The British Policy Of Indirect Rule: Meaning, Features And Reasons

Table Of Contents
1. Meaning Of Indirect Rule
2. Features Of Indirect Rule System
3. Reasons For The Emergence Of Indirect Rule
4. Reasons For The Success Of Indirect Rule In Northern Region
5. Reasons Why Indirect Rule Partially Succeeded In Western Region
6. Reasons For The Failure Of The Indirect Rule In Eastern Region
Indirect rule was based on using the traditional institutions and structures to rule the local people. The term indirect rule was an aspect of the British administrative system or policy aimed at ruling and administering her colonies through the Native Rulers called chiefs. In other words the traditional rulers were used to govern their own people directly to maintain law and order.
Temple (1981) was of the opinion that indirect rule is a system of administration by which European influence is brought to bear on the natives indirectly through their chiefs and not directly through the Europeans. The traditional rulers were recognized officially and legally by the Native Authorities ordinance number 14 of 1916.
Indirect rule was a local administrative strategy entrenched by the colonial masters during the colonial era to rule the local people. The system ensured effective control and exploitation of colonies.
Features Of Indirect Rule System
1. Traditional Rulers served as the pivot of indirect rule.
2. It used the existing traditional system of administration.
3. Indirect rule system was supervised by the British officials.
4. It was meant to assist in the development of the traditional political institutions for effective administration.
5. The system did not disrupt the existing traditional system of administration.
6. The system was not an expensive system of administration.
7. Warrant chiefs were appointed by the British colonial masters where there was no traditional rulers.
Reasons For The Emergence Of Indirect Rule
Several factors led Lord Lugard and other British officials to introduce indirect rule system in colonial Nigeria. These include:
1. The vastness of the Nigerian territory, when transportation and communication were still at a rudimentary stage of development.
2. The lack of British colonial officials to administer the colony.
3. Lord Lugard believed that the centralized political and administrative system of Northern Nigeria should suit indirect rule. And also for the success recorded in places like East Africa, India etc.
4. Another reason for its adoption was for administrative convenience.
5. The cost of direct administration was high for the British colonial officials, since they were not willing to spend much money on the colonies because their motive of acquiring territories was to satisfy their economic needs.
6. The colonial officials stressed that indirect rule was adopted in order to preserve and protect the political system already in existence.
7. It was also a way of preparing Nigeria and the entire black race for eventual self-government.
8. Language problem was another important factor that led to the adoption of indirect rule.
9. Indirect rule became necessary in order to reduce local resistance against the imposition of foreign rule.
10. It also calmed the issue of suspicion as well as the misunderstanding between the natives and the colonial officials.
Reasons For The Success Of Indirect Rule In Northern Region
Indirect rule was successful in Northern Nigeria due to:
1. Their centralized administrative system.
2. The hierarchical administrative structure in the region.
3. The submissive nature of the Northerners to their Emirs whose authority was regarded as divine.
4. Respect for Northern culture by the British colonial officials.
5. Non-interference of the colonial administrators with the traditional powers of the emir, hence they had no cause to oppose the system.
6. The dogmas and teachings of Islamic religion, made the worshippers and subjects perpetually dependent on the rulers.
Reasons Why Indirect Rule Partially Succeeded In Western Region
Unlike the Northern region, the indirect rule system was not quite successful, because of the following reasons:
1. Lord Lugard did not do his home work well especially on the checks over the Oba’s power.
2. The Oba was not an autocratic ruler as he had no absolute power and control over his people, as his counterparts in the North.
3. The system attempted to disrupt the traditional political system in Yoruba land.
4. The introduction of taxation against the wishes of the people which led to series of riots.
5. The presence of educated elites was a threat to colonial administration.
Reasons For The Failure Of The Indirect Rule In Eastern Region
Indirect rule failed among the Ibos because of the under listed reasons:
1. The Ibos had a decentralized system of government.
2. The creation and recognition of warrant chiefs created confusion and instability in the Eastern region.
3. Early education of the Ibos, was a strong weapon to fight the indirect rule and the British colonial politics.
4. The Ibos were ignorant of administrative hierarchical structure.
5. There was no known system of taxation, and the attempt to levy taxes on adults provoked riots such as the Aba women riot of 1929.

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