THE BLACK FACT: “Lugardism” & its Effect on British West Africa

Posted: February 8, 2014 in Articles, The Black Fact
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byTheophilus Nana Tsiwah

After a deeper reflection through all the historical chronicles these nation(s) of ours and continent has passed through leaves me in so much heart bleeding moments.

The treatment of ‘Lugardism’, that is, Indirect Rule as propounded by Frederick Lord Lugard is one of a disturbing phenomenon. Talk of how our chiefs lost their sanctity and supremacy is quite unfortunate.

With the introduction of indirect rule, the omens of ‘Lugardism’ swept and ate into our entire traditional fibre. The ‘Lugardism’ sought for an objective to establish and entrench western democratic institutions and practices into our administrative set-up.

Lord Lugard in his book “The Dual Mandate in British Tropical Africa” published in 1922 persuaded the British authority of the need and appropriateness of indirect rule in British West Africa. Nigeria, Ghana, The Gambia and Seirra Leone received their turn of entrenchment in that succession. As a result of the propounder thus the crowing principle ‘Lugardism’.

Lugardism in a way was ‘trick’ in disguise just as many other European colonising strategies. It made our chieftancy supremacy weak and fragile by duping the major architects (chiefs) their powers thus making the chiefs “puppets and stooges”.

It also took away the power of judicial function which was based on African traditional customary laws, and in turns tried and punished offenders through British courts and judges. This also led to the introduction of the police and prisons to enforce these colonial laws.

The ‘Lugardism’ system brought in it wakes strained relationship between the chiefs who happen to be the rightful emirs of their people and some fraction of their ruled (educated elites). The marginalisation of African intelligentsia was indeed the one surest way for the entrenchment of indirect rule or better put it the ‘Lugardism’.

The Bristish at some point in their inordinate quest to see total dominance over their ruled in West Africa, sought for modalities to cut down it huge financial cost due the vast shape the colony was getting. Other factors such as acute shortage of personnel, communication problems, limited knowledge of the territories and fear of antagonistic posture from the local people were some of the things that brought in it wake the ‘Lugardism’.

With the full introduction and total entrenchment of the ‘Lugardism’, it basically laid the foundation of our ruling process even till date. Several constitutions which have exerted a considerable influence on our current constitutions emanated from this.

In the case of Ghana, the 1992 Republican Constitution evolved from the various pre-independence or colonial constitutions. Talk of the Guggisberg constitution in 1925 which created the Provincial of Chiefs in the Central, Western and Eastern provinces. Subsequent constitutions like that of the Alan Burns, Reports of Coussey Committe, Nkrumah’s constitution and so on had their influence as a result of the infections of indirect rule.

It however comes with no doubt that most of the myriad problems we are facing as nation(s) and continent stems from this system of rule. In view of this, if we really want to find solutions to most of the problems we are facing in terms of our efforts to seeing realistic development, then we must stop the “cymbal playing and blame games” and trace back the root of the ‘Lugardism’ principle which till date has a hand in “setbacking and sabotaging” our nationalistic and continental developmental agenda.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Lyriversity.

Lyriversity — Liberty of Creativity

  1. fiona says:

    An insidious by-product of Luggard’s policy is evident in the cumbersome curriculum that remains in Nigeria: a curriculum for low level clerks, flunkies and tradesmen. Precious little for women, nothing for artists and original thinkers. Little of analysis and synthesis or imagination. Every subject using the same small pool of skills: listening,copying, handwriting, some small measure of reading comprehension of dry, misguided texts – the worst of which may have been copy and paste material glued together by Macmillan Nigeria (which has no link to the highly esteemed Macmillan).
    Nigeria still learns by the book and the books are published by Lugardites, approved by Lugardites to raise another generation of people who are made impotent from 12 or more years of education that is designed to enfeeble them

  2. Ezeamalukwuo says:

    I agree with this post, and I have argued somewhere before that Africa’s Problem is political…our people are yet to feel that they are part of the government…the government in Africa is the work of less than 1% of the population, while the rest sit back and watch them…and this has to change. Our constitution isn’t ours at is foreign to our psyche, our mentality and our reasoning…and we will continue in this turmoil until something is done about it.
    Nice Write Mr Theophilus Nana Tsiwah, You even got Lady Fiona commenting, I envy you…he smiles

  3. The robust facial distortion of our willingness to unite as people into a united continent stems from this. “Lugardism” is the first force that keeps thwarting and fraughting the continental unification of our nations into a power force to reckon with.
    People no longer respect “traditional Africa customary laws”. Most people blindly think Africa didn’t have any laws, which is equally very unfortunate and shameful. Until the introduction of “Lugardism”, Africa had its own powerful laws governing it judiciary set-up. We must thus realise that, the ‘bookish’ nature of our educational system all have it roots from “Lugardism”.
    Lugardism must therefore be seen as a deadly infection that infested Africa and her citizenry..

  4. Moses opara says:

    What good impact did the Lugard’s era did in Africa.?

  5. Theo my man, I have been tagged “Controversial” in some quarters, as a result of my differing views to some thoughts, and I don’t care much about it(not even now).
    But I wanna say these:
    * you did quite well to enumerate the flaws of Lugardism e.g devaluing of our chieftaincy authorities and distorting our African judicial systems…that’s quite commendable, but don’t you think highlighting the gains of colonialism, and hence balancing both sides, could hav you done your posts some good?
    *my opinion remains that irrespective of how people see Lugardism, the positives are too numerous to count. Talk about the abolishment of double standard judgements, the devaluation of kolanut-turned-dubious chiefs of the past, whose “outcrops” litter here and there in the present.

    I’m ready to argue to an end to make anyone see sense in the works of the colonial governments.
    But before then, I congratulate your brave views, and urge you to read more of your posts before you publish them.

  6. Anene Francis says:

    Thumbs up mr Theophilus for this educative write up. Well done sir.

    Permit me to make a distinction here. You seem to have merged the effects of lugardism to the overall effect of colonialism.

    I don’t think the aim of the indirect rule was to enact democracy. That came later. (Then it was more of monarchy with diffrent levels of power and their queen as the head). The aim was to bring their conquered colonies under their total control, (same as direct rule used by the French). The difference was in the method of achieving that. As you pointed out, the indirect rule entailed using the already established local leaders as puppets to run their administration. Of course when that was achieved, the modification of our local laws then took effect. Some of the laws did not suit our different peoples and till now we are still struggling to adapt to them.

    * The major negative effect of lugardism was that it bred division among people. E.g In areas that did not have traditional leadership system that suited the British rule (especially southeastern Nigeria), they created warrant chiefs loyal to them, without the people’s consent. Thereby setting poeple against their rulers.
    Lugardism also caused the proliferation of “divide and rule”. In that, if you want to get leadership position, all you needed to do was to break your community away from the bigger one. Be loyal to the British government, and its done. Thus it caused spliting and rivalry within groups that were once very united.
    *The British government were selfish, not considering the side effects on us, and looking at the enticing advantages of its ease and cost effectiveness to them as you pointed out, so they opt for it sharply.
    The deed is done, we now know our problem and the cause. It remains how to retrace our roots.

    Keep up the good work.

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