IN defining the terms which we have used throughout this book, we distinguished between rights of ownership and rights of sovereignty. These concepts have proved useful because rights of ownership tend to be vested in private individuals and groups of persons -- often the descent groups -- while rights of sovereignty are held by the whole community and are exercised by its political leaders or government. Yet in many areas the community holds rights which we have described as being of ownership; ownership and sovereignty are not exactly coterminous with private (or individual) and public (or community) rights respectively. The failure to analyse exactly the rights traditionally exercised by the Yoruba obas and chiefs on behalf of their communities has led to many of the popular misconceptions of the powers of the present-day local government councils.
The term 'traditional authority' is currently used to describe the rulers of the Yoruba kingdom. It is a loose term employed sometimes to designate the oba alone and at other times the oba and his council of senior chiefs; in some contexts it may refer to the political leaders of a territorial unit smaller than the kingdom -- a subordinate town or a quarter for instance. The Native Authority system was introduced into the Yoruba Provinces in 1917 and, initially, obas and chiefs were hirearchically arranged in a pattern more akin to that of the Fulani emirates than to the traditional Yoruba conceptions of government. In the 1930's, however, administrative officers examined the traditional political structure of the Yoruba kingdoms and, describing these in the Intelligence Reports, recommended the reform of N.A. councils and Native Courts so that their members should be those obas and chiefs who traditionally exercised political power.
Theoretically two systems of local government existed: the traditional form of government and the statutory Native Authority. But this was not widely apparent. The obas and chiefs who were members of both systems saw little difference between meeting in the customary fashion on the palace verandah, and the formal, and often rare, occasions when they moved to the Court Hall to sit with the District Officer. Native Authorities had wide powers, and administrative officers tended to ignore traditional government, working only through the Native