Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has challenged traditional rulers in Nigeria to take greater responsibility in resolving conflicts in the country, saying dialogue and engagements are as just as important as law enforcement in tackling disputes.
Professor Osinbajo stated this on Wednesday at the opening of the 10th National Development Summit of Nigerian Traditional Rulers held at the Merit House, Abuja.
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.
“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.
“You are also repositories of important intelligence that can be useful in detecting suspicious or criminal activity,” the vice president told the traditional rulers, adding that “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,” he added.
He said government would continue to seek their wisdom, and listen to them, and explore ways and means of strengthening their place in Nigeria’s governance structures.
Earlier, the Chairman of the Summit Governing Council, His Royal Majesty, Dr. Emmanuel Sideso, said traditional rulers in Nigeria have continued to build bridges across the country’s ethnic nationalities and have supported government in its campaigns against poverty, terrorism and crime.
“We may not have the executive powers to implement all the laudable resolutions of the summits, but we are satisfied that our opinions and wise counsels on national issues have always been made public and forwarded to government at all times,” Sideso, who is also the Ovie of Uvwie Kingdom said.
Traditional rulers from different parts of Nigeria attended the summit.