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The study examined the traditional political system and the development of democracy in Nigeria. A study of Lagos state. The study focus on a timeline of ten years; from 2010-2019. The study employed the survey design and the purposive sampling technique to select 95 Lagos state politicians. A well- constructed questionnaire, which was adjudged valid and reliable, was used for collection of data from the respondents. The data obtained from the administration of the questionnaires were analyzed using the descriptive statistics techniques such as tables, percentage, frequency and mean.

The findings revealed that: the traditional political system is effective in the modern day Nigeria democratic government. The role of the traditional political system before and after Nigeria independence is potent. The contribution of the Nigeria constitution in the support of the traditional political system is high and potent. The traditional political system has been affected by factors in the modern democratic government in Nigeria.

The study concluded that the traditional political system has contributed to the development of democracy in Nigeria in the last ten years 2010-2019. The study further concluded that: Government should encourage traditional politics as these enhance political wisdom. Traditional system ethics should be pass into law in the modern Nigeria democratic government era. Traditional political system should continue play a big role in Nigeria. The senate and house of representatives should always pass a law that enable Nigeria constitution to always give the needed support to traditional political system. All factors that mitigate against the effectiveness of the traditional political system in the modern democratic government of Nigeria should all avoided. Traditional political system needs an urgent reappraisal. Traditional political ruler have expressed that they need to interrogate the definitions and movements that have proliferated – and arrive at common positions of what is the traditional political system. The traditional system must become contextually relevant to communities, not politicians. The traditional system needs to become strategic in assessing societal challenges and develop appropriately structured political programmes. The traditional system needs to develop good governance principles.



1.1. Background to the Study

The age-long traditional political system is seen to be one that hasn’t changed with time. This traditional political system has provided a system of administration from which law and orderliness came and provided stability in the system of governance. It’s quite essential to note that, the belief among most Western scholars was that pre-colonial African societies had no system of administration: i.e. no law and order, no government, and no civilization. This belief has long been seen as not only very erroneous however grossly subjective (Fatile & Adejuwon, 2014). It has been observed that traditional African communities, in reality, had a well organized and established system of administration where public order was provided and maintained; where laws were made and implemented; were inter-communal and intertribal conflicts were settled. The above showed that, traditional political system have been an important feature of the people and commanded a large degree of loyalty and respect among them. The general belief is that traditional leaders don’t have a place in a democratic dispensation whereby only the elected are allowed to rule. By their mode of ascension to power legitimacy, exercised by traditional leaders isn’t acceptable generally, (Erero, 2015).

By traditional political system, it is referred to as the indigenous political arrangements whereby leaders with proven track records are appointed and installed as provided by the provisions of their native laws and customs, (Orji & Olali, 2013). The aim of the traditional political institutions is to safeguard the customs and traditions of the people and to effectively manage conflicts that may arise among members of the community by the instrumentality of laws and customs of the people.

Traditional political institutions are the custodian of their people’s norms, cultures and practices. In many African setting, just as it is seen in Lagos State or South West and other part of Nigeria, selection of individuals into the offices of traditional political institutions is inherited or by selection or election by the instrument of important traditional methods. The method of selection of the occupant of traditional political institutions differs in Africa in general and in Nigeria in particular from ethnic groups to ethnic groups or communities to communities, (Fatile & Adejuwon, 2014). Traditional political institutions are signs of indigenous persons’ rights, privileges, laws, customs and traditions that include but not restricted to paramount leaders and their councils. The traditional institutions in the Nigerian context is inclusive of the chiefs-in-council, elders-in-council, title holders who may be appointed based on their contributions to the growth and development of their communities with or little no executive, legislative or judicial powers.

In African traditional setting, just as it is obtainable too in Lagos State or South West communities, the traditional institutions are charged with legislative, executive and judicial responsibilities. They make laws, implement them and interpret and apply the basic laws, customs and traditions of the people for the smooth running of their communities. Conflicts are generally managed and resolved based on the customs and traditions of the people. Traditional political institutions have diverse methods to crime and conflict management and resolution, depending on the community. What is appropriate in a community may not be in the other community. Boege (2016) agrees with this position when he argued that traditional approaches vary considerably from community to community, from province to province, from society to society. Boege (2016) as well affirms that, there’re as a lot of different traditional methods to crime and conflict transformation as there’re different societies and communities with a specific history, a specific culture and specific custom even in the global south, just like any other. He further states that, traditional methods are always context specific and aren’t universally applicable as modern or conventional methods are. Among the Lagos or South West communities specifically too, the traditional political methods to crime and conflict management and resolution vary from community to community, especially when viewed against the background of diverse ethnic groups making up the region. However, most of the Lagos State communities share common traditional methods, (ibid).

The bane of the traditional political system in the earlier periods had been their actual or suspected participation in partisan politics. In modern Nigeria, the institution no longer has business in partisan politics. Instead, the traditional rulers are uniting in the wars against the common enemies of disease, poverty, ignorance, corruption, crime, drug addiction, armed insurgency, impunity in public office, youth delinquency, and so on. Many, like the Sultan of Sokoto, Oba of Lagos, Emir of Kano, Awujale of Ijebu, Alake of Egbaland, and so on, have become the voices of the voiceless, speaking out courageously on issues of general concern, locally, nationally and even internationally, (Falola, 2014). They have become development catalysts and agents for mobilization for policy implementation, monitoring, and review of policy options.

In reality, our traditional political institution today is perhaps at its peak of global acceptance and approbation compared with other periods since the colonial times. A nationwide study carried out in 2014 by Professor Sylvanus and four other senior academics revealed an overwhelming support in all parts of the country for the traditional political institution as being important to the lives of the people. This is owing to a combination of factors, like, the counter-reaction to globalization, the waning confidence in our current political institution, and the growing calibre and leadership abilities of the emerging traditional leaders. The institution has thus remained a mystical factor in the lives of the ordinary citizen, (Adegboyega, 2016). It has shown resilience by being adept at adapting itself to its changing circumstances whilst holding to its core custodianship of the customs and traditions. The institution has successfully re-invented and renewed itself at every critical period by “running fast enough to stand still.”

The concept of democracy originated from the Greek word “dēmokratía”, meaning “rule of the people”, which was derived from demos “people” and krátos “power” or “rule” (Wikipedia, 2017). Appadurai (2015) described it as, a system of government under which the citizens exercise the governing power either directly or through representatives periodically elected by themselves. However, Schumpter (1967) reduced the concept to the procedural aspect when he defined the democratic method as the institutional arrangement for arriving at political decisions in which individuals require the power to decide by means of competitive struggle for people’s vote. This definition buttressed the viewpoint of Marxism that the concept connotes the dictatorship of the proletariat majority rule. From the foregoing, it is not out of place to say that democracy is a form of governance that does not only take the plight and consent of the populace but as well the participation of citizens in the selection of public office holders through free and fair elections. It is a form of governance that accommodates the participation of the people in all facet of public administration. This was corroborated by J.S Mill, as quoted by Agena and Odoh (2016), who argued that democratic governance is superior to other forms of administration simply because the rights of every individual are expected to be secured from being violated. As a result, democracy can be said to be a set of ideologies of governance that allow for the majority of the people to choose their leaders and as well guarantee them a broad range of civil rights. Democracy, which gives high credence to the rule of law stated certain right amongst others right to life, right to dignity of human person, right to personal liberty, right to fair hearing, right to private and family life, right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, right to freedom of expression, right to peaceful assembly and association, right to freedom of movement, right to freedom from discrimination and right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria (Nigerian Constitution, 1999). However, what is the nature of traditional political system in the modern day democracy in Nigeria? (Munoz, 2015).

The Nigeria democratic experience as witnessed since 1999 calls for reflection on whether democracy as a political ideology for Nigeria has realized its values. Traditionally, democracy as a political ideology is supposed to give power to the citizens, promote the pursuit of public interest and improves social order. But, what the current democratic experience has offered us is nothing other than economic and social problems manifesting in high level of insecurity. All these problems are militating factors against national development of democracy and good governance in Nigeria, (Lawal & Abe, 2016).

A number of measures are still essential as we continue to uphold the position of the modern traditional political system in our body politic. First is the need for a constitutional provision for the institution. In the present constitutional arrangement (1999), the laws governing the traditional institution are enacted at the state government level only and provide strictly for consultative and advisory functions for the State Traditional Councils set up by these laws. There is no equivalent provision at the Federal Government level. Having withstood the vicissitudes of the colonial and post-colonial regimes and now achieved a workable role within our democratic culture, it becomes imperative that this new balance of roles is well captured and given legal backing in the constitution.

The constitution, at the least, should identify the role of the traditional institution in communal life, like mobilizing the community for enlightenment, education, economic empowerment, peace building, safety, security, and custodianship of and leadership in advancing our culture. The constitution should as well enshrine the non-involvement of traditional leaders in partisan politics as has been recommended by the National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria (NCTRN) to the National Assembly. On the other hand, the constitution should as well adequately protect the traditional institution from undue meddling and interference by the political elite and the moneyed class, (Odumosu, 2013).

Traditional institution must continue to change with the times. Unlike in the olden days when succession to the throne was the preserve of a closed circle of the aristocracy, the cross section of respective communities, particularly the enlightened and intelligentsia, are now increasingly involved in open discussion of the necessary qualities and attributes for the throne, aided by the 21st century instant media, (Vaughan, 2012). For instance, the CCII held a conference following the demise of Oba Samuel Odulanato to discuss necessary reforms to the Olubadan kingship, including the need for younger persons to emerge as future monarchs. More and more, the entire community should be driving the change process, not just a privileged few.

On the whole, the traditional political system must continue to run fast enough to stand still, meaning that it must continue to stay abreast of change in a digital world, however jealously guard and protect the core social values, customs and traditions that differentiate the respective people. The institution of traditional leaders is an enduring part of our heritage. It plays an important role as the custodian of culture and traditions. Expectedly, our traditional rulers are closely linked with the grassroots, and therefore they understand the problems of our people intimately. In our search for peace, order and stability in our society, the traditional political system could be a veritable instrument. In general, it is in the interest of the people that this institution in our national life is acknowledged and that clear provisions are made (in the Constitution) for its functions, (Dlakwa & Haruna, 2014).

1.2. Statement of the Problems

In modern times, the traditional political systems have been relegated to the position of obscurity in matters of governance, especially when compared to the enviable position they occupied during the pre and colonial era. Actually, the traditional political system does not enjoy constitutional recognition or responsibilities in spite of their seemingly crucial role in governance. According to Adeleke (2014), what is happening to the traditional institutions in modern day Nigeria is just a manifestation of our inability to fashion out appropriate political system that will reflect our social, economic and political realities as against the colonial and military imposed political structures of the colonial era and post-independence period respectively. While it is a truism that traditional political system play a very crucial role in governance, yet, criticism against traditional political system has been massive. Most of these criticisms have to do with the ignoble usage of traditional positions during the colonial era. For example, Keulder (2012) listed out four major areas of criticisms against the traditional political system in Nigeria which are; the traditional institution is an essentially autocratic one and cannot be accommodated under a democratic dispensation; the institution is bound by tradition and is hence not an effective tool with which to promote modernization i.e., development; the institution is basically male-dominated and contributes to institutionalized gender inequalities at the local (rural) level and finally, the institution promotes “tribalism” which is a potential threat to the national policy of nation building. Other prominent criticisms of the traditional political system in modern Nigeria are; tussle for leadership among traditional leaders in the Council of Traditional Rulers, involvement in partisan politics for personal gains and

lending support for the reigning governments whether civilian or military. Moreover, traditional political system in Nigeria are fond of bestowing traditional chieftaincy titles to wealthy and affluent individuals in the society who have not made any vital contribution to the growth and development of the society for their personal aggrandizement and material benefits, (Adesoji, 2013). It is against this background that this study will examine the traditional political system and development of democracy in Nigeria.

1.3. Research Objectives

The main aim of this study is an attempt to assess traditional political system and the development of democracy in Nigeria, a study of Lagos State 2010-2019. The specific objectives will be to;

  1. examine the effectiveness of the traditional political system in the modern day Nigeria democratic government
  2. assess the role of the traditional political system before and after Nigeria independence.
  3. contribution of the contemporary Nigeria constitution in the support of traditional political system
  4. investigate factors that mitigate against the effectiveness of the traditional political system in the modern democratic government of Nigeria.

1.4. Research Questions

Research questions are those interrogative statements that arise often from the course of study, they can be defined as research objectives stated in interrogative form. Research questions are meant to generate possible answers to different aspects of the research problem and they should be clearly stated such that they act as guides in identification, collection and analysis of relevant data. In order to achieve the purpose of this research study, the study will attempt to provide answers to the following research questions in order to arrive at a logical conclusion.

  1. What is the effectiveness of the traditional political system in the modern day Nigeria democratic government?
  2. To what extent is the role of the traditional political system before and after Nigeria independence?
  3. What is the contribution of the Nigeria constitution in the support of the traditional political system?
  4. What are the factors mitigating against the effectiveness of the traditional political system in the modern democratic government in Nigeria?

1.6. Significance of the Study

This study will be of significance in the following ways, it will enhance the knowledge of government stakeholders on the importance of traditional political system in the modern Nigeria democratic government, this study will as well be of importance in sensitizing the public on the importance of traditional political system and ways by which government can integrate the traditional leaders in today’s governance across all levels.

1.7. Scope of the Study

This study will cover the traditional political system and the development of democracy in Nigeria. It will cover issues spanning 2010 to 2019. The study focuses on the traditional political system simply because its importance in modern democratic government is undervalued and neglected.

The geographical focus for the study is Lagos State, Nigeria which is widely known as the center of excellence and has an interesting history of traditional political system. The study will focus on a timeline of ten years; from 2010-2019. However solutions, resolutions and recommendations will be made on a progressive basis (that is futuristic basis).

1.9. Organization of the Study

This study will be divided into five chapters.

Chapter one, which is the introduction will include the problem statement where the problems of the study that prompted the researcher will be stated. Objectives intended to be achieved in carrying out this research work will also be listed here; the research questions and hypotheses will as well be specified in the chapter. Answers to these questions will be provided at the end of the research work. Other sections of the chapter will include; scope of the study, significance of the study, organization of the study, and definition of terms.

Chapter two, which is the literature review, examines the existing literatures on traditional political system and democracy development in Nigeria. The chapter will include conceptualization, definitions, theories and empirical review.

Chapter three, this section includes; the introduction, research design, population of study, method of data collection, validity and reliability, sample and sampling techniques, and method of data analysis.

Chapter four is the presentation of data analysis. It includes the presentation of data, analysis and testing the hypothesis.

Chapter five, which is the summary, conclusion and recommendation. This will be the final chapter and will summarize the findings of the research, drawn conclusions from these findings and proffer recommendations.

1.10. Definition of Terms

Democracy: is a system of government under which the people exercise the governing power either directly or through representatives periodically elected by themselves.

Development: is a process of societal advancement, where improvements in the well-being of people are generated through strong partnerships between all sectors, corporate bodies and other groups in the society.



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