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Topic: Pre-Colonial Administration in Nigeria.
Lesson Objectives: by the end of the Lesson, the learners should be able to give detail narration on how the the three major ethic groups (Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo) in Nigeria rule themselves in Pre-Colonial era.
PRE-COLONIAL ADMINISTRATION IN NIGERIA
Pre-colonial administration in Nigeria centers on the patterns and ways
in which the various ethnic groups in Nigeria rule themselves before the
intervention of the Europeans. At this level, the pre-colonial administration in Nigeria would be discussed within the perspective of the Hausa/Fulani, the Yoruba and Ibo pre-colonial set up.
A. The Hausa/Fulani Pre-Colonia
The famous Jihad or Holy war of 1804 led by Othman Dan Fodio led to
the abolition of fourteen (14) pre existing Hausa Kingdoms and establishment of Fulani Emirates. This constitutes what is today known as northem Nigeria.
The emirates were headed by emirs. The emirs made laws based on Islamic principles. They possess absolute powers over their subjects. The emirs
served tne rights to issue orders or levy taxes but they were not to make law that contradict the accepted Islamic laws.
The emirates were headed by emirs. The emirs made laws based on
Islamic principles. They posses absolute powers over their subjects. The emirs reserved the rights to issue orders or levy taxes but they were not to make law that contradict the accepted Islamic laws.
Each emirate was headed by an emir. The emir was assisted in the
execution of laws and decisions by a number of ministers assigned to various offices. These were:
a. the “Waziri” (the head official, the emirs’ administrative adviser).
b. the “Galadina” (who helped to administer the emirs’ capital),
c. the Madawaki (Commander of the cavalry) the Sarkin Ruwa (Officer in charge of fishing occupation)
d. the Sarkin IFada (Head of the palace officials),
e. the Sarkin Ma aji (Treasurer of the emir) and the Sarkin Pawa (controller of butchers).
f. The emir who was also the religious head along with the administrative officials enforce decisions and laws in accordance with Islamic principles.
The Judiciary: The judicial administration in the emirates was largely dictated by the Sana (Islamic law). The sharia covers all aspects of social life such as marriage rites, divorce, debt, contract and so on. The Muslim judges called Alkalis were those who administered these laws.
An emirate was divided into a number of districts under the district heads called “Hakimi”. There were a numbcr of villages in each district. The political head of a village was known as the village head. Fach village head was responsibie for peace, order and good government of his village. The Hakimi was responsible for the maintenance of law and order as well as the collection of taxes paid to the Village head. The form of taxes paid to the village heads include cattle tax gangali), land tax (paid by farmers) and other levies which varied from one emirate to the other. It should be noted clearly that the Hausa/Fulani pre-colonial Nigeria
society possessed a centralized and hierarchically organized feudal
B. The Yoruba Pre-Colonial Administration
The Yoruba of Westem Nigeria could be traced to Odudua who founded
the first seven kingdoms of the Yorubaland which were united and later headed by Alaafin of Oyo.
The old Oyo Empire which had Alaafin as the supreme king was monarchical in nature with elements of checks and balances between the rulers at different levels. The system of administration operated on four major organs which were: the Alaafin, Council of Oyomesi, the Ogboni and the defence (army) organizalion superintended by Aare Ona-Kakanfo.
The Alaafin reigned over the whole empire as the supreme king. He
governed with the advice given by council or Oyomesi although he was not to take all their advice. The Alaafin made laws and decisions along with other council chiefs based on customs and traditions of the people. There are other chiefs who headed different departments like judiciary, finance etc in the King’s
The Council of Oyomesi
The council of Oyomesi was made up of the seven noble kingmakers drawn from the seven wards into which the metropolitan capital was divided.
The council was headed by Bashorun. They give advice to the Alaafin and also check the excesses of Alaafin. The council of Oyomesi could also summon an erring king and ask him to open an empty calabash which was a sign of rejecton on reigning as King. Besides, they also helped in the installation of new king. The election and installation of a new king by the council of Oyomesi must however be approved by the Ogboni. In this way, the Ogboni checked on the excesses of the council of Oyomesi.
C. Pre-Colonial Adinislration in Igbo Land
The Igbos mostly found in the eastern Nigeria had no centralized system
of dministration in the pre colonial era. The Igbo society was egalitarian in nature as there was a high degree of social equality among the people. However, there were some socto-ponucal instatitions that existed to perform legislative, executive, Judicial and military functions. Such institutions included council of elders, age grades, title holders, diviners, oracle etc.
The Council of Elders
The political power in lgbo pre-colonial society was characteristically decentralized. The basic unit of political organization was the village where the principle of village democracy was practised. The council of elders comprises head of different families (Ama-ala) and grown up males of the village (Ohanaeze). The council of elders made decisions through persuasion which would be comnunicated to different families for ratification or rejection. The grown up
males did not meet regularly but only when the village gongs were sounded.
Decisions were taken through consensus and not by voting.
The age grades referred to the grouping of young men of the village on the basis of age. They perform important executive functions such as
enforcement of law and order, execution of the decisions of council of elders defence of the village from extenal threat and aggression, performance communal work such as construction of roads and drainages, cutting of forest etc. Each village was administered as a republic.
The title holders liked Ozo title holders wield enormous political and
Oral power. The rulers were given to prominent members of the society as a result of their wealth and contribution to development of the society.
The Igbos believed in supernatural powers. They made use of oracles,
Juju priests and diviners to enhance social relationsthip among the people.
Oracles tor example were used for predictions and judgment.
Functions of Traditional Rulers in Pre-colonial Nigeria
I. The traditional rulers made laws for the people to maintain peace and order within their domain.
2. The traditional rulers appointed chiefs and village heads who assisted them to administer their territories.
3. Administralion of justice and settlement of dispute was also performed as a function by traditional rulers in the pre-colonial period.
4. They allocate land and communal resources based on the custom and
tradition of the sociely.
5. The traditional rulers conferred traditional titles on illustrious citizens of their communities.
6. They help in the planning and development of their kingdoms.
7. They perform sacrifices to appease the gods.
8. The traditional rulers reserve the power to make laws and declare war
against external aggressions.
Done studying? See previous lessons in Government.
Take a quick test for this lesson!
1. Discuss how the Hausa/Fulani, Igbo and Yoruba ruled themselves during the Pre-Colonial era.
2. What are the functions of the traditional Rulers in Pre-Colonial Nigeria?
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