Exam Focus: Pre-colonial administration

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Exam focus – Keypoint on Pre-colonial administration – Yoruba land, Hausa – Fulani land, Ibo land

Pre-colonial administration in Nigeria

They were establishment system of government referred to as the traditional political system in several parts of Nigeria and other parts of West African before the advent of the European colonial rulers on the coast of West Africa. These orderly and advanced systems of government with the principles of check and balances applied in some of them. It is, therefore, an unforgivable historical mistake for the ignorant foreigners to say that Africans had no system of government before their coming. The true historical account is that the European intruders with their wars of conquest dislocated and disintegrated these African systems of government and superimposed theirs which on many occasions failed to synchronize with African political milieu.

 

Pre-colonial administration in Yoruba land

The old Oyo Empire was the political headquarter of the Yorubas while Ile- Ife where they first settled when they migrated acted as their religious headquarters. The system of government in old Oyo Empire was monarchical in nature, based on the not- too- easy-to run principle of check and balance. The system was based on the principles of inheritance known as patrilineality. It had four major organs that acted as a check on each other.

Election of The Oba: The first organ was the king known as the Alaafin. Although the Alaafin was a supreme king, he was not a dictator. He ruled according to the advice of the council of Oyomesi. His major appointment was subjected to the approval of the Oyomesi, The Alaafin had many assistants in the discharge of his onerous responsibilities. The second organ of government was the council of Oyomesi, made up of seven notable leading chiefs of the seven wards. The capital was divided and was headed by the Bashorun. It the duty of the Oyomesi to elect a new king in place of the dead one.

The checks and Balances: The Oyomesi acted as the organ of checks and balances to the excesses of the king. It was equally the constitutional duty of the council to impeach or remove any obstinate king by summoning the king and asking him to open an empty calabash followed by a public announcement by the Bashorun showing the rejection of the king.

The Ogboni was the third organ and was a secret society made up prominent diviners and headed by the Olowu. One of their constitutional duty is to check the excesses of the Oyomesi, such as the rejection of the Alaafin. The last organ was the Arm organization headed by an army general Are Onakankanfo who must commit suicide if the army suffers any ignominious defeat. The army group has the constitutional responsibility of defending the territorial integrity of the Empire.

 

Pre-colonial administration in Hausa – Fulani land

Prior to the Jihad or the Holy War of 1804, the territory now known as the Northern States of Nigeria was ruled by the Hausa under 14 independent kingdoms. The defeat of the Hausa led to the abolition of the Hausa kingdom and the establishment of Fulani Emirates. Each Emirate was headed by the Emir. Sokoto and Gwandu were made the two headquarters of all the Emirates. The Emirs of other Emirates were appointed either directly or by Emirs of Sokoto and Gwandu on their appointment subjects to the ratification of either of the two Emirs. All these Emirs pay allegiance and annual tributes to the Emirs of Sokoto and Gwandu.

The Emirs who were the political, administrative and spiritual leaders of their people appointed a number of officers assigned to specific duties. These officials who formed the advisory council and their duties included:

  • Waziri: The senior official, the Emir’s administrative adviser who acted as the Prime Minister.
  • Madawaki: The commander of the army or the commander of the cavalry.
  • Galadima: The administrator of the Capital.
  • Sarkinfada: The head of the palace workers.
  • Dogari: The chief of the police.
  • SakinRuwa: An official in charge of fishing.
  • SarkinPawa: Official in charge of the butlers.

 

Pre-colonial administration in Ibo land

The Ibos unlike the Yorubas and the Fulani had a complex and complicated system of administration in the pre-colonial era. There was no central authority, what they had was a diffusion of political authority into different groups. These groups that shared political authority included the village elders, the age – groups, the Ozo title holders, the Ofo title holders, diviners, etc. This is the main reason why the Ibo political organization in the pre-colonial era was described as acephalous.

Factors that united the various Ibo communities in the Pre-colonial period

  • Common language
  • Age grades
  • Supreme God
  • The Oracle
  • A simple form of government
  • The same cultural pattern
  • Marriage
  • Trade.

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