Eze (pronounced [ézè]) is an Igbo word which means king. 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 usually refers to the centre building for receiving visitors within an Igbo leader's or man's homestead. When used as a title of respect for the Eze, 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 advised by a council of chiefs or elders whom he appoints based on their good standing within the community. A popular 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 as it has been explored in many centuries of anthropological, sociological and political research.
The Igbo people had and still have ruling bodies of royal and political leaders in which an individual can be recognized by the entire society as primus inter pares, i.e., first among equals. This status is usually hereditary among the male lineage, 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.
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