition of this critical role of traditional rulers that informed government’s approach to 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 said government 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,” he stated.
The vice president said Nigeria’s traditional cultures had long ago 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.”
Abe in his remarks lamented that 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.
He said the country needed 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.
According to him, the country was born with 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.”