The Pre-Colonial Traditional Administrative and Political Organization in Yoruba land is centralised. There were empires in Yoruba land, but he most politically significant, centrally organised and administratively coercive was the Old Oyo Empire, where the Alaafin of Oyo was the Head. Others were Egba and Ife. Egba had loose confederation and Ife was centralised on a provincial basis. The system of government was Monarchical in nature based on not too easy principles of checks and balances. Therefore, Oyo. Ife and Egba and other traditional Yoruba towns Monarchs are referred to as Oba (Kabiyesi) who heads the empire with absolute power of life and death over his subjects. The government of Oyo Empire thrived along four major organs that acted as a check on each other.
The first organ
The first organ was the King known as the Alaafin. The Alaafin was not a dictator but a supreme king. He ruled based on the advice of the council of Oyomesi. In as much as the Alaafin must seek the advice of the Oyomesi but he was not under any compulsion to accept all the pieces of advice given to him. It is the constitutional function of the Alaafin to appoint the Army General subject to the approval of the Oyomesi. in the discharge of his duties, the Alaafin is ably assisted by OtunEfa, who is the head of the deity of Sango; OnaEfa the head of empre’s judiciary, OsiEfa is incharge of the finances of the Empire, etc
The second organ
The second organ of the old Oyo Empire was the Council of Oyomesi. The members are non royal aristocratic group of king maker chiefs. The council is made up of seven leading chiefs of the seven wards in which the metropolitan capital was divided. This highest ruling council was headed by the Bashorun, who is also the Prime Minister of the Empire. The council acted as the organs of checks and balances to the excesses of the king of the empire. The first assignment the council was to elect a new king in place of the dead one. It was also the council’s constitutional duty to impeach or remove any obstinate king, by summoning the king and asking him to open an empty calabash or to open a calabash with a parrot egg inside it. This was followed by a public announcement by the Bashorun. Showing the rejection of the king subject to the confirmation by the Ogboni cult. When the rejection is confirmed, the Alaafin was expected to commit suicide.
The third organ
The third organ of the old Oyo empire was the Ogboni. The Ogboni or earth cult was a secret society, made up of prominent diviners and headed by the Oluwo. One of their constitutional duties was to check the excesses of the Oyomesi, such as the rejection of an
Alaafin. It was also the function of the Ogboni to mediate between the Alaafin and the Oyomesi. The Ogboni also performed judicial function, especially in cases involving the spilling of blood.
Oluwo as the Chief Ifa Priest controlled Ifa oracle which could accept or reject Bashorun’s decision to command Alaafin’s suicide. Thus checking an ambitious Bashorun.
The fourth organ
The fourth organ of the government of the old Oyo empire was its Army Organization. The army organization is headed by an Army General or Aare-Ona-kakanfo. It is the constitutional responsibility of the Army group to defend the territorial integrity of the empire. It was also the constitutional responsibility that if the Empire’s Army suffers any ignonimous defeat, the Aare-ona-kakanfo must commit suicide. It should be noted that many Army Generals like Afonja had refused to commit suicide after suffering defeats in battles, instead choose to go on exile. The Aare-onakakanfo is of humble origin, isolated from politics and is forbidden from entering the capital city.
Provincial Administrators were used in the administration of the old Oyo empire. The provinces of the empire were administered by Obas and Baales, who were subordinate to Alaafin. These administrators are responsible for the collection of tributes from the surrounding towns and villages and the payment of homage to Oyo (Anyaele, 2005).
The elements of checks and balances in the Oyo Empires’ political system are:
i) The excessive use of the power by the Alaafin was checked by the Oyomesi council
by commanding his suicide;
ii) The fact that one of the Oyomesi had to die with Alaafin was a check on the powers
of Oyomesi to command Alaafin’s suicide;
iii) The secret cult (Ogboni), checked the excesses of the Oyomesi council on the
rejection of an Alaafin or checked the ambitious Bashorun by declaring that the Ifa
oracle had not rejected him;
iv) The position and loyalty of the Aare-ona-Kakanfo and the army to Alaafin protected
him, but the promotions of the soldiers lied with the Oyomesi council;
v) The quality of the advice given by Ilaris, Eunuchs, special assistants, and high chiefs
prevented wrong and excessive use of power.