The Obas

‘Oba’ roughly translates as ‘king’ or ‘monarch’. Unlike the British, or indeed most European monarchies, the number of Obas is not static. Traditionally, there were 16 Obas at any one time as this is thought to be an auspicious number.

Whilst the Oba still exists today, it has changed significantly since the naming of the first Oba in the 16th century. For the most part, this change has come about as a result of colonialism and changing attitudes towards democracy. Whilst the Oba retains important ritual significance, it is now a principally cultural role. Constitutional power is now in the hands of the political middle class.

Emmanuel shares his thoughts on the Obas, “Before, they have what I call traditional power to settle matters, to settle disputes, to create harmony in society….And they were in charge of the land of the people and they had, what I call, ‘Council of Chiefs’.”