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Indirect rule can be defined as a system in which an alien power rules or controls a group of people through intermediaries who may be their traditional rulers and institutions. The system was adopted and publicized by Frederick Lugard first in the Northern part of Nigeria and later in the rest of Nigeria. The introduction of indirect rule system to Nigeria was the response of the British to the problems of administering the vast areas which they acquired in Nigeria A view has it that indirect rule system was adopted in Nigeria because the British wanted to uphold African institutions and because they wanted to disprove the notion that colonial venture was purely for economic benefits.

These claims are nothing close to the truth. The system was adopted for the following reasons:

Firstly, the system was adopted to administer Nigeria due to shortage of British personnel which would have enabled them to engage in direct administration. The period under review was when Africa was being regarded as the ‘White Man’s Grave’ due to the prevalence of deadly tropical diseases especially malaria fever which the whites could hardly resist. Hence, only a few of them could really take the bold step of coming to reside in Africa. The outbreak of the First World War made the personnel issue complicated because some of the few whites in Nigeria then left in order to join the British army.

Financial consideration was identified as another reason which informed the introduction of the system. The British had a policy of depending on the revenue generated from the colonial territories for running the affairs of the colony rather than allow the administration of the colony to be a burden on the British tax payers. It therefore became economically expedient for them to delegate administrative power to the Native Authority rather than incur heavy administrative expenses on the colonies.

Furthermore, the Nigerian nation is a conglomerate of diverse ethnic groups with different cultures, languages and dialects. Thus, the British would have run into serious communication problem if they had decided on direct administration of the colony

In addition, the indigenous political system in the Northern part of Nigeria where the system was first introduced was suitable for it. This, coupled with the workability of the system in Buganda also encouraged Lord Lugard to introduce it in Nigeria



Indirect rule system was very successful in the Muslim areas of Northern Nigeria where the emirate system was already in practice. But in areas like Tiv land, and Bussa, the system failed because the British failed to understand the people’s pre-colonial institutions. Hence, Tiv land experienced some riots and disturbances as people protested against the system. The usual response of the British to such protests was the deployment of colonial army and police forces to subdue the riots. The system was partially successful in Yoruba land where the council which hitherto advised or checked the excesses of the traditional rulers lost their powers. However the new system of direct taxation annoyed the people and this led to the Iseyin riot and Egba revolt of 191h 1918 respectively In Eastern part of Nigeria, the system hit a bricking and this led to a riot in 1929, commonly referred to as Aba Women Riot Just like the case of Tiv land, the failure of the system in Eastern Nigeria was not connected with the inability of the British to obtain adequate anthropological information on the people of that area.

After the 1929 riot, a commission of enquiry was set up investigate the reasons for the failure of the system there. The commission’s recommendations brought about some modifications which agreed with the popular aspirations of the people. Thus a ex system which was in tandem with the pre-colonial indigenous institutions of the Igbos was put in place.

The British Colonial Economic Policy

 While some think that the British colonial economic policy was for the mutual benefit of both the colonist and the colonized, others think differently, arguing that the policy was aimed at economic exploitation of Nigeria. Hence, this latter group sees colonial economy as a factor of underdevelopment in the country.One cannot disprove the fact that the British colonial administration constructed roads, railways and sea ports in Nigeria. These roads and railways however, were constructed mainly to link the sources of the raw materials which they got in Nigeria. In other words, they were constructed to facilitate the transportation of raw materials and distribution of the manufactured goods which they brought to Nigeria from Europe Moreover, the British encouraged Nigerians to cultivate and grow cash crops in large quantity at the expense of food crops production. This was because cash crops formed part of their export from Nigeria Furthermore, the only industrial sector which the British encouraged and developed was “extractive” This had to do with the mining of the minerals which were needed for their manufacturing industries in Europe No known conscious effort was made towards the development of the manufacturing sector in Nigeria.

 Moreso, some Nigerian indigenous middlemen were displaced and replaced with Lebanese traders. On a positive note however, the colonial economy brought wage earning class and money economy to Nigeria. Coined money and currencies were introduced into the economy to facilitate trade transactions.




 Colonialism prepared the indigenous people for the art of modern governance This helped in growing the people for their future roles as administrators and politicians. It also brought about the formation of political parties and party politics. It encouraged the spirit of nationalism in Nigeria and gave room for constitutional development It also created wage earning class. It facilitated intergroup relations. through the roads and railways constructed


 Colonialism led to economic exploitation of Nigeria. It also led to the flooding of Nigeria’s markets with foreign goods with the resultant collapse of the indigenous industries and technologies, Indigenous traders were replaced by Lebanese traders and no effort was made at ploughing back the profit At a time, the British embarked on divide and rule system’ which placed a section of the country against another .This became the bane of disunity in Nigeria up till today.

 Colonialism created unhealthy rivalries between Nigerian educated elites and traditional rulers since the former were not included in colonial administration at the initial stage .Another shortcoming of colonialism was that ,it brought about widened gap in educational advancement between the Northem part and Southern part of Nigeria. The effect of this on national integration cannot be over emphasized .Suppression of opposition which is the bane of Nigerian politics today took its root from colonialism .Last but not the least ,colonialism created the phobia of white superiority over the black race.

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