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Why Indirect Rule succeeded in Northern Nigeria

Nigeria, Flag

Indirect Rule is the system of government in which the traditional structures of the local people were employed in the administration of the British overseas territories in West Africa. The architect of the system, in West Africa, was Lord Frederick Lugard. He first experimented with the system in Northern Nigeria and when it was found to be successful, it was replicated   in other parts of British West Africa. 

Indirect Rule succeeded in Northern Nigeria for many reasons, some of which are explained below.

Traditionally installed chief
The Emirs who were the traditional rulers in northern Nigeria were traditionally installed or enstooled by the people and therefore widely accepted across board. These were the people who were appointed to the Native Authority. There no problems when these Emirs gave instructions to the natives, even if the instructions came from the British Officers. This was because the natives were used to taking orders from the Emirs.   

Effective traditional ruler
By the time Lord Lugard introduced indirect rule in northern Nigeria, there was already in existence an effective chieftaincy system. The Emirs or Sultans were already administering the areas with relative success and the people were used to a centralized authority. Therefore, indirect rule just fitted into the traditional political system.

System of taxation
The northern territories of Nigeria were already operating a form of taxation so the people were used to paying of taxes like cattle tax and they also paid tributes. It was therefore not difficult for the natives to accept the payment of taxes when Lord Lugard reformed the already existing one.

Man, Trader, Father, Market, Male
Absence of educated elite
In northern Nigeria, there were no educated elite as there were in Southern Nigeria. Unlike in the south where one could fine British-trained lawyers and journalists, for example, in Northern Nigeria, there were no such classes of people with whom the colonial authorities could contend. There was therefore a free ride for the British officials.

The existence of Islamic Courts
Indirect rule succeeded in northern Nigeria because there was already in existence a native judicial system. The Emirs in northern Nigeria operated a court system where criminals were tried and if found guilty, convicted. This was the very system Lord Lugard adopted and reformed. For example, they Islamic Courts could not impose a death sentence without the approval of the British resident officials.

Direction by British officials
The presence of British resident officials in northern Nigeria, giving the Emirs the necessary administrative direction also contributed to the success of indirect rule in northern Nigeria. British political officials such as the District Commissioner were available to guide and to advise the traditional rulers in the north and this also ensured that the system succeeded.

1. Highlight six reasons why the policy of indirect rule succeeded in northern Nigeria.

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