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Traditional Participation in a Modern Political System — the Case of Western Nigeria

  • Louis J. Munoz

The constitutional development of Nigeria which started under the British occupation has been marked by two fundamental principles: the decision to set the political evolution of the country on a federal basis, and the effort, far less successful, to integrate the traditional institutions into a modern political system. This second principle will be the subject of this article, which I hope will also shed some light on the complex relationships between tradition and modernity, and thus show the importance of ‘primordial loyalties’ in political life.

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page 444 note 1 SirMacGregor, William, quoted by Nicolson, I. F., The Administration of Nigeria, 1900 to 1960: men, methods and myths (Oxford, 1969), pp. 6970.

page 444 note 2 Nigerian Order in Council of 22 November 1913.

page 444 note 3 Proceedings of the Nigerian Council, December 1921, quoted by Buell, Reginald, The Native Policies in Africa (London, 1928), Vol. 1, p. 739.

page 444 note 4 On the Legislative Council, see Elias, T. O., Nigeria: the development of its laws and constitution (London, 1967), pp. 2634, and especially Wheare, Joan, The Nigerian Legislative Council (London, 1950), and Tamuno, T. N., Nigeria and Elective Representation, 1923–1947 (London, 1966).

page 445 note 1 White, J. J., ‘Nigeria and Clifford's Constitutional Reforms, 1919–1925’, History Postgraduate Seminar, University of Ibadan, 1970, p. 22.

page 445 note 2 Cf. ‘The Clifford Minute’, in Kirk-Greene, A. H. M. (ed.), The Principles of Native Administration in Nigeria: selected documents, 1900–1947 (London, 1965), pp. 175 and 182.

page 445 note 3 Speech by Sir Hugh Clifford to the Nigerian Council, 29 December 1920, quoted by Crowder, Michael, The Story of Nigeria (London, 1962), pp. 227–8.

page 445 note 4 Austin, Dennis, West Africa and the Commonwealth (London, 1957), p. 82.

page 446 note 1 Cf. Conference of Yoruba Chiefs held at Oyo, 31 March–1 April 1937, typescript record of proceedings.

page 446 note 2 Cf. Smith, R. S., Kingdoms of the Yoruba (London, 1976), p. 241. See also ‘Native Crowns’, in Journal of the African Society (London), 7, 1903, pp. 313–15.

page 446 note 3 Smith, op. cit. p. 102. I am very grateful to Professor Smith for calling my attention to these precedents, as well as for his other pertinent comments.

page 446 note 4 Atanda, J. A., The New Oyo Empire (London, 1973), p. 292.

page 446 note 5 See Akintoye, S. A., Revolution and Power in Yorubaland, 1840–1893 (London, 1971), pp. 236–40.

page 446 note 6 Smith, op. cit. pp. 62–3; and Oba Aladesanmi, D. A. II, My Early Life (Ado-Ekiti, 1977), pp. 74ff.

page 447 note 1 According to the Governor, SirBourdillon, Bernard, ‘The difficulties of choosing a place… were, I am sorry to say, enhanced by objections on the part of certain chiefs and their councils to going to this or that place because custom forbade’ Conference of Yoruba Chief, 1937, p. 6.

page 447 note 2 Ibid. p. 1.

page 447 note 3 ‘The order in which the Chiefs are seated here today is very good indeed’; ibid. p. 23.

page 447 note 4 Ibid. p. 4; and Second Conference of Yoruba Chiefs held at Ife, 16–17 March 1938, typescript record of the proceedings, p. 3.

page 447 note 5 The data have been collected from the proceedings of the various Conferences, with the exception of that of Benin City, whose records have not been available.

page 447 note 6 Cf. Sklar, Richard L., Nigerian Political Parties. power in an emergent nation (Princeton, 1963), p. 445.

page 448 note 1 Cf. Lloyd, P. C., ‘Local Government in Yoruba Towns: an analysis of the roles of the Obas, chiefs and elected councillors’, Ph.D. dissertation, Oxford 1958, p. 111.

page 448 note 2 Schaffer, B. B., ‘The Concept of Preparation: some questions about the transfer of systems of government’, in World Politics (Princeton), XVIII, 1, 1965, pp. 4267.

page 448 note 3 Cf. SirBourdillon, Bernard, ‘The Future of Native Authorities’, in Africa (London), XV, 3, 1945, p. 126

page 448 note 4 Cf. Perham, Margery, Native Administration in Nigeria (London, 1937), pp. 356–57.

page 448 note 5 Buell, op. cit. Vol. 1, pp. 842–3.

page 448 note 6 See Phillips, E., ‘The Egba at Abeokuta: acculturation and political change, 1830–70’, in The Journal of African History (Cambridge), X, 1, 1969, pp. 117–32;Pallinder-Law, A., ‘Government in Abeokuta, 1830–1914: with special reference to the Egba United Government, 1899–1914’, Ph.D. dissertation, Göteborg, 1973, and ‘Aborted Modernization in West Africa? the case of Abeokuta’, in The Journal of African History, xv, 1, 1971, pp. 65–8.

page 448 note 7 Conference of Yoruba Chiefs, 1937, p. 6.

page 449 note 1 Cf. SirBourdillon, Bernard, Memorandum on the Future Political Development of Nigeria (Lagos, 1939), pp. 910. However, by the end of World War II, Bourdillon had changed his views: ‘The suggestion that the eventual constitution of Nigeria… should take the form of a Federation of Native Authorities can also be dismissed’; loc. cit. p. 123.

page 449 note 2 Coleman, James S., Nigeria: background to nationalism (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1960), p. 274.

page 449 note 3 Both the administrative and the electoral system of the Regions continued to be based on the traditional political units, even after independence; Post, K. W. J. and Vickers, Michael, Structure and Conflict in Nigeria, 1960–1966 (London, 1973), p. 41. Even more recently, on the occasion of the creation of new States in 1976, there were voices asking for a return to the framework of the old Provinces.

page 449 note 4 Cf. Lloyd, op. cit. p. 32.

page 450 note 1 Proceedings of the Ninth Conference of Chiefs of the Western Provinces of Nigeria, 1945, Ibadan, typescript, p. 10.

page 450 note 2 Mackintosh, J. P., Nigerian Government and Politics (London, 1966), p. 22.

page 450 note 3 Cf. Coleman, op. cit. pp. 272–3.

page 451 note 1 SirBourdillon, Bernard, ‘The Nigerian Constitution’, in African Affairs (London), 45, 199, 1946, p. 92.

page 451 note 2 Odumosu, O. I., The Nigerian Constitution: history and development (London, 1963), p. 45.

page 451 note 3 Bretton, H. L., Power and Stability in Nigeria: the politics of decolonization (New York, 1962), p. 13.

page 451 note 4 Elias, op. cit. p. 37.

page 451 note 5 Cf. Awolowo, Obafemi, Awo: the autobiography of Chief Obafemi Awolowo (Cambridge, 1960), pp. 173 ff.

page 451 note 6 Cf. Post, K. W. J., ‘British Policy and Representative Government in West Africa, 1920 to 1951’, in Gann, L. H. and Duignan, Peter (eds.), Colonialism in Africa, 1870–1960, Vol. II (Cambridge, 1970), p. 41.

page 452 note 1 Coleman, op. cit. p. 160.

page 452 note 2 Awolowo, Obafemi, Path to Nigerian Freedom (London, 1947), p. 125.

page 452 note 3 Lord Lugard, ‘Political Memoranda’, in Kirk-Greene (ed.), op. cit. p. 71.

page 452 note 4 Cf. Awolowo, , Path to Nigerian Freedom, p. 123.

page 452 note 5 Cf. Birch, A. H., Representation (London, 1971), p. 19.

page 453 note 1 On the false situation created by colonialism, see the basic study by Balandier, Georges, ‘La Situation coloniale: approche théorique’, in Cahiers internationaux de sociologie (Paris), II, 1951, pp. 4479; also the very suggestive article by Ekeh, P., ‘Colonialism and the Two Publics in Africa a theoretical statement’, in Comparative Studies in Society and History (Cambridge), XVII, 1, 1975, pp. 91112.

page 453 note 2 Cf. Crowder, Michael and Ikime, Obaro (eds.), West African Chiefs: their changing status under colonial rule and independence (Ile-Ife, 1970), p. xvii.

page 453 note 3 Lugard, loc. cit. pp. 84–5.

page 453 note 4 Cf. E. A. Ayandele, ‘The Awujales of Ijebuland’, in Crowder and Ikime (eds.), op. cit. pp. 242 ff.

page 453 note 5 Buell, op. cit. Vol. I, pp. 662–7; and Perham, op. cit. pp. 264–71.

page 454 note 1 Reply of the Acting Chief Secretary to the Government, quoted by Coleman, op. cit. p. 279.

page 454 note 2 Awolowo, , Path to Nigerian Freedom, p. 125.

page 454 note 3 Although political parties began in Nigeria much earlier, they were restricted to the city of Lagos – for example: the People's Union founded in 1908 by Dr.J. K. Randle and Dr Orisadipe Obasa, flourished during the 1920 and 1930s, as well as the Nigerian National Democratic Party of Herbert Macaulay, and the Nigerian Youth Movement of H. O. Davies and S. Akinsanya. It should also be noted that although the nationwide Nigerian Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons was founded by Nnamdi Azikiwe in 1944, it only adopted ‘individual membership’ in September 1951, having been previously a mere ‘movement’. Cf. Sklar, op. cit. pp. 114 ff.

page 455 note 1 Cf. Lloyd, Peter, ‘Kings, Chiefs and Local Government’, in West Africa (London), No. 1876, 1953, p. 103.

page 455 note 2 Bretton, op. cit. p. 33.

page 455 note 3 Ahaba, of Ajagba, , House of Chiefs Debates, 15 04 1964, cols. 133–4.

page 455 note 4 I have taken the concept of compartmentalisation from Robert Melson and Howard Wolpe who use it exclusively for the individual: ‘Since politically salient identities are situationally specific, communal and non-communal political orientations may well co-exist within the same person’. ‘Modernization and the Politics of Communalism: a theoretical perspective’, in Melson, and Wolpe, (eds.), Nigeria: modernization and the politics of communalism (East Lansing, 1971), p. 29. See also Khare, R. S., ‘House and office: some trends of modernization among Kanya-Kubja Brahmans’, in Comparative Studies in Society and History, XIII, 2, 1971, pp. 196216.

page 456 note 1 According to the Odemo of Ishara: ‘Even if we say that the relationship between the Government in power and the Obas is a cordial one, this is not so with the relationship between the Obas and their local councils and this unsatisfactory state would be so, and more so, when self-government is secured.’ House of Chiefs Debates, 19 December 1956, col. 40.

page 456 note 2 Cf. Lloyd, , ‘Local Government in Yoruba Towns’, p. 111.

page 456 note 3 Cf. Sklar, op. cit. pp. 443–4.

page 456 note 4 ‘During this period the office of Chiefs will continue to have incalculable sentimental value for the masses in Western Nigeria. This being so, it is imperative, as a matter of practical politics, that we use the most effective means ready to hand for organising masses for rapid political advancement’; Awolowo, , Path to Nigerian Freedom, p. 66.

page 457 note 1 Cf. Sklar, op. cit. pp. 101–3, and Coleman, op. cit. pp. 349 ff. See also the interesting version, obviously favourable, given by Awolowo in his autobiography, Awo, pp. 168 ff. and 219 ff.

page 457 note 2 Sklar, op. cit. p. 101.

page 457 note 3 Cf. Oyediran, , ‘Local Influence and Traditional Leadership: the politics of lfe forest reserve’, in Odu (Ibadan), 7, 1972, p. 71.

page 457 note 4 Lloyd, , ‘Local Government in Yoruba Towns’, p. 88.

page 457 note 5 Cf. Lloyd, , ‘Local Government in Yoruba Towns’, p. 89.

page 457 note 6 Cf. Sklar, op. cit. p. 465.

page 458 note 1 This brings to mind the similar recommendations of Governor Bourdillon in 1937 on the occasion of the first Conference of Yoruba Chiefs, referring to the coronation of the King in London six weeks later. Conference of Yoruba Chiefs, 1937, p. 6.

page 458 note 2 Sklar, op. cit. p. 445.

page 458 note 3 Ewi, of Ado-Ekiti, , House of Chiefs Debates, 4 10 1957, col. 139.

page 458 note 4 Conference of Obas and Chiefs, 1959, pp. 1–2.

page 458 note 5 Constitutional Conference, 1958, pp. 27–8.

page 459 note 1 Rebuja, of Oshoro, , House of Chiefs Debates, 15 04 1959, col. 42.

page 459 note 2 The best-known case is well described by J. A. Atanda, ‘The Changing Status of the Alafin of Oyo under Colonial Rule and Independence’, in Crowder and Ikime (eds.), op. cit. pp. 224–9, and by Sklar, op. cit. pp. 235–8.

page 459 note 3 The use of these names acquired political implications. See, for instance, the comments of the Ewi, of Ado-Ekiti, , House of Chiefs Debates, 6 04 1964, col. 45: ‘Mr President, in the name of Olofin Oduduwa – you see the two names, Olofin and Oduduwa, taken together, there is no difference at all’.

page 459 note 4 Post and Vickers, op. cit. p. 92.

page 459 note 5 Proposals for the Revision of the Constitution of Nigeria (London, 1945), Cmnd. 6599, p. 6.

page 460 note 1 Conference of Obas and Chiefs, 1959, p. 7. A minority report signed by members of the N.C.N.C was opposed to the creation of the Houses of Chiefs. Cf. General Conference on the Review of the Constitution (Ibadan, 1950).

page 460 note 2 Awolowo, , Path to Nigerian Freedom, p. 65.

page 460 note 3 Ibid. p. 61.

page 461 note 1 According to Sklar, op. cit. p. 102, the Action Group was created on 26 March 1950 in Ibadan at a gathering of eight people in the private residence of Awolowo, at that time Secretary-General of the Egbe Omo Oduduwa.

page 461 note 2 The Nigeria (Constltution) Order on Council, 1951, ss. 28(3), (a) and (b), 91, and 94.

page 461 note 3 The Nigeria (Constitution) (Amendment) Order in Council, 1956, s. 3.

page 461 note 4 Report by the Resumed Nigeria Constitutional Conference held in London in September and October 1958 (London, 1958), Cmnd. 569.

page 461 note 5 Report of the Commission Appointed to Enquire into the Fears of Minorities and the Means of Allaying Them (London, 1958), Cmnd. 505.

page 462 note l Constitutional Conference, 1958, para. 60, pp. 278.

page 462 note 2 Report by the Nigeria Constitutional Conference held in London, May and June 1957 (London 1957), Cmnd. 207, para. 23.

page 462 note 3 Report on the Position, Status and Influence of Chiefs and Natural Rulers in the Eastern Region of Nigeria (Enugu, 1957).

page 462 note 4 Conference of Obas and Chiefs, 1959, p. 7.

page 462 note 5 Awa, E. O., Federal Government in Nigeria (Berkeley, 1964), p. 277.

page 462 note 6 Odumosu, op. cit. pp. 112–15.

page 462 note 7 Cf. Mackintosh, op. cit. pp. 515 ff, and Brand, J. A., ‘The Midwest State Movement in Nigerian Politics – a Study in Party Formation’, in Political Studies (Leicester), XIII, 3, 1965, pp. 346–65.

page 463 note 1 Awa, op. cit. p. 278.

page 463 note 2 According to the Onogie of Ewohimi, , House of Chiefs Debates, 16 07 1956, col. 29: ‘this House of Chiefs stands as the House of Lords in England’.

page 463 note 3 Constitutional Conference, 1958, p. 27.

page 463 note 4 Cf. Standing Orders of the Western House of Chiefs, 1954, s. 78(1) and (2).

page 463 note 5 Cf. Williams, P. quoting Debré in his description of the future Senate of the 5th French Republic; The French Parliament, 1958–1967 (London, 1968), p. 29.

page 463 note 6 Azikiwe, Nnamdi, ‘Essentials for Nigerian Survival’, in Foreign Affairs (New York), 43, 3, 1965, p. 448.

page 464 note 1 As the Oloja of lgbogbo complained, House of Chiefs Debates, 6 April 1965, col. 81: ‘These are intricated questions which we must ask, and we must not be regarded as figure-heads to rubber-stamp any estimate brought to the House’.

page 464 note 2 Onogie of Ewohimi, ibid. 4 October 1957, col. 130.

page 464 note 3 For example: Alaperu of Iperu, ibid. October 1957, col. 57; Onogie of Ewohimi, ibid. 5 May 1959, col. 68; Oloja of Igbogbo, ibid. 3 April 1964, col. 32; Otunba of Ilese, ibid. 7 April 1965, col. 112; and Oba of Lagos, ibid. 1 March 1954, col. 11.

page 464 note 4 Sklar mentions, op. cit. p. 444, that in 1958 only one among 54 members of the House of Chiefs could be identified as a member of the opposition, while the nine Head Chiefs or permanent members had declared their support for the Action Group.

page 464 note 5 The proposal to allow Yoruba to be spoken as well as English was discussed several times; for example, Balogun, Otun, House of Chief Debates, 5 08 1952, col. 33, and Akarigbo of Ijebu-Remo, ibid. April 1964, col. 353. It ought to be noted that Hausa was also (with English) the official language in the North.

page 465 note 1 Odemo of Ishara, ibid. 5 August 1952, p. 17.

page 465 note 2 Ibid. pp. 11 and 17.

page 465 note 3 Ibid. p. 18.

page 466 note 1 For example, Alaperu of Iperu, ibid. 16 July 1956, col. 33, and Chief Akintola, Premier of the Western Region, ibid. 8 April 1965, col. 139.

page 466 note 2 In the words of Onogie of Ewohimi, ibid. April 1957, col. 110: ‘We are not playing politics here. We are fathers of all’. Also Oloja of Igbogbo, ibid. 3 April 1964, col. 334: ‘We are fathers of all political parties, we are not here to debate on political parties’.

page 466 note 3 Osadebay, Dennis, ‘Evolution of Democracy’, in West African Review (London), 10, 1949, p. 259.

page 466 note 4 Awolowo, Obafemi, Thoughts on the Nigerian Constitution (Ibadan, 1966), pp. 65 and 83.

page 466 note 5 The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1979 (Lagos, 1979).

page 467 note 1 Reports of the Constitution Drafting Committee, Vol. II (Lagos, 1976), p. 77.

page 467 note 2 The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1963 (Lagos, 1963), ch. v, s. 42(1) (a), 2(b) and (c).

page 467 note 3 Reports of the Constitution Drafting Committee, Vol. II, p. 78.

page 467 note 4 Ibid. pp. 78 and 83.

page 468 note 1 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1979, Third Schedule, Part 11, 8, State Council of Chiefs.

page 468 note 2 Ibid. Third Schedule, Part IA, I(i).

page 468 note 3 Vincent, J. R., ‘The House of Lords’, in Parliamentary Affairs (London), XIX, 4, 1966, p. 484.

* Senior Lecturer in the Department of Modern Languages, University of Ibadan.

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