Benin Kingdom (The Binis)

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The Binis occupy Oredo, lkpoba-Okha. Ovia North - East, Egor, Uhunmwode Ovia South-West and Orhionmwon Local Government Areas of Edo State of Nigeria with Benin City as the State headquarters as welI as its traditional headquarters. It has a population of 10089,344 in 1991, and a land mass of 109O7 square kilometers. The indigenes of Benin are the Edos (Binis) and they speak Edo language as their native tongue, and English, their second language. Benin is Edo and Edo is Benin. The Binis have occupied their present land for thousands of years. P. Amary Tibof in “The people of Southern Nigeria” Volume. 11, Page 1 Said the Edos (Benin) came to West Africa first followed by Ewe
The Binis

(pope) and maybe by the Yorubas very much later. The early rulers of Benin were called “Ogisos” and Benin as then called Igodomigodo Benin became an empire due to the exploit of the early Obas in the 2’ dynasty and expanded its native colonial rules over parts of Africa. Benin is an adulteration from Portuguese word Benyn Meaning Kindness, because the first Portuguese to visit Edo saw the inhabitants as kind and friendly people.. Benin City strategically located for industrialization as all highways .from the East North South and the western part of Nigeria meet in Benin City with few kilometers from Abuja, Lagos. Warri Port, Onitsha and Ibadan. In the western part of Africa, Benin Empire extended to Dahomey, Lagos. Badagry, Ekiti, Ijebu, Ondo, Owo, Kukuruku, Ikare and several other places as recorded by Jacob Egharevba in his hook “A Short History of Benin. Page 13 . It also extended its colonial rule to present day Ghana as recorded by Prince Basimi Ena Eweka in his book “Benin Monarchy. Origin and development (page 19). According to him, the present Ga of Ghana migrated from Benin at about 1250 AD. Benin’s influence was also felt in Sierra Leone and Guinea. The Edos (GA) who first settled in part of lle-Ife between Ilesha and Ife were engaged in a war by the Ife people at about 1450 AD who described them as non indigenes and as such must leave the land. Those Edos there migrated to present day Accra in Ghana led by Oba Ayi king of the Ga and others settled in the present day Republic of Benin where they found a settlement called Aneho. The Ga (Edos) presently constitutes about 80% of Accra the capital city of Ghana Ref. Vanguard (Nigeria) of 24/5/2000 p34.It is the Benin origin of the people of Dahomey that influenced the president of the Republic of Dahomey to change the. Name Republic of Dahomey to the Republic of Benin after he had paid an official visit to Benin City during the period General Gowon was the Head of State of Nigeria.

In the North, it extended to Idah in Benue State and Gwari in Niger State. It extended to Onitsha, Arochwukwu and Brass, and its influence was felt at Congo in the Southern part of Africa where the Binis were said to have travelled extensively according to Dr. J.U Egharevba’s “Short History of Benin” at page 19. Benin first received a visiting European, Ruy De Sequeina in 1472.

The first economic mission to West Africa by any European was made to Benin in 1485 by Alfonso De alveiro. Benin was also the first to exchange an Ambassador with a European power as early as the 15 century when it established a diplomatic relation with Portugal. It is interesting to know that the first .missionary church in West Africa sub region was established in Benin City by the Portuguese.

Not until the emergence of new facts, the Binis have always been regarded as having originated from Yoruba or Oduduwa but this is no longer the true position Even the Yorubas themselves have become skeptical about their origin and have expressed doubt about their own origin and the truth about Oduduwa as the projeniture of the Yoruba race. This doubt has led to several yorubas to demand from their traditional rulers and historians the authenticity of Yoruba claim to Obatala, Oduduwa and the truth about Yoruba history in general. In the Sunday Time of September 17th 1989 at page7 titled “THE OYO OBAS PALAVAR” the writer said, The problem in  Oyo state Council of Obas between two traditional Titans over precedence has been going on for close a decade. In the centre of the Ooni and the Aiaafin”.

Benin City
In “Oyo Empire, in the l8 century, a reassessment”, the journal of the historical society of Nigeria in its issue of December, 1966, said “under the Ebi system of Government, Ife as father of Yoruba family of states was constitutionally superior to Oyo despite the military pre-eminence of the later kingdom”.

In contrast, Rev. S. Johnson in his book “History of’ the Yoruba”, published in 1922 said “The Alaafin (not the Ooni) is the supreme head of all the kings and princes of the Yomba nation as he is direct lineal descendant and successor of the reputed founder (Oduduwa) of the Yoruba race.” This book has been acclaimed the most authoritative work to-date on the history of the Yorubas . But Benin history has shown that the lineage of Oranminyan a Bini prince and father of Eweka I  of Benin and first Alaafin of Oyo which was founded at about .the 13 century can possibly not be superior to Ooni of Ife’s throne which is a lineage of the 12th  century Oduduwa Ekaladeran also a Bini prince. Ekaladeran Oduduwa carved out Oyo for Oranminyan and made him the first Alaafin of Oyo on his arrival at Ife from Benin. In the National Concord of Tuesday April 9th 1991 an article titled “the Ooni, Alaafin.. Imbroglio” the writer said.

The feud ragging between the Ooni of Ife and the Alaafin of Oyo could perhaps lead to the eventual discovery and revelation of the whole truth about the historical origin of Oduduwa dynasty and the projeniture of the Yoruba race. Many versions of the historical background of the Yoruba race have been told in the past by different historians but, if for the purpose of putting the record straight and proving the superiority. Correctness and authenticity of their positions, the Ooni and the Alaafin should go ‘deep into the archives and reveal all the salient and obvious facts, “A .A.B. Aderibigbe said in his book; A thousand years of W.A history “ , That the origin of the yorubas like the earliest history of non –literate people is still a bickering ground for the erudite. Many speculations and scholarly theories abound but no definite knowledge has yet emerged. It can be suggested therefore that whatever is the civilization of the yorubas both in traditional institution, Arts and Bronze work, is Benin derived. H. Ling Roth pp12&13 in his book “Great Benin” Burton p409 and R Bradbury “Benin studies” p9 deal extensively on Binis cultural influence on the Yoruba of Abeokuta, Ondo, Ekiti, Oyo, Lagos, Badagry, Ede, Oshogbo and beyond whatever the divergent views on the historical relationship between the Binis and the yorubas these two races certainly remain the closest in blood and civilization.

The mysteries and wonders which have made people to think that the Ogisos did not rule in Benin are still prominent features among the Benin Obas. The sun and the moon both appeared in day light during the coronation of Oba Erediauwa I as Ogunbambo reported in the Guardian of 23rd March 1979.

“When on March 23rd I979 :Omo N’ Oba Erediauwa was crowned in succession to his father who has reigned for 45 years, there was a spectacular occurrence still deeply etched in the memory of everybody which witnessed the event. Both the Sun and the moon appeared in the afternoon. It is this kind of incredible events which make the Benin man to hold the institution of the Oba in the highest esteem. To them the institution is sacred and sacrosanct”. He reported further in the same paper at column 2. Pae 6, that “The reputable Ugie Oduduwa commemorating the exit from Benin of heir apparent Prince Ekaladeran was celebrated on I3 March, 1979 during the coronation of Oba Erediauwa I” The Binis firmly believe that Oduduwa whose royal name was Ekaladeran Escaped execution in Benin and migrated through the Ovia forest, east of Ife and became the founder and first traditional ruler in Yoruba land.

The discoveries of agricultural crops, bronze and art works in Benin gave prominence to Benin, putting it in world map as J. Desmond said in “The Cambridge History of Africa” volume 1 from the earliest time to the century 500 BC page 624-781. “An indigenous agriculture did emerge. The list of crops plants is very impressive and includes all the usual categories of cereals, roots and tuber crops, fruits vegetables, oil, fiber, plants, drugs, narcotic, magic and ritual plants. The system spread over much of the continents and was adequate to support the high culture of NOK, Benin, Ghana Mali and a variety of other Sudanic and Eastern African Kingdoms.”

The image of Benin was internationalized by the looting of its bronze works during the punitive expedition in 1 897 and which amazed the Europeans as P.J.M, Mc Ewan said in his book, Africa: From early times to 1800, page i35 said “For present purpose we must reject the European centered approach implied in talking about the discovery of West African or Nigeria or Bini. From Africa standpoint, it was not, Portuguese who first discovered Africa but Africans who first discovered Portuguese.” Astonished by the bronze heads, Basil Davidson narrating the experience of Europeans visitors to West Africa said in his book “The lost cities of Africa”, page 58 “when the first astonishing heads and beads and buts from. . . . Benin were brought to Europe 60 years ago, and .were seen to be portraits or very like portraits, they were greeted with a chorus of disbelief. Sure, the Greek, Egyptian, or even Portuguese or Negroes have never done anything like that  In his paper “Diaspora” RaIf H. Metcalfe in FESTAC 77 souvenir said “Element of Ashanti Dahomey and Bini were captured and sold into slavery.

Talbot in his book “Southern Nigeria”, page one said Thousands of example of Benin Arts were plundered from the conquered city as the official spoils of’ war and were sold off in London by the British Government Europeans Anthropologists, ethnographers and artist were deeply and lastingly impressed by the sophistication of both conception and execution evinced by the items of iron wood. Ivory and above all bronze which made up Benin art Europeans commentators at first sought an explanation that would derive the art of Benin from source outside Africa.... The early activities of Portuguese on the Guinea Coast were well known and it seemed not unreasonable to credit (Portugal) in one way or another with the origination of Benin art…. But it appears that not only are, Its (Benin) form an indigenous artistic expression, but that the technique of lost wax casting by which most of the bronze were produced was already at !east six centuries old in West Africa.”When first European groped their way around the Guinea coast

Oba's Palace

In other words, the Europeans wanted to credit Portugal with the origination of Benin Arts but says this is wrong because ¡its techniques was over 600 years old in West Africa before the first Portuguese came to the Guinea coast. So linking Benin Bronze to Portugal was ruled out. Benin is reputed to have had early knowledge of bonze work not even comparable anywhere in the world In the Appendix, basic fact about FESTAC, it was said at page 137 that the 16th century ivory mask from Benin has emerged through the years as one of the first examples of known African and black art.

Huggins Jackson PhD said in his book an introduction of African Civilization, page 128-1 29 “The exquisite bronze of Benin... Compelled the admiration of the world... There is nothing like the bronze casting in Benin anywhere in the world. They were produced by the Gire pardile process with accuracy, a fidelity to detail unmatched anywhere. It is interesting to note that the complicated method used by the people of Benin is identical with the same process used in Italy during the Renaissance of which movement in Europe, the Benin folk knew nothing, As was the splendor of Benin art so was the splendor of the court of the Kings and the discipline of the armed forces of the kingdom especially so with the ‘Amazons’ who daring in Dahomey, dismayed Europeans who attacked them. So disciplined was old Benin that when the great Oba sent general out to battle, few returned, that is, if they were vanquished, they dare not return and if they were victorious, they preferred to set themselves up as Chiefs in the newly acquired territory and paid tribute to the Oba rather than return to his service. Such military methods are similar to those used by the convention in revolutionary France”. Benin today represents the nerve center of black civilization and it might be possible to conclude as research continues that the civilization of the lost Atlantic was an off-spring from Benin civilization which lester brooks in book Great civilization of ancient African p 9, commented on that ”The Benin Arts and Culture  in what is now known as Nigeria were discovered in the 19th century although the lenders and slaver had visited Benin for some two hundred years Its cast bronze treasures were originally attributed (by Europeans, unwilling to credit black men with such extra-ordinary achievements) to refugee from the lost Atlantics or to European Wanderers Nearby in antiquity was a culture called NOK, whose vigorous art was found in, this century, two to three thousand years after it was made” This is suggesting a link between Benin and NOK civilization and implied that the Europeans wanted to credit the wonderful bronze work of Benin to Europeans or to the civilization of the lost Atlantics where as in fact they were indeed indigenous to Benin in it originality and unequalled by any Art or  bronze ever discovered. The author tried to  trace it to Nok culture nearby instead of far away Europe which Benin had no contact with  Michael OIolewa in his book, Certificate History of Nigeria, 1986  page 16 said “There is evidence of more advanced technology in various part  of Nigeria during bronze and metal age. Indeed, one of the most active periods of technological efforts in Nigeria as during. The age 5000-2000 BC in the later part of Benin, civilization, became the greatest state and empire in the Gulf of Guinea and there was a town there before the 11th century” And in Basil Davidson documentary on Africa: “The King and he City” he said, The varnished ancient city of Benin left antiquities of its .majesty power which gives it a place of prominence in the world”.

In Africa Remember, page 70, Philip D. Curtain said “That part of Africa known by the name Guinea to which the. trade for slaves is carried on, extend along the coast about 3,400 miles from Senegal to Angola and include a. variety of kingdoms, ‘of these, the most considerable is the kingdom Benin both as to extent and wealth, the richness and cultivation of the soil, the power of the king, and the number and war like disposition of the inhabitants”. In the Encyclopedia Britannica pages 410, it is said that Benin extended to part of dahomey, now. Republic of Benin, port -Novo and the Congo rivers It further stated that most of the Benin colonies broke away to become independent and describe Benin Obas as “Tiger in Africa” South of the Sahara.

From Great Benin H. Ling Roth, Pages 12, 13, Burton (page 409) summarized that in its palm days, the kingdom was bounded on the East by kwari (Niger), westward by the land about port Novo, and southward by the sea. Its limit to the North does not appear. Two of its colonies are Badagry and Lagos. The travel of the Landers throw just a little light on the extent of the influence of Benin no it Neighbours. They tell us when at Badagry in 1830 that ‘during the life time of the late ruler’s father “and for countless ages before that period, Badagry was a province of Lagos and tributary to it as Lagos is and has been from time immemorial, to the powerful king of Benin”. They also tell us (1.P.49 that the body of the late Chief at Badagry like those of his ancestors had been sent to Benin in other that the bones might adorn the sacred Temple at that place, agreeably to an ancient and respected customs which has ever been religiously conform to and tenaciously held by Lagos people”. The ancient glory of Benin no doubt has contributed to the development of the world both in artistes and cultural excellence.

Oba of Benin

Robert A. Logama reporting in the American topic issue No 94 titled “Odyssey of an African treasure”. Said, “it sounds like a script an adventure movie-an international effort that resulted in the return of priceless bronze statue to the national museum of Nigeria. The plot of this real life art rescue involves a Swiss Auction house, Interpol, Nigerian officials, European art collectors the United States Information Service and American Anthropologist. To back track Some 500 years ago in the Royal Court of Benin, at the time of the seat of a mighty West African Empire, a Master sculpture, whose name has been lost in history ordered the pouring of a molten bronze into a mould to produce an exquisite head. A German art historian once compares the beauty of this rendition to that of the grand master of Italian Renaissance bronze sculptures Benevento Cellini. For centuries it adorns the seat of imperial power of one of African greatest civilization that collapsed 400 years later when another imperial power, great Britain clashed with Benin royal ruler, the Oba and sent what has come to be known as the punitive expedition of 1 879. The scene is captured in a remarkable photographs depicting the British in á royal court yard surrounded by the cultural treasures of Benin, Including some 200 bronze sculptures that were .among the finest ever produce anywhere in the world. Some of the bronze were transferred to the British Museum and the rest, were scattered to collections across Europe and America”. From the Encyclopedia Britannica, page 410 and 411, the author said “Europeans in the seventeenth century spoke of it as Great Benin” Colonists from Benin founded the port of Lagos and Badagry While the area of the kingdom was small (somewhat larger than Wales), its influence was very wide and it is said to have extended West as far as Sierra Leone and south .to the Congo rivers”. Prof. A. F. C. Ryder wrote in his book “Benin and the European, 1485- 18 97, page 1-2 that “linguistic evidence suggest that the Edo have occupies this region for thousand of year”, and P. Amary Talbot in his book “The people of Southern. Nigeria,, Vol. .11. Page 1 said, about the seventh millennium BC, a further wave ofSudanic people began to pour in. First the Edo (Binis) Ewe (Popo) and then the Ibo followed Maybe about the second millennium BC by the earliest Yorubas”

R. Bradbury from his sponsored ph. D project on Bini studies is quite relevant here in his “Bini studies”, comparative Ethnography in Benin and Yoruba- Benin Oyo and Ife social and cultural comparison at page 9 he said, “Despite profound dissimilarities, Ife and Oyo belong to the same linguistic and cultural block. The Benin kingdom is part of an entirely different one” At page 10, he said “it .should be stated that the title and systems of some Southern Yoruba chiefdoms such as Ondo, and Ijebu shows close similarities in structure and operations to that of Benin. These groups also differ, markedly from the Northern yoruba in regard to the structure of descent group”. There are seven Uzama titles, Bradbury said .at page 11.The first five, Oliha, Edohen, Ezomo, Ero and Ehondor are found in variant form in chiefdom ranging from .Onitsha on the Niger, right through the Southern part of Western Nigeria at least as far as Abeokuta. Among the Onitsha on the Niger and Western Ibo, they are demonstrable and among some Eastern Yoruba groups conceivably Benin derived. But they also occur in part of former Oyo Empire e.g. Ede, Oshogbo areas “In Owo traditional institution Osula, Ero titles and Idaniken (Edaiken) heir apparent are Benin derived. Reference the Kumapayi report of February, 1968”. The Origin of Edaiken is contained in “Historical Talks from Ancient Benin” P13 Vol. 11 by Princes C .Akhaku Akenzua and the origin of Warri Kingdom at pg 28. Do they represent a pre-Oranmiyan phase of political development affecting both the Yoruba and Edo of Benin?. This same Oranmiyan who begot the first Oba of Benin himself became, according to Yoruba traditional, the founder and first king in Oyo. .. .For Benin there is evidence of a previously existing centralized political system before Oranmiyan came to Benin whose serving cultural associations (in the form of names, tiles, religious cults), Show few similarities with the Yoruba”. The author said. But there evidence from Yoruba History that Oduduwa and his group met some Aboriginal in present Ife when they arrived at Ife. “Who were the ancestors personified by Oduduwa in the traditional of the Yorubas who joined these early people and built the Yoruba civilization of historic times and where did these ancestors come from?, asked Basil Davidson and F. k. Bua in their book “A History of West Africa 1000-1800 AD at pages 177-118 Continuing, the authors said, “Even if there was close connection between some of the rulers of Benin and those of the Yoruba State, the Edo people were very much a people with idea of their own. It this independent of Benin civilization in mind that this is written.

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