Benin KingdomPrincess Ehendia

Princess Ehendia : The Honour And The Right Of Choice Of An Edo lady

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Written By Ekhaguosa Aisien Last Update (February 14, 2022)

The matter concerned the honour and the right of choice of a lady, high-profile lady in the Benin society of Oba Ovonramwen. She was Princess EHENDIA, the Uvbi-Nokhua of the realm, the eldest daughter of Oba Adolor and a half-sister Ovonramwen.

Ehendia, when she came of marriageable age had, according to the usages of the land been given in marriage ┬áby her father Oba Adolor to the incumbent Iyase of Benin, Chief EDO, the IYASE- N’ ODUHOBO at Owina Street, off Sokponba Road. The IYASE N’ ODUHOBO was already an elderly man when princess became his wife and the marriage remained childless until the Iyase died while this marriage subsisted the next generational Uvbi-Nokhua, princess EVBAKHAVBOKUN, Oba Ovoramwen’s daughter, had come of marriageable age. But her aunt Ehendia was already in the harem of the Iyase of Benin Evbakhavbokun therefore went into the harem of Chief IRABOR, the OLOGBOSERE of Benin. Prince UYIEKPEN was the product of that marriage.

When the Iyase N’Oduhobo died Ehendia moved into IVBIZUA quarters Lagos Street, the traditional quarters of the widowed princess of the kingdom, or those princesses no longer under the care or protection of a husband. In the old Benin EVBIEMWEN Street was the quarter where those princes of the realm who were not created Enigie and given their own dukedoms lived out the rest of their lives. IWEHEN Street was the quarter inhabited by the grandsons of the Oba, the children of the princesses and princes.

The widowed princess Ehendia, in her Ivbizua Street residence resolved to give her hand to no other man in marriage.
Many suitors approached her there but she turned all of them down, remarking that there was no man anymore in Benin whose harem was capacious enough to accommodate her as a wife.
Then into the picture came Chief IGIEBOR, the UWANGUE of Benin and the most influential Chief in the Palace of Oba Ovonramwen Igiebor was the head of the IWEBO Royal Society. He was the third in the line of his family to be consecutively awarded this great but non-hereditary title since his grand-father OGIE, son of the Ezomo of Benin was made the Uwangue by Oba Osemwende. Igiebor paid regular visits to this comely woman in Ivbizua quarters with an offer of marriage, but each time he was turned down.

Exasperated beyond measure by the rebuff suffered at the hands of the princess Uwangue N’ Igiebor decided to adopt the role of the spoiler if he could not have Ehendia for a wife then no other man in the kingdom of Benin would be permitted the privilege. He so warned the princess after which he went public with an announcement that princess Ehendia had indeed become his wife. Any man who henceforth approached her as a suitor would be guilty of the offence of wife-seduction amien omwan omwan and would be directly answerable to him, the Uwangue for it.

This threat from most influential man in Benin, and one of the wealthiest put off all others who would have been supplicants for the princess favours, and they kept their distance
Yet it happened that Ehendia after a course of time and in spite of the Uwangue N’Igiebor acquired a lover. His name was AMAYO from Ugbine village the village almost dandy he dressed daintily, with a velveteen wrapper wound round his body and the excess yardage thrown over his left shoulder held in place with a white horse tail. He cut an impressive figure whenever he journeyed from Ugbine village to the City to visit his lover.

Word got to the Uwangue N’ Igiebor that his “wife” Princess Ehendia had acquired a lover, an erha n’ agbon. It was the period of the IGUE Festival early in the 1890’s. Different villages and personages as was usual took dancing groups to the palace. Ehendia and her lover Amayo n’ Ugbine took a joint dancing group to the Palace to rejoice with Ovonramwen for the gift of another New Year.
At the palace Ehendia went into the Royal Harem with the women dancers and singers leaving Amayo with the men-folk of the dancing troupe at the URHO-ERHIE the open space fronting the public entrance to the Harem, beyond which males could not progress.

It was their at the Urho-Erhie while waiting for her lover to emerge from the Harem the Amayo n’Ugbine was shot dead by assassins hired by Uwangue n’ Igiebor. The princess emerged from her brother’s Harem only to meet the body of her sweet-heart bloody and dead on the ground.
The princess was powerless to avenge Amayo’s death. The clout of the Uwangue n’Igiebor in the palace, the fount of all power, was immeasurably bigger than hers.

She retired to her home in Ivbizua Quarters, lonely and forlorn. Her loneliness deeper as the months rolled by because the Benin City male society drew the appropriate lessons from the powerful demonstration of resolve, and of power, exhibited by the Uwangue, and demonstratively steered clear of the princess.

This effective containment of princess Ehendia endured until Chief Agbonkonkon, the Obayuwana of Benin appeared on the scene. He came, literally as the Fairy Tale would tell it, as a knight in shining armour, riding on a great charger, to the rescue of a lady in distress. Here was Uwangue n’Igiebor bullying princess Ehendia, as James Phillips was later to bully her brother Oba Ovonramwen. On each of the occasions the Obayuwana, as a Chief of the realm took steps to reinstate normality to the unacceptable situation.

Chief Agbonkonkon dressed carefully and expensively as a suitor would. Then he mounted his horse and rode to Ivhizua Quarters, to the residence of Princess Ehendia. He dismounted and was received by an army of maids and other retainers who led him into the house There he received a welcome from the Princess.

Agbonkonkon told Ehendia that he had come as a suitor a would - be lover, and would the Princess ride with him to his house. Ehendia assented, glad to see someone who was ready to call the Uwangue s bluff she got ready as for an outing, and was helped on to Agbonkonkon’s horse riding side-saddle as his passenger.

The Obayuwana of Benin climbed on to his charger behind his passenger. He gathered the reins of the horse in his hands, both his arms girdling and protecting his precious co-rider. He gave the horse a nudge and walked the great beast out of Ivbizua Quarters, and on to the Uroghotodin High Street, which he crossed, into OGRE Quarters.

Discouraging in the horse any tendency to canter or gallop the Obayuwana preceded, with a measured gait, alone the streets of Ogbe Quarters. He turned into Ekpenede Street and headed directly towards the Uwangue n’Igiebor‘s house,

The horse was richly caparisoned, in velveteen of the deepest hues of blue and red. A soft Persian rug, obtained from the Kano emporium was draped over the middle portion of the animal and partly covered over by the velveteen. This mass of shimmering colours was held in place by the saddle which had been freshly done in red leather

Hidden somewhere in the voluminous robes which girdled the person of the Obayuwana were two OVBIOSEGBA pistols manufactured locally in centres like the Igun n ‘Ugboha Quarter along Sokponba Road They were fully loaded in case there might be a need for them.
Word got to the Uwangue that Agbonkonkon was galloping slowly towards Uwangue’s residence, fully accoutred for war companion was Princess Ehendia whom Agbonkonkon now laid claim to as his “wife”.

Igiebor spied his challenger from afar, on his richly decorated horse, with an impressive array of charms and amulets adorning his person and horse. The woman who had rejected the Uwangue was deeply ensconced in the folds of Agbonkonkon’s velveteen and held closely to his bosom by his girdling arms, Agbonkonkon countenance was that of cold steel, and his bearing that of a compressed spring waiting to be sprung.

Agbonkonkon nephew of Chief Ogbeide-Oyo the Inneh n’ lbiwe of Benin had attained adulthood in IGUEVIONSA village near USEN town in the Iyekovia districts. The village had been founded by his warrior cousin OGBOMO, the patriarch of the Eghobamiens. There in Iguevionba, under the shadows of the cultural influence of the USEN Principality Agbonkonkon had assimilated the herbal healing expertise, and the metaphysical capability of the USEN people the power in his incantations was ponderous. The poison in the words which he had gathered in his mouth’ ready to be spoken and hurled at his target, was more deadly than the venom in the bite of a mamba.

The Uwangue weighed the options open to him. And greatly helped by the supplications, the weeping entreaties, of the whole of his huge household he reached a decision that this was one fight it would be prudent to avoid. He withdrew into the inner recesses of the house, and allowed the Obayuwana and his new wife unhindered passage along Ekpenede Street.

Agbonkonkon walked his horse until he drew opposite the gates of the ogbore of the Uwangue n ‘Igiebor. There he Slowed the animal down into an even more majestic gait until, without any challenge, he cleared the whole of the frontage of his adversary’s premises. Then with a nudge from him the charger accelerated into a slow canter which the Edos call Oguoguo, and the Obayuwana without any further incidents took his new lady-love home.

A year or two later the Uwangue n’Igiebor was dead shot and killed by an assassination planned and executed by some Chiefs of the Iwebo Palace Society of which he was the head. But no before he had, with Ovonramwen’s permission, betrothed the writer’s grandmother IMADIYI to AISIEN the writer’s grandfather.

Ovonramwen exacted severe reprisals on those chiefs of his who had murdered his favourite Chancellor. He had them all executed.

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