Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, April 15, 2011

Democratic centralism, decentralized?

This report by the BBC's Dan Isaacs, talks about traditional rulers in the north of Nigeria, but their counterparts in the south wield similar powers. And the role of British imperialism in creating those local powers was arguably greater in the south.

Does this doom democratic government or guarantee it?

Nigeria's emirs: Power behind the throne
[O]ne institution that has played an important stabilising role has been that of the traditional rulers of kingdoms large and small across the country.

While traditional leaders hold few constitutional powers, no politician is wise to seek office without his blessing.

In pre-colonial days, kings ruled with absolute power across what is now northern Nigeria. Their origins pre-date even the arrival of Islam some 200 years ago.

Under British rule, these northern emirates were adopted as an integral part of the colonial administration and they became increasingly powerful.

Today, despite attempts by successive governments to marginalise them from the political process, traditional leaders continue to exert significant influence.

"They continue to yield so much power in who gets what political appointments, although most of this influence remains behind the scenes," explains Kabiru Sufi, a political scientist.

This remains so particularly in the mainly Muslim north, where they are seen as custodians of both religion and tradition…

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