The Igbo occupied the Eastern part of Nigeria. The administrative system is decentralized and characterized by the principle of acephalous (absence of a centralized government). It is therefore a chiefless society which was segmentary and egalitarian in nature. There was no supreme king like Oba and Emirs in the North.
Interestingly, however, each village in Igbo society is normally administered like a Republic, independent or sovereign state.
Be that as it may, there exist many institutions in the pre-colonial Igbo society, charged with the responsibility of judicial, legislative and executive functions like: the family group, village council, Ozo title holder, age grades and the Ala.
The Family Group is one of the most recognized institutions in pre-colonial Igbo society as the basic unit of every political institution. It comprises people of the same family. Not only that, each family group was autonomously headed by the title holder called ‘OKPARA’. The Okpara controls the family and judges any family disputes. He performs ritual and ceremonial functions on behalf of the family.
Village Council is popularly known as council of elders, it comprises of all the family heads in the village. However, the most important thing is that each village was administered as a sovereign entity and each family heads (Okpara) were reckoned or named an ‘Ofo’ title holders in the village. They have the responsibility of discussing the matters that affect the life of the citizens. They also help in maintaining law and order in the society as well as settlement of dispute between or among group of families. The chairman of this council is known as the oldest of the OKPARAS.
Ozo Title Holders can be seen as the highest title of honour which is given to the specific individuals in pre-colonial Igbo society. To become an Ozo title holder, one must be prestigious, popular and wealthy. The most amazing thing is that the position is not hereditary. Ozos are highly influential. They settle and adjudicate on different disputes. Not only that, they rendered valuable advice to the family heads (the Okparas).
Age grade is another important institution in pre-colonial Igbo society. They are group of young men on the basis of age. These age grades carry out lots of responsibilities like maintenance of peace and order, sanitation of the community, helping each other during harvesting period, enforcement of law, etc.
The Ala is another political institution in pre-colonial Igbo society. Ala is popularly known as the goddess of the land. Cases like murder, homicide, etc is judged by the Ala. To any Ala, there is a priest called Ala’s priest who interpret the pronouncement of the Ala. This explains Igbos belief in Amadioha, Igew-ka-ala, Ogbaegbu, etc in terms of needs.
Finally, the Igbo society is segmentry, Republican and sovereign in nature. There were no chiefs compared to Yoruba and Hausa/Fulani pre-colonial administration.
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