The Gendered Dynamics of Authority Among Itsekiri Elites ; pre-colonial to

MA dissertation Kings’ College London

This dissertation aims to, in three chapters, explore the gendered dynamics of how authority was wielded by Itsekiri elites both within and outside of the Warri kingdom. Each chapter is structured thematically so connections can be drawn from across the centuries to create a fuller picture of gender relations.


Chapter One examines the role of gender in the founding of the Warri Kingdom. Firstly, by analysing the gendered dimensions of the oral traditions that narrate the exodus of Prince Ginuwa of the Benin Kingdom and his retinue. What role do men and women play in the narrative of the founding of the kingdom? This chapter also explores how authority and positions of power are dominated by men from the Olu (king), to his chiefs. Finally, there is an in-depth look at what role gender plays within the social hierarchy in pre-colonial Itsekiri
society after the establishment of the kingdom. Are some positions solely for men?


Chapter Two examines in depth the interregnum period. This power vacuum saw Itsekiri elites, both men and women, clash to claim authority and try to control internal affairs. Trade is the thematic lens through which Itsekiri pre-colonial economy and gender relations are examined. This chapter explores the events of the succession crisis, wherein Olu Akengbuwa died and his two successors died shortly after. This chapter then uses case studies of both male and female elites to highlight the methods Itsekiri elites used to gain authority. Princess Iye, took control of the kingdom for a period of time at the beginning of the succession crisis.’1

Many wealthy Itsekiri traders were able to influence affairs and  establish monopolies on trade with the British. This dissertation will examine in depth Chief Nana Olomu who became famous for his wealth and for his resistance to the establishment of British rule.

Chapter Three argues that Western education was used as a tool by Itsekiri elites in the pre-colonial and colonial period to access opportunities both within and outside the kingdom. This chapter examines the pre-colonial examples of Dom Domingos, a Prince of the Warri kingdom, and his successor Prince Anthonio Domingos who both received a Western education. For Domingos an education in Portugal, for Anthonio a portuguese
education in Angola. The twentieth-century examples are elite Itsekiri women who received formal Western education during colonial rule. This chapter argues that these women’s educational advancement was assisted by strong extended Itsekiri family networks and in particular supportive mothers which was vital as women from an ethnic minority group in multi-ethnic Nigeria.

Extract from pages 12-14. of dissertation copyright 2021 Allegra Ayida