Why Indirect Rule Was Adopted In Nigeria: 8 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:

1. 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.

2. Language difficulties

Another reason for the introduction of indirect rule in Nigeria was language barrier. At the inception of colonialism, Britain found it extremely difficult to communicate with the people of Nigeria because only few were educated enough to understand. Consequently, indirect rule was thought to be the best system of administration because it helped to solve the problem of language barrier.

So, instead of communicating directly to the people, who were obviously not able to understand English, Britain used those who could understand and speak to control the system. By so doing, they didn’t went through the stress of speaking directly to the people to convince them of their intentions.

3. 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

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. Reduction in the possibility of rebellion

Again, Britain 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.

7. To preserve the custom and tradition of the people

Another important reason for the adoption of indirect rule in Nigeria was to preserve the native law and customs in Nigeria. Unlike the French policy of assimilation, the British didn’t want to introduce any system of government that is capable of causing crisis or rebellion by the people. So to resolve this, indirect rule seemed to be the perfect system.

So by ruling the people indirectly through their leaders, the colonial masters were able to achieve their aim of colonialism even without introducing a new tradition or taking away the people’s original customs and tradition.

8. Britain’s unwillingness to be involved financially

Even when Britain was aware of all the benefits they will get from colonialism, they didn’t just want to be involved financially. They intended to get the biggest benefit with little capital and indirect rule was the best system to achieve this.

Basically, they didn’t contribute financially to the system. That was why tax system was introduced in every region of the country so that the people will be able to generate funds that will indirectly be used to administer the affairs of the people again.


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.

For more information about indirect rule, i highly recommend that you watch the video below.

2 thoughts on “Why Indirect Rule Was Adopted In Nigeria: 8 Reasons”

  1. Rio Adegboyega Taiwo Adewumi

    This is really helpful, it shows how well social media platform could help in education most time in the research carried out by government, history student.
    It has helped me with my exam and online research program
    Thank you
    Jah bless you

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