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Oba, (pronounced Or-ba, means King or ruler in the Yoruba language). Obas are the traditional heads of Yoruba settlements.[1] The Yoruba word, 'oba', has also been adopted by some non-Yoruba ethnic groups.

Yoruba settlements are often composed of three main generations:

  • The first generation is made up of founding towns and cities of the origin or capitals of Yoruba states/kingdoms.
  • The second generation is those created by conquest, diaspora or/and resettlement.
  • The third generation is those that emerged after the Yoruba wars.

The first and most of the second generation towns are those with Obas, who generally wear beaded crowns; the rulers of the 'second generation' settlements are also often oba's. The third generation settlements tend to be only headed by a Baálě (literally meaning 'father of the land' in Yoruba), who do not wear crowns. Except from the Oba of Lagos (formerly called Eko, Yoruba oba's bear titles related to the cities or ethnic groups. There are two categories of Yoruba obas:

  • the oba's of Yoruba ethnic groups. For example, the oba of the Egba bears the title of Alake of Egbaland, whose capital is Abeokuta, while the Oyo oba bears the title of Alaafin of Oyo.
  • the kings of Yoruba towns. Example: the king of Iwo, a town in Osun State, bears the title Olu'wo (Olu of Iwo).

As previously mentioned there are some non Yoruba speaking African ethnic groups who are also ruled by obas. The most well known is the Oba of Benin.

See also




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