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PRE-COLONIAL POLITICAL SYSTEM

Government (Secondary School)

PRE-COLONIAL POLITICAL SYSTEM IN YORUBA LAND

Oyo was a very large empire divided into different provinces. The system of government in the Old Oyo Empire was like most other kingdoms and empires that existed in Africa. It was monarchical in nature and was headed by a king called Alafin.

Features of Yoruba Pre-colonial Political System

  1. The size of the political system was a very large one.
  2. The system was a constitutional monarch, the system was decentralized, and the Oba was not an autocratic ruler.
  3. There was a system of checks and balances so that the Oba did not abuse the power.
  4. The Oba only ratified the decisions taken by the chiefs.
  5. There was no system of taxation.

 

POLITICAL ADMINISTRATION

  1. Political head: The Alafin was the political head of the empire. He was chosen by the Oyomesi and seven hereditary king makers of the empire. It was claimed that the Alafin only appear to the public three times a year during historic festivals. The administration of the empire involved the Alafin assisted by the Aremo, the, Bashorun, Oyomesi and others. The Bashorun (prime minister) and the Oyomesi played a key role in the administration.
  2. The Aremo: He is the eldest son of the Alafin but cannot succeed the father at his demise. He only assisted the Alafin in the administration of the empire.
  3. The Oyomesi: They were the seven hereditary kingmakers in the empire headed by the Bashorun. Their duty was to install a new Alafin when the ruling one dies or to remove the Alafin. They also assisted the Alafin in the administration of the empire.
  4. Provincial Governors: (Bale or Oba) each province was ruled by Ajele or Oba. They were responsible for the collection of tributes and the payment of homage to the Alafin.
  5. The Army: The Are-ona kankafo was the head of the army. It was claimed that if the army suffers a defeat, the kankafo will commit suicide.
  6. The Ogboni Society: This was a secret society made up of prominent diviners headed by the Oluwo. They were the third organ of government in the Old Oyo Empire. They checked the excesses of the Oyomesi such as their rejection of an Alafin. They performed judicial functions. They maintained and preserved the cultural duties of the people.
  7. The three Eunuchs: They were also involved in the administration of the empire. They included.
  • The Osi Efa- He was in charge of political affairs and customary, he had to die with the Alafin.
  • The Oni Efa- for the judiciary
  • The Otun Efa- performs religious duties for the Alafin.
  1. The Empty Calabash: If the Alafin begins to act unconstitutionally, the Oyomesi could authorize the Bashorun to send an empty calabash to the king which signifies his rejection. The Alafin was expected to commit suicide afterwards.
  2. Kingship: The ascension to the throne of Alafin was not hereditary but the Oyomesi was free to choose a new ruler from the royal families.

 

EVALUATION QUESTION

  1. State the features of the Yoruba pre-colonial political system.
  2. Describe the political administration of the Yoruba pre-colonial system.

 

FUNCTIONS OF THE TRADITIONAL RULERS IN THE PRE-COLONIAL POLITICAL SYSTEM

  1. They acted as the supreme rulers in their various communities.
  2. They performed legislative functions of law making in their communities.
  3. They ensured the defense of their communities.
  4. They performed religious functions as high priest of some religious cults.
  5. They were the head of administration in their various communities.
  6. They safeguarded the lives of people in their communities.
  7. They were involved in the sharing of communal wealth.
  8. They served as political symbols of unity.
  9. They were involved in the maintenance of law and order in the communities.
  10. They planned for the progress and development of their communities.

 

FUNCTIONS AND POWERS OF COUNCIL OF ELDERS

  1. The council advised the paramount chiefs.
  2. The council of elders was responsible for the maintenance of law and order.
  3. The council acted as decision making body.
  4. It performed religious functions.
  5. The council helped to install and deposed paramount chiefs.
  6. The council checked the activities of the paramount chiefs.
  7. The council decided whether the community would go to war or not.

 

FUNCTIONS OF SECRET SOCIETIES

  1. They helped to enforce law and order.
  2. They performed both military and police functions.
  3. They served as link between the members of the communities and their ancestors.
  4. They protected their members.
  5. They helped to educate their members and other members of the community.
  6. They performed rituals to drive away evil spirits.
  7. They acted as agents of socialization.

 

FUNCTIONS OF AGE GRADE

  1. The prosecution of warfare was done by the age grade.
  2. They undertook social labor like construction of roads, bridges etc.
  3. They performed socialization functions.
  4. They performed ceremonial functions during important occasions in their communities.
  5. They helped to defend their communities against both internal and external aggression.
  6. They checked wrong use of powers by permanent chiefs.

 

EVALUATION QUESTION

  1. What were the functions of the age grade in pre-colonial political system?
  2. List 5 functions of the council of elders.

GENERAL EVALUATION/REVISION QUESTIONS

  1. State the functions of the Oyomesi in the old Oyo empire
  2. Highlight the functions of the Ogboni society in the Yoruba pre-colonial system.
  3. Define State
  4. List and explain the characteristics of a State.
  5. Discuss the component of political culture.

 

WEEKEND ASSINGMENT

  1. The head of Oyomesi in the old Oyo Empire was (a) Aremo (b) Oba (c) Bashorun.
  2. The Yoruba pre-colonial political system was —- in nature

(a) Hierarchical (b) Monarchical (c) Republican.

  1. The eldest son of the Alafin was called (a) Aremo (b) Oluwo (c) Baale
  2. Which of the following titles among the Igbos in the pre-colonial era required substantial wealth before one could acquire it? (a) Ofor (b) ozor (c) Eze.
  3. In the Hausa pre-colonial political system, sovereignty was located in the (a)Emir (b) Galadima (c) Waziri.

THEORY

  1. Examine the features of the Hausa/Fulani pre-colonial administration
  2. Examine the features of the Hausa/Fulani pre-colonial administration

 

See also

PRE-COLONIAL ADMINISTRATION/POLITICAL SYSTEM IN NIGERIA

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

PUBLIC CORPORATION

PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION

ELECTORAL COMMISSION

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