This study centres on the roles of Traditional rulers in the development of rural areas; the study was motivated by the apparent waning sphere of influence by traditional rulers and the need for the development of rural areas. The primary aim of this study is to examine the interface between traditional rulers and rural development. The work argues that the roles of traditional rulers are still relevant in the consolidation of development in ensuring peace and stability within their domains. In this light the role of traditional rulers would provide an enabling environment for development to thrive. Rural development has been found lacking in Nigeria. Thus, Governments have devised several programmes to initiate rural development. However, Poor planning and implementation processes resulting mainly from lack of the involvement of the local people has made the objectives of this programmes mere aspirations. Therefore a participatory process is needed where the local people will be involved in the programme. In view of this, this paper recommends that traditional ruler should be made to fill the vacuums where the officials of government have fallen short.


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1.1   Background to the Study

There have been changes in the role of traditional rulers in Nigeria as it applies to rural development since the introduction of local government reforms in 1976. Traditional rulers are the guardians of traditional norms that are respected in a particular communities from generation to generation. These norms could be outlooks on life, ways of relating or of resolving disputes, institutions etc. and as such traditional rulers are an important channel through which socio-cultural change can be realized. The institutions/leaders includes such instruments of political organization and socialization such as chiefs, clan leaders, kings, clan or chief assemblies, accountability structures and systems of dispensing justice.

Consequently, it is clear that traditions need re-examination from time to time, with view to modernization and or refinement. Indeed institutions in all cultures evolve over time as a result of lessons garnered from experience, or through interactions with other cultures.

The role of traditional rulers has been undergoing change as the democratic dispensation within the country develops, it has therefore become necessary that they redefine their roles as heads of their politics within the framework of developmental effort by the central government and its adjuncts as well as non-governmental organization(NGOs) {Wilhelmina 2002:105-114}.

This traditional rulers work in conjunction with their subjects and therefore carry the whole community along to accomplish development goals that will be of benefit to the rural areas. Thus, this study is aimed at finding out the roles of traditional rulers in Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State.

1.2    Statement of the Problem

There is no doubt that traditional rulers in Nigeria have gradually witnessed the erosion of their powers from depending upon British colonial administration to dependence upon elected politicians. Moreso, it may be necessary at this point to identify the key issue that has contributed to the waning influence of the traditional rulers. Traditional are still highly respected in most communities in Nigeria today, for wielding considerably political and economic influence. Although they have no formal role in the democratic structures and in the constitution. There is now a growing need to assign them some specific roles and in that way, harness the strategic position they occupy in the society.

The traditional institutions have suffered systematic annihilation since the military incursion into politics began in 1966. The argument has been that there is need to shield and isolate the traditional institutions from politics.
One wonders why Nigerian leaders opt for this position while the colonial masters put the traditional rulers and rural areas to extensive use, to get result. A lot have been discussed, written, by social science philosophers, as to finding out the relevance of the traditional institutions. It is against this background that we have initiated this research as a means of clearing ground on the vitalities as to what extent does the co-operation of Traditional rulers with the grassroots government helps in rural development, and ask the question of how the role of traditional rulers can be indispensable in every rural area in navigating developmental artifacts.

1.3    Objectives of the Study

The main objectives of this study are:-

  1. To document the current and historical roles of traditional rulers in the development of rural areas.
  2. To access the relevance of the traditional rulers to rural- areas development.
  3. To recommend measures that can promote and sustain traditional rulers in playing effective role in rural development.

1.4    Scope of the Study

This study has its scope and unit of analysis in the roles of traditional rulers in rural development focusing in Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State, and the time dimension covers the period between 2007-2013.

1.5    Theoretical Framework of Analysis

It is important to relate any scholarly research work to a theoretical framework of analysis, not only to aid an outstanding of the research but to also aid the development of new knowledge.

Quite a number of approaches abound for the explanation of this research work, but the structural functional approach is preferable of the political system with regards to the role of traditional rulers as a framework for the delivery of rural area in Gokana L.G.A of Rivers State. The structural functional approach was an offshoot of the general system theory. As noted by Alapiki,

“A major problem which faced the traditional approaches in political science was how to account for the internal structures and functioning of the political system…” (Alapiki, 2004:59)

The structural functional approach was at its core, the explanation of the structures of systems and how best they perform certain functions. Mazi concurring to these views asserts that “the emphasis of this approach was on structures of political system (this refers to those arrangements within the system which performs the functions) and how best they performed certain functions” (Mazi, 2007: 276). Similarly, Ibaba opines that functionalism sees human society as a social system comprising sub-units or interdependent parts… every phenomenon found in the society performs useful functions towards the survival of the entire system or society. (Ibaba, 2004: 71-72)

Structural functionalism sees the functions of the political system as categorized into the “input” and “output” functions includes; interest articulation, interest aggregation, political communication, political socialization etc. output functions on the other hand are activities associated with policy-making and policy-implementation which includes functions such as rule-making, rule adjudication, rule application etc. (Alapiki,2004:61)

As concerned with the research work, it is noteworthy to know and consider the structures that performs the input and output functions within the system (Gokana L.G.A). Identifiably, the people (citizens) are a substructure within the system that performs the inputs functions, which comes in form of demands upon government and support for government.

We therefore view traditional rulers as structures that perform certain function in rural areas and how these functions contribute to the development of their area of operations.

It is noteworthy that traditional rulers are parts and parcel of the larger society and to this extent form a structure of its own and perform certain functions. It is these functions that form the centre piece of this research.

1.6 Research Questions

This study is guided by the following Research Questions

  1. Do traditional rulers role encourage development in rural areas?
  2. Can we say that traditional rulers are the only source of development in rural areas?
  3. Could development become productive forces to determine rural change?
  4. Do you think traditional rulers are playing an effective role in rural development policies?

1.7    Research Methodology

In order to make this research a valid instruments to obtain objective results in the study, survey research would be employed. The study also employed the use of primary and secondary data. A primary source of data includes personal observations, administering of questionnaires and interviews. The secondary sources of data cut across thorough research work and review of related books, newspapers, journals, magazines, government publications e.t.c including class-notes. For the analysis of data collected, Questionnaires will be distributed to sample of One Hundred and Twenty (120) persons selected using the simple percentage techniques.

A quota of sixty (60) respondents will be drawn from each of the two selected community in Gokana local government area. The sixty respondents will be further split to a quota of thirty male and female respondents each. Also, interaction meetings will be organized and held with members of the council of traditional rulers under study.

1.8    Significance of the Study

This study is driven by its academic, socio-economic and political relevance. It is pivotal that search light of knowledge be applied in understanding the nature and necessity of socio-political phenomena including, the roles of traditional rulers in rural development. To this end, this study hopes to make remarkable contributions to the knowledge of the subject matter.

In addition, this study shall add to the body of existing literatures and therefore will serve as a guide to both students and non-students researchers. Who might wish to understand and undertake similar studies in the future. It is also hoped that our recommendations will be useful in areas of policy formulation in relation to the subject matter.

1.9    Limitations of the Study

It is true that research works are prone to certain limitations, and this study is not an exemption. The major obstacle to this work is the difficulty in obtaining relevant data from respondents which is occasioned by the non-responsive attitude of some respondent.

Lack of finance is also an obstacle, the unavailability of the flow of adequate finance constantly, hindered the researcher’s ability to acquire relevant data for the research.

This limitations notwithstanding, the findings of this study, hopefully would be representative enough to reflect the Roles of Traditional Rulers in Development of Gokana L.G.A of Rivers State.


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