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How Nigeria’s traditional rulers are selected

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Nigeria’s Traditional rulers are revered and their influence stretch beyond their kingdom. When the demise of any traditional ruler is announced, it is considered as a monumental loss.

The ruler is accorded all traditional rites and sent to join his ancestors with pomp and pageantry. Only, insiders understand this process because it is carried out in deep secrecy. After the ceremony is done, the jostle to select the next traditional ruler begins. This process involves wide consultations and the place political bickering can’t be neglected.

For example, despite the controversy surrounding the death of the Ooni of Ife, Alayeluwa Oba Okunade Sijuwade, it has not stopped the various families entitled to the throne from scurrying to take over the enviable position.

Jovago.com, Africa’s No 1 Hotel Booking Portal takes a look at how traditional rulers are selected in Nigeria’s three more ethnic groups namely Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa.


In Yoruba tradition, even though the position is hereditary, there are three to four families that are entitled to the throne. It is like a rotational system of government where rulership of a kingdom is circulated among the different families. For example, in Ife, there are four eligible ruling families that can contest for the throne. The families are OsinkolaLafogido, Giesi and Ogboru. Oba Sijuade is from the Ogboru ruling house which automatically rules the family out of the contest.

The palace elders who have a grounded knowledge of the selection process meet consistently and also consult oracles for guidance. Also, the state government have a key role to play. At the end of consultations of both gods and humans, the name of the successful candidate is announced.

Hausa and Fulani

The Hausa and Fulani succession process is quite transparent when compared to other ethnic groups in Nigeria. The succession process is anchored by Kingmakers in conjunction with the State government. A list is then drawn up of suitable individuals. The best among them is selected.

This was exactly the process that led to the emergence of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as the Emir of Kano on 8th June, 2014. Even before he became the emir, he already knew he would mount the throne. Perhaps other cultural groups in Nigeria should adopt this idea. There was little or no controversy in the process. Even the religious rites were largely based on the Islamic religion.


During the colonial era, the Igbos in South East Nigeria did not have king. They practiced a decentralised system of administration. In other words, everyone had a say in the socio-political system of the community.

However, this system has been jettisoned. Today, Kings (Obi, Igwe or Eze) are numerous across the region. The Igbos system is almost similar with the Yoruba process of succession. It is hereditary, requires spiritual expiation of gods as well as wide consultation. The government will also contribute its own quota to the selection process.


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