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Queen Iden of Oka
The wife of Oba Ewakpe
{About1700AD-1712AD}
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Written by Ekaiwe Omo Omoregie (17-07-1215)

BETWEEN 1440-1473AD, Oba Ewuare prophesied that there would be a time when Benin Kingdom would experience bad times if Prince Idoca wore the crow. Prince Idova’s father, Akennuama, was too old to become the Oba. So, he appealed to the kingmakers to crown his son the Oba.

Eventually, Prince Idova changed his name to Ehenuegha. During his coronation, he took the title of Oba Ewuakpe in 1700 A.D. He was married to Oloi Iden who lived with him in the royal palace built with red soil mixed with palm oil instead of water.

Not long after Oba Ewuakpe became the king, his Chiefs and people rebelled against him because of his misrule.

Therefore, they suspected all meetings at the palace. Social services were grounded. His other wives and scimitar bearers were driven to their different home. At the end of the day only Oloi Iden remained with him at the palace.

With time, life in the palace became unbearable for Oba Ewuakpe. So, he decided to go to his mother’s town Ikoka. But he wasn’t well treated there. When he arrived, he wasn’t received with open arms. He was treated unkindly. For instance, they asked him to join the youths of the town to clear the road path in cleaning the community well in preparation for the rainy season.

He was angered by the disrespect for his esteemed position. This made him to place a curse on the people and town of Ikoka. Having done this, he returned to Benin City. Thereafter, Oloi Iden advised him to consult a diviner to find what to do to bring back peace to his kingdom as well as improve his relationships between himself, his chiefs and his people. The diviner told him to offer a human sacrifice, pour palm oil around the palace and carry out other rituals.

After the diviner had spoken, a waiting game began. Moment later, Oloi Iden urged Oba Ewuakpe to perform the rituals as prescribed by the diviner. But he informed her that given the current situation in the kingdom only other rituals could be performed, not a human sacrifice. At this stage, Oloi Iden offered herself to be sacrificed but she directed that no dirt should remain on the spot where she will be buried.

From the foregoing, it can be seen that Oloi Iden displayed great love, empathy and kindness for Oba Ewuakpe and Benin Kingdom. She re-emphasized one of the principles of the Supreme God and Olokun which says: Always put your community and nation first before yourself.

Soon after Oba Ewuakpe made the sacrifice, peace began to return to Benin Kingdom. The congregation of chiefs, elder citizens, men, women and visitors coming to the palace continued to grow in size and strength. Gradually, homage and loyalty to him increased, therefore. Although the turn of events gladdened him, he was full of painful memory of his beloved wife Oloi Iden who laid his life for the kingdom and the unity of his people.

Today, we can hear her voice calling out to all Binis to unite because we are all one family. Okunists is hereby advising that we should all emulate the great example of Oloi Iden, a heroine of Benin kingdom. For instance, women in particular should learn the attitude of faithfulness and dedication to their husbands both bad and good times.

Marriage after all is for “better for worse, until death do us apart”. In other words, women should stop deserting their husbands in times of hardship; or killing them so that they can move on with their newfound lovers. On a sadder note, you will find some women even deserting their husbands to take to prostitution as a profession.

Certainly these behavior won’t make Oloi Iden happy. A great woman, she was! She gave her life to enable her husband, Oba Ewuakpe derive pleasure in life. Shouldn’t we celebrate this amazing love of a woman for her husband? So why should some women be refusing to learn from her unequalled example?

Beyond all this, I am of the opinion that a day should be set aside in Benin Kingdom to celebrate Iden day. Also, the directive of Oloi Iden that her grave should be a sacred place shouldn’t be ignored. This is why it is disheartening to see traders defacing the area surrounding her grave by Oba Market. This practice is bad and should be stopped immediately. All traders should vacate the area immediately. The other day when the palace wanted to venerate the heroine it took a lot of time to clear the traders from the frontage of her grave. This is not how things should be. Iden’s resting place should be. Iden’s resting place should be respected by all and look like that of Emotan. For this reason, I am humbly appealing to Benin Traditional Council to take strict measures to keep Iden’s grave away from desecration by traders.

Finally, as I said, it is high time we honour Iden. Few years ago, we honoured Generals Ologboshere, Eboikhiumwin, Obakhaobaye, Uso, Obaradesagbon and Ugiagbe who laid down their lives for Benin kingdom during the British punitive expedition. I commend the palace for doing so. However, I m pleading that a similar gesture should be extended to Iden who died for the unity and oneness of all people in the Kingdom. Let’s consider naming a road in her honour.

May the Supreme God, Olokun and ancestor whom we worship and Venerate always hereby give us the wisdom and capacity to take the right decision on how to honour Iden. 

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