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Udo: The Only Sovereign Municipality In Benin Kingdom - Setting The Record Straight

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Wriitten by HRH Idu Akenzua 07/25/2015

I read with disgust and disbelief the erroneous assertions made by His Royal Highness, Patrick Ekhoeutomwen Igbinidu, the Iyase of Udo, in the article or news feature titled, “Udo: The only sovereign municipality in Bini Kingdom” written by Mr. Simon Ebegbulem, a Vanguard newspaper reporter and/or staff writer, and published on page 2 of the Niger Delta Voice segment of the Tuesday, September 9, 2014 edition of the Vanguard newspaper.


The Iyase of Udo is my in - law and my very good friend, but, with all due respect, everything was wrong in the assertions he made in the news feature. The assertions which he made with great force of authority were, to say the least, grotesque misrepresentation of facts and a mischievous distortion of Benin history in a futile attempt to re — write it.


The writer, in an apparent paraphrase of the information which the Iyase of Udo supplied him, said: “Unlike other communities in Benin Kingdom where the people are ruled by Enogies, appointed by the Benin monarch, Udo is ruled by Iyase, who is more powerful than the Enogies because of the exploits and awesome physical prowess of one of its progenitors” This assertion is totally false!


Before I delve into the falsity of this misinformation, let me first state here that the plural form of Enogie is Enigie, not Enogies, and the name of the kingdom under which they exist is Benin kingdom, and not Bini kingdom. The people are known as and called Benin people (just like the name of the Kingdom) or Benins. See Great Benin, Its Customs, Art and Horrors (1968) by Ling Roth.


The Omo N’Oba N’Edo, L Akpolokpoio, Oba Erediauwa, CFR., Oba of Benin, the paramount custodian of all Benin customs and usages, has explained this in different fora and in a pletora of speeches, addresses, pamphlets and books. See, for instance, A Handbook on Some Benin.

Customs and Usages, “issued by the Benin Traditional Council on the authority of the Omo N’Oba Erediauwa, Oba of Benin,” and The Making of A Philosopher - King: Selected Speeches of Omo N’Oba Erediauwa, CFR., Oba of Benin (2011) compiled and edited by this writer. This explanation is necessary to avoid confusion in understanding my subsequent usage of these appropriate words and expressions hereinafter in this write - up.
Now, to the Iyase’s claims!


Firstly, in Benin Kingdom, Enigie are not appointed; they are born as Enigie or invested with their title by the Oba of Benin. Appointment has a tenure of office or lifespan, but Enigie titles have no life span. They are in perpetuity, from father to eldest surviving son forever, following in the principle of primogeniture that governs the Benin monarchy.


Secondly, it is not true that the Iyase of Udo is “more powerful than the Enogies because of the exploits and awesome physical prowess of one of its progenitors.” At best, the Iyase of Udo enjoys the status of an Enogie, albeit falsely; but, most importantly, it is not a hereditary title founded on the principle of primogeniture or from father to eldest surviving son. The title rotates between the Iyase of Udo and the Uwangue of Udo. Where any Iyase of Udo transgresses the Benin monarch, the paramount ruler and overlord of Benin Kingdom, or becomes an Oghian — Oba (enemy of the Oba), for whatever reason, the Omo N’Oba transfers the title to the Uwangue and confers him with the powers to administer Udo. The day may not be too far now when the tide may even pass on to the Eribo if there is any such title there!


The present Iyase of Udo will recall, without any effort, that his immediate predecessor - in - title was the Uwangue of Udo. He knows how the title was passed to the Uwangue from the previous Iyase of Udo. I need not go further into that here. The present Iyase of Udo is neither the son (let alone the eldest surviving son) of the late Uwangue of Udo, his predecessor-in-title, nor the son of the late Iyase of Udo who held the title and ruled as the traditional ruler of Udo before the deceased Uwangue of Udo.


The Iyase of Udo said he “is more powerful than the Enogies because of the exploits and awesome physical prowess of one of its progenitors.” I guess the progenitor referred to here is Prince Arhuarhuan, half brother to Prince Osawe who later became Oba Esigie of Benin (Abt. 1504AD — 1550AD), both children of Oba Ozolua the conqueror (Abt. 1481 AD - 1504AD).
I can understand if the progenitor had awesome physical prowess because his physical prowess was mythically not in doubt. Mythology has it that he was a giant who had a real physical prowess, and that he used to uproot matured, long palm trees with his bare hands, effortlessly, and use them to sweep the palace (the Oba’s Palace, that is) whenever he felt he wanted to perform domestic chore, in service of the Palace.


I lived in the palace of the present Oba of Benin from 1972 when I first completed my secondary school education to 1978 when the then Oba of Benin, Oba Akenzua II, CMG, my grand - father and the father of the present Oba of Benin, passed on to glory (may his soul continue to find repose in the bossom of the Lord till when the Lord sends him back again to become an Oba in Benin Kingdom!). I believe in reincarnation, and it is our belief in Benin Kingdom that great Obas (such as Oba Akenzua 11 was and the present Oba, Oba Erediauwa,
CFR., is will always come back in reincarnation to become subsequent Obas of Benin at different times, no matter how distant.


We, the children, chiefs, wards and courtiers of the Palace, were told when we were living in the Palace that when a particular section of the Palace was being constructed, Prince Idubor, alias Arhuarhuan (pronounced Arhuan) touched a particular portion of the building with his right index finger, to see whether it had dried or had become strong enough, and the finger because of its gigantic size bored a large hole on it and the hole was later converted - to a modern size window. We were shown the window. His physical power was certainly not in doubt!


History tells us that he was a giant who had enormous power but did not have sense, hence his nickname “Arhuanrhuan no okemezi, omwen etin nemwen ewaen, meaning “Arhuanrhuan the giant with great power who has no sense.” Sense here or intellect or wisdom was an attribute of his supposed younger brother, Prince Osawe, with which he defeated the acclaimed giant in a series of tests and duels on his way to becoming the Oba (Oba Esigie) of Benin.


Upon his defeat by Oba Esigie, the giant (Arhuanrhan, that, is) took refuge in Udo, probably his mother’s village, and declared himself the traditional ruler (unfortunately, not as an Oba but as an equivalent of an Enogie) of Udo. But, since he was never invested with the title of Enogie by his brother (Esigie) who was now then the Oba (King) of Benin, his successors-in- title were denied the appellation or title of Enogie. Hence, they became Iyases or Uwangues of Udo, titles that were and are still far below the pedigree of Enogie or, at best, at par, in some material particular, with the status of an Enogie. There is no place in Benin history, whether oral or written, or even Benin mythology, where Arhuarhuan is credited with exploits or conquests like Oba Ewuare the great (Abt. 1440 AD - 1473 AD), Oba Ozolua the conqueror (Abt. 1481 - 1504 AD), Oba Esigie (Abt. 1504 AD - 1550 AD), Oba Orhogbua (Abt. 1550 AD - 1578 AD) and a host of others.


It is safe to say that it was Arhuanrhuan that brought Udo into prominence as little or nothing was known about it before him. I am not saying Udo as a village or community was not in existence before him but there was nothing like Iyase or Uwangue of Udo before him, whereas some past Obas invested their immediate younger brothers and, even, some outstanding warlords, with the title of Enogie even during the Ogiso era or first Benin dynasty (Abt. 1,000 BC - 1190 AD).
Some of these titles (Enigie) created by the Ogisos are Ekae (Idumwunogieka),
Ukpira, Ihinmwinrin and Avbiama, to mention but a few. Those created by Obas
(in the 2nd Benin Dynasty) whose reigns predated Arhuarhuan include, but are
not limited to, Etete (by Oba Eweka 1,1200 AD - 1235 AD), Uroho and ldogbo (by
Oba Ozolua, 1481 - 1504 AD). See Evolution of Benin Chieftaincy Titles (1992) by
Prince Ena Basimi Eweka, with foreword by Omo N’Oba Erediauwa, CFR., Oba of Benin, pages 86, 87 and 89. Notwithstanding some reservations expressed in certain quarters in Benin Kingdom about some of the contents of the book (not in the area under discourse), this book is still an authority in this regard.


It is pertinent to note here that some Enigie, to the knowledge of the Iyase of Udo, have eight, nine, 10 or even 12 big villages and/or communities under their respective domain or in their various dukedoms, especially those created by Oba Erediauwa, CFR., on 1st January 1988 (long live the king!), including that of the father of this writer.


In the light of the foregoing,’ it is totally untenable for any ruler of Udo to assert without any empirical and historical proof that the Iyase of Udo is more powerful than Enigie because of the doubtful exploits and mythical awesome physical prowess of one of its progenitors. In what sense, one may ask!


Another area of disagreement with the views expressed by the Iyase of Udo in the interview or write up is where he said, “You cannot compare the Enogie to the Iyase of Udo. Udo comprises of many villages not only in one place. Before, it was from that Ovia Bridge to Ofosu to Usen and many other villages around here then, such as Ofunama, Jakurama and Okomu - Ijaw, they all belong to the Udo Community.”


As stated earlier, many Enigie have dukedoms which comprise of eight, nine, ten and even more big villages or communities with some of them bigger than Udo village or community itself. Certainly, these villages are also not in one place. More preposterous is his bogus claim that Udo even extended to Iguobazuwa, Okada junction, and even Usen and Ofosu. There are more than 20 villages from Iguobazuwa to Okada junction, such as Igbogor, Okha, e.t.c. which have been indigenous and autonomous of Udo from time immemorial. I don’t know of any particular point in Benin history when Udo extended from Ovia Bridge to Ofosu to Usen, or to Ofunama and Jakuramu (in Siluko village area) which from time immemorial had been indigenous, autonomous and independent entities.


One of my history teachers while I was at Eghosa Anglican Grammar School, Benin City, as a secondary school student in the 1970s, Hon. Ambrose Osawe who later became a newspaper publisher and an Honourable member of the Edo State House of Assembly, never taught me that Iguobzuwa, the villages in and around Iguobazuwa up to Usen or Ofosu were at any particular point in time in Benin history under the suzerainty of Udo or that Udo is more or less autonomous on his own and the “only sovereign municipality in Bini (sic) kingdom”


Celebrated Benin historians like Dr. J. U. Egharevba, Chief D. U. Edebiri, the Esogban of Benin Kingdom, Dr. Ekhaguosa Aisien and a host of others too numerous to mention here never said in their various books on Benin history which I have read that Udo extended up to Iguobazuwa, Okada junction, Usen and Ofosu or that Udo is a sovereign entity in Benin Kingdom or independent of Benin Kingdom.


As far as I am concerned and as far as Benin history goes, there is no community, village or dukedom, by whatever name called, in the present day seven local government areas of Edo State (viz, Oredo, Ikpoba - Okha, Egor, Orhionmwon, Uhunmwode, Ovia North - East and Ovia South - West) that constitute Benin Kingdom that is a sovereign municipality or independent of Benin Kingdom. All the villages, communities and dukedoms, without exception, are under the suzerainty of Benin kingdom, and the overlord and paramount ruler of the kingdom is the Oba of Benin. Period.


It is rather too late in the day now for anyone with a rebellious attitude or imperialist, expansionist policy to declare his village, community, or dukedom in the said local government areas of Edo State independent of Benin kingdom. The Iyase of Udo, with the greatest of respect, cannot now recreate in the 21st Century what the Elawure of Usen failed to achieve in the 20th Century.


Asked why Udo cannot be ruled by an Enogie like many other Benin communities, the Iyase of Udo, in the said interview or write up said: “Iyase of Udo never joins the meeting of Enogies. He is more or less autonomous on his own.” I have earlier stated in this write — up that it is a blatant lie to say that the Iyase of Udo “is more or less autonomous on his own” as there is no historical data or account to back this claim, So, on this, “1 do not intend to go further,” as the late Revered Tietie, then of Cod’s Kingdom Society, GKS, (may his soul rest in peace), would say.
The only other aspect of this latter excerpt worthy of reply and correction is where he said, “Iyase of Udo never joins the meeting of Enogies”. He cannot join the meeting of Enigie for obvious reasons. He is neither an Enogie properly so called nor an Ohen, even though he enjoys the status of an Enogie. He is more or less like a hybrid of the two. The Association of Enigie in Benin Kingdom comprises of members who have the appellation of Enigie, not for Iyase, Uwangue, Okao or Ohen of a community, whether or not he rules as the traditional ruler of the community. The Igie- ohen (chief priests) of Benin Kingdom also have their own Association to which I believe the Iyase of Udo cannot also belong since he is also not an Ohen (priest).


The most insulting and misleading aspect of the Iyase of Udo’s cankerterous vituperations in the interview is where he said, “The Enogie is just like Odionwere, Enogies are taking care of very small villages unlike the Iyase of Udo.... Many areas the Iyase is taking care of, you cannot compare the Iyase to any Enogie at all. No Enogie will ever stand before the Iyase to say I am more than you, the Oba knows that.”


These outlandish assertions are not only provocative, frivolous and vexatious, but clearly demonstrate the Iyase of Udo’s acute cultural myopia. It is funny that the Iyase of Udo does not know the difference between Odionwere and Enogie in Benin Kingdom. If he does, he will not have said “The Enogie is just like Odionwere.


For the avoidance of doubt, Odionwere is the head of Edion Nene (the four elders) in a village or community in Benin Kingdom who presides in proceedings at Qgua-Edion (Elders’ ancestral shrine building). In a village or community where there is no Enogie, he administers as the head of the village or communities on behalf of the Oba. Where there is Enogie, the Enogie rules and administers the village, communiity or group of villages or communities on behalf of the Oba. The Enogie is often a direct representative of the Omo N’Oba in his dukedom. Many Enigie are children of past Obas, whereas Edionwere are not.


Every village or community in Benin Kingdom has its Odionwere. No Odionwere controls more than one village, even where there is no Enogie in the area, whereas Enigie have more than one village/ community or many villages/communities under their control. Odionwere does not have a palace; where he lives is simply called his house (the Odionwere’s house,) whereas Enogie has palace (Enogie palace). Odionwere is not a hereditary title in Benin kingdom. It is generally based on the principle of gerontocracy (eldest man in the village or community who must have first attained the status of an Odion), whereas the title of Enogie is hereditary and is based on the principle of grimogeniture (from father to eldest surviving son who must have performed the full burial rites of his deceased father). So much for the education of the Iyase of Udo on the fundamental difference between Odionwere and Enogie in Benin Kingdom. This is elementary knowledge in Benin Kingdom.


Having said that, I don’t know the criteria the Iyase of Udo used in arriving at the wild and unfounded assertion that “...you cannot compare the Iyase to any Enogie at all...,” that “no Enogie will ever stand before the Iyase to say I am more than you,” and that “the Oba knows that”.


Who is the Enogie who will not ever be able to stand before the Iyase of Udo to say I am more than you? is it the Enogie of Obazuwa, HRH Prince Edun Akenzua, a veteran journalist and editor of repute, who has more than six or seven big villages or communities in his domain? Is it the ‘Enogie of Evbuobanosa/ Abudu, a professor of medicine and a retired Deputy Vice - Chancellor of the University of Benin, now chairman of the governing board of Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, who has more than 12 big villages in his dukedom? Is it the Enogie of Ologbo, HRH Dr. Ekiawogho Akenzua, a long - standing medical practitioner who was the medical director of the University of Benin Health Center for many years and who has more than six large villages/communities under his control in his dukedom? Dr is it yours truly, the
Enogie of Oghobaghase, a seasoned journalist, political scientist, author and a practicing lawyer who was one time General Manager of Bendel Newspapers Company Limited publishers of Observer group of newspapers and who has ten villages under his control in his dukedom?
Needless to state here that some Enigie are engineers (e.g., Enigie of Orogho and Ugolo), journalists (e.g., Enogie of Okogbo), university professors/lecturers (e.g.; Enogie of Egbaen- Ogbeson), retired Directors/Permanent Secretaries (e.g., Ertogie of Evboesi) and university graduates of philosophy, e.t.c. (e.g., Enogie of Uvbe - Egbede), to mention but a few.

1 don’t see any of these accomplished Enigie who cannot stand before the Iyase of Udo to say I am more than you as he erroneously claimed. I refrain here from talking about the wealther or businesses/investments owned by these Enigie, if those are the criteria he used and I know not of any traditional criterion he used in making such assertion. He even went so far as to say, “.. - the Oba knows that” I Pity.


The. lyase of Udo patently overreached himself in an attempt to claim false superiority over Enigie. In fact, the lyase of Udo is like an Okao of a village or community, a title that is far inferior to the title of Enogie even where he rules in the village or community as a traditional ruler, Reading through the interview, it was evident that the lyase of Udo has a concealed inferiority complex in relation to Enigie. Too bad!


As if these insults and derogatory statements about Enigie were not enough, the Iyase of Udo unequivocally stated, “The Enogi.e is under the Iyase of Udo.” What a ridiculous assertion! Hear him again: ‘. . .When you are in Benin, after the Oba of Benin, you get the Iyase of Benin. That is within them. But when the Oba moves from Benin to this place, Ovia South West, where we are now, when the Iyase of Udo is there, he is next to him because the Oba is in his domain.”

Who are the them in the “that is within them? is it the Omo N’Oba, the Iyase, Esogban, Eson, Osuna, Esere, Uwangue and Eribo of Benin Kingdom? And whose domain (the lyase of Udo’s domain where the Omo N’Oha is the owner of all domain in Benin Kingdom?
There is a saying in Benin that “Oba gharueemwen omwan, a gha zese emietemwen vbe ifaegbua.” (When the Oba is in love with someone, the person will do well to perform sacrifices aginst acts of disgrace and ridicule). The iyase of Udo should think about this!

HRH Idu Akenzua,
Enogie of Oghobaghase,
Wrote from Benin City, Edo State.

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