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Why Indirect Rule Was Adopted In Nigeria: 5 Reasons

Last week I wrote many articles on indirect rule in Nigeria. In my last article, I explicitly explained what indirect is, and the reasons why indirect rule failed in Eastern Nigeria. Having done that, I will now disclose to you the reasons for indirect rule in Nigeria. In other words, i will be tell you why the British decided to use indirect rule for Nigeria during colonization.

why Indirect Rule was adopted in Nigeria
why Indirect Rule was adopted in Nigeria

In light of the above, if you are a student, researcher or scholar, searching the internet to know the reasons for indirect rule in Nigeria, you are in the right place. I enjoin you read carefully so that you will be able to understand the reasons explained here.

Meanwhile, if you still need detailed explanation of what indirect rule in Nigeria is, please read my article on “Why indirect rule failed in the east here“. Now, let’s quickly see the reasons for indirect rule in Nigeria.

Also read:

Reasons for adopting indirect rule in Nigeria

Below are the reasons why indirect rule was adopted in Nigeria:

  1. Cheap nature of indirect rule
  2. Participation by local authorities
  3. Lack of British personnels
  4. Success of indirect rule in other countries
  5. Reduction in the possibility of rebellion

Okay! That is just a list of the reasons for indirect rule in Nigeria. If you need more explanation of the points I just mentioned above, kindly join me as I extensively discuss them all.

Cheap nature of indirect rule:

Apparently, the core reason for indirect rule in Nigeria was because of the cheap nature of the system. Since indirect rule used the local authorities, the colonial masters didn’t spend too much money on the administration. They were able to rule through the local authorities by giving gifts and little money to the illiterate leaders.

So, considering the fact that they didn’t have enough money to run the administration and the fact that direct rule will be more difficult and expensive, the colonial masters decide to use indirect rule because it was cheaper.

Participation by local authorities:

Knowing fully well that Nigerians would be more receptive to a system where their local leaders in authority are part of, indirect rule seemed to be the best option for colonial masters at that time.

Even though the local leaders were not really in control of the system, Nigerians (the north especially) didn’t want to go against their leaders. On the other hand, the colonial masters ruled the country in disguise of incorporating the local leaders into their system. This was undoubtedly one of the reasons why indirect rule largely succeeded in some parts of the country.

Also read: Donoghue v Stevenson: Facts, Issues and decision of the court

reasons for Indirect rule in Nigeria
reasons for Indirect rule in Nigeria

Lack of British personnels:

When the colonial masters entered Nigeria, many of them were killed by local diseases in Nigeria. They were unable to stay in Nigeria because our weather condition was not conducive for them. Thus, many of them had to leave. This largely reduced the number of British personnels that were supposed to administer the affairs of the local people.

The colonial masters considered that even if they were to use direct rule (that is, the opposite of indirect rule), they didn’t have enough personnels to control all the parts of Nigeria. Based on this, indirect rule was adopted in Nigeria so that the few British personnels around, would be able to control the local people via their local leaders.

Success of indirect rule in other countries:

Following the success of indirect rule in places like Ghana and other African countries, the colonial master thought that it will be wise to use indirect rule in Nigeria too.

More so, it is argued that another reason why the colonial masters used indirect rule in Nigeria was because of the failure of direct rule in many countries. Thus, in other not to fail, indirect rule was the best option for the British.

Reduction in the possibility of rebellion:

Lastly, the British adopted indirect rule in Nigeria because they were trying to avoid rebellion by Nigerians. I have stated earlier that Nigerians seemed to be more receptive to indirect rule because the system used the traditional leaders of the people to rule them. This made it impossible for the people to oppose the rule by the colonial masters, as that would be an opposition to their own leaders.

So you see, the colonial masters were very wise to have adopted indirect rule. That was the reason why they were not vehemently opposed by the local youths during the precolonial erra of Nigeria.


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In conclusion, it is pertinent to note that many reasons contributed to why indirect rule was used in Nigeria during colonization. The points mentioned in this article are just some of the major reasons why the colonial masters thought that Indirect rule was best for Nigeria.

Meanwhile, if you have any question or contribution to make to this work please do that using our comment section below this post. I will be glad to here from you!

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