In ancient times kings are compelling figures and the heads of the government in their towns or kingdoms. However, with the coming of the colonial government and institution of the democratic government after Independence, their role and power have been reduced significantly. The Kings have become more of a ceremonial titles nowadays. But some are still very important and are classified as first class kings.
Some kings in Nigeria are classified as first class kings (Obas). They are mostly the traditional rulers of most of the ancient kingdoms in Nigeria. They are all crowned kings with powerful influence in the society and over other kings and traditional rulers. Here is a list of the first class traditional rulers in Nigeria.
Sultan of Sokoto
The Sultan of Sokoto is the title of the traditional ruler of Sokoto. His official title also includes “Amir-ul-Momineen”. Amir-ul-Momineen means the "Commander of the Faithful" or "Leader of the Faithful". The Sultan used to be a mighty king before the British rule just like other monarchs in Nigeria. But he is still a significant person today. He is one of the highly esteemed rulers in Nigeria especially among the Fulani and the Hausa people of the North. The Sultan of Sokoto is the number one Muslim position in Nigeria making him the spiritual leader of all the Muslims. Sa’adu Abubakar IV is the present-day Sultan of Sokoto.
Emir of Kano
The Kano Emirate was formed during the Fulani Jihad which saw old Sultanate of Kano came under the control of the Sokoto Caliphate in 1805. The Emir of Kano is the ruler of the Kano Emirate. Just like other kings, his power reduced significantly from the time of British rule. However, the Emir is still the first class among other kings and the throne is recognized nationally. The current Emir of Kano is Mallam Muhammadu Sanusi II, also known as Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. Before he was made the Emir of Kano, he was the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. As a successful banker, he won different awards which include two global awards for the Central Bank Governor of the year and also Central Bank Governor of the Year for Africa.
READ ALSO: What is indirect rule in Nigeria?
Ooni of Ile-Ife
The Ooni of Ife is the traditional ruler of Ile-Ife. The Ooni is believed by most people to be the first and the most influential person in Yoruba land. The Ooni of Ife is thought to be the direct ancestor of Oduduwa who according to history was the first Ooni of Ife. The Ooni is not as powerful as he used to be before the British came but he is still influential in the present day. The Ooni is usually consulted on various matters, and they even mediate in political matters or disputes. The Ooni of Ife has a reputation for being a deciding factor of who will become the governor of Osun State. The current Ooni of Ile-Ife is Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II. He is a crowned king after the demise of late Oba Okunade Sijuwade. Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II is a successful accountant and real estate developer.
Alaafin of Oyo
The Alaafin of Oyo was formally the title of the ruler of the ancient Oyo Empire. However, since the fall of the Oyo Empire, it is now the title of the traditional ruler of Oyo town. The throne of the Alaafin of Oyo is one of the most influential and powerful monarchies in Nigeria. Alaafin means the owner of the palace. The Alaafin of Oyo was formerly the permanent chairman of the Council of Obas and Chiefs in Oyo State. The position of the chairperson was changed to be rotated in 2011 among the Obas in Oyo. But even with that, the Alaafin is still the first class among Yoruba kings and other kings in Nigeria. Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III is the current sitting Alaafin of Oyo.
Dein of Agbor
Agbor is one of the Igbo kingdoms in Delta State. Agbor was founded by Omini from Aguleri, so it is also known as Ominije. Agbor kingdom was a part of the Benin Empire before the latter was conquered by the British. The traditional ruler of Agbor is usually called Eze or Obi. The current traditional ruler of Agbor is known as the Dein of Agbor, which is the name of his ruling house. The Dein of Agbor is His Royal Majesty Benjamin Ikenchuku Keagborekuzi the first (Keagborekuzi I). He became a king at the age of two years and four months in 1979 after the sudden death of his father. He is the youngest person who ever has been crowned as a king according to the Guinness Book of Records. After he had become a king, he traveled out of Nigeria to study, and a reagent ruled the kingdom until his return in 2001. He is the current Chancellor of the University of Ilorin and also the Vice Chairman of Council of traditional rulers in Delta State.
Oba of Benin
The Oba of Benin is the ruler of the people of Edo and head of the historic Eweka dynasty of the Benin Empire. The medieval Benin Empire, formerly known as Dahomey comprises of mostly of Edo people. The Oba of Benin sitting on the throne is Oba Ewuare II. He was made a king on October 20, 2016. The Oba of Benin is an influential figure in Edo State. The late Oba Erediauwa I (1979–2016) used his position to mediate and settle disputes between politicians, in one of those occasions some former governors of Edo State were involved.
Oba of Lagos
The Oba of Lagos is one of the most popular traditional rulers in Nigeria today. Even though he has no political power, he is very influential and important when it comes to the politics of Lagos. The Oba of Lagos is the ceremonial king of Lagos which is one of the largest cities in Nigeria. Lagos was formerly a Yoruba kingdom but gave its name to Lagos State. So the Oba of Lagos is a ceremonial monarch of Lagos State. Oba Ridwan Babatunde Osuolale Aremu Akiolu I is the current Oba of Lagos. He was crowned as a king in 2003. He is also called the Eleko of Eko.
Olu of Itsekiri/Warri
The Olu of Warri is the traditional ruler of the Itseriki people of Warri. The Warri kingdom is an ancient state based in the town of Warri in Delta State. The present Olu of Warri on the throne is Godfery Ikenwoli Emiko. He has been the king since 1987. He has also been a member of the Warri Government Council since 1983. He is the second university graduate to become the Olu of the Warri Kingdom and a lawyer.
Obi of Onitsha
Onitsha is one the largest cities in Nigeria. It is located in Anambra State, Nigeria. The title of the traditional ruler of Onitsha is the Obi of Onitsha. The Obi of Onitsha is recognized both at the state and national level. He is often the first to be consulted on issues that have to do with the south eastern part of Nigeria. The Obi of Onitsha on the throne currently is His Majesty Nnaemeka Alfred Ugochukwu Achebe.
Olubadan of Ibadan
The Olubadan of Ibadan is the title of the traditional ruler of Ibadan. The Olubadan throne is more of a ceremonial position today, but it remains among the first class kings in Nigeria. The Olubadan does not hesitate to speak out against politicians where they are not doing their job well. Oba Saliu Adetunji is the current Olubadan of Ibadan. He became king in 2016.
There are other kings that can be classified as first class kings but this is our top 10 most prominent kings in Nigeria.