As our way of life continues to change over time, some may wonder if there are places that still practice the traditional culture and lifestyle. In Africa, for instance, there are numerous traditional states that are ruled by a “Traditional Ruler”, for example, in Nigeria. To learn more about the pre-colonial administrations and traditional rulers of Nigeria and their titles, continue reading this article.
In the pre-colonial administration of Nigeria, various ethnic groups developed traditional governmental systems that reflected their culture, beliefs, and traditions of different areas. The Igbo, Yoruba (Oyo Kingdom), and Hausa-Fulani established very distinctly, functioning governments that were peculiar to their environment.
Who are Traditional Rulers?
Traditional rulers are individuals that derived their titles from the previous rulers of independent states or communities. They have a great influence on the people of their community and are well respected even though they do not have formal political power. Currently, there are over 100 traditional rulers in the states of Nigeria.Some of the most powerful are listed below in terms of their rank along with the state they rule and their titles.
Ranking of traditional rulers in Nigeria
1. Emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi of Kanu;
2. Ooni Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II of Ife;
3. Sultan Sa’adu Abubakar of Sokoto;
4.Oba Ewuare II of Benin;
5. Alaafin Lamidi Adeyemi III of Oyo;
6. Olu Ogiame Ikenwoli I of Warri;
7. Oba Rilwan Babatunde Osuolale Aremu Akiolu I of Lagos;
8. Obi Igwe Nnaemeka Alfred Ugochukwu Achebe of Onitsha.
Roles of traditional rulers in Nigeria
Tradition Rulers in Nigeria play very important roles which include:
- Enhancing national identity.
- Intervening in disputes between the state and its citizens.
- Minor conflict resolution.
- Provision of an institutional safety-valve for incompetent state bureaucracies.
- And to serve as an spokesperson and interpreter for people of different ethnic groups who have difficulty communicating with each other.
Titles of traditional rulers in Nigeria
Along with their roles traditional rulers are also presented with titles such as:
- Emir, in English or Lamido, Mai, Sarki, Shehu, in their local language.
- The title, Oba is used by both Edo and Yoruba people.
- In Edo, Enogie is ascribed to the dukes of the traditional rulers, while Odion and Okao were attributed to his senior elders and governors respectively.
- Some other titles include Alaafin, Alake, Akarigbo, Awujale, Olomu, Ooni, Orangun, Olu'wo among others are ascribed to the people or places ruled in the Yoruba tribes.
- The general title, Ovie is used among Isokos and Urhobos of Delta State, Nigeria. Some other groups use some of the following titles: Odion-Ologbo, Odio r'Ode, Ohworode, Orodje and Orosuen.
- Common titles used among Igbo rulers in the South East are Eze, Igwe and Obi. Adidem (also pronounced Edidem) are titles that generally refer to rulers of Efik and Ibibio people.
- Local titles like Amanyanabo, Obanobhan , Olila-Ebhugh are also used among the people in their immediate neighbouring villages.
Tribal or Traditional Chief
Apart from traditional rulers, one may encounter the term, traditional chiefs or tribal chief when speaking about the tribes within Nigeria. Though a traditional or tribal chief may sound the same as a traditional ruler but they are different. A traditional chief is an individual who represents a tribe or ethnic group in a form of self-government. Consider a hierarchy or a pyramid of society for instance, at the Number One ranking is the Traditional Ruler of The State followed by the Tribal or Traditional Chiefs for each ethnic group within the states of Nigeria. Our country has over 300 ethnic groups among its states. Some of the largest and well known ethnic groups in terms of rank are:
Hausa-Fulani traditional rulers
Hausa-Fulani's governmental system is deeply rooted in the Islamic religion and its law was adopted as the guiding principles of the administration. The system of government adopted is monarchical in nature and is regarded as a highly centralized method of administration. In Hausa-Fulani's governmental system the Emir is the head of an Emirate in the Emirate System. The Emir has legislative, executive and judicial power, and as an absolute ruler, he is the chief in making decisions that should be carried out with the doctrine of Islamic Laws called the Sharia. With that being said, he is considered as both a political and religious head because he ensures that the Islamic Laws are followed. His court is supreme and thus the decision final. In this governmental system, there is also an advisory council, the Emirs' ministers that assists him in the day to day administration of the Emirate, the head of the district (Hakimi), the head of the villages and the Alkali Court.
Yoruba traditional rulers
Before colonization by the Europeans, the Yoruba kingdom had a headquarter called Olu-Ilu along with other local towns and villages. Its political administration had a central level that was headed by the king, Oba and subordinate units. The Oba (king) was assisted by a handful of chiefs and other political figures, while the subordinate units were headed by Baales. The Subordinate Units focused only on the administration of the towns and villages in the kingdom. Baale also had help from chiefs in his area of jurisdiction. The Oyo Kingdom's governmental system was based on "The Check and Balance Principle" which means that the members of each administrative level were able to check, question or revoke actions of other levels, regardless of the hierarchy of administration.
Igbo traditional rulers
For Igbos, their administrative system is regionalized and symbolized by the absence of a centralized government, also known as the principle of acephalous. It is, therefore, a chiefless society that works as a seminary and believed in the principle of equal rights and opportunities. However, unlike Yoruba and Hausa-Fulani, there is no supreme king. Thus causing the villages of Igbo to be administered like an Independent or Republic State.
In pre-colonial Igbo society, the Family Group is the most recognizable institution. As the name suggests, it comprises of people of the same family and is headed by a person called "OKPARA". The Okparas are designated to control the family and judge family disputes that may arise. He also performs rituals and functions for the family. In the village, all Okparas form a council called Village Council or The Council of Elders. They are answerable to discussing matters affecting the life of its citizens while providing support in upholding law and order in the society as well as the settlement of disagreement between or among a group of families. The head of this council is the oldest of the OKPARAS.
The individual who holds the title OZO has the highest title of honour that is given to specific persons in pre-colonial Igbo society. Qualifications for the Ozo title are wealth, confidence, prestige, popularity, and a good personality in the eyes of others. This position is not hereditary and Ozos are very influential. They resolve and arbitrate on different disputes and provide worthy counseling and admonition to the Okparas.
Another important institution in pre-colonial Igbo society is AGE GRADE. Age Grade is based on age and comprises of a group of young men. The young men of Age Grade carry out a lot of responsibilities like maintenance of peace and order, sanitation of the community, helping each other during harvesting period, enforcement of the law, etc.
Hope you have found this information useful and we have broadened your knowledge about traditional rulers in Nigeria. They are part of our history and at the same time a part of our today's life. They have become our link and our connection to our traditions.