In ancient Africa, kings were political and traditional figures in their kingdoms. Government systems from colonialists changed this and made traditional kings lose most of their political influence. Nevertheless, unlike most African countries where kings are ceremonial titles without political power, Nigeria decided to do things differently. Most first class kings in Nigeria still have massive influence in the country's politics and contribute to the development decisions.
Nigerian traditional empires and kingdoms are dedicated to preserving, enriching, and advancing the people's culture. Also, each has a unique hereditary title for its king. One notable thing about these traditional rulers is how highly educated they are. Moreover, most have served in executive positions in multinational corporates and government institutions.
List of first class kings in Nigeria
Kings in Nigeria who are classified as first class kings (Obas) are mostly rulers of the most ancient kingdoms in the country. These crowned kings have more influence in Nigeria than kings and traditional rulers from other tribes. This article lists the top 10 first class kings in Nigeria and provides intriguing details about them:
1. Sultan Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar III - The Sultan of Sokoto Caliphate
- Full name: Muhammadu Sa'ad Abubakar, CFR
- Arabic name: محمد سعد أبو بكر
- Official titles: The Sultan of Sokoto, Amir-ul-Momineen
- Region: Sokoto Caliphate
- Born: 24 August 1956
- Age: 67 years (in 2023)
- Spouses: 3
- Religion: Muslim
Sa’adu Abubakar III is the 20th Sultan of Sokoto and a spiritual/traditional leader of Nigeria's Muslims. His official title is “Amir-ul-Momineen,” which means the "Commander of the Faithful" or "Leader of the Faithful."
Abubakar joined the Nigerian Defence Academy in 1975 and became a Second Lieutenant in the elite Armoured Corps in 1977. He headed a presidential security unit that guarded General Ibrahim Babangida and commanded a battalion of African Unity's peacekeepers in Chad in the 1980s.
Moreover, Abubakar was a military liaison officer for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in the mid-1990s. On 22 August 2019, he was appointed the Co-Moderator of the Council of Religion for Peace (CRP).
How many wives does the Sultan of Sokoto have?
He has three wives and several children.
Before British rule invaded Nigeria, the Sokoto Caliphate (the Sultanate of Sokoto) was a powerful Muslim empire in West Africa. Its boundaries covered parts of present-day Cameroon, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Nigeria. Also, the Sultan of Sokoto was among the most influential kings of that era.
Usman dan Fodio established the empire in 1804 during the Fulani jihads — after defeating the Hausa Kingdoms in the Fulani War. By 1837, the Sokoto state was the most populous empire in West Africa, with 10 to 20-plus million people.
The Germans and British conquered the empire in 1903 and split it into the Northern Nigeria Protectorate and Kamerun. Sa’adu Abubakar III is "the present-day Sultan of Sokoto."
The Sultan of Sokoto is still a spiritual/traditional leader in Sokoto state, mainly comprising the Fulani and Hausa people. Moreover, he is among the most respected Muslim leader in Nigeria.
2. Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero - The Emir of Kano
- Full name: Sanusi Lamido Ado Bayero, CFR
- Arabic name: سنوسي لاميط سنوسي
- Official title: The Emir of Kano
- Region: The Kano Emirate
- Born: 10 February 1961
- Birthplace: Kano, Nigeria
- Age: 62 years (in 2023)
- Spouses: 2
- Religion: Muslim
Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero is the 15th Fulani Emir of Kano from the Fulani Sullubawa clan. He is a former flight engineer and the Chancellor of the University of Calabar. Bayero ascended the throne on 9 March 2020 after the government removed his nephew, Muhammad Sanusi II, from power. The previous emir ruled from 2014 to 2020.
Lamido Ado Bayero is the second eldest son of Ado Bayero — the longest-serving emir in Kano's history. Ado was the Emir of Kano from 1963 to 2014. His son, Lamido, was a state counsel at the Kano State Ministry of Justice (1985 to 1987), the director general of the Kano State Council of Chiefs (1991 to 1993), and the Kano State Government's head of Special Duties (1993 and 1996).
Moreover, he was the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Information, Youth and Culture (1996 and 2000) and the Nigerian Port Authority's managing director (April 2015 to August 2015). He was stripped of all his titles in 2015 for not paying allegiance to Emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and became the Emir of Kano in 2020.
Who is Sanusi Lamido Ado Bayero's wife?
His wife, Sadiya Ado Bayero, is the younger sister to the present Emir of Kano, Aminu Ado Bayero. Apart from Sadiya, Lamido's other wife is Maryam Sanusi, and because of his position as the Emir of Kano, Lamido is expected to marry more wives.
The Kano Emirate (Hausa Kingdom of Kano) is a Muslim empire. It was formed in 1805 Fulani Jihad, which saw the Fulani-led Sokoto Caliphate take over the Hausa-led Sultanate of Kano.
The power of the Emir of Kano emirate reduced significantly during and after the British colonial period. Today, the emir is the traditional/spiritual ruler of the Hausa Kingdoms of Kano. Also, he is still recognized as a first class king in Nigeria.
3. Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi - The Ooni of Ife
- Full name: Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, CFR
- Official title: Ooni of Ife
- Region: Yoruba kingdom of Ile-Ife
- Born: 17 October 1974
- Birthplace: Ife, Nigeria
- Age: 49 years (in 2023)
- Spouses: 6
- Religion: Muslim
Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, CFR (Ọjájá II) is the 51st Ooni of Ife. He is the most influential person in Yoruba land because he is the traditional ruler of the Yoruba kingdom of Ile-Ife.
Enitan comes from the direct lineage of Oduduwa (Yoruba's founding father and first Ooni) — who is said to have sprung from Lamurudu (a king in Mecca).
Adeyeye Enitan succeeded the late Oba Okunade Sijuwade, the 50th Ooni of Ife, in 2015. His title, Ọjájá II, can be traced to Ọba Ọ̀ráyẹ̀gbà (Ọjájá I) — the grandfather of his paternal grandfather. Ọba Ọ̀ráyẹ̀gbà was the 44th Ooni of Ife from 1878 to 1880.
Ọjájá II, the current Ooni of Ife, is the Chancellor at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. In addition, he is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, the Institute of Directors, and the Global Real Estate Institute.
How many wives does King Ogunwusi have?
Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi (Ọjájá II) is married to six wives and has one ex-wife named Olori Naomi Silekunola. His wives are Olori Mariam, Olori Elizabeth Opeoluwa Akinmuda, Olori Tobi Phillips Ogunwusi, Princess Ashley Adegoke, Princess Ronke Ademiluyi, and Olori Temitope Adesegun.
The Ife Empire (Ilé-Ifẹ̀) was the first empire in Yoruba history. Odùduwà established it in what is now eastern Benin and southwestern Nigeria. The kingdom lasted from 1200 to 1420 and was well-known for its sophisticated art pieces.
The Ooni of Ife is still influential but less mighty than he used to be before the British colonial rule. He is usually consulted on political and traditional matters about the Yoruba land and its people. Also, the Ooni of Ife determines who becomes the governor of Osun State.
4. Lamidi Adeyemi III - Aalafin of Oyo
- Full name: Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III
- Official title: Aalafin of Oyo
- Region: Oyo Empire
- Born: 15 October 1938
- Birthplace: Ife, Nigeria
- Died: 22 April 2022 at Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State, Nigeria
- Age: 83 years (at the time of death)
- Spouses: 13
- Religion: Muslim
The Alaafin of Oyo is the formal title of the Oyo Empire's traditional ruler. The late Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III succeeded Alaafin Gbadegesin Ladigbolu II on 18 November 1970 and ruled the empire till his demise on 22 April 2022.
In 1980, he was appointed the pioneering Chancellor of the University of Sokoto (now Uthman Dan Fodio University). He served the position for 12 years and was in his second term as Chancellor of the University of Maiduguri in Borno State when he passed away.
King Lamidi Adeyemi III had 13 wives but attended most events with his first wife, Ayaba Abibat Adeyemi. His other wives also used to accompany him on some occasions.
The Alaafin of Oyo's throne is one of Nigeria's most influential and powerful monarchies. 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 chairperson was a position until 2011, when it began to rotate among the Obas in Oyo.
5. Benjamin Keagborekuzi Ikenchuku Gbenoba - The Dein of Agbor kingdom
- Full name: Benjamin Keagborekuzi Ikenchuku Gbenoba
- Official title: Dein of Agbor
- Region: Agbor kingdom
- Born: 29 June 1977
- Birthplace: Agbor, Bendel State, Nigeria
- Age: 46 years (in 2023)
- Spouses: 1
His Royal Majesty Benjamin Ikenchuku Keagborekuzi (Dein Keagborekuzi I) is the Dein of Agbor kingdom — one of the Igbo kingdoms in Delta State, Nigeria. In the Guinness Book of Records, he is Africa's youngest person to be crowned a king. Keagborekuzi was crowned at two years and four months in 1979 after his dad's sudden death (Obi Ikenchukwu I).
Dein Keagborekuzi I grew up in the United Kingdom and returned to Nigeria in 1981. He took over the governance of the monarchy in 2001. He is the Chancellor of the University of Ilorin and the Vice Chairman of the council of traditional rulers in Delta State.
Is the Oba of Agbor married?
Oba Keagborekuzi 1 married an Agbor woman he met at an event in America.
Omini founded the Agbor kingdom (Ominije) from Aguleri. It was part of the Benin Empire before the British rule. This kingdom's people are farmers and call their traditional ruler Eze or Obi.
Their current Eze, Dein Keagborekuzi I, has brought many changes in the kingdom, including protecting the region from herders' attacks and resolving the dispute between the Agbor-Obi Youth Movement and the police. He is currently working on ending the trafficking of persons in his domain.
6. Oba Ewuare II - The Oba of Benin
- Full name: Eheneden Erediauwa
- Official title: Oba of Benin
- Region: Benin Empire
- Born: 20 October 1953
- Birthplace: Agbor, Bendel State, Nigeria
- Age: 69 years (in 2023)
- Spouses: 5
Eheneden Erediauwa (Oba Ewuare II) is the 40th Oba of the Benin Empire, which comprises the Edo people. He is Akenzua II's grandson and was crowned on 20 October 2016. Eheneden chose the Ewuare II title to honor the 15th-century Ewuare I (his great-grandparent).
Oba Ewuare II got his A-Level Certificate from South Thames College, London. He also earned an Economics degree from the University of Wales, UK, and a Master of Public Administration from Rutgers University Graduate School, New Jersey, USA.
The Oba of Benin is an influential figure in Edo State and countrywide. He worked at the United Nations (1981 and 1982) and was Nigeria's Ambassador to Angola, Sweden, and Italy.
Who are the wives of Oba Ewuare II?
Oba Ewuare II's wives are Queen Iroghama, Princess Ikpakpa, Princess Iyayiota, Queen Owamagbe Ewuare, and Queen Aisosa Ewuare.
Benin Empire is also called the Kingdom of Benin or Edo Kingdom. Its founders were the Ogiso (Kings of the Sky) from Igodomigodo land (original name of Benin Empire). The empire's head of state created the Oba title between 1180 and 1300.
The Kingdom of Benin was known as Dahomey from the 17th century until 1975, and its capital city was Edo (now known as Benin City in Edo State, Nigeria). Also, this empire has no historical relation to the modern republic of Benin.
Benin Empire lost its power in the 19th century when the British army captured their king in 1897, destroyed his palace, and took away large quantities of traditional artifacts and other valuables. Today, the Oba of Benin has some political responsibilities but is more of a traditional than a political leader.
7. Oba Rilwan Akiolu - Oba of Lagos
- Full name: Rilwan Babatunde Osuolale Aremu Akiolu I
- Official titles: Oba of Lagos, Eleko of Eko
- Region: Lagos traditional kingdom
- Born: 29 October 1943
- Birthplace: Lagos, British Nigeria
- Age: 80 years (in 2023)
- Spouses: 4
- Religion: Muslim
Oba Ridwan Akiolu I (the Eleko of Eko) is the Oba of Lagos — a ceremonial monarch of Lagos State. He rose to power on 24 May 2003 and became one of Nigeria's most famous traditional rulers today. Moreover, although he has no political power, Ridwan Babatunde is very influential in Lagos politics.
After high school, he joined the Nigeria Police Force in 1970 and served in various capacities for 32 years. Babatunde became an assistant inspector-general of Police in 1999 and retired in 2002. Today, he is a fellow of the Nigerian Law School and a member of the Nigerian Institute of Management.
How many wives does Oba of Lagos have?
Oba Rilwan Akiolu has four wives. The public only knows his first wife, Olori Talabi Titiola, and one of his children, Moshood Akinolu, who represents Lagos Island II in Nigeria's Federal House of Representatives.
The Oba of Lagos is the ceremonial king of the Lagos traditional kingdom. Benin (Eko) kingdom dominated the area from the late 16th century to the mid-19th century. Therefore, the ancestors of the Oba of Lagos were loyal to the powerful Benin kingdom in the southeast of Lagos rather than the Ooni of the Yoruba kingdom in northeast Lagos.
Lagos later became part of the Yoruba kingdom and earned the name Lagos State. Also, the island kingdom of Lagos played a critical role in the Yoruba area's history in the 19th century. It was the main port during the Atlantic trade and British colonial era.
8. Ogiame Atuwatse III - The Olu of Itsekiri/Warri
- Full name: Ogiame Atuwatse III
- Official title: Olu of Itsekiri/Warri
- Region: Kingdom of Warri
- Born: 2 April 1984
- Birthplace: Warri, Nigeria
- Age: 39 years (in 2023)
- Spouse: 1
Olu Ogiame Atuwatse III was crowned the 21st Olu of Warri, of the Kingdom of Warri, on 21 August 2021. He succeeded his uncle, Ogiame Ikenwoli I, the 20th Olu of Warri.
Atuwatse was born in Utieyinoritsetsola Emiko (also known as Tsola Emiko) to Olu Atuwatse II, the 19th Olu of Warri (1987 to 2015), and Gladys Durorike Emiko.
Through his dad, he is a descendant of Olu Ginuwa (the 14th Olu of Warri), Olu Ginuwa II (the 17th Olu of Warri), and Olu Akengbuwa (the 19th Olu of Warri). On his mom's side, Atuwatse is a descendant of the Royal Dynasty of Oranmiyan and the Ogboruu Royal House of Ile-Ife.
Ogiame Atuwatse III got a BA in International Studies and Political Science and a Master of Science in Management from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA, in 2006 and 2007, respectively.
He joined the NYSC in 2008 and served in the Public Affairs Department of National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS). After his NYSC, Ogiame Atuwatse III was an officer at the Shell Nigeria Closed Pension Fund Administrator (SNCFPA) and Sahara Energy as a Government Relations Officer (between 2010 and 2012).
Also, the new Olu of Warri owns several companies, is the Chairman of Ocean Marine Security Ltd., and is a Director at Gulf of Guinea Ltd. and Vessellink Nig. Ltd.
Who is the wife of Olu of Warri?
He is married to Olori Atuwatse III, Her Majesty and the Queen Consort of Warri Kingdom. The couple has three children.
The Bini and Itsekiri histories stated that Olu Ginuwa, a prince of the Benin Kingdom, established the Warri Kingdom around 1480. Olu Erejuwa reigned from 1760 to 1800, and the Portuguese helped him to expand the kingdom politically and commercially.
As a result, Warri served as the base for Portuguese and Dutch slave traders in the 19th century. Also, the kingdom of Warri has remained predominantly Christian since its first Christian King/Olu Atorongboye (King Sebastian I), was coronated in 1570.
9. Nnaemeka Alfred Ugochukwu Achebe - The Obi of Onitsha
- Full name: Nnaemeka Alfred Ugochukwu Achebe, CFR
- Official title: Obi of Onitsha
- Region: Onitsha land
- Born: 14 May 1941
- Birthplace: Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria
- Age: 82 years (in 2023)
- Spouse: 1
His Majesty Nnaemeka Alfred Ugochukwu Achebe is a traditional ruler and the 21st Obi of Onitsha in Anambra State. He got a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from Stanford University in 1966 and a Master's in Business Administration from Columbia University.
Nnaemeka was a Director at Shell Petroleum Development companies in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Ghana, Nigeria, the Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Angola (1985 - 1987) before becoming the Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University Zaria in 2015. Today, he is a trustee of the National Traditional Rulers Council and its state Chairman in Anambra State.
The Obi of Onitsha is a hereditary title to the royal lineage of Umuezechima. He is recognized both at the state and national level. Nnaemeka Alfred Ugochukwu Achebe is often the first to be consulted on political, social, and traditional issues affecting southeastern Nigeria. Moreover, he is married to Chinwe Ngozi (née Ononye).
10. Moshood Olalekan Balogun - The Olubadan of Ibadan
- Full name: Moshood Olalekan Balogun
- Official titles: Olubadan of Ibadan, the Lord of Ibadan
- Region: Ibadanland
- Born: 18 October 1942
- Birthplace: Ibadan, British Nigeria (now in Oyo State, Nigeria)
- Age: 81 years (in 2023)
- Spouses: 2
- Religion: Muslim
Moshood Olalekan Balogun (also known as Lekan Balogun) was the Otun Olubadan of Ibadanland (one of the two most senior chiefs in Ibadanland). He was crowned the 42nd Olubadan of Ibadanland on 11 March 2022.
He attained his O and A levels certificates in the United Kingdom and got a Master's in Administration and Economics at Brunel University in 1973. Lekan Balogun then worked for the Lambeth Local Government Social Services Department for one-and-a-half years before enrolling for his Ph.D.
Balogun was a lecturer at Ahmadu Bello University in Kaduna State, an editor of the monthly magazine The Nigerian Pathfinder, a director with Triumph Newspaper, and a management consultant for multinational Organizations such as Exiat Battery, Leyland, and Nigerian Breweries. He also worked with Shell British Petroleum Company.
Politically, Lekan Balogun was a presidential aspirant under the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and a gubernatorial candidate in Oyo State under the People's Democratic Party (PDP). On top of this, he represented Oyo Central senatorial district between 1999 and 2003 and was a Federal Republic of Nigeria senator in the Fourth Republic.
Who is the wife of Olubadan of Ibadan?
Olori Joyce Anene Balogun is the first wife of Oba Lekan Mohood Balogun. The Olubadan of Ibadanland has two wives.
Ibadan was founded in the 16th century, but the Yorubas took control around 1820. Oba Isaac Akinyele made the region's economic success in the 18th century. Around 1820, the British helped an army of Egba, Ijebu, Ife, and Oyo people defeat the Fulanis, and after a struggle between the victors, the Oyo gained control in 1829.
Years after that, a new system was established, and the Baale line (civic) and Balogun Isoriki line (military) shared power in 1851. The Olubadan is still an influential figure and criticizes the local political leaders on issues such as violence, corruption, and lack of true democracy in the region.
Who are the top 10 first class kings in Nigeria?
First class traditional rulers of Nigeria have massive influence in the country. These kings have served the government in many ways, including serving top positions in public institutions. Below is a list of all first class kings in Nigeria:
- Sultan Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar III - The Sultan of Sokoto Caliphate
- Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero - The Emir of Kano
- Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi - The Ooni of Ife
- Lamidi Adeyemi III - Aalafin of Oyo
- Benjamin Keagborekuzi Ikenchuku Gbenoba - The Dein of Agbor
- Oba Ewuare II - The Oba of Benin
- Oba Rilwan Akiolu - Oba of Lagos
- Ogiame Atuwatse III - The Olu of Itsekiri/Warri
- Nnaemeka Alfred Ugochukwu Achebe - The Obi of Onitsha
- Moshood Olalekan Balogun - The Olubadan of Ibadan
Who is the youngest king in Nigeria right now?
HRH Akubuisi Okonkwo became the youngest king in Igboland and Nigeria at age 10 in 2021. He was crowned king following his father's death.
Who is the youngest Oba in Yoruba land?
HRM Oba Oloyede Adeyeoba Akinghare ll (born in 2003) is the youngest ruling Yoruba monarch. He is the current Arujale Ojima of Okeluse, Ondo State.
Who is the youngest king in Nigeria's history?
Dein Keagborekuzi Ikenchuku Gbenoba I holds the title of the youngest person crowned king in Nigeria. He became a king at the age of 2 years after his dad's unexpected death.
Who is the richest king in Nigeria?
Oba Obateru Akinruntan (the Olugbo of Ugbo in Ondo State) is the wealthiest king in Nigeria, with a net worth of around $300 million. He is also among the most notable Yoruba monarchs.
Who is the current Oba of Lagos?
Rilwan Babatunde Osuolale Aremu Akiolu is the current Oba of Lagos.
Who is the current king of Onitsha?
Igwe Nnaemeka Alfred Ugochukwu Achebe is the current Obi of Onitsha.
Who is the current Olubadan of Ibadan?
Moshood Olalekan Balogun is the current Olubadan of Ibadan.
First class kings in Nigeria have huge responsibilities towards the government and the people. They resolve civil disputes between the citizens in their regions and the police, politicians, and government. In addition, these traditional leaders promote unity and cohesiveness among all tribes in Nigeria.
Legit.ng listed the top ten Obas in Yorubaland and shared interesting facts about them. Oba means "ruler" in the Yoruba and Bini languages, and this is a hereditary title.
In the Yoruba culture, local elders called "the kingmakers" nominate the traditional Obas or kings from several "royal" families in the villages, towns, or cities of the Yoruba land.