Ekaladerhan: The Story Of Two Kingdoms
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Written  by Edun Akenzua {Last Update August 2, 2022}

ABOUT 1,000 years ago, the people of Igodomigodo were embroiled in a political storm, which swept away their king. Expectedly, anarchy set in, bringing famine and pestilence in its wake. The land was devastated by strife. Fear held the people captive. The patriots among them decided to put an end to the chaos and set their country free. Since the turmoil was brought about by the loss of their king, they reasoned that the first step towards normality was the restoration of kingship. They decided to have another king. Indeed, monarchism was the one system of government they had known. It was the quintessence of their life. They sent a delegation to Uhe and requested the people of that country to give them a king.

A request for help or favour from one nation to another is a frequent occurrence in present-day diplomacy. But in the days of yore, when there was no intercourse between nations, such a straightforward and apparently friendly gesture was inconceivable.

In the particular case of Igodomigodo and Uhe, questions are raised to which no objective or rational answers have been adduced. For instance, why did the people of Igodomigodo choose Uhe, instead of another country, which is perhaps nearer, to go and request for a king? The more one ponders over that question, the more intriguing it seems.

In the 10th century, when the event took place, Uhe had no record of a ruler, let alone a famous one, from whom neighbouring countries could make such a request. But there is evidence in both Igodomigodo and Uhe that the request was made. That simple fact has become the origin of a puzzle and, perhaps, of the oldest poser in inter-state relations in African history.

The question is not about whether or not the relationship between the two African countries existed; its existence has been proved beyond a doubt by anthropological and folkloric evidence. Songs and rituals are performed in both countries today which eulogize the link with nostalgia, relish and pride. The question is, how is it possible for a country to seek succour from another about whose existence it does not know?

Igodomigodo is present-day Benin, Uhe, Ile-Ife or simply, Ife
No wonder, the Ooni of Ife, while receiving the Oba of Benin who paid him a state visit at Ife on November 11, 1982, described the Oba’s visit as a “short home-coming” . The Ooni spoke with the pride of a father receiving a son who had made good abroad.

He said: “We welcome Your Royal Highness most heartily back to Ile-Ife, the cradle of our common culture, the origin of your dynasty and ours. Today is really a very good day for us in Ife and its environs because since you left in 89AD, we have come to know that your dynasty has performed wonderfully well.

“As we have mentioned briefly during our historic visit to your domain not too long ago, we said that we were there to pat you on the back for a job well done. Your present visit we regard as a short homecoming, where you will have an opportunity to commune with those deities you left behind. Now, my son and brother, long may you reign.”

The address made a clear and unequivocal allusion to the root of the controversy - the suggestion that the people of Benin, or at least, the Royal Family, owe their origin to Ile-Ife.

In the prelude of his response to the Ooni’s welcome address, the Oba of Benin tacitly rebutted the submission. The Oba said:

“If the Ooni of lfe calls the Oba of Benin his son and the Oba of Benin calls the Ooni of lfe his son, they are both right.

The Oba did not elaborate. But in the womb of that innocuous assertion is the foetus of a story, which had never been told in full. In both Benin and Uhe, the story is told with varying details. But all the variants have one constant theme: Benin did go to Ife to request for a king.

Now, as if to further compound the issue, the Oba of Benin says the Ooni of Ife may call him his son and he may call the Ooni his own son and that both of them would be right. How can two persons call each other son and both be right? An answer to this question may also answer other questions and give scholars an insight into the full story.

In writing the story, I did not set out deliberately to seek that answer. I simply attempted to narrate an event, which formed the base of several stories we were told as youngsters in Benin City. Although I did not go searching for the answer to the intriguing question, the book seems to provide it.

The events narrated in this story significantly changed the way of life of the people of Benin and had a stupendous impact on their history.

The hypothesis postulated in Ekaladerhan will rattle many an established thesis or legend. Assessors and curators who have hung on to some primordial beliefs may find that those beliefs are challenged. I make no apologies. I believe that the time has come when chroniclers must tell stories about Africa dispassionately if African history is to survive the hard and harsh scrutiny of modern researchers and assessors.

Ekaladerhan is not the first time the Benin-Ife connection has been discussed. But it may be the first time it is discussed, as narrated in this book in a manner removed from the realm of mythology, esotericism and magic. If Ekaladerhan has helped in placing this event into focus, it shall have contributed its bit to man’s knowledge and understanding of his world.

THE Odionmwan, his aides, Omokpaomwan and Osifo, were summoned to appear before Owodo at noon. It means there was a job to be done. The presence of condemned men in the prison cells usually indicated that an execution was imminent. But there was no prisoner in the cell. So why had they been invited?

Nevertheless, they brought out the whetstone, some lime and ash and began to sharpen and polish their swords.

Executioners were remembered only when an execution was to be carried out. As they speculated, a man appeared. He was in his mid-50s. The look in his eyes revealed that something bothered him. The Odionmwan and his aides exchanged meaningful glances and stopped their conversation. The intruder understood. He had seen them in that position several times before. They confirmed what he already knew.

The man began to speak.

“Citizens of Igodo, I salute you. Who’s it today?”

The executioners exchanged glances again. They remained silent. Executioners were not men of many words; they were so conditioned by their grisly calling. Besides, there was tension in Igodomigodo. Citizens were gripped by fear. A careless talk could cost their life. The intruder began to speak again

“Citizens, the sky is over-cast. Heavy rain is about to fall. Great wind shall blow and sweep away pebbles as if they were dried leaves. If fire consumes the tortoise, which is clad in a steel jacket, the hen that wears a feathery coat must keep a safe distance from the fire. These are bad times. When a cow devours its own calf, those who do not sleep with one eye open shall be carried away in their sleep.

“What is the meaning of this, young man?” The Odionmwan asked. “I do not understand your parables.”
“Sons of Igodo, the mouth should not always tell all that the eyes beheld or the ears heard. My eyes have seen but my tongue is too heavy to speak.”
“Then go your way,” Osifo said impatiently.
“We have not asked to be told anything. Go your way. We do not wish to hear that which will scald our ears.

“No, I shall not go. I wish to tell. The burden a man bears alone may break his neck. Moreover, one’s mouth is left in the custody of the person in whom one has confided. I shall speak. But before I do, with the permission of the Odionmwan, you will take an oath not to divulge what I shall say.”
“An oath? We do not ask to be told anything. Go your way. We have a job to do,” Osifo said.
“No. Young man, do not go,” said the Odionmwan. “We wish to hear what you know and understand what you have been saying in parables. After all, access to information nurtures wisdom. We shall take the oath.”
“You will have to take the oath alone,” said Osifo. “No one breezes in just like that and subjects me to oath-taking. God forbid.”
“Be quiet, Osifo,” said the Odionmwan, “I have spoken. We shall take the oath.”
“Alright then,” Osifo said, yielding to his boss.
“What shall we swear by?”
“Put your swords together,” the intruder said.

He untied one edge of his cloth and, brought out a kolanut and some ehien-edo. With the tip of the sword, he incised his arm; blood oozed out. He asked the others to do likewise. He plucked a coco-yam leaf and collected the blood from the four of them onto it. He broke the kolanut, dipped the pieces in the blood and placed them on the sword. Then, he added three ehien-edo seeds.”

The three men placed their hands on the swords and swore not to divulge the information they were about to be given. After the oath-taking, each man took a piece of the kolanut and one seed of the ehien-edo, chewed them and took a sip of water from a calabash which had been placed on the whetstone. The man began to speak.

“I was one of the four persons sent by Ogiso to the Oracle to find out why his wives could not bear children. Esagho was one of us. The Obiro revealed that a sorceress had cast the spell, which prevented them from bearing children. The sorceress must be destroyed and her blood sprinkled on the shrine of Olode.”

The man paused, looked about him, as if to ensure that no one was eaves-dropping. The forlorn look in his eyes showed the weight of the burden he bore. He continued to speak now almost in a whisper.
“The Obiro named the sorceress. ‘I can see the evil woman. She is trying to keep her face away from me but she can’t hide,’ the Obiro said. ‘Her name is Esagho, the Ogiso’s wife. Evil woman. Grand witch. She must be destroyed and her blood sprinkled on the shrine of Olode and on the courtyard of the harem!’ he said. He did not know that the woman sitting on the piece of log in front of his shrine was Esagho.

“We started for home. Thick clouds had gathered. There was a lightening, followed by a loud thunderclap. It looked as if the celestial bodies were at war.”

There was pain in his eyes as he recalled their experience. But he began to speak again.
“Terrible, terrible! I have never seen such heavenly fury! The breeze whistled; it seemed as if it wanted to talk. It tore down trees and anything on its path. Soon, it began to rain, as if there was a big hole in the sky”

Again, he paused and looked around him.
“We were walking in the rain-storm. There was no place to hide. Lightening flashes illuminated the sky intermittently. Suddenly, the storm ripped off Esagho’s cloth from her waist.

“Good grief! What is this? We lowered our faces in that semi-darkness. To our horror...” he lowered his voice into a whisper, counting his words, “She accused us of removing her cloth in an attempt to rape her. Ra-pe her! Rape the Ogiso’s wife! Do you hear that?

“It was only then we realised that the cloth that fell off her waist was a deliberate act, part of her ploy. She threatened to report the incident to the Ogiso unless we corroborated her account that it was Ekaladerhan the Oracle pronounced to die. We were dumb-founded.

“I charged at her ready to pluck her tongue out but my colleagues restrained me.

“We fell on our bellies, buried our faces in the mud and pleaded. But she did not yield. We knew no one would believe whatever we said or take our word for it. So, to save our necks, we gave in.”
He had become visibly agitated and passionate. He continued to speak

“We arrived. The Ogiso was waiting. Esagho told him that the Oracle proclaimed that Ekaladerhan was Alagbode. The Alagbode passed over the bridge and burnt it. The Alagbode must be sacrificed to the gods for Owode to have children. The implication of her devilish plot was more grotesque than we had imagined. The final chapter of that plot is what you are now preparing to write.”
“Osa n’Oghodua laho; Ghe gie ima mu ihe ere-o.”

“May the good lord save us from evil schemers,” Omokpaomwan prayed, his eyes red with suppressed tears.

“So the Prince is the victim?” Osifo asked.
“Did you say three of you accompanied Esagho to the Oracle? Where are the other two?” The Odionmwan asked.

“Yes. Osaghae and Osagiede were the others. They could not live with Esagho’s treachery. They drank from the poison chalice one after the other these last two years. God rest their souls. I have been waiting for this day, to tell what I know. Now, I have done that, am ready to die.”
“Good Heavens! I shall not be part of this devilish scheme. I shall not soil my hands with the blood of the innocent,” Osifo said spontaneously. He had made up his mind quickly.
“We must save the Prince.”

“How?” The Odionmwan asked, “by disobeying the Ogiso’s order?”
“Yes, we will take him somewhere, release him and let him wander away,” Osifo said.
“What happens to us when they find out what we have done?” asked Omokpaomwan.
“I don’t know, but it’s a chance we have to take,” said Osifo.
“And pay with our necks?” Omokpaomwan queried.
“If necessary, yes,” Osifo said resolutely.

Seeing that Osifo was dead serious, the Odionmwan turned to Omokpaomwan and asked:
“Do you see the virtue in Osifo’s suggestion?

“Not, really. Where will the Prince go? Does he become a fugitive at his tender age? In any case, the beasts of the forest will not give him a chance to survive. Rather than subject him to a slow, painful death, let us end it quickly for him. It will be like drinking the bitter medicine in order to cure an illness,” Omokpaomwan philosophised. But Osifo would not yield ground. He was determined to spare the boy’s life, even at the risk of losing his.

“Omokpaomwan, look at it this way,” he said. “If we spare him now, we give him a chance to survive, no matter how slim the chance. He will wander into the bush and, who knows, the gods may protect him. But if we execute him, we deny him of that chance. Even if he gets killed by an animal, what is important is that we do not have his blood on our hands,” Osifo said.

“The gods are just. If they did not ask for the Prince’s blood, they would protect him,” said the Odionmwan.

“Thank you, Enonwanren,” Osifo said triumphantly, “If Omokpaomwan wants the blood of the innocent on his conscience, I do not want it on mine. Omokpaomwan is already old. My children are all young.”

“We must protect this lad,” the Odionmwan said decisively.
“We all have sons. Who would not give his life to protect his son?”
The man who brought the information had been listening in silence as the three debated the topic. Now he began to speak.

“Gentlemen, I hoped you would react this way. I thank you. When the time comes, tell the boy the truth. The truth will galvanise his spirit and make him bold. It will give him courage and fortitude.”
“Let’s take an oath again to ensure that there is no traitor among us,” Osifo cuts in.

Again they laid their swords on the whetstone as they did before. Each man placed his hands on the swords and took the oath: “By the gods, I swear not to divulge our decision not to execute Ekaladerhan. If I do, may I become victim of the sword; my body, food for the birds; my branches obliterated from the surface of the earth.”

Each person again took a piece of kolanut and a seed of henien-edo, chewed them, and drank some water to wash them down.

“I will be with you through this and accomplish it before I die,” said the old messenger.
Ekaladerhan finished his meal. Okpomwan was clearing the plates.
“Hurry!” Ekaladerhan said, “let’s continue our hunting. The sun has already climbed high.”
“Okay”, Okpomwan answered,

“We have to get more lizards for the cats.” There was a knock at the door.

“Who is it?” Okpomwan asked.

“Open the door for Uk’Ogiso. We have brought a message for the Prince,” Odionmwan said.
“Welcome, Elders,” Ekaladerhan said. “The ofionto is not often seen at day time. What is the purpose of your visit?”

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