This article examines the dimensions of indigenous political structures that sustained local governance in colonial Yorubaland. Legitimated by reconstructed traditional political authorities and modern concepts of development, Yoruba indigenous political structures were distorted by the system of indirect rule. Conversely, obas (Yoruba monarchs), baales (head chiefs), chiefs, Western-educated Christian elites and Muslim merchants embraced contending interpretations of traditional authorities to reinforce and expand their power in a rapidly shifting colonial context. With a strong emphasis on development and governance, collective political action also entailed the struggle over the distributive resources of the colonial state. Traditional and modern political leaders deployed strong communal ideologies and traditional themes that defined competing Yoruba communities as natives and outsiders.