Here’s something Nigeria can learn from Old Oyo empire.

Everyone is aware that Nigeria’s biggest problem has to do with administration. The nation is run by people who put their selfish interests first and above national interest. They are unpatriotic. Today, some think this attribute is a Nigerian problem; that all Nigerians are disloyal, unpatriotic and self serving. But history doesn’t support such proposition; the older nations or empires that were amalgamated to form Nigeria did not have to battle maladministration the way we are today. The Oyo, Fulani, Hausa, Bini empires were very successful, efficiently run and had loyal and patriotic leaders. Maybe studying their systems and style of government can help get us on the right path. A yoruba adage says: “ A river that forgets its source is sure to dry up”. In this article, we would be considering the Oyo empire; it’s administrative setup. How did they combat dictatorship, corruption, high-handedness and other vices that are synonymous with leadership, especially the monarchical system of government?
Even though the Alaafin of Oyo was the supreme overlord of the Oyo kingdom, he was not without checks on his power. The Oyo Mesi and the Yoruba Earth cult known as Ogboni kept the Monarch’s power in check. The Oyo Mesi represented the Politicians while the Ogboni spoke for the people and were backed by the power of religion. The Oyo Mesi consisted of seven principal councillors of the state. They made up the Electoral Council and possessed legislative powers. Acting also as prime minister, the Bashorun headed the group which includes the Agbaakin, the Samu, the Alapini, the Laguna, the Akiniku and the Ashipa. The Alaafin was required to take advice from them whenever any important matter occurred. The body developed as a check on the Alaafin’s power, preventing the Alaafin from being a dictator; they forced many Alaafins to commit suicide during the 17th and 18th centuries. But, they too, like the monarch, are checked by the Ogboni. This sophisticated method of checks and balances made sure that no one was arrogated absolute power. The Ogboni was a powerful society that was made up of men renowned for their age, wisdom and significance in religious and political affairs.
Empires that last usually have efficient administrative systems. While there are many things Nigeria can learn from a past successful kingdom, the presence of a group(the Ogboni) which represented religion (and values) to check both the executive and legislative arms is very instructive. Today, our legislature and judiciary have failed to keep the executive in check; because they don’t truly represent the values of the people. We need a group which has unelected religious leaders, intelligent technocrats, who are popular with the people; so that, when the executive fails, they can call them to order.

Author: David

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