Eze is an Igbo
Igbo language
Igbo , or Igbo proper, is a native language of the Igbo people, an ethnic group primarily located in southeastern Nigeria. There are approximately 20 million speakers that are mostly in Nigeria and are primarily of Igbo descent. Igbo is a national language of Nigeria. It is written in the Latin...

 word which means King
- Centers of population :* King, Ontario, CanadaIn USA:* King, Indiana* King, North Carolina* King, Lincoln County, Wisconsin* King, Waupaca County, Wisconsin* King County, Washington- Moving-image works :Television:...

; with further implied meaning of chieftain
Chieftain may refer to:The leader or head of a group:* a tribal chief or a village head.* a member of the 'House of chiefs'.* a captain, to which 'chieftain' is etymologically related.* Clan chief, the head of a Scottish clan....

of the tribe or kingdom. Such words as Igwe and Obi plus others are used by Igbo people as titles of respect and homage to the Eze. Igwe is derived from the Igbo word: Igwekala or Eluigwekala: the sky or heaven above the sky is higher or bigger than land; implying that the Eze is a higher servant of the people. Obi is normally the centre building for receiving visitors in an Igbo leader's or man's homestead
Homestead (buildings)
A homestead is either a single building, or collection of buildings grouped together on a large agricultural holding, such as a ranch, station or a large agricultural operation of some other designation.-See also:* Farm house* Homestead Act...

; and when used as a title of respect for the Eze: King, Obi implies: the one who sits in the throne house or heart of the Kingdom.

In Igbo tradition and culture, the Eze is normally an absolute Monarch
A monarch is the person who heads a monarchy. This is a form of government in which a state or polity is ruled or controlled by an individual who typically inherits the throne by birth and occasionally rules for life or until abdication...

 advised by a council of chiefs or elders whom he appoints based on their good standing within the community. A popular saying
A saying is something that is said, notable in one respect or another, to be "a pithy expression of wisdom or truth."There are a number of specific types of saying:...

 in Igbo is "Igbo enwe eze", which translates to "the Igbo have no king." This popular saying does not, however, capture the complexity of Igbo societies
A society, or a human society, is a group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations...

 as portrayed in many centuries of anthropological
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

, sociological
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

 and political
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...


The Igbo people
Igbo people
Igbo people, also referred to as the Ibo, Ebo, Eboans or Heebo are an ethnic group living chiefly in southeastern Nigeria. They speak Igbo, which includes various Igboid languages and dialects; today, a majority of them speak English alongside Igbo as a result of British colonialism...

 had and still have ruling bodies of royal and political leaders where an individual can be recognized by the entire society as primus inter pares, i.e., first among equals. This status is usually hereditary and among the male line since Igbo culture is patrilineal. Women in Igbo cultures were known to develop parallel social hierarchies through which they both competed and collaborated with their counterpart male kingship and governing hierarchies.

Kingship in Igboland

Scholars generally believe that Igbo kingship institutions originated from three sources.
The first source is indigenous and ancient priesthood, which traditionally combined clerical and political duties in the village-based republic
A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

s. This is the case in several places, notably in Ngwa
The Ngwa , an Igbo group, constitute the largest and most populous sub-ethnicity, or clan, in southeastern Nigeria. They occupy an area of about 1328 square kilometers. Although, some accounts read at least 900 square miles. In 1979, their population was held at an estimate of approximately 1.5...

, Arochukwu
Arochukwu, sometimes referred to as Arochuku, or Aro-Okigbo, is the third largest city in Abia State in southeastern Nigeria and homeland of the Igbo subgroup, Aro people....

, Nri-Igbo
Nri is an ancient Igbo city-state in Anambra State Nigeria. The Kingdom of Nri was a center of learning, religion, and commerce in pre-colonial West Africa...

, Awka
Awka is the capital of Anambra State, Nigeria with an estimated population of 301,657 Nigerian census. The city is located about 600 miles east of Lagos in the centre of the densely-populated Igbo heartland in southeastern Nigeria...

, and Northern Nsukka
Nsukka is a town and Local Government Area in South-East Nigeria in Enugu State. Other towns that share common border with Nsukka, such as Enugu Ezike, Orba and Obollo-Afor , Ede-Oballa, Uzo Uwani and Mkpologwu, now also claim the name Nsukka, hence they all collectively fall into the political...

, which are home to the Igbo-Eze communities of Enugu
Enugu is the capital of Enugu State in Nigeria. It is located in the southeastern area of Nigeria and is largely populated by members of the Igbo ethnic group. The city has a population of 722,664 according to the 2006 Nigerian census. The name Enugu is derived from the two Igbo words Enu Ugwu...

-Ezike, Ovoko, and Iheakpu-Awka
Awka is the capital of Anambra State, Nigeria with an estimated population of 301,657 Nigerian census. The city is located about 600 miles east of Lagos in the centre of the densely-populated Igbo heartland in southeastern Nigeria...

. The king is variously referred to as Eze or Ezedike, depending on lineage
Kinship is a relationship between any entities that share a genealogical origin, through either biological, cultural, or historical descent. And descent groups, lineages, etc. are treated in their own subsections....


The second source is the colonial imposition on Igbo communities by the neighboring Benin Empire
Benin Empire
The Benin Empire was a pre-colonial African state in what is now modern Nigeria. It is not to be confused with the modern-day country called Benin, formerly called Dahomey.-Origin:...

. There is, however, an opposite view wherein the Eze of Nri imposed or influenced the constitution of the Benin Oba's status
Oba of Benin
The Oba of Benin, or Omo N'Oba, is both the oba of the Edo people and the pretender to the defunct title of the king of the Benin Kingdom...

. The differing points of view are particularly focused on the communities of Asaba
Asaba, Nigeria
Asaba is the capital of Nigeria's Delta State, and has an estimated population of 149,603 .- Etymology :Ahaba in Igbo is from 'Ahabagom', meaning I have chosen well, a quote from the founding father of Asaba.- Geography :...

, Onitsha
Onitsha is a city, a commercial, educational, and religious center and river port on the eastern bank of the Niger river in Anambra State, southeastern Nigeria....

, and Oguta
Oguta is a city on the east bank of Oguta Lake in southeast Nigeria. Oguta was one of the first territories used by the British to advance into the Igbo hinterland...

. According to some scholars who argue against what is known as the Afigbo
Adiele Afigbo
Adiele Eberechukwu Afigbo was a Nigerian historian known for the history and historiography of Africa, more particularly Igbo history and the history of Southeastern Nigeria...

 and Omenka Thesis on Origin
, Igbo kings of these places trace the historical roots of their investiture
Investiture, from the Latin is a rather general term for the formal installation of an incumbent...

 immediately to the Oba of Benin
Oba of Benin
The Oba of Benin, or Omo N'Oba, is both the oba of the Edo people and the pretender to the defunct title of the king of the Benin Kingdom...

. They tend to be called Obi.

The third source of origin of Igbo kingship is believed to be 19th and 20th century colonial
Colonial Nigeria
Colonial Nigeria ran from 1800 till October 1, 1960 when it gained independence. Up until the amalgamation of 1914, the country's constituting parts existed as separate British protectorates.-Abolition of the Slave Trade:...

 impositions by the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

. Under an indirect rule
Indirect rule
Indirect rule was a system of government that was developed in certain British colonial dependencies...

 policy, Warrant chiefs (recognised noblemen who served as tax collectors) were created by the colonial administration. Though native to the communities, the Warrant Chiefs were usually selected from among those most cooperative with the foreign rulers. For this and a number of other reasons, the Igbo populations usually resented and often overtly resisted the authority of the warrant chiefs. An example of such resistance is the Igbo Women's War of 1929
Igbo Women's War of 1929
The Igbo Women's War started in November 1929, when thousands of Igbo women from the Bende District of Nigeria, the nearby Umuahia and other places in eastern Nigeria traveled to Oloko to protest against the Warrant Chiefs, whom they accused of restricting the role of women in the government...

. After Nigeria
Nigeria , officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The country is located in West Africa and shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in...

 gained its constitutional independence
Independence is a condition of a nation, country, or state in which its residents and population, or some portion thereof, exercise self-government, and usually sovereignty, over its territory....

from Britain, many of the Warrant Chiefs tried to maintain their power by seeking to transform their identities. Those with residual political influence and new-found wealth bought honorary Eze-sounding titles, and clamored to be retained as 'traditional rulers' by the government of independent Nigeria.
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