Administration is a universal process and must exist in any organization set up for a defined purpose or objective.
Whether we think of the church, the army, a university, an industrial or business concern or a purely social organisation,
there has to be administration because each one consists of human beings brought together in a hierarchical set-up,
making use of tools, equipment, human and material resources, all in the quest to attain the objective for which the
organisation is established (Adebayo, 1981). Thus administration is seen as a process of management which is practiced
by all kinds of organisations from the household to the most complex system of government. This is the reason why
administration is a generic term.
Public administration is the art and science of management as applied to the affairs of state (Waldo, 1955).
According to Woodrow Wilson (1887) defined public administration as “detailed systematic execution of public law, every
particular application of general law is an act of administration thus.
Public administration is the fulfilment or enforcement of public policy as declared by the competent authorities.
It deals with the problem and powers, the organisation and techniques of management involved in carrying out the laws
and policies formulated by the policy-making
agencies of government. Public administration is law in action. It is the executive side of government (Dimock, 1937).
Public administration is that part of the science of administration which has to do with Government and thus concerns itself
primarily with the executive branch where the work of the government is done (Gullick,1937).
Public administration has come to signify primarily the organisation, personnel, practices and procedures essential for effective
performance of the civilian functions entrusted to the executive branch of government (Morstein Marx, 1964).
Evolution of public Administration in Nigeria
Administration in Traditional Society
Public administration existed in traditional society in Nigeria although in a limited scope. Goals were identified, human and
material resources were allocated, and policy objectives were pursued. The function of administration then were simple,
e.g. the declaration of wars (especially
inter-tribal wars); the taking and implementing of decisions on the migration and resettlement of tribesmen; the coordination
of hunting and pastoral activities; the construction of shrines, palaces and communal wells; the exaction and collection of
tributes; the construction of fortresses and embankments; the maintenance of public order; and the settlement of family and
other disputes (Balogun, 1983).
According to Balogun (1983) except in societies wholly governed by Islamic religious and political doctrine, in no other society
in Nigeria did emerge a coherent philosophy of government and public administration. There were forces that shape traditional
public administration and give it a distinctive character of its own. Balogun identified at least five such forces.
Let us examine them one after the other.
The Ritualistic Feature
even in a situation of uncertainty, will tend to be based on formal, deductive reasoning or on observed facts. Where religion and
rituals colour a people’s view of the world, decisions are likely to be left in the hands of supernatural agents. This was the case
in many traditional societies of Nigeria. Thus a decision concerning guilt or innocence, at a time when the facts are not clear,
other spirits will exact the necessary retribution.
investiture and coronation of important traditional rulers. When a ruler departs to join his ancestors, this event is marked by
sacrifices of various kinds and by incantations aimed at propitiating the departed soul and the ancestral spirits.
The same process of offering sacrifices and reciting incantations is repeated when a new ruler is about to ascend the throne
, the idea being to ensure a joyous and trouble free reign. If on assumption of office, a disaster looms on the horizon,
the ruler and his subjects have an obligation to carry out necessary ceremonies and offer whatever sacrifices are prescribed
by the priests. If, More often than not, what tend to come up for review in the event
of a persistent wave of disaster are the adequacy of the offerings and/or the comprehensiveness of the ritual.
The ritualistic orientation may not be appropriate to the needs and challenges of a technological age, but it certainly served the
purposes of traditional societies. Thus by ‘canonising’ certain social customs, mores and beliefs, and by making these collective
values part of the traditional
man’s personality, the rituals sustained traditional authority and held together what would have been anarchic societies
The Existential-Terrestrial Pull
Existential-terrestrial pull traditional society is the one in which both terrestrial and extra terrestrial forces collide. The point
made above under the ritualistic feature that if sacrifices were offered to inanimate objects it is because they had material
impact on the lives of the people concerned. This means that structures and institutions exist in traditional societies to perform
particular functions and fulfill certain obligations.
Such obligations and functions might be simple, and might not involve bringing about radical social change. All the same, the
The Moralistic Orientation
Moralistic orientation behavior in the traditional society is scarcely classified as ‘rational’ or ‘irrational’. These two terms therefore are
alien to the moralistic spirit of the traditional society. The guide to behavior in the society is frequently laid down by religious
injunctions and superstitious
beliefs. Any behavior that conforms to the socially accepted norms is ‘pious’ and ‘godly’ while deviant behavior is not simply
heretical but ‘sinful’ in view of the fact that ‘sinful’ behavior makes the gods ‘angry’, society is not likely to compromise with the
sinners, but is in fact prone
to prescribe the stiffest punishment.
The Consanguinity Factor
Consanguinity factor in traditional society, kinship (or relationship based on descent, filiations and marriage) plays a vital role
in structuring patterns of interpersonal behavior. It serves as an important agent of social control and provides a basis for
leadership. Consequently, instead of secondary organisations based on the criteria of ‘achievement’ ‘universalism’ and
‘collectivity orientation’, the traditional society tackles the problems confronting it with the aid of primary organizations based
on ‘astrictive’ particularistic’ and ‘sectional’ criteria. While there are few ‘craft associations’ which specialise in certain
occupational areas (e.g. age-grades, secret societies, herbalist associations), the organisation of economic activities in the
traditional society is most frequently based on the principle of division of labour according to sex, and according to kinship and
The Autocratic Tendencies
An autocratic tendency is the definition of areas of authority and responsibility impose checks and balances within
organisations, and therefore helps in structuring the behaviour of members. Where the sphere of influence is not clearly
defined, only the position-holder’s good sense and the occasional challenge to his authority will prevent him from taking
autocratic and arbitrary decisions (Balogun, 1983). nBalogun concludes that, the authoritarian tendencies in traditional public
administration have a direct bearing on the organisation and functioning of the public service in Nigeria today.
From our discussion, we can see that the Nigerian Civil Service is not a creation of modern times but has its roots in the British
colonial administration. From the era of colonial tutelage up to the present time, the Nigerian Civil Service has continued to