Ijebu Igbo elders in a 1979 photo
Ijebu Igbo elders and chiefs in a 1979 photo. Source: NNP

Gerontocracy is a government consisting mostly of elders. This system was prevalent in antiquity, in the southwest of Nigeria, where much credence is paid to the belief that maturity and wisdom comes with age. Age was the first qualification which a prospective member of the town’s administrative conclave of ancient time, the Ogboni, must acquire. Government in the East (Igboland) at least in the eighteenth century was conducted by the chiefs or elders of each place. Laws were debated and passed by the Oha– the congregation of all adults of each village. Even in the second half century of the Nigerian colonial times, statements were publicly made in defense of the rule that favours age, sometimes over “mere” merit. In a submission of D.T. Akinbiyi to the Western House of Assembly in 1952 he had said that “the Yorubas will never make small boys leaders because they know they will fail at the psychological moment. Akinbiyi however supported a younger friend with his subsequent statement that he has the virility of youth but the wisdom of age.

Tope Apoola
Profession: Writer