7 Influential Traditional Rulers in West Africa

Africa’s history would be incomplete without the bravery and achievements of her traditional kings, many of whom wield enormous power. In ancient times, African monarchs were given governmental authority comparable to that of today’s president or prime minister, as was the case in many other societies.

Menelik II, Mansa Musa, Idris Alooma, and other prominent African monarchs of the time were not only political reformers but also outstanding warrior kings. However, with the exception of a few African countries, such as Lesotho and Morocco, most of them are now ceremonial posts. Yet, prominent monarchs are still known as traditional rulers in their respective countries.

Traditional chiefs influence both government policies and communal development. They are also the keepers of cultural traditions. Numerous powerful kings dominate West Africa. The monarchs on our list are strong, influential, and dedicated to their people and country; no other criteria were employed in the selection process. Nigeria, given to its vast diversity, undoubtedly has more traditional rulers, as evidenced by the figures presented above. These strong rulers have been recognized in no particular order.


His eminence Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar IV, the Sultan of Sokoto

The Sultan of Sokoto Muhammad Sa ad Abubakar III
The Sultan of Sokoto Muhammad Sa ad Abubakar III
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His Eminence Muhammed Sa’ad Abubakar IV, Sultan of Sokoto, is a powerful figure in Nigeria, particularly among Muslims. He is the Sokoto Caliphate’s traditional and spiritual leader. He seized the throne on November 2, 2006, following the death of his predecessor, Muhammadu Maccido, in an aircraft crash. The Sultan of Sokoto is also a member of Nigeria’s Council of Traditional Rulers, which advises the government on traditional governance and cultural heritage issues.

He has a strong educational background. He acquired his elementary education at the Palace of Sultan Bello in Sokoto and his secondary education at Barewa College in Zaria. After finishing high school, the Sultan of Sokoto enrolled in the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) in Kaduna, where he earned a degree in Military Arts and Science.

He also attended Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) in Zaria, where he earned a Bachelor of Architecture and a Master of Development Studies degree. He is generally regarded as an Islamic authority and has written various articles and books on Islamic jurisprudence and the history of the Sokoto Caliphate. He is widely regarded as the spiritual leader of Nigerian Muslims, and the Muslim community places a high value on his judgment. He is frequently sought to advise and counsel political leaders on national issues.


Naba Baongo, Mogho Naba, the King of the Mossi People of Burkina Faso

Naba Guigem Polle, the Dima of Zougrantenga, Naaba Kiiba of Yatenga, and other powerful traditional rulers may be found in Burkina Faso, West Africa. Nonetheless, the current monarch of the Mossi people of Burkina Faso, Mogho Naba (Naba Baongo), is undeniably prominent. As a traditional leader, Naba Baongo II advises the Burkinabe government on cultural and traditional matters.

He has used his power to promote peace, cooperation, and growth within his neighborhood and beyond. By implementing a series of projects to encourage economic, healthcare, and educational development in his neighborhood, he helped many people in Burkina Faso live better lives. Prominent dignitaries and traditional leaders from the country and the West African sub-region gathered in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso’s capital, for his coronation.

According to the BBC, he was instrumental in restoring civilian authority in Burkina Faso and participated in a number of local and international peace discussions. Traditional ruler powers were reduced during the administration of Thomas Sankara. Before, he was referred to as the King of the Earth. That was the magnitude of his position.


Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu II

The traditional king of the Ashanti people, Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu II, is undeniably a prominent figure in Ghana and West Africa. He is known for being a smart and courageous leader, and as Asantehene, he holds a significant position in Ghanaian society.

He graduated from London Metropolitan University with degrees in public administration and human resources management, and he also studied at the University of Professional Studies in Accra, Ghana. As head of President John Kufour’s Committee of Eminent Chiefs, he made one of his most significant contributions to society by assisting in the restoration of peace to the Kingdom of Dagbon.

He also made a concerted effort to protect the environment, notably after pledging to protect the Ashanti Region’s water resources. He made major contributions to his people’s health and education, particularly through the Otumfuo Osei Tutu II Charity Foundation. Many Ghanaians, both at home and abroad, adore and appreciate him for his leadership, knowledge, and contributions to cultural legacy, as well as his involvement in political and economic challenges. For his work, he has received various domestic and international distinctions.


Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, the Ooni of Ife

His Royal Highness is a well-known traditional leader in Nigeria and West Africa. He is the spiritual leader of the Yoruba people. Although being popularly regarded as the most powerful king in Yorubaland, Nigeria, he is still under the age of 50.

He is particularly well-liked for his activism, influential role in empowering young people, support for cultural heritage, and dedication to his people’s economic prosperity. He is a young entrepreneur who has worked in agriculture, engineering, tourism, and real estate. He has traveled extensively and founded several organizations to promote and safeguard Yoruba cultural heritage. He just erected a cultural center in Ile-Ife and is quite involved in philanthropy.


Amon N’ Douffou V, King of the Kingdom of Sanwi, Ivory Coast

Amon N’Douffou V is the ruler of the Sanwi kingdom in Ivory Coast, Cote d’Ivoire. In 1999, he succeeded his late father, Amon N’Douffou IV, to the kingdom. According to some accounts, Ghanaian immigrants formed the Kingdom of Sanwi in 1740, but it swiftly became a protectorate of France.

Amon N’Douffou V is well-known for his efforts to promote and safeguard the Sanwi people’s cultural heritage. He is recognized as an important and strong figure in Ivory Coast, particularly in the region where the Kingdom of Sanwi is located in the country’s southeast. In addition to fostering education and economic progress in the region, he has attempted to reinvigorate historic festivals and customs.


Chief Zanzan Karwor, Liberia

Chief Zanzan Karwor is a well-known traditional figure and spiritual leader in Liberia. It is worth noting that the traditional institutions of Liberia have a slightly distinct organizational structure. The nation’s leader, Chief Zanzar Karwor, is the National Chairperson of Liberia’s National Traditional Council (a spiritual leader). As National Chairman, he makes important contributions to maintaining peace and resolving issues within Liberia’s traditional communities. The Liberian National Legislature formed the autonomous National Council of Chiefs and Elders, of which Chief Karwor is also the Chairperson, in 2012.

The new council’s responsibilities include supporting the government in achieving enduring peace and reconciliation, as well as providing an objective opinion on subjects of national significance. Chief Karwor has made important contributions to the political and economic growth of his country. Because of his position and proximity to powerful people, he has repeatedly been accused of leaning with the government, although he has consistently disputed this claim. Nevertheless, Chief Zanzan Karwor has mostly been involved in a variety of Liberian peacebuilding programs.

He has been instrumental in bringing traditional groups together and resolving disagreements over resources and land. He has also worked with national and international organizations to promote the country’s peace and stability.


Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku AkpolokpoloEwuare II

His Royal Highness, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Ewuare II, Oba of Benin, is the 40th monarch of the Benin Kingdom, Nigeria, and is a first-class monarch like the Ooni of Ife. He is also the spiritual leader of the Benin kingdom. Oba Akpolokpolo is well-educated and well-traveled. Prior to succeeding to the throne, he served as a UN intern and as Nigeria’s ambassador to Sweden, Finland, Italy, and, concurrently, Norway and Angola.

In the United Kingdom, he attended Rutgers University Graduate School and the University of Wales. He has made several contributions to the growth of the Benin Kingdom and started numerous measures to preserve his people’s cultural legacy, including the creation of a cultural center and the preservation of historical landmarks, since taking the title of Oba. He is a philanthropist who has made substantial contributions to the promotion of peace and stability in Nigeria and throughout West Africa.

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