A monarch is a supreme ruler of a nation. He has the political, constitutional, and divine right to rule his monarchy. These kings and queens are respected and in some instances even worshipped. This gives them a sense of pride that can be intoxicating. For example, the people of the ancient Benin kingdom believed that their Oba was closer to being a god than being human. It is also punishable by death to insinuate that the king does human chores like eating, sleeping, or even using the toilet. This made the king revered. While many ruled with only sheer force and power, some African kings have proven to be unmatched as regards intelligence. They’ve proven to be extremely intelligent and their rule has been one of grandeur and praise. This article will discuss five African kings who have exhibited extreme intelligence, and whose reign were glorious. Learning about these African kings will help shape our thinking and perception as regards power, and their story remains a thrilling example of unmatched wisdom and immense bravery.

1. THE QUEEN OF SHEBA

The queen of Sheba was a monarch that ruled the ancient city of Saba located somewhere in Yemen or Ethiopia, East Africa. She reigned during the time of the biblical king, the wise king Solomon, between c. 965 -and 931 BCE. Although there is little about this astonishing queen, the little that is found about her from historical sources like the Bible, the Quran, and other historical writings as well as oral literature proves that this astounding queen is indeed an example of impeccable wisdom. First of all, it is believed by the Bible, the Quran, and also most oral tales, that the mighty queen once traveled 1500 miles to seek an audience with the King of Israel. She had heard about the great wisdom of this king and wished to go see for herself and possibly learn from that king. Only a wise monarch would be humble enough to travel that far to seek an audience with another monarch.

According to the Bible in I Kings 10:1-13 and II Chronicle 9:1-12, it is recorded that the queen along with her entourage and grandeur, brought with her, so many gifts, in gold, tyre, frankincense, fabrics, and other precious ornaments and in return, the king of Isreal was moved and asked her to ask of him anything, to which he will do. That was indeed a strategy that must have earned her a diplomatic relationship between these nations. Apart from the Bible, other writings assert that the queen of Sheba and the Wise king birthed together a son Manelik II who ruled over Axium in ancient Ethiopia. It is believed that Solomon had tricked the Beautiful Sheba into his bed and she ended up being pregnant. However, some other scholars have theorized that it might have been the queen’s plan from the very beginning. The queen from many writings has been described as a potential equal to Solomon as regards wisdom. She might have seduced the wise king and planned to get pregnant for him. Having a son for the powerful king would solidify their relationship, and would give her nation an edge over other neighboring nations, that would not want to mess with the offspring of the powerful king of Israel. Although these are mere speculations the Queen of Sheba continues to be an embodiment of wisdom today.

2. SHAKA ZULU OF SOUTH AFRICA

Shaka was a Zulu Chief who was born in 1787 and lived till 22nd September 1828. He founded the Zulu Empire of South Africa. His life and reign are riddled with controversies and exaggerated stories. He was the son of Senzangakona, a Zulu Chief, and Nandi, an orphan and princess of the neighboring Langeni clan. His parent’s marriage violated the Zulu custom as they both belonged to the same clan. The stigma was extended to Shaka from the moment of his birth. His parents later got separated when he was 6. His mother took him to her tribe where he grew up fatherless. In 1802, Nandi was thrown out of her tribe and found a haven with a subclan of Mthethwa, Dletsheni. When Shaka was 23, he was drafted by Mthethwa’s Chief into their army. He served as a brilliant and impressive warrior for 6 years.

In 1816, his father passed and Shaka was relieved of his military obligations and was sent to take over his father’s kingdom/clan, the Zulu. The Zulu clan was the smallest clan, with fewer than 1,500 citizens/inhabitants, of the 800 Eastern Nguni-Bantu clans. The ascension of Shaka to the Zulu chieftain marked their uphill movement from mediocrity to greatness. The first thing Shaka did was to reorganize the Zulu army. In his intelligence, he decided to change the weapons his soldiers used to fight. The Zulu warriors like all the clans have been using the same basic weapons in combat. Shaka intelligently discerned that winning wars required doing things differently from the status quo. He armed his men with long-bladed spears as opposed to the throwing spears they used before. This forced his warriors to fight at close range with their enemies instead of standing afar and throwing spears that may or may not miss

The next thing he did was to develop strategies and tactics which the Zulu used to win every battle. He separated his army into 4 parts. The strongest fighters were termed the ‘chest’ and their job was to close in on the enemy and trap them. Then the ‘horns’ would swoop in and encircle the enemy further enclosing them and attacking them from behind. A reserve of soldiers were kept called the ‘loins’ and their job was to serve as reinforcement in the circle trapping the enemy in case they tried to break out. The loins were kept with their backs to the battle so that they wouldn’t get too excited, interfere, and ruin the formation. That was very smart on Shaka’s part. The last group was the Indunas which were like commanders of sorts who instructed or directed the impi, that’s the soldiers, using hand signals. I imagine the use of hand signals was strategic to prevent the enemy from knowing their next move in battle as opposed to screaming out orders.

After every war was fought and won, the survivors from the losing clan were then incorporated into the Zulu clan instead of being executed. It was smart of Shaka to add them to his ranks which further served to strengthen the military and repopulate the Zulu as opposed to executing them for petty revenge. It was smart of Shaka to resist the temptation of beheading his enemies but rather use them to rebuild his clan and return them to glory. The Zulu clan from the status of an insignificant pebble and the ridicule of other clans became a formidable force all because of Shaka’s intelligent and strategic ruling. Shaka may have turned psychotic because of the loss of his mother and had to be put down by his men because of the killing spree he went on. But it doesn’t take away from the fact that he was a formidable and excellent king. I guess even the most intelligent people fall prey to the ugliness of grief!!!

3. QUEEN NZINGA OF ANGOLA

Queen Nzinga was born in 1583 to the king of the Ndongo tribe in Luanda which was part of a region known as Angola today. Right from childhood, Nzinga exhibited intelligence and excellent leadership qualities. Nzinga’s brother, Mbandi took over as ruler of the tribe when their father died. Mbandi killed Nzinga’s son because he saw him as a threat to this rule so Nzinga and her husband were forced to flee Ndongo.

Her brother recognizing her brilliance realized that he needed her especially since his kingdom was under attack by the Portuguese. The Portuguese attacked them so they could kidnap and enslave the people of Ndongo and also mine the silver that was believed to be in the region. Nzinga was a skilled negotiator and Mbandi knew this. So, in 1623, he asked her to meet with a Portuguese representative for negotiations. She met with colonial governor Joao Corria de Sousa. When she arrived, Nzinga noticed that only one chair was made available and it was for the Portuguese representative. Nzinga being assertive, showed that she was not a servant to stand in a meeting while the white man sits. She showed him that they were equals and that she deserved respect. She motioned to one of her escorts to lower themselves to their hands and knees and Nzinga used them as a chair to show her assertion as a capable leader and equal to the Portuguese Governor. That was pretty bold on her part because it could gone sideways and made matters worse. But Nzinga stood her ground knowing that the Portuguese would not take her seriously in negotiations if they did not respect her.

Another brilliant action she took was to choose to convert to Christianity. She got baptized and adopted the name, Dona Anna de Souza. This was a big compromise on her part but she did this to gain what she wanted from the Portuguese. At the end of the negotiations, she got the Portuguese to abandon a fortress they held in Ndongo land, weapons, and the return several chiefs they had captured as prisoners. She single-handedly saved the lives of those chiefs, got the Portuguese to abandon their stronghold in Ndongo, and made an ally of them through compromise and assertion of worth and authority. If that isn’t intelligence, I don’t know what is.

In 1626, Nzinga’s brother died and she became Queen. The Portuguese went back on their word and started raiding Ndongo again because they wanted to install another ruler who aligned with their mission. Nzinga and those loyal to her were forced to flee west. Nzinga did not stay down when she received a massive kick in the shin by the Portuguese, instead, she went on to establish another state, Matamba, where she fled. She then intelligently grew her ranks again by accepting escaped slaves, recruiting Portuguese-trained soldiers and just anyone the Portuguese looked at the wrong way. She allied herself with the Netherlands, who were rivals of the Portuguese. In other words, she used the Europeans to fight the Europeans. That was a smart move on her part to align with her enemy because the Dutch were still slave traders, but they had a common enemy.

In 1627, she led her allies and army in a war against the Portuguese and initiated a 30-year war against them. Nzinga finally succeeded in defeating the Portuguese army in 1647. The Portuguese later defeated and drove the Dutch out of Central Africa. But Nzinga did not throw in the towel in shame. She continued to host guerilla attacks on the Portuguese even in her 60s. Despite all the attempts to kill Queen Nzinga by her enemies, she was smart enough to evade capture and defeat and died peacefully by age 81 on 17 December 1663. Nzinga paved the way for the end of the slave trade in Angola in 1836 and gained its independence in 1975. She protected her people from the slave trade through her wits, brilliance, and strategic and charismatic leadership.

4. SETI I A PHAROAH OF EGYPT

It is impossible to discuss Africa, without discussing Egypt. This nation has been a strong empire for ages, and the discoveries found from the monuments in Egypt have continued to thrill archeologists, and other scholars around the world. The Pharaohs that have existed have ruled their subjects with astonishing precision and wisdom. There have been several great kings who have displayed impeccable wisdom and intelligence in their ruling, such as Ramesses II and Hatshepsut to mention a few, but this article will shed light on a pharaoh whose intelligence knew no bounds. We will talk about Seti I of Egypt.

Seti the son and successor of Ramesses I attained power in the year 1290 BC and ruled for 20 years. In that period, King Seti accomplished more than many pharaohs could have ever accomplished and paved the way for the rest Pharaohs to come. First of all, Seti I was a warrior king, and a great military leader and strategist. In his rule, he fought against the Hittites, who had taken, most of their territories, and he took them back. But not only that, he took the fight to them and took over Canaan a territory that encompasses modern-day Palestine, Jordan, Southern Syria, and Lebanon. This accomplishment would be impossible without an incredibly intelligent military leader championing the activity. Apart from his military prowess, King Seti was a keeper of history. Most of everything that is known today about the history, mythology, beliefs, and practices of the Egyptians is only known today because the wise king inscribed them for the future pharaohs to see and learn from. How did he do this? King Seti constructed, first of all, the Great Wall of Hypostyle. This wall was an enclosed 5,000-square-metre wall, the largest in the world, occupying 16 rows of 134 huge columns on which a roof rests. The wall was beautifully designed, with paintings that were drawn to describe scenes from Seti’s expeditions and wars against the Hittites. In that wall, his history was effectively recorded to stand the test of time, but Seti did not stop there.

Seti went on to build the great temple of Abydos, a temple that eventually became the most important archaeological site and ultimately a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temple of Abydos was a temple built by Seti to praise the gods and to pay homage to the Pharaohs before him. Like the Hypostyle wall, the walls of the temple were massive, and engraved on them were beautiful pictures, that depicted the lives of kings from the past, their accomplishments and failures, the Egyptian mythologies, and their gods were also described in these walls, the genealogy of the kings where accurately arranged, and through this medium centuries-long histories where preserved. All that is known today, is because of one king. Definitely, no other Pharoah after Seti can measure up to the intelligence of this incredible king.

5. KING JAJA OF OPOBO

King Jaja of Opobo’s story continues o thrill individuals worldwide. Unlike the rest monarchs mentioned in this article who succeeded the throne, King Jaja once a slave boy, through his astonishing intelligence and intimidating brilliance, established his empire and made himself king. Jaja was born in Umuduruoha, Amaigbo, Imo state in the year 1821, a time when forced slavery plagued Africa. His birth parents are unknown. They probably died when he was kidnapped and sold into slavery, but he was forced to live life as a slave. After his kidnap, he was taken to Bonny Island River state, where he met his first master, and was given the name Jubo Jubogha. Later on, he was sold to Chief Madu of the Anna Houses. It was during that time that he was named Jaja by the white men who could not pronounce his first given name. Jaja was taught his duties and began working almost immediately. At that time, the Niger Delta River was the point of trade between Europeans and Americans, and the canoe was how their merchandise was transported. Jaja began as a mere peddler and slowly grew to become a trader. From that young age though, the young man was always smart and had a business head. He continued to work himself up the hierarchy, his hope in the customary belief of the Ijaw people that allowed slaves to work out their freedom. Jaja grew to become a fine strong man and an expert trader. Carrying the Anna house.

In 1863, the leader of the Anna house died and left the house with crippling debts to pay. The chiefs from other houses refused to take the house because of the huge debts it owed. However, where others saw a dead end, Jaja saw a challenge. Jaja accepted the debt and reorganized the house, using his raw business talents to develop close relationships with palm oil buyers and sellers. It started slowly, but in no time Jaja began to prosper, and soon he became a haven for canoe houses that were going under. And as he did, his empire grew. He slowly became an accomplished man, but a lot of people were not happy with his growth. One of these people was Chief Oko Jumbo of the People’s Houses. In 1868 after the raid of a terrible fire that destroyed most houses especially Jaja’s property, Chief Oko went to war against Jaja. However, the young man had a plan B.

In 1878 Jaja moved to his new settlement, a place that was so fertile in palm oil, that it was nicknamed the Oil Rivers. it was in that area that Jaja moved to, bought the place, and declared himself as King Jaja of Opobo, signifying himself independently sovereign from the powers in Bonny. In 1807 slave trade was abolished, making palm oil the new liquid gold, and Jaja its catalyst. As he moved, so did his business and so did the rest of the houses under him. Fourteen out of the eighteen houses in Bonny followed him to Opobo. With these accomplishments, this was only the beginning for this intelligent king.

King Jaja soon dominated the region’s palm oil trade business. Jaja used his new title as a king to the fullest. He made moves to block British merchants from gaining access to the interior of the Oil Rivers state, which meant they could only buy from him. He placed a ban on houses outside his houses, and his subjects and neighboring villages from trading with the Europeans and the British directly. Making himself a monopoly. Through his intelligence and astuteness in politics, soon he was dealing directly with Liverpool without a need for middlemen. By 1870 Jaja was selling eight thousand tons of palm oil. This made Opobo a small insignificant town, into a superpower. He also taxed the British middlemen when they dealt with others outside his house. This deeply angered a certain John Holt of Liverpool, who felt insulted by paying taxes to the king. One time when some villages known then as Qua Ibo people, went against the orders of the king, he showed his strength by executing up to 100 culprits.

Jaja also refused missionary activities in Opobo, because he knew for certain how the whites use religion to invade nations. But he also knew the value of education so he sent his children to school in the UK. In no time, Opobo became a threat to both corrupt chiefs in Africa, and the British powers. In 1884 at the Berlin Conference, the European powers designated Opobo as British territory, they were particular about Opobo and getting the king to stop taxing them. When Jaja refused to cease taxing British traders, Henry Hamilton Johnston, a British vice-consul tricked him into his warship, in an attempt to break the king. When he did not bulge, the king was kidnapped and dispersed. He was taken from his kingdom and died at 81 when he got his freedom back, and was en route to his home.

 

Although these monarchs all died, they never lost in their fight. Today, these men and women are still celebrated and appreciated for their wits and unmatched brilliance. No doubt if every African leader in our era could level up to this monarch as regards wisdom and bravery, then the continent would be much greater than what it is today. We learn from the past of these great men and women. Individually, they were a force to reckon with. Collectively, these figures underscore the diversity of intelligence across different spheres of leadership, be it economic, military, administrative, and diplomatic leadership. Their impacts resonate not only in the historical context but also in the broader narrative of Africa’s contributions to human civilization. The intelligence of these great monarchs serves as a testament to the multifaceted brilliance that has shaped Africa’s past, as well as create legacies that continue to inspire and highlight the rich intellectual and strategic heritage of this amazing continent Africa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply