LESSON NOTE ON GOVERNMENT – SSS 2
IGBO PRE-COLONIAL POLITICAL SYSTEM
The Igbo occupied the South-Eastern part of Nigeria. The administrative organisation of Igbo political system was decentralized having no supreme king or chief. Such society is known as acephalous. The society was segmented and egalitarian in nature. However, each village in Igbo society was administered like a sovereign state as it were. Moreover, there existed many institutions in the pre-colonial Igbo society charged with the responsibility of judicial, legislative and executive functions. These institutions include the family group, village council, age grades, Ozo title holders and so on.
STRUCTURAL ORGANISATION OF IGBO POLITICAL SYSTEM
- POLITICAL ADMINISTRATION AT VILLAGE LEVELS: The political units of Igbo political system are the villages. A village was composed of related family groups each of which was headed by a family head with the title, ‘Ofo’. A body of all Ofos in a village was the council of elders. The council was chaired by one of the Ofos who was referred to as Okpara. The Okpara presided over the meeting of the council of elders.
- THE EXECUTIVE: Family heads, who constituted the council of elders were deemed to be the one performing executive function. Affairs of the villages were discussed regularly at the council and every member had the right to contribute.
- THE LEGISLATURE: Laws were made at the village levels by the dwellers themselves. The age grade also did make laws that were ratified by the elders and binding on everyone as long as it was for the good of all.
- THE JUDICIARY: Whenever there was crisis between families, the heads of families adjudicated and settled it. Whereas more serious matters were handled at the level of the council of elders headed by Okpara. Punitive order or actions were taken against people found guilty of serious crimes in the communities.
- THE AGE GRADE: The age grade were peers of young men who performed certain functions at the village levels. Some of the functions performed by the age grade are:
a) Sanitation and community development duties
b) Helping to implement policies made by the council of elders.
c) Enforcement of law and order which is synonymous to community policing.
d) They served as a standing army to defend their communities against security threats.
e) They helped one another when labour effort was needed like farm preparation and harvest.
f) They carried out cultural and ceremonial duties during festivals.
g) They acted as checks on the council of elders and other administrative bodies.
- THE OZO TITLE HOLDERS: Wealthy people in the Igbo community acquire the ozo title with a lot of money. The title confers on them extreme prestige, power and influence in the community. They also have the right to preside over the council meetings and adjudicate in cases of disputes in the community.
SOME FEATURES OF THE IGBO TRADITIONAL SOCIETY
- There was no traditional ruler like kings or emirs, therefore there was no hereditary claim to leadership. In essence, there was no Igbo kingdom or empire. The largest political unit was the village.
- There were shrines managed by priest who demonstrated a great deal of religious and judicial powers.
- They held a belief that deities helped in their political progress and fostering unity in the society.
- There was an all-women socio-political group, umuada (first daughters of every family) which contributed in the polity of the society.
- Celebration of new yam festival annually.
- People convicted of serious offence were banished and escorted into the evil forest. This was the maximum punitive measure in their judicial system.
- (a) Describe the system of government of Igbo in the pre-colonial era.
- (b) Discuss the roles of the structural components of Igbo political system in the pre-colonial era.
- (c) Highlight the features of the pre-colonial Igbo political system
- (d) Distinguish between the terms acephalous and bicephalous.