The Oldest Kingdoms in Nigeria

Last updated on August 27th, 2023 at 10:26 pm

The history of Nigeria could be dated far back before the colonial era. In this period around 900AD, few kingdoms which still survive till now, were in existence then. In this write-up, we will investigate the history of Nigeria, and subsequently infer the oldest kingdom in the country.




Evidence of Nigerian kingdoms dates back thousands of years before the country was known of its current name. This was preceding the colonial rule when the country eventually got independence. Before the British invasion of West Africa, i.e Nigeria’s colonial masters taking control in the late 19th century, many indigenous polities emerged in the country.

The prominent Hausa empire was what is now the northern part of the country. This included states of Kano, Katsina, Zaria, Gombe, and the rest of others which make up the largest kingdom in Nigeria then. The Kanem-Borno empire was what is now Borno and Adamawa states; and the Jukun states of Kwararafa, Kona, Pinduga, and Wukari were other smaller kingdoms which were in the northern part of Nigeria. Others included those of the Igala, Nupe, and Ebira.

Down south, a lot of notable kingdoms existed even till the present time. The Yoruba empires of Ife and Oyo were the occupants of the southwestern region of the country. Edo kingdom of Benin, which is an ancient empire in the country, make up what is now Edo state. The Ibibio-Efik kingdom make up the present day Akwa Ibom and Cross River states. In the delta region of the Niger, the Itsekiri kingdom of Warri, the Ibibio kingdom of Akwa-Cross, and the Ijo (Ijaw) city-states of Nembe, Elem Kalabari, Bonny, and Okrika complements the list of old empires in the country.

Be that as it may, this article provides more information on the oldest kingdoms in Nigeria. Below, we outline the kingdoms and empires that existed first in the country.


When considering which kingdom or empire is the oldest in Nigeria, one must take a critical look at the history of all the kingdoms in the country. Here is the oldest kingdom in Nigeria, after deducing from the dates each empire in the country came into existence.


The kingdom of Benin is the oldest kingdom in Nigeria. Their dated history which could be traced thousands of years ago made them earn this mark as the most ancient empire in the country.

Far back in the 900s, the Kingdom of Benin began when the Edo people settled in the rainforests of West Africa, which is the present day Edo state. These people were had a sudden rise, as before 1400s they created a wealthy kingdom with a powerful ruler. The Obas were the supreme ruler in the Edo kingdom. They were highly honored and they lived in beautiful palaces decorated with shining brass.

These rulers, the Obas spearheaded the affairs of the kingdom and won more land which eventually made them rise to an empire. The kingdoms in the empire was called Igodomigodo. It was ruled by a series of kings, known as Ogisos (‘rulers of the sky’), which were subject to the Obas. Still on, history has it that around the 1100s, there were struggles for power and the Ogisos lost control of their kingdom.

This resulted to the Edo people seeking for help from their neighbour, the King of Ife. In response to it, the king sent his son Prince Oranmiyan to restore peace to the Benin kingdom. The king of Ife eventually chose his son Eweka to be the first Oba of Benin. Eweka was the first in a long line of Obas, who reached the peak of their power in the 1500s. After his reign, other Obas took over in succession, of which till now the kingdom still have a recognisable Oba as their ruler.

At its came in the 16th and 17th centuries, the Benin or Edo kingdom encompassed parts of southeastern Yorubaland, and the western parts of the present Delta State. But at present, due to regional divisions, the trace of the old Benin kingdom is significant in Edo state of Nigeria. Nonetheless, let’s now peek at other old kingdoms and empires in Nigeria which followed the Bini group.


Here are some other ancient empires that were in existence many years ago before the foreigners entry to the country.


The once powerful Borno empire was in existence in 9th century, when Arabic writers in North Africa first noted the kingdom of Kanem, east of Lake Chad. A centralized state was established over the Sao by a pastoral group and ancestors of the Kanuri. The Kanem rulers tried to dominate the areas south and west of Lake Chad and they gain size and populace. The history book has it that around the 12th century, the Kanem-Borno empire had been compelled by attacks from the Sao to move their capital to the region west of Lake Chad, and they gradually lost control of most of the original Kanem. Today, what was once the most powerful empire in Nigeria makes up the Borno and Adamawa states, and some bordering parts of the Lake Chad.


The history of the Hausa kingdom could be dated centuries back when they arrived Northern Region of Nigeria from Mali. The kingdom of Hausa extends beyond the Jos Plateau, up to Niger republic. This empire was an enviable one as it rose to become one of the leading kingdoms as at then. They were very redoubtable because of their strong war force which supersede the neighbouring kingdoms. This prowess made the Hausa to one conquer parts of the Kanem-Borno empire and render the latter in extinction. A number of places—such as Daura, Katsina, Kano, Zaria, Gobir, and, later, Kebbi—each with a walled city, a market centre, and a monarchical system of government make up the Hausa kingdom.


The Ife, which is a sovereign kingdom under the Yoruba land, came to existence between the 11th and 15th centuries. Their presence in the forested areas west of the Niger and south of Hausaland made them to be the most powerful kingdom there. Their history is traced to Oduduwa in the ancestral town of Ile Ife in the present day Osun State.

Also, Oyo Empire is closely related to the Ife in the Yoruba empire. They existed since in the 14th century and are found in the savanna to the north of the forest. The Oyo empire was a renown entity in the western part of Nigeria and from the colonial rule down to the present day, they still have a significance.


That’s the size of this write-up on the oldest kingdom in Nigeria. We believe you now have a clue on the chronology of the kingdoms and empires that make up what is now known today as Nigeria.

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Oluchi Chukwu

Oluchi is a seasoned Information blogger, content developer and the editor of Nigerian Queries. She is a tech enthusiast who loves reading, writing and research

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