, name given to the British policy of subduing resistance in Nigeria and other areas of their colonial rule in Africa, essentially another name for the policy of “indirect rule, ” the philosophy and practice of governance elaborated by Lord Frederick Lugard during his years as colonial administrator of Nigeria. Under this policy, the British theoretically sought to secure the cooperation of their colonial subjects indirectly through indigenous institutions. However, this practice often involved the destruction of those institutions and the subsequent installation of strong indigenous local rulers, or “warrant chiefs, ” who would be responsible for day-to-day local administration but who would ultimately answer to the British. This system was particularly incompatible with the political practices of the Igbo, who did not traditionally invest power in strong individual rulers but rather relied on the judgments of collective councils.
Achebe comments critically on this system, especially in Arrow of God, in which British colonial officer Tony Clarke, newly arrived at his new posting in 1920s Nigeria, goes for dinner with his District Officer, Captain T.K. Winterbottom, having just come to the final chapter of The Pacificationof the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger, which had been lent to him by Winterbottom. Winterbottom, who had been at his post for well over a decade, did not approve of the current policy of “pacification, ” and he says as much to his new assistant over dinner: “What do we British do? We flounder from one expedient to its opposite. We do not only promise to secure the old savage tyrants on their thrones—or more likely filthy animal skins—we not only do that, but we now go out of our way to invent chiefs where there were none before. They make me sick” (Arrow of God). The book itself was a hand-medown, from Achebe's first novel Things FallApart, which concluded with the District Commissioner contemplating the composition of a manual of the same title as Winterbottom's and considering the space that might be assigned to the ill-fated Okonkwo—“not a whole chapter but a reasonable paragraph, at any rate.” After all, the District Commissioner finally decides, “There was so much else to include, and one must be firm in cutting out details” (Things Fall Apart).