Government » Pre-Colonial Political Systems » Yoruba Pre-Colonial Political System

Summary of Yoruba Pre-Colonial Political Administration

Summary of Yoruba Pre-Colonial Political Administration

POLITICAL SYSTEM

Historically, the Yorubas migrated from Upper Egypt and settled at Ile-Ife under leadership of Oduduwa. Oyo was a vast empire or territory divided into different provinces. It happened to be the most popular and outstanding of all the empires or kingdoms in the Yoruba political system. Oyo was able to influence issues in other areas like Dahomey (Republic of Benin), Ekiti, Ijebu, Ife, etc.

FEATURES OF THE YORUBA POLITICAL SYSTEM

  1. A confederation of monarchy and chiefdom.

  2. Unitary factor was the language.

  3. Differences in political organisation from central monarchy of Ife and Oyo to republican unit in Ibadan.

  4. Ile-Ife was regarded as the cradle of Yoruba civilisation and also the spiritual home.

  5. Oyo became the political headquarter.

STRUCTURE/ORGANISATION OF THE YORUBA POLITICAL SYSTEM

An Oba was responsible for the administration of major towns while chiefs administered small towns.

  1. Oba of Ife-Oni.

  2. Oba of Oyo-Alaafin.

  3. Oba of Abeokuta-Alake.

  4. Seven-clan hereditary king makers called Oyomesi who elected the Alaafin of Oyo.

  5. Aremo: Son of the Alaafin; assists the Alaafin in administration.

  6. Bashorun: The Oba’s chief minister.

  7. Ilari: The Oba’s permanent advisors.

  8. Baales: They were in charge of cases but subordinate to the Oba.

  9. Age Grade (Elegbe): Performed executive and security functions.

FUNCTIONS OF THE POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS

The Oba:

  1. Governed the capital.

  2. Made laws in consultation with his chief.

  3. Waging of wars.

  4. Tried serious criminal cases e.g. murder.

Senior Chiefs:

  1. Assisted the Oba in solving political and economic problems.

  2. Assisted in the making of laws.

  3. Helped in administration of trial of minor civil cases.

Baales:

  1. Organised payment of tribute to Obas.

  2. Tried minor cases in their domain.

  3. Made laws on behalf of the Oba.

Age Grade (Elegbe):

  1. Provided general security in the town.

  2. Brought accused persons to the Oba’s court.

  3. Performed public work (like cleaning of village squares).

Ogboni Cult:

  1. Checks and balances.

  2. Ensured good governance.

COMPARISON OF THE HAUSA/FULANI, IGBO, AND YORUBA TRADITIONAL POLITICAL SYSTEMS

  1. The Hausa/Fulani political emirate was monarchical; headed by a king, while the Igbo traditional political system was republican; headed by no king or queen and the Yoruba political system was monarchical, republican, and decentralised.

  2. In the Hausa/Fulani traditional political system, judicial matters rested with the Emir and his council (Alkali court). The Emir’s court was the highest in the land. On the other hand, in the Igbo political system, the council of elders and title holders (Nze-na-ozor) administered justice. In the Yoruba political system, the Oba tried serious criminal cases.

  3. The institution of age grade system was recognised by the Igbo traditional political system while it wasn’t in the Hausa/Fulani traditional and religious organisation. But, the Elegbe played a major role in the Yoruba traditional political system.

  4. The autocratic system or Islamic and customary laws were used in the Hausa/Fulani political system while the Igbo traditional political system used customary laws only. The Yoruba political system, on the other hand, had a balance.

  5. In the emirate, political power was exercised by the Emir and his council of advisors, while in the Igbo political system, power was exercised by the council of elders by consensus. In the Yoruba political system, power was decentralised.

[Attributions and Licenses]


This is a lesson from the tutorial, Pre-Colonial Political Systems and you are encouraged to log in or register, so that you can track your progress.

Log In

Share Thoughts