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Last Update (July 9, 2020)

The conferment of Benin title on any person is the sole prerogative of the Oba of Benin. It is he who can create new titles. The titles are broadly divided into two, HEREDITARY AND NON- HEREDITARY titles.

All existing hereditary titles are normally inherited by the eldest surviving sons of the last incumbents. By custom the Oba normally confers the title on the successor after the funeral obsequies have been performed. The procedure is as follows: Burial ceremonies of a Benin chief (Title holder) under the Benin custom

The conferment of titles is actually done by the Oba who begins it by sending two, four or six emissaries (as the case may be) to the house of the recipient to intimate him that the Oba intends to do him an honor. Later on, in the night of the same day, emissaries are sent to the recipient who is called by name four times by the leader of the emissaries. On the fourth call, the recipient kneels down to answer “He yo” (yes) whereupon, the second-in-command of the emissaries pronounces him as the title- holder of whatever name the Oba may have chosen. Thereafter, customary gifts are exchanged during the ceremonies. Two days later, the recipient goes to the palace to thank the Oba for the honor bestowed on him.

The Oba in his absolute discretion may confer an existing vacant title on any person who he considers must have served him and the community if:

(¡) The recipient applies, or

(¡¡) The Oba on his own volition bestows a royal favor on whoever he considers loyal, faithful, serviceable and proper in the community, or

(¡¡¡) The Oba creates a new title and confers it on any person either by way of application of the recipient or by way of voluntary honor on any person in the like manner as specified in (a) and (b) above, or

(¡v)The Oba elevates a title holder to a higher title.

For hereditary title, once they are conferred, they cannot be withdrawn conversely, once a man gets a hereditary title, he cannot exchange it for another title. In the case of non- hereditary title is subsequently converted to a hereditary one. As a matter of fact the Oba has the prerogative to create and confer titles but he cannot withdraw such titles.

All titles whether hereditary or not, must be confirmed publicly before the incumbents are entitled  to all the right and privileges appertaining to them. The confirmation ceremonies are normally carried out in the Oba’s palace in the area known as ugha-Ozolua  or at any other convenient area within the palace. It is attended personally by the Oba. Sometimes with his wives and members of the royal family, all classes of Benin Chief and the general public. The ceremonies are in two parts namely;

These ceremonies are performed a day or two before the public confirmation ceremonies. For the Eghaevbo N’ Ogbe, the Iwoghene ceremonies are performed within the palace while the Itiedeha ceremonies are performed by the Eghaevbo N’ Ore at the the Iyase’s house.

The order of the confirmation ceremonies are as follows;

(¡) The Uwangue or in his absence, his deputy who is the next senior Eghaevbo N’ Iwebo title- holder present, calls the assembly to order by pronouncing the word, “Evbara” four times. Thereafter, the Okao Avbiogbe replies by saying “Gbanwagioba, Niobo, N’ udia” The chief then salutes the Oba by clasping his clenched right-hand fist on to his left hand palm and stretching the clenched right- hand up to the direction of the Oba.

(¡¡) Next, the Uwangue calls out, “Olidurumwun” (the quarter heads), whereupon the Okao-Avbiogbe answers with the words: “Gbanwagioba, Niobo, N’ Udia (send grace to the Oba, salute him and wait).

(¡¡¡) The Oba then makes the traditional presentation of Kola- nuts to the chiefs

(¡v) Next, the Uwangue and three Eghaevbo N’ Ore chiefs announce the purpose of the assembly by saying “Oba gha ruese ere” (The Oba wishes to bestow a gracious honor today) AND THE ASSEMBLY REPLIES BY SAYING “O gha dia ruese, Ogha dia ruee” (May he live to carry out his wishes).

(v) Thereafter, the Uwangue will call the recipient by name four times by saying “Gha de Urho-Uwa” (come to the gate of glory).

(v¡) The Iyase, Esogban, Eson and Osuma  (The Eghaevbo N’ Ene or Ikadele N Ene- the four cardinal town chiefs) will pronounce on behalf of the Oba that the title is confirmed. This is done in the following order;
The chief kneels down. The Esogban calls his name four times and the chief replies after the fourth time by saying “He yo”. The Iyase thereafter announces that the Oba has graciously confirmed such and such a title (he names the title) on him.

(v¡¡) The public and the chief’s well wisher and his entourage acknowledge the honor with ovation.

(V¡¡¡) Next the Iyase walk up to the Oba, followed by the other chief to receive instruction from the Oba and thereafter inform the chief of the privileges, right, insignia and the rank of his title which the Oba has bestowed on the title- hoder. This usually comprises series of instruction involving walking from the recipient to and from the Oba several times, usually, three to four times.

(ix) The final stage of the ceremonies is the “Igbeken”. This consists of four movements. The chief moves four steps, kneels, his two palms fingers place on the ground, tip-to-tip, turn palms outward and finally turn them forward. He then lifts his hands to touch both shoulders in turn and thereafter touches his head with both hands. He stand uo, to give the traditional salutation with the word “Oba Oghato O’ kpere”( Long live the Oba). This movement is done in four stages and thereafter the Oba acknowledges the chief’s loyaty. The chief joind by his followers begins the traditional dance with song

“Eu Eu he e
“Ivbare, Ivbare,
“Ivbare Edion N’ Ikaro
“Kpomwen Oba me,
“Egua ruese”.

“hay, Hay,
“I come, I come
“I come to the elders
“Thank the Oba for me
“The palace has done me a great honor)”

The people and the chief thank the Oba after which the chief with the people dance away.

(x) Finally the Oba departs after displaying the Eben (Sword) to the spirits of his ancestors.

Iyen-Ehien is the ceremony in which a chief is invested with the highest spiritual rites associated with chiefaincy titles of Benin. With this ceremony are some of the attributes and privileges only enjoyed by Benin monarchy and so when a chief is exposed to the various rituals of Iyan-Ehien, his acquires the rare position of a king within his household. While the ceremony presistes for fourteen days the chief is accorded the honor similar to that of the Oba. As a corollary to his position, the chief accepts the responsibilities of entertaining numerous visitors in the like manner as the Oba does. The chief submits himself to the elaborate entertainments and performs the rituals which make the Iyan-Ehien ceremony an expensive exercise. It is therefore not surprising to find that only the very few well-to-do chiefs perform it in their lifetime. Although, the ceremony does not deprive a chief of his rights to function conferred on him by virtue of his title (which includes ceremonies at Ugie, i.e royal festivals) yet on his deathbed, Iyen-Ehien ceremony must be performed by his reletives. Such cost although minimal open the way for the deceased to be honoured with the royal ceremonial “palace Cloth”(Ukpon-Eguae which is a white cloth sparingly given by the Oba to an illustrious deceased person to signify that such a person has served as a loyal friend or subject of the Oba and therefore is not regarded as “an enemy of the Oba (Oghian –Oba), one of the worse tragedies that  could possibly happen to anyone”  The other aspect of Iyan- Ehien lies in the fact that those who have performed the ceremony have acquired the powers of “longevity and durability (Areto Arekpe)” During the prestigious Ugie (Royal frestival) the chiefs who have performed Iyen-Ehien are singled out for special special gifts after having received their normal share within the group of their chieftaincy title. In a way, the chief’s social and spiritual position is boosted over and above his co-chiefs, who have not performed Iyen-Ehien.

On confirmation of titles the Oba in his absolute discretion endows a chief with full or some of the privileges listed below. A good many of these privileges are associated with the title grades and it is therefore expected that the chieftaincy rank of lower category will not normally be endowed with all the privileges.

(A) Ehangbe- Hia
Full regalia designed in the form of scaly skin of an ant- eater comprising the following components:

(¡) scaly Scarlet red rode or dress (Ikpakpa- Ekhi) (resembling the scales on the ant- eater)

(¡¡) Iyewu; (Head gear)

(¡¡¡) Odigba; (Beaded collar) either Odigba  Okofo, i.e. full Odigba or IkunOdigba i.e. half Odigba

(¡v) Eguen; (Beaded ankle Bangles)

(v) Abuwa; (Replics of ten fingers being the achievement of the hands)

(v¡) Ikoro; (Brass Bangles)

(v¡¡) Udahae; (Forhead Bangles)

(v¡¡¡) Ada and Eben; (Sword and Scimitar)

(ix) Ekpen-Obo-Eva, (Two crossed body beads)

(x) Uhunmwun Ekhue; (Brass Head of Ekhue

(x¡) Egbele; (Side Hand –Woven apron)

(x¡¡) Ivie Awe; (Ankle Beads)

(x¡¡¡) Ivie Urhu: (Beaded Necklace)

(b) Eken-Nagben
Corrugated Walls

(c ) Ebo- Igho
Chieftaincy fees of varied value.

That is whether an Eghaevbo N’ Ore or Eghaevbo N’ Ogbe or else Ekhaemwen Uko (those grades have earlier been explained).

The one for the Uzama and Eghaevbo N’Ore is the Ada which is normally carried upright with the chief’s household or domain in the case of the Uzama. The other Ada for Eghaevbo N’ Ogbe is referred to as Ada- Ewa (or literally translated sleeping Ada) which remains Iying flat usually at the ancestral shrine in the home of the chief.

The traditional functions of the various title grades have already been spit out in the previous chapters. In many cases, titles within their various classes or groups invariably function within their various classes or groups’ responsibilities. This is a special feature of Benin titles It is therefore impossible for any Benin title to exist without responsibility or functions. The historical antecedent of these titles imposes on them their functions. In return, the Oba endows the titles with the privileges when confirming the titles on the holders (As mentioned under the caption “chieftaincy endowments”). However, the rights, privileges and duties attached to each title cannot be enjoyed unless;

The incumbent has gained the right of succession on the completion of “Ukomwen” and the Oba has subsequently confirmed the title on him. In modern times, such privileges like being member of the House of Chief, traditional member of Local Government Council, appointment to a statutory body and the receipt of any remuneration from public funds in the capacity of a title-holder cannot be enjoyed until the title is confirmed.

(b) Non –Hereditary Titles
Under the title is confirmed, such a tile- holder cannot enjoy the following;

(¡) During annual Ugie (festival), he will not receive the traditional Oba’s gifts of kola nuts, drinks, food, money, etc and cannot perform any traditional ceremonies bestowed on his chieftaincy title.

(¡¡) He cannot share in the title fees paid by title-holder.

(¡¡¡) He cannot share in the traditional gifts and offerings sent to his class of title-holder when the funeral ceremony of Izakhue of a deceased chief is performed.

(¡v) He cannot share in the incidental gifts and perquisites which the Oba bestows.

(v) The modern right like being a member of the House of Chief or Traditional Member of Local Government etc (As referred to in the case of a hereditary title-holder) cannot be enjoyed.

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