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The evolution and relevance of autonomous communities in contemporary Igboland: an essay in local governance.


This article evaluates the major political revolution brought about by the establishment of British colonial administration in Igboland in 1891. Imo State is used as the microcosm for the study of the wider Igbo phenomenon of the impact of autonomous communities in contemporary Igboland. The article attempts to explain and understand the vehemence with which Igbo people clamour and fight for the creation of more autonomous communities, ceremoniously ruled by Ezes or Igwes. The fact that this fight has resulted in the fragmentation and destabilization of many communities somehow has failed to make any serious impression on those concerned, not even on the state government. The result is that many communities have been rendered ungovernable; and in some communities various atrocities, including assassinations, have become common. It is important to note, nevertheless, that the quest for autonomous community status is a common theme in Igbo history. (2) It should be noted also that although the term autonomous community gained official currency after Nigerian independence and has become a new addition to the lexicon of Nigerian political science and history, its genesis is traceable nonetheless to the Igbo concept of Obodo, meaning a town or village-group. This desire for the creation of autonomous communities is not--and has never been--only for purely political and emotional reasons. On the contrary, there has always been a strong belief that autonomous communities lead to more effective and better development at the grassroots level. Essentially, then, an autonomous community is seen as a beneficial and innocuous sort of home rule that is crucial for Igbo and, indeed, for the wider Nigerian political, economic and social development.

With the onset of British colonial administration the political independence of Igbo towns was completely undermined. For both administrative convenience and imperial necessity, these towns had to be brought under the control of the British imperial power. Politically, economically, and socially they were progressively integrated into the larger Nigerian state. That the colonial government paid a lot of attention to these towns was, in itself, a measure of their relevance. Effective control of the towns supported the control of the colonial Nigerian state.

The colonial town was the lowest level of colonial administration. Presided over, under normal circumstances, by the Warrant Chief appointed by the colonial government, the colonial Igbo town, through self-help efforts, played a crucial supportive role in the social, economic and political development of the town. (3) The town was also an important nursery for the new type of political education.

The diminution of the authority of Igbo towns and their traditional rulers climaxed in the 1976 Dasuki Report on local government reform. (4) Following the report the Imo State government promulgated a law that practically ensured that the Imo town lost its precolonial status as an independent, self-governing community. The law also transformed overnight the chiefs into Ezes and the towns into autonomous communities. (5)


Much has been written about "Warrant Chiefs" and the nature of colonial administration in Eastern Nigeria. (6) Suffice it to reiterate that the warrant chief system was anchored on the colonial Native Court system, itself the outgrowth of the 19th century Court of Equity. The Warrant Chief owed his authority to a warrant given to him by the colonial administration. This warrant not only made him a member of the Native Court but also recognized him as the de facto and de jure ruler of his community. The method of appointing these chiefs and the performance of their duties as agents of colonialism, have been generally condemned (7). However, a more detailed and less impassioned study of the Warrant Chief System in Igboland shows that many of them, far from being ruffians, riffraffs, rascals, slaves and vagabonds were respected, courageous and dignified leaders of their communities who, confronted with a new age of change which they did not fully comprehend, decided to serve in order to save their people and themselves. Although many of them were corrupt, dictatorial and ruled atrociously, many more provided courageous leadership in the unstable political climate of colonial occupation. It is thus time to review the bad literature surrounding the Warrant Chief System in Eastern Nigeria. This review is important because a good number of the current Ezes and Igwes of Igboland have their positions today essentially because their fathers or their grandfathers were Warrant Chiefs. It is also imperative that the historical record be properly balanced.

The revolution brought about by the creation of warrant chiefs in the administration of Igbo communities is very significant. "The position of the newly created 'warrant chiefs,'" writes Ntieyong Akpan, "was the direct reverse of that of the indigenous chief." (8) The colonial chiefs derived their authority from a colonial power and not from tradition or the general wish of their people. It is not surprising, therefore, that in the communities that had no chieftaincy traditions, they were not accorded the respect they thought that they deserved. Consequently some of them, confident in the support of the colonial government enforced their authority recklessly. Politically, their communities lost an independence that was so proudly guarded. They found themselves part of a vast commonwealth, the meaning and extent of which were beyond their comprehension.

The Warrant Chief was now the traditional and political head of the community but he was not himself independent. Simply put, he was the errand boy of the colonial administration and the people were essentially "guinea pigs" (9) used by the British colonial government to try out its fanciful ideas of local governance in a society like Igboland that did not have centralized authorities as was the case in the Emirate System of Northern Nigeria. For a people who were formerly answerable to a democratic ideal based on local governance, the impact of the transformation was great. For the new chief who was unused to the exercise of the authority he was now called upon to exercise without any precedent or training whatsoever, the situation was, to say the least, confusing. He simply carried out his functions according to his ability. Many of them did not perform adequately. The Town Council (as the old Town Assembly was now to be called), too, was equally confused but powerless to do anything about the new political reality. Thus, the colonized community also had its independence circumscribed. It was now required to operate according to the regulations governing the Native Court system, itself a colonial creation that only paid regard to those community laws it did not find repugnant. In the final analysis, indeed, the Native Court was subordinated to the Supreme Court of Colonial Nigeria. Economically and socially, too, Igbo communities were progressively integrated into the administrative structure of colonial Nigeria and subsequently became mired in political, social and psychological disequilibrium. Thus, Donald Cameron, a colonial governor, derisively described the warrant chief system as a curious effort to "make, as it were, a crown or a king at the top and then try to find something underneath on which it might-perhaps-appropriately be placed." (10) This may well have been so in a majority of cases, but the position was necessary if the new colonial dispensation was not to degenerate into anarchy.

Another act of the colonial administration turned the traditional Town Assemblies into Town Councils that became the lowest unit of political authority in the colony. These councils were also known as Village Councils or Local Councils. Above them were the District Councils, the equivalent of the contemporary Local Government Councils. For the most part the Warrant Chief presided over the meetings of the Town Council; but sometimes the Assistant District Officer was the presiding officer. In any case, because Frederick Lugard, colonial Nigeria's first Governor-General who introduced the Warrant Chief system, and his political officers were convinced that the Warrant Chief and his people were too ignorant to perform efficiently, it was insisted that they should be under the close supervision of white political officers. However, Lugard's efforts and those of his successors to evolve paramount chiefs and district heads through the agency of a rotating presidency of the Native Courts failed to materialize because they were strongly opposed by the Warrant Chiefs as well as by the respective Town Councils. Clearly, the Igbo communities did not feel that they had any use for a "chief of chiefs", a sort of Emir. Naturally, there were ambitious Warrant Chiefs who schemed, unsuccessfully, to be so elevated. Afigbo dismissed such chiefs as "artificial ... petty tyrants" (11) who were behaving like Emirs even before they were officially given the responsibility! By 1951 the colonial government had abandoned the idea of trying to rule Igboland through the governing model of the northern emirates.

The Women's Uprising of 1929-30--popularly known as the Aba Womens' Riot in the colonial literature--brought home to the colonial administration the bankruptcy of its local administration (what E.A. Anyandele has contemptuously castigated as "counterfeit indirect rule") in Igboland. The post-1930 policy of creating Native Authority Councils and courts based on the clan system--a system that was not generally practiced in Igboland--soon failed. The reason for the failure was because the clan was neither a political nor an administrative unit in the history of Igbo communities. For them, therefore, to supplant the Town Councils with the new creation was unacceptable. Moreover, the unwieldiness of the new clan councils (which represented individuals from different villages) made the system practically unworkable. It was ridiculed as a system whereby everybody was a chief. The ridiculously small remuneration given to the members also made the position unattractive. To make ends meet, some of the council members resorted to taking bribes and this damaged the integrity of the system. The outbreak of World War II made matters worse because the members were no longer closely supervised. Instead of abolishing the system, the colonial government adopted the policy of encouraging the town or clan councils (as the case might be) to form federations for purely administrative and developmental purposes. Consequently, by the mid 1940s, some of these councils formed larger units of colonial administration such as Mbaitoli, Mbano, Mbaise, Ideato (meaning nine, four, five, and three federated communities respectively) and so forth. These were later to become local government areas (all of whom are now clamoring to devolve). Many more declined to form federations for a variety of reasons. When this policy failed to solve the fundamental problem of the councils, the colonial government abandoned its original idea of appointing only elders or hereditary rulers as members of the councils. A new policy, the so-called "Best Man Policy", was adopted. This meant that towns were free to choose any person they wished to represent them. The choice was made in the presence of the district officer. As Afigbo pointed out, this policy marked "the end of the idea of indirect rule [in Igboland] ... understood to mean rule by traditional rulers." (12) The creation of the Eastern House of Chiefs in the 1950s and the insistence that new chiefs must be literate further undermined the Warrant Chief System, which by this time, was evolving into hereditary regimes. As the older chiefs passed away, some of their successors, now fairly literate and some wealthy in addition, were no longer drawn from the families of the departed traditional rulers. This development continued without major changes until after the Nigerian Civil War of 1967 to 1970. The result was a gradual diminution of the authority of the traditional rulers and a corresponding rise in the influence of the Town Development Unions.


The Local Government Reforms of 1976 arising from the recommendations of the Dasuki Report was a milestone in the history of autonomous communities in Nigeria. A major recommendation of this Report was that in order to bring government nearer to the people, local government should be formally recognized as a third tier of government in the Nigerian federation. Although the Report did not fully articulate the concept of a three-tier federation, (13) the military government of General Olusegun Obasanjo was sufficiently impressed by the recommendation to make it the Fourth Schedule of the 1979 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (14). And since a local government consisted of a number of communities or towns, interest in these towns and their rulers was rekindled. Indeed, in both Imo and Anambra States, following the 1976 reforms, the state governments had earlier in 1970 promulgated chieftaincy edicts and Chieftaincy Instruments intended to embody aspects of the new dispensation. These edicts and instruments were amended several times largely because they were experimental.

It was left to the civilian government of Governor Sam Mbakwe of Imo State to promulgate the Traditional Rulers and Autonomous Communities Laws of 1981 as Imo State Law No. 11 after it had been deliberated upon by the Imo State House of Assembly and passed with more than the required two-third majority of the votes. This Law was particularly important because it represented the wish of the representatives of Imo people. The law transformed the chiefs into "Ezes". It defined an Eze as "a traditional or other head of an autonomous community who has been identified, selected, appointed and installed by his people according to their own tradition and usages, and presented to the government for recognition." It also defines an "autonomous community" as "a group of people inhabiting an identifiable geographical area or areas, comprising one or more communities and bound by a traditional and cultural way of life with a common historical heritage and recognized and approved as an autonomous community by the government." (15) It should be noted--and this is important--that since without governmental recognition, no Eze or autonomous community has legal legitimacy; it follows then that the government can abolish a community or depose its Eze if it deems it necessary in the public interest to do so by simply withdrawing its recognition.


The question then arises: what is "autonomous" about this type of autonomous community? The word autonomous means independent and self-governing. It implies that an autonomous town or community is subject only to its own laws. In short, it is a self-governing community. On the contrary, the 1981 Law conceded no such independence. It essentially defines an autonomous community as a creation of the edicts and laws of the state government and of the decrees and laws of the federal government. In this regard, the term "autonomous" as applied to Nigerian contemporary towns or village-groups is a misnomer. If, the so-called autonomous community is not independent in its relationship to the local government, the state and the central government, where is its sovereignty located? This is the crux of the problem that has faced Nigerian contemporary autonomous communities. If the Eze, too, is the "traditional head" of his community as well as the "custodian of(its) culture, custom and tradition", the implication is that he is sovereign in traditional and cultural matters. Of course, even in these matters he is advised by the Eze-in-Council. Refusal to abide by the traditions of his people inevitably leads to conflict and disharmony in the Council. And if these are not effectively contained, they spread to the wider community and may result in the disturbance of the peace. (16) An Eze may reject his council's advice on the grounds that it conflicts with his Christian beliefs. In the context of such a scenario a real crisis arises. If he wins the argument, he soon discovers that he has won a pyrrhic victory. Undermining the fundamental basis of his legitimacy--Omenala--results in the gradual erosion of his authority and power.

Questions concerning the location of sovereignty within autonomous communities also remain, however. In short, who has precedence in an autonomous community--the Eze or the people as represented by the Town Assembly? This question has a long historical pedigree at the macro level. It was the major issue of conflict within the Respublica Christiana (the Christian Commonwealth), starting with the coronation of Charlemagne (Charles the Great) as the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire on Christmas Day 800 A.D. The conflict was finally resolved after about eight centuries with the separation of Church and State. Medieval European society was a theocracy, that is, the ruler exercised both spiritual and temporal power. This was also the case in pre-colonial Igbo society. (17) Interestingly enough, while in Europe the king or emperor claimed to be the representative of God on earth, his counterpart in the few monarchical communities in Igboland claimed divine attributes. This claim was seriously undermined in the colonial era and has quietly lost its credibility in contemporary times. In the vast majority of non-monarchical Igbo states such a claim was never made but society was nonetheless a theocracy. With the rise of Christianity and colonialism, the separation of Church and State was introduced and enforced at the national level. At the community level, some traditional rulers, perhaps unaware of the separation of powers principle, sometimes behave as if both political (temporal) power and spiritual (customary) power reside in them. Reflecting on this issue, Emma O. Inyama writes,: "The Ofo of the autonomous community that is still handed to the traditional ruler during coronation, symbolizes the community's power and authority. The very act of ceremonially handing the Ofo to the ruler means a collective surrender to this power. Ofo in Igbo connotes both ritual and political power and authority. Its presence any time, invokes the powers of the ancestors, the deities, and other spiritual forces. These were to help the ruler enlist support, solicit conformity, or coerce compliance." (18) The leadership of the Town Assemblies, for the most part, more progressive, more educated and wealthier than the traditional ruler, and of course, aware of the 1981 edict which has made the traditional rulership non-hereditary, (19) on their part, claim the political leadership of the community. This claim is embodied in the community's constitution, which according to the 1981 Edict, is "the written document which regulates the community's affairs including identification, selection, appointment, installation, recognition, suspension, code of conduct and deposition of the Eze of any autonomous community." (20) Before a person's name is submitted to the chairman of his local government for recognition as an Eze, he is made to swear an oath of office that binds him to uphold the constitution. As soon as he does so, the issue of location of sovereignty is resolved. Thus the people, represented by a democratically elected Town Assembly, constitute the ultimate power in the community.

A contemporary traditional ruler in Igboland is, therefore, a ceremonial head. He simply reigns; he does not rule. If he tries to rule theocratically he precipitates a crisis and a conflict that he eventually loses. However, this has not prevented some traditional rulers from attempting to subvert the constitution after they had won recognition by adopting one strategy or the other. According to Inyama, "The first action of some Ndi Eze has been to amend some sections of the community's constitution (that do not suit them). Where the leadership of the town union has proved uncompromising, the Eze has reacted by awarding chieftaincy titles to some of their radical members and instigating them into mutiny against their leadership. The result of this has been divisions and the rise of cleavages which culminate into a section demanding its particular Eze." (21) It may be added that Inyama's observation seems to be the exception rather than the rule. Admittedly the 1981 Edict has a lot of shortcomings but it is wrong for any community to attempt to change some aspects of it unilaterally. If it is the general consensus that the law needs to be changed, amended or modified, the only democratic thing to do is to follow the same process that engendered the law in the first instance. Since an institution exists to serve the people, if Igbo people are convinced of the usefulness of the Eze or Igwe institution, they should adapt it to suit their needs. If they do not need the institution, they could abolish it.

The above analysis suggests that the traditional rulership should be retained and given more significance. This can be achieved by putting a stop to the unwieldy proliferation of Ezes and Igwes, and reverting to the old colonial system of classifying chiefs (now Ezes and Igwes) into first class, second class, third class, etc., depending on the territorial extent of the monarch's authority or on any other criterion or a combination of criteria thereof decided by the government. The autonomous community could also ensure that individuals of unimpeachable character are recognized as monarchs since it is possible that wealthy individuals of questionable character can bribe the majority of their people to present them for recognition. (22) Finally, they could ensure that traditional rulers are adequately provided for and appropriately remunerated. It is ironic that while Igbo people are increasingly demonstrating monarchical tendencies they have stoutly refused to show concern for the welfare of traditional rulers or accord them appropriate respect.

The above comments do not suggest that the problems of the autonomous communities of Igboland are created primarily by the ambition of traditional rulers who seek to be both traditional and political heads of their communities. The town assemblies also share the blame. The contemporary President-Generals of the various Town Unions or Assemblies of the autonomous communities of Igboland as well as members of their executive councils drawn from both local and extralocal branches are extremely politically aware individuals. Determined not to brook any interference from the traditional rulers in political matters that they regard as their special preserve, they oftentimes forget, or even sometimes flatly refuse, to consult with their traditional rulers in such matters, thus making it impossible to achieve a harmonious working relation. The traditional ruler, it must be emphasized is, first and foremost, a citizen, and since he is also the head of the community, elementary courtesy demands that he be consulted and his advice sought in such matters. The assembly is not constitutionally obliged to accept his advice, but it is politically wise and mature to seek it. Many traditional rulers are wise and experienced individuals who are also politically astute. Failure to benefit from their wealth of experience surely is the height of political immaturity and irresponsibility. If, for example, a town union takes a political decision without reference to its traditional ruler and that decision results in the disturbance of communal peace, government will first of all hold the traditional ruler responsible because the 1981 Edict in Imo State, for example, enjoins him--and not the Town Union--to assist "in the maintenance of law and order in the community." In this regard, the traditional ruler, like the rest of his autonomous community, is a political animal and should not be shielded from matters political in his community. All that the law does is to forbid him to engage in partisan politics. Mature traditional rulers know how to manage recalcitrant and reckless Town Union executives to ensure that peace and harmony prevail. Some immature traditional rulers, in their attempt to ensure that their rights as they understand them are not trampled upon by young, irresponsible upstarts (some even of questionable character) engage them head-on and recklessly plunge their communities into turmoil. All that needs to be said here is that rulership at any level is a most difficult task. A ruler must make allowances for the irrational exuberance and misguided patriotism of some of his subjects. A quick-tempered ruler is likely to create an unmitigated disaster in a democratic republican society like those of Igbo peoples.

Because the executive members of the Town Assemblies also belong to different political parties, they inevitably introduce partisan politics into deliberations in their assemblies. In the case of national parties, oftentimes the interests of a community are sacrificed for the larger interests of the respective political parties. There have also been instances where traditional rulers have either demonstrated veiled support for a political party, which often brings the ruler into conflict with sections of his community that support other parties. This situation should be avoided at all cost. A traditional ruler may, if he chooses, vote for a political party at an election but he must do so secretly. Political parties and card-carrying members of the Town Unions should also realize that in a democracy the interests of their communities are paramount. If, both the traditional rulers and the members of the town unions realize this, they would make a conscientious effort to subsume their personal interests within the general interests of their respective autonomous communities.

We may thus conclude that the new-style autonomous community that has evolved in Igboland is quite different from its pre-colonial variety. It is autonomous in name but not in fact. Its legislation may be overurned either by the traditional ruler or by local, state, or federal government fiat. But it nevertheless exercises more independence than the emasculated Town Council of the colonial period. If the recent assertiveness of the town unions is intended to reclaim the independence they lost as a result of the British conquest, it should be stressed that such an intention is wrong-headed. In reality, there is no evidence of any such intention. What seems to be the case is that contemporary town union executives in Igboland are casting around for solutions to their lack of progress, frustrated that in spite of the self-help efforts of their people, their communities have shown little or no appreciable development. In this search, they rightly or wrongly see the traditional ruler and the influential western-educated elite (most of whom they regard as unprogressive) as cogs in the wheel of progress. They seem to believe that if they are given a free hand to operate, they will perform wonders! And yet their different administrations in the previous decades were often selfish, unpatriotic, corrupt and inefficient. It could not have been otherwise since they are part and parcel of the larger Nigerian society. Until the larger society changes for the better, it will be unrealistic to expect the autonomous communities to behave differently.


The relevance of autonomous communities in Igboland has been implied throughout this essay. It is, however, necessary to address this relevance here more succinctly and in historical perspective. In the pre-colonial period the Igbo town or village-group was autonomous in name and in fact (23) because it was not answerable to any higher authority. There was no traditional ruler for the most part, no local government areas, no division into states, and no Nigerian nation. Its relevance did not need further elaboration. In the colonial period, that independence was lost. However, the towns remained relevant because the colonial government paid a lot of attention to them as the lowest level of colonial administration. What pushed Igbo people during the colonial period into fanatical regard for community development was the realization that even with the best intentions, the colonial government did not have the financial resources to satisfy their wants. Moreover, they had become increasingly aware that other Nigerian ethnic groups (Yoruba communities, for instance) were clearly ahead of them in educational, social and economic development because of their adoption of Western Christianity and Western education early in the 19th century. They were therefore determined to catch up with, and if possible overtake, their competition. To do so successfully it was necessary to be independent of a colonial government that had totally different agenda. This drive to catch up, itself a good example of healthy competition, may partly explain the beginning of the much commented upon Igbo aggressiveness in contemporary Nigeria.

Finally, the relevance of the new-style Igbo autonomous community can be gauged by the vehemence with which Igbo people clamor for the creation of more autonomous communities in the conviction that such communities lead to more effective development at the grassroots level. Essentially, an autonomous community is regarded as an innocuous sort of home rule that has become crucial for Nigerian political, economic, and social development. (24) With the constitutional establishment of local government as the third tier of government, the political relevance of the Igbo autonomous community is further enhanced. It has become the beginning o fan individual's political career and therefore more than in the colonial period a veritable nursery of political education. Equally importantly, through the self-help efforts of its development or improvement unions at home and abroad, it plays a vital supportive role to the local government, the state and the federal government in the provision of educational and social facilities, pipe-borne water, rural electrification, motor parks, markets, bridges, postal facilities, roads, civic centers, and so forth. It is also in the vanguard of Igbo cultural renaissance.


(1.) I wish to acknowledge here the informed critique of an earlier draft of this paper by Dr. John Oriji from which I derived much benefit.

(2.) See G.N. Uzoigwe, "Evolution and Relevance of Autonomoue Communities in Pre-colonial Igboland", Journal of Third World Studies, Ibid., p. 323

(3.) For an informed discussion of this subject see Edmund O. Egbo, Community Development Efforts in Igboland. (Onitsha: Etukokwu Press, 1987.)

(4.) See Federal Republic of Nigeria: Views and Comments of the Federal Military Government On The Findings And Recommendations of the Committee on the Review of Local Government Administration in Nigeria. (Lagos: Government Printer, 1985.)

(5.) See Imo State Government: Traditional Rulers and Autonomous Communities Law 81--Imo State Law No. 11. (Owerri: Government Printer, 1981.)

(6.) See A.E. Afigbo, The Warrant Chiefs: Indirect Rule in Southeastern Nigeria, 1891-1929. (London: Longman, 1972); Ntienyong Ekpan, Epitaph to Indirect Rule. (London: Frank Cass, 1967); I.F. Nicolson, The Administration of Nigeria, 1900-1960: Men, Methods and Myths. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969); T.N. Tamuno, The Evolution of the Nigerian State: The Southern Phase, 1898-1914. (London: Longman, 1972); I.M. Okonjo, British Administration in Nigeria, 1900-1950: A Nigerian View. (New York: Nok Publishers, 1974); J.C. Anene, Southern Nigeria in Transition, 1885-1906. (Cambridge: The University Press, 1966); G.N. Uzoigwe, "Evolution of the Nigerian State, 1900-1914", in G.N. Uzoigwe and J. Isawa Elaigwu, (eds.) Foundations of Nigerian Federalism, 1900-1960. (Abuja: NCIR, 1996), pp. 1-38

(7.) See particularly, Afigbo, Warrant Chiefs and Akpan, Epitaph.

(8.) Akpan, Epitaph, p. 35.

(9.) A.E. Afigbo, Ropes of Sand: Studies in Igbo History and Culture. (London: Oxford University Press, 1981), p. 320.

(10.) Akpan, Epitaph, p. 34.

(11.) Afigbo, Ropes of Sand, p. 320.

(12.) Ibid, p. 32.

(13.) For this articulation see G. N. Uzoigwe, "For a Three-Tier Democracy," Sunday Guardian, 21, August, 1998; cfG. N. Uzoigwe, "Toward Constitutional Re-engineering: A Three-Tier Democratic Federation as the Future of Nigeria," West African Research Association Newsletter. Madison, Wisconsin, Fall 2001, pp. 34-41 for more elaboration.

(14.) For this Constitution see Federal Republic of Nigeria, The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1979. Fourth Schedule, "Functions of Local Government Council," pp. 109-110.

(15.) See footnote 5 supra.

(16.) It is important to note that such councils were also influential in traditional Igbo societies, especially those whose kingship traditions predate the colonial period. The Eze, Igwe, or Obi is expected to seek the advice of his Council of Chiefs, the Ozo priesthood and the Dibia Council, and several others. A traditional ruler who contends often with these advisors invariably finds his rule difficult. The situation, in deed, is not restricted to the Ezes, and can be seen in the Umuofia revolt against Ezeulu in Chinua Acbebe's important novel Arrow of God.

(17.) See Uzoigwe, "Autonomous Communities in Pre-colonial Igboland."

(18.) "Trends in Traditional Rulership in Igboland" in U.D. Anyanwu and J.C.U. Aguwa (eds.) The Igbo and the Tradition of Politics. (Enugu: Fourth Dimension Press, 1993), p. 225.

(19.) This law does not, as some believe, abolish hereditary Ezeship. All that it says is that a community has the authority to choose its Eze, implying that the institution can be hereditary or rotatory within families or within villages, the choice in either case to be the community's.

(20.) See Footnote 5 supra.

(21.) Inyama, "Traditional Rulership," p. 225. Relations between traditional rulers and their communities are also discussed by E.M. Anosike in his "Town Unions in the Igbo Tradition of Politics", in Anyanwu and Aguwa, The Igbo and the Tradition of Politics, pp. 201-215. See also Imo State Government, White Paper on the Report of Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the Disturbances at Izombe, Ohaji/Egbema/Oguta Local Government Area on 16th December 1987. Owerri: Government Printer, 1988.

(22.) Some may think that this suggestion is not politically realistic since local governance and investiture increasingly demand huge financial investments that most contestants for the Ezeship do not have. However, it is left to the Eze to ensure that his position is not compromised.

(23.) See Uzoigwe, "Autonomous Communities in Pre-colonial Igboland".

(24.) For a fuller discussion of this subject see G.N. Uzoigwe, "Local Government as Home Rule," Focus Magazine, Makurdi, Nigeria, October 1998. Cf. Uzoigwe, "Constitutional Engineering,"

By G.N. Uzoigwe, Professor of History, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS 39762. Professor Uzoigwe has authored and edited 8 books, 4 specialized monographs, 31 government reports, and published over 100 articles in major national and international journals and chapters in major books.
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Title Annotation:OTHER PAPERS
Author:Uzoigwe, G.N.
Publication:Journal of Third World Studies
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:6NIGR
Date:Sep 22, 2009
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