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The People, Culture And The Throne Of The Oba Of Benin

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(03/08/2017


Thursday 20th of October 2016 will remain fresh in the minds of the people of Edo state and the Benin people in particular as the heavens and the earth stood still as a new Oba of Benin Kingdom ascended the throne of his ancestors amidst pump and celebration.

The array of dignitaries and personalities that graced the coronation ceremony of the new Oba of Benin Oba Ewuare 11 shows how important and historical the kingdom of Benin is to Nigeria, Africa and the world at large as it is said that civilization began from the great Benin kingdom that still portray significant historical site like the moats.

Representatives came from across the world to celebrate with the people of the Kingdom bringing good wishes from their various governments, monarch and their presence further cemented their relationship with the Kingdom pointing to the fact that Benin City is truly the cradle of black civilization.

Throughout the period of the coronation, the people of the Kingdom celebrated as the entire state and Benin City in particular wears a new look as the entire King square and the Oba’s Palace was transformed to suit the events and the festive mood in the state and the event was unprecedented.

During the period of the coronation, business activities thrived at all the locations the Oba stayed to fulfill the rites of the coronation process. While in Uselu, traders around the Palace used the rare opportunity of a life time to smile to the bank as the Palace in Uselu became a Mecca of some sort as indigenes from all works of life and non indigenes alike trouped to pay their homage to the Ediaken now the Oba of Benin.

Same was replica at the Palace at Uzama as the once quiet community became a beehive of activities as traders were on ground to ensure guest don’t have difficulties buying any commodities ranging from cloths, food, caps, beads, souvenir of the Oba and the likes.

As the coronation gathers momentum, the people prepares for the coming of a new king, the heaven and the ancestors ensure a peaceful and secured environment for the all important event that happens once in a life time.

The Oba’s subjects, loyalist, citizens and non citizens alike lined up the streets and rough taken by His Royal Majesty (HRM) Oba Ewuare 11 as they jubilated and cheered him on despite the tedious activities leading to his enthronement. Many were happy to have experienced the event as it happened once in a life time as the last time this kind of event happened was 37 years ago precisely in 1979.

The Journey To The Great Throne Of Benin Kingdom
The announcement of the transition of Oba Eradiauwa by the Iyase of Benin Kingdom, Chief Sam Igbe (JP) on Friday 29th of April 2016 marked the end of a royal era and the beginning of another. To enthrone a new Oba, the royal burial rite for the transited Oba must take place as such the royal burial rites commenced on Wednesday 25th of May, 2016 and end Wednesday 8th June 2016 (15 days event) amidst grieve by the royal family, the Benin people, citizens of Edo state and by extension the Country, Africa and the World at large.

After a successful completion of the mandatory traditional rites Oba Ewuare 11as the Crown Prince of Benin Kingdom and heir- apparent to the Benin throne was installed as the Edaiken of Uselu.

Expectedly as the heir-apparent to the Benin Throne, he went through some traditional rites before he assumed the traditional stool of the Edaiken of Uselu.

As the Edaiken of Uselu, the heir apparent to the Benin traditional throne moved from his private residence to the palace at Uselu, which became his temporary place of habitation for 90 days as the custom demand. His movement from his private residence at GRA was not done in secrecy but was well publicized as notable personalities in the society joined him as he moved to Uselu

His Movement from Benin to Uselu attracted a large crowd of people, who thronged the palace to be part of the entourage to Uselu. Shops and other business outlets were shut as a mark of honour and solidarity with the crowned prince.

The Oba Market and some streets as well as roads housing some traditional shrines were cordon-off by security personnel and manned by colorfully-dressed palace chiefs. The move was to assist Officials of the Federal Road Safety commission (FRSC) and traffic policemen with useful tips to ease human and vehicular movements of persons. The event witnessed women groups adorned in Benin traditional attire, drummers, entertainers, youths, visitors, and palace chiefs. Some commuters and lovers of Benin tradition also struggled to catch a glimpse of the Prince, now Oba Ewuare 11 as he moved to Uselu Palace.

Politicians and top government officials, led by former Gov. Adams Oshiomhole, defied the scorching sun to await his arrival. The convoy of the crowned prince in company of some first Class Benin Chiefs and combined security team arrived from his private residence in Benin to the palace has he was, clad in white and red traditional regalia with a pair of dark glasses to march, immediately after his arrival, had a brief consultation with the palace chiefs. This was followed by the performance of traditional rites at the palace. Immediately after the rites he rode on a long convoy with former Gov. Oshiomhole, his deputy, Mr Pius Odubu and other top government officials and palace chiefs to Edaiken palace. This is a precursor to assuming the title of the Oba of Benin.

The heir-apparent to the Benin throne, was on Tuesday, October 6, 2015, formally initiated into the Royal Palace Chamber of IWEBO in conformity with the tradition and custom of Benin Kingdom.

A coronation planning Committee was set up headed by His Royal Highness Prof. Gregory Akenzua as Chairman and the Committee rolled out the coronation Programme for the new Oba and the programme commenced on Saturday 8th of October till Thursday 20th of October 2016.

The Journey From Uselu To Benin
After the expiration of the 90 days at Uselu Palace, the Crown Prince now Oba Ewuare 11was joined by jubilant crowd as he finally left his palace at Uselu in a royal procession for Benin as part of his preparation for the coronation process. The Edaiken now Oba Ewuare 11 had a stopover at Udin Amanienson-aimiuwa (palm tree) at Uselu Shell where he climbed the palm tree to signify the essence of “suffering before pleasure”. The crown prince (Oba Ewuare 11) was received at Urubi and Iya-Ero-palace while entering Benin City from Uselu by Palace Chiefs who were all in jubilant mood over his safe arrival and subsequently left for Eko-hae, at Urhokpota Hall, where he spent three days.

The three days spent in Eko-hae was eventful as the entire King square wore a new look as it was beautifully decorated to depict the ceremony as it became a tourist attraction site for citizens and non citizens alike as security became very tight to ensure safety of the people. In the three days at Eko-hae traditional rites were performed in line with the Benin Kingdom culture and tradition.

After the expiration of the three days at Eko-hae (Bachelor’s Camp) the then Crown Prince now Oba Ewuare 11 relocated to Uzama Palace accompanied by senior palace Chiefs , Ogbe Youths, Market women, Benin Cultural groups and friends, well wishers and other relevant members of the kingdom. He left Eko-hae at about 6:30pm (Tuesday11th of October 2016) amidst songs, dancing and praises by people of the kingdom and had a brief stopover at Emotan Statue to perform some traditional rites before proceeding to the Uzama Palace amidst tight security manned by various security agents in the state.

The journey is necessary and important because from Uzama Palace he proceed to Useh village where he was received by Edigin Ekpen and played the pebble game with the Crown Prince where he got the name “EWUARE THE GREAT” which he is being called today.

While in Uzama Palace, he paid a Royal visit to Evbuekoi and Azama N’uhe in continuation with the coronation process. He came out from the inner chamber at about 5pm to acknowledge praises from Palace Chiefs, royal families, palace societies and women group as well as observed acrobatic display by the Ekasa traditional dancers from Eguadase and Ogbelaka streets. He immediately left the Uzama Palace at about 5:49pm to Evbuekoi Community in Uhunmwode Local Government Area; barely five minutes of his arrival, he was received by the traditional head of the community and Chief Priest, Ohen N’Ukoni N’eyedo of Okhuaihe, Chief Priest Osarodion Adesuwa Osuanlele and a mammoth crowd as they sang and danced to accompany him to the traditional forest of Okhuaihe shrine where he performed traditional rites regarding the coronation exercise.

The Edaiken and his entourage left Evbuekoi Community at about 8:15pm and headed straight to the Azama N’uhe ancestral shrine at Oloton’s Palace in Isekhere Street and was received by Palace chiefs, youths group, women groups, who were singing praises as mark of honour to the Crown Prince.

At Azama N’uhe, the tireless Ediaken performed traditional rites at the ancestral shrine and left at about 9:19pm for the Usama palace, where he was also received by hundreds of the people of Benin Kingdom, especially the palace chiefs.
The popular music maestro and the Arala of Benin Chief Osula, who had been entertaining guests with the melodious Bini music was on ground to appreciate the Ediaken N’Uselu. The Ediaken now the Oba of Benin spent seven days at Uzama Palace as various coronation rites took place within the seven days he was at the Palace.

Business activities around the Palace picked up as both national and International visitors trouped into the Palace to savor of the rich cultural heritage of the Binis and tourist across the Globe used this rare opportunity that comes once in a life time to enjoy themselves and learn more about the culture of the great Benin Kingdom and her people.

The Journey To Pick A Name
The history and the picking of a name lies in playing the pebble game which could be traced to the time of Prince Oromiyan who sent the pebble to his son who became Oba Eweka 1 and the game was first played by Oba Eweka.

According to the Enogie of Useh HRH Ekpen Kelvin Edigin, maintained that the naming ceremony performed by various Obas of Benin Kingdom in his Palace started about 1200AD during the reign of Oba Eweka 1, when the need to change from “Owomika” to “Eweka” arose. He said that the significant roles of his (Edigin) Palace had consolidated the good relationship with various Obas, noting that he was happy to experience the present Oba while he declared his support and commitment to ensure the Oba’s reign is fruitful in all aspect of life in the kingdom.

On Wednesday 19th of October 2016 was the day set aside for the Crown Prince to choose a name with which he will be called for the rest of his life. He arrived the Edigin’s Palace at Useh (Venue for the pebble game), enroute Siluo Road at about 4:05pm amidst praises, singing and dancing by indigenes of Benin Kingdom and other residents who were out to catch a glimpse of the historic appearance of the Oba in the community.

At the Edigin’s Palace, the Edaiken N’Uselu was received by the traditional head and the Enogie, HRH Ekpen Kelvin Edigin in company of several Palace Chiefs where he (Edaiken) engaged on a traditional marble game competition called “Akhue” with him (HRH Edigin) as part of rituals for the picking of the new title.

HRH Eheneden Erediauwa now Oba Ewuare left Edigin’s Palace for Ugbo’s ancestral shrine, also within the area of Edigin’s Palace where he was offered prayers for peaceful ascension of the throne and for his reign as Oba to be peaceful with prosperity. The Edaiken now the Oba later left for the traditional forest by the Olomiza Palace where he performed some rites; Aruolor ancestral court, Eseluhe ancestral shrine and Aruolor traditional forest to perform traditional rites till about 10:10pm before returning to Usama Palace ready for his coronation the next day 20th of October 2016.

The Journey To Uko-hae In King Square
Two significant thunders, lighting and slight showers of rain occurred a day to the coronation and the day of the coronation. On Wednesday the 19th of October 2016 at about 6:36pm around the King square there was heavy thunder which was immediately followed by rain while in the early hours of Thursday 20th of October 2016 at about 12:15am another thunder strike followed by strange noise and fireworks rent the air and brightened the cloud and sky heralding the beginning of a new royal era and the rain descended on the earth like never before.

These significant events show that the heavens and the earth welcome the new Oba of the great Benin Kingdom.

On the morning of the coronation you could feel the joy, happiness and excitement on the faces of all Edo state indigenes especially the Binis who have prayed and waited patiently to witness and experience the coronation of a new Oba; a day that they have read in history books and were told through folk tales. Experiencing it live was the greatest joy of most citizens of the state as some travelled from far and wide to be part of the history making event in the kingdom.

The security was water tight, as security men lined the rough where the new Oba will follow to Urhokpota Hall in Oredo Local Government Area of Edo State where over 10,000 guests from the global community including the representative of the president, the vice-president of Nigeria Prof. Yemi Osebanjo were seated.

The palace at Usama was parked full with people who want to be the first to catch a glimpse of the new Oba. He emerged from the inner chamber at exactly 12:57pm to the waiting hands of Palace chief who paid him homage as the Oba of Benin Kingdom and accompanied by Benin warriors called Isemienro. The crowd at the palace screamed and shouted in excitement as the Kingdom woke up with the reality of a new Oba. The Usama palace was built by Oba Eweka 1, before it was moved to its present site by Oba Ewedo in the 13th century.

Dressed in his royal regalia with cloths and shoes made of beads signifying royalty, he smiled and walked in royal splendor signifying his accomplishment as he has walked several kilometers, cross and overcome many challenges and huddles to ascend the revered throne of Benin Kingdom.

Investigation revealed that the journey from Uselu to Uko-hae in King Square is put at 10km while the Oba’s movement from Usama Palace to Urokpota Hall venue for the official presentation of staff of office is put at 6km.

The Oba walked through designated roots visiting ancestral shrine along his roots performing various rituals according to the tradition and customs of the Benin nation. The journey took the Oba through Isekhere, Ulague street through Ebo street, from where he arrieved at Urhokpota Hall, venue of the coronation ceremony at exactly 3:35pm.

The Oba passed through Isekhere, performed some ceremony at Iwehen Street under the watchful eyes of Ewaise N’Iwehen and proceeded to cross the bridge.

Crossing the Oba crossed the Omi River Bridge, reminiscent of Oba Ewedo’s vow not to step into Isekhere territory on bare-foot. Shortly after crossing the bridge, rituals were performed according to tradition in line with the coronation process.

The entire environment around the King Square, Urhokpota Hall and adjoining streets were electrified as people surged forward to catch a glimpse of the new Oba.

At the venue in Kingsquare, several dancing troupes including the famous Ekassa dance, which is performed when an Oba is being crowned, were there to add glamour to the momentous occasion with their spiritual dance.
About one and half hour before the arrival of the new Oba, an advance team of palace chiefs and warriors arrived the venue to get the stage ready. The adjacent Benin Museum grounds, Oba Market Road, Mission Road and Airport Road were filled to capacity by people, who came for the ceremony. It took security personnel on ground hectic moments to control the surging crowd.

Presentation Of Staff Of Office
Former Governor of the State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole who express delight in presenting the staff of office to the new Oba extol the leadership quality of Oba Erediauwa saying he will be remembered as a king who intervened in the state government’s effort to develop the state particularly the six lane Airport Road where he directed the state House of Assembly to give their support so that the project will be a reality.

“I have benefited enormously from your wisdom even before I became governor and I join millions of Nigerians and others who came from far and near to congratulate you and we pray to God and our ancestors to grant you the wisdom you need to succeed as Oba of this great Kingdom. I want to assure that even when I leave office in few days time, I will give my all and I know the in-coming governor, Godwin Obaseki will do better than I both in respect for the tradition and development of the state”.
The former governor who was dressed in the traditional attires of the Bini, knelt down to pay homage to the new King and presented the staff of Office to Oba Ewuare 11amist pomp and pageantry as the new Oba was full of smiles signifying mission accomplished.

The Speech Of The Oba and Direction of His Reign
His Royal Majesty, Omo n’Oba n’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewaure II, The Oba of Benin Kingdom explained the reasons why he is the 40th Oba of Benin against the believe of others who see him as the 39th Oba. “Historians all agree that Oduduwa sent his son Oronmiyan at the request of elders of Benin to return with them as ruler of their realm. Oronmiyan’s stay in Benin may have been short, but before he left, a child was born to him, who was later crowned Oba (King) and is known today as Eweka I. Oronmiyan’s time in Benin, however short lived, he was an Oba; and so, he was the first Oba after the Ogiso dynasty came to an end. He established Obaship in Benin. By implication, the listing of past Obas should therefore begin from Oronmiyan as it is listed in Egharevba’s book – Short History of Benin, making my revered father 39th Oba that reigned in Benin – if the listing is counted from and, should be counted from Oronmiyan. I therefore stand before you today as the 40th Oba of Benin, a direct descendant of Oronmiyan, the son of Oduduwa whom the Benin people of that era knew as Ekaladerhan, their self-exiled Prince who later became ruler in Ile-Ife”.

Oba Ewuare II

Ewuare extol the leadership quality of his father calling him a true symbol of cultural identity “He was a true symbol of our cultural identity. Throughout his reign, the Palace was a warm and welcome home to all who had need for good counsel, guidance and material assistance. Traditional Rulers from far and near consulted him for clarity on touchy issues or to resolve a vast range of socio-cultural problems. Ethnicity, religion or social status were no barriers to reaching him for advice or support. He was a good and caring father to us all. He led our common cause with dignity, tact and wisdom. In the comity of Royalties, he was exemplary and hence, he was revered throughout his kingdom and beyond. Although for him, culture and tradition occupied the pride of place, he was open to new idea and respectful of progress made through social and scientific innovations”.

He said he has immensely benefited from his father’s wisdom. “I must admit that as his son and heir, I enjoyed and benefitted from his fatherly love and wisdom more than anyone else. His visionary leadership, courage and dedication to the protection of our cultural heritage, ensured that the legacy of several centuries was preserved”.

Oba Ewuare 11 paid glowing tribute to his mother who never enjoyed being called QUEEN mother. “Let me crave your indulgence to also make a few remarks about my late Mother – PRINCESS IKUOYEMWEN AKENZUA, of blessed memory, who passed on to the great beyond in 1976, when my father was still Crown Prince. It was my mother who taught me to work hard for success in everything I set my mind upon to achieve. Circumstances and hands of fate did not allow her to enjoy the status of a Queen in her life time. But she was a Princess in her own right. By my Coronation today, she is now qualified to be bestowed with the title of IYOBA, (QUEEN MOTHER) which custom allows us to confer posthumously. This will be consummated at the appropriate time”.

“We shall pay due attention to all matters of custom and tradition, focusing on real issues of security of our communities and the welfare and development for our people. We shall carry out reforms in palace administration in order to be adequately responsive to our peoples’ sincere and deep longing for justice, equity and stability. We shall strive to ensure that conflicts are resolved between individuals, families and communities along the principles of social justice. We shall use cultural diplomacy as veritable tool for the promotion of harmonious relationships with our neighbours far and near. I also strongly advise my Benin people to strive to maintain our culture especially our language by insisting on its use in communicating with our children and each other. You will agree with me that Benin Empire which encompasses part of Lagos across to Asaba even then Dahomey has now shrunk to within only one State. To survive it is imperative that we maintain our culture which is now the only unifying force for our people. Our culture and tradition remains the one main factor that the entire country and international community respects us for. I appeal to our Benin People to uphold and respect our traditional institution at all times. I implore Government also to include Edo language and Benin history our schools’ curriculum”.

“We shall uphold and maintain the principle of neutrality and non-partisanship in political party activities, while our people remain free to play politics by subscribing to any political party of their choice. We shall however continue to pray for, and will always support the right kind of political leaders, who will safe guard the welfare of our people, provide for their basic needs, and who will accord due recognition to traditional institutions”.

“Through these initiatives we hope to attract tourism to our land and provide jobs for our teeming youths. We shall also support efforts to build partnerships and seek international assistance for the restoration of Bini monuments including revival of the creative and artistic talents of Binis, which are already globally acknowledged through our rich artifacts”.

“It is pertinent at this point to express our deep concern, about the pervasive poverty at the grassroots and the astronomical rise in crime and juvenile delinquency in our society. The problem is both a consequence of and is aggravated by widespread youth unemployment. The solution would require well-articulated and structured youth development and empowerment programmes with active support of government at all levels. We shall partner with the government to attract domestic and international resources for the establishment of clusters of Agro-based industries in each of our seven local government areas (LGAs).

“In this regard, the transformation of Gelegele into an Export Processing Zone for Agro-Allied industries shall remain one of our major projects in the state, with the support of the Federal Government. We shall join forces with Government at all levels and other well-meaning individuals in pursuing poverty alleviation strategies which will be driven by the Royal Dynasty Trust. We will also partner with relevant government agencies to pursue programmes and policies for the conservation of our forest endowment. To this end we will establish a Prize for the Local Government in Edo State that is best in annual tree-planting competitions”.

Since the ascension of the Benin throne by Oba Ewuare 11the state has continue to enjoy peace and development with his leadership abilities. The Oba has continue to foster peace and development in the state and the request of turning gelegele into an export free zone has catch the attention of Governor Godwin Obaseki who has swung into action setting up a technical committee for that purpose to the applaud of the people.

The ban on Community Development Association (CDA) was another bold step taken by the Oba and supported by Governor Obaseki and the bill to criminalize their activities before the Edo State House of Assembly led by the speaker Justice Okonobo, and if pass the issue of land problem in the state and kingdom will become a thing of the pass.
May the reign of our new Oba Ewuare 11 continue to bring peace, development and progress not only of the state but to the nation at large.

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