African Culture and Tradition at the Crossroad: The Institution of Chieftaincy and the Paradox of Modernity in Bekwarra

Donald O. Omagu


The institution of chieftaincy is one of the most enduring traditional institutions of Africa in spite of the many vicissitudes it displayed remarkable resilience from colonial through post-colonial times. Historically, chiefs constituted the axis for the exercise of executive, legislative, judicial, military, economic and religious roles. Although chieftaincy institution has experienced ebbs and flows depending on regime preferences and dynamic changes since independence, Chiefs and traditional institutions have manipulated their legitimacy to entrench itself. It is argued that despite assertions that chieftaincy has been overtaken by events, the reality is that the institution has become central to government and cannot be discarded. The challenges of recent times, has raised serious concerns about the importance of chieftaincy against the backdrop of the institution’s ambiguous role in modern times. This study traces the historical roles of chiefs, and the inscriptive, non-democratic and anti-modern character of the institution which some pessimist believe would not guarantee its survival in the face of “modernization.”


African culture; Bekwarra; Chieftaincy

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