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Traditional Government In Benin Kingdom

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17/09/2017

The Oba of Benin is the spiritual and political head of Benin Kingdom. His seat is in Benin City... He lives in the Palace at Kings Square. Ogbe Quarters... He confers titles on his ‘subjects. See
Iguamwense vs Arnaghiemwen SC 12.1991(1994 LRCN 181

In traditional administration, his decisions are usually unchallenged but because of the democratic nature of the monarchical admonition of. Benin Kingdom, the Oba’s decision are sometimes influenced by his privy counselors who are also his executive council Members. This includes the Eghaevbonogbe of Iwebo, Iwegue and Ibiwe Palace societies. He confers with them before taking any decision.

Obas of Benin
The administration of Benin Kingdom rests on the shoulders of three powerful groups.

Firstly, the Eghevbonenore; these are people representatives and is headed by the Iyase of Benin, the Oba’s number one subject and traditional prime minister of Benin Kingdom.

The second groups is the Eghaevbonogbe-these are very senior and powerful Palace Chiefs chosen from Iwebo, Iweguae and lbíwe societies The lwebo, Iweguae and Ibiwe societies make up the. Eghaevbonogbe and constitutes the Executive Council. They Iive close to the Oba’s Palace. Before taking the title of Eghaevbonogbe, one has to be formally initiated by the Oba at a special ceremony.

The third group is the Uzama N’ Ihinron Feudal Lords and Kingmakers. They are Chiefs Oliha, who is the leader, Edohen, Ezomo. Ero, Eholo, Nire, Oloton and Edaiken, the crown Prince. These are hereditary titles. There are also Uzamas known as Uzama Nibie these are Ogiamien, Elema and Ogie-Egor. The Oba consults with the Eghaevbonogbe before going to meet the full executive council in any crucial matter before the Oba. The Oba hears petitions from his subjects in his Office located in the Palace. The Oba hears cases from women in different office in the palace. The messenger of the Obas is called Ukoba they are different from his majesty information officers called “Avbiogbe” There is also the Palace jester who daily prays for the Oba and wishing him long life:
Generally, the government of Benin Kingdom is administered by the Uzama N’Ihinron and, the Eghaevbonore assisted by the Houses of .Iwebó, Iweguae, and Ibiwe. The: Iko-Niweho, Uko Niweguae and Uko N’Erie have judicial authority in civil and criminal cases...

The leading members of the following societies also take part in the administration of the Kingdom. The Ekawe,  Iwegie, Iwehen, Ebo and Ewaise (the royal physician and diviners), Ihogbe (the worshippers and recorders of departed Obas) Efa, (the sanctifiers of royal homes) Igun-Eronmwon (the royal brass smiths) Igbesanmwan (the royal carves) Owina (the royal carpenters), Igbesanmwan (the royal carves) Owina (the royal bell ringing announces war and peace) Eben (who inter the remains of a deceased Oba and the Isekuure (recorder of events in the Kingdom) lsienmwenro (the “ executioners) Ikpema and Igbemaba (drummers) Ikepziken and kpakohen (fife players) Isekpokin (fan nd Leather box makers dating back to Ogiso Ere the Second Ogiso of Benin in the first dynasty) Emehe of Urubi (royal carries, who are not allowed to see the Oba without a load. on their heads) Irhemila (the bearers of sacrificial victims) Iwebo (custodians of Oba’s regalia and wardrobe) Iwegua House.  (In-charge of Oba’s personal households) Ibiwe (keepers of Oba’s harems and Eruere section with Oshodin as the head takes charge of Oba’s wives (IIoi) and Ohensa (Priest of God).

The Oba confers existing honors on deserving citizens and can also create and confer titles. All hereditary titles are conferred on the male senior son after his father’s death. There are no female traditional Rulers in Benin nor are Chieftaincy title conferred on them. Only the Oba’s mother bears the title of Iyoba and so for all the Obas mothers: The last Queen mother is Aghahowa N’ Iyoba of blessed memory and had her palace at Uselu as is customary. Women of proven integrity are honor with the title of “IYEYE which is not a chieftaincy title. Also distinguish individuals that have contributed to the growth of Benin and Humanity in general are honored with a gift of a royal bead of Benin kingdom. The former president of the Federal republic of Nigeria ex President Olosegun Obasanjo is a recipient of this Royal bead.

The Oba rule villages and communities through Enigie ánd Edionwere. The Enigie are appointed by the Oba and Edionwere are selected among the eldest male in the community, and confirmed by the Oba. The women also have their Edionwere but have little say in the administration of the community. Women in Benin are not given proper role in traditional institution. Descendants of slaves (Igbon) and aliens never become Oba or Edionwere in Benin.

All villages and communities in Benin Kingdoms have elders of councils who meet in elders ancestral shrine called “Ogua-Edion Idunmwun” The most senior elder is called “Odionwere Evbo’ while the street or quarters eldest man is called “Odionwere Idunmwun” The family head is “Oka-Egbe” Proceedings in both civil and criminal cases follow these steps.

All cases that cannot be settled by the family heads such as witch-craft cases are referred to the quarter or street elders - Edion ldunmwun. lf they fail to settle them, it is referred to the whole village elders council-Edion-Evbo. If they also fail the Edion Evbo and the  Enogie will take the case to Oba in council. All this processes are in form of appeal from the Magistrate Courts to High courts from High Court to Appeal Curt. . Matters sometimes go direct to Edion Evbo’s Council. Such matter is rape on bare ground, sex and criminal cases. These are abominations. Oba’s decision in customary matters are in. some cases final. For example land matters.. The age group system also has a lot to play in the administration of the kingdom because apart from the labour they assist in keeping peace. The groups in Benin are:
“Eroghae”- otherwise known as Igbama, below 30 years;
“Ighele’ - above 30 years,
“Edion” - from 5O above respectively.

The administration of Benin kingdom therefore, is like a big tree with so many complex branches. A heir apparent or any ruling Oba does not bring to the Edos, a non Edo as his successor. The exile of Oba Ovonramwen in 1897 was a result of criminal charges brought against him and the British themselves acknowledged the resistance put up by the Binis before and after the exile.

Benin kingdom is a government of its own with it articulate machineries of the administration by convention which cannot be influence by outside forces. It is a complex monarchical system built on a solid foundation with perfect organizational structure. There is an inbuilt separation of powers even though the Oba is regarded as (supreme. For example, an Oba cannot change hereditary titles. If the last successor is an infant, he is conferred with the hereditary title and regents (Edayi) may be appointed. This is the convention.

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