The Edos of Benin inhabit the south western part of modern day Nigeria and are close neighbors of the Yorubas with whom they claim the same origin. The Benin pre-colonial system of government, like the Yorubas was monarchical. The Oba (a title used for the king of Benin) was the theoretical and political leader of the empire with absolute authority no one dares to challenge. Unlike a Yoruba king, he was not bounded by the constitution or laws of the land. He solely wielded the legislative, executive and judiciary powers of the empire. Howbeit, he was assisted in the administering the empire by a many councils and officials. The highest of the councils were the Uzama who advised the King on important matters concerning the affairs of the empire. But unlike a Yoruba king, he was not subjected to their advice and decisions; he could heed to them and dispose them at will. Besides advising the King, the Uzama were also saddled with the responsibility of crowning a new king (the eldest surviving son of the previous king).
Apart from the Uzama, there were a number of officials who helped the Oba in administering the empire. These included officials like ‘Unwagwe’ and ‘Eribo’ who were in charge of the empire’s trade. They monitored the flow of goods in the empire and advice the king on how the economy of the empire can be improved. There were also the gold and brass-smiths that took care of the empire’s craft and industry. Other notable and important officials were the ‘Ezomo’, ‘Ebohon’, ‘Iyasere’ and the ‘Ologbosere’, the chief priest. All these officials had specific roles they played in the administration of the empire.
Furthermore, the Benin Empire was divided into two classes; they were the nobles and the commoners. Traditional chiefs and administrative officials were mostly chosen from the noble class. These included: the ‘Iwebo’ who were in charge of the regalia; the ‘Ibiwe’ who supervised the king’s harem and the ‘Iwagwe’ who provided the king with personal attendants. On the other hand, the commoners were not involved in the administration of the empire. Their main concern was providing food for their communities. Each of the commoners owns a piece of land he/she cultivated. They were also hired by the nobles to work on their farms for a period of time in return for money, a piece of land or sometimes cancellation of debts.
Ola Abiola; A Textbook of West African History; 3rd ed.; Ado-Ekiti; Omolayo Standard Press & Bookshops co. (Nig.) Ltd.; 1984
After Are-Ona-Kakanfo Afonja was murdered and Ilorin was seized by the Fulani Jamma, Alimi (the son of Abdul Salam) became the first Fulani ruler of Ilorin not with the title of Oba or Baale but Emir which solidifies that the total control of Ilorin, a Yoruba town had gone to the Fuanis. In a bid to restore the control of Ilorin in the hands of the Yorubas, Toyeje, the Baale of Ogbomoso and the new Are-Ona-Kakanfo, led an attack on Ilorin to expel the Fulanis, but unfortunately, he failed drastically. After sometime, between the months of March and April (when locus fruit i.e Igba was ripe for harvest), another attempt was made by the Yorubas to chase the intruding Fulanis out of Ilorin but failed again. Continue reading The Mugbamugba War- Second Attempt of a Failed Expulsion→
The Igbo pre-colonial political system was described by many scholars as an ‘acephalous political system‘ which can be translated as ‘a leaderless or chiefless political system’. This term is suitable for describing the Igbo pre-colonial political system because it was decentralized and based on village and direct democracy where everyone in the village has the authority to contribute in decision making. Each Igbo village was seen as a political unit inhabited by related families who were bounded by common beliefs and origin. Each family head in the village held the ‘Ofo‘ title and altogether formed the council of elders. The council of elders presided over important issues on the village’s welfare, safety, development and so on. Among the council of elders, one was recognized as the most senior to others. He was the ‘Okpara‘. He could call for and adjourn a meeting, and could also give judgements as well. Continue reading Pre-Colonial Political System in Igboland→
When Alaafin Labisi took over the throne from the previous (late) Alaafin, Onisile, in 1750, he appointed Gaa as his Bashorun, the head of Oyomesi (7 hereditary kingmakers). During Alaafin Labisi’s reign, the old Oyo Empire, also known as Oyo-Ile, became so powerful and earned the respect of other kingdoms in Yorubaland. History has it in profile that Alaafin Labisi collected tributes from faraway kingdoms of Dahomey, Popo and Ashanti even though his reign was very short, and more than half of the kingdoms and villages in Yorubaland (over 6000) fell under the political umbrella of Oyo-Ile. This thus made the old Oyo Empire a political and military colossus in Yorubaland.
Ibadan, (pronounced as E- baa- dawn) the present capital of Oyo State, is the third most populous state in Nigeria after Lagos and Kano with 3.5 million dwellers. In the 1960s, Ibadan was known to be the largest city in Africa after Cairo (Egypt) and Johannesburg in South Africa. The Yoruba people are the main inhabitant of this popular city, Ibadan, which was formally called Continue reading The History Of Ibadan- The City Of Heroes→
The history of Nigeria can be traced back to the Iwo Eleru and Ugwuelle- Uturu people that settled in the South-western part of Nigeria around 9000 BC. Agriculture was mostly practiced among the settlers and later, the production of ceremic stepped in. However, the ancient Nigerian culture owes its origin to the Nok people who thrived extensively between 500 BC and 200 AD on the Jos plateau situated in the Northern part of Nigeria.
Before the advent of the British in Yoruba land, Yoruba kingdoms maintained an orderly and unified political system which is still in effect till today. A Yoruba kingdom (e.g. the Oyo kingdom) was made up of a headquarter (i.e. Olu-Ilu) and other local towns and villages. However, its political administration consisted of a central level and subordinate units. Continue reading Pre-colonial Political Administration In Yorubaland→
After the great Jihad war (1804-1810) led by Usman Dan Fodio, the former fourteen Hausa states were merged and then divided into two caliphates. The eastern caliphate which included states like Yola, Gombe, Kano, Zaria and Katsina had Sokoto as its capital while the western caliphate, including Ilorin, Argungun and Kontagora had Gwandu as its capital. Usman Dan Fodio became the head (Sarkin Muslim) of the whole Hausaland while the control of Sokoto (eastern) and Gwandu (western) caliphates went to Bello, Usman Dan Fodio’s son and Abdullah, Usman Dan Fodio’s brother respectively. Continue reading Pre-colonial Political Administration In Hausaland→