Monarchy grew obsolete as a form of direct rule in Nigeria following the advent of colonialism and independence in the 19th and 20th centuries. However, despite a lack of absolute political power in the hands of Nigerian monarchs, here is a handful of them who continue to wield significant influence in the country’s socio-political sphere.
Oba of Benin, Ewuare II
Before becoming the 40th Oba of Benin, Eheneden Erediauwa was a renowned diplomat with the United Nations, serving as Nigeria’s ambassador to Angola, Italy, and Sweden at different times. Thus, it comes as no surprise that since his coronation in 2016, Ewuare II has been actively involved in trying to resolve the ongoing communal crisis in Edo State. Soon after his coronation, the Oba of Benin banned all the operations of the Community Development Associations (CDA) in his community due to the frequent allegations of their harassment of community members.
In March, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo visited the monarch as a show of respect and admiration of his proposed socioeconomic initiatives to advance his state. Actions like the ban of the CDAs and standing up for community members in matters of injustice have put the Oba in the good books of his people. The Oba also lends his voice to national political issues from time to time.
Ooni of Ife, Ojaja II
The title of Ooni of Ife is the most revered in all of Yorubaland, both historically and contemporarily. The 51st Ooni of Ife, Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi is an accountant turned traditional ruler. In his past line of work, he was quite visible in Nigeria’s local and international economic scene. On becoming the latest traditional ruler of the people of Osun State, the Ooni ended a 79-year-old tension between the kingdoms of Ife and Oyo by visiting the Alaafin of the latter state.
It turns out fostering traditional unity and cultural advancement in what encompasses Yorubaland—as well as the rest of the country—is one thing the latest Ooni is passionate about. In line with his passion for culture, the Ooni paid the registration fees for 1,000 contestants of the Queen Moremi Beauty Pageant. The pageant is aimed at preserving the memory of the brave 12th-century monarch who famously gave her life to save her land.
Alaafin of Oyo, Lamidi Adeyemi III
The 78-year-old monarch of the historic Oyo Kingdom is one of those presently calling for the restructuring of the Nigerian economy. The Alaafin has been actively involved in the Nigerian political sphere and has aligned with political parties in a bid to help the country reach its full potential. In 2011, a political party alignment saw him lose his position as the Permanent Chairman of the Council of Obas and Chiefs in Oyo State. The Alaafin served as Chancellor of the Uthman Dan Fodio University in Sokoto between 1980 and 1992.
Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II
Sanusi Lamido Sanusi is arguably one of the country’s most influential modern monarchs. This is also against the backdrop of his previous role as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. The position of Emir of Sokoto is second only to that of Sultan of Sokoto, and both are charged with the spiritual leadership of Nigerian Muslims. The Emir’s most recent projects include collaborating with the Ooni of Ife to peacefully address the Hausa-Yoruba clashes in the southwestern part of the country as well as offering advice to the federal government on ways it can truly succeed in eliminating corruption in the country.