The monarchy system existed before colonialism but is it time for its end?

The many cultural units that make up Nigeria have traditional leadership systems that date back centuries. These structures were mostly independent before the geographical contraption now known as Nigeria. In the past, kings were powerful and supreme, had their kingdoms, and communities had checks and balances but were applied only in cases of extremely inhumane monarchs.

Unfortunately, the monarchial system was not fully consistent with colonialism as each side had power struggles. In fact, the British bombardment of Lagos ended the reign of King Kosoko which indirectly gave way to the eventual occupation of Lagos.

As colonialism became established, errant kings were punished and some were even forced to abdicate because some of the power exertions they were used to had no place in the colonial system. Eventually, political power trumped monarchy and States created a Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs to manage the monarchy and the Local Government system. The entire Monarchy that was once supreme, now subsumed in a single Ministry!

With that, the powers of kings were reduced and most of them became mere ceremonial figures. However, they remain the custodians of culture. They participate in cultural events and festivals that are significant even though a lot of them now do what their ancestors would have tagged desecration. Some are practising Pentecostal Christians, while some others are hard-line Muslims. They also act as elder statesmen and pacifiers in crises. There have been instances where they still adjudicate local matters and intervene in communal clashes.

Despite the important roles that some of them play, the institution itself is faulty as court records are littered with Obaship and chieftaincy cases. Many towns have no established empirical succession system and this is a major problem. In 2019, the Supreme Court removed the Eleruwa of Eruwa after 20 years as king. The Ikire seat is also in contention, 33 years after the King’s ascension. There are simply too many contentions about choosing kings. Unfortunately, these contentions often come with the destruction of properties and loss of lives and that is a major problem. This has also further demystified the institution as a whole.

Unfortunately, some of these kings end up being political puppets as some aspirants to kingship positions only do it for an opportunity to have their share of the National cake. Going by this, is it time to abolish the monarchy? The answer to that question is neither easy nor straightforward. The answer might be a definite no but a lot of thorough reforms must be done to modernise, formalise and further legitimise the roles of kings in all towns. If this is not done on time, the monarchy in Nigeria will go into oblivion by its own self.

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