Posted by / Wednesday 15 June 2016 / No comments

The control of chiefs in the pre-colonial era

There were many ways in which chiefs were controlled before the coming of the colonial masters. 

One of the ways they were controlled was the power of the people to destool them. For example, a chief could be destooled for stealing, committing adultery, for becoming a drunkard or for disobeying the elders. The fear of losing his crown kept the chief in check and preventing him from becoming despotic.

Conventions and beliefs
Another way in which the chief kept in control before the advent of the colonialist was that they were expected to go according to the customs and conventions of the state. They were not allowed to disrespect the religious beliefs and taboos of society. Any violation of these conventions, customs, religious beliefs and taboos could bring about serious consequences for the chief.

Control by Commoners
There were Asafo companies among the Akans, and Secret societies among the Igbos for example, who could openly revolt against the chief. This happened mostly when the chief abused the powers of his office. The fear of such revolts helped to keep the chiefs in check.

Control by the Chief Priest
The Chief Priest served as the link between the dead or ancestors and the living. He was the custodian of the mandatory rites and rituals to be performed within the state. As a person who was believed to hear from the ancestors, he also served as a check on the excesses of the chiefs. The chief priest could, for example, tell the chief what everybody was afraid to speak to him about.

Fear of ancestors
Traditionally, the ancestors were believed to continue to be interested in the affairs of the living. They were believed to have the powers to bring curses upon the living if they violated the norms of society. The chiefs, who were custodians of the tradition, feared the wrath of the ancestors even more. They believed that the ancestors could bring untold sufferings upon them if they abused their powers. This also kept them in check.

Ownership of property
In some traditional societies, the Chief could not own any personal property while he occupied the throne. This was to control the wanton desire of chiefs to amass wealth to the detriment of the people. Even if a chief acquired property while in office, the property was regarded as the property of the stool. This helped to prevent the unbridled acquisition of illegal property.

1. In which six ways were chiefs controlled during the pre-colonial period?

2. Highlight six ways in which the chiefs before the colonial period were controlled.

The role of chiefs under British colonial rule
The control of chiefs under British colonial rule

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