Indirect rule, a colonial governance approach, was implemented by the British in various parts of their empire, including Northern Nigeria. This system involved governing through pre-existing indigenous institutions and local leaders rather than direct British administration. The success of indirect rule in Northern Nigeria can be attributed to several factors that facilitated stability and efficient governance. This article explores seven key reasons behind the success of indirect rule in this region
In the Eastern part of Nigeria for instance, indirect rule totally failed for some reasons. In the West, indirect rule partially succeeded. However, in the north, it was a total success. In this article, I will vividly explain some of the reasons why indirect rule succeeded in the northern part of Nigeria.
If you have been searching the internet to know why indirect rule was successful in the North, i enjoin you to read this article till the end. Meanwhile, before I will go into the crux of this work, it is apt to know indirect rule is. Below is the definition of indirect rule.
What is indirect rule?
Indirect rule is a system of government introduced by the colonial Masters in most African and Asian countries, where the pre-existing rulers of the people were used to control the masses. According to Wikipedia, it is a system used by the British and French to control parts of their colonial empires, particularly in Africa and Asia, through their existing indigenous power structures.
The colonial masters chose indirect rule basically because of the diversity in culture and beliefs of the people in Africa. Coupled with that, indirect rule seemed to be the cheapest way through which the colonial master could accomplish their purpose in Africa and Asia. Below are some of the reasons why indirect succeeded in Northern Nigeria.
Kindly watch the video below for more explanation of indirect rule system:
Why indirect rule succeeded in Northern Nigeria
Below are some of the reasons why indirect rule succeeded in the North:
- Autocratic Nature of the Emirs
- Submissiveness of the people
- Centralized nature of the North
- Lack of educated elites to oppose the system
- Pre-existing tax system in the North
- Preservation of the culture and religion of the people
- Pre-existing judicial system in the north
Yeah! There you have some of the reasons why indirect rule totally succeeded in Northern Nigeria. Meanwhile, if you need a detailed explanation of any of the reasons I have already mentioned above, keep reading this article as I will explain everything in depth.
1. Autocratic Nature of the Emirs: A critical study of the Hausa/Fulani pre-colonial administration shows that the Emir was Autocratic in nature. He was so much respected that anyone who speaks against him can be killed for doing so. When the colonial masters understood this, they decided to use the Emir of the north to rule. By doing so, there was nothing that could stop the success of indirect rule in the North.
The only thing which they did was to look for ways to please the Emir. They showed the Emir all their beautiful plans for northerners while they indirectly used him to control the people and to get what they want from the north.
2. Submissiveness of the people: Aside from the fact that Emirs in the North were autocratic, the people too were very Submissive to the Emir. It was so much that even if the Emir makes a request that someone should be kill, the people will do so without hesitation.
This is one of the core reasons for the success of indirect rule in the North as opposed to the East. The colonial masters used this summissive nature of northerns to easily exploit the resources of the people. They didn’t oppose the system because the colonial masters were hiding under the Emir to do all their exploitation.
More so, another reason why the north was quiet to colonialism was due to the fear of British military reprisal if they had rejected.
3. Centralized nature of the North: Another reason why indirect rule succeeded in the North is because of the centralized nature of the north. Before colonialism, the north had a very centralized system of government. There was an absolute monarchy and the people respected their traditional rulers so well.
In light of this, the introduction of indirect rule in northern Nigeria didn’t give the colonial masters any problem at all. Since the political powers in the north was concentrated on their leaders, the people could no resist indirect rule. The British wisely used the Supreme leader in the north to control the society.
In my opinion, this is the core reason why indirect rule succeeded in the north. It is important to note that even till today, Northern Nigeria still have a centralized political system.
4. Lack of educated elites to oppose the system: Unlike the east and west, Northern Nigeria had few or no educated elite who vehemently opposed colonialism. This is apparently one of the reasons why indirect rule succeeded in northern Nigeria. When the system was introduced in the East, some of the traditional leaders that were educated thought that it was wrong to happily welcome the colonial masters. Thus, they opposed everything the British colonial masters introduced into their system.
This was not so in the north. The traditional leaders in the north welcomed the colonial masters and accepted everything they introduced. Based on this, the introduction of indirect rule system of government in the north was not a problem at all. All that the British colonial masters needed was the consent of the native leaders.
5. Pre-existing tax system in the North: It is truism that northern Nigeria had a pre-existing tax system before the coming of colonial masters. This actually contributed to the reasons why indirect rule succeeded in the north. One of the reasons why the colonial masters chose indirect rule was because they did not have enough funds to run any other kind of political system. Indirect rule was cheap and easy to run.
When the colonial masters introduced tax system to the North, so as to get funds which they would use to accomplish their purpose, it did not present them with any problem because Northerners already had a tax system.
The introduction of taxation into the north did not really affect the economy of the people . In other words, indirect rule was not really seen as a means through which the colonial master would use to achieve their personal purposes.
6. Preservation of the culture and religion of the people: Based on the points I have mentioned so far, you can see that indirect rule did not, in anyway, oppose the political system in the east. In fact, it preserved the political system of the north so the people did not actually see any reason why they should oppose indirect rule. I mean, indirect rule was even in line with the native laws and customs of the people.
Take for instance, in the case of taxation, Northern Nigerians did not see anything wrong with the tax system because it was something they were already used to.
Accordingly, when the colonial masters chose to rule through the traditional rulers, the masses didn’t oppose this system because they were obliged by the traditional law to always oppose their traditional leaders. In my opinion, this is actually another core reason why indirect rule succeeded in the north.
7. Pre-existing judicial system in the north: When the colonial masters came to North, they decided to retain the native judicial system of Northern Nigeria. This filled the minds of most of the Northerners with the fallacy that colonialism was with the sole purpose of making Northern Nigeria better.
Northerners did not oppose the little modification made on their traditional judicial system by the colonial masters because both the executive, legislative and judicial powers of the government were concentrated on the Northern traditional rulers (Emirs) and it is through this traditional ruler that the colonial masters were able to modify the their judicial system.
The success of indirect rule in Northern Nigeria can be attributed to its cultural sensitivity, integration of existing administrative structures, collaborative approach, cost-effectiveness, access to local knowledge, conflict mitigation, and flexibility in governance methods. While this system of governance was not without its shortcomings, it played a significant role in shaping the history and politics of the region. Understanding the factors that contributed to its success provides valuable insights into the complexities of colonial governance and its impact on post-colonial societies.