Oba Erediauwa: Celebrating 30 Years of Excellence On The Throne
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Written  by MICHAEL ODIGBE {Last Update August 2, 2022}

On March 23, 2009 the Oba of Benin Kingdom Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo Oba Erediauwa will be 30 years on the ancient throne of the Great Benin Kingdom which is over 1400 years old. Clocking such a period as a royal monarch is no mean feat. Hence, the issue is: how has the Oba been able to meet the challenges of coping with the corrosive impact of anti-monarchical forces all these years?

In fact, how has the Oba been able to maintain, sustain and grow the inimitable Benin Kingdom all these 30 years till date? These questions are addressed in this anniversary magazine package.

Preamble: Some great Obas who rule before 1978
To gain useful insight into the royal personality of Oba Erediauwa and Benin Kingdom, it is pertinent to go back in time to be acquainted with the pre-1978 history of Benin Obas and the Kingdom. Through this odyssey, it will be possible to know the ancient, undiluted source of the kingdom’s and Oba Erediauwa’s current indivisible strength which has kept them going into the future with undisguised footsteps of immortality.

In this magazine, primary focus is Obas Oguola Ewuare, Ozolua, Esigie, Orhuogba, Ehengbuda, Ewuakpe, Akenzua the first, Ovonramwen, Eweka the second and Akenzua the second.

Briefly, Oba Oguola (1280-1295) introduced brass casting and dug the first moat in Benin Kingdom in 1280. Oba Ewuare (1440-1473) WAS A FIELD Marshall in war. As one he led Benin Kingdom in battle to capture 210 towns and villages during his reign.

Oba Ozolua (1483-1504) introduced gun warfare to the kingdom. Oba Esigie (1504-1550) was the first West Africa statesman to establish diplomatic relations with a European country-namely Portugal.

Oba Orhuogba (1550-1578) of him the historians G.T. Stride and C. Ifeka in PEOPLES AND EMPIRES OF WEST AFRICA wrote: “Oba Orhuogba was clearly a strong warrior for he enforced tribute payment from all parts of the empire. In the middle 1550s, he conquered all the coastal lands up to Lagos where he left a permanent garrison. Tradition in Lagos says that their first Oba, the Eleko of Eko, was a son of Oba Orhuogba.”

Oba Ehengbuda (1578-1606) was the first Oba to be visited by English explorers while on the throne. During his reign, he nurtured the martial growth of Chief Ezomo Agban a celebrated warrior, who led Benin army to conquer Agbor. In his days the chief reportedly thought a troublesome man lived overhead in the sky who disturbed the peace of Benin Kingdom each time the rainy clouds rumbled. Because of this belief the non-nonsense Benin war general was said to have embarked on building a ladder up to the sky to take on the “troublesome man” in a bloody contest before he passed on.

Oba Ewuakpe (1700-1712) promulgated the law of primogeniture. Oba Akenzua The First (1713-1735) had vibrant business acumen which he exploited to become the richest Oba in Benin history. Oba Ovonramwen (1888 – 1914) was no less great.

He was a monarch cut in the image of the anti-colonial defiance Jaja of Opobo and Chief Nana Oloma of Itsekiri. Loyal Benin Chiefs – in an attempt to prevent visiting British imperialist officials from breaching the sanctity of Igue being observed by Oba Ovonramwen killed nine of them during a mutual gun exchange of antagonism.

However in a pre-empted and disproportionate, punitive response, British troops invaded Benin.

The Kingdom was sacked, looted with criminal sadism while Oba Ovonramwen was deported to Calabar on September 13, 1897 after his capture, not surrender, without a fair trial. Oba Eweka. The second (1914-1933) ascended the throne after the death of Oba Ovonramwen in 1914. He rebuilt the palace destroyed during the British punitive expedition of 1897.

However, he reigned under the watchful, imperialist eyes of vengeful colonial Britain. Unlike Oba Ovonramwen who had a standing army until it was demobilized by Britain in 1897, Oba Eweka. The second had none. All said, he was astute at navigating the potholes that dotted his reign as a British subject of interest.

On a final note, Oba Akenzua the Second (1933-1978) – the father of Oba Erediauwa–– was equally a notable royal monarch of Benin kingdom. He initiated the campaign for the creation of Mid-West Region which materialized in 1962. in 1947, he opened the Benin Divisional council Museum seen as the mustard art seed that later inspired the germination of the giant oak tree that is now the National Museums and Monuments, Benin City. This isn’t all. Because of his vast influence, power, authority and acknowledged traditional mystique, he was allowed to hold’the first Obas’ conference in 1941. The establishment of Edo College in 1937 is largely through’his hardwork.’His reign witnessed peace, love and progress in the whole of Edo land not just Benin Kingdom. Oba Erediauwa is a chip of the old blocks Oba Erediauwa is an embodiment of all the vibrant, positive personalities of the great Obas that have ruled Benin Kingdom since the institution of the monarchy in 1200 AD with the installation of Oba Eweka The First on the throne. In fact Oba Erediauwa can be described as a wholesome crystallization of the royal wisdom, resilence spirituality toughness, courage, bravery, purposefulness statesmanship, critical consciousness, mystical dexterity, diplomatic astuteness and martial artistry of his pre-eminent forebears. When you add to these attributes his credentials as a Cambridge graduate; and as a cutting-edge technocrat with an unblemished record of public service in Nigeria and Mid-West State, then it is easy to appreciate his cadence as an Oba with superb leadership qualities. Hence he is tailor-made to navigate the rough waters of royal counterculture, military/civilian despotism orthodox religious terrorism against Benin Traditional Religion and bilious modernism all these 30 years on the throne.

The end point here, therefore, is that Oba Erediauwa’s simple easy-going, peaceful carriage as a royal monarch in the 21st century should not be misconstrued as weakness. There is ancient hardness in his soft-sell modern simplicity. If you feel you can despise a needle, step on it. Five Benin Chiefs did in 2007 and still bear the scars of the conflict generated between the Oba and them, although it has been resolved at no cost to the Oba’s royal integrity.

Indeed, thirty years on a throne in the effervescent, hard times that followed his coronation is certainly a long haul. His Kingdom no longer stands in autogenously ancient isolation but is not circumscribed by the almighty power of the state.

Also, his traditional authority today runs parallel to the constitution and all the statutes in the land with a provision that the constitution and the statutes, in areas of conflict, takes precedence over his traditional authority. After all Nigeria is a republic. But it is however gratifying to observe that, despite all these constraints, Oba Erediauwa has been able to grow Benin Kingdom into a formidable institution respected by all and sundry today.
A veritable role model of Benin culture

Oba Erediauwa has been able to keep Benin Kingdom going because he is a classical role model of Benin culture. This is why someone describe him as “the superglue that binds the Benin ethnic nationality together into one unconquerable, inseparable whole.” Too true, despite the surge of democratic freedoms, individualism and weak loyalties to primordial institutions like the monarchy, today, he remains a poignant rallying point of cultural convergence for all Binis at home or in diaspora. What is more? His palace has continued to be a reference encyclopedia for Benin customs and traditions which he pledged “shall form the bedrock on which this era will be built,” during his coronation on March 23, 1979. Also the Oba still is a personification of the language, history religion, customs, traditions, arts and crafts of the Binis. In other words, the Oba has reigned the spring source of all the Benin-ness of all the Binis. For Oba Erediauwa, therefore, civilisation is relative. Hence, it is unacceptable to him to subsume Benin culture under its Western counterpart. His rallying call continues to be that civilisation per se is not westernization. You don’t therefore need to uphold western cultural values before you are considered civilized. Simply put. There is nothing like cultural absolutism in his Benin royal lexicon. Also the Oba, using himself as a recurring case study, has demonstrated that the more educated you are, the more you are supposed to uphold your culture. No compromise. Given his puritanical cultural ideology, his people admire him and accept his leadership with unquestioning loyalty, this is why they are a source of enduring inspiration and support for him all his years on the throne.

Man Of Peace
Oba Erediauwa is a man of peace, who lives peace, sues for peace and is at home with peace. This is why a palace source sees him as practicing PEACE-TOCRACY in his kingdom. Each time, an opportunity presents itself for canvassing for peace at the palace or public for a, he fully does so with honest, meticulousness, energy and fearlessness. One of such opportunities came in November 16, 2004 when Governor James Ibori, on a working visit to Edo State, paid a courtesy call on him in company of host Governor Lucky Igbibnedion. At the occasion, he told the two PDP governors without mincing words that their intra-party crises at the time posed a serious threat to national security. Therefore, the party should quickly address them.
Beyond working for such cognitive change in political stakeholders behavior as a basis for promoting either intra or inter party harmony in Nigeria, Oba Erediauwa is known to have personally initiated moves that resolved some explosive political conflicts. One of them was the face-off between Governor Orji Uzor Kalu and Chief Tony Anenih, Chairman PDP Board of Trustees. The other was the altercation involving Governor Lucky Igbinedion and the same Chief TonyAnenih. By his peace moves, Oba Erediauwa demonstrated that palaces in modern times should not only be mere royal residences and seats of monarchical governments. Rather, they should also be pro-actively employed as alternative dispute resolution mechanism for finding durable peaceful solutions to burgeoning crises of national dimensions.

A fall-out of his interventionist role in politics, without allowing himself to be tainted by its dirty brush, is that Oba Erediauwa has garnered an abundance of good will in Nigeria. Such a measure of goodwill have gone a long way to help sustain his monarchy and kingdom today as well as endeared the Edos to all Nigerians.

Also, because he is a peace advocate, Oba Erediuwa all these years has endorsed and upheld the doctrine of religious tolerance in line with the dikta of all Nigerian constitutions since 1979 till date. Not for him the sabre rattling, provocative evangelism of self-righteous orthodox religions which, anyway, wouldn’t have thrived for a single day had he propagated the domino theory of Benin traditional Religion in his Kingdom.

A Major platform from’which he has propounded his seminal love for peaceful religious co-existence was at a meeting of the’Benin Anglican Diocesan Synod on June 3, 1980. During his address to the august body in Benin – the first by an Oba – he said inter allia: “The conflict between traditional religion and Christian religion is not supported by scriptural teaching. But must Christian religion condemn and push out the traditional? Must traditional worship and Christian worship not be seen as complimentary?”

Oba Erediauwa indeed is passionate about Benin traditional religion because it underpins the sustenance of his monarchy and Benin kingdom the three variables are inseparable. However as a definitive independent variable, Benin Traditional Religion is the cultural motor that drives the ancient monarchy and kingdom through the obstacle course of modernism and any despotic civilian or military rule. Put in plain terms, Benin traditional religion may be described as the oxygen with which the Oba has been revitalizing the kingdom for the 30 years he has been on the throne. With it also, he has been sustaining his monarchy.

In one of his lyrics, the late reggae megastar Peter Tosh sang: “I don’t want no peace. I need equal rights and justice.” What he is saying, in other words, is that equal rights and justice are human conditionality for peace. Of course without Peter Tosh, Oba Erediauwa has been aware of this truism. This is why since he ascended the throne in 1979, he has devoted a lot of time, space energy and resources to ensuring his palace enders as citadel of jurisprudence. The high and low in society get justice at no cost whenever they come to the palace to seek the Oba’s hand of judgment. A palace source informed this writer/journalist that in a bid to fully grasp with palace cases and arrive at the equitable judgments, the Oba sometimes stays awake until the wee hours of the morning poring over tons of documents as well as submissions of litigants and their witnesses. Capturing this reality, the palace source observed in pidgin. “See, e no easy to be Oba for 30 years – 0 dey judge people case when jabrata today. Weda you be Benin, Ibo, Hausa, Yoruba or of any tribe, Oba no care. He no go look your face. He go just deliver judgmenet as e supposed to be. Dat is why we day call-am King Solomon. Thank God say him name as Ediaken of Uselu Kuku be Prince Solomon Aisiokhuo-Oba Igbinoghodua Akenzua”.

Lest one forgets, Oba Erediauwa as a protagonist of peace always stays clear of all the unwholesome, dirty deals that is fuelling the Niger Delta, crises. Thus, he is unlike some of his royal colleagues in the region now stoking the crises and daily smiling to the bank. It is not that Benin Kingdom with it proud heritage of martial ingenuity is short of royal supporters No, this isn’t the case. The critical point is that Oba Erediauwa is a steadfast ambassador of peace that has always domesticated their exuberance converting its into healthy pastimes in Edo State, in the Niger Delta region and in the nation at large.

It is against this background one can understand why peace reigned in Benin Kingdom during the altercation between Navy Captain Anthony Onyerugbulam, then Edo military administrator and the Oba in 1999. Had the Oba as a lover of peace not restrained his disenchanted subjects over the issue, Onyerugbulam’s government would have been engulfed by a violent, widespread revolt as happened in Kano when Governor Abubakar Rimi suspended the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Bayero, from office.

Apart from his peace advocacy effort, Oba Erediauwa also has been deploying fasting. Worship and prayers to God through the instrumentality of the divinities and his ancestors-to sustain peace in his Kingdom. ’In November 2008, for instance, his’propitiatory religious initiative before the Court Appeal in the volatile case between Oshiomhole and Osunbor saved Edo state from blood-letting.

Therefore a dividend for development delivered by Oba Erediauwa’s 30 years on the throne is the relative peace that has been reigning in Benin Kingdom as well as Edo State as a whole.

Apart from a breach of peace in the nineties during the general SA riots in Nigeria over which he had no culpable control, there has been calm in his Kingdom. There has been no semblance of Jos or Bauchi riots in the Kingdom since he ascended the throne. This great achievement cannot be ignored when it is recalled that the recent riot in Bauchi on February 21, 2009 alone resulted in the death of even persons; the destruction of properties worth millions of naira; and the displacement of over 2400 inhabitants.

A detribalized, patriotic Nigerian to the core. A key factor that has sustained Benin Kingdom from 1979 to the present day is Oba Erediauwa’s rising profile as a truly tribalised Nigerian. He, is a royal monarch who puts the country first in all he does. Hence, he never shies away from proffering power advice for the country’s problems. Three of such advice need mention.
Firstly, he counseled that the Land Use Decree (now an act) should be revoked to fast track economic development in the country.

Thirty years after Oba Erediauwa sounded this advice, a bill by President Musa Yar’ Adua is now been sent to the National Assembly requesting for a mere review of the act. Of course, this tinkering comes short of the Oba’s demand that the act should be damped for good.

Secondly, the Oba has called for constitutional protection for all traditional rulers to ensure they are not preyed on by an overzealous executive arm of government. And, thirdly, the Oba has been advocating that traditional rulers should always be consulted by government before major decisions are made. According to him, such an action does not only enrich the fund of ideas that inspires better government decision. It also remotes the traditional rulers active stakeholder responsibilities which of course, assigns them statutory obligation to wholeheartedly intervene in crises arising from such decisions, whenever they arise.

All these advice and several others which come from his patriotic national mind stands the Oba out as a unique gem among his royal colleagues. What is more? Because of his detribalized definition of royal governance and his hospitable transparency; as well as a vowed global accountability to all human races. Oba Erediauwa has been able to transform his kingdom into a cultural geography of Nigeria. If you therefore visit Benin Kingdom, you will find all tribes living there in peaceful co-existence with one another. Too true, John Chibuzo an Ibo told Weekend Observer “Benin Kingdom is a microcosm of Nigeria. But for the Oba , this won’t have been the case. For me, I have come to settle here for good. I know that I can make it in Benin City, capital of the Oba’s Kingdom and later build a house like my senior tribesmen have done”. John Chibuzor knows his onions. To him, the kingdom may be wearing an ancient look. However, it has the modern accountrements for succeeding in all human endeavors in this ICT age requiring abundant peace, good neighborliness and hospitality to non-natives as well as the benevolence of a detribalized Oba Eredauwa on the throne of Benin Kingdom.
As a proof of the kingdom’s friendliness, a lot of settlers in the kingdom have unlimited access to its resources. Explaining this fact on a radio programme VIWEPOINT on Rhythm Radio, Benin on February 28, 2009 Chief Nasakhare Isekhure says: “In Benin Kingdom Oba Erediauwa runs an open society. This is why 60% of the plots and landed properties in Ikpoba Hill areas and its environs are owned by non-natives”.

The Chief Priest of Benin Kingdom made this revelation against the backdrop that in most other kingdoms the battle cry is: LAND IS ONLY FOR SONS OF THE SOIL, not for the highest competitive bidder. Well, he appears to scratch only the surface of Oba Erediauwa’s proverbial detribalized character which runs deeper than liberalizing access to the Kingdom’s resources. The Oba also gives appointments as well as royal assistance to non-natives.

For instance, it may interest readers to know that the Oba’s media consultant is HRM Obi (Dr.) Martha Dunkwu, the Omu of Okpanam in Delta State. In terms of assistance, it is an established fact that the Oba offered life-saving assistance to the renowned late Chief S,M.O. Aka, an Isoko man, from Delta State. He had sought the Oba’s financial help after fraudsters rendered him almost penniless. Appraising the Oba’s detribalized, patriotism and overflowing love from human kind, an hausa man Mallam Sani Bagudu, selling foreign currencies in the parallel market at Erie Street, Benin City notes: “Kai!! Una Oba Na good person-o. E no day whala person at all. We thank Allah who make-am Oba. A beg greet-am for us; We like-am well well-o Oba ghato kpere. Isa”.

Other salient attributes/roles of the Oba

There is still more to the exemplary attributes of Oba Erediauwa and the constructive roles he has been playing as monarch of Benin Kingdom since 1979. To start with, he has never relented in acting as the natural curator plenipotentiary of Benin Kingdom. In this capacity, he has untiringly continued to preserve the ancient archiecture of his palace. A competent source revealed to Weekend Observer: “The palace is the greatest museum in the world. It still holds a vast collection of royal court arts, ancestral shrine scriptural pieces of past Oba of Benin in bronze and Ivory, elephant tusks, plaques and other valuable work of arts. This is inspite of the fact that over 5000 art pieces were looted from the kingdom during the British punitive expedition in 1897. All said, as Chief curator of the kingdom, the Oba is always working towards the return of these stolen art works to their original museum at the palace. Not any other place”.

It is not only over his majestic palace Oba Erediauwa presides as the natural curator plenipotentiary. He has also been keeping the art treasure trove of his new-look King’s Square housing the offices of the National Museum And Monument, Benin City and several Benin artworks. Of course, he equally never fails to watch over the world heritage sites of the three great Benin City Walls which according to Chief Nosakhare Isekhure, will soon undergo 95% rehabilitation. Finally, too, as curator of Benin Kingdom, Oba Erediauwa has ensured the sustenance of historical artistic landmarks outside his palace and the King’s Square. Such landmarks include Igun Street where world-famous Bronze casters ply their art; Igbesanmwan Street, home of celebrated craftsmen working in wood/ivory; Queen Emotan Statue; Queen Idia Statue; Ancestral Shrines; Statue of the Giant Aruaran; Chief Ogiamien’s Residence; Chief Ize-Iyamu’s Residence the first storey building in the kingdom’ amongst others. Also, as a curator of the Kingdom, Oba Erediauwa has been sustaining and upgrading the cultural sanctity of all Benin traditional Benin observances including the world-acclaimed Igue Annual Festival.

This isn’t all. Much more, Oba Erediauwa’– being an experienced technocrat, astute administrator and a cutting edge aficionado – has been able to reinvent his palace organogram to widen its democratic space. The arrangement accommodates prescribed ancient definitions of titular ranks, statues and responsibilities while meeting the political realities of modern times. One of such changes, for instance which the Oba has introduced is the enlargement of dukes (enigies) in the kingdom to ten since January 1, 1988. Initially, there were only three existing duke (enigies) when he ascended the throne.

Because of the impact of modernism, population explosion, globalization and the sweep of democracy, Benin Kingdom toady is a bubbling cosmopolitan region. Expectedly, this has meant more paperwork, more palace courtesy visits, more visibility and more accessibility for Oba Erediauwa. So, unlike his forebears he has less remote transcendental immanence of being less seen and less heard. But this not withstanding, he still embodies the same enigmatic royal esoteric mysticism, awe, reverence, power, influence, authority and carriage of his forebears. This is because his super-power traditional leverage and rating flow from the ancestral stool he occupies – not necessarily from his sociology, economic, education, biology, psychology or sociopolitical environment .

As the world celebrates with Oba Erediauwa on March 23, 2009 while marking his 30 years on the throne, the general opinion is that he has been able to meet all the challenges of running a kingdom in both a military, as well as a democratic setting. Too true, in spite of the harsh demands of the settings sometimes, he has successfully partnered with each form of government to enhance development of his Kingdom, in Edo State as well as in Nigeria as a whole.

In addition, despite his busy modern schedule, he has been able to groom a worthy successor to the ancient throne of Benin Kingdom in the person of Ambassador Eheneden Erediauwa. He is in charge of Nigeria’s mission in Italy, and is also the crown prince of the Kingdom.

Finally, one must not fail to observe that the ageless Oba Eradiauwa still finds time for intellectual work writing forewords for books; reading critically through authors, manuscripts; giving seminal public lectures and addresses; as well as going on in 2004 to write his autobiography titled I REMAIN, SIR, YOUR OBEDIENT SERVANT.

Therefore, looking back in time through these 30 years, one can say that Brigadier Abubakar Waziri (rtd), Military Governor of Bendel State, I was right when he said on March 23, 1979 during Oba Erediauwa’s coronation: “Our now Oba has all the attributes of a veteran and seasoned administrator

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