The search stops here by: Isaac Ehikioya.
At this time of the year when people are in a relaxed mood and there is plenty of time to spare, one would like to look
back at our political history, how it served our people and its relevance today.
I want to proclaim loudly that the British did not introduce Federalism into what is known today as Nigeria. Neither was
their rule a prelude to federalism in Nigeria. Federalism is native to Nigeria, at least, that part of Nigeria where I come
from. I intend to use Edo Kingdom as the basis of this article.
Political Organization of Edo Kingdom:
The Edo Kingdom was a federation in every sense of the word. The Oba was the President or Head of State. He had
ministers who went by the title of chiefs. Each chief/minister had a department or ministry which he supervised. There
was a paramount chief or prime minister or chief of staff if you will. The chiefs had responsibilities for the daily
operations of their respective departments.
The Enijies were the equivalent of state governors. Like the Oba, they too had a cabinet made up of chiefs who are the
equivalent of ministers in today’s parlance.
The Enijies were administrative heads of the various provinces parceled out by the Oba –in-council for the purpose of
effective governance of the Kingdom. Like the Oba, the Enijies appointed chiefs on representative and competence
In other words, each community was represented at the palace council and the representatives were usually men of the
The communities which were administered by the Enijies were organized under
“Edion “. The Edion system was akin to the parliamentary system of government. The Odion was actually the first
among equals. The reason for this was that each community was not monolithic. It was made up of quarters and each
quarter had its Odion. An assembly of the community Edion was the government of the community. Let me try to define
some terms that I have used throughout this discussion. “Odion” is a singular noun, meaning an elder. Edion is plural
The affairs of the community were taken care of by the Edion- in- council. They functioned both as administrators and
Directly below the Edion was the council of advisers. In Uromi, these are the “Igene”, made up of mainly middle aged
This was another level of responsibility in the administration of the Kingdom. It was made up of young people between
the ages of 12 and 25. It was organized under its own leadership that usually emerged through the age system.
This was a very energetic and dynamic group. Its main function was to enforce the judgement passed by the Edion –in –
council, carry out community work like sanitation, rendering annual service to the Onojie, community assistance to
Role of Women:
You will observe that my focus was on men and what they did throughout this article. Did that mean the women did not
have roles to play in the organization of the Kingdom? No, that was not the case. The women played very important
roles. But unlike the western system, the women ran “parallel” institutions in the Kingdom. I used the word, “parallel” for
lack of a better word. It should not be read to mean there was no convergence between the male and female systems.
The separation was cultural and served to develop effective leadership cadre among both sexes. When necessary,
these systems came together to deliver services or justice to the community.
As an Esan man/woman you should be aware that your ancestor practised the system of administration which created
separate departments for women development. The West did not invent the phenomenum.
Relevance to Present Day Nigeria:
The current ineffective governments in Nigeria and the endless search for a workable system should make us take a
serious look at our native systems. The first thing that a visitor to Nigeria observes is lack of an effective government.
This disease is manifested in all facets of life in that country. Any where one turns, there is something that ought to be
done by an organized system but which is begging for attention. My conclusion is that the fault is in the system we have
adopted. It is working in other lands, no doubt. But it has failed us.
The time therefore has come to turn to what we have, know, tried and worked for us. Democracy, they say is a system
of government of the people, by the people and for the people. There are so many words there and buried in those
words is the fact that what works for the people is their democracy. This thing called democracy has no uniformity. It is
shaped by local experiences.
Institution of Obaship:
We all know the institution of Obaship, Obiship, Emirship etc is still in existence and recognized by the people. Even the
imported western style governments recognize, work with and through them. But somehow, when it comes to weeding
effective power, they are completely ignored. If the presence of the western style governments which are mainly located
in state and local government
headquarters are not felt in those locations, then imagine the situation in the rural
areas where most of the people live.
Unlike the western system of government, the Obaship/Onojieship made its
presence felt through the system of Edion administration in the rural areas. It is cost effective and objective oriented.
At a glance, many people will say the native system is not democratic. If by that they mean the leaders were not elected
on a one man one vote basis, I will say so what. I am Machiavellian in this regard. The end justifies the means.
Democracy should not be defined by the means but by its fruits. Any system of government that serves the people is
In any case, what is the justification for wasting millions of dollars every four years in campaigning in an underdeveloped
country where the people do not even have clean water to drink.
The way to go is the way of our ancestors. We can reform the system as we go along to suit today’s circumstances.