Background to the Demise of Traditional Political Authority in Nigeria

Isaac Olawale Albert

Abstract


 

Introduction

Titles are granted, but it's your behavior that wins you respect (Kouzes and Posner 1997:12).

A major factor of underdevelopment of Nigeria today is the problem of leadership. As the country searches for altruistic leadership types, some folks call attention to the role that the traditional political institutions could play at making things look better. But these institutions are today a shadow of their former selves and it appears things are getting worse. Only few people today have respect for traditional rulers. Some even question their relevance under the modern democratic system practiced by Nigeria. This paper tries to unearth some of the ictors responsible for this increasing demise of traditional political authority in Nigeria. The word "demise" simply means "death" or "collapse" of something. But the impression we seek to create in this paper is not to demonstrate that the traditional political system in Nigeria is completely dead (and therefore already consigned to the


morgue) but rather that the system is anemic and might eventually die unless there is a reform somewhere. The paper focused on the three core factors responsible for the problem: colonialism of the 1850s to 1966, the partisan politics of the 1960s and military rule of 1966 to 1999.

The problem started with the British colonialism starting from the 1850s when Lagos was occupied. The British established their hegemony by subordinating the natural rulers to their own colonial authority. However, these traditional rulers were the hub around which the colonial system revolved. They were the sole Native Authorities in their Districts, which consisted of many a major town and a number of subordinate towns and villages. The paramount ruler was responsible for the collection of taxes, execution of some public works and granting of concessions for felling of timbers. All important matters in the District were brought to his notice. The powers of these traditional rulers over their subjects were increased in terms of neutralising some of the traditional checks and balances to the exercise of their authority.


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