Nigerian Chiefs

Nigerian Chiefs

Traditional Power in Modern Politics, 1890s-1990s

Olufemi Vaughan


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An analysis of how traditional power structures in Nigeria have survived the forces of colonialism and the modernization processes of postcolonial regimes.
This book analyzes how indigenous political power structures in Nigeria survived both the constricting forces of colonialism and the modernization programs of postcolonial regimes. With twenty detailed case studies on colonial and postcolonial Nigerian history, the complex interactions between chieftaincy structures and the rapidly shifting sociopolitical and economic conditions of the twentieth century become evident. Drawing on the interactions between the state and chieftaincy, this study goes beyond earlier Africanist scholarship that attributes the resilience of these indigenous structures to their enduring normative and utilitarian qualities. Linked to externally-derived forces, and legitimated by neotraditional themes, chieftaincy structures were distorted by the indirect rule system, transformed by competing communal claims, and legitimated a dominant ethno-regional power configuration.

Olufemi Vaughan is Professor in the Department of Africana Studies and the Department of History, State University of New York at Stony Brook.


Vaughan magisterially treats heavily troubled Nigeria. . . Six good maps, four helpful tables, excellent endnotes, a comprehensive bibliography, and good indexing enhance this title. CHOICE

Winner of the 2001 Cecil B. Currey Book-length Award from the Association of Third World Studies.

The contribution of this study is a significant one. . . [Vaughan's] is an exceptionally complex account, incorporating every possible variable. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF AFRICAN HISTORICAL STUDIES

Vaughan's book is an excellent survey of the central role played by chieftaincy structures in these decades. EHR

Vaughan's study of Yoruba chiefs is a brave undertaking. . . [his] book is especially welcome in that it makes a major contribution to the historiography of modern Nigeria. AFRICAN HISTORY

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