Indirect rule in the West.

The southern divided constitute the today Eastern and Western divide. The Igbos; the Niger-Deltans and the Yorubas were seen to be made up of more elites than the North. In the Yorubaland, a similar kind of the indirect rule of the emirate was initially introduced in 1914.

The Alaafin of Oyo and other kings of same status as at then had a similar kind of status to the Northern Kings (emirs). As well with limited powers and authority, the Yoruba Oba had no claim to being the sole controller of the native authority with no direct tax collection too.

It was foreseen that this method will crash in a decentralized setting like Yoruba. But the British authority defied the warnings to impose it. The british set up was working against the traditional democratic system the people were used to before colonialisation. The new system excluded the educated elites from having says in the government. It was sure the system wont work.

The imposition dint come without consequences though. The people revolted with series of protests. One of which was the Iseyin rebellion of 1916 directed against the imposition of taxes on natives. The natives were naturally bitter about the whole process toppled with the fact that Lugard was busy given the Alaafin more powers than he should possess.

Another similar protest was also in Egba in 1918. Considering how tough that was, it was reported that the then Alaake of Abeokuta nearly lost his life in the revolt. Railway lines torn up, stores looted, and a number of people killed. But with the help of the fresh returnees of the Nigerian troops from the East African theatre of the World War 1, Lugard was able to put out the flames of the protests.

That however dint stop the agitations until a commission of Enquiry was then appointed to look into their causes. The commission which included a Nigerian Barrister, Eric Moore, blamed the introduction of the indirect rule, the direct taxation system and the increased powers and authorities given to the Kings as the cause of the revolts. The recommendations led to changes in the general rule system.


From 1930 upwards, there were reorganizations in the western Nigeria with a view to improving the status quo. In later decades (1940,1950), more elites assumed control as elected officials in councils.

Elsewhere in the Benin and Delta areas:

The impact was felt too. The emirate type of Indirect rule was also introduced. In this terrain, the British exercised much closer control and supervison than that of the Yoruba areas. In Urhobo and Kwale Igbo, warrant chiefs were imposed on the people. These areas complained bitterly against the new system of the British-appointed chiefs, sole authorities and direct taxation.

Also, the elites were excluded from the administration. By the end of 1920s and 1930s there were revolts in various parts of the Delta areas. The Kwale Igbo revolts of the war period and the anti-tax revolts in Warri in 1927/28 are examples.


These revolts led to government sponsored detailed enquiries into political systems of the peoples in pre-colonial times. As a result, the indirect rule system in these areas was reorganized for the better. Benin, Warri and Agbor’s new organisations were based on their traditional rulers. The Oba, Olu and Obi respectively now work with the councils to administer controls to the village people.

The councils too are widely represented with educated elites. In the entire Western Region, the Western Nigeria Local Government Law of 1952 set the pattern of how native administration or local government could develop along democratic and enlightened lines. The reformed and improved form of local administration now introduced was to last till independence and beyond.

The next write up will talk about the indirect rule in the East — How the Igbos reacted. keep it another date with us tomorrow. Click here to read previous publications on this topic.

Thanks for reading. Dont forget to share.

Ola-lawal M.D.

For Muzzammilwrites.



pls., i will sincerely appreciated your views about the above excerpt in the comment box below.

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