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29.05.2006 Regional News

Chiefs In Local Governance

By Daily Graphic
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Daasebre Oti Boateng, Paramount Chief of the New Juaben Traditional Area, has called for a clear definition of the role of chiefs in local governance.

Perhaps the paramount chief was speaking on behalf of all chiefs who, apparently, do not see their way clear in local governance.

Chiefs played an enormous role in organising their people for action, both towards development and for war, before colonial rule.

Recognising the important roles that chiefs played in the scheme of things, the colonialists applied Indirect Rule through them to administer the British territories, thanks to Lord Lugard's experiment in Northern Nigeria where the local heads were used extensively in local administration.

With time, the chiefs' courts were provided with police, for example, to ensure that law and order was given the needed attention in the localities.

No matter how the colonial masters wanted to exploit the system, the chiefs played a significant role to resolve some problems within their areas of jurisdiction.

With the coming into being of modern political administration, when district commissioners came into the picture, the administrative powers of the chiefs gradually waned.

Clearly, when the central government dealt directly with its representatives on the ground, not too much attention was paid to the traditional rulers.

However, it is obvious that some chiefs wield enormous power over sections of the people. Consequently, they move with the crowd.

It is against this background that Daasebre's call becomes relevant. Our people are fighting against illiteracy, disease, squalor, abject poverty and hunger and our chiefs, who are with the people, can play a very significant role in that regard.

Indeed, the chiefs recognise that their roles have changed and are different from the days of old when they had to mobilise the people to fight against their neighbours.

This time round, they are to ensure that development projects come to their respective areas to create jobs and wealth for their people. They, therefore, have to mobilise and unite their people.

Evidently, the progressive ones among them want to bequeath to their people some development projects with which they would be associated, even when they are dead and gone.

We have some distinguished chiefs who are going all out to ensure that they alleviate the plight of their people by seeking investment for their communities. They are also placing premium on education and health.

All these efforts have won the admiration and recognition of their people.

Thus, no matter what some people think of chiefs, it is important that their roles are clearly defined to enable them to play their meaningful and functional part in local government activities.

It would be the surest way to avoid any confrontation between district chief executives and chiefs, as both have a common interest to seek the welfare of the people.

Let's give Daasebre's call a listening ear.