A PRESENTATION OF AN APPEAL FOR THE UPGRADING OF THE STATUS OF ATUMAKA OF CHIKARA CHIEFDOM TO 3RD CLASS CHIEF IN KOGI (KK) LOCAL

GOVERNMENT AREA OF KOGI STATE. BY ENOCK B. JARUMI, fsi BEZHEYAKO OF CHIKARA CHIEFDOM INTRODUCTION

We sincerely express our profound appreciation to His Excellency the Governor of Kogi state, Capt. Idris Wada for the establishment of the above-named committee. The constitution of this committee by his excellency has indeed given us a rare window of opportunity to present an appeal for a long standing demand for upgrading of the status of the stool of Atumaka of Chikara Chiefdom to 3rd class chief. The institution of traditional rulers is an enduring part of our heritage. It plays a critical role in our lives as the custodian of culture and traditions. Expectedly, our traditional rulers as in the case of Atumaka of Chikara Chiefdom are closely linked with the grassroots, and so understand the problems and culture of the people intimately. In our search for peace, order and stability, the traditional institution could be a veritable instrument. It is in the overall interest of the Local Government and indeed Kogi State, that this institution in our national life be acknowledged and upgraded where necessary for it to function effectively and ultimately. The presenter of this appeal was admitted to Chikara Chiefdom Traditional Council at the age of Twenty Six (26) being the first of this age group to have the privilege to participate in the sacred council of elders. The title conferred on me was “the Bezheyako of Chikara” in April, 1982 by the 6th Atumaka of Chikara Mal. Kachiwoyi Gaza from Katuka ruling house. From oral narration,
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“Bezheyako” (Commander-in-Chief of the Chiefdom) is an equivalence of Are-ona kakanfo of the ancient Oyo empire. He is said to protect, project and defend the entire Gbagyi people of the Chiefdom. Chikara Chiefdom by tradition covers the Gbagyi people within the Abaji and koton-Karfe districts respectively. Therefore by the powers conferred on me by the Traditional Council of Chikara Chiefdom, I solemnly present to your esteem Committee our appeal for the upgrading of the status of the stool of Atumaka of Chikara to 3rd Class Chief in Kogi state.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF GBAGYI OF CHIKARA CHIEFDOM

The stool of Chikara traditional institution is basically of Gbagyi extraction. Gbagyi people are one of the largest ethnic groups in the North Central geo-political zone in Nigeria. The estimated population of Gbagyi people is put at 5.8 million (2006 Population Census) and found in four states, including Kogi and spread across thirty two (32) Local Government Areas. Besides, it is one of the dominant ethnic group in Kogi (KK) Local Government, which invariably implies that the Local Government cannot afford to ignore the history, traditions, culture, socio-economic and political importance of this ethnic group. The Gbagyi people of Chikara Chiefdom are known to be, noble, peaceloving, transparent and accommodating people. Northerners are fond of saying in Hausa language “muyi shi Gwari Gwari” (meaning let’s do it like the Gbagyi or in the Gbagyi way). Culturally, Gbagyi put their personal loads and luggage on their backs or shoulders. As an ethnic group they respect head and believe that there can be no life without head. In his seminal biography of the late sir Ahmadu Bello entitled “Values and Leadership in Nigeria” John N. Paden posits that “two things make the Gbagyi people more distinct from any other people in Nigeria, and those two things are their undying clamour for peace and their
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impenetrable cultures”. It is interesting to note that the observation made by Paden in his book about three decades ago is still true of the Gbagyi people today, most especially their culture that has remained intact despite the onslaught of colonialism and keep seeing western education. One of these undying culture, according to Paden, is the carrying of loads on their shoulders rather than their heads as is the case among other Nigerian people – a mark of intrinsic respect for headship or authority. In addition the Gbagyi people of Chikara Chiefdom have emerged as a unique breed of people among Nigerians, their culture shows how much they have come to terms with the universe. The historical narration on how the Gbagyi found themselves in Chikara is a long one, but suffice it to say that they were in search of peaceful environment for farming and hunting.
THE FORMATIVE STAGE OF CHIKARA CHIEFDOM

Oral historical account states that the name Chikara was adulterated from the original name called “Shekala” meaning circular. Zhigo, the founder of Chikara was said to have told his siblings “let’s make a circular building here”. Over time, as a result of contacts with other ethnic groups especially Igbirra and Bassa and later the Hausa, the name “Shekala” experienced series of transformation (or is mutilations). For example the Igbirra called the name Shinkara while the colonial masters later called it Chikara. The first established traditional stool of Chikara was occupied by a hunter/farmer, Kajekna also known as Katuka c1825. He was a hunter and a warrior who extended his military prowess to Abaji, FCT, Niger and Nasarawa states respectively. Kajekna also known as Katuka was the son of Zhigo the founder of Chikara. Oral historical account further states that Zhigo has another son Called Gbatolo.
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Other traditional rulers that superintended the Chikara Chiefdom stool are: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Zhigo – the founder of Chikara c1815 Kajekna/Gbatolo Udakwo Jigbo c1825-1869 c1870-1911 c1912-1929

Tumaka Shiakuyibmo 1930-1947 Kachiwoyi Gaza Yakubu Zaki 1947-1988 1989 – Date

It is also important to note that Chikara has two ruling houses viz, the Kajekna/Katuka and Gbatolo ruling houses. The present Atumaka of Chikara Chiefdom is from Gbatolo ruling house. The only available documentary evidence of appointment of these traditional rulers of Chikara Chiefdom is Jigbo and the present Atumaka of Chikara Chiefdom. Appendix I page 49 of village organization of Koton Karfe district obtained from Kaduna archives office shows that there were 37 village heads and number 28 of this list being Chikara with Jigbo as the village head. His salary then was £9 pounds and the date of his appointment according to the document was 1912. At that material time, Chikara has a population of Five hundred and fifteen (515) taxable adults (1912). Document attached as annex I. The present Atumaka of Chikara Chiefdom was appointed on 12th April, 1989. Document attached as annex II. In 1998, the Chikara community had requested the then Military Administrator in the state for upgrading of the Atumaka stool – they had averred that:
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“as a matter of consideration, we plead and beseech his Excellency to consider the Chief of the Gwari speaking people of Koton-Karfe Local Government Area for upgrading. For we form second or third largest ethnic tribe in the Local Government Area. In the last review upgrading exercise for the Chiefs during Col. Omerua Administration, our chiefs name was among the name issued in the white paper for approval, but the Governor and his cabinet could not do that before he left the office Historically, Chikara is believed to be the first Gwari settlement in Kogi state. It is our sincere wish that Chikara be given due recognition. This will go a long way in creating among the Gwaris a sense of belonging to the state.” Document attached as Annex III
WHY UPGRADE THE STATUS OF ATUMAKA OF CHIKARA CHIEFDOM

Chikara Chiefdom today stands as the gateway to FCT, Abuja. It presently occupies a strategic position in the Local Government in particular and Kogi state in general. The community is the headquarters of Zonal Primary schools and also hosts a Divisional Police Headquarters. It has in addition boundaries in the Northwest with Toto local Government of Nasarawa state, in east by Niger State and North with Abaji Area Council of FCT. Similarly, Chikara is the political capital of Chikara North ward. The expansion of the FCT has increased its population in addition to the influx of people of Toto local Government as a result of the Igbirra/Bassa ethnic crisis of 1980-2003. The constant request of interest groups for proper role of traditional rulers in the affairs of governance has necessitated for the need to upgrade the traditional stool of the Atumaka of Chikara Chiefdom. By
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Chikara Chiefdom – we refer to other Gbagyi ethnic extraction that exists in Kogi (KK) Local Government. Under the 1976 reforms, a new structure known as the Traditional Council was created in each local government area. Among other functions, the Atumaka could perform when upgraded includes:
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formulating general proposals as advice to local governments; harmonizing the activities of local government councils through discussion on issues affecting the Gbagyi generally; co-ordinating development plans of local governments by joint discussion and advise; making determinations on religious matters where appropriate; determining questions relating to chieftaincy matters, culture and tradition of the people in the local government in general and Gbagyi people in particular; Ensuring the commitment of the people within the chiefdom to support policies of government at the grassroots.

CONSTITUTIONAL ROLES FOR TRADITIONAL RULERS

William F. S. Miles (Miles, 1962) has explored various ways in which the traditional rulership systems in Nigeria can be more fruitfully incorporated into the modern administrative structures of the three countries (Nigeria, Niger and Vanuatu - Australia). Miles (1962) identified five specific roles. First, chiefs, Miles argues, can broker in-coming projects and deals for local economic development. Next, he contends that chiefs can boost the authority of state leaders by ennobling them on regular occasions with sundry traditional titles. Chiefs, he contends, can help to police the hinterland, overseeing low-level conflict resolution. The fourth role that Miles envisages for traditional rulers is as ombudsmen between their communities and the state bureaucracy. Finally, Miles suggests that traditional rulers can rouse community solidarity and provide administrative services in situations where central governments are ineffectual or even disintegrating. Again, Victor Ayeni
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(Ayeni, 2010) argues that the institutionalization of traditional rulership as ombudsman will allow traditional rulers to intercede between the common man and the labyrinth of modern bureaucracy. In addition, he contends that the role will be beneficial to the traditional rulership because it will insure the sanctity of the institution. Several issues must be examined critically as we contemplate constitutional provisions for Nigeria’s traditional political institutions. First, we must raise and answer a number of questions in order to be clear about the value of the chieftaincy institution to Nigerian democracy. What values underpin the institution and how relevant are those values to Nigeria’s attempt to establish an enduring political system? Can values such as accountability, morality, public debates, popular participation, responsiveness to aspirations, possibility of alternation of ruling families, sanctions and the rotational system which underpinned many of the traditional political systems of the past still be recreated within the existing traditional systems? What is the secret of the political stability of the system and the longevity in office of some of the rulers? Second, it is important to avoid the narrow and /or confusing definition of traditional rulership. Traditional rulership is often narrowly defined in terms of the traditional ruler only. In reality, the traditional ruler is merely at the apex of an entire panoply of a network of indigenous governing systems which include a council of elders, titled men/women, age-grade or other similar associations. It is the combination of these and other institutions that make up the totality of the indigenous political systems. In designing new roles in the constitution or elsewhere for traditional rulership, it is this broader conceptualization that must be borne in mind. Third, whatever political engineering we decide to undertake, it is imperative to avoid designing a uniform system of traditional rulership for the country. Each community must be allowed to experiment as much as it wishes, provided the institutions and processes designed do not infringe upon fundamental human rights.
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Fourth, traditional rulership can be meaningful only if we integrate it into popular participation at the local level. In this connection, there is no reason why village and township administrations cannot be structured on the basis of the indigenous governing system. Already, in most rural areas, those traditional structures function as the de facto governing structures. The only requirement would be to ensure that the structure permits participation as broadly as possible. Where the traditional structures do not provide scope and opportunities for women participation, they must be re-designed. Fifth, any community that wishes to have its own traditional leadership must be permitted to do so. However, such communities must bear the costs of such systems themselves. Additionally, nobody should be compelled to provide tributes or labor services for the private interest of such established traditional rulers. Six, it must be recognized that in most rural areas, this institution of governance is quite vibrant and commands greater legitimacy than the institutions of the so-called modern political systems. The institution constitutes an important political reality that cannot be ignored. It continues to be a major icon in the Nigerian political landscape. Its persistence must force us to rethink the glib assumption of Modernization theory that all indigenous African institutions will collapse in the face of superior institutions imposed by colonial rule. Seven, in deciding to incorporate the indigenous political system into the constitutional framework, it is important to ensure that when traditional practices conflict with constitutional guarantees of freedom, it is the traditional practice that must give way to constitutional freedom failure which will jeopardize the stability of democracy.

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CONCLUSION

In conclusion therefore, the committee is implored to graciously use its good offices to upgrade the stool of Atumaka to 3rd class status and recognize other Gbagyi Chiefs in the Local Government, such as:          Robomi Orehi Gbagyi Daja Gbogo Ahoko Gbagyi Gaba Shana Lakwo Gwazaki amongst others.

Secondly, issues or conflicts that have semblance with Gbagyi cultural/traditional inclination will now have a proper and more befitting institution i.e the Atumaka for reference, advice, counsel, ruling and adjudication. Related to above is the need for the committee to have a formal framework that will guide the operations of traditional institutions in the state. Capacity building among the traditional rulers is desirable if they most catch up with modern trend and democratic process. The committee can in addition recommend for the prototype palaces to the upgraded traditional rulers to give it the befitting royalty and respect; Corollary to above, the Kogi State House of Assembly may set in motion a legislative process to provide traditional institution with functions that will enable them generate revenue, mediate on conflicts and serve as arbiter in conflict that has traditional dimension.
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More so, the traditional institution especially Atumaka Traditional Stool can be a veritable tool in promoting government policies, programs and projects, such policies like national census, election processes, introduction of new taxes and any other policy of the federal, state or local government. In addition, the upgrading of Atumaka stool can help in preventing crime such as nomadic Fulani/farmers conflicts, prevention of sale and consumption of hard drugs such as Indian Hem, Zokomi and other drugs associated within the locality. The upgrading of Atumaka stool will enhance and integrate the rich Gbagyi cultural value in the society. It is not a hidden fact that the value of tolerance, accommodation, patience, transparency, hardwork and honesty are the common hallmark of the Gbagyi culture. This can be beneficial to the state and its governance, acceding to this request to elevate the Atumaka stool can be a reward to the Chikara and Gbagyi people as a whole for their consistent loyalty to government and peaceful living. Finally, the self-sufficiency, transparency and independent attributes of the Gbagyi people is what this traditional institution will provide to Kogi (KK) Local Government in particular and Kogi State in general. We therefore recommend to your esteemed committee our humble appeal for the upgrading of Atumaka of Chikara’s stool to 3rd class status and we so submit sir. REFERENCES 1. M.A, Filaba – “The Search for Unity, the Challenges before the Gbagyi Nation”. A speech presented at Gbagyi Gbedogun (GSDA) Samaru Branch Zaria. 11th December, 1993. P. 2-3
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2. 3. 4. 5.

Olabode Gbenga – A Close Study of the Gbagyi’s in FCT Pita Ogaba Agbese – Chiefs, Constitutions and Policies in Nigeria E.Bolaji Idowu – African Traditional Religion: A definition (London: SCM Press Ltd., 1973), pp. 175-176 Enock Bezhe Jarumi – Gbagyi Witchcraft Belief System among the Gbagyi people of middle-Belt.

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