Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

The Place of Law and Morality in Pre-Colonial Yourubaland: A Case Study of Akure

Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

The Place of Law and Morality in Pre-Colonial Yourubaland: A Case Study of Akure

Article excerpt


This paper examines the significant roles that laws and morality played in the maintenance of law and order in pre-colonial Akure. The paper relies on both oral and written materials in its engagement. The paper argues that though pre-colonial Akure was not entirely free from crime, as no society is absolutely crime free, law and morality were used by the people in ensuring a sane society, where there was reasonable peaceful cohabitation. The paper, therefore, concludes by advocating the resuscitation of morality as one of the mechanisms to reduce corruption and societal decadence that has hampered our society's development.

Key words: Morality; Law; Crime; Security; Society


In all ages, laws have been evolved for the main purpose of controlling social behaviour and establishing high moral standards. This was so in pre-colonial Akure. Precolonial Akure implies Akure speaking communities, which now found in Akure North, Akure South and Ifedore Local Government Areas of Ondo State, Nigeria. Just like many other pre-colonial African communities, Akure communities had mechanisms that impacted morals and obedience to her citizens beginning from the family, village to town levels. This was because the individual was much less amenable to social control in the form of public opinion in a town than he is in a village, and he is much less so in a large town than in a small one (Fadipe, 1970, p. 30). Similarly, necessary structures were also put in place to punish erring individuals.

Law and morality were parts of these most important mechanisms. Morality is a social phenomenon and is not only a discovery of an individual in a given society. Morality in Akure is as old as man. It regulates the relationship between members of the society (Bankole, 1995, Chapter 1). However, law, in pre-colonial Akure context, refers to the traditional laws otherwise known as natural laws. These are unchangeable laws of nature, which govern everybody Traditional law asserts that there are laws that are inherent in nature, to which enacted law should correspond as closely as possible. Traditional law is closely associated with morality. It attempts to identity a moral aspect of life to guide the law making power of a society.

However, times have changed and the society is now faced with moral value crisis which has continuously affected the society. It is obvious that the bastardisation of our culture has greatly affected the moral institution. Parents and elders who customarily were responsible for inculcating, in their children, the moral culture are no longer capable of doing so because they themselves are embodiment of immorality and, in many cases, for their lack of spending adequate time with their children. In some respects, some parents seem to be ignorant of the standards and morality of a cultured society.

This paper, therefore, x-rays how laws and morality assisted Akure in the maintenance of law and order in pre-colonial times. The paper advocates the resuscitation of morality in our society as one of the best antidotes to corruption and societal decadence. Finally, it is the opinion of this paper that, while the society should accord punishment to bad conduct, it should also reward good morals conduct. These will largely discourage corruption and bring about peace and progress.


For clarity sake, this paper discusses some concepts, which are essentially to our argument herein. These concepts are law and morality.


Law is a social engineering pronounced and expounded in the sociological school of jurisprudence. The aim of social engineering is to build an efficient structure of society as much as possible with freedom, peace, liberty and faith. The structure is required so as to avoid friction, violence, disunity and waste in the society (Akinseye, 1983, p. 83). Law comprises a broad and relatively undefined range of efforts to maintain social order. …

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