of Colonial Administration
1949 the delicate balance of the Bafut political system had been upset by the
loss of sovereignty. The office of the Fon had undergone the most significant
change, its prestige battered early in the German period and then patched up
again to serve their interests. When the colonial authorities picked out the
chief they supported him to the exclusion of the other organs of government
This became a tool in the hands of the Fon to carry out his obligations to the
white man. The independent position of
was therefore compromised.
the Fon came to realise that whatever power and influence he wielded depended
on the white man he became increasingly isolated form his age-long advisors.
The British reinforced this feeling by the deferential treatment they accorded
him - a gilded state umbrella, a Union Jack to fly over the palace and a
portrait of the sovereign to display in the audience hall. In 1946 Achirimbi
was awarded the Certificate of Honour 'as a record of the valuable
services rendered by him to his own country and people and to the British
Government... and loyal services given to the Administration in the maintenance
of good order'. The other chiefs did not take this kindly and wanted
their own regalia, not so much out of love for the British flag and majesty but
rather to boost their egos.
such an elevated position Achirimbi took advantage of his favourable standing
with the administration and sought compensation for loss of sovereignty to
arrogate to himself the residual powers the sub-chiefs, the
had retained over land matters and other disputes. The latter found themselves
increasingly by-passed as their economic position became difficult; for
collected taxes on behalf of the Fon but only he received the collectors'
rebates. The Fon was felt to have become increasingly arbitrary with the
result that public confidence in him fell as it became evident that he was no
longer adequately guided by
counsel. His decisions no longer represented the collective view of Fon
advisers. However, as far as the administration was concerned he was one of
the few rulers considered as being progressive as he was willing to experiment
with new ideas. Colonial administrators treated him with great respect and
nationalist politicians followed suit.
people of Bafut experienced two colonial eras and were quick to draw sharp
distinctions between the German and British administrations. The
discipline of the
(German era), particularly with regard to their wars and seemingly off-hand
manner of justice, contrasted with the
(English era). The latter is also known as the 'Question era',
apparently in reference to English legal procedure which, in the local view,
perpetuated rather than prevented crime. This was considered to result in
indiscipline in society since a smart person could avoid justice by arguing his
way out of trouble.
conclusion this essay has demonstrated some of the fundamental differences
between German and British administrative policies and in their application.
In the case of Bafut the distinction between German and British colonial rule
is clearly noticeable in the reaction of the people. Both colonial powers
faced problems in administration that resulted from their attempts to use
indigenous political institutions for their own purposes. The problems which
British administrators faced in effecting their administrative policies among
the Bafut were similar to those which they faced in those parts of Southern
Nigeria with similar political institutions. In other respects this period of
colonial administration may have been only one episode in the relatively long
history of the Bafut chiefdom but it was an episode which significantly
affected Bafut society.
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