Pre-colonial Political Systems in Nigeria (Hausa/Fulani Political System)

The Fulani took over the political leadership of the Habe (Hausa) states in the early 19th century. The jihad that followed this occupation was seen as a religious one as well as political.

Usman Dan Fodio led the Fulani Jihad and took over the political leadership of the Hausa and established Sokoto caliphate with outstanding centralized political system of government. He introduced a new system of selecting and appointing rulers described as Emirs to rule the caliphate. Each of the Emirs owed allegiance to Dan Fodio and his two representatives at Gwandu and Sokoto.

Political Administration

  • The Emirate: The caliphate was divided into emirates and each was headed by an Emir. He had the responsibility of making laws, enforcing them and maintaining peace and order in his emirate. However, each emirate was assisted in the administration of the emirate by a number of advisers. These were;
  •  The Waziri: He was the head of all the officials.
  • The Galadima: He was in charge of the capital.
  • The Madaki (Madawaki): He was the commander of the army.
  • Dogari: He was the head of the police.
  • Maaji: He was in charge of treasury.
  • Sarkin Ruwa: The River fishing official.
  • Sarkin Fada: The head of the palace workers.
  • Sarkin Pawa: The head of all butchers.
  1. Supreme headquarters: Sokoto and Gwandu were the seats of the Emirs. The Emir of Gwandu controlled the western empire while the Emir of Sokoto controlled the eastern empire.
  2. District administration: Each emirate was divided into districts for administrative convenience. An official known as Hakimi was usually appointed to the Emir to administer the district.
  3. Village heads: Village heads were appointed by Haikimi to help in the collection of taxes, e.g. cattle tax (Jangali).
  4. Legislative functions: Islamic laws were the supreme laws of the emirate.
  5. Executive functions: The emir was authoritarian and had absolute powers even though he had a body of advisers, yet he can ignore or accept their advice.
  6. Judicial functions: The judicial administration was based on Sharia laws. The laws were administered by Alkali judges.
  7. Centralized administration: The emirate system was a highly centralized one with the Emirs possessing almost all the powers. He was an authoritarian ruler.

Igbo Political System

The Igbo political system may be seen as a fragmented political system. Many institutions were in place and political authority was shared among them. For example, the Ofo title holders (council of elders), Ozo title holders, age grades, etc were all involved in the power sharing exercise. There was absence of centralization of power and authority in Igbo political system as it was more of the people’s direct participation in their government (Direct democracy).

Structural Organization of Igbo Political System

  • Village administration: The Igbo political system was based on the village as a political unit. A village is seen as inhabited by a group of related families. Each family head held the Ofo title and all of them put together formed the council of elders. The council governed the village.
  • The age grade: These were the young men that belonged to the same age group and they perform the following functions;
  • Administration: They were involved in the administration of the village.
  • Performance of public duties: They were involved in the performance of public duties.
  • Defence of the village: They equally served as the potential army for the defence of the village against external enemy.
  • Maintenance of law and order: They act as police force for the maintenance of law and order.
  • Abuse of powers: The age grades assisted in checking abuse of power by the paramount rulers and council of elders.
  • Implementation of policies: They also help in the implementation of policies made by the council of elders.
  • The executive: The affairs of the village are discussed from time to time by family heads (council of elders).
  • The legislature: The villagers made law themselves and even the age grades can enact a law which the elders would accept.
  • The judiciary: Family heads settle disputes between families. Serious cases were referred to the council of elders presided by the Okpara.
  • The Ozo title holders: Some wealthy and influential men took this title which was very expensive. This title makes the holder to be recognized in the society.
  • Provision of shrines: Shrines were provided and was seen as political significance in providing bonds of unity.
  • Leadership: Succession to leadership positions was not hereditary in the Igbo political system.
  • Type of political system: The political system was more of a republican government.

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