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Chiefs, Constitutions, and Politics in Nigeria

Pita Ogaba Agbese


As reflected in the four preceding quotations, the role and relevance of traditional political institutions in general, and traditional rulership in particular, continue to generate intense, and sometimes, quite acrimonious debates in Nigeria. Heated, bitter and rancorous debates on whether those who preside over indigenous political institutions who are variously designated numerous nomenclature as chiefs, emirs, obas, obis, olus, attahs, aiotse, and so on, should have any formal role in the political affairs of Nigeria elicit a great deal of interest and response both in scholarly writings and on the pages of newspapers and news-magazines. The term, traditional rulers, will be used in this paper to refer to the various political leaders who exercise political power at ethnic or sub-ethnic levels in Nigeria. While the term hints at the common fact these rulers operate outside the formal structures of modern state power in Nigeria, it underestimates the wide disparity in the locus and extent of powers exercised by this class of Nigerian leaders. For example, the Emir of Kano and the Tor Tiv fall into the same classification as traditional rulers. Yet, the Emir of Kano, both in the context of ethnic politics and within the larger purview of Nigerian politics is considerably more influential than the Tor Tiv.

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West Africa Review. ISSN: 1525-4488 (online).
Editors: Adeleke Adeeko, Nkiru Nzegwu, and Olufemi Taiwo.

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