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The Position of the Oba

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To the Binis, {or Edo} the Oba is the embodiment of their tradition and culture. As rightly put by Bradbury {in his book-Benin kingdom pp 40-42}, “The sacred kingship” is the focal point of the Benin political system. As the latest in the line of kings, descending from Eweka 1 and the reincarnation of one of them the Oba has his own divinity. He is the head of the nation and his person is held sacred.

The Chief Priest of Benin kingdom, Chief Nosakhare Isekhure said the Benin monarchy is a world renowned institution which has continued to strive amid modernization and sometimes intrusions from detractors. The firmness and success of the monarchy and the kingdom have to do with the complex, yet solid foundation upon which their superstructures have been constructed by the ancestors of the Benin people.

The Omo N’Oba is seen as a quintessential icon of royalty and splendour.

“Today,” as one cultural/art historian puts it, “even though the ancient glories of Benin kingdom are no more, the Oba still commands tremendous love, awe, reverence, authority, power and influence in Edo land.

He was, and still is, the source of customary law and the spiritual head of Edo people. A position which is now largely symbolic and ceremonial with no real powers. Due to modernization and the threat from the indigenous Pentecostal churches popularly called the ‘Born again Churches’which is Spreading like wild fire. Using the high profile American styles TV Christian ministry. The traditional institution is only striving for survival as many Edo Christians see the overall head of their churches as their spiritual head. There are many educated Edos, middle class and the uneducated who do not see themselves as subjects of the traditional institution and the traditional religion which it represent. They do not have to, because Nigeria is a republic nation and the constitution gave them the right to be a republican,if they choose not to be a subjects to any Traditional institution.

In days gone by, the Oba exercised legislative, judicial, and executive powers. Today, however, he is still the spiritual head; But exercises the other powers only within the operational system of the local government council headed by a chairperson who exercise certain executive powers, the legislation of Edo state House of Assembly, the framework of Edo state government headed by the executive governor who is also the chief security officer,and the constitution of federal republic of Nigeria.

As the spiritual head of Edo people, he is the fountain of their customary law. He holds court with his chiefs daily to attend to complaints from his subjects. Apart from his settlement of various community and land disputes within his kingdom and other disagreements which might not have been of public knowledge,he must also give approval for the commencement of all major festivals and rituals. In contest of government machinery, the Boa who, in the days gone by was the sole authority is now the president of the Benin traditional council, and the Edo State Council of Traditional Rules.

He is one of the most articulate, consistent and well respected traditional rulers in Nigeria. He has remained steadfast in providing necessary and relevant advice as the occasions demand on topical issues to the local, state and federal governments in Nigeria.

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