Morality refers to the social norms and values that guide both individuals and their interaction with their fellow human beings and communities, and with their environment. In all of these types of interaction there are important values at stake; rules and norms that are to protect these values; duties implied in social roles and positions that can foster these values and further these rules; and human virtues or capabilities that enable us to act accordingly. These moral factors are usually interwoven with religious practices and social power structures.

There is no consensus definition of social control among scholars as there are notable discrepancies in its conceptualization in literature. For instance, social control refers to the various ways employed by a society to bring its recalcitrant members back into line (Berger, 1963). Also it could mean an arrangement of behaviors, practices and attitudes in which members of the society based their daily lives. Social control from an institutional perspective is the ‘instrument for the conscious and planned management of socialized human activities’ (Lianos, 2003, p. 415). Social control is a set of mechanisms that create normative compliance in individuals. Social control according to Schaefer (2002) refers to the techniques and strategies for preventing deviant human behaviors in any society. Social control formation is a reflection of strong social bonds/relationships with parents, teachers and other sources of conventional socialization who affects lives positively (Jensen, 2003). When these strong social relationships are absent, then the society would be ridden with social deviants and juvenile delinquents which are potential sources of vices and crimes. Scholars like Cohen when writing on the postindustrial social control, observed that it is the organized ways in which society responds to behavior and people it regards as deviant, problematic, threatening and worrying and undesirable in some ways (Cohen, 1985). Social control might become a self-desire to achieve a goal by a power bloc (International Council on Human Rights Policy, 2010).

It is well known that before the advent of colonialism, Africa had a system of justice and adjudication hinged on fear of deities which attracts instant sanctions and punishments. Hence, making the people conform to the ethos of the community, but the coming of the Europeans has altered/changed the peoples cognitive mapping of what constitutes social order and control through the introduction of new methods leading to the abandonment of the traditional social control patterns, systems and mechanisms that was instant, efficient and effective. This relegation of traditional social control mechanisms in favour of modern social mechanisms has done more harm than good in Nigeria. For instance, Transparency International ranked Nigeria as “one of the most corrupt nations in the world” (Ajayi, 2012: 1). In Nigeria, there have been cases of ritual killings: The Otokoto ritual killing saga (killing) at Imo State 1996 is an example of such killings.


Peaceful Co-existence

Morality describes the principles that govern our behavior without these principles in place; societies cannot survive or co-exist for long. Achieving peaceful co-existence is then the most importance project of our era and we must give ourselves to it wholly with our fullest capacities for knowledge and understanding with our truest intentions for truth and justice and with our bravest strengths in order to journey through the challenges and difficulties that the process entails.

Peaceful co-existence is a term derived from peace which is a state of harmony characterized by lack of violent conflict, commonly understood as the absence of hostility. Peace also suggests the existence of healthy or newly healed interpersonal or international relationships. Prosperity in matter of social or economic welfare, the establishment of equality and a working political order that serves the true interest of all. In international rations peace is not the absence of war or conflict, but also the presence of cultural and economic understanding. From Latin pax, meaning ‘freedom’ from civil disorder. The English word came in use in personal greetings from the thirteenth century as a translation of brew world shalom. Such a translation is however, imprecise as shalom, which is cognate with the Arabic, “Salaam”, has multiple other safety, wellbeing, prosperity, equity, good fortune and friendliness. At a personal level, peaceful behaviour are lastly considerate, respectful, dust and tolerant of others belief and behaviour, tending to manifest goodwill. This later understanding of peace can also pertain to an individual’s introspective sense of concept of his or herself as in being “at peace” in one’s own mind as found in European references from the twentieth century.

No two entities of any kind can co-exist without finding some common ground often the common ground necessary for peaceful co-existence between two people or groups is a high degree of tolerance in both sides. The actual difficulty of peaceful co-existence between two societies with different moral view is going to depend heavily on what about their moral view is different. For example, some people place more (or all) importance on an action; it does not matter if you meant to do good. If your actions end up causing something bad than you are still morally wrong. Others lace more importance on the intent tht it doesn’t matter the outcome, if you are at least meant to do good then you are morally right, if this were the only difference between two societies (morally speaking) I don’t see them having many difficulties co-existing.

Pre-colonial means of social and moral control in Africa

It is known that before the advent of colonialism, Africa had a system of justice and adjudication hence, making the people conform to the ethos of the community, but the coming of colonialism has changed the peoples cognitive mapping of what constitutes social order and moral control through the introduction of new methods leading to the abandonment of the traditional that was instant, efficient and effective.

Before the colonization Africa, Africans were conscious of their environment and were also intelligent and also moulding of characters. Africans were communally oriented people whose life depended on one another for meaningful existence and also eschatological view of life. They lived in town and villages based on blood relationship (kins and kits) and other international attitudes links, connection to foster solidarity, good neighbourness and shared responsibilities. What affects me affects the others and because of this people are always very conscious to relate well with others in the community. The main sources of morality remains customs, taboo, totems, rites and rituals, upon which the quality of life has been based on.

Moral Thinking in Traditional African Society

Africa is distinguished by its close-knit society. Traditions, customs and rules for regulating conduct and interpersonal relationships are varied and diverse. As with other societies of the world, in Africa, the rules are not always obeyed nor expectations all the time fulfilled. As a result, some sanctions are usually put in place to prevent social disorder and anarchy. In every African community, an elaborate system of guides and sanctions exist. These range from legal sanctions, social customs to moral rules. It is often said that moral and ethical considerations in traditional African societies are communitarian in nature, meaning that it is in submitting his or herself to the will of the community that the individual finds social security and peace. J.O. Awolalu argues, for example, that the basic moral values of which the elders are the guardians have to be maintained. According to Awolalu, it is the responsibility of the elders to see that all the social norms and ethics relating to the well-being of the community are maintained. The argument here is that the elders “are aware that they owe their positions to the author of these moral values and to the ancestors who are ever present and ever watching to see that a high moral standard is maintained.” Based on this idea of communitarianism, some scholars have argued that African traditional value systems lacked, in several respects, the characteristic feature of a true moral system. According to these scholars, moral institutions in pre-literate societies were mere devices through which men sought to establish a flourishing society. They were at best studied in functional terms, with the individual’s moral behaviour adjusted to meet society’s need and expectations.

Among early anthropologists the view was commonly held that in traditional cultures there were no such behavioural patterns which can be properly referred to as ‘moral’. The claim here is that behavioural patterns of the purely secular kind which exist in more complex societies are completely absent from traditional societies, such that the relationship between individuals and, the individual and all forms of social interactions were seen in religious perspectives only. To justify the foregoing assertions two types of arguments are usually proffered. The first is the claim that a truly moral system must be universalizable, and since African traditional codes of conduct discriminate between insiders and outsiders, they are said to have restricted applicability. The second argument claims that a truly moral system is typically characterized by critical reflections, with reason as a crucial tool for differentiating between right and wrong. Traditional African value systems, are not only dogmatic but have as their sources of reference authority of one kind or another.

In control of crimes in pre-colonial African society was an uphill task. Traditional taboo formed one of the mechanisms used to achieve peace and tranquility among the African societies.

Before the advent of modern civilization, the norms of the people encouraged a need to fight crime using taboo. This was one major instruments of keeping peace between leadership and their subject and between societies and their neighbours. According to Ayittery George followed four major principles in maintenance of peace and management of conflicts:

  1. Settlement of disputes by peaceful deliberation not force
  2. Correction of wrong doing through compensation and restitution not retribution
  3. Adjudication and assessment by a body of impartial elders
  4. Fairness (equity and justice)

Traditional methods were aimed at resolving conflict and not necessarily pronouncing judgment. Emphasis was not punishment but on reconciliation and restoration of social harmony among the parties in conflict.

According to Gluckman (1959) note that when conflicts or strife emerged in traditional Africa, there were institutions and people to resolve them based on certain moral or legal principles, ethical ideals and following established procedures and methods. Well known codes of morality conventions and rituals existed which though were not written but persisted for generations before the colonial invasion. All these methods were effective because there was reduction in conflict and misunderstanding that could result in the death of a kinsman.


Pre-colonial African societies were of a highly varied culture. They could be either stateless, state run or kingdoms but most were founded on the principles of communalism in that they were self-governing, autonomous entities and in that all members took part directly or indirectly in the daily running o the tribe. Land was held commonly and could not be bought or sold, although other things such as cattle, were owned individually. In these societies that were not stateless, the chief ran the daily affairs of the tribe together with one or more councils. These council simultaneously informed the chief, checked his powers and made policy by reaching unanimous decision. If unanimity was not reached, a village assembly would be called to debate the issues and majority ruling would now apply. The chief would listen silently to all queries during such meetings and every male adult was force to criticize him.




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African traditional society. African research review, 8(2):135-157.

Ajayi, B. (2012) Poor Governance and Corruption Begets Anarchy

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Classification. Cambridge; Policy Press.

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of Afikpo Town. International conferences of the inter-nation society for the reform of criminal law. Hague Netherlands.

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Igbo world In Disarray). Owerri Totan Publishers.

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