Nigeria’s many traditional kings were formally stripped of their constitutional powers in 1963
But they continue to command great respect among their communities and wield considerable influence
Celebrated photographer George Osodi toured the country extensively to collect a unique set of portraits
July 31, 2013
With their brightly coloured robes, ornate thrones and legions of flunkeys attending every whim, they seem every bit the archetypal African kings.
Nigeria’s traditional Monarchs may have been stripped of their powers half a century ago, but they appear to have lost little of their regal pomp and splendour as this fascinating series of portraits shows.
Photographer George Osodi toured the west African country extensively for a series of photographs entitled ‘Kings of Nigeria’ which is due to be exhibited at London’s Bermondsey Project in October.
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As a well-known and celebrated Nigerian photographer, Mr Osodi was granted rare access to the palaces and throne rooms of these hereditary rulers who now serve as living repositories of Nigeria’s enormous cultural heritage.
He told Al-Jazeera: ‘There are frequent clashes among different ethnic groups… Lots of people have lost trust in their identity. I felt it was important that we see this diverse culture as a point of unity instead of seeing it as something that should divide us as a nation.
‘The easiest way I could approach this was to look at the monarchy structure in the country because they are closer to the people than the governors.’
Video: George Osodi photographs the Kings of Nigeria
While their ancestors ruled over vast tracts of Africa, following the abolition of the monarchy in 1963 the regional monarchs were stripped of all their constitutional powers.
But far from fading into obscurity, they mostly remain popular leaders and are held in great regard by their hundreds of thousands of loyal subjects.
And despite lacking any formal powers they continue to wield considerable influence and serve as unofficial intermediaries between their subjects and the Nigerian government.
His Royal Majesty Oba Oyetunji Jimoh Olanipekun Larooyell, the ‘Ataoja of Osogbo’ in southwest Nigeria. He worked as a teacher for many years, firstly at a baptist day school. He was crowned king in 1976 and rules over some 300,000 subjects. He has studied management in London and is a qualified chartered accountant
Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo Erediauwa I (left) was crowned ‘Oba of Benin Kingdom’ in the Edo state of Nigeria in 1979. Before that he studied at Cambridge university before being appointed to many top government posts. Alhaji Abdulmumini Kabir Usman (Right) is the current and 50th ‘Emir of Kasina’. He was coronated in 2008 five days after the death of his father, Emir Muhammad Kabir Usman. He is remembered as a peacemaker during the Nigerian civil war and has a passion for Polo
His Majesty, Deinmowuru Donokoromo III, The ‘Pere of Isaba’, poses with his royal sceptre outside his palace. He has ruled over the Kingdom of Isaba in the oil rich South-West area of Delta state since 1983