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In search of true Republicans

 

By Chippla Vandu

 

Across the globe, all countries have "official" names. In most cases, these are names by which they are addressed in the most formal of settings.

 

The official name of a nation is meant to reflect some of its key characteristics. For instance, the name "United States of America" tells of a country that is made up of several states, which are part of a union.

 

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a kingdom-country made up of two entities—Great Britain, which itself comprises of England, Wales and Scotland; and Northern Ireland.

The name "People’s Republic of China" reflects the supposedly socialistic nature of the Chinese Republic. The Kingdom of Swaziland, the Kingdom of Lesotho and the Kingdom of Morocco are representative of nations on the African continent, which are ruled by monarchs.

 

In general, nations can be viewed as being either republics or monarchies. A republic as defined by Wikipedia is:

"...a state or country that is led by people who do not base their political power on any principle beyond the control by the people of that state or country."

 

In other words, one could define a republic as a non-monarchy. And while nations like Niger, South Korea, Germany, Kenya, Brazil, France, the United States, Sudan and Iran may fall into this category, others like the Netherlands, Thailand, Canada, Qatar and Nepal certainly do not. Whether a country happens to be a republic or a monarchy has a lot to do with its history.

 

The American War of Independence in the 18th century was driven not just by the rejection of British legistlation and taxes, but also by the need to be rid of rule by the British crown. The French followed a few years later, bringing an end to what some considered as being an abusive, corrput and insensitive governemnt—that of King Louis XVI.

Today, nations which are monarchies have kings or queens who are some of the wealthiest people on the planet. The royal families of the United Kingdom and the Netherlands are made up of some of the wealthiest people in the world.

 

In Swaziland, the King rules with absolute power and anyone calling for the removal of the monarch could be charged to court! From the days when monarchs claimed some form of divine right to rule, they have always had a way of appealing to some people. To others, they are an institution that should be done away with.

Nigeria, like a number of African nations, calls itself a republic. Yet, within this republic are dozens, if not hundreds of monarchs sitting on thrones that most citizens know practically nothing about. As a modern nation state, Nigeria is the product of the British empire.

 

Before the advent of British rule, some of these monarchies existed. A few were created by the British rulers to serve their needs. Either way, monarchies are presently a part of the Nigerian landscape, especially for those who dwell in rural areas.



Royal Benin wives at a traditional ceremony. The Oba of Benin, whose lineage dates back to several centuries is on the main picture

 

Most people who live in the province of Lagos may know next to nothing about the various monarchs that dot it. Nigerian monarchs continuously strguggle for greater recognition by the governemnt. There are first class and second class chiefs (I cannot be certain if there are third class chiefs).

 

The higher a monarch's status, the greater his or her voice and the bigger his allowance from the governemnt. The only role I see most monarchs performing in Nigeria today is the dishing out of so-called traditional or chieftancy titles, in some cases to men and women of dubious characters.

 

These titles enable one to be addressed as "chief." Next time you hear the Nigerian president addressed as "Chief Olusegun Obsanjo" as he often is on national television, you should understand why. Once in a while, monarchs are involved in conflict resolution, but this is outweighted by the divisions and sectarianism which their officies stand for.

Once upon a time, monarchs had a role to play in Nigerian society. Today, they have no true role. This calls into question why they not only still exist but also why their upkeep is being met from the public purse.

 

The days of ceremonial leadership, when a man or woman sat on a throne claiming divine rights, and lorded over his or her subjects should be over. Royal hereditary rights by bloodline ought to be outlawed.

 

 

The Emir of Kano seeing here inspecting royal guards is one of the most powerful monarchs in Nigeria

 

The children of first class chiefs in Nigeria (some of whom are currently studying in foreign universities in the United States and Europe, likely on public funds!) should struggle through life like every other Nigerian child.

Nigerian monarchs, who are meant to serve as the conscience of the nation, have shown all-too-well in the past that they are unable to question evil. During the tyrannical regime of the late General Sani Abacha, they were numb silent on what was going on. Abacha had earlier deposed one of them, showing for the first time in living memory that they were not untouchable.

Republicanism calls for the recognition of the dignity of all men and women. In essence, it questions the existence of systems that tend to elevate a certain section of society above others due to hereditary rights.

 

Greater Nigerian unity calls for the weakining of institutions that perevent this. One such institution is the monarchy. Those who believe in this should work towards the creation and elevation of true republican parties and movments that recognize and reward the individual for his or her hard work and creativity rather than for his/her birthright.

 

Chippla Vandu is a Nigerian academic and writer. He blogs as Chippla

 

Please e-mail comments to comments@thenewblackmagazine.com

 

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