Who are Traditional Rulers in Nigeria: Types and Roles of Traditional Rulers in Nigeria

Nuelson Penuel Sunday, June 4, 2023 Basis


who are traditional rulers: advantages of traditional rulers in Nigeria
In this article, I am going to elaborate on traditional rulers. This post entails who are traditional rulers, types of traditional rulers, how to become traditional rulers, advantages and disadvantages of traditional rulers, roles of traditional rulers and how autonomous are traditional rulers in Nigeria.

Traditional Rulers

Traditional rulers are political leaders who hold a hereditary or elective chieftaincy title in a particular community. They are usually the custodians of the cultural heritage and traditions of their people and have the responsibility of promoting the development and welfare of their community. They are highly respected and are regarded as the embodiment of the traditional values of their society. They exercise their authority through a council of elders or chiefs who assist them in governing their people. The role of traditional rulers varies depending on the community and the level of influence and authority they wield. They also play an important role in maintaining social order, resolving disputes, and promoting peace and harmony in the community.

Types of Traditional Rulers in Nigeria

In Nigeria, there are several types of traditional rulers who are recognized by law, including: 1. Emirs: Emirs are traditional rulers in the northern part of Nigeria and are the heads of the emirates. They are often recognized as having the highest status in the traditional hierarchy. The position of emir is usually hereditary, and they have significant power and influence in the community. They are responsible for ensuring law and order in their communities, settling disputes, and promoting development. 2. Obas: Obas are traditional rulers in Yoruba land in southwestern Nigeria. They are the monarchs of their communities and are responsible for maintaining law and order, managing land, and promoting development in the area. The title is usually passed down through the royal family and is recognized by law. 3. Obis: Obis are traditional rulers in Igbo land in southeastern Nigeria. They are the monarchs of their communities and exercise the highest authority. They are responsible for ensuring peace, stability, and development in their communities. 4. Olu of Warri: The Olu of Warri is the paramount ruler of the Itsekiri people in Delta State. They are recognized as one of the most powerful traditional rulers in Nigeria and have a significant religious and political role in the community. 5. Eze: Eze is the title of the traditional rulers in many communities in southeastern Nigeria. They are responsible for leading their communities and promoting development while maintaining the culture and traditions of their people. 6. Sarki: Sarki is the title of the traditional rulers in many communities in northern Nigeria. They are responsible for ensuring the welfare of their people, settling disputes, and promoting development in their communities. 7. Deji of Akure: The Deji of Akure is the traditional ruler of the Ondo Kingdom in southwestern Nigeria. The title is hereditary, and the Deji has responsibility for leading his kingdom, promoting development, and preserving the culture and traditions of his people. 8. Oba of Lagos: The Oba of Lagos is the traditional ruler of Lagos State and is responsible for promoting traditional culture and customs, as well as for ensuring peace and stability in the area.

What are the Roles of Traditional Rulers in Nigeria

The roles of traditional rulers vary depending on the community and culture, but some of the common roles they play are as follows: 1. Custodians of Culture and Tradition: One of the primary roles of traditional rulers is to preserve and uphold the culture and traditions of their people. They ensure that their community's traditions, customs, values, and norms are passed down to younger generations. 2. Conflict Resolution: Traditional rulers are often called upon to resolve conflicts and disputes within their communities. They are respected and trusted by their people, and as such, they are in a better position to bring peace to their communities. 3. Advocates for Development: Traditional rulers are also expected to promote the development of their communities. They work in conjunction with their elected government officials to provide basic amenities like roads, hospitals, and schools. 4. Social Justice: Traditional rulers are expected to be fair and just in their dealings with their people. They play a critical role in ensuring that the vulnerable and marginalized in their communities are not neglected. 5. Religious and Spiritual Leaders: Many traditional rulers have religious and spiritual duties. They are responsible for promoting religious harmony, performing traditional religious rites and ceremonies, and offering prayers for the well-being of their communities. 6. Representatives of their People: Traditional rulers represent their people in various government agencies and forums. They ensure that their people's voices are heard in policymaking processes. Overall, traditional rulers' roles are vital to the smooth functioning and development of their communities.

How to Become Traditional Ruler in Nigeria

The process of becoming a traditional ruler varies from culture to culture and community to community. In some cases, traditional rulers are hereditary, meaning that leadership is passed down from one generation to the next within a particular family. In other cultures, traditional rulers are elected. However, some general steps taken to become a traditional ruler include: 1. Eligibility: A person who wishes to become a traditional ruler must belong to the royal family or the ruling house of the community. In some cases, the person must also meet certain requirements such as being of a particular age, education, and character. 2. Nomination: The next step is to be nominated by the kingmakers or the selection committee. In many communities, the kingmakers are the king's council of chiefs or elders, who are responsible for selecting the next ruler. 3. Screening: After nomination, the candidate is screened to ensure that he or she meets the necessary criteria and is deemed suitable to hold the position of traditional ruler. 4. Selection: The selection process involves the kingmakers or selection committee and other stakeholders in the community who may be involved in the selection process. 5. Confirmation: Upon selection, the candidate's name is submitted to the appropriate authorities for confirmation. 6. Coronation: The coronation is the official ceremony where the candidate assumes the position of traditional ruler. The coronation ceremony is usually steeped in tradition and ritual and can vary depending on the community and culture.

Advantages of Traditional Rulers

Here are some of the main advantages of traditional rulers: 1. Cultural preservation: Traditional rulers play an important role in preserving the cultural heritage of their communities. They may serve as custodians of traditional rites, customs, and practices, and help to pass them on to future generations. 2. Local knowledge: Traditional rulers are often deeply rooted in their communities and have an intimate understanding of the local environment, customs, and needs. This local knowledge can be invaluable in decision-making and problem-solving at the local level. 3. Conflict resolution: Traditional rulers may have a role in resolving conflicts within their communities. They may use their authority, cultural traditions, and knowledge of the community to mediate disputes and promote peace. 4. Community cohesion: Traditional rulers can serve as unifying figures within their communities. They may help to bring people together, promote social cohesion, and foster a sense of solidarity and belonging. 5. Efficient governance: Traditional rulers may be able to provide more efficient governance than formal state structures in some contexts. They may be able to make decisions quickly and effectively, without the bureaucratic constraints faced by elected officials.

Disadvantages of Traditional Rulers

While traditional rulers may hold positions of power and influence within their communities, there are also some disadvantages associated with this type of leadership. Here are some of the main disadvantages of traditional rulers: 1. Limited democracy: In many cases, traditional rulers hold a position of authority that is not based on democratic principles. This can lead to a lack of representation for minority groups and a lack of accountability to the wider community. 2. Limited growth and development: Traditional rulers may be resistant to change, which can limit growth and development within their communities. This can lead to economic stagnation and poor living conditions for community members. 3. Corruption: Traditional rulers may sometimes abuse their power and engage in corrupt practices such as embezzlement, bribery, and nepotism. This can lead to a lack of trust in the leadership of the community and an erosion of social cohesion. 4. Limited gender and social equality: Traditional rulers may often prioritize the interests of certain groups over others, particularly men over women. This can lead to gender inequality and contribute to other forms of social inequality such as caste or class discrimination. 5. Lack of technical expertise: Traditional rulers are often not trained in modern forms of administration or leadership, which can limit their capacity to address complex issues facing their communities.

How Autonomous are Traditional Rulers in Nigeria

The autonomy of traditional rulers in Nigeria varies depending on the region and the type of ruling system in place. In some cases, traditional rulers have a high level of autonomy in their communities and play an important role in decision-making processes. They may have the power to settle disputes, enforce local laws, and make decisions regarding the use of community resources. However, in other cases, traditional rulers may have limited autonomy, particularly if they are subject to the authority of a higher-level ruler or government. For example, in some states, traditional rulers are appointed by the state government and are expected to work within the framework of state laws and regulations. Despite these limitations, traditional rulers in Nigeria continue to play a key role in preserving and promoting the culture and traditions of their people. They are often seen as important cultural figures and have a significant influence on issues affecting their communities, such as education, healthcare, and economic development.


Overall, traditional rulers in Nigeria play a significant role in the social, cultural, and political life of their communities. They are respected and honored by their people and recognized by the government as important figures in the nation's history and ongoing development.

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