Traditional rulers are revered and their influence stretch beyond their kingdom. So, when the demise of any traditional ruler is announced, it is considered as a monumental loss.
The ruler is accorded all traditional rites and sent to his ancestors with pageantry. Only insiders understand this process because it is carried out in deep secrecy. After the ceremony is done, the jostle to select the next traditional ruler begins. This process involves wide consultations with political bickering being the order of the day.
A quick look at how traditional rulers are selected in the three most prominent ethnic groups in Nigeria.
In Yoruba tradition, even though the position is hereditary, there are three to four families that are entitled to the throne often called ‘The Ruling House’. It is like a rotational system of government where rulership of a kingdom is rotated among the different families. For example, there are four ruling families that are entitled to the throne in Ile-Ife. The families are Osinkola, Lafogido, Giesi and Ogboru. The Current Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi (Ojaja II) is from the Giesi ruling house.
The palace elders (King Makers) who have a grounded knowledge of the selection process meet consistently and also consult oracles for guidance. Also, the state government has a key role to play. This is because they want to be on the same page with the Oba. This may be a major reason why the contest is often controversial. After the successful choice of the next king, the state government gives the staff of office to the newly crowned king.
Hausa and Fulani
The Hausa and Fulani succession process is quite transparent when compared to other ethnic groups in Nigeria. The succession process is anchored by the Kingmakers with the State government playing a key role. A list is then drawn up of eligible individuals entitled to the throne and the best among them is selected.
This was exactly the process that was followed when Sanusi Lamido Sanusi became the Emir of Kano. Even before he became the emir, he already knew he would mount the throne. Perhaps other cultural groups in Nigeria should adopt this idea. There was little or no controversy in the process. Even the religious demands were strictly based on Islamic religion.
During the colonial era the Igbos in South East Nigeria did not have king. They practiced a decentralized system of administration. In other words, everyone had a say in the socio-political system of the community.
However, that system has dissipated. Today, Kings (Obi, Igwe or Eze) are numerous across the region. The Igbos system is almost similar with the Yoruba process of succession. It is hereditary, requires spiritual atonement and consultation.