Prior to the European colonisation of what will later become present day Nigeria, many kingdoms existed in the geographical location occupied by the country today. Though many tribes were scattered across the Nigeria area and Bight of Biafra, there were prominent big empires that had far reach and influence across the region.
Some of this kingdoms include the following –
1) Igbo Kingdom of Nri
The Kingdom Nri exercised considerable influence across the Niger area all the way to the Northern confluence of the Niger River.
The Kingdom was ruled by Nri and his descendants who all trace ther heritage to Eri. According to available literature, the particular date the kingdom was founded is known. However, historians place it around 9th Century, owing mostly to the discovered artifacts in the 70’s at Igbo-Ukwu and Afikpo.
The Kingdom waned further in power after the British conquest.
2) Sokoto Caliphate
The Sokoto Caliphate was a by-product of the Fulani jihad wars led by Usman Dan Fodio and spearheaded by his son Mohammed and brother Abdullahi.
The Caliphate was established in Sokoto following the conquest of present day Northern Nigeria, of which the majority occupants were Hausa’s. Kebbi Kingdom, a Hausa kingdom was ruled by Abdullahi Dan Fodio afterwards.
The Caliphate exercised considerable powers across North, central of which is religious powers. However, the powers of the Caliphate were whittled down after the conquest by the British who introduced direct rule instantly due to the already established emirate structure by the Caliphate.
Till today though, the Sokoto Caliphate wields considerable powers in the affairs of the North, and the Sultan of Sokoto is the most revered traditional symbol of authority in the area.
3) Benin Empire
Formed around 11th century, the rise of the Benin Empire is known to be one of the oldest advanced kingdoms in West Africa. The Benin Empire had it’s capital as Edo, in present day Edo State.
The Kingdom is mostly remembered these days for it’s carvings, bronze and the great walls that surrounded the kingdom built by the people.
4) Kingdom of Ife
The ancient Yoruba empire can be found in present day Osun State.
According to Yoruba origin stories, Olodumare gave Obatala a command to create the kingdom. After Obatala did as commanded, the kingdom would later come into Oduduwa’s hands whose lineage would go on to create many Yoruba dynasties.
Bronze and terracotta sculptures going back 1200 and 1400 A.D have also been unearthed in archealogical findings.
5) Igala Kingdom
From narratives, the kingdom is estimated to have come into existence around 1550’s.
Some people also believe that majority of the population of the Igala Kingdom, are people from neighbouring clans like the Igbo, Yoruba, Jukun and Idoma.
The Kingdom is believed to be founded by Attah, with the capital at Idah. The Igala kingdom is in present day Middle Belt states in Nigeria.