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The Correct History OSAH and OSUAN Chieftaincy Titles

(Last Update July 12, 2020)

By Ekhaguosa Aisien (Last update 30-08-2018)

The Osah and Osuan chieftaincy titles were created by Oba Fwuare. Their creation is further evidence that Christianity was preached, and perhaps practiced, in Benin during his reign. ¡am of the opinion that these two chieftaincy titles are Christianity-derived J. U. Egharevba, the father of Benin historiography, relates that these two personalities the Osah
and the Osuan — came to Benin City during the reign of Ewuare.
Chiefs Osah (right) and Osuan (left)
The chief characteristic associated with these two important palace chiefs was the drinking of human blood and the eating of human flesh. And these chiefs did this only as an integral part of the function which they performed for the palace during those ceremonies designed to open the doors of abundance and peace for the kingdom.

This strange predilection associated with these two chiefs, a predilection to which they owe the honour in which they are held by the whole of the kingdom. a predilection which they mandatorily had to indulge in if they were correctly to carry out the ceremonial functions assigned to them — was, without doubt, a bastardization of the Christian Eucharist, a macabre and literary interpretation of the Holy Communion ceremony performed by the Portuguese Reverend Fathers in the palace of Oba Ewuare. in the Holy Communion ceremony, the flesh of Jesus the Christ ritually has to be eaten, and his blood ritually drunk, in

order to obtain the forgiveness of the sins of those taking part in the ceremony.

The Osah and Osuan chiefs, I believe, represent the Roman Catholic Reverend Fathers from the Church in Sao Tome, or possibly from Lisbon itself, who, at the Holy Altar set up in Ewuare’s palace, celebrated the Eucharist, ritually eating the flesh, and then drinking the blood of Jesus the Christ, so that the doors of the grace of Heaven might be opened to bless the Oba and the Benin Kingdom.

On  “The Evolution of Benin Chieftaincy Titles”, Prince Ena Eweka writes that one of the stories relating to these two chiefs, the Osah and the Osuan states that they came to Benin from the Benin river, through Ughoton. That is, they came from across the seas, and that Osuan arrived in Benin three months before Osah who “arrived later lo join his brother Osuan”. These two were almost certainly Portuguese Reverend Fathers sent to Benin from the Church in Sao Tome by the Portuguese Bishop of that Island colony to pursue the proselytisation of the Benin kingdom.

Osah was probably a senior priest in the Prefecture of Sao Tome, from where they both came, because when Osah alternately arrived in Benin, he took over the leadership of the Benin missionary enterprise from Osuan, who had arrived a little earlier to prepare the grounds for their missionary activities, preparations like the procurement of suitable accommodation., and the building of a place of worship, etc.

In addition to being Roman Catholic priests — or more correctly, because they were Roman Catholic Priests — these two personalities belonged, in their time, to some of the most highly educated bodies in the world — the priesthood of the Roman Catholic Church trained in the Roman Catholic monasteries of Christendom. The Priests were knowledgeable in the Sciences, in Medicine, Philosophy, and in the other religions of the world, in addition to their own. They were masters in the knowledge of the Botany and the Zoology of their environment, in whatever part of the world they lived and worked.

The Jesuit priests working in Chile, South America, introduced the native South American herbal drug, quinine, to Europe. The drug made possible the later colonization of most parts of the world by the Europeans in that it protected the colonialists from the deadly malarial attacks in the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world.

Gregor Mendel was an Austrian Roman Catholic priest of the 19th century. It was in his monastery in Austria that he founded the modem science of Genetics by his discovery, through experimentation with plants in his monastery garden of the scientific laws of heredity, resulting in the modem application of the D.N.A. in medical and forensic fields.

In Ewuare’s time, Osah, the Roman Catholic Priest, was additionally a surgeon who treated wounds and fractures, whether they were war-wounds or domestic injuries. Where he looked after his surgical patients is now represented by the UWEN shrine, in IGUN Street. Benin City.

Osuan was the Roman Catholic Priest who additionally practiced midwifery, coping with the problems of those Benin City women who were experiencing difficulties in child-birth. Where he carried out his practice is now represented by the ORA shrine, also in Igun Street.

It is revealing to note that these two medical treatment shrines exist together in the same premises in IGUN Street. We must conclude that the premises were most probably the site of the first Medical Centre or Hospital run by Europeans in Benin.

According to Ena Eweka, the shrines UWEN and ORA are coir-jointly called:

Ebo n’Edo,

Which could roughly be transited as?
“The European-run Curative Centre in Benin “— in modern parlance: “The European Hospital.

The word “Ebo” can be translated as a ‘Native Doctor or a ‘Native Healer”

It can also, with a little inflection in the voice, be translated as a “European ‘

The Ebo n’ Edo — “the European-run curative Centre in Benin’
— was probably the public counterpart of the IWEGIE, the Curative Centre located within the Oba palace, and run by the Ebos”, the Ewaise, the royal physicians who look after the palace population.

Of course a Roman Catholic Chapel must have been an integral part of the whole EbO n’ Edo” set-up in IGUN Street.

Four hundred years after the arrival in Benin of Osah and Osuan with the first coming of Christianity, the same religion came a second time nearly a century ago after Benin City was conquered by the British. Yet, it came with its habits, its methods of operation, virtually unchanged. It again promptly set about establishing medical institution in whatever location
it was striving to win the souls of the populations for Christ.

The modern equivalents of the “Ebo n’Edo” shrine of Igun Street, the “Ebo n‘ Edo’s” which came with this second coming of Christianity to Benin, are: the St. Philomena Hospital in Benin City, the St. Camillus Hospital in Uromi, and the Notre Dame Hospital in Uzairue in Afemai.

It should be noted ¡n passing that the ancient Maternity Guild of OGIDA Quarters in Benin City, beyond the Oliha Moat — that other centres where cases of difficult child-birth were attended to in old Benin had no European in-put in its creation. The OGIDA guild was established by an IKA man.

He was a prisoner-of-war brought to Benin during the campaigns by the Benin armies in the Western Ibo territories during the reign of Oba ESIGIE, Ewuare’s grandson, after the IDAH War (OKUOATTA) ended

The war-captive was locked up in the EWEDO, the Palace Prison, situated where the Benin Federal Prisons is now sited, not too far removed from the royal harem

He earned his freedom when he performed a medical feat. He was able to bring much needed relief to a royal consort who was having a difficult childbirth in the royal harem. He saved the life of both the young mother and her royal baby.

On the orders of ESIGEE this native obstetrician was given his freedom, and then ordered to set up a materniy guild beyond the Oliha Moat for the benefit of the city women in labour. His descendants are the Enigie of Ogida Quarters to this day.

The people of the EGUADASE Guide, in Eguadase quarters Benin City are also products of this period in Benin history. They were prisoners-of war brought from the Ika territories during the campaigns in those parts by Esígies armies. They were recognized as expert agriculturists with a pronounced expertise with the yam crop.

Esigie constituted them into a guild of Royal Famers, and settled them in the area of town now known as Eguadase, derived from the original name of:


“The yam crop is of more Worth to the Oba Than coral beads and other articles of adornment”.

Prince Ena Eweka writes that Osah and Osuan “through some magical powers would plant corn and okro which would produce fruits and be harvesied on the same day they were planted “.

This information would suggest that these Roman Catholic priests also attempted to teach the Benin people improved methods of agriculture They, or some of their other compatriots almost certainly introduced some exotic crops into Benin, tropical plants from Sao Tome and also from the South American continent, especially from Brazil. These non indigenous crops, which the Edos designate as ‘Ebo” or European” were probably introduced into Benin by these learned Botanists from across the seas, crops like:

Ivin ebo   
European kernel--------------Coco-nut
Edin ebo  
European palm fruit---------Pine Apple
Iyan ebo   
European yam---------------  Potato
Oghede ebo  
European plantain---------Banana
Ize (ebo) 
European Rice---------------Rice

The involvement in Edo agriculture, five hundred years ago, of these Portuguese Reverend Fathers, as recorded by Prince Ena Eweka, calls to mind the role played by Chief OSUAN in the celebration of the kingdoms yearly EHO festival. In the chapter on the EHO festival in the book: “The Edo Cultural Voyage”, edited by Chief. O. U. Igbe, the Iyase of Benin, a priest called the Okhue Osuan: “Chief Osuan’s Parrot”, journeys from Igbekhue víllage in Iyekorhionmwon to Benin City to meet Chief Osuan in his palace. The meeting between these two personages signals the beginning of the EHO festival season for the Edos.

The EHO festival ¡s all about the agricultural! Year, with the products of the year’s farming season employed in the propitiation of the ancestral spirits of each home-stead, in gratitude for yet another year of the bountifulness of the soil.

The involvement of these Sao Tomean priests in Edo agriculture five hundred years ago explains, with much relief, the role of the Osuan and his Okhue Osuan “in the signaling of the end of [he Edo agricultural Year, the celebration of which is the EHO festival. This is a role by the two personages, which would otherwise have remained unexplainable but for the supposition made above.

Did these European priests have an Agricultural Experimental Farm in Igbekhue village five hundred years ago, a farm which was tended locally by the personage who ultimately became the “Okhue Osuan”

It should be pointed out here that Igbekhue village is in the general vicinity of Sokponba village, the site chosen only a hundred years ago by another European Mr. Hitchens the first Botanist and Forester of the British Colonial administration in Benin, where he built a Forestry Experimental Station and a Rest House.

The unbelievably crystal-clear waters of the headstream of the Igbaghon (Jamieson) river, in the Igbekhue-Sokponba forests, was probably what attracted these Europeans of these two different epochs in Benin history to those parts. The Igbaghon waters are so crystal-Clear in the Sokponba area that one can clearly see a pin in many feet of it depth its attractiveness  inviting people to dive into it and to swim in it for relaxation

To further confirm the identities of these two priests, the Osah and Osuan, as European, there was a hint of homosexuality in their behavior, as reported by Ena Eweka:

"At the Eghute festival “, he writes on page 60, “when pregnant women vacate the city so as not to see weird things, it is said that a male priest referred to as Izeho gives birth to a child”

“Eghute” means a sea-shore or a river beach, suggestive of the Atlantic Ocean and the Benin river, through which these important personalities came to Benin over five hundred years ago. The Osah and Osuan are important actors in the Eghute festival.

The role played by chiefs Osah and Osuan at the coronation of a new Oba and during important festivals like the EGHUTE and the ODODUA, is also very suggestive of their original priestly antecedents. At the coronation of a new Oba the Osah and Osuan act as the Enobore, the arm supporters, of the new monarch.

In Europe where the Roman Catholic priests came from, it was the head-priest, the Bishop or Archbishop, who put the crown on the head of the new monarch. In Benin, since the time of the Ogiso kings, it has been the OLIHA who performs this function, the crowning of the kings of Benin. With the Oliha performing the function which Archbishops perform in Christendom, the Osah and Osuan, being transmogrified Roman Catholic priests, yet intimately got involved in the coronation proceedings, attesting by their involvement at that period in history, that this was a Christian king who was being crowned.

There is an anectode which narrates how Osuan left Igun Street, where his ORA shrine is still sited, side by side with Osah’s UWEN shrine, and was made to reside outside the walls of the Inner City, the IYeke Iya, where he lives to this day, opposite the premises of the “Nigerian-Observer” Newspaper.

It was during the reign of Oba Ozolua, Ewuare’s son. The king had hundreds of women in his harem, but for a long time none of them had become pregnant. This was a source of worry to the monarch, and even more so to his harem.

One day, Ozolua and Osuan sat together in the palace, partnering each other in a game of ISE, the mancala game. As the game progressed, the king began to confide in his chief about some of his personal problems, telling Osuan that the royal Harem was almost in uproar with discontent because of the absence, there, of pregnancies.

The reason for such a state of affairs is the trick which nature played un humanity by suggesting that the fertile period in a female’s monthly cycle was the day immediately following the cessation of her “period.” Nature, as every modern woman now knows, postpones the fertile period for five to eight days thereafter, in order to get the womb prepared for a possible pregnancy Therefore, efforts made at child concept the day following the cessation of the monthly ‘period” were usually ineffectual because of the un-readiness of the system for reproduction, yet this was precisely the day when the wife in a polygamous home mandatorily received her husband’s attention The ancestral spirits of the household would usually carpet the husband who neglected his duty to his wife on this one important day of the month (see UHUKI: Melzian’s BINI DICTIONARY, PP 200-201)

In a household with a large harem relative barrenness was frequently the state of affairs because the husband prematurely attended to his wives when the wives still needed a few more days to get primed for pregnancy. In this set-Up, only the favourite wives readily became pregnant because they were not restricted to the mandatory one day in the month, for the husband’s attention.

This throws light on the story of Ogiso Orriagba and the birth of his only son, Ogiso Odoligie. It also throws light on the story of Ogiso Owodo, his wife Esagho, and his only son Prince Ekaladerhan.

Osuan thought for a long while about this piece of confidence as the ISE game progressed then volunteered some advice to his monarch he said to Ozolua:

“Purchase a pregnant slave-girl from the market, and send her into the harem to live with the harem women. With these wives daily seeing the ballooned-out, pregnant state of the slave girl’s abdomen, each of them would likewise soon begin to attain that state”

Ozoiua felt grievously insulted by this piece of advice from his chief. His virility, the potency of his manhood. Had been called into question! Osuan was telling him to harbour in his own harem a pregnancy which he was riot responsible for! Who else would do such a thing but the impotent?

He rose from his seat in a rage and rained blows on his Ise partner. And in that fit of anger, he banished Osuan from the Inner City to behind Ewuares moat. And this has been the chief’s new abode since these last five hundred years.

This anecdote tends to lend further credence to the supposition that the two personages, the Osah and Osuan were medical Roman Catholic priests, and that Osuan was the obstetrician. It was Osuan and fnot Osah whom Ozolua confided in with regard to this late-stage “infertility” problem which was exercising his mind and causing discontent in his harem.


Yet another lead which points to the supposition that the introduction of Christianity to Benin took place during the reign of Ewuare, and that this monarch, rather than his grandson Esigie. was indeed the first Christian King of Benin, is suggested by the fact that the introduction of the two gods, ENINA and AVBAVBA into the Benin Pantheon of Deities, is attributed to Ewuare.

Enina is the god of Mercy, and , avbavba the god of Forgiveness.

These two gods are personifications of some of the finest attributes of man. The attributes which they represent are important parts of the make-up of Christianity and of other religions as well. The attributes are harped upon continuously by these religions, especially by Christianity.

Mercy and Forgiveness are abstract concepts, but Ewuare concretized them and incorporated them into the Benin Pantheon of Deities. This says something about the sophistication of the thought -processes of this king of Benin of more than 500 years ago. He created a chieftaincy title, the ERIYO, to be the priest of these gods. Chief Eriyo ministers to the gods on behalf of the Oba for the good of the Benin kingdom.

Chief Jacob U. Egharevba writes in the ‘’Short Hisiory of Benin” about the names earned by Oba Ewuare from the peoples who are neighbours of the Benin people as a result of the known exploits of this monarch during his life time. The EKITI Yoruba said of him:

Qba Ado n’gbogun lodo ile, Ogbomodu n’gbe I’orun:

“The Oba of Benin wages war on the earth below, with the sound of thunder and lightning. As the god of Thunder does it, the skies.”

This description of Ewuare at war is, I believe, a clear reference to this king’s employment of guns, and perhaps also, of cannon, in his warfare activities. A sword in action in battle does not make a noise like thunder. So, it would not be unreasonable to assume that Ewuare did employ fire-arms in his warfare activities, lf he did make use of these new weapons, and he must have obtained them from his Portuguese friends. Therefore, the long-held belief that it was during the reign of Esigie, Ewuare’s grandson, that guns first featured in Benin warfare, might need to be reconsidered.

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