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15 Most Respected Traditional Rulers in Nigeria

Nigeria’s rich history has given rise to traditional rulers wielding great spiritual, cultural and political sway. As custodians of custom, these leaders represent pillars of their communities. While largely ceremonial today, Nigerian traditional rulers still exert influence as living links to the past. From old kingdom capitals to remote villages, these prominent titles command respect across the country. Here are 15 of Nigeria’s most eminent traditional rulers.InformationGuideNigeria

Read Also: 15 Most Respected Traditional Rulers in Nigeria

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The 15 Most Respected Traditional Rulers in Nigeria Are:

1. Sa’adu Abubakar – The Sultan of Sokoto

Sa'adu Abubakar
Source: Wikipedia

As Sultan of Sokoto, the paramount ruler of the Sokoto Caliphate, Sa’adu Abubakar is the foremost Islamic spiritual leader in Nigeria. Abubakar descends from the lineage of Usman Dan Fodio who established the Caliphate and Sultanate in the early 19th century after a successful jihad. With about 30 million Muslims in Nigeria, the Sultan is the preeminent Islamic figure in the country. He appoints the chief imam and makes doctrine rulings.15 Most Respected Traditional Rulers in Nigeria

2. Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II – The Ooni of Ife

Source: Wikipedia

The Ooni of Ife claims the highest status of all Yoruba Obas as the divinely-ordained ruler of the ancient city of Ife regarded as the cradle of Yoruba civilization. The current Ooni Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II wields vast influence across Yorubaland which he frequently tours. As a Yoruba spiritual leader, he promotes culture and religion through prolific public events and television appearances that contribute to his prominence.

Read Also: Top Royal Families in Nigeria

3. Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III – The Alaafin of Oyo

Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III
Source: The Elites Nigeria

A powerful Yoruba Empire ruler in its medieval heyday, the Alaafin of Oyo stood as chief guardian of Oyo traditions and custodian of the sacred beaded crown. Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III reigned for over 50 years and advanced the position through public visibility. The Alaafin died at the age of 83 on the 22 April 2022. He has preserved Oyo heritage like the annual Dambe boxing tournament and intervened in regional disputes.JAMB Portal

4. Ewuare II – The Oba of Benin

Ewuare II
Source: The Guardian Nigeria

The reigning Oba of Benin, Ewuare II is the 40th ruler of the centuries-old Benin Dynasty dating to the 13th century CE. The Obas presided over the historic Benin Kingdom, maintaining economic might, military power and international contacts. As the royal leader of the Edo people, the Oba today serves as the chief custodian of Edo culture and tradition. The Oba oversees thousands during the famous Igue Festival.NYSC Portal

5. Emir Aminu Ado Bayero – The Emir of Kano

Source: Leadership News

Given his control over Nigeria’s north’s major commercial hub, the Emir of Kano wields substantial economic clout in addition to his position as the second highest Muslim spiritual leader after the Sultan. The current Emir Aminu Ado Bayero works to preserve Fulani and Hausa culture in contemporary Nigeria through public appearances and statements while also weighing in on national affairs.

Read Also: Roles Of Traditional Rulers In Nigeria

6. Obi Nnaemeka Achebe – The Obi of Onitsha, Anambra

Obi Nnaemeka Achebe
Source: Royal News

Based in the bustling Onitsha, the Obi of Onitsha represents an influential traditional Igbo title stretching back centuries when Onitsha held sway as a trading port. The current Obi Nnaemeka Achebe, educated abroad, has been pivotal in redeveloping Onitsha’s infrastructure and revitalizing Igbo traditions like public Ofala festivals that boost the position and cultural importance of the Obi locally and nationally.

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7. The Shehu of Borno – Borno State, Northeastern Nigeria

Abubakar Ibn Umar Garbai El-Kanemi
Source: Daily Trust

As Shehu of Borno, Abubakar Ibn Umar Garbai El-Kanemi currently reigns as the paramount traditional and religious leader over the Borno Emirate in northeastern Nigeria created by the 19th century Sokoto Caliphate. While the Shehu lacks the temporal power of the past, Garbai as chief Imam has strong rhetorical influence in advocating for peace and reconciliation amid the Boko Haram crisis afflicting the region currently.

Read Also: 7 Roles of Traditional Rulers in Achieving Stable Democracy in Nigeria

8. Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu – The Obong of Calabar

Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu
Source: CrossRiverWatch

The Obong of Calabar stands as the paramount ruler of Efiks and Efut ethnic groups of Cross River State, a position commanding deep respect and deference locally and nationally. The long-reigning Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu V administers many ancient rituals while the obong title remains a source of Efik identity. The obong also arbitrates local disputes and promotes cultural events that boost influence.

9. Ovio Benjamin Ikenchuku Keagborekuzi I – The Dein of Agbor, Delta State

ovio Benjamin Ikenchuku Keagborekuzi I
Source: Punch Newspapers

Over a million members of the Igboid Agbor tribe scattered across southern Nigeria look to the reigning Dein of Agbor as their supreme traditional ruler. A mystical position vested with spiritual significance, the ovios (kings) of Agbor command reverence. Current ovio Benjamin Ikenchuku Keagborekuzi I maintains vast prestige and has promoted infrastructure development in the Delta State homeland.

10. Etsu Nupe Yahaya Abubakar – The Etsu Nupe – Bida, Niger State

Etsu Nupe Yahaya Abubakar
Source: Punch Newspapers

The Etsu Nupe serves as paramount ruler over the Nupe people of Niger State, descended from Nupe aristocrats who furnished officers to the medieval cavalry of the Sokoto Caliphate. As the foremost traditional leader of the Nupes, the position retains symbolic and religious sway. The current Etsu Nupe Yahaya Abubakar is chairman of the Niger State Council of Traditional Rulers.

11. The Attah Igala – Idah, Kogi State

Attah Igala
Source: Tribune Online

The Attah Igala is the principal figure in administering traditional authority over the Igala Kingdom centred around Idah in Kogi State. Igala oral traditions date back prior to the 15th century. As the paramount ruler of over 200 chiefdoms, the Attah Igala maintains vast prestige among the Igbos and other groups with shared Igala ancestry and diaspora.200 Romantic Messages

12. Gbong Gwom Jacob Gyang Buba – The Gbong Gwom of Jos, Plateau State

Tribune Online
Source: Independent Newspaper Nigeria

The holder of the title Gbong Gwom presides as the paramount ruler of the Berom people concentrated on the Jos Plateau. As the leader of the preeminent ethnic group in the region, the position historically exercised broad powers locally and under colonialism.10 Best Scar Removal Cream Ingredients

While diminished formally, the current Gbong Gwom Jacob Gyang Buba wields extensive traditional influence in the contemporary Plateau State through advocacy.

Read Also: 12 Functions of Traditional Rulers in Nigeria Community Development

13. Tor Tiv James Ayatse Ortese – The Tor Tiv, Benue State

James Ayatse Ortese
Source: Daily Trust

The Tor Tiv acts as the paramount ruler of the Tiv people, one of the largest ethnic groups in Nigeria. It is a position imbued with deep spiritual significance. The long reign of Alfred Akawe Torkula as the 5th Tor Tiv until 2018 reinforced the title as the leading Tiv cultural figure. Current Tor Tiv James Ayatse Ortese serves as chairman of the influential Benue State Council of Chiefs.105 Good Morning Messages

14. The Olu of Warri – Warri, Delta State

Olu of Warri
Source: Instagram

The Olu of Warri has reigned over the Itsekiri people of the oil-rich Niger Delta for centuries, later serving as a key ally of the Royal Niger Company in the 19th century. Today, the Olu stands as the principal guardian of Itsekiri history and culture. Recent holder Godwin Toju Emiko was instrumental in resolving communal violence and promoting socioeconomic reforms that boosted the position.15 Best Nollywood Performances 2023


While no longer wielding the authority of Nigeria’s sprawling ancient empires, traditional rulers still command widespread respect and loyalty as living embodiments of their people’s heritage. The prominent titles featured here continue to anchor cultural identities and advocate for community interests nationwide. Through evolutions, Nigeria’s eminent traditional rulers represent continuity.

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