Historical Development Of The Public Service In Nigeria

Table Of Contents

  • Antecedence Of Public Development In Nigeria
  • Civil Service In The Traditional Governments Or Precolonial Public Administrative System
  • Administrative System
  • Yoruba Administrative And Political System
  • Administrative System Of The Yorubas
  • Igbo Administrative And Political System
  • The Benin Administrative And Political System
  • Efik Administrative And Political System
  • Civil Service In The Colonial Administrative

Antecedence Of Public Service In Nigeria

Before the advent of modern government and its associated public system, there existed traditional administrative systems in the major and minor ethnic groupings in Nigeria. A historical antecedence of pre-colonial period reveals an organized public administrative system quite peculiar to the people’s traditions, culture, exposures and experiences. Among the Igbo and their surrounding minor ethnic groups, hold a republican government. The Yorubas hold on to constitutional monarch, while the Hausa\Fulanis practiced a feudal-aristocratic system, with efficient and effective public service system.

Apparently, the emergence of colonialism and its appurtenances brought another dimension to public administration and its development in Nigeria. Colonialism was an imperial rule with strong influence and structure. It was consequently overwhelmed by the attainment of political independence status. This development brought radical reforms and structural changes to the history of political governance and the development of public service in Nigeria.

However, the antecedental development of the public service in Nigeria is a cross-cultural mobility of influence and civilization. The development of industrialization in Europe in the twentieth century which reveals increased interests in organization, helped to evolve theories and principles of public service and its development. The scientific management approach, which started with Frederick W. Taylor, During the period (1900-1930) emphasis was on efficiency. This development initiated research on better ways of management of public services and organization. In 1930s, also emerged the conditions. Considerably, social and psychological factors were seen as capable of influencing production and performances in the public service. The movement stressed emphasis on the significance of social groups, and brought a sense of bureaucracy and flexibility in the public service and institutions.

The 1950s further brought to the lime light the behaviourists with their approach to public service development. They centered their studies on conscious and rational behaviour in the public service. Chester Bernard and others with sociological interest, also noted the ethical aspects of organizational functions and roles. They co-opted the administrative management school, with their classical principles of management and bureaucracy. The social system which aggregates individuals and institutions located in various degrees of interdependence were integrated alongside. Other schools of thought include, the mathematical school, and the contingency model of public administration. These models and approaches of public service development are merely noted in this work, as an acknowledgement of their position and influence on the public service history and development in Nigeria. A subsequent work on the developmental principles and practice of public Administration and the models would be sufficient in reviewing their glaring contributions to public service development in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, the discussion in this article would focus on the historical development of the public service in Nigeria from three classical dimensions. Thus; (1) the civil service in the pre-colonial or traditional government. (2) civil service in the colonial administration and (3) civil service in the post-colonial administration.

1. Civil Service In The Traditional Governments Or Pre-Colonial Public Administrative System

Before the advent of colonialism in Nigeria, there were administrative systems in the various ethnic groups that constitute the Nigerian nation. The ethnic groups were autonomous and organized according to its traditions and cultures.

Strikingly, the traditional governments in the various kingdoms in Nigeria were characterized by the fusion of powers. The administrative system ranged from the absolute monarchies and centralized authority of the Hausa-fulani kingdoms. The Yoruba administrative system with large chiefdom were maintained by limited and constitutional monarchies within the control of the council of chiefs. The Igbo political and administrative system was republican, acephalous and democratic. It was segmentary and maintains a fragmented political and administrative structure, which is shared by many political institutions. A detailed discussion on the socio-political and administrative arrangements of these major kingdoms and ethnic groups in Nigeria will reveal their features, differences, similarities, and contributions to the development of modern public service system.

Hausa-Fulani Administrative System

The Hausa-Fulani occupy the Northen part of Nigeria, with rich political history, culture and civilization. Historically, their political history is traced to the emirate system which had its origin in the Holy wars led by Othman Danfodio. The Holy war overthrew all the Hausa Kingdoms and established the emirate system, under the Sokoto and Gwandu Calipliate.

The political system was characterized by a lightly centralized and a hierarchically organized political authority. Religious, political and judicial functions were combined, based on the Islamic principles and practices. The Sharia Code provided the rigid pattern and structure that governed the administration of the emirates and kingdoms.

The Hausa-Fulani administrative system was centralized and well organized. The Monarch or Emir was the chief executive of the kingdom, and assisted buy territorial officials who are drawn from the hereditary aristocracy. The political and administrative structures of the Hausa-Fulanis still remain with strong influence in our contemporary and administrative system in the Old Northern Nigeria.

The administrative system of the Northern kingdoms, created important positions with officials who were responsible and accountable to the emir. They include: The Madawaki, Waziri, Galadima, Magaji, Dogari, Yari, Sakin Fada, Hakimi, Village Heads, Immam etc.

The Hausa-fulani administrative system was overwhelmingly influenced by Islamic laws and practices. It was highly centralized, autocratic and with retinue of officials and loyalty. The appointed officials extended their responsibilities and functions to the local areas. Principal public office holders were consulted on serious state matters. While, revenue was grossly mobilized to assist in the provision of public services. The organized and cherised administrative and political system of the Old Hausa-fulani kingdoms, attracted the colonial masters, and led to the subsequent adoption of indirect rule policy.

Yoruba Administrative And Political System

The Yoruba as a nation holds a highly civilized and exposed culture and traditions. They occupy the western part of Nigeria with strong influence on its neighbouring ethnic groups and beyond the shores of Nigeria.

Historically, there exists a legend, which traced their origin to Ile-Ife, with Oduduwa as their ancestor or Progenitor. Oduduwa is regarded as the ancient father of the Yorubas. There remains an un-settled as the ancient father of the Yorubas. There remain an un-settled controversied surrounding the Mythology of Oduduwa’s existence and geneology. A Myth holds that he migrated from the middle East and conquered the people and settled at Ife, from where expanded his descent. Another Myth, also holds that oduduwa was a son of the Supreme god, and came down to the earth from the sky to settle at Ile-Ife. These Myths are subject to further research and study.

The pre-colonial Yoruba kingdom moved its seat of government from the ancestral town of Ile-Ife to Oyo. The Yorubas were divided into fourteen kingdoms, with a government superintended by an Oba. Each of the Obas traced their descent to the Paternal Lineage of Oduduwa. At the arrival of the colonial masters, Oyo empire was noticed to be prominent, famous and strong.

The Yoruba politica system was essentially a constitutional Monarchy with the Oba as the Monarch. He held limited powers and was not absolute nor autocratic. He depended on the advice and assistance of the council of chiefs. The system maintained an in-built structure of checks and balances which ensures that the Oba did not become despotic or autocratic.

Although, the Yoruba Political and administrative system was observed to be centralized, there existed variations in the structures, styles and functions among the various Yoruba Kingdoms. Certain fundamental elements appeared similar and common to the kingdoms. The kingdoms were structured into the Oba’s town or capital and the subordinate town, which are goverened through titled chiefs, known as Baale or Oloja. The subordinate chiefs managed the affairs of the subordinate towns. The Obas town or capital is divided into wards, known as adugbo and administered by a chief called Ijioye. Each ward is further divided into walled compounds known as Agbaile. The compounds also comprised of several lineages of people who could trace their origin to the common ancestor. The lineage head was known as Mogaji. These structural positions existed with authority and responsibility for the management of the affairs of the people, within their respective sphere of influence and authority.

The administrative system of the Yoruba Kindoms would be examined through the various political and administrative institutions in the kingdom. Some of the administrative institutions had been reviewed above, and other institutions identified thus; The Oba, Council Of Chiefs, Ogboni Society, Balogun/Bashorun, Are-ona-kakanfo (generalisimo), Age Grades, Baale, Ladies Of The Palace, etc.

Igbo Administrative And Political System

The mythology of Igbo origin is still shrouded with Controversies and diverse legends. Nevertheless, it is obvious that the Igbos constitute a group out of the various communal and ethnic groups in Africa. It operated independently of any psychic and consensual basis or background. Igbo enjoy common characteristics distinguishable enough to warrant their identification from other races in Nigeria. They existed in a number of sub cultures and sub groups. The groups are unified by their practical and integrated co-existence over a long period. They occupy the Eastern part of Nigeria.

The features of Igbo political and administrative system are unique and peculiar to their existence, exposures, endowments, tradition and civilization. The authority, patterns and behaviour and Chieftaincy institution were coloured and held flair for democratic institutions and republicanis. There existed seemingly contrary traits of traditionalism and receptivity to change. Policies and Politics were treated as simply government and exercised through established formal institutions.

The units of administrative and political organization in the traditional Igbo society are the family, the Umunna (ward), the village, the town or group of villages (village group), and the clan or groups of related towns. They hold kinship as their surest origin and support. They felt descended from one lineage and by natural expansion and fissure spread. There was more consciousness of unity and intedenpendence promoted through functions. The Igbo political and administrative system was essentially communal. The system regards men as essential in social orientation. Chiefs (Obis, Igwes and Ezes) elders, the priests are classified as leaders and administrators. The chiefs were wtith few exceptions, non existent in Igbo society. The people referred to as Chiefs, have no executive, judicial or legislative powers vested solely in their offices.

However, the administrative units and political institutions would be identified as: Extended family, Okpara, Umunna, Village, Town (Obodo), Council Of Elders, Title Holders (Ozo), Age Grades, Women Association.

The Bini Administrative And Political System

The Binis are located in the former Western Nigeria. It has Benin city as the capital of the kingdom, and the official residence of the Oba. The people’s early contact with the Portuguese in the fifteen century, brought impressive civilization to the kingdom and the people. The origin and history of the people is still subject to research and historical agreement. Certain myths hold that their ancestor descended from heaven and was the son of Osonubua. Another holds that the Binis Migrated from the Middle East. The myths linked the people of Bini to ancestral relationship with Yoruba. The Binis maintained a centralized system headed by the Oba as the king. The Oba was seen to be powerful and semi deity, with powers that linked him between the living and the ancestors. He maintained an elaborate administrative structure with palace officials for management of the affairs of the kingdom. The palace officials and the traditional chiefs helped the Oba in taking decisions and in the implementation of decisions and policies in the kingdom.

Efik Administrative And Political System

The Ibibio-Efik nation are located in the present day Akwa Ibom and Cross river State of Nigeria. They claim, to be the aborigines of the Niger Delta. Their relationship and close contact and geographical relationship with the Igbos, especially the Aros, makes their origin uncertain and not far from Igbo geneology.

According to Ojedabi (1970) the Efiks are located in the sub groups of Ibibio, Annang, Andoni, Eket, Enyong and Efik. They are mainly settled in Old Calabar, Uyo, Henshaw town. Duke town, Abak, Ikot-ekpene, Ikopheto etc.

Their administrative system was republican in nature, with special groups or association playing significant administrative functions in the communities. The people are grouped into ‘Houses’ for the management of public affairs. The principle behind the house hold arrangement was the kinship relation. The oldest male in the patrilineage took the responsibility of the leadership. The Britist colonial masters imposed rulers on the people at the advent of colonialism. Efik administrative consists of the council of elders and the ekpo society which is a powerful socio-political group among efiks.

Civil Service In The Colonial Administration

The civil service in the colonial ear was based and structured on the British civil service system. The service then was to facilitate colonial exploitation of the raw materials, cash crops and mineral resources of the nation. It was also structured to ensure that law and order was maintained. The system was a generalist service, the civil service then was a major instrument for the implementation of colonial policies. The then colonial service was structured on a five grade structure and parallel classes for administrative and professional cadres. It comprised of ministries, departments and bureaucrats. There were several reforms based on the policies and styles of administration of the colonial administrators.

The chief of the colonial public service system remained the Secretary of State for colonies, who was based in London. He formulated and monitored the administrative system, recruitment and deployment of colonial officers.

The civil service system in the colonial era and it’s structures were of influence to contemporary public service system in Nigeria. The attainment of independence in October 1, 1960 and the Republic Status that followed, ended the colonial control and management to develop the stock of human resources and to review the structures and the conditions of services in the public service. The civil service reflected the political structures of federalism and the constitutional demands.

Conversely, the postcolonial civil service has provided for stability, continuity and service to the people. It has remained an indispensable reservour of experience, expertise and loyalty to the country. The postcolonial civil service system has also being confronted with problems.

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