Lagos Historical Review

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The ‘Born-Again' Oba: Pentecostalism and Traditional Chieftaincy in Yorubaland

O Adeboye


This article examines the remarkable phenomenon of ‘born-again' obas in Yorubaland both in the colonial and post-colonial periods. It argues that while Pentecostal doctrine does not distinguish between ‘personal' and ‘cultural' conversion, such a distinction might have become pragmatic for many of these obas in order to avert communal crises. Those who remained rigid without the support of higher political authorities came up against serious brick wall in their respective domains. This study shows that the conversion of an oba goes beyond a personal change of religious affiliation, but raises questions of power relations and cultural hegemony. The article also highlights the intersection between conversion, modernity and development. It demonstrates how ‘physical development' gradually became a principal parameter used to assess the performance of traditional rulers in post-colonial Nigeria, and how a high rating in this regard could mitigate hostilities provoked by an oba's ‘born-again' stance. At the heart of this entire discourse is the contestation of power through religious or ‘development' idioms.

Lagos Historical Review Vol. 7 2007: pp. 1-20
AJOL African Journals Online