Professor C.S Whitaker framed it as a defining element of the politics of tradition, calling it “change and continuity”. By that, he suggests that the old order never fades away completely. Even the most radical change contains elements of the old order.
How else might anyone understand the phenomenon whereby modern elite seek or treasure incorporation into the dynamics of tradition as happened recently when the Agila community in Ado Local Government Area of Benue State in central Nigeria incorporated some members of the elite through chieftaincy title awards.
Among these elite members are Senator Abba Moro; the local government Chairperson Hon. James Oche; Chief Prince Edwin Ochai; Dr Ochapa Ogenyi and Chief Amusi Adotse Samuel. Ordinarily, none of the awardees is of the traditional establishment. A Senator is automatically a politician. So also is a local government chairperson. Dr. Ochapa Ogenyi, for instance, was a journalist turned bureaucrat. Bureaucrats are the epitome of modernity in the Weberian sense. Yet, these were the players given traditional titles at this year’s New Yam Festival, (Ujor) in Agilaland last week.
And the occasion itself had a high elite presence, stretching from Honourable Titus Uba and Chief John Ngbede, the Speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly and gubernatorial candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and his running mate, respectively. It was an understandable presence, coming ahead of a gubernatorial contest in the state that is bound to be testy for each of the dominant political parties, the PDP and the APC.
What remains is how the modern elite would use their power and wealth to transform the local communities into modern spaces as opposed to the unbelievable poverty enveloping the rural setting across Nigeria but even more so in Benue State. That is the historical challenge that define elite politics elsewhere around the world but not in Africa. Is that also because of colonialism? Does colonialism excuse ideological and technical incompetence in organising the good life for our people?