Oba

Obas- Adeniji Adele of Lagos, Olubadan of Ibadan Asanike, Alake of Abeokuta, and Oba Ademola. c. 1950
Obas- Adeniji Adele of Lagos, Olubadan of Ibadan Asanike, Alake of Abeokuta, and Oba Ademola. c. 1950 Source: NNP

Oba is the Yoruba traditional title meaning “King”. The head of a town might be an Oba (crowned head) if descended from an Ooni of Ife, regarded in ancient times as the spiritual head of the Yorubas. Otherwise they are called Baale (headman). Usually, the first Oba for each town was a migrant who left his native town on account of some quarrel – being a disappointed claimant to a title. There are however, cases of hunters who found some spot which appeared to them desirable.

Government in Yoruba language is called ‘Ijoba’, a shortened form of ‘Awujo awon Oba’ meaning the ‘King Council’, indicating that monarchy was inherent in its political and cultural system. This system of government in which an individual inherits, and is repository of authority usually till death historically started in the western Nigerian region with the emergence of Oduduwa as the first Yoruba king in Ile-Ife. Through his sixteen sons, this legend from the “East” fathered generations of Yoruba kings. Although the title of the Oba was exclusive, it is now in many cases accorded by courtesy to or claimed by heads of towns in South West Nigeria, who technically have no right to it.