Exam Focus: Colonial administration

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Exam focus – Keypoint on Colonial administration – Essential features, defects or weakness

Colonial administration

Introduction: The scramble and the partitioning of West Africa by the European nations acted as the genesis of the establishment of the colonial administration in West Africa, With the exception of Liberia, the whole of West Africa countries came under the colonial rule of Britain, France, Germany and Portugal that shared out West Africa as a result of the partitioning of West Africa that took place during the Berlin Conference of 1884\1885. In response to the call made at the 1890 Brussels conference, the European nations that shared out West Africa sent their officials to their West African territories for effective occupation and that marked the commencement of the real colonial rule. Therefore, the period of 1885- 1950 served a period of colonial dehumanization for the people of West Africa.

 

The British system of colonial administration

Britain like any other European nations sent its officials to the four West African colonies after the 1890 Brussels conference for an effective occupation of the territories. By 1900, Britain had established political influence in her four colonies of Nigeria, the Gold Coast (Ghana), Sierra Leone and Gambia. Britain used the military threat to silence all the opposition and resentment against its take – over of administration of these colonies. In these colonies, Britain adopted the same pattern of administration known as indirect rule.

What is Indirect Rule It may be defined as a British system of ruling her colonies with the use of local chiefs of other appointed intermediaries and traditional laws and customs with British officials merely supervising the administration. Indirect rule was introduced in Nigeria by Lord Lugard who described the system of administration as a “child of necessity”.

Essential features of indirect rule

  • Indirect rule used the existing traditional system of administration.
  • It recognized the status of traditional rulers.
  • Traditional laws and customs were used in the administration.
  • Traditional laws served as the pivot of indirect rule.
  • The indirect rule system was supervised by British officials.
  • British officials did not exert their influence directly to the people but through the local chiefs.
  • It was not an expensive system of administration.
  • The system was meant to assist in the development of the traditional political institutions for effective administration.

Effects of advantages or achievement of the system of indirect rule

  • The system was less expensive.
  • It tried not to disturb the existing traditions and cultures of the people.
  • The system brought the colonial rulers closer to their subjects through their traditional rulers.
  • The system contributed to training traditional rulers in the art of modern local government administration.
  • It helped in the development of the spirit of nationalism.
  • It made the people not feel the harsh effects of colonial rule.
  • The system recognized and modernized local institutions like traditional court, laws and customs.

Defects or weakness or disadvantages of indirect rule

  • The system of indirect rule alienated the educated elites.
  • Traditional rulers were made to be autocratic.
  • The system denied the people the power of appointment.
  • It concentrated a lot of power in the hands of a few traditional rulers
  • The system contributed to the delayed of constitutional development.
  • Traditional rulers were deprived of their personal initiatives.

 

The French system of colonial administration

Like other European nations that participated in colonization in West Africa, trade acted as the connecting link between France and West Africa. Therefore, through chartered companies, signing of friendship treaties with local chiefs, military actions against unco-operative chiefs and finally through negotiation with other European counterparts. France succeeded in having many colonies in West Africa more than their counterparts.

France in the administration of her West African colonies, constituted al of them into a loose federation with the headquarters in Dakar, Senegal. A Governor-General was appointed and stationed in Dakar, who administered the Federation. In an arrogant belief in the superiority of French civilization and the inferiority of Africa civilization, France adopted an initial system of Administration known as “The Policy of Assimilation”.

 

The policy of assimilation: This was the type of French colonial administration meant to substitute the culture, language, religion, law, mode of dressing, etc, of the people of West Africa with that of the French people.

Features of the French policy of assimilation

  • The policy was a direct method of administration.
  • It was meant to substitute the culture, etc, of the people of West Africa.
  • It was based on the arrogant belief in the superiority of French civilization over that of the Africans.
  • Frenchified West Africans enjoyed the rights and privileges enjoyed by the French people.
  • The policy accorded French citizenship to West Africans.
  • Frenchified elites were absorbed into the French social system.
  • The policy brought all West African French colonies together.
  • Paris served as the base of centralized administration.

 

The policy of association

The policy of association advocated for the recognition and preservation of the traditions, political institutions, religion, customs and culture of the people of the colonies. Like the British system of indirect rule, the policy of association accorded great respect for traditional institutions in the administration of the colonial territories. In theory, the policy had some similarities to the British system of indirect rule. Dual citizenship, forced labour and indigent were abolished in the policy of association.


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