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Oba Erediauwa's 30 Years on the Throne - Benin History at a Glance

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By Eno Louis Enobakhare

The Benin throne was established in 475 A.D. For 713 years, the Ogisos ruled over the kingdom and created 100 enigies (dukes). As Oba Erediauwa CFR marks his 30th anniversary on the throne. This article will dwell more on the challenges faced by the 38 Kings that have ruled over this great kingdom.

One major challenge Oba Erediauwa faced was his suspension by the former military administration of Edo State, Commodore Onyearugbulum of blessed memory. I was invited to play at the Oba's anniversary during the period of his suspension.

As my band played " congratulations.." to usher the king into the arena, the Oba, revered and respected by all because of his strict adherence to the traditions of his ancestors apparently broke one of the tenets by busting into a dance - half waltz (as he is oxford trained) and half esakpade -a benin traditional dance.

The arena went into immediate excitement and celebration. A suspended king who all expected to look sad and pensive dancing to the music of a commoner? The press men sighed and waited impatiently for the question and answer session.

"Your majesty" one of the pressmen quipped (it was another case of Jesus healing on Sabbath day) "you should not be dancing to the music of Eno Louis". The royal father said "I did not dance to the music of Eno Louis". The journalists either did not believe their ears or that their eyes did not see the Oba dance. The Oba continued," I danced to the music of an Ogbelaka man". There was a thick silence.

My father from Ogbelaka was the head of the royal musicians and thus, extend that right to me. The continuous misunderstanding between the palace and some chiefs reminds one of Ovio, a wealthy man who lived during the time of Owodo.

The last Ogiso, the peaceful nature of Oba Erediauwa and his solomonic wisdom made him deal with such matters in a fatherly, civilised way that stunned all other subjects. Ovio was banished and eventually founded Obior in Delta State where the immediate past Governor Elue of delta state hails. I was there too, to play for Hon Elues homecoming too.

Erediauwa's father, Oba Akenzua 11, faced a major challenge when Benin was overrun by Biafran soldiers.

Was he to remain loyal to the Federal Government or co operate with the Biafrans to become a major catalyst in the Benin Republic being suggested. Then Oba's ancestors quickly intervened and Benin was liberated averting a blood letting that many thought was inevitable.

Oba Akenzua was a founding father to Mid west region with all the intrigues that followed. The western region's asset have not been shared till this present day.

Eweka, 11 became Oba of Benin in 1914. The fact that he ascended the throne of Ovorawmen at all makes him a hero in the preservation of the Benin kingdom's aristocracy, second only to that of Japan in longevity. His challenges and that of his father are one and the same. He could have been banished along with his father but was much favoured by posterity. His doggedness to reclaim his throne can only be compared to the fight between David and Goliath.

Ovoramwen surrendered to the British to save his kingdom and beloved subjects from being razed from the surface of the earth. He was not at all a coward or self centered.. He was ready to lay down his life for a kingdom he so much cherished.

Adolor mounted the Benin throne in 1848. 'Dolor1 in Edo language means 'repair'. Adolor's father, Osemwende and grandfather, Obnosa were together the bridge between the rapidly fading past and rapidly threatening future (iro eweka).

Alan Ryder wrote - "the threat to the very existence of the kingdom posed by British intervention came no nearer in Adolor's lifetime. It might even appear to have receded" Obanosa, bore the title Edaiken - heir apparent for a long time. He was said to have plucked white hairs and sent it to his father to show that he was getting old only for his father to send back to him salt and native chalk, meaning life is sweet.

Akengbuda reigned for 55 years. The Obi of Obuluku had asked for, Adesuwa, chief Ezomos daughter's hand in marriage, not knowing she was already betrothed to the Oba. Adesuwa's refusal and her subsequent murder by the Obi led to a battle that ended with the Obi's head brought to the Oba Akengbuda.

Eresoyen, Akengbudas father built a house of money. The walls and floors were paved with cowries. He subdued the Agbor rebellion and settled disputes in faraway Abor, Akenzua 1 was Ewuakpe's first son. His first challenge was the usurping of his throne by his younger brother Ozuere for one year. The re enactment of primogeniture law triggered a civil war. Uzuere was supported by lyase but was defeated. Akenzua 1 was the richest king to ever ascend the throne of his ancestors. How he came about his wealth has not been properly addressed by historians.

"Benin is admired for its government, laws, tolerance and hospitality to visitors" writes Dutch trader, Van Nyendael in 1702 during the reign of Ewuakpe. His wife Idia sacrificed herself to fulfil the demand of an oracle for a human sacrifice. Ewuakpe was treated unkindly by his mother's people and he cursed them.

In 1692, Pope Innocent 12 sent a personal letter to Oba Oreoghene who was crowned three years earlier. Because christianity had crept into the kingdom already, the Pope encouraged him to remain a catholic. One might ask at this point what would become of his ancestors. This departure from the om must have created challenges. But, Oba Ahenkpaye's high handedness led to his dethronement in 1684, the year Akengbedo was placed on the throne.

Ahenzae, Akenzua and Akengbo all had peaceful reigns even when an oracle predicted the predicament of Ovoramwen about 200 years later.

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