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{Last Update August 3, 2022}

Locating Benin Kingdom in contemporary considerations present quite an easy task because over the past centuries quite a lot no doubt have been documented to eliminate the tendency of disputations that arise when sentiments, social and political considerations influence oral traditions. Yet it becomes more Difficult to isolate the Edo person in the milieu of cultural conglomeration and inter-twining traditions, which the Nigerian peoples overtime have come to contend with. Nonetheless, attempt shall be made to distinguish a unique group which is expected by my mandate at this event to be considered as “custodian of African Traditional Heritage”; the Benin Kingdom.

Dr. P. Amaury Talbot confirmed in his book People of Southern Nigeria that, “about the seventh millennium BC, a further wave of Sudanic people began to pour in, first the Edo (Benin), Ewe (Popo) and then the Ibo, followed maybe about the second millennium BC by the earliest Yoruba”. Again that, “This Edo speaking group of people covers an area extending from the broken, hilly country that borders the Igbirra and Igala in the north to the edge of the coastal swamp forest in the south, ‘where their neighbors are the Ijo and ltsekiri. Their other boundaries are with the Yoruba to the West and the Ibo to the East”, this is according to Prof. .A. F. C. Ryder in his book Benin and the Europeans 1485 — 1897.

From the foregoing, a group distinct obviously by its language and linguistic evidence of spread started evolving, however, Dr. R. E Bradbury was to indicate, three important characteristics of social organization that distinguished all their (Edo) Communities whether large or small. The village settlement is everywhere as the basic political unit; within the village, the male population is organized into age- grades — usually three in number which represent the fundamental .pattern of authority; and in their kinship and lineage organization, there is a marked patrilineal bias and an emphasis upon primogeniture. With time, this relatively simple pattern of organization became over laid by the development of kingship, title systems and more complex political units. Thus, merger of the peoples’ origin and the emergence of Kingship deserve special notice because the organized society of identified leadership did not just occur but through diligent co-existence which engendered the necessity for an acceptable leader. Consequently, the evolutionary development of Benin kingship can be attributed to the intermingling of autochthones and migrants, which history has helped to investigate because it stresses the continuity of human capriciousness from generation to generation.

Benin kingdom as “Custodian” immediately attracted search for proper interpretation, which Webster’s Universal Encyclopedic Dictionary provided as, “one that guards and protects or maintains especially one entrusted with guarding and keeping property or records”. Since Benin Kingdom has been recorded to have had 31 Ogisos that ruled between 40 BC and 11 00 AD and the second Oba dynasty from 1 200 AD to present day, the consideration of Benin as “Custodian” can hardly be subjected to further scrutiny, especially as the sequence of rites, rituals and ceremonies have remained virtually unchanged and unadulterated by contending factors and circumstances. What then can be ascribed to this resounding success in tenacity and resilience? This at once leads to the word, Heritage, which means, “Something transmitted to an heir through descent or acquired from a predecessor. Tradition wise, something possessed as a result of one’s natural situation or birth”, (read also “birthright”). t must therefore, analyze  what in Benin cosmology and its application constitute a heritage that no doubt has attracted world acknowledgement and renown culminating in virtually every day reference in African traditional circles.

Early Benin Rulers prior to the development of the Ogieship ¡n Benin Village Communities operated a kind of gerontocratic government and organized age grade system for the day to day administration of the village just in the same manner the leadership of the city — state evolved. About one hundred villages have hereditary dukedoms headed by Enogie (Enigie) who are descendants from Sons of the different Ogisos and Obas.

The Ogisos used to send .their sons out to rule over villages and they continued to owe homage and allegiance to each succeeding Ogiso as their father and overlord. This example was followed by the Obas; descending from Omonoyan (Oranmiyan) in the second period. At this juncture, mention would be made of the heritage implications involving the emergence of the Benin Prince lkaladerhan who in lle-Ife after his travails and ordeal adopted the name Imadoduwa (which was corrupted to Oduduwa).

The ease with which he organized leadership and administration at Ife was unarguably a replication of the long-standing and existing administrative order whence he departed. The more than three centuries of Ogisos’ reign and the tradition of organized leadership long perfected in Benin societies readily carne in handy which culminated ¡n his easy acceptance as community leader hitherto unknown to his hosts, which ¡inevitably culminated into his being recognized as first traditional ruler of the place now called IIe-lfe. The Benin peoples’ heritage therefore can be said to have begun its long journey of affecting and influencing many more people and even races outside Edoland as shall be seen later.

As incongruous as it may seem, the unapologetic male dominated society of Benin had quite early acknowledged and appreciated the place of the woman in nation building and have remained gender sensitive if not widely publicized. According to Egharevba in A Short History of Benin, Adeleyo was the daughter of Ewuare the Great (1440 AD) and sister of Olua. She was rich and almost as powerful as the Oba. She was about to be made Oba, but owing to a feminine indisposition, it was enacted that women should not be allowed to reign in Benin anymore. Of the 31 Ogisos recorded in history two were women but the loss of Obaship was partially compensated for ¡n appointment into important positions; specifically the Queen Mother. About three years after the ascension of every Oba of Benin, he formally ¡invests his mother with the title of Iyoba and sends her to reside at lower Uselu in Egua-Iyoba (the Queen Mother’s Court). Oba Esigie first did this and his mother, Idia, was the first holder of the title. This same Idia, carved in ivory Mask has taken the world literally by storm and has become the most outstanding figure representing Benin art form. In fact, anywhere in the world that the mask is displayed without other explanations at once depicts the presence of Benin or any of its component parts.

nspire of these, the Benin Kingdoms chieftaincy hierarchy is developed along strong masculine possessions to assist the Oba in administration in well defined strata of major, minor and ‘aspirant’ title holders. They include: the Uzama Nihinron (Seven Councilors of State, also called king makers, but who in effect only perform the rituals and crowning of the king; because in Benin, kingship is divine) and their leader is the Oliha. Following this is the Uzama Nibie (Uzama Minor) who may function in place of an Uzama when the substantive is unavoidably absent. Eghaevbo N’ore constitutes the Executive Council of about twenty-eight titled chiefs with the lyase (Prime Minister) as leader of the group that has Esogban, Eson and Osuma as the most senior titles alongside himself. lyoba N’Uselu belongs to this group and is ranked same as Eson and Osuma. Other administrative sections with their heads include:

- The Edogun who heads Ekaiwe — matrilineal members of the Royal family conferred with Titles.
-The Uwangue heads the House of Iwebo — keepers of the Regalia and Royal Wardrobe.

- The Esere heads the House of lweguae the Oba’s household functionaries.

-The Ine is head of the House of Ibiwe keepers of the harem but usually the Oba’s wives are placed in the charge of Osodin who is head of the Eruerie section of the palace.

-Odionwere heads the lwegie and Ebo — the senior royal doctors and diviners.

- Eguezigbon is head of the Ewaise — the junior doctors and diviners.

-Ihama heads the lhogbe — worshippers of the Oba’s ancestors and recorders of the departed Oba’s, official chroniclers of events.
-Ogiefa-Nozeben Ieads the Efa the sanctifiers or purifiers of the palace, and worshippers of the gods of the earth.
-Okavbiogbe heads the commissioners of Lands, Police and Town criers who announce new laws and other pronouncements.
-Okaeben heads the Eben quarters / guild who inter the remains of the Obas.

- Odionwere leads the Ogbelaka who are the Royal Bards.
-Ine-Nigun heads the lgun-eronmwon, the Royal l3rasssmiths.
- Eholo leads the.Igbesanmwan, the Royal Carvers.
- Omuemu heads the Ikpema, the Royal Drummers who together with the lkpeziken, lgbemaba and lkpakohen (the fife players) and the Isekpokin (Leather-Box makers) are under the Iwebo palace society.
- Amaghizemwen heads the Isiemwenro who are the executioners.
- Ehondo ¡s head of the Iwe-aranmwen, who kills the sacrificial victims. .

I have made this near exhaustive listing to indicate that a corps of well-defined personnel and responsibilities executed the clay-to-day administration of the kingdom.
The ancient form of government of Benin was for the most part democratic. The Oba has his seat at Benin City and his decision in any matter was unalterable. The government was administered in the Oba’s name by the Uzama-Nihinron and the Eghaevbo, assisted by the leaders of the houses of Iwebo, Iweguae and Ibiwe and others specifically appointed. Beside these great Chiefs were other chiefs known as Ukoniwebo, Ukoniweguae and Ukonurhoeríe who had judicial authority in civil and criminal cases.

At the height of the Benin Empire in the 16 century, it extended to Otun, (the boundary between Oyo Empire and Benin Empire) in the North, the sea in the South, Asaba and Onitsha in the East and Eko (Lagos) in the West with a strong presence in Bonny and Ahoada. The entire present day Edo, Delta and Bayelsa States were mostly likewise administered centrally, however, civil cases were tried by the Chiefs in their own districts, but cases of treason and disputes between rival claimants to stools or succession were brought to the Oba’s Council ¡n Benin City.

By this arrangement, various chiefs held positions of district heads in the numerous districts between 1897 and 1936 including Chief Orhue, the Obobaifo who was District Head, Benin Districts from 1933 to ‘1935 (my own great grandfather — Egharevba 1953). It must be noted that in December 1 935, the Oba (Akenzua II) was invited by the Chief Commissioner, Mr. W. E. Hunt to visit Enugu and in 1936; a re-organization of the Native Administration was made while the Oba abolished the District Headship so ended the Native Administration that had lasted forty years.

Meanwhile, in August 1916, Omo N’Oba Eweka II, had constituted the “Oba’s Judicial Council which firmly established the Benin Native Administration, the Iyase (Obaseki) and Uwangue (Egiebo) were sent to Zaria to see the workings of the Native Administration of the North. Erewa, the District interpreter, accompanied them while later on the Oba’s Judicial Council was made a Court of Appeal. This in essence demonstrates the humility of the Edo to acquire knowledge in areas of deficiency for enhanced performance and the open mindedness to utilize every resource; be it human or otherwise for the overall well being and advancement of society.

Justice delivery event in the Ogiso era through the era of the Obas has been uniform throughout the empire and the kingdom. The punishment meted out to offenders depending on the seriousness or gravity of the crime committed was strictly enforced, no matter who was involved. The decision of edionwere or the Council of Elders, or the Chief Priests in judgment involving capital punishment were strictly enforced according to the law of the land. Besides murder and manslaughter, other crimes like arson, theft and adultery, which could be atoned for with money and fines were proportioned to the offences while rape, seduction, abortion were alt punishable by flogging and fines. There was no prison for offenders found guilty until 1255 AD when Oba Ewedo built the first prison that endured till the British invasion of 1897. In response to contemporary judicial procedure however, Oba Eweka II in May 1915 sent Chiefs lyase (Obaseki) and Obazuaye to Lagos to testify that Lagos had been founded by Oba Orhogbua of Benin and that the first EIeko was infect his grandson. Thus, the traditional judicial system was fluid enough not to have been taken by surprise by the emergent European system of adjudication, which the people already quite used to law and order, fell in line with easily.

Interestingly, on May 26, 2009, this speaker was at the palace of the Oba of Benin and observed a group of women shouting at the entrance to the outer Reception Hall, “emwen Oba rhe mwunu” — meaning, “We have words for the Oba’s ears”. They obviously would receive attention attesting to the prime position of the Oba s Council as an appellate option in all judicial matters whether of old or now! “Eguae emwen se.

Commerce which in essence is the exchange or buying and selling of commodities on a large or small scale most times involve transportation from place to place; and this has been engaged in even before formal conglomeration of communities that became known as Benin Kingdom. However, the Benin traders obtained goods and food items especially fish from neighboring peoples, whereas long distant markets were mainly for luxury goods and industrial raw materials. Coral beads, agate (Ekan), copper with alloys, cowries; carne from as far afield as Bida, Ilorin, Kano and lgboland through lllah port. Other trade routes and river ports were Urhonigbe, Ologbo, Ughoton, koko most of which were known and called canoe ports. Slaves were never traded in Benin Kingdom in the pre-Oba era but were used as domestic servants.

Trade at the initial periods was mainly based on barter and later cowries dominated the areas as their currency. Markets then developed which were and are still held every five days until the last century when many daily markets sprang up owing to expanding commercial activities arising from urbanization and cosmopolitanism. Law and order in markets was the responsibilities of Market Master(s) (Eghaiki) who kept peace and settled disputes and also ensured that rules and regulations were strictly followed in the markets. Recently however, some miscreants have virtually through use of intimidation, brute and despicable tactics colonizes most urban markets and converted them to personal or family estates where they extort money from traders and buyers without let or hindrance.

Transportation was ‘mostly on land as there were few rivers; and traders either carried their goods themselves or employed the services of porters. Later, slaves accompanied their masters on trade routes while some animals became useful, notably the Elephants. The use of Elephants was mainly for the King, which was used to carry logs that were meant for building, particularly palace roof. These same Elephants provided the tusks that were beautifully carved by the Igberanmwan Guild, which was later to bountifully popularize the kingdom in the Queen Idia mask, “FESTAC MASK”. Then the motor road from Benin City to Sapele was opened for traffic in 1915 and in that same year, a motorcar was first brought to Benin while motor roads to Ifon and Asaba were completed following year. Thus the commercial activities occasioned by faster means of transportation blossomed in Benin Kingdom.

Hardly can there be discussion about Benin without explaining the how and why it achieved so much fame and recognition from among her neighbours and abroad. Most of the Obas declared War against some neighbours or towns about three years after their ascension. After a new Oba had visited the Aruosa shrines at Ogbelaka, Idumwerie and Akpakpava, chalk; as a sign of rejoicing would be sent to all the ruling princes (Efigie, Obis or Ezes, Owas and Olojas) of the Empire. If anyone dared to refuse to accept this sacred chalk (orhue) he was counted as a rebel and war was at once declared against him. The resultant altercation would then lead to the town or enemy being captured, its ruler would be executed (for mutiny precisely) or brought to the Oba in Benin City, who might pardon him or install another member of the same family in his place.

The Iyase of Benin was the Commander-In Chief of the warriors and the Ezomo came next, then the Ologbosere, Imaran (Ima), Edogun and others. If the lesser generals could not conquer any town, the lyase would be sent but he would not be allowed to return to Benin City but would remain in one of the Benin towns as a ruler. However, no other Iyase would be appointed until after his death. This organizes traditional administrative system leaves no room for conflict or duplication of roles or duties, therefore, Africans nay the world had a lot to learn  by experience borrowed or deliberately acquired through formal education from Benin Kingdom as quite a lot had been written even by Europeans on Benin.

Unarguably, the Benin kingdom’s tenacity of traditions experienced its most testing period during the interregnum between Ogiso Owodo and the coming of Ikaladerhan. There were the traditional Royalists — a group of people who wanted the kingship to continue and their leader was the Oliha of the Edionisen. The continuation of kingship they reasoned would guarantee stability whereas; slave trade would resurface ¡f power were to be given to an ordinary man. They contended that land ownership and wealthy nobles would confiscate the commoners’ property and there would be segregation in the kingdom. They then perfected plans to bring back lkaladerhan, perhaps also to guarantee their own hereditary chieftaincy positions, but indeed stability was restored in the kingdom.

It is instructive to note therefore, that what the Benin kingdom’s Edionisen prospectively foresaw ¡n the 12 century and effectively forestalled came to be in the 20th century after the British ravaged Benin City and deposed her king. The republicans hated the kingship system because power was in the hand of only one family and whenever the crown fell either on the hand of a weak king or a tyrant, there was always hostility leading to wars destroying lives and property and threatening the nation. They felt that kings are despotic. The interregnum of 1130-1170 AD provided the republicans the needed opportunity to force a plutocratic administration on Benin and Ogiamien as a nobleman, aristocratic, polished and an articulate gentleman easily gained acceptance and he ruled for forty years.

The coming of Omonoyan (Oromiyan) however, conclusively Gut short this republican idea and the monarchy, which has existed to the present 38 Oba of Benin was restored, jealously guarded and sustained. Oba ghato, Okpere. ise. The Oba and chiefs still play an important role in the life of the Edo people as they are still very much responsible for the maintenance of peace among the people. The Oba and Chiefs perform this duty through the Benin Traditional Council, which is recognized by the Government and gazette. The most striking heritage therefore is the 800 years old traditional system that is still very relevant while another priceless legacy remains the guild system, which produced the Benin Art, is not replicated anywhere else to my knowledge.

Davis Williams in Iron and Image 1974 as quoted by Ena Eweka noted the differences in the casting processes of Benin and Ife bronzes. The techniques of bronze-casting as well as Benin Art itself one may conclude, is really not that of Ife Origin. The fact that the art of bronze casting is still being vigorously practiced in Benin today, fortifies the belief that bronze casting is a heritage subsisting in Benin from time immemorial. The various guilds in Benin were really formed to protect these ancient art cultures.

A major source of strength of the Benin Empire and Later the kingdom was its religion which helped to ensure stability and enhance the well being of the people. The religion of Benin from which festivals evolved derived from the two dwelling places known in Benin cosmogony as heaven (spirit world) and earth (erinmwin and agbon). The concept of “hell” was only ¡introduced by the Christian religion and the closest the Benin belief got to punishment from earthly human interaction was for the culprit or victim to have been taken by the god of death “ogiuwi’. The creation of erihmwin and agbon are said to have been the handiwork of Osalobua who incidentally is not worshipped directly except through the other deities who are subdivided into two categories; Ebo and Ihen. The former represents the general name for major deities while the latter ¡s for people; human beings who were deified after their death. However, ancestor worship does not quite fit into either of the two categories, as it is generally known as erinmwin Spirit of the departed.

Many of the administrative functionaries have been known to be priests of various temples taking a cue from what could be described as the pantheon — Iso Temple. Though the Oliha was in charge of the Iso Temple, located at Ugbekun (present day Upper Sokponba), it was the Ohen-Iso (priest of Iso) that was the keeper. The Iso Temple combines the nature elements namely the sky, water, wind, sun and fire, which influence everyone without exception and had its own divination or oracular system. The general divination and oracular system included: Iha Ominigbon and Ifa Orunmila (an importation from the West) in which seeds or plates are used usually sixteen or eight respectively. Obiro that relies on hypnotism to achieve results rather .than go-to-heaven as propagated and then the Ewawa system uses a tongue less bell, a frame, various small objects and a drum and kola nuts. Theses oracular divinations played important roles in Benin Society as they helped the people to organize their lives, douse tensions and avert disasters and problems that in no small measure ensured social stability and cohesion.

However, God has never been disputed in Benin cosmology as the Supreme Being, creator and sustainer of the universe; who planted men with enough intelligence to awaken the universe and commune with it. Because of man’s special place in the universe, he puts the universe at man’s own disposal by physical, mystical and religious means. The Benin man’s idea of divinity, spirits and the living dead culminated in the structuring of his cosmology to accommodate the personifications of natural objects and phenomena. Therefore, many of the spirits acquired the status of the remaining portion of human beings that lived once and have since died but remain depicted in festivals, masquerades and rituals.

The most popular surviving festival in Benin Kingdom no doubt is the “Ugie” celebrated towards the end of each year, which involved such activities as Igue, Ewere, Omobo, Ugierhaoba and numerous indoor rites and rituals. Outside Benin City there are such festivals as Ebomisi in Ugo, Ake in Isi, Ovato in Igieduma among others while every family performs Eho; and lguedohia is by every Benin citizen in their individual homes to give thanks to Almighty God.

It is a matter of great concern and monumental regret that influence of the invading foreign cultures on the Benin traditional heritage has manifested so devastatingly. The last time some observances and detailed celebrations were held in respect of some festivals was before the British invasion of Benin Kingdom in February 1897. In retrospect, part of the treaty which Oba Qvoranmwen was made to sign in 1892 was that, “all forms of religious worship and religious ordinances may be exercised within the territories of the aforesaid king (Qvonramwen), and no hindrance shall be offered thereto”, but in reality, it was at great risk and discomfort to carry on with normal traditional practices and observances. The British found it apparently necessary to attack Benn religious practices, which amounted to an attack on the Benin divine monarchy.

The ground work for the onslaught of foreign ideas and practices having been thus laid, one hundred years later it is remarkable what impact the indiscriminate assimilation of foreign elements has on the Benin indigenous cultural life. Institutions like education, marriage, the family system and even the Benin man’s patterns of behaviour have been fatally invaded by foreign influences which have intensified the crisis in our social life today. The magnitude of delinquent behaviour; both adult and juvenile (including some exceptional cases of titled  persons) and other social vices expressed ¡n different forms of deviant social behaviour such as bribery and corruption are the unfortunate effects of me culture conflict.

The Benin man’s basic needs and capacity for development and education is nothing but substantially evolutionary, therefore stagnation and isolation would amount to decay or death. Consequently, even in the intense tradition bound society, we daily experience a cultural assimilation (formal or informal) of or exposure to local and foreign cultural values fostered by soda and economic changes. Challenges to traditional heritage took root. The overbearing presence of the British and allied laws was bound to fundamentally alter the psyche and orientation of the Benin. Kingdom and indeed it really did. In 1917 all the Enigie and Obis came to Benin City to pay homage to the Oba but the Government would not allow them to pay the customary tribute being the third year of Omo N’Oba Eweka II on the throne. In another instance, the Water Rate agitation which took place 1 937 39 organized by the Benin Tax-payers Association under the leadership of Chief Okoro-Otun (the Iyase), Omoruyi (the Ezomo) and Erebo (the Osadin) with Mr. H. O. Uwaifo as the General Secretary was not only against the payment of the water rate but that the Tenement Scheme was signed by the Oba (Oba Akenzua II ) without their knowledge or consultation. What sacrilegious impudence Yet such up heavals prevailed only because the British had attenuated the powers of the monarchy that much.

At the cultural level, morning salutations that at once identified each citizen to a family became replaced with “Good morning” stuff while names flew in from ah parts of the globe. A “William McPherson” could very well be a Benin man for all intents and purposes. Then the level to which the Oba’s status and by implication the Benin man’s fanatical attachment to divine monarchy was debased in 1923 and 1924. The Oba was falsely accused, of having killed one of his wives as sacrifice, but after a long search by the Oba, she was found at Effurun ¡n the Warri district having been seduced by an Urhobo man. Though the writer of the libelous letter against the Oba was fined 5O (Fifty Pounds) on March 7, 1925, the damage was overwhelming as the Oba’s vulnerability before the British law was exposed while the Institution became greatly demystified.

Challenges to cultural and traditional legacies continued and it is to be expected if painfully; as the society was bound to move gradually along the same lines of development ¡n Europe or America — from the community to the mass; the growth of education and technology, the passage from a subsistence economy based on communal participation, to a money economy with emphasis On surplus and profit. As with others, the movement of Iabour and creation of urban centers ¡n which different ethnic groups meet and mingle have combined with the pressure of Western ideas to weaken the old communal ties and sanctions and foster ¡increasing class differentiation and social tension among the people.

Preserving the Benin Art and existing pieces has proved the most challenging since the past 100 years. Nigeria requires any person planning to export an art object at to obtain a permit certifying that it is a non-antiquity at the museum. However, the professional dealers from abroad and their African associates continue to ignore these legal prohibitions. As early as 1963, the Daily Times of Lagos editorialized that customs officials “are not being vigilant enough”, calling for greater vigour and vigilance on the part of these officials to ensure that, “this nation is not totally deprived of these valuable materials which are part and parcel of our heritage and that of generations unborn”. A feeble attempt at safeguarding art worldwide was the United Nation’s Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) Convention of 1970, which sought the means of Prohibiting and preventing the legal import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Besides, these deliberate pillaging activities, inadequate knowledge about conservation accounts for another great loss of the Benin Kingdom’s artistic heritage. Works done in wood required special handling but before trained museum curators could exercise knowledge in this wise, many ancient art pieces had been lost to termites, debilitating moulds and rot due lo exposure to ¡inclement weather conditions and even the use of some otherwise valuable pieces as firewood!

Oral traditions, which for centuries constituted the literary mainstay, s fast losing credibility and dying naturally, especially in the absence of traditional griots that have kept the faith from generation to generation. The Benin traditional architecture easily identified with the horizontal stripes on walls of Chiefs and nobles is significant and not replicated anywhere else too. So also are the vertical and horizontal flutings of walls and especially columns and pillars that are virtually becoming non-existent these days. These had the potentials of outward manifestations of the ‘Iwu’ body markings, which nonetheless contemporary appreciation of aesthetics would have considered incongruous with present day physical requirements in a beauty queen.

In spite of the foregoing painful loss of substantial heritage characteristics, it is gratifying to note that the resilience of the Benin Traditional values can be quite rightly reference to as Benin being the custodian of African traditional heritage. As a custodian, which is a tall order no doubt, I shall go ahead and analyses how well Benin Kingdom has resisted ah the invading cultural and administrative concepts and continue to maintain a clearly visible Benin agenda and procedures.

One of the most outstanding physical structures that Benin could be described by is the presence of the MOAT System that was dug around the Empire in response to exigencies. Various reasons of defense, emigration and of course drainage have been adduced and in effect the deep trenches served all the purposes and more. The “Guinness Year Book” has described the Benin Moat as the second largest man-made earthwork in the world next only to the Great Wall of China.

Numerous art objects ¡including thousands of carved elephant tusks were looted by British soldiers and now remain dispersed throughout the world. Museums and private collectors in Belgium, England, Germany, Holland, Sweden, Russia, United States of America, Austria, Switzerland and many other nations hold these art works that have earned Benin Kingdom the epitome of one of the greatest artistic race in the world.

Ada and Eben are scepters and emblems of authority first introduced by Ogiso “Ere” about 16 AD — 66 AD. While every titled Chief in Benin is given the ‘Eben’ as a confirmation of his title, the Ada is not given except that it can be delegated to any high ranking Chief such as the Uzama or Enigie who may have it and use inside their domains but not to the Oba’s palace. The Emada pages however only carry Ada during public appearances of the Oba and the Oba can never appear even in his palace without it.

Heredity and primogeniture are two basic concepts widely practiced in Benin though not exclusively, however, the influence of Benin in its practice within the neighbours cannot be disputed. Some of these values can be seen in the extensive work of Prof. Peter P. Ekeh when he prosopographically located the waves of movement of the Urhobo from Benin securely in the Ogiso era. Hence the conclusion that most of the original pre-Obaship Edo language and traditions can still be found in the Urhobo language and life of today representing an empirical heritage spread.

In conclusion, and with the hindsight that tourism development strategies informed this seminar, 1 must reach far back enough to effectively extricate ourselves from the diplomatic subjugation imposed on Nigeria since the past one hundred and fifty years. The Governors of the settlement of Lagos began being appointed in 1 862 up to 1885 while High Commissioners of Oil Rivers Protectorate began 1891 with Major c. M. MacDonald, then Sir Frederick K. Lugard in 1912 who transformed as First Governor of the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria. In all these, there was no corresponding appointment of Nigerians as ‘representatives in London. Whereas, Oba Orhogbua, the son of Oba Esigie of Benin studied in Lisbon, Portugal while an Ambassador of Benin Empire was already firmly stationed, representing the Oba. In our local parlance, I would say, “Nigeria fall Benin hand” Therefore, Nigeria should ensure her development through a national, coherent and effective Tourism Development Plan that must make the Nigerian, his values and culture the object of this plan.

People have said a lot since the last two decades about restitution or the return of stolen works of art from Benin and other plundered places but it is unquestionable that only diplomatic sagacity can yield results. In 1938, Omo N’Oba Akenzua II regained the Coral Regalia of Oba Ovonranmwen from the British government, but as regards the pieces of art; the museums that exhibit these works for commercial purposes should be made to repatriate a certain percentage of their ¡income to the original owners of these pieces. It is painful to self-confess that their safety can hardly be guaranteed if returned, therefore, since we lacked the sincerity to adequately account for the hundreds of pieces that have disappeared from our possession since after the British; we hardly deserve to have them for now.

Finally, 1 can only paraphrase the dictum of the great Indian patriot Rabindranath Tagore, “we can only play host to the world by not disowning our home, our own culture. But it ethnic culture with its inevitable component of self-praise and social chauvinism still has validity in the modern world, we cannot deny equal or even greater validity to national and human culture”.

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