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9.1k Whitaker, C. S., Jr. The Politics of Tradition: Continuity and Change in Northern Nigeria 1946‒1966. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1970.

In Chapter 3, “Ilorin: Revolution, Counterrevolution,” C.S. Whitaker provides a groundbreaking study of politics in 1950s Ilorin, featuring the attempt to introduce democratic reforms into the Ilorin system, and the rise of the radical Ilorin Talaka Parapo (ITP), which became the party of the common people, including descendants of slaves, in resistance against the aristocracy.

Whitaker discusses the experiment in democratisation which was tried in Ilorin Emirate in the 1950s, and the reasons why Ilorin was chosen as the “pilot site” for this scheme (121-133). He identifies that in Ilorin Emirate the “pressures for change” were especially strong, due to its particular political system, influences from the British presence and from southern Yorubaland, and the influence of “certain highly placed British officials” after the Second World War (122).

In the section titled “The Evolution of the Ilorin Native Authority Council, 1900-1957 ” (133-137), Whitaker points out that major modifications to the Ilorin NA Council had begun long before modernisation of local government began to be discussed: “The early beginning, frequency, and extent of the renovations in the structure of the central Native Authority Council [in Ilorin Emirate] contrast with the static condition over the same period of the Emirate Councils of the ‘upper North’” (134). Whitaker discusses the events of 1900 to 1950, then the events of 1950 to 1957 which culminated in the establishment of a Central NA Council with a majority of popularly elected members.

“The Rise of the ITP-AG [Action Group] Grand Alliance” (137-145) discusses the ITP’s beginnings as both a “tradition” oriented party and a party of protest against the status quo, and its development into a fully fledged champion of radical social and political change, in alliance with the AG and parties of change in the non-Metropolitan Districts. The author notes the ITP’s particular attack on three “customary but now detested practices,” babakekeres, ishakole, and aroja, all of which were suppressed (143, 150).

But the new Central Council was dissolved in 1958, only one year after it was elected. Whitaker asks, “What went wrong?” He notes that “two conflicting accounts” were put forward, both by “interested parties” (the regional government and the ITP) and both, therefore, “unacceptable at face value” (145). His detailed examination of the Council’s performance includes its successes in local government reform (145-151) but also its “transgressions” with regard to Native Authority staff members (151-154), and the multiple problems that it faced.

Crucially, Whitaker highlights the ITP’s commitment to “revolutionary change” (158), pointing out that the regional government had allowed the reforms

on the assumption that they were compatible with the survival of the authority and influence of traditional rulers. But every day under the ITP regime made the assumption more untenable. . . . It eventually became clear to the government that it either had to sustain traditional authority and abandon the democratic reforms . . . or to permit the opposite result. . . . this . . . , above all, [lay] behind the government’s decision to dissolve the Council. . . .

. . . the destiny of traditional authority everywhere in the emirates was bound up with its fate in Ilorin (158-159).

Most of the rest of Chapter 3 details the counterrevolution, beginning with the appointment of a “caretaker” council, which proceeded to overturn the work of the previous one. For example, the “notorious” heads of Afon and Paiye (162-163), who had been dismissed by the ITP-controlled Central Council, were reinstated. Whitaker points out that administrative officers’ advice was several times ignored by the caretaker council, and that the Resident’s Annual Report  for 1958 was scathing in condemning the “leading traditional titleholders in Ilorin Town” (164-165).

The traditional chiefs were bent upon making the people understand their re-assumption of control, and in the years before the coup that led to a military takeover in January 1966, they engaged in consolidating their position. A new Central NA Council was set up in 1961, and the composition of both the central council and subordinate councils was changed to favour traditional members. The Central Council was criticised by the regional government for ignoring “uncongenial” instructions. All this came to an end when the Military Government terminated the NA Council, made Ilorin a “Sole Native Authority,” and put a Divisional Officer in charge.