The Isekhurhe Of Benin Kingdom
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Written by Ekhaguosa Aisien (Last Update April 5, 2022)

The ISEKHURHE a hereditary title-holder is one of the principal chiefs of the IHOGBE, the official “Relatives of the Oba”. The IHOGBE district is situated in the Greater Benin area, outside of the Inner City Moat and near to the USAMA Palace where Prince OROMIYAN stayed on his arrival from UHE. i.e. Ile Ife Oromiyan had been invited by the UZAMA chiefs to become the monarch of a Kingdom which they, the Uzama, did not fully control, and which ruler-ship it was not at that time in their power to award to whomever they pleased.

Isekhurhe palace
The palace of Chief Isekhurhe

Not surprisingly the stranger Prince found untenable the situation in Benin as presented to him on his arrival. He had been invited from the comforts of his father’s kingdom in IFE to come to Benin to rule over the land. But on arrival he found he had been sold a dummy. The kingdom he had been invited to rule over did not have a vacancy for a ruler. OGIAMIEN was already the ruler of Benin, and he was very, effectively in charge. Oronmiyan would have had to wage a war of conquest on Benin if he was to dislodge Ogiamien.

It was then that the Yoruba Prince saw through the ruse of the Oliha and his other Uzama conspirators. What the Uzama really wanted was a cats-paw which would draw their Chestnuts out of the fire for them, somebody with sufficient resource who would fight Ogiamien and remove him from the ruler-ship of Benin, and so restore the Uzama to the pre-eminem positions they had held in society during the period of the OGISOS.

Oronmiyan decided to refuse his recruitment by the Uzama into their fight against Ogiamien. He decided to return home to Yoruba-land and leave his hosts to cope as best as they could with their problem with Ogiamien who, on his own part, had proceeded to appoint an alternative UZAMA of his own.

Meanwhile the Yoruba Prince sowed his wild oats and then returned to his beloved native land, there to become the first Alaafin of OYO. In addition to the son be had already fathered in Benin he further fathered two other sons AJAKA and SANGO. These sons became Alaafins of Oyo after him.
Three relatives of the returnee Prince of IFE were detailed to remain in Benin and look after Erinmwinde, daughter of the Enogie of EGOR village, or of the many Enogie-ships created by the defunct dynasty of the OGISOS Erinmwinde was pregnant with Oronmiyan’s child. The three relatives were:

  1. Ihama
  2. Letema
  3. Legema
They and their descendants constitute the IHOGBE, the official “Relatives of the Oba”. The IHAMA is their leader.
These three supervised the successful birth of the Oba Eweka I and later the curing of the condition of speechlessness which the young prince was found to have been born with. The akhue seeds brought from Oronmiyan his father by Chief EHENDIWO for this purpose succeeded in effecting a cure.

LEGEMA did not have any children of his own so the title became non-hereditary. The IHAMA and LETEMA became hereditary titles.

The ISEKHURHE was the second son of the IHAMA at the time that the fourth Oba of Benin EWEDO abandoned the USAMA palace and moved into Benin Urban with the acquiescence had been obtained by EWEDO with sumptuous gifts delivered repeatedly nocturnally and personally at the Ogiamien palace prior to his own coronation at

During the previous three reigns the USAMA Palace had been the the seat of the Obas of Benin. It was easy for Chief lHAMA the Okaegbee, the eldest of the relatives of the royal family, to walk from his house in IHOGBE, cross into the USAMA Palace less than five hundred meters away, and carry on purification and sanctification rites in the royal household whenever the need for these arose. Such a need frequently arose as a result of the Infringement of minor taboos and other transgressions against the family Spirits committed by the Harem women and other family members. It was frequently necessary also for the monarch to worship at the Altar of his Ancestors, and the IHAMA, as the Okaegbee would arrange for, and officiate at such a ceremony.

But with Oba Ewedo’s abandonment of the USAMA /IHOGBE territory, which was the suburban settlement of the Royal Clan from ILE IFE, and his moving in with the natives in the heart of town, it was clear to the IHAMA that, short of his moving house to join up with the young adventurous monarch, he would have to make alternative arrangements to give ready cover to the purification needs of Ewedo’s household in his new location.

The alternative arrangement was necessary because the journey from IHOGBE to the Ogbe- Ogiso Noghionba was arduous, and not one to be regularly undertaken by the not so young. The arduousness of the journey was aggravated by the existence of an extensive marshland between the two territories. The marshland was created by the river basins of the two streams now extinct the omi and the Oteghele flowing across the streams especially during the rains ISEKHERHE was the canoe man who made his living by ferrying people and goods across this riverine terrain.
The IHAMA decided to send a surrogate to live with the Oba EWEDO in Benin Urban and perform in the new palace those everyday functions which have required his attention.

The Chief’s eldest son was of course his heir the future custodian of the UKHURHE the totem representing  the ancestral spirits of the  royal Clan and could not be assigned to the job. The IHAMA therefore sent off his second son by the name EDIAGBONYA from IHOGBE Quarters to meet Oba EWEDO in town.

EDIAGBONYA was the first ISEKHURHE of Benin. His mother was the elest daughter of Chief OLOTON who had betrothed her to his neighbour the IHAMA.

Chief EDIAGBONYA the premier ISEKHURHE built his house along the UTANTAN High Street not far from the UNUOGUA of EWEDO’s palace. He has been living there these past seven hundred and fifty years. His palace is a piece of the IHOGBE in the Inner Benin City, otherwise called the IHOGBE N’ ORE.

The ISEKHURHE’s palace wedged between IGUN and OWINA Streets along SOKPONBA Road is situated in the Quarters of the IWOWA Guild. The IWOWA Guild prepare the sepulchre of the Obas of Benin digging out a series of subterranean chambers as in the Egypt of the pharaohs where  the dead king is installed in state surrounded by all the effects he would require for a comfortable and fitting life in the new ethereal existence he had now embarked upon.
The IWOWA Guild is also a branch of the Ihogbe a portion of the IHOGBE in the Inner City. The Guild is under the control of Chief OGUA.

The ISEKHURHE title is hereditary from father to first son. The present ISEKHURHE Chief Nosakhare ISEKHURHE is a graduate of American Universities and succeeded to his father’s title in 1981, at the young age of thirty.

During full-dress ceremonial occasions in the royal palace the IHAMA himself comes to town from IHOGBE and leads the ISEKHURHE in the propitiation of the head of the monarch and of the ancestral spirits of the royal clan.

Chief OLOTON a maternal ancestor of the ISEKHURHE is an UZAMA chief and a prominent member of the royal clan who came from IFE. He is the custodian of the USAMA palace grounds which share the same territory with his own palace.
Chief OLOTON used to be officer of State in charge of the  IYAENHIEN Ceremony the highest  rite in the Chieftaincy acquisition  procedures in Benin land performed by only a very few title- holders in their life-time because of its prohibitive cost. Because the ISEKHURHE was also a descendant of the House of the OLOTON this UZAMA Chief ceded to him the responsibility for the Iyaenhien along with the perquisites which attend it.

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