Great Benin History

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 A BRIEF HISTORY OF
GREAT BENIN EMPIRE

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THE SWORD OF OVONRANWMEN

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 fesidia_pendant_mask
BY THE RIVER OF BENIN

WHERE WE SAT DOWN…AND THERE WE WEPT…

WHEN WE REMEMBERED INVASION 1897

ring roadKINGS SQUARE BENIN CITY BY NIGHT

 

Edo, the people of Igodomigodo famously known for almost a millennium as Benin, had built a moat complex to protect themselves in the wars they fought. The defensive fortification of Benin City, the capital, consisted of ramparts and moats, call iya, enclosing a 4000 square kilometer (2485.5 miles) of community lands. In total, the Benin wall system encompasses over 10,000 kilometers (6213.7 miles) of earth boundaries. Patrick Darling, an archaeologist, estimates that the complex was built between 800 and 1000 up to the late fifteenth century (Keys 1994: 16).

Advantageously situated, the Benin Moats were dug in such a manner that earthen banks provided outer walls that complemented deep ditches. According to Graham Connah, the ditch formed an integral part of the intended barrier but was also a quarry for the material to construct the wall or bank (Keys 1994: 594). The ramparts range in size from shallow traces to the immense 20-meter-high (66 feet) around Benin City (Wesler 1998: 144). The Guinness Book of World Records describes the WALLS OF BENIN CITY as the world’s second largest man-made structure after China’s Great Wall, in terms of length, and the series of earthen ramparts as the most extensive earthwork in the world.

During the second half of the 15th century, Oba Ewuare the Great (ruled 1440-1473 AD) ordered a moat to be dug in the heart of the city. The earthworks served as a bastion and also afforded control of access to the capital which had nine gates that were shut at night. Travel notes of European visitors also described the Benin walls (e.g. Pacheco Pereira 1956: 130-147; Dapper 1668). It was finalized around 1460, at that time being the world’s largest earthwork. (See historical photos of Benin City).

Early European visitors never failed to be impressed with the Benin City’s grandeur and level of organization. Benin as it appears in documents of the seventeenth century the natural reflection of centralized wealth was its magnificent capital city Benin. Reports from the anonymous Dutchman D.R. (c. 1600) and David van Nyendael (some fifty years later) described Benin City as an extraordinarily extensive and flourishing city which easily matched the European metropolis of its time (Hodgkin 1960: 119-120; Ben-Amos 1995: 42ff).

A British adventurer called Ling Roth, was the first to refer to Benin City as GREAT BENIN a tribute not only to the extent of the Benin Empire but also to the elaborate, detailed and efficient administrative machinery the people had evolved. 

“Legroing tells us : ” The city of Benin is situated in a plain surrounded by deep
ditches. Vestiges of an old earthen wall are to be seen ; the wall could hardly have
been built of any other material as we did not see a single stone in the whole journey
up. The houses for the most part are covered with latanier leaves, and those of
the king with large shingles. In front of the king’s houses there were two thick
clumps of high trees, and these appeared to us to be the only trees planted by the
hand of man (Labarthe, p. 175).”

From Landolphe we learn that a ” ditch more than
20 feet wide and as deep surrounds the town, and the soil taken out is made on the
city side into a talus, on which a thorny hedge has been planted so thick, that not
even an animal can get through. The height of this talus deprives one of a view of
the houses at a distance, and one does not see them until entering the town, the gates
of which are very far apart ” (II., 48).

” The streets are very broad ; in the middle
there is turf on which the kids and sheep feed ; about thirty feet from the houses
there is a level road, covered with sand for the inhabitants to walk on ” [ibid, II., 50).
He also mentions several spacious courts surrounded by earthen walls about sixteen
feet high. Along the inside of the walls there ran a gallery fifteen feet wide, thatched

with natanier. The thatching is done by overlapping the leaves which not
being pulled apart, fall one on top of another to a thickness of eighteen inches.

This roof is supported by large pieces of timber cut into the shape of pillars. They
are set up about eighteen feet apart, and carry stout horizontal planks on which
abut the sloping joists which carry the roof, which was an ingenious piece of work “
(ibid, I., 111-112). Of the apartments of the king’s wives he says the walls are twenty
feet high and five feet thick, solidly built of earth [ibid, I., 335).”

[- H. Ling Roth, GREAT BENIN]

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The Portuguese compared it with Lisbon, the Dutch with Amsterdam or Antwerp, the Italians with Florence, and the Spaniards with Madrid (Kea 1971: 187). Its size was matched by dense habitation; houses built close to each other along long, straight streets. The royal palace, a city within the city, was also impressive, with countless squares and patios and innumerable doors and passageways, all richly decorated with the art that has made Benin famous. The city was orderly, well laid out, and sparkling clean so that the walls of the houses appeared polished (Dapper 1693: 122). The people clothes; some are dressed in white, others in yellow, others in blue or green; and the city captains are regular judges who resolve lawsuits, debates and conflicts.

It is plausible to argue that since Benin warriors were successful in most of their campaigns, they and their commanders may have excelled in the strategy and tactics which were appropriate to the use of the locally produced weapons. The use of weapons alone was not the only factor which enhanced success in warfare. The overall strength of Benin was the result of the strength of its component parts which possessed armies that could be called upon to perform its tasks. Dutch sources have pointed out that the Oba (king) of Benin City could mobilize twenty thousand soldiers in a day, and raise an army of eighty thousand to one hundred and eighty thousand men. His authority stretches over many cities, towns, and villages. There is no King thereabouts who is in the possession of so many beautiful cities and towns, or is his equal (Dapper 1668).
 
The nine gates of the beautiful ancient Benin Culture reminded of the security quotation from the Portuguese merchant ship captain Lorenzo Pinto “The people of Great Benin live in such security that they have no doors to their houses”.

Roese, P. M., and D. M. Bondarenko. in their book, A Popular History of Benin. The Rise and Fall of a Mighty Forest Kingdom. wrote:

” The kingdom and the capital city were both called Benin. The city of Benin was laid out in a system of huge straight streets. These streets were very wide, very long, and well maintained although they were not paved. You could travel on foot in a straight line for 15 or 20 minutes and not see the end of the street. Other streets opened from the main streets. They were also wide. Houses were built in rows along all of the streets. On the street front side, houses had covered porches to keep people dry as they sat outside. The Dutch and Portuguese traders who came to Benin by sea were not invited into the nobles’ or artists homes. So we don’t know how their homes were arranged, or what the back looked like. But we do know about the palace. “

“Dutch and Portuguese traders were invited into the king’s palace – and thus we have written records of what the palace looked like. “The king’s court is very big, having within it many wide squares with galleries round them where watch is always kept. I went so far within these builds that I passed through four such squared, and wherever I looked I still saw gate after gate which opened into other places.”

You will find this piece from the British Concise Encyclopedia interesting:

“One of the principal historic kingdoms (12th – 19th century) of the western African forest region. Founded by the Edo people, the kingdom was centred on present-day Benin City in southern Nigeria.With the accession of Ewuare the Great in the mid 15th century, the Benin kingdom was vastly expanded, including the founding of the city of Lagos.” See this article from the Library of the U.S.Congress for more details

Roese, P. M., and D. M. Bondarenko. in their book, A Popular History of Benin. The Rise and Fall of a Mighty Forest Kingdom, again, wrote:

“The Oba had become the paramount power within the region. Oba Ewuare, the first Golden Age Oba, is credited with turning Benin City into a military fortress protected by moats and walls. It was from this bastion that he launched his military campaigns and began the expansion of the kingdom from the Edo-speaking heartlands. The lands of Idah, Owo, Akure all came under the central authority of the Edo Empire. At its maximum extent the empire is claimed by the Edos to have extended from Onitsha in the east, through the forested southwestern region of Nigeria and into the present-day nation of Ghana. The Ga tribe of Ghana trace their ancestry to the ancient Kingdom of Benin.”

“The state developed an advanced artistic culture especially in its famous artifacts of bronze, iron and ivory. These include bronze wall plaques and life-sized bronze heads of the Obas of Benin. The most common artifact is based on Queen Idia, porpularly called the FESTAC mask”.

You see how advanced, clean and civilized our society in Benin City was for 500 years (1450 – 1900) where there was virtually no corruption, stealing & robbery before the white man came to corrupt and pollute it with slavery & colonization.

Now you see why those European visitors were bowled over by Ancient Benin especially the British super power as at then who were so covetous and envious of our wealth and unique style of civilization that they purposed to either claim it by force or destroy it if they couldn’t… and destroy it they did.

Because our brave king and warriors who were not prepared to hand over the labor of love of their ancestors for centuries to them on a platter of gold fought them to the last man standing in a bloody war they always try not to remember because of the thousands of British troops massacred by the Benin warriors. So they burned down Benin City to rubble and looted it in anger, vengeance, pain, frustration and greed to cover their tracks.

Thereby wiping away 500 years of ancient civilization that would still be more or less standing today for the whole world see, study and learn from as it is with the ancient civilization of Egypt.

Imagine if Rome as the super power of its day had wiped out the ancient civilization of Egypt the greatest black civilization of all time the same way they nearly wiped out the ancient Jewish Civilization of Jerusalem in 70 AD under the lame excuse of quelling a rebellion and pacifying the land as that so called British Punitive Expedition against Benin where they not only burned down its capital city but went about scorching out every town and village around it to effectively wipe out any future attempt or ability for it to recover and rise again as an empire or kingdom of note in Africa.

Then to add insult on injury went about to brand it all over the world as the CITY OF BLOOD for purported human sacrifices they said was the primary reason they invaded it, when our ancestor Oba Ewuare the Great named it the CITY OF LOVE because of his servant called Edo who sacrificed his life to save him from assassins aiming to kill him and prevent him from ascending the throne and consequently he renamed the kingodm after his loyal servant as Edo as well as the liberality and hospitality of Edo land and Benin people to all foreigners both Africans & Europeans that came to live, visit or trade in Benin City.
 

Yet failing to mention the massive tons of priceless ivories, gold, bronze arts and artifacts worth billions of dollars in today’s monetary value which they looted not only from the king’s palace they razed to the ground but also the immeasurable similarly stocked piled wealth in the enormous walled compounds of the noble men and chiefs they likewise razed, looted and pillaged some of whom had several hundreds and even thousands of servants living in their walled compounds that sometimes had as many as 100 houses built within the walls to accommodate all their servants who were never treated as slaves.
 
For the kings or Oba’s of Benin decreed that none of the nobles should not get involved in the rampant slave trade perpetrated all over the West African slave coast by the European slave traders and merchants to the extent where the Oba placed an embargo on all slaver traders never ever to touch, capture, buy or sell any bonafide citizens of Benin as a slave or they will incur the Oba’s wrath and grievous punishment, which was reported to have caused all the slave traders both European and locals operating in Benin Empire to set up an effective screening mechanism aimed at separating out the Benin People from the midst of the ranks of their slaves thereby effectively limiting the slave trade in Benin Empire to the barest minimum.

Now imagine black charcoal calling a brown firewood black!

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African Slave Trade Championed by the British Slave Traders that sent tens of millions of Black Africans to the American & Carribean plantations, so which is worse: Human Sacrifice & Ritual Murders or Genocidal Holocaust & Slave Trade Crime Against Humanity???

 

Imagine the global slave trading British Empire from Africa to India to America to the Caribbean branding the Benin Empire as guilty of human sacrifice which every single ancient empire from Egypt to Rome including themselves engaged in massively until they were cajoled by their god-fearing human right activists to abolish it. That was why they saw it needful to destroy our entire civilization like their specialist Babylonian brothers whose sole intention was to destroy ancient civilizations and carry away the inhabitants as captives to strange lands as they did with Israel. Imagine the damage done by Babylon to world history and human development in those days and beyond it.
 
Imagine the loss if we only could read about ancient Egypt in history books and never could see it life as tourists even as it now the case with Ancient Benin today

 
Then they carted away our stolen wealth and precious arts / artifacts to Europe & America where thousands of them are stashed away in both private & public museums from Britain to France to Germany to Austria to Japan to Canada to America and all over the world and still, they don’t want to give it back to the rightful owners whom they stole it from because of the superior quality of these art works that was peerless in their days till today. That even the best European artists of those times like Picaso and others copied the style of the Benin art guilds and learned their techniques.
 
This is incontrovertible proof of the level of our civilization which would have kept on advancing to greater heights till today if it was not tampered with and truncated by these shameless colonial forces who as yet have refused to apologize and make amends to Africa for the their inhuman, debased, animalistic enslavement of their fellow humans. The shameless creatures who cunningly came openly to us with their Missionary Bibles in their hands and we warmly received them not knowing they secretly hiding their Colonial Guns behind their backs.
 
 
What goes around comes around. See why they butchered themselves in the tens of millions in two consecutive world wars in the space of only forty years?
 
Yet this present generation who are their children still do not see it necessary to do needful and come out a sincere open apology to Black Africans all over the world on behalf of their forefathers and make adequate reparations like returning back the looted African arts and artifacts in their possessions. Or do they think those looted arts & artifacts were sold to their forefathers in an African Markets or that perhaps they picked them up in an African jungle as in “Finders Keepers”?

Finally I say it again and again and I stand uncorrected that if all the Black African kingdoms were half as strong as the Benin Empire who determinedly resisted the British Empire with their whole might and power there would never have been a European colonization of Black Africa.

Because they would have eventually been frustrated out of the continent or be content to trade with the continent like their Portuguese predecessors did. A typical example is Ethiopia who resisted every attempt of the Italians to colonize them to the last until the Italians were eventually frustrated out of their land and gave all attempts to be a colonial power in Africa thereby leaving Ethiopia as the only African Kingdom and country that was never ever colonized by the Europeans.
 
I Rest My Case!
The Editor.

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KINGS SQUARE BENIN CITY BY DAY

220px-Flag_of_the_Benin_EmpireFlag of the Benin Empire
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The putative flag of the Benin Empire is a distinctive late 19th-century West African flag, frequently but probably erroneously described as the flag of the Empire of Benin.[1] It is one of four currently held at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich near London.

Contents
1 Overview
2 Modern interest
3 References
4 External links

Overview
The Museum however describes this flag as follows:[2]

‘West African flag probably Itsekhiri (sic). A red wool bunting flag with a linen hoist, machine sewn with a rope halyard attached. The design is applied in white fabric with painted details, representing a naked man decapitating another with a sword. The flag was said to have been brought back by Admiral F. W. Kennedy from the 1897 Benin expedition. ‘Kennedy’ is inscribed on a paper label attached to the rope. The Itsekri people acted as middle men between the Edo people of Benin in the interior and the Europeans on the coast – the Edo would not cross or travel on waterways.

The Benin expedition was launched in reprisal against an attack on a British mission in the service of Niger Coast Protectorate by forces of the Oba of Benin. It was a combined naval and military operation under the command of Rear-Admiral Harry Holdsworth Rawson C.B. with local troops and carriers. The towns of Guato and Sapobar were attacked by detached forces while the main part of the expedition marched on Benin. The town was captured and accidentally burnt. Oba Overami was exiled to Calabar where he died in 1914. The famous Benin bronzes were removed as reparations by the British.’

There is therefore some uncertainty about the exact origin of the flag, and whether it came from Benin itself or was used by the forces of its Itsekiri allies. The name ‘Kennedy’ on the paper label attached seems to indicate it was brought back by Admiral F.W. Kennedy from the 1897 expedition against Benin, and so is of Benin origin. The flag however is extremely similar to three other West African flags the Museum holds, which originated not in Benin itself but with the neighbouring Itsekiri people. These flags were designed for use on boats by forces loyal to the Itsekiri leader Nana Olomu (1852–1916). Admiral Kennedy was not present on the British expedition against Nana Olomu, carried out three years earlier: but he is however associated with one of these flags (catalogue number AAA0455) which is appliquéd with the name ‘NANNA ALLUMA’S SON’, and so is definitely Itsekiri.[3] An Itsekiri origin would argue against the above flag ever having been the accepted emblem of Benin.

The bottom line is that Itsekhiri and Warri was part and parcel of Benin Empire and the Red Warriors of Benin garrisoned there in their military camp or eko as it was all over the empire wore Red Uniforms to the battle field while their field generals carried such Red Banners of War that carried a very clear message of what awaited the enemy army if they did not surrender and submit to the the sovereignty of the Oba of Benin. Even though it may not have been a standardized official palace emblem but it was indeed used as a WAR FLAG in the GREAT BENIN EMPIRE.

Modern interest
In more recent times the flag has attracted attention for being unusual and gained some popularity on the internet as a highly distinctive graphic.
References

http://www.greatbenin.org/

National Maritime Museum: Barbara Tomlinson, Curator of Antiquities, February 2010

National Maritime Museum: Barbara Tomlinson, Curator of Antiquities, February 2010

Edwin’s Raisin

Boing Boing

Kottke

Official website of the National Maritime Museum
Institute for Benin Studies

Categories:
Flags of Africa
History of Benin

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BENIN KINGDOM 1,000 YEARS DYNASTY
OF OGISOS OR SKY KINGS {ABOUT 40BC -1100AD}

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1st
Igodo
{About 40BC – 16AD}

Igodo or Obagodo established the kingdom in components of Benin were united and formed into a central Administrative Unit. He was the first recorded Ogiso {monarch} of Igodomigodo {Benin} kingdom with his seat of government at Ugbekun. He created the Edion Nene the {four elders} Oliha, Edohen, Ero and Eholo they were chosen based on their merit, to help the Ogiso management the affairs of the kingdom. Their positions were not hereditary if any of them died the post is filled with any person who remits the position. They were later to be known as Uzama nire hion {the seven kingmakers}.

2nd
Ere
{About 16AD – 66AD}

He succeeded his father in about 16 AD. The first Ogiso to wear a crown, a lover of peace. He transferred the capital of Igodomigodo {Benin kingdom} from Ugbekun to Uhudumwunrun. Created many villages. Build the first market called Ogiso market this market is now known today  as Agbado market. He introduced the specialized professional guild system of carpenters {Owina} and {Igbesamwan}the wood and ivory carvers. To promote the highest ideals. These guilds were accorded royal patronage.
 
To this day guilds like those of wood carvers are still operating at Igbesanmwan. He introduced what became the key components in Africa monarchism. Ekete {a royal stool}, Agba [{a rectangular stool}, and Ekpoki {a leather box},the round leather fan {Ezuzu}, beaded anklets {Eguen} collars odigba a simple undecorated form of crown, the swords of royal authority, {Ada and Eben} the former a sword of honour and the latter sword for royal dancing.  

3rd
Orire
{About 66AD – 100AD}

Ogiso Orire ascended the throne of Igodomigodo kingdom {Benin kingdom} in about 66AD, in continuation of the hereditary system after the death of his father Ere who reportedly transferred the capital of Igodomigodo {Benin} kingdom from Ugbekun to Uhudumwunrun. Tradition says Orire dead childless plunging the monarchy into a period of confusion that lasted for about 3 centuries, without a royal successor.
 
During this period Igodomigodo, kingdom {Benin kingdom} became a republic nation and fragmented, each community was governed by their community elders {Owere} and with the oldest man in the community Odionwere they managed the day-to-day affair of their various community.The ancient system of self-governance. 

4th
Odia
{About 385AD – 400AD}

After more than three centuries of confusion, and as republic the communities that make up Igodomigodo land {Benin kingdom} agreed to a unified community under a monarchial government. Odia the oldest person in the united community was crowned the Ogiso of Igodomigodo kingdom [Benin kingdom] becoming the first Ogiso Odionwere of the kingdom, {A system there by the oldest person in the community is crowned the monarch of the kingdom.

5th
Ighido
{About 400AD – 414AD}
Tradition says before he ascended the throne, he was a blacksmith.

6th
Evbuobo
Tradition says, he was very old before he ascended the throne. He died at about the age of 110 years.

7th
Ogbeide
{About 432AD – 447AD
Tradition says, he hailed from Ugbague. He died on Ugie day.        

8th
Emehe
{About 447AD – 466AD}
He was born in Emehe quarters and he was a great diviner.

9th
Ekpigho
{About 466AD – 482AD}
Before he ascended the throne, he was a financier. 

10th
Akhuankhuan
{About 482AD – 494AD}
Before his ascension to the throne he was into commerce

11th
Efeseke
{About494AD – 508AD}
Born in Urubi quarters in Benin City Before his ascension to the throne, he was a livestock farmer.

12th
Irudia
{About 508AD – 522AD}
Not much is known about him.

13th
Orria
{About 522AD – 537AD}
Before his ascension to the throne, tradition says he was a professional game hunter.

14th
Imarhan
{About 537AD – 548AD}
Before his ascension to the throne, tradition says he was skilful potter.

15th
Etebowe
ascension {About 548AD – 567AD}
Before his abstention to the throne, tradition says he was a skilful wrestler

16th
Odion
{About 567 – 584AD}
Tradition says he was a lover of songs and music and a folk tale teller.

17th
Emose
{ABout 584AD – 600AD}

Some Historians are of the view that Emose was a female Ogiso {queen}. Others disagree, in their view; Emose was a posthumous male child who inherited his mother’s huge wealth and took his mother’s name along with it. No female has ever been positively confirmed to have reigned in Ighodomigodo kingdom [Benin kingdom].

18th
Ororo {Orhorho}
{About 600D – 618AD}

Some Tradition says Ogiso Ororo {Orhorho} was a male Ogiso. Before his ascension to the throne, he was a skilful blacksmith and great trader. Another tradition is of the view that Ororo {Orhorho} was a female Ogiso {queen} who was assassinated due to her wickedness  while on her way to Omi her mother’s native village.

19th
Erebo
{About 618AD – 632AD}
Before his ascension to the throne traditional historians says, he was an angler and canoe carver.

20th
Ogbomo
{About 632AD – 647AD}
Before his ascension to the throne tradition says, he was a traditional midwife.

21th
Agbonzeke
{About 1661AD – 1669AD}
Tradition says he was an historian and philosopher.

22th
Ediae
{About 1669AD – 1675AD}
He was the last Ogiso Odionwere. Before his ascension to the throne, tradition says he was a skilful wood carver and sculpture.

23th
Orriagba
{About 685AD – 712AD}

He changed the odionwere system of Ogisoship to hereditary system. He created the title Ezomo to join the four members of Edion Nene {four elders} Chiefs Oliha, Edohen, Ero and Eholo-Nire and called them Edionnisen {the five elders} and made their position to be hereditary.

24th
Odoligie
{About 712AD – 767AD}

Tradition says he was a very resourceful Ogiso, a warrior; he conquered many towns and villages. He stabilized the state by the formation of the Benin Royal Army during his reign. A class of people known as “Iyokuo”-the warriors– was established.

25th
Uwa
{About 767AD – 821AD}
He inherited a great kingdom. Brass casting was introduced into Benin kingdom during his reign. He decorated his daughter Emwinkururre with brass bangles/ankles.

26th
Eheneden
{About 821AD – 871AD}
He inherited a large kingdom and wealth, improved art craft and trade.   

27th
Ohuede
{About871AD – 917AD}

During his reign, there was serious inflation. There were other pestilences which followed. People counterfeited the coins of the realm by bringing illegal money into the country. What really happened was that people suddenly discovered a large quantity of cowries (which was the then known coin or money in use) and there after flooded the country with it. The attendant result was inflation.

28th
Oduwa
{About 917AD – 967AD}
The kingdom was in the state of anarchy during his reign.

29th
Obioye
{About 967 AD – 1012AD}

When Ogiso Obioye came in as ruler, he harnessed the whole currency by nationalizing cowries wherever they were in private hands or with the state. This money became scarce and its value restored. It is this state of affairs which gave rise to the expression “a valuable article purchased with Obioye’s Coin”. Ogiso Obioye therefore was the first king who reformed the currency.

30th
Arigbo
{About 1012AD – 1059AD}
He was a great merchant. Some tradition says he introduced the use of cowries as currency and slave labour.  

31st
Owodo
{About 1059AD – 1100AD}

He was the last Ogiso of Igodomigodo {Benin kingdom}. He banished to Ihinwirin for the killing of a pregnant woman. He brought a lot of stress and hardship on the nation for he was incompetent. He more or less fell back to the habit of not summoning the state council meeting unless there was trouble. He was preoccupied with the primogeniture law especially as he had only one son who he thought might die before him which might leave him without a successor. This obsession drove him to consult the oracle as to how he might have more male children who might succeed him. In the end, the tragic episode of Ikaladerhan’s banishment came into our history. However, Ikaladerhan by a change of fortune eventually emerged at Uhe (or Ife) as a king with the appellation Ododuwa derived from the Benin word “Imaghidoduwa or Imadoduwa” which is an exclamatory word “I have not missed the path to prosperity” a reminiscence of his surprise at his emerging as a king in a strange land after having left as a refugee.                                         
 

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 BENIN EMPIRE 800 YEARS DYNASTY OF OBAS {1200AD – PRESENT}
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Benin Empire 800 Years Dynasty of Obas {1200AD – Present}
Compiled By edoworld.net
 
Ekaladerancopia

Ekalederhan the only son of Ogiso Owodo

and Grandfather of Eweka I
 
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1st
Oba Eweka I & the beginning of Oba Dynasty
{About 1200AD – 1235AD}
 Oba_Adolor

After the banishment of Owodo; the last Ogiso under the {Ogiso periods} for misrule. Evain who had earlier distinguished himself as a brave man by destroying the man-eating Osogan, was appointed as an administrator who ruled Benin for nearly 40 years. At his old age, Evian nominated his son Ogiamien as a successor. Unfortunately, this nomination did not go well with the Edo people who maintained that succession to the the throne is always applicable to kings and not to commoners to which class Evian belonged. Spear headed by Oliha, there was a serious agitation to bring back the monarch.

The nation was thrown into a state of internecine war and as a way out the elders {led by Oliha} went on a search party to look for Ikaladerhan {the barnished son of the last Ogiso Owodo} who had for some time taken refuge at Uhe {or Ife as is now known}. The seach party reached Uhe to meet Ikaladerhan already enjoying the status of a king. The Edo people could not persuade him to return home. Nevertheless, Ikaladerhan now known as Ododuwa agreed to send his son if only the Benin could take care of him.

This is how Ododuwa sent his son Oromiyan to Benin. To test whether the Edo people would care for their king, Ododuwa gave the Edo people three years to nurse the common louse. On their success, the great Ododuwa was convinced that the people really would care for their king.

Oromiyan was thereafter sent to Benin in 1170AD.He came into Benin amidst the serious opposition of Ogiamien who refused him entry into the city which was still under the firm grip of his administration.
Oromiyan was therefore forced to settle at Usama which was an outskirt of the city State . There he remained under the political support of the elders {Edion} headed by chief Oliha. Oromiyan had both language and cultural handicaps because of his Yoruba backgrounds. Although he had a Benin father {Ikaladerhan} yet he was really born and bred in yoruba land which was then the adopted kingdom, a refugee prince who had now found a new home at Ife.

When Oromiyan could neither speak nor understand the Benin custom, Unable to bear the animosity for very long renounced his position and labeled Edo land [Benin kingdom] lle Ibinu meaning land of annoyance and vexation and declared that only a child of the soil educated in the culture and tradition of the land could rule the kingdom. He thereafter returned to Uhe{IIe Ife} On his way back home he stopped briefly at Ego where he pregnated princess Erimwinde the daughter of the Enogie of Ego who bear him a son.

In his early years couldn’t talk when his father who by now established the Alafin dynasty in Oyo had of his son predicament, sent his son’s mother Ehendiwo seven marbles. While playing this marbles with other children one of his throws hit the target in excitement screamed Owomika {I have succeeded} which was Corrupted into Eweka.  
For a period of over 30 years, the administration of Benin City was virtually in the hands of Ogiamien family until 1200 AD when the “Boy-King” Eweka I as a young king ruled the kingdom with the assistance of his maternal grandfather Ogiegor.

Oba Eweka I stated the reign of the Obas. Hitherto, the kings were known as Ogiso but when Eweka I came as a king, he was referred to as Oba. Some people said that the word oba is a yoruba word which means king. Others said the word Obaa meaning it is hard or difficult or probably from an abbreviation of the original name of the first Ogiso {Obagodo {Oba godo}-Oba king; godo-high : High King}. Wherever the word is derived from one can only say that it really came into use as connoting kingship during Oba Eweka I in 1200 AD

Oba Eweka reigned for 35 yearss at his demise , his rival children ruled in succession
 

2nd
Oba Uwakhuanhen
{About 1235AD – 1243AD}
When Eweka I dead his son Oba Uwakhuahen ascended the throne. His reign was uneventful.

3rd
Oba Ehenmihen
{About 1243AD – 1255AD}

When Uwakhuhen died his brother Ehenmihen ascended the throne. There were no events of importance during his reign.

4th
Oba Ewedo
{About 1255AD – 1280AD}

image0111
 

Prince Efabo ascended the throne after the death of his father with the title Oba Ewedo. Seen by historians as the second greatest monarch to reign in Benin kingdom.

It must be observed that the three first Obas – Eweka I, Uwakhuanhen and Ehenmihen had their political support from the elders {Edion who later became known as Uzama} Oba Ewedo discontented with the rudely behaviors of the Edionisen {five Elders} uzama he called them ‘Emwan nei zama omwan’ meaning people who don’t show respect to their Oba this was later corrupted into Uzama. This is not surprising because they brought Oromiyan from Uhe [IIe Ife]. These Edion more or less treated the monarchy as primus inter pares which position made Oba Ewedo therefore to embark upon a risky job of suppressing the Uzamas and miraculously he did not only succeed in doing so but eventually suppressed Ogiamien who was virtually in control of the City State.

The final settlement came at the battle of “Ekiokpagha” which the Oba fought with Ogiamien who was defeated. After the victory. Oba Ewedo received the royal stool from Ogiamen and build the present royal palace.
Ogiamien was appointed a chief converting Ogiamien his nickname to a title.
The apantominic re-enactment of this battle is now a part of the coronation ritual usually performed on the seventh day after a new Oba is crowned. It is in this light that one may venture to say that Ewedo really consolidated the position of Benin monarchy.

In other to make the Edionise five elders {Uzama} more, accountable to him he reduces their power, which before now was equals with the Oba.

He prohibits all chiefs including the uzama from sitting when they are before him instead they must stand in a row to identify him from them.

He prohibits all chiefs from carrying Ada the royal sword of office before him.
To weaken the power of Uzama the more he created the title Iyase [I ya ona se uwa] meaning this I create to be higher then you all. Most of the functions and powers of the Edionise [five elders] Uzama like the confirment of titles both hereditary or non hereditary were transferred to Chief Iyase who does so with the instructions of the Oba.The Iyase now became the second in Command & the kingdom Prime Minister.The only important function of the Uzama was to officiate at the crowning ceremony of a new Oba.

He also created additional titles such as Esogban-who was made to be incharge of the shrines of the elders, Uwangue {keepers of Oba’s wordrobe and the Regalia}, Osodin and Uso {keepers of of oba’s harem}, Isekhurhe as the kingdom chief priest- Incharge of Oba’s ancestral staff and the recorders of Oba’s ancestors.
To bring law and order into the kingdom he build the first prison called Ewedo named after him ,in which criminals were confined. The prison was kept under the control of chief Eribo.
He changed the name of the kingdom from IIe –Ibinu to Ubini.
 

5th
Oba Oguola
{About 1280AD – 1295AD}

Oba_Oguola

The successor to Ewedo would have been prince Obuobu who was engaged in endless wars in Ibo land. In his absence, his brother was crowned with the title Oba Oguola.

Oba Oguola dug the first and second Moats to fortify the city from invaders from Udo. He further decreed that important towns and villages should build similar moats as defense systems around their communities. This has given rise to twenty of such moats around Benin City and its environs. He encouraged the systematic organization of the ancient guild of brass casting which was declining.
The war menace from Akpanigiakon of Udo was ended when the Oba defeated his foe at the battle of Urhezen about the year 1285.
 

6th
Oba Edoni
{About 1295AD – 1299AD}
 
Oba Oguola was succeeded by Edoni whose reign was uneventful.

7th
Oba Udagbedo
{ About 1299AD – 1334AD}
 Oba_Udagbedo

Udagbedo ascended the throne after the death of his brother Edoni. Udagbedo was industrious brave and kind-hearted, encouraged agriculture. During his reign Benin kingdom extended its colonial rule to the present day Ghana. The ethnic group known as GA in Ghana were the early Edos who settled in that part of the world.

8th
Oba Ohen
{About 1334AD – 1370AD}

Oba_Ohen 

Ohen ascended the throne after the death of his brother. Oba Udagbedo. Paralyzed 25 years after ascending the throne. He was stoned to death by his chiefs for ordering the murder of his Iyase for spying on his deformity.

9th
Oba Ogbeka
{About 1370AD – 1400AD}

Oba_Ogbeka

It was during his reign the Urhobos migrated from Benin kingdom.

10th
Oba Orobiru
{About 1400AD – 1430AD}
 
There were no events of importance during his reign.

11th
Oba Uwaifiokun
{About1430AD-1440AD}
Oba_Uwaifiokun 

He usurped the throne of Benin kingdom in place of his senior brother prince Ogun who was the heir apparent. His exiled senior brother prince Ogun paid many secret and nocturnal visits to Benin through Oba’s market. On many occasions, Emotan warned Ogun of impending dangers and advised him against interacting with some treacherous chiefs who may reveal his presence.

Prince Ogun succeeded in murdering Uwaifiokun during night ceremonial performance at Oba’s market.

12th
Oba Ewuare the Great
{About 1440AD – 1473AD}
Oba_Ewuare

Seen by historians as the greatest, the most revered, dynamic, innovative and successful monarch to have reigned in Benin kingdom. He completely transformed the Benin kingdom, politically, socially, and religiously.

Under his reign Benin kingdom witnesses its highest prosperity. He changed the kingdom’s name from Ibinu land to Edo land as a reward to a young man called Edo who saved his life.

He also honoured Emotan for her pivotal role played in serving his live from glaring dangers during his exile years. when Emotan died he ordered that the sacred Uruhe tree be planted at the spot where Emotan used to display her goods in Oba market. 

Oba Ewuare is remembered for many things. First contact with any European was made by Oba Ewuare when Ruy De Sequeira visited Benin City in 1472. In his time ivory carving was encouraged. A name like Eghoghomagha can still be remembered as one of the greatest carvers in Benin. Of music, Ewuare is remembered for his famous flute called Eziken and the royal band called Ema-Edo.He introduced the royal beads and scarlet cloth {Ododo} which remains the Benin Royal colour. The ugie Ewere started in his reign. 

Ewuare’s administration was specifically marked by the creation of the state council made up of Eghaevbo N’0re whose original members were Iyase, Esogban,Eson and Osuma. Ewuare elevated his eldest son to the position of Uzama when he created him Edaiken. He created the Eriyo title. He started Eko-Ohae {Bachelor’s camp} which is now a part of the coronation stations of any Oba of Benin.

He was a great mystic, physician, traveller and warrior.
Restored the primogeniture law. He was reputed to have travelled extensively to very many parts of the present day Nigeria , Dahomey {now called Republic of Benin} Ghana Guinea and Congo.It is on record that he fought and captured not less than 201 towns and villages.Expand Benin kingdom to the west Ekiti, Ikare, to the north, kukuruku.Eka {Ika}and Ibo land west of the Niger.

Re-builds the kingdom on a massive scale, public houses, royal palaces. Made good roads some of which can now be remembred as Akpakpava and Utantan. it was at the peak of his reign that Benin gained the name City.
The innermost and greatest of the Benin moats {generally referred to as third moat} was dug in his time.

He completely Re-organized the governmental mechanism of the kingdom.

Introduced a lot of annual ceremonies and re-organized the exciting ones.
At Usela, the outskirt of Benin City was a very powerful chief called Iken, rich and war-like fear by all even the Oba [monarch]. When there was a revolt at Owo; columns of royal troops headed by Iken were sent to Owo to bring down the revolt.

On the request of Iken the Oba sent his eldest son crown prince kuoboyuwa to deputized for Iken [Edayi n’iken] until he return from the war although Iken and his army successfully bring down the revolt , Iken lost is life in the process without surviving child.Kuoboyuwa became his heir apparent .It has since that period become traditional that the first son of every Oba of Benin, is conferred with the title of Edaiken and on coming of age, leaves his residence in the centre of the town for the Palace of Edaiken (Eguae-Edaiken) at Uselu where he remains until when he is called upon to ascend the throne as Oba.

Ewuare also vigorously promotion Benin art particularly the brass casting.

To talk of Oba Eware is like talking about Alexander the Great. The fame of Ewuare is known in other lands. Thus Chief Egharevba the traditional Benin historian recorded that the Ekiti refer to him as Oba Ado ngbogun lobo ile, Ogbomudu ngbeli orun, meaning “The Oba Benin wages war on the earth below and Ogbomudu {or the monster Osogan} wages war in heaven” Chief Egharevba did not mince words when he said that” The Ibo spoke of Idu Ala Eze Ika meaning Benin, land of the powerful Oba”. 

13th
Oba Ezoti
{About 1473AD – 1473AD}

https://edodeltamovement.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/oba_ezoti.jpg?w=700

He reigned for only fourteen days having passed away as a resuIt of the injury he sustained from a poisoned arrow fired by a boy, assassin during his coronation. After his death, prince Okpame his younger  brother was sent to Isi, a town outside Benin city to be Owere the heir apparent to be crowned the Oba. On their way to Benin City Okpame murdered Owere and his mother then lied to the Benin elders that they both died of natural causes, when the truth became open Okpame was banished. He fled to a place call Ora {north of Benin City}.

14th
Oba Olua
{About 1473AD – 1480AD}

https://edodeltamovement.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/oba_olua.jpg?w=700

Olua who was the second son of Oba Ewuare at first refused the crown, for fear of his banished brother prince Okpame who fled to Ora.

His sister princess Edeloyo was then asked to ascend the throne. She received the title of Edaiken, a title given to all heirs apparent before their ascension to the throne. She fell sick, as a result of this, the Uzamas (king makers) and Eghaevbo (executive council) enacted a law permanently prohibiting women form becoming king in Ancient Benin Kingdom.
Olua was eventually crowned the Oba of Benin after much persuasion from the Benin elders. He sent one of his sons to Eho [a town outside Benin City] to keep an eye on the movement of prince Okpame. Olua’s son eventually became the Ogia of Eho.

Historical account says Oba Olua was kind and generous. Concerned about his unpopular son Iginua among the Benin Elders and the prospects of been prevented from ascending the throne after his death, decided to create another kingdom for him near the coast.It is this kingdom which is popularly called warri today. Igiua gladly took the offer knowing that the possibility of him succeeding his father as the Oba of Benin kingdom was very slim.

Iginua left Benin City with many columns of subjects, to the newly created kingdom. Just by the coast of Benin kingdom with the title Odili n’ ame.

He became know to his Itsekiri subject and those who accompany him from Benin City as the Olu of Itsekiri.He eventually became the Founder of Itsekiri kingdom, the first Olu of Itsekiri or Olu of warri. 
 

15th
Oba Ozolua
{About 1481AD – 1504AD}

Oba_Ozolua

After the death of Olua with out a clear successor. Prince Okpame who would have succeeded to the throne was in exile at Ora. There was struggle for control among the powerful chiefs for three agonizing years. They set up a republican administration. Without a formidable leader at the herm of the affair to maintain law and order, those placed in various levels of authority, were weak and incapable. Benin kingdom became totally disorganized and vulnerable to enemy attack. This compelled the Benin elders to call on prince Okpame in Ora to come back to Benin and ascend to his ancestral throne and save his fatherland. He rejected the offer. The Benin Elders were able to convince him to accept the crown.

Finally he ascended the throne, with the title Oba Ozolua.

With the City in serious disarray. He therefore embarked on consolidation of the City State. His first task was to launch a full-scale war to subdue the secessionists. He conquered many towns and village notable Owo, Ijebu-Land, Ondo. It is to his credit that he won not less than 200 battles which earned him the appellation Ozolua, n’ ibaromi’’ meaning Ozolua the Conqueror.

It was Ozolua who introduced a musical instrument called Emaba now used for the royal dance.He seized this instrument from Origbo who was a powerful Chief at Ogidi near Siluko. The conquest of Ijebu Ode, Owo and its environs are records which no one has surpassed. In 1503 it became necessary for him to march on Uromi to re-establish his suzerainty over the area when Enogie Agba rebelled.

Ozolua was the father of Alani of Idoani, Olokpe of Okpe in Akoko Edo Area {north of Benin city} Uguan of Ora, Owa of Owo, Awojale of Ijebu-Ode and Eze of Aboh. He established the settlement of sobo {Uhobe} Ijagba, Ifon and Uhie.

During his reign a portuguese, explorer John Affonso d’Aveiro visited Benin {1485-1486}.

 
16th
Oba Esigie
{About 1504 – 1550AD}

Oba_Esigie

Prince Osawe ascended the throne with the title Oba Esigie. After the power struggle between him and his brother Arhuanran {Goliath type stature} the powerful ruler of Udo town some kilometers outside Benin City.

Concerned about the transgression by his brother Aruanran against his monarchial authority, he launched a full-scale civil war on Udo. One of the bloodiest of the many wars in Benin history The battle was fought and won by Oba Esigie.

Arhuanran drowned himself in Lake Odighi N’Udo.

Chief Osemwughe the Iyase of Udo took arms again, against the monarchial authority to avenge the defeat and the death of Arhuanran.

Oba Esigie launch a full scale war on Udo once again. Udo was destroyed chief Osemwughe and his rebel armies fled to the west of Benin kingdom now part of Yoruba land.

Oba Esigie determined to put an end to Udo rebellion once for all. Sent royal troops under the command of Odobo and Aile to pursue them in the process the Benin royal army builds military camps {Eko} along the way some of these camps {Eko} are now towns in Yoruba land.

Some of the Camps are camp Odobo {Eko-Odobo} name after general Odobo contracted into Akotogbo and camp Ikalo {Eko-Aile}name after general Aile was contracted to Ikale.

Osemwughe and his militants gave themselves up; when they could not face the war machines of the Benin royal troops much longer.They were later given a royal pardons by Oba Esigie but decided not to return to Udo. chief Osemwughe and his party were called Emma n’ Udo{the Udo deserters} which was later contracted to Ondo and the leader of the militants chief Osemwughe was mispronounced Osemawe a title by which all Ondo monarchs are now know.

He was the Oba who established christianity in the kingdom and exchanged ambassadors with the king of Portugal. Missionaries were sent from portugal to establish churches the remainants of which are: Aruosa N’Idunmwuerie, Aruosa N’Akpakpava and Aruosa N’Ogbelaka.
Oba Esigie sent Ohen-okun [Olokun priest] of Ughoton to portugal to understudy christianity and report to Benin.

Chief Oliha always boast of his wife Imaguero fidelity. But Oba Esigie try to make him understand that women are full of surprises a view Chief Oliha disagree with to prove his point Oba Esigie decided to send a cripple to Imaguero Chief Oliha’s wife.Imaguero don’t only commit adultery with the cripple she created a way, the cripple can have free and easy access into her many times.

When chief Oliha had how his wife he trusted so much fell for a cripple he was ashamed. The disgrace too big for him to bear he ordered the strangulation of Imaguero.

To revenge the “expensive joke” of Oba Esigie, Chief Oliha created a war between Benin kingdom and Idah.
Queen Idia the mother of Esigie mobilized the people of Uselu backed by the Benin royal troops and Portuguese missionaries, Idah was defeated.

The Benins have a saying that “women do not go to war expect Idia the mother of Esigie”.
Today she is one of the most respected woman in Benin history. An ivory mask carved in her honour {the Idia ivory mask} was the official symbol of the second world black and Africa festival of art and culture {FESTAC} and has since become the global iconic FACE OF THE AFRICAN QUEEN. The true masterpieces are still lying captive in British & Amrican museums.

The title of Iyoba {Queen Mother} was created by oba Esigie and was conferred for the first time on his mother Idia. He also builds a palace for her, Eguae-Iyoba (Palace of the Queen mother) is located at the lower part of Uselu.{Benin City suburban}. The Queen warrior who also exercised a lot of political influence in the administration of the kingdom. Oba Esigie started this tradition probably to forestall the conflict that would have arisen between his mother and himself over the exercise of political power. An almost independent domain of the Queen mother was therefore carved out for her.The Oba grants her a priviledge of recommending to him people who she wishes to be conferred with specific title perculiar to her palace.

Thus it has become strongly -established in Benin tradition that a year or two after the coronation of every Oba, he invests his mother with the title, lyoba (Queen mother) and sends her to reside at lower Uselu in Eguae-lyoba (Palace of the Queen mother). If it happens that the mother dies before the coronation of the son, the body is preserved for a year or two after the coronation to enable the Oba confer the title lyoba on her and later bury her at Eguae-lyoba.

It was at the peak of Oba Esigie’s international diplomacy that the Portuguese explorer John Affonso d’Aveiro visited the City a second time. The Oba could read and write Portuguese fluently.

17th
Oba Orhogbua
{About 1550AD – 1578AD}

Oba_Orhogbua

Before he ascends the throne, he was educated under the Portuguese educational system. The reign of Oba Orhogbua is marked with the expansion of the Empire westwards. Thus Eko {Lagos} and Badagry were founded. He established the monarchical rule in those places and placed his own representatives to rule them. He established the first Oba of Lagos. It is said that during the oba’s long surjourn in Lagos and Badagry, some parts of the Eastern Empire were in a rebellious state which was quickly suppressed by the war general, Ezomo Agban who was despatched to Agbor in 1577.
The appearance of British explorers like Windham {1553} in this part of the world took place during Orhogbua’s period.
He introduced the European type cooking salt to Benin kingdom

18th
Oba Ehengbuda
{About 1578AD – 1606AD}

Oba_Ehengbuda

Oba Ehengbuda 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 no-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.

The boundary of Benin Empire and Oyo land was set at Otun Ekiti during his reign after many wars was fought between the two which led to many kings in the Oyo land compelled to become subjugated to the rule of Benin empire as tribute paying vassals of the Imperial Oba of Benin.

19th
Oba Ohuan
{About 1606AD – 1641AD}
 Oba_Ohuan
Prince Odogbo ascended the throne with the title Oba Ohuan. He died childless.

20th
Oba Ahenzae
{About1641AD-1661AD}

Oba_Ahenzae

Since Ohuan died childless and without a successor. Eweka I lineage ended. Benin kingdom was in a renewed turmoil and nightmare. Once again there was struggle for power and control among various factional chiefs; they crowned someone from their camp as monarch under rotation system among the different branch of the royal family for six reigns this practices produced series of weak monarchs whose legitimacy were questionable and left the kingdom ones again vulnerable. Akenzae was sixteen years when he ascended the throne under this system.
During his reign many of the kingdom’s treasures were wasted and gambled away

21st
Oba Akenzae
{About 1661AD – 1669AD}
There were no events of importance during his reign.

22nd
Oba Akengboi
{About 1669AD-1675AD}
There were no events of importance during his reign.

23rd
Oba Akenkpaye
{Abou1675AD – 1684AD}
His rebellious chiefs, for abuse of power, corruption and selfishness, dethroned him.

24th
Oba Akengbodo
{About 1684AD-1689AD}
There were no events of importance during his reign.

25th
Oba Oroghene
{About 1689AD-1700AD}

Oba_Oroghene

He received a letter from Pope Innocent XII encouraging him and his subjects to continue to keep to the Christian faith.

26th
Oba Ewuakpe
{About 1700AD – 1712AD}

Oba_Ewuakpe
 

Prince Idova ascended the throne with the title Oba Ewuakpe in about 1700 A.D and was the 26th  monarch of the hereditary title of Benin dynasty.

He reigned for about 12 years which was characterized with series of set backs during the early period to the extent that all subjects in the kingdom revolted against him.

The fundamental cause of grouse was to protest against the monarch’s high handedness and his flagrant disrespect of human lives which culminated in the mass killing of his subjects at Uselu during the funeral of his demised mother Queen Ewebonoza in about 1705 A.D. When it became apparent that the elders and the citizens of the Kingdom could no longer accommodate the excesses of their king they were compelled to sever their disreputable connections. This uprising also affected all his wives (Iloi) the royal slaves (ovien) and other palace attendants.

In-view of this misdemeanor it would behoove queen Iden to single handedly take the bull by the horns. Queen Iden became the only friend of Oba Ewuakpe in that time of need, as she made herself present as the kings only hope in time of great calamity when it became apparent that there was no solution to his predicaments, the king decided to seek refuge amongst his mothers relations at Ikoka village out the monarch was also rejected in his material abode.

In his sad state of mind he came back to Benin City on the arrival of the Oba Queen Iden observed his hopelessness and decided to do something about it by consulting an oraclelist on behalf of her husband Oba Ewuakpe, to seek the oracle instruction on what should be done to ward off the calamity bedeviling the ancient kingdom and its monarch.

After a thorough divination by the oraclist he concluded that all that was needed for the peace of the kingdom and the restoration of its throne was a human sacrifice.

Immediately after finding a solution to the problem from the oraclist, she headed for the palace to give the message of the god to his majesty the King in their empty harem. The message from the diviner seemed to aggravate matters for Oba Ewuakpe because there was no other human being in his palace, free or bonded beside his dear wife Queen Iden who incidentally was the conveyor of this report. Consequently, the possibility of getting some body else for the human sacrifice became remote for the royal couple.

In the absence of any other person Queen Iden in a gesture similar to the Jewish Jesus Christ volunteered to be used as a sacrificial lamb needed by the god for the restoration of the kingdom and his royalty.
As son as Queen Iden suggested to her husband that she submit herself for the supreme price determined by the ancestors Oba Ewuakpe became nervously embittered as he could not comprehend the possibility of himself killing his dear wife, who had stood with him in times of calamity of this magnitude in order to atone for the sins she had not committed. But the determined Queen encouraged the royal hands to shed her blood. If only that will appease the ancestral spirits of the land of Benin. So as to put aside the upheaval in the kingdom.

And as it became glaring on Oba Ewakpe that there was no other way out of the predicament he conceded reluctantly to the pressure mounted by his real lover the Queen and atone the gods with the precious blood of Queen Iden, as he buried her alive on the spot near the Oba market in the heart of Benin metropolice.

Before Queen Iden voluntarily offered her self as an atonement to the gods, she requested for one favour from the king, that he should make sure her grave side is kept clean at all times. In addition, she cautioned against the reality of any person treading on her grave or else such trespasser should be killed on the spot as a mark of respect for her blessed remembrance.

Consequently her desire was strictly adhered to till the invasion of the British forces in 1897. This Queen had paid the ultimate price requested for by the ancestors but she did not know the outcome of her cherished kingdom and the reign of her beloved husband.

As soon as Oba Ewakpe finished the sacrificial rituals, some of the prominent chiefs in the kingdom called for a trace between the throne and it’s aggrieved subjects. Other Benin Chiefs started paying homage to the Benin monarch again and pledge their loyalty to the bereaved Oba Ewakpe.
Then all other Benin’s came in the same spirit to pledge their allegiance to his authority over them as their king. Consequently, the entire kingdom was reconciled back to the king and remained loyal to the royal majesty till the end of his reign.

Since it was necessary to celebrate such re-union, the Benins came together at the palace and rolled out drums to give such occasion a memorable one. During his happy mood the people were taken back to see their own king weeping profusely in the midst of merriment instead of being happy for the reunion of his subjects with him. This made his subjects to find out from the Oba why he was weeping at the time of celebration like this, the Oba replied that the motive behind his tears was because of his desire to mourn the sacrificial demise of his dear wife queen Iden.

He went further to narrate all the ordeal in the palace at the time the kingdom fell apart which resulted in the untimely exit of his best friend and beloved Queen who because of her unfeigned love for the unity of her fatherland, offered herself as a scrape goat to the gods of her pedigree. For the redemption of their intergenetional equity and social cultural heritage.

27th
Oba Ozuere
{About 1712AD – 1713AD}

Oba_Eweka_2

Ozuere was the second son of Oba Ewuakpe. He usurped the throne with the help of some chiefs in place of his senior brother Akunzua I in contrary to the law made by Oba Ewuakpe and approved and passed by Eghaevbo [executive council] and Uzama Nihinron [the seven kingmakers] that says only the eldest son of the Oba should ascent the throne.

On the other hand, some very powerful chiefs were prepared to uphold and defend the laws of the land at all cost, questioned Ozuere legitimacy to the throne.

A civil war once again broke out in Benin kingdom, it lasted for many weeks. Ozuere was eventually defeated and dethroned. His reign lasted for just a year.

28th
Oba Akenzua I
{About 1713AD- 1735AD}

Oba_Akenzua_I
 

Akenzua ascension to the throne followed the defeat and dethronement of Oba Ozuereo his younger brother widely viewed as the beginning of the second Obaship periods.

Historical record says he was one of the richest monarchs who reign in Benin kingdom. He was nicknamed Akenzua Nisonorho {Akenzua the rainy sky}

He was the father of Ogie of Avbiama and Obi of Isele-Uku.
During his reign Benin Kingdom witnessed a period of peace and prosperity.
 

29th
Oba Eresoyen
{About 1735 AD-1750AD}

Oba_Eresoyan

Benin kingdom continued to grow in prosperity during his reign. He introduced the banking system called Owigho [House of money]. Eresoyen also introduced Ododua masquerade, the ivory flutes [Akahen].

30th
Oba Akengbuda
{About1750AD-1804AD}

Oba_Akengbuda

During his reign, the royal army launched a war against Oboro-uku a kingdom within Benin Empire, as a revenge for the murdered of Adesuwa the daughter of chief Ezomo by its Obi. He murdered Adesuwa for refusing to marry him.

When the news of her murder reached the Oba he quickly sent royal troops under the commands of Imaran, Adiagbon and Emokpaogbe Agboghidi [Enogie] of Ugo. Oboro-uku was captured, its Obi who murdered Adesuwa was tried and beheaded.

The Oba for their braveness rewarded the troops and their generals. Emokpaogbe the Aboghidi of Ugo dissatisfied with his rewards engaged in a rebellious act toward the royal authority. The Oba at first ignored him due to the part he played during the war with Oboro-Uku as if that was not enough, Emokpaogbe turned his war machine against the royal authority. When Emokpaogbe rebellious acts continued to transgress the monarchical establishment, the Oba sent royal troops lead by Ologbose and Imaran to Ugo to quash the rebellion. Ugo was captured Aboghidi drowned himself in Igbaghon River before he could be arrested by the royal troops. 

31st
Oba Obanosa
{About 1804AD-1816AD}
There were no events of importance during his reign.  

32nd
Oba Ogbebor
{About 1816AD – 1816AD}

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He usurped the throne of Benin Empire in place of his senior brother Eredia-uwa after defeating the army of Eredia-uwa in the civil war with the help of his mother and some powerful chiefs. To avoid being killed Eredia-uwa fled to Evbokhimmwi in Ishan a town, north of the kingdom. Eredia-uwa eventually regained his right place to the throne of Benin with the backing of Enigie of Ishan, Erebo the Ezomo of Uzebu and the people of Uselu fought and won the battle against Ogbebo and his backers; Eyan and Eboide.
His reign lasted for just 8 months.

33rd
Oba Osemwende
{About 1816AD – 1848}

Oba_Osemwende 

Prince Eredia-uwa was crowned the Oba of Benin kingdom with the title Oba Osemwende after the defeat of Oba Ogbebo.
He ordered the Akure punitive expedition of 1818AD to avenge the murder of Osague the Benin empire goodwill ambassador to Akure who was murdered with the order of Arakale the Udezi of Akure. When the news of his killing reached Benin city; Battalions of royal troops under the general command of Ezomo Erebo assisted by ologboshere and Imaran were sent. Akure was captured, but Arakale managed to escape to Ado for help, he was expelled by Ewi of Ado for fear of Benin royal troop invasion. Arakale fled from Ado to Uju from Uju to Uhen there he was finally handed over by Arinjale of Uhen to Ezomo.

Arakale was later trialed and executed. Osemwende also conquered Ekiti kingdom.

In 1840 Osodin{Okunbo} accompanied by Ehennua and Arhunmwunde were despatched to Lagos to demand from Eleko of Eko the customary annual tribute to the king of Benin but the emissaries found Lagos in a state of war of Succession between Akintoye and Kosoko.

By the close of Oba Osemwende’s reign, John King in 1815,jame’s fawknar in 1825 and Moffat and smith in 1838 visited Benin.
 

34th
Oba Adolo
{About 1848AD-1888AD}

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Historical records says he was kind-hearted, generous, rich, industrious and respected by his subjects.

35th
Oba Ovoranmwen
{1888AD – 1914AD}
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The Benin Empire fell to the British forces during the Benin punitive expedition of 1897 during his reign.

Captain Phillip and his party started a trade mission to Benin City in January 1897, when the Oba and his subjects were celebrating the annual Igue festival a period when outside visitors were not welcome. They were encouraged to postpone their visit for two months but they refused. The parties were massacred however, some of them managed to escape. This event is referred to generally as the Benin massacre.

February 1897 the British forces launched an attack on Benin City. It was finally captured after 10 days of heavy bloody fighting and up to six months of resistance battles from the hinterland.

The kingdom was destroyed and looted of its many valuable artifacts. Ologbohere the alleged masterminded of the massacre of captain Phillip and his party was trialed and hanged. Oba Ovoranmwen was dethrones, and deported to calabar where he lives and dead on the month of January 1914 after sixteen years of British captivity. Purportedly buried at old

Calabar by officials of colonial authority in the absent of his Benin royal family.
The truth is that Oba Ovoranmwen has nothing to do with the massacre of Captain Phillip and his party. The fall of Benin Empire was an event the British colonial power has always hoped for, it gave them the opportunity to stretch their Empire into West Africa hinterland
 

36th
Oba Eweka II
{1914AD-1932AD}

  https://edodeltamovement.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/oba_eweka_2.jpg?w=700
 

The advent of the British brought much disaster to the throne of Benin and hope was almost lost as to whether Benin would ever have its Obaship again. The British conguered Benin exiled its monarch to calabar. During this traumatic period, Chief Obaseki worked with the British to rule Benin. Benin lost its grandeur and the monarchy almost became extinct. In 1914, at the demise of the exiled king Ovonramwen, the monarchy was restored when prince Aiguobasimwin Ovoranmwen was crowned Oba of Benin with the title Eweka II on 24th July, 1914. The colonial rule with its indirect rule by Lord Lugard altered a lot of things.

Eweka II was the first post – Imperial Benin Monarch. He took the oath of allegiance to the British imperial king. The first time in Benin history, a Benin monarch took an oath of allegiance to another king or kingdom. A history defining moment that Benin kingdom is yet to recover from. Before his ascension to the throne, Oba Eweka II was a skillful brass smith and an expert in ivory and woodcarving. 

He rebuilds the Oba palace, which was destroyed by the British force during the expedition of 1987.

His enemies often accused him of human sacrifice,every reports of it kind was vigorously investigated, by searching the whole Oba palace and other secrets places nothing incriminating were ever found.     Any act or festivals that involved anything incriminating were drop or reorganized. Many secret ceremonies were scrap.
 

37th
Oba Akenzua II
{1932AD – 1978AD}

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Born in 1899 in Benin City, as crown Prince Godfrey Edokparhogbuyunmwun basimi. Ascended the Benin throne on April 5th, 1933 with the title Oba Akenzua II.

Before his ascension to the throne, he attended king’s college lagos.

Oba Akenzua struck a balance of stability and progress tradition and modernity. He was a father-figure to all. For his dimensional contributions to the development of his people and Nigeria, Oba Akenzua II received such honours as Justice of Peace, Knight of the Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George, Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and a honourary doctorate degree from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

He 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.

38th
Oba Erediauwa
{1978AD-present}
 

Oba_Erediauwa

When the young prince was born June 22,1923 . His father Oba Akenzua II presented the new baby to his father Eweka II, who lifted the baby up and smiled. “You Agho! (Chief Agho Obaseki, the Iyase of Benin during the reign of exiled Oba Ovonranmwen & Oba Eweka II ) You again, you have passed through this route. You have reincarnated to become an Oba. An Oba indeed”. Eweka proclaimed him an Oba: you will be Solomon – wise as King Solomon. The Lord will be your pillar and strength – (Igbinoghodua) but nobody should dare cause or invite your wrath – (Aiseokhuoba). As a young Prince and heir apparent Oba Erediauwa was known as Prince Solomon, Aiseokhuoba, Igbinoghodua Akenzua until he was crowned Oba on March 23, 1979.
 
Never by the use of those names be identified except by the title, Omo N’Oba Erediauwa, Oba of Benin. Those circumstantial names are now archival materials. Reincarnation is in the beliefs of the Binis. This can happen in any circumstance depending on the life aspiration of the deceased whose prayers might be answered if he so desired to become a King in his next world. Although this is beyond human comprehension, nevertheless, the traditional belief is that a man may have an opportunity to reincarnate for as much as seven times after which he fizzles out. By this belief, Prince Solomon is a reincarnation of the desperate Obaseki!
 
Erediauwa had the throne as his cradle. Apart from the usual traditional palace tutorials which begin at birth, he went to Government School, Benin after which he proceeded to Government College, Ibadan in 1939 and obtained with flying colours – his London Matriculations which qualified him to gain admission into Yaba College in 1945. After the completion of his course at Yaba, he was admitted into King’s College, Cambridge to study Law and Administration. He returned to Nigeria to join the Eastern Nigeria Civil Service as a District Officer (D.O.) in 1957. He transferred his services to the Federal Civil Service and rose to the position of Permanent Secretary.

He retired from the service as a Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health in 1973 and became the regional representative of Gulf Oil Company. He was appointed Commissioner for Finance in the Military Administration of Major-General Innih in 1975. His early retirement from the service was to have time to expose him fully to the intricacies of the administrative challenges that would confront him in the performance of his duties as Oba of Benin. His father, Akenzua II was Secretary to Eweka II, his father. This made him to have a first hand knowledge of traditional issues that arose from the Native Administration. The political turbulence that confronted Akenzua II due to the exposure of the new elites to participatory Native Administration in the 40s and introduction of party politics in the 50s could only have been surmounted by a ruler of Akenzua’s experience, patience, courage and subtle diplomacy.

In his time, traditional rulers could be members of political parties; even form parties. Akenzua II was in the forefront of the creation of the Midwest State. He formed a political party for this purpose – Benin-Delta Peoples’ Party in 1953. Otu-Edo was formed to defend his person against the political onslaught of the Ogboni/Action Group under the leadership of Eguobase Gaius Obaseki, the ninth child of Agho Obaseki. Inspite of the unconfirmed relationship as a result of circumstances of reincarnation, Akenzua and Gaius Obaseki were never the best of friends.

The present Oba Erediauwa witnessed the rule of the army, formation of political parties several times over since he ascended the throne in 1979. Although, it would seem he is insulated from partisan politics not many would accept this as a solution to the numerous political and party problems that confront the people today. He welcomes and blesses all aspirants that call on him. Even then the tone and length of his prayers are misinterpreted in varied partisan ways. But the Oba usually put his foot down never to be intimidated.

Erediauwa N’Oba had used his kingly office to influence the welfare and the fortunes of his people. He is an unmoving pivot around which the life of his subjects revolve. Over the years, he had discharged his responsibilities with much worldly wisdom and with dauntless courage. Men and kings must be judged in the testing moments of their lives. His refusal to succumb to the administrative tantrums to change his stance on the vague urges of the military proved that he rated the welfare of his people far above his personal sentiments or pride even more above his interest.

How best, can one describe the odious ordeal of the immediate past if not governed by love and respect for his tradition and culture. Since his ascension to the ancient throne he had given effective leadership to his subjects. On his coronation day, he pledged to unite all Edo-speaking people including those in diaspora. His main focus was to re-establish the great Edo culture and tradition in line with acceptable norms of a modern society.

Soon after his ascension to the throne, he appointed Late Justice S.O. Ighodaro as the Iyase of Benin. Justice Ighodaro was the first Benin graduate and lawyer who became Minister of Justice and Attorney-General in Awolowo’s Action Group government of Western Region in the First Republic. After his demise, West Erhabor though also late succeeded him as Iyase. Chief Samuel Igbe a retired Police Commissioner is the present Iyase of Benin. The Iyase according to Benin custom is the head of Eghaevho N’Ore (town chiefs). The position of an Iyase is that of the Prime Minister who is the spokesman of the Binis before the Oba. The Oba usually honours a worthy subject or citizen with the title of Iyase whenever the need arises.

Apart from the Iyase, a position that is open to all indigenes of worth, the Oba had created titles to honour some of his prominent subjects drawn from various backgrounds. Some of the titles are hereditary, some are achieved and some are pronounced to commemorate specific events in accordance with the Oba’s political, or social perspectives. Only the Oba possesses the rights and privileges to create and confer titles on his subjects. The titles are certainly not for sale to non-indigenes mainly because of the traditional and cultural roles of the titles. Chiefs are selectively distributed into the palace societies of Iwebo, Ibiwe, Ihogbe, Egaevbo N’ore, Eghaevbo N’ogbe. The seven king makers – Uzamas, include the Edaiken – the heir apparent. Their titles are also hereditary. There are also the dukes-direct blood relations of the Oba who preside over their dukedoms. These titles are hereditary too. Some of the traditional deity priests who take care of state shrines across the kingdom also enjoy hereditary roles. The Oba definitely sits over a complex machinery of state that makes him political, spiritual and social leader of his people. Without the Oba, the machinery of state grinds to a halt. You can never banish, exile or dethrone an Oba of Benin. When an Oba joins his ancestors who are also presumed to be a part of the machinery of state, his oldest son – Edaiken (heir apparent) steps in and continues from where his father stopped.

One of the most respected Africa monarch. An author, writer, advocate of peace and co-existance. His high educational background help being to light the correct history of Edo people and the ancient Benin kingdom, one of Africa oldest kingdom.

When he was crowned as the 38th Oba of Benin, Erediauwa was just about 56 years old. Today he is in his 90s, still waxing strong, alert and sensitive to issues that affect his kingdom. His mind is sound, never entangled in the briars of detail. All through his reign, he had demonstrated inflexible integrity, regal mannerisms that tie him to the souls of the ordinary folks.

Oba gha to Okpere Ise!

___________________________________________________________________________________________

 

BENIN KINGDOM HISTORICAL & TOURISM SITES

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INTERNATIONAL UGIE CARNIVAL IN BENIN CITY

Anyone who knows the Kingdom properly knows that the palace is regarded as one of the greatest museums in the world because it still holds a large collection of royal court arts, scriptural pieces of past Obas in bronze and ivory and ancestral shrines.
 
With its unique traditional architecture and works of the arts. First built about 1255 AD by Oba Ewedo. {4th} {About 1255AD – 1280AD}, discontented about been in the midst of the powerful and sometime rudely Edionisen {the five elders} of the kingdom, he called them “Emwan nei zama omwan”{people who have no respect for their monarch} corrupted to Uzama. This was not surprising because they brought Oromiyan from Uhe [IIe Ife]. These Edion more or less treated the monarchy as primus inter pares .To avoid more power struggle, Ewedo therefore embarked upon a risky job of supressing the Uzamas and moving the royal palace, the kingdom seat of government from Usama {a village outside Benin city} to it present place in Benin City the heart of the kingdom. Miraculously,he did not only succeed in doing so but eventually surpressed Ogiamien who was virtually in control of the City state. The final settlement came at the battle of “Ekiokpagha” which the Oba fought with Ogiamien who was defeated.After the victory. Oba Ewedo received the royal stool from Ogiamen and build the present royal palace.
 
This ancient royal palace is centrally located near the king’s square in Benin City. Rebuilt by Oba Eweka II {1914AD-1932AD} after the 1897 infamous British punitive expedition destroyed the former palace.

It attracts a lot of visitors from far and near all year round.
 
In 1999, UNESCO listed the Oba’s palace and Igun Street the citadel of brass casting as a cultural heritage site.
 
 

igunstreet_benin

IGUN BRASS / BRONZE CASTERS

Igun-Eronmwon quarters popularly known, as Igun Street Benin City {listed as Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO}is the home of the brass/bronze casting industries in Benin. It constitutes one of the 31 guilds of the Oba of Benin,in the ancient Benin kingdom.The ancient guild is so secretive and exclusive that outsiders have found virtually impossible to penetrate in the hundreds of years has existed. All members of the guild are related by a common ancestry and descended of Ine Nigun, the custodian of the street and the bronze casters.
 
The exact origin of bronze casting in Benin kingdom is it hard to establish. What is very certain is that the art has been in practice from primordial reign of the Ogisos, the first royal dynasty without any break though with discernible chronological stages of development. This ancient craft passed from father to son, from generation to generation continually to this day.

In traditional Benin; before the invasions, of Benin Empire, in 1897 by British forces. The Oba controlled the production and the distribution of brass/bronze arts work no single individual have any right to own any of the production process in those days except with the permission of the Oba of Benin.
 
The story is very different today visitors are free to admire, witness bronze casting from the various stages purchase any piece of their choice without let or hindrance. This is probably one of the most patronized tourist attraction in Benin kingdom/Edo state.
 

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EMOTAN STATUE
 
The statue of the stately woman, clad in the traditional wrapper and a headgear associated with the Benin royalty stands opposite the Oba market in Benin City. The statue was erected in honor of Emotan a patriotic woman who traded in foodstuffs at the very spot where the statue stands in the 15th century. At that period,{11th} Oba Uwaifiokun {1430AD-1440AD} usurped the throne of the Benin kingdom in place of his senior brother,Prince Ogun who was the heir apparent. Ogun in those times of travail. paid secret and nocturnal visits to Benin from his exile.

On many occasions, this market woman called Emotan warmed Ogun of impending dangers and advised him against interacting with some treacherous chiefs who may reveal his presence. On one occasion Emotan actually hide prince ogun from his adversary. When Prince Ogun eventually regained the throne and was subsequently crowned as the real Oba of Benin, he took the name {12th} Oba Ewuare the great {1440AD-1473AD}. He did not forget the pivotal role played by this simple market woman, Emotan who saved him from glaring dangers during his exile years. When Emotan died, Oba Ewuare ordered that the sacred Uruhe tree be planted at the very spot where Emotan used to display her goods in Oba market and decreed that thereafter, every person in Benin who is performing any ceremony of whatever must pay homage to Emotan.
 
Thus to this day every citizen,including the Oba himself pays homage to Emotan. During the reign of {33rd} Oba Osemwende {1816AD-1848AD} the commemorative tree fell and he replanted another Uruhe tree on the same spot.
 
In 1951, the British colonial administration officials injected the tree with poisonous chemicals and uprooted it. This action almost led to a violent mass reaction. After which the {37th} Oba Akenzua II {1933AD-1978AD} vehemently protested the destruction of the Emotan shrine. This had been there since the 15th century. Consequently, the colonialists acceded to the request for a replacement. A life-size statue was cast by Mr. J.A.Danfor in London from a clay Marquette modeled by Enomayo, professional brass caster from the Igun-Eronmwon.

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The new Emotan statue was unveiled amidst pomp and pageantry by the Oba Benin, Akenzua ll on March 20, 1954.

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ASORO STATUE

This almost life-like statue was sculptured to the memory of Chief Asoro, a valiant brave man who died resisting the invading British forces during the expedition of 1897. During the siege on Benin, it was said that chief Asoro ably defended the spot where the statue now stands. He said “no other person dare pass this road unless the Oba” (So kpon Oba). It is this statement which has been corrupted to become SAKPONBA. The present Sokponba village and Sakponba Road derive their names from Chief Asoro’s statement.This statue, which is a salute to patriotism and loyalty is located on the king’s Square by the beginning of Sokponba Road,Benin City the spot where chief Asoro have died after fighting bravely.

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Asoro was the sword bearer to King Oronramwen (the Oba of Benin) in 1897. During the invasion by Britain there was a war that led to the Benin Massacre in 1897-1898. Asoro, as a loyal subject to the Oba involved himself in the war single handedly taking on the British Army with a few men thru gorilla warfare. Later he was captured, tried, condemned, and executed.

He is a symbol of strength, courage, and patriotism. In honor of his courage and the hope of emancipation he gave to the Benin people before his capture a monument of his statue with slain British soldiers at his feet was erected right in the center of Benin City at Ring-Road, close to the government secretariat.

Asoro was also a great hunter. You will notice the nine charms sewn onto his garment. Each of these charms would contain something designed to give him extra powers in battle. It might be a piece of bone, a cola nut, or some other item with specific ability enhancing purpose.
 

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THE NATIONAL MUSEUM
 
NATIONAL Museum of Benin City started from the Oba of Benin Palace in 1940’s but the edifice we see today was officially opened to the public on August 10, 1973. The Museum contains priceless objects – of antiquities from Benin Kingdom and other parts of the country. The first known Benin Museum started in the Oba’s Palace. Benin Traditional art was becoming famous and to preserve it, the Oba decided to assemble the artifacts under the custodian of Chief Jacob Eghareba within the palace in the Royal House- of Iwebo.
 
As time went on, people developed more interest in these treasures. There was pressure mounted for these objects to be made public. This collection was relocated to one room in the old tax office Ring Road in Benin.
This was later moved to the Benin Divisional Council because of space and through the efforts of one Mr. K.C Murray-a surveyor of antiquities and art teacher
 
In. 1960, the Federal Department now National Commission for Museums and Monuments took over the custodian of the artifacts. The National Commission for museums and monuments was established under Decree 77 of 1979. Since then, Museum has been growing
 
The edifices that house the artifacts today, situated on king’s Square,Ring Road, Benin City was built during Samuel Ogbemudia regime as the two derma Military Government of Bendel State. This house with the exhibits therein was officially open to the general public in August 1973 with the ground and first floor galleries. While the second or unit gallery – was opened to the public in August 1996 through the efforts of Dr. O.J Eboreime as the Curator then.
The Museum contains artworks,artifacts and relics of the rich cultural history of the Bini people. A significant number of artifacts related to the Benin Empire such as terracotta, bronze figures and cast iron pieces. Tourists can take a visual excursion through the vareid collections and relish and re-live the artistic culture of the bini people.The Museum is arepository of the ancient,modern and contemporary artistic ingenuity,not only of the people of Edo state, but also of the major cultures of Nigeria.
 
The Museum houses three galleries. The ground floor houses the Oba Akenzua Gallery which contains artifacts from Benin City. The second floor houses some of the artifacts from within the city and those from neighbouring communities around the state and Delta State, while the second floor, known as the Unity Gallery, houses artifacts from around the country.
 
Among the artifacts at the Oba Akenzua Gallery is a bronze casting of the head of Queen Idia. The history of the Benin Kingdom cannot be completely told without extensive mention of Queen Idia. But for her doggedness, perseverance, patience and encouragement, the Kingdom would probably not be in existence today. Legend has it that the Benin Kingdom, then under the reign of Oba Esegie, was faced with the threat of war from the neighbouring tribe, the Ida’s. Also a telegraphic stool sent to Oba Ovoramwen by his son. The story is told that the deposed Oba sent a message to his son requesting to know of the happenings in the kingdom. In reply, and for fear of the message falling into the hands of his father’s captors, a telegraphic bronze stool was cast detailing danger, immorality, a new king and the presence of white men in the land.
 
Also domiciled in the museum is a bronze stool sent by a ruling Oba to the ruler of Portugal to beef up trade relations. The story goes that the Portuguese who didn’t understand its importance made a replica sent it back to the reigning Oba, saying that his people are also versed in bronze casting. It is said that another stool was made and sent back to Portugal, this time with a more complex design. Door panels were designed then to tell the profession of the dwellers.
 

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MAP 1: INNER & OUTER MOATS OF BENIN CITY     MAP 2: SERIES OF MOATS AROUND BENIN CITY

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THE BENIN MOATS [IYA]
 
The Benin moat, also known traditionally as Iya,is the largest man-made earthworks in the world. One of the wonders of the world. It predates the use of modern earth-moving equipment or technology in these parts. The moat encircles the old perimeter precincts of the City and was constructed as a defensive barrier in times of war. {5th} Oba Oguola {about 1280-1295} dug the first and second moats to fortify the City from invaders; Udo warriors “Iyokuo” under the command of Chief Akpanigiakon a powerful war lord, and the ruler of Udo.
 
Oba Oguola further decreed that important towns and Villages should build similar moats as defence systems around their communities.This gave rise to twenty of such moats around Benin City and its environs. Oba Oguola succeeded in crushing Chief Akpanigiakon and his powerful armies at the battle of Urhezen about 1285 CE. An extension of the moat was constructed in the 15th century during the reign of {12th} Oba Ewuare the Great (1440-1473 CE).The Benin moat is over 3200 kilometers long.
 

CHIEF OGIAMEN’S HOUSE
 
The chief Ogiamien Ancient Palace building is located at No. 97 Sokponba Road in Benin City. It is a National Monument situated within the city walls and Moat (another historical monument).Built about 1130AD with a great significant as the only building that predate the emergence of OBASHIP in Benin political Organization and the only building that survived the 1897 British expedition and siege.It was declared a National Monument in May 26th 1959 and by Decree 77 of 1979 that establish the National Commission for Museum and monuments; and gazetted under the Federation of Nigeria official gazette No. 31 Vol. 46 of 1959, the protective cover of part II section 3 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria under the concurrent legislative list.

 
The Chief Ogiamien historical building has survived the hash natural weather and human factors of deterioration till date. A rectangular shape of ancient design, fluted terecotta walls, presently covered by corrugated iron roofing sheets and nails, is a typical; unique traditional Benin architectural work. The wall is a vertical undulating surface designed in relief. The front wall has two doors, the main entrance and the (Urho-Erinmwin) which is permanently blocked but open once during the coronation of the Oba of Benin Kingdom.
 
The building has about twenty rooms embedded in eight separate courtyards. A pitch roofing design constructed to provide an impulvia pattern, which is open to the sky to allow ventilation, sunlight, moonlight and rainfall into the courtyards.
Ogiamien personal, family and community shrine and altars are also located within the courtyard and other parts of the building. The floor of each courtyard is designed to provide a sunken level which aid water collection into an underground interconnected drainage system. The building has large open kitchen used for the preparation of chief Ogiamien food and an Egun, graveyard where all past Ogiamien were buried.
 
CULTURAL & RELIGIOUS SIGNIFICANCE OF OGIAMIEN ANCIENT BUILDING
 
The Ogiamien Ancient palace building have several cultural/Religious significant, foremost among which is the role it plays in the event of the coronation of the Oba of Benin (HOW?). The building is patterned for cultural residential house of a light placed and reputable Chief (Evian – the builder for His son Ogiamien). An administrative building where He (Evian) rule and gave regulations guiding the entire Benin kingdom. He receives visitors and entertain stranger, even accommodate them when necessary. Slaves, captives of war are kept in their apartment within the building.
 
A traditional healing chamber is built in one of the courtyard as centre for administering healing for both spiritual and physical illness and attack. It’s equally a spiritual consultation centre where oracles, rituals, sacrifices and divination and other form of worship take place. It’s a traditional court room where dispute are settled for family and the entire Benin kingdom.

Is a centre for entertainment even today various forms of cultural dances, songs, folktales and stories take place in the building.

Chief Ogiamien celebrates Igue festival a day before the Benin general Igue festival then making his home a centre of ceremony.

A section of the palace serves as graveyard for the burial of all past Ogiamien except the first Ogiamien who was buried in his bed-room, Within area of the grave-yard is a place used for pronouncing curses by young girls who were defiled by men (Ake shrine).
 
TABOOS IN THE OGIAMIEN ANCIENT BUILDING
 
The (Urho Erinmwin) second entrance door is sacred and exclusively used by the Oba of Benin as a passage way into the building as well as an exit. The door is barricaded and any body that violate this norm would face the wratch of death. Chief Ogiamien wives do take oath of loyalty at the primordial tree Olode Ikhimwin tree, located in the building. And the most junior wife whose duty is to cook, must be naked by custom to avoid any evil intention. He has a personal temple where his personnel items and regalia are kept. He equally isolates himself when preparing for war or after returning from war in this temple.
 
IMPORTANCE: specifically, Chief Ogiamien ancient edifice, provides an avenue for cultural display, film production, family meeting place and a point where poems, idioms are recited. Folksongs such as lullaby and story-telling (folktales) take place. These act as synthesis that condition social life. The monument has enormous cultural tourist potentials which can fetch revenue for both the local community, family and government in general, if properly harnessed, packaged and marketed.
Is a focal point in Benin History and architectural design, hence it serves as education and research centre for cultural bodies and student all over the world. In general, the importance of our Heritage cannot be overemphasised. The greatness or pride of a Nation is tied to the wealth of their heritage. Thus conveys a testimony of the people daily life, to express their creative capacity and present the traces of their History. As a receptive or package of memory, it embodies the symbolic of cultural identities and constitute fundamental references for structuring society. Heritage allows every human being the opportunity of self discovery. It is useful in binding social groups together and bringing cultural communities closer to one another.

Heritage is an instrument of third way process between past, present and future.

Holy_Aruosa_cathedral

Holy Aruosa Cathedral: {Aruosa N’Akpakpava}
 
Is the oldest church in Nigeria. Build in the 15th century. Situated in Akpakpava street in the ancient city of Benin. Aruosa {Church of Benin} is the Benins version of Church of England or the Dutch reformed church. The Portuguese brought Christianity to the imperial Benin kingdom in the 15th century during the reign of Oba Esigie {about 1504-1550}and during this period,Missionaries were sent from Portugal to establish churches in the kingdom. The remnants of which are Aruosa N’Akpakpava, Aruosa N’Idunwuerie and Aruosa N’ Ogbelaka all in Benin City
 
During the Idah war of 1515-1516 the Portuguese missionaries accompanied Oba Esigie to the battle fields. Oba Esigie could read and write portuguese fluently.
The Benin Monarch is the head of the church, the priests called Ohen-Osa are responsible to him .The pattern of worship is a mixture of indigenous beliefs and Roman catholic practices.
 

Captain_Phillip_grave

CAPTAIN PHILLIP’S GRAVE
 
The tombstone of Captain James Phillip located at Uruokhokho in Ovia North East Local Government Area of Edo state, attracts historians , students, researchers and visitors from across the world all year round. It marks the spot where Captain Phillip and his party on a trade mission to Benin in January 1897 were killed and buried .The event is generally referred to as the Benin massacre which led to the invasion of Benin and the eventual deportation of Oba Ovonramwen to Calabar were he died on the month of January 1914 after sixteen years of British captivity.
 

Ughoton

UGHOTON
 
Ughoton village, about 42 kilometers from Benin City, historically very important. According to historians a Benins, Prince Ekaladerhan {Izoduwa}later known to the Yorubas as Oduduwa was banished with his mother from the City of Benin to Ughoton.One of the darkest event in the history of the Benins,from there he took the painful and joyful journey from the land of Benin that eventually took him to Ile-Ife. For full story, see The correct history of Benin. An Ideal place for historians, researchers, academicians, students and visitors alike.

The shrine of the Olokun priest who was sent to portugal By Oba Esigie {About1504-1550AD} to understudy christianity and report back to the imperial Benin kingdom is also situated in Ughoton.
 

Gelegele

GELEGELE FOUNTAINS & HISTORICAL PORT OF BENIN KINGDOM
 
The first contact with any European was made by Oba Ewuare the Great {About 1440AD} when Ruy De Sequeira visited Benin City In 1472. The Portuguese came via the Atlantic Ocean and they finally landed in Gele Gele Sea Port in Benin Nation. The Gele Gele Sea Port was from then onward used predominantly for their legitimate trade with Benin Nation.It is also record that slaves (illegitimate trade) were also conveyed from the region via the Gele Gele Sea Port to Europe. Factually the Portuguese and British Government used the Gele Gele Sea.

gelegele-1

Port extensively for more than half a century before the 1897 infamous British punitive expedition. This historic Sea Port site is today part of Benin kingdom historical sites.

arhuan

STATUE OF THE GIANT ARHUANRAN OF UDO
 
This giant statue was sculptured to the memory of Arhuanran{Goliath type stature}a very powerful warrior and ruler of Udo. Oba Esigie {About 1504-1550AD} ascended the Benin throne at the peak of a war threat from Udo. Esigie in Benin City and Arhuanran in the town of Udo, about 20 miles from Benin City to the northwest. Udo then, was an important centre almost as large and powerful asBenin City. His brother Arhuanran who was tricked from ascending the Benin throne due to palace intrigues, decided to go into battle with the new Oba. The battle was fought and won by Oba Esigie. Arhuanran drowned himself in Lake Odighi N’Udo.
 
Chief Osemwughe the Iyase of Udo took arm again against the monarchial authority to avenge the defeat and the death of Arhuanran his master cut the victory celebration short.
Oba Esigie launch a war on Udo once again .Udo was destroyed chief Osemwughe and his rebel armies fled. West of Benin kingdom now part of Yoruba land.
Oba Esigie determine to put an end to Udo rebellion once and for all. Sent royal troops under the command of Odobo and Aile to pursue them in the process the Benins royal army builds military camps {Eko} along the way some of these camps {Eko} are now towns in Yoruba land.
 
Some of the Camps are camp Odobo {Eko-Odobo} name after general Odobo contracted into Akotogbo and camp Ikalo {Eko-Aile}name after general Aile was contracted to Ikale.
Osemwughe and his militants gave themselves up; when they could not face the war machines of the Benins royal troops much longer.
 
They were later given a royal pardons by Oba Esigie but decided not to return to Udo .chief Osemwughe and his party were called Emma n’ Udo{the Udo deserters} which was later contracted to Ondo and the leader of the militants chief Osemwughe was mispronounced Osemawe a title by which all Ondo monarchs are now known.

Egedege_Nokaro

EGEDEGE N’OKARO
 
The first storey-building in Benin Kingdom. Built in 1906,by High Chief Osawe Iyamu, the then Inne of Benin.widely regarded was the second oldest story-building in Nigeria after the first one at Badagry, Lagos built in 1845 by white missionaries. Egedege N’ Okaro is Situated at House No 30,Erie Street,off Sakponba Road,in ancient city of Benin. According to historical accounts, Egedege N’Okarowas the first residential one-storey structure to be built in the ancient city. It is made of red furnace-fired bricks with wooden decking. The design of building was given to Chief Iyamu by a Briton,
 
Mr. Crawe Reade, a colonial officer who supervised its construction. A similar structure used as a ware-house was built by the Dutch in 1720 at Ughoton, a sea port. It was destroyed in 1767 by the French, according to historical accounts. Although it was said that Chief Iyamu was not the first to start the construction of a storey-building, he completed his first. After his came the two, owned by the late Chief Eson Orokhiri and Prince Usuanlele Ovonramwem, on Ibiwe Street in Benin.
Interestingly, Egedege N’Okaro is a representation of the period in which it was built. The British had come with new things, ideas and new inventions were coming in.  

More than hundred years old ,the structure still stands firmly and majestically. What then is the secret behind the sturdiness of Egedege N’okaro over the years? Certainly, its builders were skilled masons who had their acts well articulated and executed with competence, thus ensuring the durability of the building. The bricks of red earth used to build the structure were fired for three months and cooled for two weeks in the valley in the present Ikpoba Slope in Benin city . Its wooden decking and roofing were made of timber from choice trees – Mahogany and Iroko of about hundreds of years.
 
The signboard with the inscription: the Centenary Celebration of Egedege N’Okaro (the first storey-building in Benin Kingdom) advertising its uniqueness alongside the address of the place cannot be missed by any passers-by. The wall fencing has Benin traditional designs. On closer examination, Egedege N’Okaro has an oriental appeal. By the porch on the ground floor are six huge roman columns painted red with some artistic designs. At the main entrance into the building with two wooden carved doors is a flower decoration. It has arch-shaped windows which delineates the oriental feel. Its dimension is 48ft by 30ft and the height is same with any modern storey-building. On the ground floor is the main parlour with four adjoining-rooms – two on each side – which are also replicated upstairs.

The wooden railing on the staircases and the top veranda, windows and carved door lentils are intact and in its original state, untouched by termites. In the sitting room upstairs, an electric fan and the chandelier lighting installed a long time ago are still functioning. On the side of the building are two bungalows. The bungalow on right, built by the Ize-Iyamu progenitor, Chief Ohenwen, is two hundred years old. It was one of those spared when the British attacked the city.
 
On the other side is a small attachment housing a sitting room decorated like a mini-palace. In it, is a throne with the painting of the Esogbon of Benin kingdom over it and two wooden, red-rugged steps in front as foot mats. Hung on the left wall is the picture of the Oba of Benin and on the right is that of the Esogbon. Still on the right are the picture of Chief Iyamu and a painting of Egedege N’Okaro by Benin artist Omoruyi. Also scattered on the walls in the room are pictures of every member of the family. There are chairs belonging to varying generations; they are of modern and traditional blends – crafted wooden chairs as well as the present day sofa. On the one end of the room is a door that opens up into a square-shape courtyard at the back of the house hedged in by part of the old building, the harem belonging to wives and the kitchen. The courtyard was used for receiving visitors for private family meetings, the practice has since not stopped.

                                                  Benin_kingdom_edo_state_love_itBenin_kingdom_edo_state_love_it_1Benin_kingdom_Edo_state_the_land_of_natural_beautyedo_state1image011

nefertiti
IDIA vs NEFERTITI

…JUST TOUR BENIN YOU’LL FORGET EGYPT

BENIN, KINGDOM OF THE SKY-KINGS
(OGIE’ ISO OR OGISO)
By Ambrose Osawe

Benin, once known as Igodomigodo, was the kingdom of rulers who regarded themselves as sky-kings, those whose divine rule is derived from the sky – Ogiso. At the eclipse of this dynasty, there was still no authentic heir to the throne, Owodo; the last of the Ogisos was desperate for a successor. His only heir, Ekaladerhan, being the son of an unfavoured queen (Arukho), had little or no prospect of succeeding his father as he was entrapped in a web of palace intrigues with the sole aim of depriving him succeed his father.

A plot purported to be the wish of the gods was eventually hatched to eliminate him.

The executioners, sensing intrigue and betrayal, spared his life. He secretly sojourned westward into a community the Binis called Uhe (Ife). At Uhe (Ife), he assumed the title of Oduduwa (I have sought my path of prosperity). Back home, the last of the Ogisos died without producing a heir to his throne. During the period of interregnum, a republican called Evian as administrator of the kingdom was succeeded by Ogiamien who became overzealous and ambitious. He wanted to perpetuate Evians hegemony in Benin. In order to sustain the age old tradition of primogeniture, the elders resolved to set up a search party to trace the whereabouts of Ekaladerhan, the only surviving heir of Ogiso Owodo.

The elders, headed by Oliha, who were opposed to the overbearing nature of Ogiamien, were resolute to invite Ekaladerhan home to take over his rightful position as heir apparent. It became evident that the system of succession (father to son) had been the culture of the Binis since inception. It is therefore obvious there was an existing kingdom under the rule of the Ogisos before the establishment of Eweka I dynasty.

It is also beyond doubt that this practice had been with the Binis before the establishment of the present dynasty of which Erediauwa is the 38th Oba in an unbroken succession since Eweka I in 900AD.

A delegation of nobilities, under the leadership of Oliha, eventually arrived at Ile-Ife and implored Ekaladerhan to return to Benin. At the time the emissaries reached him, he yelled in excitement, ‘Ewore ka,’ meaning the nucleus or the source, heart or soul of the flow will never go dry. He was assured of his safety and the hope of making him the ruler of the kingdom. The aged prince refused the invitation and promised that he would rather delegate power to one of his sons.

*Oba of Benin
Ekaladerhan’s refusal to honour the elders’ invitation could be subject to many interpretations. Firstly, he must have become so old that he felt it unreasonable to move to Benin. Secondly, he had adapted himself to the culture of his new environment that he would prefer to remain.

He was, in fact, the leader of the community as a result of his ingenuity and prowess in all aspects of community enterprise.
Thirdly, he probably wanted to abide by the pledge he made that he would not set his foot on the Benin soil again.

However, Ekaladerhan entrusted his son, Oranmiyan, into the care of Oliha who had promised to ensure his protection. Oranmiyan’s reign in Benin was short-lived. His departure from Benin was dictated by two factors. One, he was greatly embarrassed by the opposition of Ogiamien and his adherents.

Two, Oranmiyan’s cultural background was in conflict with the custom and tradition of Binis.

On his way back to Ile-Ife, Oranmiyan had a short stay at Ego where he impregnated Erhinmwinde, the daughter of the Enogie. This affair resulted in the birth of Eweka 1.

Femi Fani Kayode’s write up in Sunday Vanguard of May 26, 2013 at pages 20-21 entitled, ‘Who are the Yoruba People?,’ was quite interesting.

But while discussing the Ife-Benin relationship, like some others before him, he too fell into a similar error by referring to old Benin Empire as one of the kingdoms established by Oduduwa’s progeny. He also wondered how the name Yoruba came about. Mr. Femi Fani Kayode, a lawyer and former minister, is probably influenced by a vengeful clique of revisionist theorists and court jesters commissioned to deliberately rewrite the history of the Yoruba vis-à-vis Ife/Benin relationship to assuage the hurt ego of some monarchs in search of contemporary political relevance. History has today, therefore, become an intellectual pawn in the pen and armour of ethnocentrics as forerunners of empire builders and irredentist adventurers.

I would, therefore, proceed by avoiding historical pitfalls which has become the lot of some bubbling Afrocentrics who seize every opportunity to re-invent myths as favourable facts of history.

YORUBA is not originally a Yoruba word. Rather, it is a corruption of Yariba the name by which the Jihadist who conquered them and forcefully coverted them to Islam call them as they still do today, so they in turn amazingly embraced and adopted that name of bondage as both their generic name and the name of their generic language without knowing its meaning or origin only to turn around to sat that it was oranmiyan that named Benin as ile-ibinu meaning land of vexation a fact that is nowhere recorded in the history of Benin which the Portuguese called “Beny City” when they came and saw the flourishing capital city of the kingdom more less on the same level as their own capital city of Lisbon.

Yariba is indeed a Hausa / Fulani word corrupted into Yoruba which Fani Kayode queried. He wrote “yet the fact of the matter is that the word ‘Yoruba’ has no meaning in our language or any other language that is known to man.… For all we know it could even be a deep and ancient insult….” . Yes indeed as the true historical account of the European slave traders never knew, saw or heard of the name Yoruba in West Africa and what they recorded was of some hinter land tribes called the Ijebus and Eyos or Oyo who never had a notable kingdom talkless of a large empire as the purported “Oyo Empire” that was never recorded as such by the explorers, merchants and slave traders of that era.

What they saw in that region they recorded in their ancient navigational maps to aid their voyage such as the Benin kingdom, the Lagos Kingdom, the Dahomey kingdom which were all part of and tributaries to the Benin Empire and of course the so called Yariba or Yoruba tribes whom they distinctly called the “Jaboos” or Ijebus & “Eyos” or Oyo meaining they well informed about these tribes and knew they had no city or kingdom of note talkless of an empire. So where then was the famed Oyo Empire located in history that had no discernible capital city outside an old district village called “Oyo” as specified on the ancient map below that is not even in the present Oyo state?

Perhaps it was in the figmental imaginations of the modern Yoruba historians who thought they could get away with distorting & re-writing history forgetting that history has a a way of proving itself right or wrong in the future as it has now done against the Yorubas who must go back and re-study their own history in the light of the truth and accept the fact that they were never an empire but a cluster of various tribes scattered all over the western Nigeria and Benin republic borderlines and never had a king in their history just like the Igbos until the advent of a fugitive Benin prince called Ekalederhan into their midst who later became their king called Oduduwa and taught them the aristocratic ways and civilization of the majestic Benin kingdom around which the West African part of ancient civilization revolved for 500 years from the 1450s to the 1890s.

The slave traders navigational map above of the times when these kingdoms like Benin, Dahomey, Warri were established is proof of the fact that there was no “Oyo Empire” only a “Warlike Tribe” in the hinterland called the Eyoes or Ayoes together withtheir tribes men called the Jaboo as described by the cartographers. So the Yorubas were no different from the Igbos but only benefited greatly from the close influence of Benin which the Igbos did not have outside the region of Onitsha where the eastern boundry of empire ended unlike the western boundary that was exlongated thru Lagos or Eko also founded by the the Benin warriors as a milirary garrison or camp from where further trade route expansions were made towards Dahomey, Lome and even parts of Ghana called Ga that still claims its original ties with Benin Empire that is why the native word Eko used for Lagos (named so by the Portuguese) is not a Yoruba word but an Edo word which means “Military Camp” .

Now even the Yoruba historians probably don’t know that as well as just as they don’t also know the word “Oba” they think is a Yoruba word that means means king is indeed not the true meaning as it  means “Red” as an Edo word used to address our king as Omo n’Oba denoted as the “Royal-Red Son” symbolized as the red color of the Oba’s Beads & Regalia. That is why the real Edo word for king is “Ogie” as “Ogiso” or Sky King”. Meaning that if Oduduwa had not come to Ife to sojourn and seek refuge the Yoruba history today would have been much like that of the Igbos and Calabars who cannot name a single historical person of importance that existed in their lands only 500 years ago talkless of over 1000 years ago as the Edos can do with so many names, times, dates and events of renown people proven to have existed in times as recorde by our oral traditions and our European counterparts who accurately corroborated these same oral traditions in their written or documented accounts.   

Ife sources are founded on a mythology of how Oduduwa descended by the use of a chain from the sky and when they saw how ridiculous such a claim was re-wrote that he came from Saudi Arabia in the far east which by any stretch of imagination is too far fetched to be true especially as the Oduduwa himself was a renown juju mystic and ritualist which belies the fact he could have come from Saudi Arabia the birth place of Islam and not be a practicing Moslem who would have even converted the heathen indigenes to Islam as their king instead of joining them to become idol worshippers for as at the time of Oduduwa the jihad had done away with all form of idolatrous religions in Saudia Arabia so there was no way the poor man could have trekked and roamed all thru the Middle eEast down to North Africa and Saharan desert and then to the West Africa jungle to an insignificant village called “Ile Ife” to settle down. Why doesn’t he even have an Arabic or Islamic name? For crying out loud the sffix “UWA” in Odud-uwa is a very common one for Benin names both male and female such as Eredia-uwa, Ades-uwa, Abie-uwa, Uwa-gboe, Okod-uwa, Od-uwa and so on. Is this not ample evidence that his name is a derivative of typical Benin names

For what purpose when he had passed so many other greater and wealthier cities along the way. Sorry this is mere fabrications that is even astonishing as the fact that fe fell down from the sky. Oduduwa is reported to have dispatched his seven sons to found the various Yoruba kingdoms including that of Benin but they are not able to prove whether they are talking about Orunmila or Oduduwa (Ekaladerhan). Benin was never a kingdom created by Oduduwa; rather, the kingdom had existed long for centuries with so many kings or Ogisos ever before the coming of Oranmiyan who impregnated ERINMWINDE, the daughter of Enogie of Egor, and gave birth to Eweka 1, the founder of the present dynasty in Benin.

On Erediauwa, Professor Jacob Olupona, in his book, ‘Ile-Ife: City of 201 gods’, launched on Wednesday, December 12, 2012, at the Institute of International Affairs, Lagos, wrote, in part: “The story established the sacred origin of Benin kingship …a kingship relationship between Benin and Ife kingdoms”. Benin later took on a more radical form of a sacred kingship than that which exists in Ile-Ife. Benin became an obsolete monarchy, with the first son of the reigning Oba named as the heir apparent.

This was not a later development, it was for this purpose a search party (led by a prominent chief Oliha whose family still exixts til today after so many centuries as it forbidden for a stranger who is not the son of the king to become king and even a non-indigene cannot receive chieftaincy titles how much more to be crowned as king) went to look for Oduduwa. Benin does not owe its origin to Oranmiyan who would surely have either been assassinated before even being crowned as king if he were not the authentic “grand son” of the last Ogiso Owodo who was the father of Ekaledheran a.k.a Oduduwa besides even at that he was still rejected as king by the other powerful contenders for the throne such as Evian and Ogiamen hence he departed back to his Yoruba landout of fear for his life because he was not permitted to stay in the palace of the Ogiso from day one let alone rule for one day as Ogiso.

Remember that no foreigner is ever bestowrd a chieftaincy title in Benin as it is traditionally exclusive to indigenes of the land so how then can Benin turn around to accept a crass Yoruba foreigner as their king? Unthinkable to say the least. Remember how Benin fought fiercely to resist the much more powerful British colonial rulers to the bitter end? Then imagine how a foreigner from a lesser and weaker neighboring village from a place such an insignificant place as Ile ife would then be allowed to rule as king in Benin. IMPOSSIBLE!!!

Benin (Beny) is a Portuguese name after which was named the Bight of Benin in view of its political, economic influence and value by the Portuguese on trade missions.

“Ile-ibinu, the land of anger,” that Prof. Olupona claimed had become Benin’s permanent name is in no way applicable.
Oranmiyan was not taken to Benin to change any of the existing traditions. He was in no position by any stretch of imagination to change the name of the kingdom from Igodomigodo to Ile-Ibinu.

However, no parent would abandon a dangerous and turbulent project and request his son to take over.

A transplanted Bini/Yoruba origin in transit, whose grip on the social/cultural life of the people was fragile, could not suddenly assume the position of a magnificent ‘patron saint’ whose imprecate profanity becomes an insignia for a rooted kingdom that flourished centuries before. And what is the existing anthropological support for adaptation of a foreign name for an unconquered people of a different culture who speak a different language? The same concept is applicable in the choice of name by Oranmiyan’s son who later assumed the title of Eweka. Eweka I was now a product of Benin socio-cultural environment which means he was able to speak in his mother tongue. He was never brought up in the Yoruba environment. It was more likely his utterance was in Benin language, EWOREKA, which his father chose for him instead of a foreign word, Owo mika, adulterated as Eweka that is more relevant in meaning to the circumstances of his choice as Oba.

Nevertheless, the Yoruba influence in Benin is more in the areas of worship of deities, Shango, Ogun, Sonpona, Orunmila which filtered into Benin over the years including Ogboni cult which is still very vibrant in Benin. Binis culturally practice ANCESTRAL worship. Worship of deities was borrowed from the Yoruba. Ancestors are the gods they serve.

During the reign of Ewuare the Great in the 13th century, the city was renamed Edo. The Portuguese, during the reign of Esigie in the 15th century, called the city Beny (Benin) (Papiva da Beny) which in Portuguese meant broad road of the city of Benin.

Papiva was corrupted to Akpakpava, the road that once housed the Catholic Cathedral established in the 15th century, now known as Aruosa Church where the Oba occasionally worships.
 
Professor Olupona raised a pertinent issue when he asserted that “…the institution of sacred kingship ….is part of the royal cult of Benin mysticisms, indeed more than any other kingship system in Nigeria. Benin rituals, art and ideology of kingship demonstrate the importance of sacred power for the preservation of kingship.”

He continued “…part of Benin’s continuing enigma is that the city’s centre cannot be unfolded, especially by outsiders, a dilemma that caused Oranmiyan (an outsider) to vacate the throne and replace himself with a son born of a Benin woman (an insider). The inherent tension in the “insider-outsider” conflict remains part of Benin’s identity today”.

The professor’s remark merely confirms the fact that at no time did the Binis make the mistake of transplanting an outsider for such an important assignment after a long history of the practice of primogeniture (of a son succeeding his father). In actual fact, it was in sustenance of this tradition that a search team was dispatched in search of Ekaladerhan who later assumed the title of Oduduwa. Still, on the Ife/Benin relationship, the American-based professor of history wrote “…… a kingship relationship between Ife and Benin, although Benin later took on a more radical form of sacred kingship than that which exists in Ile-Ife. … Benin became an absolute monarchy with the son as the heir apparent whereas in Ile-Ife the kingship rotates among its ruling lineages…”

If in Ile-Ife the kingship rotates among its ruling lineages, it means it is still passing through the traditional crucible to attain a later, more acceptable monarchical system where the throne passes from father to son as practiced in Benin and parts of Europe like Britain, Netherlands, Spain etc., as relics of absolute monarchy.

Every system has its checks and balances. Benin system, for example, allows the heir apparent to be one of the seven kingmakers, while the Ezomo is third in the hierarchy after the Oba, and the Iyase, with his kingdom at Uzebu, doubles as the general officer commanding the Benin forces at Obadan. This was a form of a diarchy which Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Nigeria’s first president, was proposing in 1974 as a system to curb military incursion into political power.

In my rejoinder to Zik’s proposal for which he was grateful, I reminded him that diarchy had been in our traditional system as far back as the 13th century during the reign of Ewuare and that it was not an innovation. I also reminded him that military incursion had been in our traditional system of governance. I told him of how at the death of Atiba, Alafin of Oyo, in 1859 and was succeeded, contrary to custom, by his son Adelu, the crown prince, the powerful Are Onakankanfo of Ijaye, in defence of the tradition and constitution, rose to defend the constitution as a war general.

In the true sense of it, this was the first attempted military coup in Africa and it was in Yoruba land. The powerful Are of Ijaye refused to recognize Adelu as Alafin for he ought to have committed suicide on the death of his father in accordance with tradition.

This eventually compounded the Yoruba wars similar to the 30 years of the war of Europe of the 17th century.

Africa, indeed the black race, has its history of origin, empires, kingdoms and nation-building before the coming of the white men.

Recently, Professor Wole Soyinka was at the palace of the Oba of Benin in pursuit of his project : The meeting of two empires (powers): Benin and Portugal, in the early 15th century when the pope, by the Papal bull of demarcation, divided the world between Spain and Portugal, the then two world powers. This act enabled them discover other empires and founded new settlements in their imperial and mercantile quest to conquer the world of the astronomers.

Benin, which fell within the axis of the Portuguese, was the first place within what is now Nigeria, in Africa to be visited by any European in 1478.

Ukuakpolokpolo Erediauwa the Oba of Benin in his book: ‘I remain, Sir, Your Obedient Servant’, wrote in chapter 36, at page 205: “…Before the advent of Oranmiyan, the ‘kings’ that ruled the people who became known as Edo or Benin were called ‘Ogiso’ derived from the description Ogie n’ oriso (meaning king in heaven). This is to confirm that the old Benin Empire had long flourished ever before the recall of Ekaladerhan. This was the situation that led to the relationship between Ife and Benin in which Oduduwa a Benin prince once known as Ekaladerhan had to send his last son Oranmiyan as his successor to the Benin throne, having established fully his roots and tentacles in Ile-Ife … Ife people today perform a ritual festival that re-enacts the events that caused the original settlers including their village head to flee from Ife when Ekaladerhan (or Oduduwa) became the head of the community”.

In 1897, the British conquered Benin, dethroned the monarch and exiled him to Calabar. The monarch, Ovonramwen, later settled into normal life. He had additional children partly of Efik descent. If back home there was probably no resilient traditional institution to recapture the past when he died in 1914 and a team was dispatched to search for his children, though of Efik cultural background, would it be correct or proper to record that the Binis had asked the Obong of Calabar to send them a prince to rule over them? This analogy would draw a parallel in Ife/Benin relationship and assist contemporary historians of ethnocentric bias a more acceptable view of the origin of the Benin monarchy.

When Femi traced the Yoruba route of migration from Egypt/Saudi Arabia through Bornu to the present day Western Region of Nigeria, the abode of the Yoruba, little perhaps did he know about the recent discovery of Igbale Aiye. This community, located in Akpotoku Ketu (commune de ketou), Republic of Benin, is said to be over 4,000 years old.

It is also projected in significance to host the first inhabitants of the planet earth “where the builders of the pyramid of Egypt came from”.

The success of this project, sooner or later, will reverse all existing Eurocentric views about Africa as the “Black continent”.

The kingdom of the sky-kings was Igodomigodo. During the era of the warrior kings, it became Edo and later Benin Empire expanding as far as Republic of Benin, Lagos to the west and across the Niger to Onitsha in the east. The Oba of Benin starting from Ogiso dynasty was known as Ukuakpolokpolo Omo n’ Ogie, i.e., the anointed, processed and purified.

The subsidiary kings were known simply as Ogie … of this or that.

After the amalgamation and the creation of provinces, the traditional rulers of Western Region generally were referred to as Obas for the administrative convenience of the colonial masters. Bight of Benin was descriptive of Benin’s political and economic influence in pre-colonial Africa. The Oba is still referred to as Omo. Benin pre-historic events are on display every year at the Oba’s yearly Ugie festivals. Since it is a yearly traditional ritual, it is a living history to which all are always invited.

*Osawe, a journalist and historian, was a member of the House of Representatives in the botched Third Republic.

THE BATTLE OF IGODOMIGODO:
The Historic Defeat of Imperial Islamic Jihad Fighters in the 1850’s

Unidentified African potentate

WARRIOR OBA OF BENIN AND HIS ROYAL WARRIORS

THE BATTLE OF IGODOMIGODO: The Historic Defeat of Imperial Islamic Jihad Fighters by Traditional African Warriors & Men-of-War

I am a witness of history. So I am going to write my own story with blood. I am going to narrate my history with the blood that flows from my vein. I am a direct descendant of warrior women and men-of-war from the land of Igodomigodo, the Ancient Benin Kingdom founded by Oba Ewuare the great. My great great grand parents fought two historic epic battles against extremely violent, materially powerful, and brutal imperialist´s armies that sought to impose their culture, religion, and way of life on Africans.

The first of these battles, ´the battle of Igodomigodo´, was fought against fiendishly fanatic hordes of Islamic jihadists that were violently spreading the Arabic faith on horsebacks with swords and spears. The second of these battles, ´the Benin Massacre´, was against a viciously cruel European superpower that was spreading Christianity and seeking territories to exploit in Africa. Some day in the future, I will tell you of ´the Benin Massacre´ and how in 1897, British Army under Admiral Sir Harry Rawson, rapaciously murdered my ancestors, looted our sacred artifacts, ransacked and destroyed our Oba´s Palace, then burnt the entire city of Benin to the ground. But for today, I wish to honour the memories of my great great grand parents by telling of their exploits in war, their bravery in battle, and the glory of their spectacular triumph and momentous achievement on behalf of Africa in ´the battle of Igodomigodo´.

The spread of Islam, like Christianity, was facilitated by violent wars of conquest, commonly known as ´jihad´. In English, according to Sahih al-Bukhari 4:52:41, ´Jihad´ literarily means “Fighting for the Cause of Allah”. Many religious scholars and historians have written about the genesis and function of jihad in the Islamic faith. According to Brill (Encyclopaedia of Islam, p. 538), “jihad is a duty. This precept is laid down in all the sources. It is true that there are to be found in the Kur´an divergent, and even contradictory, texts.

These are classified by the doctrine, apart from certain variations of detail, into four successive categories: those which enjoin pardon for offences and encourage the invitation to Islam by peaceful persuasion; those which enjoin fighting to ward off aggression; those which enjoin the initiative in attack provided it is not within the four sacred months; and those which enjoin the initiative in attack absolutely, at all times and in all places. In sum, these differences correspond to the stages in the development of Muhammad´s thought and to the modifications of policy resulting from particular circumstances; the Meccan period during which Muhammad, in general, confines himself to moral and religious teaching, and the Medina period when, having become the leader of a politico-religious community, he is able to undertake, spontaneously, the struggle against those who do not wish to join this community or submit to his authority. The doctrine holds that the later texts abrogate the former contradictory texts … to such effect that only those of the last category remain indubitably valid.”
 
Also, basically making the same point as Brill, Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan (Introduction to Bukhari´s Hadith, p.xxiv), wrote “So at first ´the fighting´ was forbidden, then it was permitted and after that it was made obligatory – (1) against those who start ´the fighting´ against you (Muslims) … (2) and against all those who worship others along with Allah…” Therefore, from a logical perspective, it is valid to conclude that violence is intricate to, and inherent in, Islam due to scriptural dictates in the Koran and Hadith that mandate believers to fight and spread the religion through holy wars of conquest. It is on this basis that Shehu Usman dan Fodio led a jihad movement in the 1800s that brought the flames of ´holy war´ to the front door of the Ancient Benin Kingdom. What follows is a case study that highlights how jihad war of conquest was used in the spread of Islam in Africa, and how Africans mobilized to resist, and in a few cases out-rightly defeat, this violent imposition of an alien religion on indigenous African communities.

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Shehu Usman dan Fodio (1754 – 1817) [Arabic: عثمان بن فودي ، عثمان دان فوديو] founded the Sokoto Caliphate in 1809 after a very successful jihad campaign. Usman dan Fodio was an ethnic Fulani religious teacher of the Maliki School of law and the Qadiriyyah order of Sufism, that lived in the city-state of Gobir, in present day northern Nigeria, before he led his followers to exile, in 1802, and began a jihad campaign that swept through West Africa. Frequently, the peoples that Usman dan Fodio conquered were forced to become Muslims as alternative to imminent death. This was in done with strict adherence to the Islamic doctrine that commands Muslims to “Tell captives they can be blessed with Islam if they want to believe, otherwise power over them has been given by Allah” (Sura 8:70,71)

Spurred on by excited chants of “Allah Akbar!” (God is great!), Usman dan Fodio´s jihad movement, manned by highly motivated Islamic Zealots on horseback, with swords and spears, rode from one village to another conquering the inhabitants and imposing Sharia law on them. These hordes of euphoric, fiendishly hard fighting, fanatics were inspired by such war fanning Islamic verses like: “Truly God loves those who fight in His cause in battle array, as if they were a solid cemented structure … that ye believe in God and His Apostle, and that ye strive (your utmost) in the cause of God, with your property and your persons.

That will be best for you, if ye but knew! He will forgive you your sins, and admit you to gardens beneath which rivers flow, and to beautiful mansions in gardens of eternity. That is indeed the supreme achievement. And another (favour will He bestow), which ye do love – help from God and a speedy victory. So give the glad tidings to the believers”( Sura 61:4,11-13). And, as one could imagine, an even more enticing, enchanting, morale boosting, and motivating stimulant was the famous ´promise of 72 virgins for jihad martyrs´ in Hadith number 2,562, the collection known as the Sunan al-Tirmidhi, where it is written,

“The least [reward] for the people of Heaven are 80,000 servants and 72 wives, over which stands a dome of pearls, aquamarine and ruby.”

Furthermore, these Islamic Zealots were whipped into frenzy by fiery dogmatic incitements such as, “Fight the unbelievers surrounding you” (Sura 9:123). “Don´t avoid fighting, but fight with whatever you have. Otherwise God will punish you with serious punishment” (Sura 9:38,39,41). “Jihad is greater than other service, and of the highest rank in the sight of God” (Sura 9:19-22). “Those who are able but don´t want to fight are rejected of God” (Sura 9:81-96). “God gives Paradise to those who give all they have to God and slay and/or are slain in Jihad” (Sura 9:111). “Muslims can expect either martyrdom [paradise] or victory in battle.

Unbelievers can expect only punishment from God. Fight hard against unbelievers, whose abode is hell” (Sura 9:52,73). “Torture and kill those who oppose the Apostle (Sura 5:36-38). “Cut the necks and fingers of those who opposed God and Mohammad and never turn your backs” (Sura 8:12,13,15-18). “Cut their necks, subdue them, then be generous. Martyrs will receive paradise where there are rivers of water, milk, wine and honey plus fruits” (Sura 47:4-6,15). “Not equal are those believers who sit (at home) and receive no hurt, and those who strive and fight in the cause of Allah with their goods and their persons. Allah hath granted a grade higher to those who strive and fight with their goods and persons than to those who sit at home (Qur´an 4:95).

But thanks to the valor of our ancestors, it was at the ferociously bloody ´Battle of Igodomigodo´, a protracted series of violent clashes fought between fiendisly fanatic Islamic jihadists and traditional African warriors, in Auchi and environs, situated in the northern frontiers of present day Edo state, that the Aristocratic Warrior King of, and the Men-of-War from, the ancient Benin Empire (the land of Igodomigodo) eventually put a ‘full stop’ to Usman dan Fodio´s war crazed jihad orgy.

This decisive victory is not only one of the most spectacular military feat in African history, but it is an historic landmark event because it practically stemmed the rising tide of violent islamization of traditional African communities that was spreading like wild fire southwards, and threatening to engulf the entire southern regions of present day Nigeria, as it had succeeded in doing with the northern regions. Unfortunately, today, people in those territories that were overrun by this jihad movement are still predominantly Muslims, while those behind the lines where the Men-of-War from ancient Benin Kingdom defeated Usman dan Fodio are predominantly non-Muslims. This immediately tells us that without Islamic jihad wars of conquest and rapacious terror campaigns, which were ferociously unleashed on Africans in the past, most Africans that are muslims today will be non Muslims.

Islam is an imperialist religion imposed by brutality and violence on Africans and African communities from the northern borders of the continent in Egypt to the eastern shores in Kenya. However, despite this reality, the sad truth is that because of the addicting nature of Islamic dogma, many of the so called ´African Muslims´ in the historically conquered African communities, where Islam was violently imposed, will rather die than give up their chronic addiction: Islam. Usman dan Fodio´s jihad campaign was only one of the many jihad wars of conquest that Muslims unleashed on Africa to create a present day reality where Islam-infested communities are literally littered all about in Africa.
 
All non-Muslims in southern Nigeria, and indeed, the entire West Africa, must be proud of, and grateful to, the Ancient Benin Warrior Women and Men-of-War that courageously stepped up, willingly put their lives on the line, to stop the virulent brutal imperial spread of Islam and archaic Arabic culture in West Africa. If not for this noble act of courage and supreme sacrifice, many of us would have inevitably been born into societies held hostage by irrational Islamic dogmas (like wife beating), archaic Arabic cultural dictates (like beheading and cutting of limbs), and constant threat of violence (like the menacing presence of suicide bombers in the Middle East & Africa most especially Islamic Northen Nigeria ). We must honour and pay homage to our great ancestors.
 
Oba khato Okpere! Ise!
 


AFEMAI OF AUCHI ISLAMIZATION & FIRST MUSLIM KING
 
Written by Muhammad Shehu Bida

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WARRIOR OBA OF BENIN RECEIVING EUROPEAN DIPLOMATS

After reading the above titled story which appeared in the Weekly Trust of February 23, 2013, I wish to make the following submission.

It is not true that Oba Momodu of Agbede was the first to embrace Islam or to agree that Momoh brought Islam to his people, but I will rather acquiesce that he played a role in the continued Islamization of Auchi. Evidences abound in Northern Gazettes and the works of Prof. S.F. Nadel, A Black Byzantium which show that Islamization of “Kukuruku” areas which comprises Etsakor and part of Esan today pre-dated those dates quoted in the article.There is no way that history of “Kukuruku” division can be written without the influence or role played by Nupe kingdom, let alone Auchi, a fragment and a modicum of sort within the larger Kukuruku division. The holy war and Islamization of the Kukuruku by Nupe was led by one Nupe Prince, Shaba Mahmud.

The Crowned Prince, Mahmud was the second son of King Masaba who reigned twice, because there was a period of interregnum. His first term as Estu (king) of Nupe was between (1841 and 1847), while his second term (1859-1873). During his second term around 1865, King Masaba sent an expedition to capture Benin kingdom and his son, Mahmud was to lead the group. The Oba of Benin Adolo (1848-1888) was informed by his oracle through his Chief Priest and the Oba organized his high-chiefs led by Iyase of Benin to meet with the Jihadists around Agbede area to strike a deal, so that they should not enter Benin kingdom. The bottom line of the treaty was that the warriors could with impunity Islamize the areas from Agbede down to the mouth of River Niger at Agenebode.

NOTE: The above paragraph is a clear evidence of dis-informative and distorted history as we know first and foremost that the jihadists will never enter into negotiations with anyone as they are commanded in their quran not to negotiate but to either convert or kill their enemies for them to be worthy of paradise. Likewise it is a known and recorded historical fact the Great Obas of Benin never negotiated or pleaded with any kingdom threatening the life of his subjects and the territorial integrity of his empire but rather crushed them as he did with all rebellious kings & kingdoms; not even the colonial British super power was negotiated with which eventually led to Britian attacking and conquering his empire.

Meaning that the Jihadist Islamic history writer is seeking lame excuses for the jihadists defeat destruction in Benin Empire at the hand of the Oba of Benin that prevented them from actualizing their unbelivably “dreamy” goals of daring to conquer the southern rich and mighty Benin City that controlled the entire lucrative riverine trade route of the lower River Niger from Onitsha all the way down to the Atlantic ocean and unto Lagos, Dahomey & Ghana. Imagine a squirell trying to challenge a leopard in a race!

The indomitable Benin War Machine oiled and honed for over 1000 years of contingent war victories over all its neighbours and enemy kingdoms from generation to generation that never lost a single war or battle in all the hundreds of wars it successful prosecuted  except only “once” to the British Empire; whom it also defeated in the first battle of the Benin massacre until it too was defeated in the second battle of the Benin Invasion (making it the only African kingdom to have defeated the British empire in open battle hence the British out of global shame tried as much as possible to cover up the defeat of the Benin Massacre ridiculously claiming that their contigent of veteran soldiers were not a combative force but was an unarmed diplomatic mission) and was never and could never have been matched by a mere brigade of war frenzy Jihadists whose first taste of real war and warriors was when they encountered the Royal Troops & Wariorrs of BeninEmpire that caused them to immediately abandon all their jihadist ambitions in the West African region for good. As they say: Power Pass Power!

The ravaging and plundering of these areas continued until they brought the whole Kukuruku under Nupe kingdom and this remained a vassal state of Nupe Kingdom until 1888 when the Colonial Masters came on the scene to put an end to war and slavery. The holy war brought Islam to the Afemai devoid of idol worshipping, changed their ways of life, their mode of dressing, slight change in their language as some words of Nupe were borrowed. Example of these words are oshaka (trousers) wun (catch him) and owo (shirt). In Nupe these are tsaka, wun and ewo. Other examples are names: “Mamman” in Nupe, while in Auchi is “Momoh” “Mahmudu” in Nupe, in Auchi “Momodu.” Oba Momodu was named after the great Shaba Mahmud of Bida. The first Prof. of History in Nigeria, Jacob Festus Ade Ajayi, said “that the Fulani incursion from Nupe had almost dismembered the Afemai (Kukuruku) part of the Benin Empire.”

The Afemai took refuge at the Mountain’s top during the holy war, which came to an end with arrival of the whites who brought them down. The Nupe succeeded in creating an all-encompassing Islamic society with their representative of Mahmud as leader. In the war camp Hausa language used to be the official language, so in Auchi whenever a meeting was to take place at the Palace, the town crier would go round chanting “Ataru, Sarki ya ce Ataru.” Meaning, everybody should converge.

The Nupe declined to continue with the leadership at the advent of the whites but advised that the new leader should be chosen from the aborigine Afemais, the uncle of Momoh was chosen and Momoh took the baton of leadership from him after his demise in 1919. Instead of Momoh’s uncle to take the title of Oba or Ata, he chose to be known as “Ataru” which he thought means leader in Hausa and with passage of time Ataru became corruptly known as Otaru of Auchi. But even before the advent of Nupe, Kukuruku had a pocket of chiefs under the Oba of Benin. These potentates are: Ogeneni of Uzaruwe, Chief of Aviele and Wepa Wanu of Agenebode. All these chiefs lost significance with the coming of the Nupe. At that time Otaru was not in existence.

Prof. S. f. Nadel has this to say “Masaba, under his rule Bida was transformed from a huge war-camp into a capital worthy of the most powerful kingdom of central Nigeria. Many great buildings in Bida date from this time: The three royal Palaces, the great Mosque and the lay-out of the night Market. Masaba suppressing revolts of the Gbedeggi in Mokwa, of the riverain kyadya, fighting war against Kukuruku, Kakanda and Bassa Nge in the South, Gbagyi and Agaie Fulani in the east, consolidated the country internally and expanded its boundaries farther and farther afield.” This feat attained by King Masaba could not have been achieved if Shaba Mahmud, his son, was not by his side giving him support. In Shaba Mahmud, all Nupe warriors stood in a shadow of a giant. Mahmud was turbaned Shaba (Crown Prince in 1884) by King Maliki and died in 1890. In conclusion, Kukuruku is never a word of the Afemai or the Etsakor people just as “Otaru” is not.

THE KUKURUKU – JIHADIST WARS IN BENIN EMPIRE
By Sylvester Odion-Akhaine

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BENIN WARRIORS DEPICTING THEIR SHORT SWORD & FLINTLOCK  RIFLES

  Between the Southern coastline and the majestic North, lies a terrain of pastoral beauty, called the Kukuruku highlands. A range of mountains dotted with reminders of Nigeria’s history, inter-tribal wars, slave trade and very prominent in our cultural heritage.

Upon a search of the World Wide Web, the above quotation was the closest clue I had to the Kukuruku country. Another search yields the fact that Kukuruku was one of the several divisions of the old Western Region. In the records of the British, the Kukuruku division was formed with headquarters in Fugar in 1919.2 Until this period much of Edo North, including Ososo, Okpella, Uzairue North and North Ibie were administered as part of Northern Nigeria under the British from Lokoja.3 It would appear that no seminal work had been done on this area by researchers and therefore remains a challenge to historians and social scientists.

igo2Kukuruku Wars (1850)

Evidence of issues of antiquity in the largely illiterate societies of Africa were generally preserved and proliferated in the oral tradition. Thus, in the absence of documentary evidence, historians have the arduous task of making sense out of this mass of narratives. In the context of Kukuruku country and their contestation with the Nupe forces immediate finding of a curious researcher is the oral construct of the people, a source which also enriched the notebooks of most British colonial district officers and residents. A probe into the Nupe offensives in the northern enclaves of the Edo realm yields two strands of oral tradition. These oral sources are integrated analytically here with other secondary data.

One strand accounts for the Edo–Idah War. This was during the reign of Oba Esigie, about 1504 AD. This war took place 1515-1516 and was witnessed by the Portuguese Explorer/Missionary John Affonso d�Aveiro who in the account of Jacob Egharevba accompanied the Oba to the front. This war also featured the Queen mother, Idia who rallied her slaves and servants to the front. The cause of this war essentially was power intrigues in the Edo kingdom. Oba Esigie had humiliated Oliha by encouraging one of his porters to seduce his wife, Imaguero, with coral and agate beads to prove her infidelity to Oliha who trusted Imaguero beyond doubt. On account of this, a humiliated Oliha instigated the Attah of Idah against the Oba by disinformation to the effect that the Oba was preparing to wage war on Idah.

In the same vein, Oba Esigie was also told that the Attah was also gearing up for an offensive on Edo kingdom. The war ended in the defeat of the Idahs. The use of guns may have aided the crushing defeat inflicted on the Idahs. This rather an academic assertion as the Idah have always been subjugated to the Benin war machine since time immerorial before guns came into the empire. It was during the reign of Esigie that guns were introduced for the first time into the kingdom’s martial enterprises. To avoid a future incursion into Edoland, garrison towns were established. Hence such towns like Ago nai bode anglicized as Agenebode i.e. the road guards, evolved.6 It was also during reign of Esigie that such camps as Akotogbo, (Eko-odobo) and Ikale (Eko-Aile) named after two important Edo generals, Odobo and Aile were founded. It was the aftermath of the long drawn war with Udo. This was to become a tradition of Edo military which assumed a definitive pattern since the reign of Oba Orhogbua, Esigie’s successor with the establishment of the Lagos garrison-eko (camp) about 1550 AD. 7

The second strand of the orature, relates to events of the 19th century particularly the Fulani Jihad of Othman dan Fodio who overwhelmed much of the Northern part of present-day Nigeria. About the same time, much of the Edo kingdom’s vassals, aggrandized during the reign of warrior kings such as Oguola, Ewuare, Ozuola and Esigie had witnessed severe encroachment. The sorties of Ogedengbe-led Ilesa forces had reached as far Ora during the reign of Adolo (1848 AD). The point here is that Edo kingdom was already witnessing a decline by the time of the British conquest of Edo land in 1897. A.F.C. Ryder lends credence to this assertion. He has observed that it is also true that Ovonrawmen had succeeded to a very reduced patrimony. Sundry reasons may have accounted for this development. Two important points are significant for mentioning.

One is the factors of self-determination, and the other, sectarianism. Self-determination realized on the part of the vassals of conquered territories meant the repudiation of their subject status. The Akures, the Owa people, the Itsekiris and the peoples of Lagos have variously defaulted in their allegiance to the Obas of Edo kingdom. For example, in 1892, chief Nana of Itsekiri imposed trade embargo on Edo the substance of which included the stoppage of supply of cooking salt.9 sectarianism reared its head in the non-recognition of the contribution of other communities to the prowess of the Edo kingdom. For example, oral tradition has it that, the repulsion of the Ogedengbe forces from Ora was made possible by the daring Edo general from Iruekpen in the present day Ekpoma. Ebohon of Ova who led the forces from the capital had to camp at Orhua without a confrontation. Ironically, after the war he was accused of witchcraft, consequently tied to a tree and allowed to die and rot away.10

The succession dispute which Ovonramwen faced and the summary execution of a string of Chiefs namely: Obaraye, Obazelu, Osia, Eribo, Obaduagbon and Esasoyen sowed the seed of distrust and sycophancy in the palace. The marriage of Evbakhavbokun to Ologbosehere as dramatized by Ola Rotimi was intended to court the loyalty of the chief in the prevailing distrust occasioned by summary executions of the dissenting chiefs.11Both the Itsekiris and the Agban (Agbor) people had begun to withdraw their veneration of the might of the kingdom during the reign of Ovonramwen because of the scheming and devising of the British whose colonial intents and not commercial interests were becoming more and more evident to Benin as they saw their empire and sphere of control gradually carved out from them by the British

(1888-1914).

 If the hint given by Christopher Okojie that 1850 was the year of the wars with the Nupes is right, one can only infer that the war took place during the reign of Oba Adolo (1848-1888). The Nupes may have launched out in two fronts, westwards against the Yorubas and southwards against the Edos in their crusade against the heathens of the forest region. I have yet no enough evidence to paint comprehensive mosaic of the wars. While the Yorubas inflicted a crushing defeat on them at the famous battles of Oshogbo spearheaded by the Ibadan forces in 1840 and later the British at Erinmope in the late 19th century,12 they had a field-day in the Kukuruku country. From an Uzairuan memorandum submitted to the then Bendel State Government c.1984 we get some evidence of this war:

The native custom and system of administration gerontocracy was interrupted by the advent into the area of NUPES from Bida who by their military superiority subdued the people of Uzairue in order to compel them to provide the raiders with slaves from the villages.. 13

 H.C.B. Denton, Assistant District Officer in his intelligence report on the Auchis, Uzairue, South Ibies and Ekperis took cognizance of the interruption of the indigenous institutions by the Nupes. According to that report:

The AUCHIS, UZAIRUE, South IBIES AND EKPERIS form examples of the introduction of principles, by the NUPES OF BIDA, alien to indigenous organization. It is probable that in these Clans Headship of a village was once vested in its oldest man. The NUPES demanded a more virile form of administration and selected men of character, wealth, and ability, from among the people of the Clan, to act as their local agents. Under NUPE patronage these men came to be regarded as headmen and tribute was rendered them by the people for the services they gave in acting as intermediaries with the slave-raiders.14
 
 E.G.M. Dupigny (Gazetteer of the Nupe Province) reinforces the above accounts. According to his account the Nupes under their ruler, Abu Bekri, raided the Afenmai in about 1885-6 compelling the northern Edo peoples to pay tribute to Bida.15 Drawing from this gazette, A.F.C. Ryder further explained that the Nupe had penetrated far into the Etsakor and Ivbiosakun regions, and had established a slave-raiding base opposite Idah. It is quite obvious, the Kurukuru country was raided both for slaves as well for proselytisation of Islam by the Nupes disparagingly known as the Azanamas.  Their incursion into Edoland reached as far as the Esan country if Okojie’s account is correct. According to him, the first settler in Emaudo was a certain Nupe man known as Idubor. 17 The heroic resistance Edo people in this part of the kingdom heralded by the tally-no made the marauding Nupes to refer to them as Kukuruku banza (Banza is a Hausa word for bastard).

The people of the Kukuruku country were wont to pull down the rock boulders in the rocky environs on the horse-borne Azanamas.18 Whereas a larger part of the Kukuruku people escaped Islamisation, the overall consequence was the presence of Islamic religion in the Edo kingdom. Auchi, Agbede, Ikpe (Jattu) and many communities in Edo North had a sizeable crop of Moslems converts, and the ruling house (Otaru of Auchi) in Auchi was Islamised. Even in these areas, the point should be made that it was more or less, syncretism that prevailed. Traditional practices preponderated along side Islamic religion.

 TRADITION, RELIGION AND SECULARITY
The Somers of the ancient Nubian kingdom were a people who died. The reason why they died was because they forget their history. The fate of this ancient people in Africa serves to underscore the importance of tradition/history of a people. As Moleti Kete Asante has rightly noted there are no people without traditions and traditions are the lifeblood of a people. A people who refuse to express its love and appreciation for its ancestors will die because in traditions, if you are not expressing your own, you are participating in and expressing faith in someone else’s ancestors.To be sure, our tradition is our identity; who we are; our past, present and future.

 In the Huntingtonian clash of civilizations, Africa does not come into reckoning. This then raises the question of who we are in the global order.20 The fight against the Nupes/Fulanis in their bid to impose their rule and world-view on Edoland was at once a struggle against enslavement and the suppression of Edo tradition. It is doubtful if the Edos knew the religious implication of the Jihad given the multi-religious essence of the people, but what is not in doubt is the fact that they appreciated the political implication of it. This is only natural for a people accustomed to the exercise of political power over a vast vassalage. As available data shows the Nupes who live around the confluence of the Niger and Kaduna rivers, where untill the fifteenth century, vassals to the Igalas who were subjects of the Edos. 21

 Whereas the Moslem and the Christian worlds take themselves seriously, what can Africans lay claim to? The traditions of other races? We are either today to say the least nominally Christians and/or Moslems. Again, religion is an instrument of power politics. As Asante puts it: The distribution of religion represents the distribution of power: Africa distribution is minimal and exists in a few places in the Diaspora like Brazil, Haiti, Jamaica and the American south. The religion that people practice is based on the influences that have captured their imaginations. At least within the context of the Nigerian state, the Edo people and the Yorubas have cultures that are alive which are again being threatened by Pentecostal fundamentalism. Asant’s definition of religion as the deification of ancestors, the making sacred of traditions within the context and history of a people is apt.

We hardly could spare a thought and come to terms with the opinion of Asante that only a defeated people accept alien gods but others honour and accept their own name for the Almighty. One point that needs to be stressed is that much of Edoland may have been overwhelmed by Islamic religion if not the British expedition of 1897. The kingdom as we have already noted was very weak. In spite of this reality, our culture was alive. Its resilience corrupted the missionary activities of the British. The Ohen osa who Oba Esigie sent, as a sop to the alien religion, adapted Christianity to the Edo modus vivendi without the ossification of our tradition. 23

 We can hazard a guess on what could have been the future of our tradition as Edo people as an independent state without the British usurpation of our freedom. To be sure, the Edos and their society would have been secularized due to the diversity of their gods. The politics of the nation-state would not have gravitated into the adoption of a state religion. In present-day Nigeria, Edo people co-habit with other nationalities and enjoy a cultural space. Despite the paucity of our data, it can safely be inferred that the Kukuruku wars played a role in Nigeria’s secular status. We are not oblivious of the attempts by the Northern establishment to smuggle Islam into the country as a state religion. As far the 1999 constitution goes. Nigeria remains a secular state. This is very clear in section 10 which states succinctly that The Government of the Federation or a state shall not adopt any religion as State religion.

 Other worldliness must be separated from the realm of the political superstructure and remain within individuals domain. To be otherwise must be a rude assault on our tradition and that of others who honour and adore their historicity.

 In secularity discourse, there are possibly two ways to conceptualize secularism in the Nigerian context one is to see secularism as meaning that the state has no business with religion and thus must be completely depoliticised and free from the meddlesome of the state. Two, secularism means the equality of citizenship, non-discrimination and respect for minority and all religions. These nations are at one with the imperatives of a multi-national state which is what Nigeria is. There is precisely the context and development of secularism in India. As Rodiana Bajpai observes of the Indian experience: While religion was to be excluded from the affairs of the state, a secular state also implied religious freedom for individuals and groups.

 Concluding Remarks.
Without doubt, our extant tradition serves to bolster the claims of the Nigerian state to secularity. Given the second wave of Jihad in some states in the northern half of Nigeria, the Kukuruku war cries need to be revived; there is life in resistance and that life is the longevity of a people’s history and tradition.

EDITOR’S SUMMARY & CONCLUSION

After dissecting both pro & con accounts of the Islamic Jihad wars which was comprehensively crushed in the Benin Empire from expanding beyond the middle belt of what is now Nigeria to the South in Benin City & Warri, to the East towards Onitsha, Calabar and even beyond to Cameroon. The following facts have been established in the historical analysis of the subject matter:  

1. The Shehu Usman Dan Fodio Jihad though largely successful in Northern & Midldle Belt parts of Nigeria as well as several Western Parts of Nigeria where a vast majority of the indigenes there today are muslems; in comparison to the Southern & Eastern parts of Nigeria it was a comprehensive failure where only a minute fraction of the entire indigenes there are definitely not Moslems but Christians or traditional worshippers. This is full proof that the Benin Empire put a definite stop to the Imperial Jihadist advancement in Nigeria and quarantined it to mostly the northern & middle belt parts of Nigeria. So Dan Fodio Jihadist Warriors were defeated by the Oba’s Royal Warriors without recourse.
 
2. The Benin Empire in the 1800’s & 1900’s was by far the most powerful and wealthy African kingdom reknown all over the western world capitals from Paris to London to New York regardless of whatever account is taken into consideration as it could only be defeated by the mighty Naval War Machine of the the reigning super power of the world as at then namely the Bristish Colonial Empire. We all know what it cost the British in terms of weapons (maxim machine-guns, cannons, naval warships) and a coalition of several thousands of seasoned British troops together with their African forces to overrun the mighty Oba of Benin in a fiercely fought battle that lasted for about two weeks before Benin City fell and a guerilla warfare in the hinterland spearheaded by Genral Asoro that lasted for several months before the Oba Ovonranwmen finally surrendered himself to British captivity to save his people from being annihilated by the marauding British troops hunting him down in the forest regions. Meaning anything less than that kind of war effort would have led to a second defeat of the British forces at the hands of the Royal Warriors of Benin Empire (who were already used to fighting side by side with Euopean Portuguese soldiers) after the famed first defeat of the Benin Massacre.  
 
3. This is a fact no one can deny that the propaganda machine of the British colonialists who painted Benin City red as the City of Blood sacrifices have forgotten that none of their fellow European counterparts namely the Portuguese, French, Dutch, Swedes and other British merchants who have been visiting and trading with Benin for centuries ever described Benin City as such but did so with such glowing terms as a civilized, organized and developed African Empire that caused its fame to be known all over the western world. Now as soon as they coveted the fame, wealth and political power of Benin Empire they started a smear campaign against it to justify their invasion after they failed woefully in their first attempt at capturing Benin unawares during the so-called Benin Massacre which they said was an “unarmed” diplomatic mission. How can British soldiers under the command of a Captain Phillip who is a Consular officer travel with hundreds of his several hundreds of fellow British naval offers and local troops all the way from Calabar to Benin a journey that will take many days through dangerous slave raiding terrains and crocodile filled waters without adequate arms & ammunitions for their personal safety at least? They make it sound as if they were only visiting the Oba of Benin as invited guest or diplomats who were stationed in one of the Oba’s guest houses hence there was no need for them to carry arms during such a courtesy call.
 
4. We always say that when two powers clash the lesser power must bow: this is the final analysis of the most controversial and contested battle in Black African history namely the 19th century Benin – Jihad Wars and Benin – British Wars. The Benins were clearly more powerful than the Jihadists so the the Jihadist had to bow in defeat to the Benins and consequently end their Jihadist ambitions towards the south & east of Nigeria for good. On the other hand, the Bristish were clearly more powerful than the Benins so the Benins had to bow in defeat to the British and consequently surrendered their sovereignty to British colonial rule.
 
5. For good measure if not for the defeat of the the Benin Empire by the British Empire in 1897 and its amalgamation into the British colonial protectorate of Nigria only 20 yeasr later, Nigeria as it is today would not exist and most likely the Benin Empire would have retained most of its coastal territories, political influence, military power, economic wealth and huge oil & gas reserves not to talk of it majestic arts & culture as the Super Power Nation of Africa till date. This is one of the many evil legacies of colonialism in Africa that has made Africa to become the weakest and most subservient continent in the history of the world. All is not lost as the Benin Empire can still rise again as a modern nation to recoup its lost glory as the undisputed greatest ancient civilization of Black Africa second only to Ancient Egypt of North Africa which every black man all over the world should be proud of. Proving that black Africans were not savage barbarians as is being painted historically but were very civilized, cultured, refined and aristocratic like the ancient Egyptians of Africa.

 
 
GLORY OF BENIN EMPIRE

AND SHAME OF BRITISH EMPIRE

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The ancient Kingdom of Benin was described in glowing terms by early European visitors. When the British came to Benin kingdom they were shocked and awed to find a very well planned capital city. Already well described both in writing and in sketches by earlier portuguese and other early European travellers, historians and visitors alike; and acclaimed by all as a world class city. Thus the use of the term BENIN CITY by the Europeans to describe Benin Kingdoms geo-political headquaters as far back as the 15th century. In this preparing this piece, I have chosen to reproduce materials from source, in my humble effort to convince cynics and critics that that the subject matter under review and particularly my thematice scope is not a creation of my fertile imagination.

“Benin was the capital of the kingdom of Benin, which was probably founded in the 13th cent. and flourished from the 14th through the 17th cent. The kingdom was ruled by the Oba and a sophisticated bureaucracy. From the late 15th cent. Benin traded slaves as well as ivory, pepper, and cloth to Europeans. In the early 16th cent. the Oba sent an ambassador to Lisbon, and the king of Portugal sent missionaries to Benin.”

“No trace remains of the structures admired by European travelers to “the Great Benin.” After Benin was visited by the Portuguese in about 1485, historical Benin grew rich during the 16th and 17th centuries “

“In the early 16th century the Oba sent an ambassador to Lisbon, and the King of Portugal sent Christian missionaries to Benin. Some residents of Benin could still speak a pidgin Portuguese in the late 19th century.”

“After the fall of Benin in 1897, the British set apart Warri Province, to punish the Oba of Benin and curb his imperial power. The Benin monarchy was restored in 1914, but true power lay with the colonial administration of Nigeria.”

Roese, P. M., and D. M. Bondarenko. in their book, A Popular History of Benin. The Rise and Fall of a Mighty Forest Kingdom. wrote:

” The kingdom and the capital city were both called Benin. The city of Benin was laid out in a system of huge straight streets. These streets were very wide, very long, and well maintained although they were not paved. You could travel on foot in a straight line for 15 or 20 minutes and not see the end of the street. Other streets opened from the main streets. They were also wide. Houses were built in rows along all of the streets. On the street front side, houses had covered porches to keep people dry as they sat outside.

The Dutch and Portuguese traders who came to Benin by sea were not invited into the nobles’ or artists homes. So we don’t know how their homes were arranged, or what the back looked like. But we do know about the palace. “

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BRITISH ARMY OFFICER SKETCH MAP OF
BENIN CITY’S  WALLED COMPOUNDS AND BROAD-STREETS BEFORE THE INVASION

” Dutch and Portuguese traders were invited into the king’s palace – and thus we have written records of what the palace looked like. “The king’s court is very big, having within it many wide squares with galleries round them where watch is always kept. I went so far within these builds that I passed through four such squared, and wherever I looked I still saw gate after gate which opened into other places.”
You will find this piece from the British Concise Encyclopedia interesting:

“One of the principal historic kingdoms (12th – 19th century) of the western African forest region. Founded by the Edo people, the kingdom was centred on present-day Benin City in southern Nigeria. With the accession of Ewuare the Great in the mid 15th century, the Benin kingdom was vastly expanded, including the founding of the city of Lagos.” See this article from the Library of the U.S.Congress for more details

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Roese, P. M., and D. M. Bondarenko. in their book, A Popular History of Benin. The Rise and Fall of a Mighty Forest Kingdom, again, wrote:

“The Oba had become the paramount power within the region. Oba Ewuare, the first Golden Age Oba, is credited with turning Benin City into a military fortress protected by moats and walls. It was from this bastion that he launched his military campaigns and began the expansion of the kingdom from the Edo-speaking heartlands. The lands of Idah, Owo, Akure all came under the central authority of the Edo Empire. At its maximum extent the empire is claimed by the Edos to have extended from Onitsha in the east, through the forested southwestern region of Nigeria and into the present-day nation of Ghana. The Ga tribe of Ghana trace their ancestry to the ancient Kingdom of Benin.”

“The state developed an advanced artistic culture especially in its famous artifacts of bronze, iron and ivory. These include bronze wall plaques and life-sized bronze heads of the Obas of Benin. The most common artifact is based on Queen Idia, porpularly called the FESTAC mask”.

From Ijebu.Org, we have this:

“The greatest legacy of the ancient Benin Kingdom is their glorious Bronze Sculptures many of which reside in the British Museum in London. At the height of its greatness, Benin’s Obas patronized craftsmen and lavished then with gifts and wealth, in return for the depiction of the Oba’s great exploits as fabulous and intricate bronze sculptures. Today a strong campaign is being waged to have these antiques returned to their rightful home in Nigeria.”
In his book, The Military System of Benin Kingdom, 1440-1897, by Osarhieme Benson Osadolor, , M.A., (2001) from Benin City, Nigeria, wrote:

“The use of iron and development of its technology in Benin kingdom has had influences in the state-building process. Iron technology led to the development of weapons which changed the character of war. Rich iron ore deposits were not available in Benin and had to be imported from the Etsako area – north of Benin – which had large deposits. Benin was able to develop an indigenous capacity to work the iron material into weapons of war. It is probable that this indigenous capacity which was basically the possession of iron smelting knowledge was acquired through training and apprenticeship of Benin blacksmiths in Etsako. By the second half of the fifteenth century when Benin expanded its Empire virtually in all directions, it established control over the iron ore sources which was considered to be essential to the development of iron technology in the state.”

Benin Empire Arts
A Tale of Living History

Stand For Something
The Only Way To Get That Gorilla Off Your Back Is To Stand, Upright.

When the light is turned on there’s no turning off that light. One may try to ignore that little voice inside but that light and that voice will only burn brighter and speak louder to you each and every time you attempt to ignore it.

The Revolution will not be Televised.
If Not For Them, Then For Who?
Stand For Something…
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© BRING BACK  BENIN BRONZE

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FESTAC Mask

Queen Mother Pendant Mask: Iyoba
Benin Empire, 16th century
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

“This ivory pendant mask is one of a pair of nearly identical works; its counterpart is in the British Museum in London. Although images of women are rare in Benin’s courtly tradition, these two works have come to symbolize the legacy of a dynasty that continues to the present day. The pendant mask is believed to have been produced in the early sixteenth century for the King or “Oba” Esigie, the king of Benin, to honor his mother, Idia. The Oba may have worn it at rites commemorating his mother, although today such pendants are worn at annual ceremonies of spiritual renewal and purification.

In Benin, ivory is related to the color white, a symbol of ritual purity that is associated with Olokun, god of the sea. As the source of extraordinary wealth and fertility, Olokun is the spiritual counterpart of the “oba”. Ivory is central to the constellation of symbols surrounding Olokun and the “oba”. Not only is it white, but it is itself Benin’s principle commercial commodity and it helped attract the Portuguese traders who also brought wealth to Benin.

The mask is a sensitive, idealized portrait, depicting its subject with softly modeled features, bearing inlaid metal and carved scarification marks on the forehead, and wearing bands of coral beads below the chin. In the openwork tiara and collar are carved stylized mudfish and the bearded faces of Portuguese. Because they live both on land and in the water, mudfish represent the king’s dual nature as human and divine. Having come from across the seas, the Portuguese were considered denizens of the spirit realm who brought wealth and power to the “oba”.”

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MU:13 | the Supreme [Sirius] Power of the Magical Oba [EDomite Kings & Queens] from the Royal Benin Empire
Bronze Head for the Worship of Osun
Benin Empire, 18th century
The British Museum

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“Osun is one of a number of deities worshipped in Benin. His power lies in plants of the forests. Magical specialists, or ebo, use herbs and plants to create magical or medicinal potions.
In the eighteenth century, the Obas (kings) of Benin developed a new form of representing their magical and mystical powers through brass heads such as these. This example has snakes issuing from the eyes and nostrils, and a crown of birds, both creatures being closely associated with Osun. Birds were often sited on the top of palaces and have prophetic and protective powers. The stone axes on the forehead are associated with lightning and its destructive powers.”

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Leopard Aquamanile
Benin Kingdom, 18th century
The Minneapolis Institute of Art

“An aquamanile is an animal shaped vessel used in handwashing ceremonies. Leopards are an important symbol of the Oba or King who traces his ancestry back to Oba Ewuare the Great who reigned in the mid-1400’s. His special symbol was the leopard and he is also credited with the introduction of these bronze vessels which are used only by the Oba in a ritual honoring his paternal ancestors.”

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Royal Tusk
Benin Empire, 1750
The Minneapolis Institute of Art

“The ancestral altars of the Oba, or ruler of Benin, feature carved elephant tusks like this one, set into the top of a cast bronze portrait head. Because of its rarity and permanence, ivory is especially suitable for recording royal historical events, and many tusks recount episodes from Benin history or lives of the Obas. This tusk may have come from the altar of an Ezomo, the highest-ranking noble in Benin. The figures with fishtails instead of legs refer to the Oba himself (the Oba traces his descent from Olokun, lord of the sea, and thus controls the realms of both water and land). In the fourth row, on the inside of the curve of the tusk, is an elephant, probably referring to the Iyase n’Ode, a famous military leader who was able to transform himself into an elephant. He almost overthrew two Obas before being defeated by a loyal Ezomo. This episode from Benin folklore helps to secure the powerful role of the present Ezomo, who must act as protector to the royal house. Other images include the leopard, a royal symbol because of its power and intelligence; Adesuwa, an Ezomo’s young daughter, whose actions brought trouble to Benin; members of the Oba’s special guard who wear the bronze image of a royal leopard on their belts; and Portuguese soldiers (with long, straight hair and beards), allies of Benin since the fifteenth century. Additional figures represent nobles, attendants, and soldiers of the Oba.”

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Bronze Figure of a Portugese Soldier
Benin Empire, 17th century
The British Museum

“During the second half of the fifteenth century Portuguese navigators began to explore the West African coast. They arrived in Benin between 1472 and 1486, finding a sophisticated society ruled by a monarch, who was probably Oba Ozolua or Oba Esigie. The Portuguese had hoped to convert the people of Benin to Christianity but discovered them to be more interested in trade. The arrival of the Portuguese coincided with great political and artistic developments under the guidance of the oba (king); from then on most of the Benin ‘bronzes’ were cast from European brass acquired through trade.

Coral beads and large quantities of brass manillas, which were melted down by Benin smiths, were traded by the Portuguese for pepper, cloth and ivory, and for slaves.

Figures of Europeans such as this Portuguese soldier were kept on royal altars or on the roof of the royal palace in Benin city. The Portuguese were represented in Benin art in various forms. Their arrival by sea and the bringing of luxury goods enabled the Portuguese travellers to be incorporated into Benin ideas associated with the god Olokun, ruler of the sea and provider of wealth. Legend has it that the Oba fought with Olokun on the beach, subdued him and stripped him of his wealth. The exhibition of European figures probably commemorated and celebrated this victory.”

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Ahianmwen-Oro
Benin Empire, 16th-19th century
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

“Hand-held clappers are among a vast and varied category of ‘self-sounding’ musical instruments, known collectively as idiophones, that produce sound without the addition of a stretched membrane or a vibrating string or reed. The most common form of clapper in the Benin corpus consists of a cylindrical shaft surmounted by the figure of a long-beaked bird with outstretched wings, such as this example. They are played by striking the bird figure on its beak with a metal rod.
The bird perched with outstretched wings on the finials of this idiophone sounded on the occasions of Ugie Oro court festivals is usually called the “bird of prophecy” (ahianmwen-oro) and sometimes the “messenger of god” (odibosa). Beginning with the reign of King Esigie in the sixteenth century, the sounding of clappers depicting the bird of prophecy at Ugie Oro court ceremonies was regarded as a sign that the kings of Benin were endowed with the power to alter history.”

Queen Idia
The Queen Mother

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She was the mother of King Esigie, a well known warrior oba (king) in Benin City. He was the first oba to speak any non-native language (Portugese), living around 1504 AD. The Portugese first arrived in the Benin Kingdom around 1485, and a knowledge of Portugese was very important in dealing with these new trading partners from the west.

Queen Idia was a great warrior who fought to maintain the empire of her son. She bore the title of Iyoba of Uselu, as she was the direct ruler of the Uselu region. In one particular story Benin was at war with the Idah people. Queen Idia’s troops were instrumental in the defeat of the Idah. She fought like a man, was brave and powerful. She is a symbol of woman’s liberation.

The typical representation of Queen Idia is that of a warrior. We have works that portray both her warrior side, and her fantastically feminine side. It shows a women who has it all, power, skill, loyalty, and feminine beauty.

In the first picture above this mask of Queen Idia shows the warriors she vanquished along the top of her headdress. This mask, carved by S. E. Owie, has already sold.

The second picture is a bust of Queen Idia by the same artist. Notice the obvious beauty and strength of character in the face. This is one of my personal favorites. It really shows that we all have multiple dimensions and whenever we look at someone in only one way we are likely missing out.

image017Face of IDIA
An African Queen

 

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Queen Iden
The Doting Wife of Oba Ewuakpe
{About 1700AD – 1712AD}

In trying to review the contributions of women to the ancient kingdom of Benin, the story will be grossly understated without reference to Queen Iden the beloved wife of Oba Ewakpe the great. She was the pride of femine gender: in her days as a Benin Royal Queen who stood behind her husband in a turbulent period. And to be able to brace up to the challenges the king found himself when the Benins revolted against Oba Ewuakpe was no small fear. Ewuakpe became king in the ancient kingdom in about 1700 A.D. and was the 26th monarch of the hereditary title of Benin dynasty.

He reigned for about 12 years which was characterized with series of set backs during the early period to the extent that all subjects in the kingdom revolted against him.

The fundamental cause of grouse was to protest against the monarche high handedness and his flagrant disrespect of human lives which culminated in the mass killing of his subjects at Uselu during the funeral of his demised mother Queen Ewebonoza in about 17.15 A.D when it became apparent that the elders and the citizens of the Kingdom could no longer accommodate the excesses of the King they were compelled to sever their disreputable connections. This uprising also affected all his wives (Iloi) the royal slaves (ovien) and other palace attendants.

In-view of this misdemeanor it would beholve on queen Iden to single handedly take the bull by the horns. Queen Iden became the only friend of Oba Ewuakpe in that time of need, as she made herself present as the kings only hope in time of great calamity when it became apparent that there was no solution to his predicaments, the king decided to seek refuge amongst his mothers relations at Ikoka village out the monarch was also rejected in his material abode.

In his sad state of mind he came back to Benin City on the arrival of the Oba Queen Iden observed his hopelessness and decided to do something about it by consulting an oraclelist on behalf of her husband Oba Ewuakpe, to seek the oracle instruction on what should be done to ward off the calamity bedeviling the ancient kingdom and its monarch.

After a thorough divination by the oraclist he concluded that all that was needed for the peace of the kingdom and the restoration of its throne was a human sacrifice.

Immediately after finding a solution to the problem from the oraclist, she headed for the palace to give the message of the god to his majesty the King in their empty harem. The message from the diviner seemed to aggravate matters for Oba Ewuakpe because there was no other human being in his palace, free or bonded beside his dear wife Queen Iden who incidentally was the conveyor of this report. Consequently, the possibility of getting some body else for the human sacrifice became remote for the royal couple.

In the absence of any other person Queen Iden in a gesture similar to the Jewish Jesus Christ volunteered to be used as a sacrificial lamb needed by the god for the restoration of the kingdom and his royalty.

As soon as Queen Iden suggested to her husband that she submit herself for the supreme price determined by the ancestors Oba Ewuakpe became nervously embittered as he could not comprehend the possibility of himself killing his dear wife, who had stood with him in times of calamity of this magnitude in order to atone for the sins she had not committed. But the determined Queen encouraged the royal hands to shed her blood. If only that will appease the ancestral spirits of the land of Benin. So as to put aside the upheaval in the kingdom.

And as it became glaring on Oba Ewakpe that there was no other way out of the predicament he conceded reluctantly to the pressure mounted by his real lover the Queen and atone the gods with the precious blood of Queen Iden, as he buried her alive on the spot near the Oba market in the heart of Benin metropolice.

Before Queen Iden voluntarily offered her self as an atonement to the gods, she requested for one favour from the king, that he should make sure her grave side is kept clean at all times. In addition, she cautioned against the reality of any person treading on her grave or else such trespasser should be killed on the spot as a mark of respect for her blessed remembrance.

Consequently her desire was strictly adhered to till the invasion of the British forces in 1897. This Queen had paid the ultimate price requested for by the ancestors but she did not know the outcome of her cherished kingdom and the reign of her beloved husband.

As soon as Oba Ewakpe finished the sacrificial rituals, some of the prominent chiefs in the kingdom called for a trace between the throne and it’s aggrieved subjects. Other Benin Chiefs started paying homage to the Benin monarch again and pledge their loyalty to the bereaved Oba Ewakpe.

Then all other Benin’s came in the same spirit to pledge their allegiance to his authority over them as their king. Consequently, the entire kingdom was reconciled back to the king and remained loyal to the royal majesty till the end of his reign.

Since it was necessary to celebrate such re-union, the Benins came together at the palace and rolled out drums to give such occasion a memorable one. During his happy mood the people were taken back to see their own king weeping profusely in the midst of merriment instead of being happy for the reunion of his subjects with him. This made his subjects to find out from the Oba why he was weeping at the time of celebration like this, the Oba replied that the motive behind his tears was because of his desire to mourn the sacrificial demise of his dear wife queen Iden.

He went further to narrate all the ordeal in the palace at the time the kingdom fell apart which resulted in the untimely exit of his best friend and beloved Queen who because of her unfeigned love for the unity of her fatherland, offered herself as a scrape goat to the gods of her pedigree. For the redemption of their intergenetional equity and social cultural heritage.

Retrospectively therefore, in view of what transpired in Benin Kingdom during the reign of Oba Ewuakpe about 500 yeas ago and the role played by a woman in the person for Queen Iden to ensure the continue existence of Benin monarch is a testimony to the fact that she is the greatest heroine of the millennium.

In the light of the above her effort should not be thrown to the wind but should be immortalized and a day should be set aside as Benin National day for the remembrance of Queen Iden across the world.

By EKAIWE IGINUA OSEMWEKHA

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THE HISTORY BEHIND

THE EMOTAN STATUE
 
· Posted by Otedo News Update on November 15, 2014 at 6:58pm
By Uwagboe Ogieva

“EDO – AFRICAN WOMEN HAVE BEEN HELD HIGH, RECOGNIZE AND IN SOME CASES DEIFIED. THERE WERE TWO WOMEN RULER IN EDO KINGDOM, NAMELY OGISO EMOSE AND OGISO ORRORRO.

EDO WOMEN PLAYED A VERY SIGNIFICANT ROLE IN THE BUILDING AND SUCCESSFUL ADMINISTRATION OF THE GREAT BENIN KINGDOM. THE POPULAR FESTAC, AND MASTER SYMBOL OF THE EDOID NATION WAS THE HEAD OF THE “IDIA NE IYE ESIGIE”, WHO WAS DEIFIED AND HONOURED BY OBA ESIGIE WITH THE TITLE OF “IYOBA”,

BASED ON HER GREAT CONTRIBUTION TO THE GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE BENIN EMPIRE. TALKING ABOUT GREAT AFRICAN WOMEN IN HISTORY BESIDE OGISO EMOSE, OGISO ORRORRO, IDIA NIYESIGIE WAS PRINCESS EMOTAN.”

In the last couple of years, black people all over the world have found and continue to take pride in what colonialist used to describe as primitiveness. They have come to realize that while these Europeans in one hand were condemning African culture and works of art made and adorn by Africans, they were carefully stealing and smuggling the great works of arts with the other hand. The interesting thing about African art in general is that they are closely tied to African history, spirituality and social life. Despite the lack of much consideration given to women in the Edo society today, Edo women of yesterday years were not only very recognise and respected, but the role they played in societies were greatly appreciated and rewarded respectivelly.

Emotan was an ordinary petty trader who used to sell foodstuffs in the Oba market during the reign of Oba Ewuare the Great which historians have placed at about 1440. She have been actually trading since the reign of Oba Uwaifiokun, who reign before Ewuare. Both these men were brothers.

Ewuare was one of those legends whose history will sound to modern days youngsters like fables rather than realities. Ewuare was a great king, a magician, reputable leader and warrior. He made many enemies and one of those was his brother Uwaifiokun. It was agaisnt this Emotan was helpful. Ewuare’s brother, Uwaifiokun who was still reigning, had conspired with his cheifs to have Ewuare murdered. Emotan got the wind of the conspiracy, took the risk to unveiled it to Ewuare. She not only told Ewuare the plan to murdered him but joined to protect and hide him from being killed. Ewuare was saved thanks to her. When Ewuare became the Oba of the Benin Kingdom, Emotan became a favoured citizen. When she died Ewuare ordered that her body be buried at the Oba market in the n the same spot where she use to trade. A tree was ordered by the Oba to be planted on the gravesite. Not only that, Ewuare also deified Emotan who was worshipped as the mother of love and kindness. In the past every man attended all funeral procession, invested, celebrated, visited the tree and gravesite at the City Center.

Oba Ewuare Nogidigan also recognised one of his servant who saved him too from a terrible illness. He changed the name of Igodomigodo (The Edo Coutry) to “Edo” after his deified (servant) friend, who was able to save him from a sudden death in about same time with Emotan deitification. Before this time, the Edoland and country had been called the land of Igodomigodo. Oba Ewuare Ne ogidigan (The great), reign in Benin Kingdom about 1440 to 1473 in the second milenium. From Ewuare, Edo became the name of the Ancient Benin Kingdom, their language and territory.

Today in Benin City, Emotan’s beautiful statue conspiciously stands where she was first Buried during the reign of Oba Ewaure Nogidigan. It is in this regard that one sees the permanent statue unveiled and lunched by Oba Akenzua II on march 20, 1954 in honor of Emotan in the heart of Benin City as a great gesture

RECOMMENDED:

Reconceptualizing Iyoba
http://ihuanedo.ning.com/group/womenaffairs/forum/topics/reconceptu…

The History Behind The Emotan Statue
http://ihuanedo.ning.com/group/healtheducation/forum/topics/the-his…

Significance of Ivie and Ekan (Coral Beads) in Edo Culture
http://ihuanedo.ning.com/profiles/blogs/significance-of-ivie-and-ekan

Idia: The First Queen Mother of Benin
http://ihuanedo.ning.com/profiles/blogs/idia-the-first-queen-mother-of

Queen Mothers IN EDO KINGDOM
http://ihuanedo.ning.com/profiles/blogs/queen-mothers-in-edo-kingdom

10 things you must know about “Idia n’Iye Esigie” of a West African civilization
http://ihuanedo.ning.com/profiles/blogs/greatness-of-an-african-que…

Relative Articles:
 – Queen Mother in Edo Kingdom
 – Reconceptualizing Iyoba: Edo Culture
– Idia: The First Queen Mother of Benin
– Help Stop the sale of The Mask of the Queen Mother
– Queen-Mother Idia, Others Must Return Home: Training Courses Are Nothing
– British soldiers sitting behind looted religious objects in the oba palace
– FG moves to repatriate stolen Benin artefacts
– The Salient Witness
– Greatness of an African Queen Mother: IDIA
– Significance of ivie and ekan (coral beads) in Edo culture.
– Babacar M’Bow On The Broken Queen Idia Mask From The Osemwegie Ebohon
 – Idianiyesigie by EFI (Edo Film Industry) [Complete Film]

BENIN (EDO) IMPERIAL INFLUENCE
BEFORE THE BRITISH INVASION
by
Professor Ademola Iyi-Eweka

benin

According to Benin/Edo history recorded in artifacts (many of them now lying
in the vaults of private and public museums in Europe), songs and stories,
Lagos (EKO) was established as a WAR CAMP by Oba ORHOGBUA in the 1500’s.
It was an attempt by Oba Orhogbua to control the present day coastline of
Nigeria about 600 years ago. Oba Orhogbua had been trained in Portugal in
one of their naval schools. He understood the power of navigation and sea
power because , the Portuguese power was based on naval power then. On his
assumption to the throne, he organised either independently or with the help
of the Portuguese, an expendition to established control over the present
day coastline, extending from Togo, the present day Republic of Benin down
to the borders of modern Gabon. He signed treaties of friendship with many
of the local rulers. Garrisons made of Edo/Benin soldiers were established.

You can begin to see how the Edos got to Ghana where they are generally
regarded as the ancestors of the modern day GAS of Ghana. You can see how
the ancient Edos got to Togo and Dahomey ( Republic of Benin). That was
why the rulers of Dahomey had to seek the permission of the Oba of Benin
before they could change the name of Dahomey to the Republic of Benin. In
fact it is on record that when President Eyedema of Togo visited Nigeria in the late
1960’s, he was sent to the Midwest. While in Benin, he was taken to
Ishan/Esan Division, where he saw the home of General Isidahome of Ishan and
the palace of some Enogie”s in Ishan/Esan. I was then a teacher at Ubiaja in Ishan.

You can figure out the connection between Dahomey and Isidahomey. There he
was told the meaning of EYEDEMA which tallied with the Togolese
interpretation. He found out his origin in Ishan/Esan land. Isidahomey was
the Edo general who led the Edo army into the area later called Dahomey.
Even before Eyedema and Kerekou’s visit there was a race to know who was the
most EDO between Togo and Dahomey. Most important institutions like their
Universities were named after Benin.

In Lagos/Eko, once a decision was reached to make it a permanent garrison,
the establishment of a government with its accompanying bureacracy became
necessary. It was necessary to have somebody to control what goes on in the
new camp-EKo/LAGOS. There were others who had argued that the occupation
and settlement be disbanded since it was too far from Benin City/EDO NOBA
YE. Oba Orhogbua countered the arguement by saying that ,” you do not just
break camp and desert a settlement you have established.” He now ordered
one of his sons to go back to Lagos /Eko and take charge with title
ASIKPA-ASIKPA HIEN EVBO RE- which is the Edo translation of Oba Orhogbua’s argument.

It is on record that the first eight to ten Obas of Lagos/Eko
bear distintively EDO NAMES. Professor Biobaku in one of his writings has
confirmed this. Some writers spell it ESIKPA. The change of names from
distinctive Edo names to yoruba names has to with acculturisation.
Succeding rulers of Lagos/Eko married yoruba (ANAGO) speaking women. Even
in 1999, I am bearing a yoruba name, probably influenced by mother who is a
yoruba woman. If we were to go by the law that a child must answer only
their immediate father’s name, my children would be bearing whatever their
first name is with their surnames being ADEMOLA.. IYI EWEKA would simply
disappear. You can hardly connect my children to the royal family or even
EDO just 50years after my death. You can begin to understand the reason
for change of names in Lagos/Eko traditional rulership.

The successor to Oba Orhogbua, Oba Ehengbuda died enroute to Lagos/Eko. He
got drowned in the Atlantic Ocean. His death is always reenacted at IGUE
Festival with songs and the movement of a man being tossed about by the
ocean tides or waves. His death also led to a revolution in Edo/Benin
military warfare. Hitherto, Obas of Benin always led the army to battle,.
That job was given to the Chief EZOMO of Benin. He became the commander of
the Benin royal army. It was a job that made many Ishans/Esan and Etsakos
generals in the Benin army, even up to time of the British invasion in
1897, despite Oba Ovonramwen’s attempt to purge the Edo/Benin government of
Ishan/Esan influence.

The establishment of the dukedom of Lagos/Eko was accompanied with the
establishment of the traditional bureacracy. This is more evident in the
traditonal dressings-white clothes and white caps chiefs and the titles they
bear eg BAJULAIYE etc. You have to follow these chiefs into their homes
and traditional shrines, for those who cared to preserve theirs, inspite of
christianity and Islam to see THE EDO MAN,RELIGION AND CULTURE operate in
their lives and Lagos/Eko Go to Iga Iduganran, watch some of the rituals
performed at the shrines-prayers and songs, inspite of christianity and
Islam . You will see that EDO CULTURE sticks like a velcro to anything it touches.

It is important to state at this point, that the title OBA OF LAGOS/EKO is
as recent as the British occupation of Nigeria. Up till the 1920’s,
whoever was the ruler of Lagos/Eko was referred to as the ELEKO. He was not
regarded as an Oba on the same footing with the Oba of Benin. In the battle
for Lagos in the 1850’s between Akintoye and Kosoko, both confirmed the fact
that Lagos belong to the Oba Of Benin, and that they had the support of the
Oba of Benin on their claim to rulersship. The Oba of Benin hated the
British and saw them as a political cancer, whose aim was to destroy his
political domination of that part of the world. The Oba preferred the
Portuguese whose interest was only trade. Britain not only wanted trade,
they also wanted land. Therefore the battle for Lagos/Eko in 1850 and
finally the 1897 battle for Benin City was inenvitable. Some historian
tended to see the battle for Lagos/Eko as a Kosoko and Akintoye affair. It
was actually a battle between Britain on one hand and Benin/Portuguese on the other .

Kosoko was vehemently anti-British and pro slave trade ,because of the
activities of the British missionaries in Abeokuta and their support for
Akintoye influnced by Madam Tinubu, who was herself a great slave trader.
In the end Britain and Akintoye/Madam Tinubu won and Kosoko/Benin lost..
Kosovo took to flight and hunted from place by British agents, his second
son OLOJO ended up in Benin City just before the British invasion. Olojo
was arrested by the Benin soldiers as a spy for the British, since he spoke
yoruba and came from Lagos. Hauled before Oba Ovonramwen in chains with
instant death staring at him, he was reported to have shouted at the top of
his voice in yoruba,”

I AM A DESCENDANT OF ASHIPA THE FIRST ELEKO OF EKO. I
AM OLOJO THE SECOND SON OF KOSOKO .
I CAME BACK HOME TO CLAIM MY RIGHT AND EDO HERITAGE.
I AM HERE TO SEE WHAT HAS REMAINED OF ASHIPA’S HOUSE.

“Oba Ovonramwen immediately ordered him freed and those who brought
an EDO PRINCE in chains to the palace were lucky to have escaped with their lives.
Olojo Kosoko was given a piece of land where he built his house opposite the
Oba’s Market. Later he converted it to a MOSQUE because he was a muslim
That mosque is still standing at the head of Lagos street, Benin City, opposite the Oba’ s market.
That street was named LAGOS STREET because of Olojo Kosoko, the Edo/Eko man who came back
His descendants in Benin today simply goes by the name OLOJO without the Kosoko attached.

It is also important to point out that, the last rulers of Lagos /Eko and
Bagagry whose bodies were brought to Benin City for burial, were those that
immediately preceeded the British Occupation of Lagos in 1850. When
Akintoye died, the British authorities refused the body to be taken to Benin
City for burial on the ground that Lagos was now a BRITISH TERRITORY. To
support their arguement, they forced OBA DOSUMU of Lagos to sign the article
of ANNEXATION OF LAGOS as belonging to Britain in 1861.

It is also necessary to point out that the ancient Benin Empire has only one
OBA and that was the Oba of Benin. Many of the other traditional rulership
from Lagos through parts of Ondo,Ekiti, Ogun states to the west and Delta,
Anambra, Rivers and Balyesa states to east and Edo state owes their origin
and creation to the Obas of Benin.

It was a treasonable offence for anybody to call or equate himself with the
Oba of Benin. DUKEDOMS were created by Obas beginning from the OGISO ERA
for their children for two reasons:

The first reason was to reduce the strifes which accompany succession struggles when the empire needed stabilty. Therefore adult children of deceased obas were therefore given their own dukedoms to rule as if they were the Obas of Benin. Sometime parallel institutions were created like in Issele-Uku, Ughelli, Warri ( Olu of Warri) Owo,Idanre (OKE) Irrua etc Oba
Eweka the second created one for his brother EHIGIE at UWAN village near
UGBOGIOBO on the old Lagos road and a few kilometers from NIFOR, Oba Akenzua
created three for his brothers Uwaifiokun at OBAGIE, Ogiesoba at AIDEYANOBA
and IYIEWUAREFO (my father) at OGHADA near Abudu in 1935.

Oba Erediauwa created more than eight dukedoms in 1988 -Ologbo,Abudu,
Orogho, Owa etc for his brothers. Inspite of that safeguard, there WERE still violent struggles for the throne in Benin City.The second reason for the creation of dukedoms was for generals to be able
to hold to hostile terriories. This was their reward for loyal services to the Edo Nation.

Sometimes, prominent and loyal generals are also made
dukes(ENOGIE/ONOGIE/OVIE/OBI)). They all report to the Oba of Benin and are
hereditary. Many of these generals marry into the royal family to give it
legitimacy and power. When Benin City fell in 1897, the first thing the
British conquerors did, was to proclaim the independence of these dukedoms
and its territories as independent of the Oba of Benin. Warri/Delta
province was carved out of the Empire and a British resident posted to
Warri. In what remained of what they now call Benin Province, Oba Eweka,
the second, was forced to sign off his right to Owan, Ishan, Etsako areas.

He had no choice . Benin had already lost Lagos in the 1850s and the
remaining yoruba states were effectively occupied by the Lagos Colony
administration as Benin City fell 1897. The power of the Oba of Benin was
now limited to what we now call the “BINI-SPEAKING” areas of EDO STATE.
By the time the British authorities discovered the damage they have caused as a
result of their political arrangement, which was aimed at curtailing the
power of the Oba of Benin, it was too late. What they resorted to, was
to acknowledge the Oba’s sovereignty over these areas by subterfuge. Cases
over land and succession in these areas were often referred to Oba Eweka,
the second, to settle eg. 1920/22 case in Lagos, the Enogie of Ewu’s stool
in Ishan in the 1930’s and the Obi of Ogwashi-uku stool in the 1930’s. etc

The present rumblings or grumblings by some Enogies in the “BINI-SPEAKING
AREAS” of Edo state, in the aftermath of the face off between the MILAD and
the Oba of Benin, has to do with the imbalance this British creation has to
done to the ENOGIESHIP in the Bini-speaking areas. While those in Ishan,
Etsako etc including those in Delta states (some are actually regarded as
first class Obas)) are paid about 15000 naira a month, those from Benin
areas are paid only 2000 naira. This is inspite of the fact that all of
or most of them were created by act of DUKEDOMSHIP by the Oba of Benin.

The mistake the agitators have made is that they should have argued on
salary increase, stressing the historical fact that, they were all created
like the Olu of Warri, Ovie of Ughelli or nearer home the Enogie of Ewohimi
or Irrua by the Oba of Benin. What it seemed they are now doing in Benin,
is challenging their creator who has a traditional mechanism for allowing
those stools or titles to LAPSE after the death of the present agitators.
An example can be found in UDO. Udo was settled by Prince Aruaran and his
followers. Prince Arauran was a giant like prince with all brawn and no
brain. As a result, he was cheated and pushed aside by his younger brother
Oba Esigie for the Benin throne. Prince Aruanran left Benin in anger and
set up a settlement called UDO in place of EDO. He established a parallel
bureucracy in Udo. There were skirmishes between his supporters and that of
Oba Esigie. Then suddenly, Prince Aruanran disappeared into the thin air.

He led an army into an expedition and never returned till this day-700 years
later. When Prince Aruaran did not return, some of his followers fearing
persecution or were actually persecuted, packed their things and fled to an
area today identified as ONDO. In fact the name ONDO is partly derived from
these run-away settlers who were described as EWAN NE UDO-the deserters of
Udo and a tree under which travellers between UHE(Ile-Ife) and Benin would
normally stop to rest. The Ondo man would call it ODE EDO. But anybody
who understands Edo language will tell you point blank that, this an Edo
sentence meaning –“the way to Benin..” All Obas of Benin for the past
700 years, refused to instal another duke/Enogie at UDO. The Iyase of Udo

and a few approved chiefs by the oba of Benin have been running the affairs
of the community. There is even some tradition which claim that the first
traditional ruler of Ondo , was Prince Aruaran himself. He was nicknamed
OSEMWUGHE ( yoruba- OSEMAWE) meaning -” this guy is something to be
watched” as he escounced himself between Benin City and Ile-Ife. He got
fed up fighting with his brother and simply packed his things and moved
further inland. It is the descendant of the Iyase of Udo ( he is not even a traditional
ruler) who we understand is leading the present agitation.

Another example is in Isi clan. The village is called today EGUA EHOLOR.
It used to be called EGUA OGISI (EGUA OGHE OGIE ISI ). The Enogie
misbehaved and the Oba of Benin , not willing ot move on him militarily,
allowed him to die. When the children wanted to bury the Enogie, the Oba of
Benin gave them some task to fulfil. It was an impossible task and since
they could not fulfil it, they could not bury their father. Since they
could not bury their father, they could not ascend the throne of OGISI.
And so the title lapsed. Since nature does not allow vaccum, the Oba of
Benin sent in chief Eholor to Egua Ogisi as the administrator and the PRO
for the Oba of Benin in ISI clan Chief Eholor simply changed the name of
the community to Egua Eholor because that was his seat of administration.
The children or decendants of the Ogisi are still there.

Another example is title of the Olu of Warri. From all intent and
purposes, it has lapsed because of the behaviour of an Olu of Warri.
For almost over 80 years, there was no Olu of Warri because the family of
the Olu of Warri could not fulfil the task the Oba of Benin had imposed on
them on the death of the last Olu of Warri. It was the British
intervention that restored Oluship of Warri in the late 1930’s.

You can now see why the Itsekhiris cooperated very well with the British Invaders in
the destruction of Benin Empire in 1897. Contrary to what people say, the
Urhobos fought with the Benin army. Inspite of threats and inducement, the
Urhobos would not tell the British commanders the location of Benin army in
the battle for SAKPOBA/OSASIMWIOBA. The massive British army that was mainly assisted
by their Hausa collaborators and betrayers from the north who came and fight alongside with them against Benin was totally routed and annihilated to the last man and their British commander killed. His head was brought to Benin, where it was hung on a tree. British soldiers got hold of the head when they entered Benin City. Now it is evident why there has been no love lost between the Benin and British Empires.

Ladies and gentlemen, I think this is enough history for one day.

THE MYTH & FOLKLORE OF
THE GREAT KINGS OF GREAT BENIN

Ekaladerancopia

PRINCE EKALADERHAN
THE SON OF THE LAST OGISO OWODO
AND GRAND FATHER OF OBA EWEKA I

A HISTORICAL TALES BY MOONLIGHT DELIGHT FOR YOUR KIDS:

INTRODUCTION:

Without the real life stories of the Kings of Benin Kingdom there would have been no documented history of the Benin people and that is the unbreakable bond between the Benin Kings and People that makes people wonder a lot. We know that by this Royal Family that is cumulatively about 2,100 years old lasting two dynasties of Ogisos and Obas as the second oldest monarchy in the world, second only to the Japanese monarchy that is about 2,500 years old; whose memories are etched into the fabric of Benin oral and written history that corroborates one another proving that these stories and folklore are indeed true occurrences in the lives of true characters helped of course with the advent of the Europeans who wrote what they saw while our arts guild fashioned what they saw in our thousands of art works.

So we do not need the accounts of the Portuguese to tell us the story of Oba Esigie the first heathen African King to be converted to Christianity and be baptized as a Catholic and Idia N’Iyoba his Queen Mother the only woman who went to war and was victorious as the Festac Mask of Idia was sculptured to tell the story even better than the Portuguese writers. Neither do we need the Catholic priests in Rome to tell us that the first Christian Church planted in Sub Saharan Africa was planted in 1504 in Benin City by Portuguese Catholic Priests as we still have the same church building standing and preserved in perfect condition 500 years later in 2015 at “Akpakpava Road” which is the pidgin Portuguese for “Papa Ville” as the Portuguese called it back then. So we had an artistic means of recording our history for posterity hence they are not fabricated fairy tales like that of some African tribes but factual folklore.

Oba_Adolor

Oba Eweka I (1200 CE), ruled over Usama, outside Igodomigodo. In the meantime, Ogieamie Irebor who ruled Igodomigodo had been succeeded by Ogieamie Ubi, by the time of Oba Eweka’s reign in Igodomigodo. Oba Eweka’s reign was not particularly eventful. He was succeeded by his two sons, Oba Ewakhuahen and Oba Ehenmihen in quick succession. Neither of them made any impact on Igodomigodo as well.

image0111

Oba Ewedo (1255-1280 CE), succeeded Oba Ehenmihe. He moved his palace from Usama to its original Ogiso site in the heart of Igodomigodo. The relocation of the palace site from Usama to the urban heart of the kingdom caused a bitter war between Oba Ewedo and the Ogieamie Ode who was the ruler of Igodomigodo at the time. The fight was considered purely a family matter by the people of Igodomigodo and the Edion’isen. To prevent it leading to the loss of too many innocent lives, the Edion’isen prevailed on the adversaries to settle their quarrel amicably. Oba Ewedo requested Ogieamie Ode to sell Igodomigodo land to him. A treaty was struck requiring Ogieamie, as the traditional landlord of Igodomigodo kingdom, to sell Igodomigodo land to the Oba at the coronation of every successive Oba. The Oba elect first had to present gifts to the Ogieamie, which include two male and two female servants, a royal stool, a wooden staff, a rectangular stool and a round leather box.

The Oba-in-waiting and the Ogieamie would then meet at their common boundary called ‘Ekiokpagha,’ where the Ogieamie would take sand from the ground and put it in the hand of the Oba and say: “I have sold this part of Benin land to you but not to your son and when you pass away your son will buy the land from me as you have done.” The Ogieamie’s dormain in Benin kingdom is known as Utantan where he has chiefs assisting him in his traditional duties. The present Ogieamie of Utantan-Benin is Ogieamie Osarobo Okuonghae, a graduate of history from the University of Benin.

The relocation by Oba Ewedo to the heart of his kingdom, Ubini, also created immense difficulties for the Ihogbe. The three chiefs, who supervised the birth of Eweka, became known as the Ihogbe (meaning relatives of the Oba). Ihama and Letema titles became hereditary because the two chiefs had male heirs. Legema did not have a male child, so his title became non-hereditary. In the Ihogbe, the idea that the oldest man becomes the leader does not apply. Leadership is determined by the rule of who has served the longest as an Ihogbe, regardless of age. Such a person becomes the Enila before the title becomes vacant through death of the occupier when the Enila takes over as the new Owere Enila or Odionwere or Okaegbee of the Ihogbe. The Ihogbe, as the official family of Eweka and, therefore, of the Oba dynasty generally, has the responsibility of taking care of the ancestral or royal shrine at Usama. The Okaegbee of Ihogbe, in particular, performs sanctification and purification rites frequently at the palace and officiates during the Oba’s propitiation ceremonies. The Okaegbee Ihogbe, who usually was not a young man, could handle palace responsibilities when the Oba’s palace at Usama Ubini was within a walking distance of less than 500 meters from the Ihogbe’ s ‘Ukhurhe’ ancestral shrine.            

The journey to the new palace site was perilous, long and messy, even for a young man. It traversed a walk during the dry season, through an extensive marshland created by the crossing of each other of rivers Omi and Oteghele at Isekherhe. The rivers are now extinct. During the rains at the time, Ediagbonya, the second son of Okaegbee Ihama of the Ihogbe, made a living ferrying people and goods across the river in his canoe. Okaegbee, Ihama’s first son, could not be relocated to the heart of Ubini because he was the custodian heir of the Ukhurhe, the totem representing the royal ancestral spirits at Usama. Ediagbonya, the second son, was relocated to Ubini, to take over palace ancestral responsibilities, with the title of Isekhurhe. He built his house at Utantan High Street not far from Ewedo’s new palace. Isekhurhe is a hereditary title, and the current holder is a graduate of American Universities. He succeeded to his father’s title in 1981 at the age of 30 years.

The Esogban title, created by Oba Ewedo, may have been derived from the Yoruba word, Asogbon, meaning the source of wise counsel. Oba Ewedo spent some time in the Yoruba riverine area of Ugbo/Ilaje as a young man. Esogban ranks second in hierarchy to the Iyase who is the prime minister of the kingdom. Esogban heads the ‘Think Tank’ that weighs options for the Oba, so he is usually a man of sound and reliable judgment and often a blood relative of the Oba.

As the premier mystic or warlock of the kingdom, the Esogban monitors activities in the mystical realm, and people accused of sorcery are regulated and punished by him. He is also the priest of the Orhie day, the second week-day of the kingdom after the Eken rest day. He tends the day to ensure it brings peace and prosperity to the Oba and the land.

Oba_Udagbedo

Oba Oguola (1280–1295 CE), succeeded Oba Ewedo as the fifth Oba of Ubini. He dug the protective moat around Ubini during his reign. The city of Benin, like ancient Egyptian cities walled against predators, has a giant protective moat dug around it without using mechanical equipment. The engineering feet still marvels in modern times. The Benin moat is described in the Guinness Book of Records as second in magnitude only to the Great China wall. Oba Oguola was succeeded in turn by his three sons.

Oba Edoni (1295-1299 CE), and Oba Udagbedo (1299-1334 CE), made no impact on Ubini. Oba Ohen (1334-1370 CE), whose murder of his Iyase, the traditional prime minister of Ubini land, led to a rebellion that brought his reign to an end with his stoning to death. Oba Ohen was succeeded in turn by four of his sons.

Oba Egbeka 1370 CE, Oba Orobiru, Oba Uwaifioku and Oba Ewuare the Great who consolidated, developed, and expanded the kingdom through innovative leadership ideas, closely knit, disciplined community organization, warfare, and conquests. He ushered in the period of warrior kings, which lasted into the 16th century CE, traversing the reigns of Obas Ozolua, Esigie, Orhogbua and Ehengbuda.

Oba_Ewuare

OBA EWUARE N’GIDIGAN THE GREAT (1440-1473 CE), was himself forced into exile and nearly would not have ascended to the throne. When Oba Orobiru died, members of the Edion’isen where uncomfortable with Oba Ohen’s third son’s strong and independent streak and did not want him (Prince Ogun), to become the Oba. When the hostilities building against him over his right to the throne was getting unbearable, with death penalty hanging on his head, he fled into the woods to save his life, taking his junior brother, Uwaifiokun, along with him. He did not know at the time that the Edion’isen favoured Uwaifiokun over him to rule.

After three years of living wild and aimlessly, with the toll beginning to tell on him, he decided to send Uwaifiokun to the city to discreetly find out what the feelings were about the Ubini throne that had been vacant since he and his brother escaped into the forest. When Uwaifiokun arrived at Chief Ihama of Ihogbe’s home, the chief excitedly rushed him to meet with the Edion’isen who enthusiastically received him. Asked about his elder brother, Prince Ogun, Uwaifiokun lied that he had not seen him for a long while. The king makers then offered him the throne which he quickly accepted, thus betraying his brother’s trust.

Prince Ogun was upset by the betrayal and started plotting to take the throne from his junior brother. Ogun’s relative, Azuwa, living in Uhunmwun Idumwun in the eastern outskirts of Benin, using the Iha divination, told Prince Ogun that he would win his throne. He listed what Prince Ogun had to do to reverse the animosity of the Edion’isen because ordinary Ubini people were routing for him, although thinking he was already dead. Royal ancestors and the gods of the land were angry over the injustice done to him, and many people had begun to leave the city in fear of the wrath of the gods.

Prince Ogun was told that he would meet a pregnant woman, a hunter, and finally an old woman living opposite the market place, who would each influence the process of his gaining the throne. He promised Azuwa great reward if Iha’s predictions came through. News of his visit to Uhunmwun Idunmwun soon reached the Ubini monarch who quickly dispatched troops to the area to try to capture him.

Prince Ogun escaped through Ikpe territory, deep into the hinterland. At Igogogin bush, where he retired to spend the night, he heard the moaning of someone that appeared to be in pains. Obviously, he was dreaming, but it was very vivid. He was shocked that he was not alone in the forest. On investigation, he found that the moaning person (a tree), required help to relieve it of worms ravaging its trunk. Ogun wasted no time in doing just that and as reward, the tree asked him to make a request because he, the tree, was the spirit of Ase that could grant anything.

The spirit placed an object at Ogun’s feet and asked him to pick it up and make a demand of it. Ogun, unbelieving, playfully asked the object to make the tree bothering him, to shed its leaves and die. The tree promptly shed its leaves and died. Ogun woke up and found the object by his feet, and that he had reclined against a tree that had shed its leaves and died. The tree was full of life when he chose to recline on it for the night, he thought. He picked up the object and asked another tree near-by to shed its leaves and die. The tree promptly did.

He went to Ekae village where he lived for a while and gave birth to the Evbo Aigbogun people, then he moved on. In the meantime, the monarch’s troops, acting on reports of sightings, were raiding villages around him. They almost caught him when they trooped past him in a forest were he was hiding. He plucked a large green leaf and put it in his mouth, and in demand of his ‘Ase charm,’ the leaf rendered him invisible, (or looking like a shrub), to the troops. Hours later, when the danger had subsided, he called the leaf that saved his life, Ebe Ewere.

At the base of the tree where he had spent the night, blood had dropped all over him. When he carefully looked up, a leopard was snoozing up a branch of the tree after eating its prey. He killed the leopard with one arrow shot. On the ground by the tree where he had slept, he found he had laid his head on a snake coiled up neatly as his pillow through out the night. He killed the snake too. A little while later, at a blind corner along the bush path near where he had slept, a pregnant woman was approaching him, going to her farm, not knowing someone was there. She struck her toe against a stump and screamed in lamentation, “what bad omen is this? The spirits are angry, ancestors are taking lives. Ogun the rightful heir to the throne must be found to ascend the throne before peace can return to the land.” The sudden manifestation of Prince Ogun on the bush path startled the woman who did not recognize the prince. After Ogun had introduced himself, she was happy to repeat herself, thus re-assuring Ogun that he was loved by the ordinary people of Benin who were hoping he was not dead yet. Ogun was delighted with what he heard and promised to declare the area where the woman farmed at Ugbekun, Royal farm land in her honour, with all the labour she would need provided by the state from season to season.

Ogun then decided to head for Benin. Close to Umelu junction, he heard a hunter who was resting under a tree shade, talking aloud to himself: “I am going home with these killings, but with no one to share them with. O! Ihama and the five Edion, you have put our land in great peril. The ancestors visit the sins of your hatred of Prince Ogun on our people. What shall we do?” Ogun surprised the hunter with his presence, introduced himself, and thanked the hunter for his comments. He named the tree the hunter was sheltering under, the Okha n’Ohue – source of good omen. Remembering Iha’s predictions about his encounters on the way to the throne, which appeared to be coming true, Ogun decided to head through stealthy paths for the market place in the city.

At Unueru quarters, the Royal army almost caught up with him. He hid and resisted using his ‘Ase charm’ to destroy the army because he reasoned they were his people, his future subjects. Later that night, he retired to Chief Ogieva Nomuekpo’s home, hoping to find respite there from the troops haunting him. The chief expressed fear of the troops and hid Ogun in a dry well in his compound. The chief covered the mouth of the well with leaves and in betrayal left to alert the Royal army about his catch. While Ogieva was on his way to invite the Royal army to come and arrest Prince Ogun, Edo, the head servant of Ogieva’s household, alerted Prince Ogun about his master’s diabolical plan and helped the prince to escape from the well with a ladder. Ogieva returned with the Royal troops to find that Edo had helped Ogun escape. The troops killed Edo on the spot.

Prince Ogun in the meantime, had found his way to the hut of the old woman opposite the market place in the city. She was a powerful mystic, poor, old and childless. She hailed from Eyaen village in the present day Oduwawa cattle market area on the Benin-Auchi Road. The name her parents gave her was Uwaraye. As a young woman, during the reign of Oba Ohen, Prince Ogun’s father, she married Chief Azama of Ihogbe district, as his second wife. Uwaraye was considered indolent by her husband because she could not cook. She could not get pregnant either. Azama’s first wife, Arabe, handled the domestic chores and gave birth to all the children of the household. Azama soon nicknamed Uwaraye, Eke’Emitan, corrupted to Emotan, meaning lazy bones. She had a redeeming feature, though. She was good at helping to (nurse) or take care of the brood of the household.

As the children of the household reached the age when they no longer required close supervision by adults, Emotan who could make ‘evbarie’ (a soup seasoning condiment made from fermented melon seeds), and spin threads from cotton bolls, began taking these plus some herbal products to sell at a stall opposite the city market. When her husband died and she could not return to her parent’s home because they too had died in old age earlier on, she set up a hut to live in at her trading post opposite the market place. Her hut soon became a popular make-shift nursery for the children of families patronizing the market. She attended to the children’s health and other needs flawlessly without charging fees and the kids’ parents soon could not have enough of her services.

It was in her nature, therefore, to agree to have Prince Ogun as her guest and to help him take his throne. During Prince Ogun’s first night at the hut, the Royal army raided the market neighbourhood, searching possible hideouts, including Emotan’s hut. He was invisible again. As soon as the army moved their search from the hut to other areas in the vicinity, Ogun sneaked out, avoiding the path of the army, and headed straight for the palace where he killed his brother, Oba Uwaifiokun. The news of his action soon spread around the city. Ordinary citizens were supportive of his action, insisting that it was Ogun’s right to do what he did and expressing joy and hope that the tragedies of the recent past would soon end because justice had prevailed.

Emotan sent word to Ogun to stay put in the palace and consolidate his hold while she continued spiritual work outside to win empathy and love for Ogun. Within a few days, the Edion’isen had come round in support of Ogun, eventually crowning him as the Omo N’ Oba Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare. Iha divination’s title choice of ‘Oworuare,’ alias Ewuare, could not have been more apt because it means, after the heat, the cooling effect of rain.

Oba Ewuare appointed Emotan as the Iyeki (that is the leader of the authorized Ekpate guild), tasked with security matters in the market and with enforcing market rules. Emotan died not too long after Ewuare’s ascension, so the Oba decreed that she should be buried in her hut. Later the grave was marked with an Uruhe tree and her deification as the conscience of justice was ordered by the king. Every celebratory procession in Benin pays homage to the burial site. The first Uruhe tree (marker) survived for some three hundred years before it fell. The replacement Uruhe tree survived for about one hundred and fifty years before an Iroko tree was planted to support it. A severe storm fell both trees on their, around one hundred years’ anniversary together. Oba Akenzua II, in cooperation with the British Colonial authorities commissioned in 1954, a life size bronze statue of Emotan as a young woman, sculpted by Mr. John A. Danford, in his Chelsea, London, studio in 1951, from a miniature model cast by Igun Street artists.

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Oba Ewuare, in continuation of the fulfillment of the promises he made to reward those who helped him win the throne, installed Azuwa as the ‘Iha man mwen’ of Igun, meaning the Ihama of Igun. Oba Ewuare bought the corpse of Edo from Ogieva and had it exhumed. He gave the servant posthumous freedom and ordered his reburial underneath the altar of Ukhurhe Edion at the Aro Edun, the entrance to the palace’s inner tower, an ultimate place of honour. Then he invited the people of Benin to join him in honouring a bondsman who gave his life for him to live. He changed the name of the city, language and kingdom, to EDO. This was later expanded to Edo O’Evbo Ahire, meaning EDO the CITY OF LOVE, in appreciation of Edo’s love that saved young Prince Ogun’s life and gave Edo kingdom her greatest king.

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The present day elegant ceremonial costumes of the kings and chiefs of Benin originated from Ewuare’s reign. Ewuare restored the annual cycle of royal ceremonies, the most important ones being Ugie Erha Oba, in honour of royal ancestors and Igue, to strengthen the mystical powers of the king.

Oba Ewuare’s vow to propitiate his head and give thanks to his ancestors with a major spiritual event if he gained the throne, is the genesis of the Igue festival, which started three years into his reign. The Igue festival is the leading spiritual festival of the Edo. It is a two week long thanksgiving festival to the head, as the focal point of anointing and the centre of the human person. The head symbolizes both the sacredness of creation and of the spirit entity in man. To quote the Isekhurhe, “it is to the head you raise your hands, in respect and adoration.”

The Oba goes into seclusion for spiritual purification during the period. Igue activities include Igue ivbioba, Igue edohia, Ugie ewere, Otue igue Oba (chiefs paying homage to the Oba), Igue Oba and Ugie emobo (when the Oba comes out of seclusion). The incantations used at the Igue festival were developed by the Ihogbe family. During the festival, Edo people say prayers, cleanse themselves of their sins, bring members of their extended family together to bond, share gifts and blessings, feeding on the food of atonement and thanksgiving. The Ewere leaf that saved Ewuare’s life in the bush when he was nearly caught by the Royal troops, has its day of lavish use, with the leaves taken by youths from home to home around the city. They tear pieces of the leaves and paste them on the heads, particularly the foreheads of people, to show joy. At that moment of sharing, the salutation is ‘Ise Logbe’ (Happy New Year), and the reply or response is ‘Ogbe man vbe dia re’ (Many happy returns).

Oba Ewuare the great, was the most dynamic, innovative and successful Oba in the history of Edo kingdom. Under him, Edo was completely transformed religiously, politically, socially, physically and militarily. Ewuare re-organized the government of Edo by centralizing it and he set up three powerful palace associations of chiefs. The political elite of the kingdom was made up of titled chiefs and members of the royal family. The seven highest-ranking chiefs, who were, in fact, descendants of original elders of Edo, were constituted into Uzama with leadership authority next to the king. The brothers of the king who tended to be potential rivals were sent as hereditary rulers (Enogies) of administrative districts. The mother of the king was given the title of Queen mother and set up in her own palace in the town of Uselu just outside the city.

The palace, which did not have a permanent site in previous reigns, was constructed on a massive scale covering several acres of land at its present location. It turned into a beehive of activities as the political and spiritual nerve centre of the vast kingdom. The Edos have a saying that in the Oba’s palace there is never silence. The complex includes shrine areas, meeting chambers for a variety of groups of chiefs, work spaces for ritual professionals, royal artists and craftsmen, storehouses, a large wing called Ogbe Ewuare, residential sections for the Oba’s numerous wives, children and servants. While the expansion activities in the palace was going on, the civil engineering work to dig the City’s inner moat was embarked upon. Oba Oguola’s outer moat, hugging the Ogbe river valley, kilometers away from Okoo village, left the palace rear exposed. Ewuare’s moat was less than a kilometer from the palace’s rear and so provided additional security for the palace.

A seventeenth century Dutch engraving from Olfert Dapper’s Nauwkeurige Beschrijvinge der Afrikaansche Gewesten, published in Amsterdam in 1668, described the palace thus: “The king’s palace or court is a square, and is as large as the town of Haarlem and entirely surrounded by a special wall, like that which encircles the town. It is divided into many magnificent palaces, houses, and apartments of the courtiers, and comprises beautiful and long square galleries, about as large as the Exchange at Amsterdam, but one larger than another, resting on wooden pillars, from top to bottom covered with cast copper, on which are engraved the pictures of their war exploits and battles, and are kept very clean. Most palaces and houses of the king are covered with palm leaves instead of square pieces of wood, and every roof is decorated with a small turret ending in a point, on which birds are standing, birds cast in copper with outspread wings, cleverly made after living models.”

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The city’s houses originally built with poles or palm ribs and padded with mud were rebuilt with packed mud. The city was re-planned and neatly laid out, with roads radiating from the center. It was divided into two distinct segments with Ore ne Okhua, constituting the public sector, and the Oba’s sector (Ogbe), the other. The population of Ore ne Okhua was organized into wards with each specializing in a peculiar craft or ritual services in allegiance to the king. My grandfather’s home shared fence with the palace at a point in ogbe. He must have had a significant role in the palace to warrant his living so close. I have not investigated this. I am his reincarnation.

The arts, particularly brass casting, flourished during Oba Ewuare’s reign. He set up a war machine that extended Edo notion of kingship, objects, aesthetic, ideas and power, across the West Coast of Africa and through dominance lent their name to the Bight of Benin. At its height, the Edo controlled vast Yoruba land with populations several times larger than that of Edo. The kingdom extended in the West to Lagos, where the Edo set up a military camp of occupation which they called Eko; in the North-east to Ekiti, Owo, Ondo, most of Delta state and all of the North-west to the River Niger . It also exerted considerable influence on eastern Yorubaland and maintained trading connection with Oyo. The kingdom’s dominance reached all the way to Togo and present day Ghana. The Edo have very close affinity, particularly in the area of traditions and culture, with the Ashantis of Ghana and are considered of similar or common stock.

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The Edo spread their culture and traditions, particularly their Obaship ideology and system, by sending royal brothers to rule over tributaries, or holding hostage, sons of conquered chiefs to be trained in Edo, or by sponsoring candidates for thrones of conquered territories. Objects such as Ada and brass masks, were introduced to vassal lords as emblems of their authority, and these symbols have endured in virtually all the territories that experienced Edo control.

Even in places outside direct Edo influence, such as parts of the Niger Delta area as far flung as Calabar, the reputation of the Oba of Edo was such that leadership disputes were brought to him for arbitration and the winners took back home, Edo regalia to form part of their leadership traditions. However, the frontiers of the Edo Empire were constantly expanding and contrasting as new conquests were made and as vassals on the borders, rebelled only to be re-conquered.

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It was towards the tail end of Oba Ewuare’s reign that the Portuguese first made their visit to West Africa in 1472. Oba Ewuare the great died in 1473. At the actuaries on the bank of what is today known as the Bight of Benin, the local people the Portuguese met there, when asked about the kingdom in the interior, told the Portuguese it was called Ubini. The Portuguese abbreviated this to Benin/Bini because they could not properly pronounce Ubini. When the Portuguese arrived in the kingdom of Benin, they were stunned by what they found on the ground in terms of level of administrative sophistication, social engineering and military activities. They found a monarchy dating back many centuries, with complex structure of chiefs and palace officials presiding over a kingdom that was expanding in all directions and a highly developed kingdom with unique and very sophisticated political, artistic, linguistic, economic, cultural and military traditions in the process of territorial conquests.

Edo kingdom was in the throes of great conquests and had healthy, disciplined citizens; well planned and laid out streets, a palace extending over kilometers of territory and a king and his nobles, civilized to their bones. The Portuguese felt honoured to be accepted by the Bini and quickly entered into treaties of cooperation with Oba Ewuare, exchanging emissaries and trying to trade. There is a hint that they tried to preach Christianity to the monarch but were not rewarded with favourable response. It was taboo to talk about alien Gods in a civilization ruled by vibrant African Gods. It was during Oba Ewuare’s reign, however, that an Aruosa delegation visited Portugal in 1472.

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A British adventurer called Ling Roth, was the first to refer to Benin City as GREAT BENIN a tribute not only to the extent of the Benin Empire but also to the elaborate, detailed and efficient administrative machinery the people had evolved.

One of the military commanders who made strong impact in Ewuare’s expansion conquests and maintenance of vassal territories to the West and across the Niger to the East was a formidable personage by the name Ezuku. He was probably Ibo, judging by his praise-name: Ogogobiaga. He was merciless, fearless and impartial in dishing out punishment and miseries to opponents. He was set up in camp at Ogan, the village across Orhionmwon River from Abudu town, facing Ika vassal territories. From there he monitored activities including possible rebellion and commercial traffic from eastern flanks and beyond, of the Edo Empire. When Ezuku died, he was deified.

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Another very successful military commander of the Edo army at the time was Iken. He was probably more successful than Ezuku, but was never acknowledged, honoured, or rewarded for his valor by the monarch. His problem at that early stage of Edo’s conquest of foreign lands was probably because he was a son of the soil. Here was a native son vanquishing and beheading alien kings, signing treaties, and turning kingdoms into vassal territories of his monarch. His feats were enough to propel him to the top of leadership in his native land, if not immediately as king, at least, as an alternative voice or a strong contender, challenger, aspirant to the throne, in the eyes of the people. His feats were definitely enough to make him the Iyase, (i.e. leader of all the chiefs, second in command to the Oba) and prime minister of Edo land.

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His spiritual prowess, intimidating aura of success, abundant confidence, pride and bravado, were too strong for the chiefs, scared that he would not only be too powerful if made the leading chief or even just a chief, both of which he had earned in war exploits and trophies, but that his influence would almost totally eclipse theirs. The chiefs did not have this problem with Ezuku because Edo people do not give their chieftaincy titles to non-indigenes. Shoving Ezuku to the outskirts of the kingdom with dignity and respect was enough to keep Ezuku happy and in check.

Iken was not only deprived of honour and respect for his military victories for Edo people, he was relatively poor compared to the chiefs, and he had only one wife who unfortunately could not give him a child. The Oba, who routinely dished out lavish gifts, titles, and his daughters in marriage to lesser achievers in the society, appeared not to reckon with Iken, perhaps because no one, not any of the chiefs, would put in a good word for him in such matters in the palace. If anything, they played the devil’s advocate at every opportunity against Iken.

Iken gradually began to worry more and more about how he was being treated by the society he had served so well and was ready to die for. One day, he decided he had had enough. He would no longer go to war for Edo people, socialize with them and their chiefs, or even visit the palace for whatever reason. He began rebuffing invitations from the palace, ignoring entreaties and visits by emissaries, regardless of the quarters from which they came. This was happening at a time when the vassal kings of Akure and Ekiti were refusing to continue to pay due tributes to the Edo monarch, and were even threatening war.

The palace needed Iken to deal with the two rebelling vassal kings so the palace began pestering Iken with messages, invitations, and visits by respectable emissaries, until he succumbed, visited the palace, and agreed to take on the rebelling vassal monarchs. By the time he was ready to go to war, Ekiti Oba had withdrawn his threat and returned to being a loyal vassal to the Edo monarch. As soon as he left Edo with his troops for Akure, Edo chiefs immersed themselves in extensive wizardry, intended to prevent Iken from returning to Edo alive, even if he succeeded in the war against Akure.

Akure battle, laced copiously with witchcraft, was tough. Several lives were lost before Iken could subdue the Akure army. After beheading their king and sending trophies of his triumph to the Edo monarch, he embarked on an inspection tour of his conquered territory, Akure. At the Akure palace, a pretty daughter of the Akure king played on his libido, offering him favours right there and then, and pretending to want to serve as war booty and the nucleus of a new harem. He fell for the bait but had to remove his clothes, including his spiritual war regalia responsible for his invincibility in war, to be able to get down with the princess. As he was about to climb on the bed naked with the princess, her accomplices pounced on him to machete him to death.

When the news reached the Edo monarch, and he found out the role his chiefs had played in the matter, he was sorry. He then created the title of Edaiken (Eda-iken) (meaning holding forth for Iken, or looking after Iken’s household, affairs, and interests), until he returns, as the title for the Crown Prince and Oba in-waiting of Edo kingdom.

Oba Ewuare initially considered adopting the Ogiso succession format of first son inheriting the throne so, he made his first son, Prince Kuoboyuwa, the Edaiken, and appointed his second son, Prince Ezuwarha, the Duke (Enogie) of Iyowa. Ezuwarha was not happy about not being allowed to aspire to rule after his senior brother’s turn. After all, that was how his father became king, he reasoned. In a quarrel over the issue, the two brothers died on the same day. After a prolonged mourning period, accompanied with elaborate rites for the two dead sons were called off, Oba Ewuare consulted the oracle and was advised to blend the bloodlines of the Obas with that of the Ogisos, to ensure stability in the succession issue.

The search for a maiden of marriageable age and descending directly from the last Ogiso, produced Omuwa from Udo town in Ovia. She gave Oba Ewuare, two sons, Ezoti and Okpame. Oba Ewuare had another son, Olua, by a different mother from Omuwa’s children. Oba Ewuare asked his chiefs to do a personality assessment of who would make the best Oba from among his three sons. The chiefs could not recommend any of the children for the throne. They described Ezoti, the oldest of the three sons, as stingy and likely to plunge the kingdom into prolonged hunger if he became Oba. Olua, the second in line, was described as a spend thrift (okpetu kporozo), who would take less than three lunar months to squander the Oba’s wealth, built up over a number of centuries, on silly and irrelevant programmes just to look good in the eye of the public. As for Okpame, they believed he would plunge the kingdom into endless warfare because his only passion, and things that gave him happiness, had to do with the sword. Oba Ewuare, perplexed that none of his sons would make a good Oba, decided to stop bothering with innovations and return the kingdom to the “equality of siblings” process, which would guarantee the three sons, ruling in turn.

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Oba Ezoti (1473 CE), succeeded his father to the throne in 1473 and reigned for only 14 days when he died from injuries inflicted on him in attempted regicide on coronation day.

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Oba Olua (1473-1481CE), ascended the throne after the assassination of his brother, Oba Ezoti, who had a son, Prince Owere, claiming legitimacy to the throne at the time.

Prince Okpame quietly murdered his nephew, Prince Owere, in defense of Oba Ewuare’s injunction that first generation princes had first claim to the throne. Okpame escaped into northern Edo territories as a fugitive on the run, to avoid punishment when the murder was discovered. There in the wilds, he acquired a knight’s amour of Byzantine origin from North Africa, thus making himself look fearsome and unassailable. His bizarre adventure led him to some battles in the jungle. He fathered the Ora people of today.

The death of Prince Owere, coupled with the continuing war like antics of Prince Okpame, obviously influenced Oba Olua to keep his son, Prince Iginua, out of possible harms’ way. Oba Olua arranged for his son, Prince Iginua, to travel south to the riverine area, bedecked in the appurtenance of kingly power and authority, with a large retinue of officers and servants at his beck and call. Iginua became the Olu of the Itsekiris.

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Oba Ozolua (1481-1504 CE). After the death of Oba Olua, Okpame was invited to ascend the throne and he took the title of Oba Ozolua. Two of Ozolua’s sons were kidnapped (oduomomu, meaning thieves of children) during that period of the slave trade. Oba Ozolua reintroduced the process of first son succeeding to the throne, with Dukedoms carved out for the other princes. The older of his two remaining sons, after he had lost two sons to the slave trade, was Osawe, who was named the Edaiken (Oba-in-waiting). Idubor, the junior to Osawe, was appointed the Duke of Udo, the home town of Oba Ozolua’s mother, and the second largest and most important town in the kingdom at the time. Idubor, known as Arhuanran n’Udo (the giant of Udo), was not happy about playing second fiddle to his senior brother, Prince Osawe. 

Ozolua, as predicted by the king makers before he became king, was aggressive and war-like. In a feud between him and a powerful mystic called Elekighidi of Ogbelaka quarters, he enticed Elekighidi’s wife, Eyowo, to betray her husband and then married her after his triumph over Elekighidi. Then Oba Ozolua beheaded Eyowo out of fear that she could betray him too in future.

The Portuguese made strong efforts to convert Oba Ozolua to Christianity with preachments. He had no respect for white gods and deities and even for the Portuguese items of trade, which were being offered to build close links between the kingdom and Portugal. He was, however, impressed with their guns, a weapon strange to warfare in the West African region at that time.

Oba Ozolua introduced bronze casting to Benin. He did it through Iguehae, a great bronze caster, whose descendants have continued the tradition through the guild of bronze casters at the present day Igun Street in Benin City.

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Oba Esigie (1504-1550 CE). Oba Ozolua’s first son, Prince Osawe succeeded him to the throne and took the title of Oba Esigie. The feud between Oba Esigie and his brother, the Duke of Udo had been building up from the day of their birth. They were products of two of the wives of Oba Ozolua. Idia, the subject of the famous FESTAC mask, was the mother of Osawe, while Ohonmin was Idubors’s mother. Ohonmin gave birth to Idubor, a few hours before Osawe arrived, but because Idubor did not immediately cry at birth, Osawe who did, was reported first to the king, according to tradition. By the time Idubor cried, to enable the mother report his birth, the king had performed the proclamation rites of Osawe as first son.

Idubor, while growing up was very bitter about his treatment. He more than on one occasion asked his mother if his father was his true father to be so callous as to take away his birthright in such a mean fashion. As the Duke (Enogie) of Udo, Idubor refused to accept subordinate role to his brother, Oba Esigie, and at first tried to make Udo the capital of Benin kingdom with himself as king. It didn’t take too long before the two brothers went to war. The war was difficult, bitter, and long drawn out. It was not until the third campaign that Udo was defeated. The third campaign was timed to coincide with the planting season when Udo citizen-soldiers, who were mainly farmers, would be busy on their farms. The Enogie’s only son, Oni-Oni, died in the battles. Even after that defeat, Udo’s Iyase and commander of their troops, returned to the offensive and after his defeat, the people of Udo escaped to found Ondo town deep in Yoruba territory.

The Enogie of Udo committed suicide by drowning at the Udo Lake after his defeat. He did not want to be captured prisoner and taken back to Benin. Before jumping into the lake, he left his ‘Ivie necklace,’ the precious bead necklace symbol of authority in Benin land, dangling from a tree branch, were it could be easily found. Only the Oba could inherit such trophies of dead or conquered leaders and nobles, so, out of excitement over his victory, he tried on his neck for size, his brother’s humble surrender necklace symbol. He became mentally disoriented immediately he put the necklace on his neck. Removing the necklace from his neck did not make any difference, so he was rushed back to Benin City in that hopeless state.

His mother, Idia, immediately located a Yoruba Babalawo (mystic) at Ugbo/Ilaje, in the riverine area, and brought him to Benin to work on the king’s spiritual ailment. He cured the Oba of his ailment, and the Queen after rewarding him generously, prevailed on him, (the Yoruba Awo), to settle permanently in Benin to continue to render his services. He set up home at Ogbelaka quarters where his descendants have thrived until this day.

Idia, the Queen mother of Oba Esigie, commands a special place of honour in Benin history. She was a noted administrator and a great Amazon and influence on her son, Oba Esigie. She was personally involved in many of the wars of conquest by the Oba and even led some of them herself. Her image is eloquently captured in the famous Ivory mask, which served as the logo of the 2nd World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC), held in 1977 in Lagos, Nigeria. The exquisite craftsmanship of the mask bears testimony to the quality of life and superlative level of civilization of the Benin people prior to their colonization. Three hundred and ninety-three years later, when the British invaded Benin kingdom and carted away their Ivory and bronze works before burning the city down, they described Edo works of art as symbols of barbarism and human sacrifice.

The Portuguese, a major European power at the time, happily negotiated and established diplomatic and trade relations with Oba Esigie and his kingdom, Benin. One of the numerous elite palace associations was assigned the responsibility of conducting affairs with the Portuguese. Until this day, a secret language, which some claim is derived from a mixture of Portuguese and Edo languages, is spoken by members of the association.

Portuguese mercenaries fought along side the Bini in many territorial wars after the treaty. Trade between the Portuguese and Benin was mainly in coral beads, cloths for ceremonial attire, and great quantities of brass manilas, which Bini craftsmen melted for casting. In exchange for Portuguese goods, the Bini offered tobacco, spices, colanuts, ivory, earthenware, jewelry, artifacts, woven cotton materials, etc

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FIRST HOLY COMMUNION SERVICE IN BENIN CITY – 1504 AD

Benin City is where Christianity was first preached in Sub-Sahara Africa. The Portuguese failed to persuade Oba Ewuare and Oba Ozolua but made their first break through with Oba Esigie, to the shock and disbelief of the Uzama nobles and Benin people generally. With the Oba’s determination to have his way and replace Benin practices and faith with Christian ones, the Uzama nobles ostracized him. He retaliated by creating a parallel Uzama, headed by chief Inneh of Igun Street. His new Uzama was called Uzama N’ Ibie and had, apart from their leader, Chiefs Ogieamien, Elema, Ogiehor and three others.

The original Uzama mocked the new one to no end for breaking with tradition by living with the monarch in inner Benin. The new Uzama tried to gloss over the inconsistencies with ineffective symbolic projects and gestures until the conflict escalated into war between the two Uzama groups. Oba’s army took side with their Uzama, of course, and they eventually defeated the original Uzama nobles. The battle is commemorated at the palace yearly as the Igie Iron.

The original Uzama, led by Oliha, decided that a change of Oba was necessary, and recruited the Atta of Igalla for the job. According to Samuel Ajayi Crowther’s River Niger Exploratory report 1854, “The first Atta of Idah was an Ado (Edo) man, a tribe which the Aboh people call Idu. He was a hunter who settled on Idah in Igarra. A quarrel arose and he drove Igarra king of Idah away and became the king of the place.

Oyingbo, who was the Atta during Esigie’s time, assured of fifth columnists’ support inside Benin, welcomed the opportunity to invade and subdue the almighty Benin. He left his capital, Idah, with a large army and after crossing the River Niger, began merciless pillaging of communities on his way to Benin and meeting with no resistance of any sort on the way.  At Ahor town with a large population and ten Dukedoms, on the opposite side of Ikpoba River, which he had to cross to enter Benin City, Atta sacked and destroyed nine of the principalities. The one that miraculously escaped his archers and swordsmen is the Abor community, and the only one in existence today.

After Ahor, he swept furiously through Oregbeni village to begin his descend of Ikpoba hill still meeting with no resistance so far in his campaign, trailed with a great deal of wreckage and deaths. As he prepared to ascend Ikpoba slope to enter Benin City, guns concealed in the lush forest around the valley, manned by Portuguese missionaries and traders, opened fire on Atta’s army from all sides. Such fire power was strange at the time to the Igallas and the Edo people. In the twinkling of an eye, hundreds of the invading army had fallen, so what was left of them fled back up the valley, pursued by Benin army, all the way to Idah across the River Niger. The defeated Atta then became a vassal of Benin.

Encouraged by the victory, Oba Esigie turned his full attention and energy on promoting Christianity. He built a Cathedral on the Aruosa site at Akpakpava Road and a chapel each, perhaps intended to serve as schools, at Erie, Ugbague and Ogbelaka quarters. Christian rituals, including morning mass, were introduced into palace usage, and Christian motifs, such as the cross of four equal arms, which was the form of cross the Portuguese first introduced to Benin, were reproduced on the Ada, Eben, and the regalia of the Oba and his chiefs. Oba Esigie’s first son and Oba-in-waiting, Edaiken Prince Orhogbua, was given to the Portuguese to train as a Catholic priest. He became the most highly educated in western education, of the Benin princes until Oba Akenzua II in 1933 CE. The Portuguese appeared to have first trained Orhogbua at the Bishopric of Sao Tome before transferring him to Lisbon to continue his education. When his father died in 1550 CE, he was still overseas. He was seen by Edo people as a Portuguese, and of course, he spoke perfect Portuguese.

European slave trade in West Africa started with the acquisition of domestic servants in 1522, and warrior kingdoms like Benin had plenty of them captured as war booties, but would not sell them. The slave trade was very unpopular with the Edo people. They thought it was silly to sell fellow human beings. Their Obas and nobles were vehemently opposed to the business of slave trade and to the export of the productive fighting male. The Edo, of course, could not control the day to day happenings of the slave merchants, who apparently largely acted under cover at first in the vast territories under Edo hegemony. However, it was forbidden to sell or take a native Bini into slavery and so elaborate identification marks on faces and chests were eventually contrived. The Bini, therefore, were hardly ever captured by Arabs or Europeans into slavery.

Alan Ryder, writing on this in his book: Benin and the European, narrated the experience of the Portuguese merchant, Machin Fernandes in Benin as early as 1522: That was during the reign of Oba Esigie.

“Of the whole cargo of 83 slaves bought by
Machin Fernandes, only two were males –
and it is quite possible that these were
acquired outside the Oba’s territory –
despite a whole month (at Ughoton) spent
in vain attempts to have a market
opened for male slaves. The 81 females,
mostly between ten and twenty years
of age, were purchased in Benin City
between 25 June and 8 August at the
rate of one, two or three a day.”

None of the 83 slaves was an Edo person, according to Ryder, and no Edo person could have been involved in the sales. It was taboo in Edo culture. Edo Empire was vast, with a great concentration of people from different ethnic backgrounds, Yoruba, Ibo, Itsekiri, Ijaw, Urhobo, Igalla etc, making a living in the lucrative Ughoton route that was the main centre of commercial activities in the southern area at the time, of what later became Nigeria.

Alan Ryder, recording the experiences of yet another European merchant, the French trader and Captain called Landolphe, in Benin in February 1778, said, “the Ezomo was the richest man in Benin, owning more than 10,000 slaves, none of whom was ever sold.” The author then commented:

“His (the Ezomo’s) refusal to sell any of his slaves is also noteworthy for the light it sheds upon the attitude of powerful Edo chiefs towards the slave trade: however numerous they might be, a great man did not sell his slaves.” Says Edo people: “vbo ghi da Oba no na mu ovionren khien?” Meaning, “what need does the Oba want to satisfy by putting out his slave for sale?”

Oba Esigie contrived his own death as an atonement or sacrifice for his spiritual shortcomings. He allowed himself to be mistakenly killed by his own security guards while feigning to be an intruder into the palace grounds, with his head covered with calico hood, and thrusting it through a hole he made in the security fence. The intruder had played the trick two times earlier and was third time unlucky. It all happened within a couple of days and security guards where at full alert and prepared for the intruder that third time, almost severing the head off, only to discover they had killed their king.

Oba_Orhogbua

 Oba Orhogbua (1550-1578 CE). When his father, Oba Esigie died, Orhogbua was in Europe. On arrival from Europe, the Bini insisted that he choose between being a Catholic priest and an Oba because he can not be both. The popular saying in Benin at the time was: “Ai wo Oba, wo ebo,” meaning you cannot be king and be priest to a deity. Orhogbua chose to become Oba.

The Bini had always considered their riverine territories the Iyekowa (backyard) of Benin land and for hundreds of years they controlled the entire area. It was the route through Ughoton water side that the land locked kingdom reached out or was reached from abroad, and increasingly so from Oba Ewuare’s era. The Bini called the route: “ode ame (the riverine route, and would sometimes add: “emwin n’omo yaru omo ode ame erokerhe,” (meaning: the underpinnings of the authority and prestige of the Oba of Benin, came through the riverine route).

It was the revenue route from the outside world to Benin. Active trading with the Portuguese started in 1553, with the Edo offering ivory, palm oil, pepper, cloth, beads directly and slaves brought into her Ughoton port from surrounding territories under Edo Empire. The first guns came into Benin through this route, as did iron bars from Holland for the five blacksmith guilds, and the manila currency melted into raw materials for the exquisite Benin bronze masterpieces in all the leading museums of the world today. The cowry currency also came through the route to facilitate Edo’s economic buoyancy. The Ijebu towns all the way to Ikorodu, on the route, provided Benin with woven cloth, which became the major item of trading on the route with European traders, who re-traded the cloth at ports on the West African coast and the Congo, in exchange for slaves and gold. Of course, the Roman Catholic fathers brought the Bible with one hand and enslaved the natives with the other through the route.

Oba Orhogbua enforced tribute payments from all parts of his Empire and in the 1550s conquered all the coastal lands, up to Lagos where he left a permanent garrison. The Benin maritime army was borne on river-craft flotillas. Orhogbua’s conquering expedition recognized the importance of Lagos Island, both as a military defense point, and a look-out post for traffic from around the world, intending to explore the interior of Africa from the West African coastline break that allows water to flow from the Benin River into the Atlantic Ocean. Ships from the outside world could penetrate into the bowels of Africa from there so the Island entry point was considered the perfect place to monitor and control the trade. Orhogbua occupied the Island, which he called Eko (meaning camp), by setting up the first human settlement there. Oba Orhogbua’s son was the first Eleko (Oba) of Lagos. From Lagos, Orhogbua explored the lagoon system to its farthest points through Dahomey, Togo, to the Volta River and Basin in today’s Ghana.

Until the Biafran Civil War, it was believed even by opponents in war, that the Benin person was immune from drowning in the River Niger because of a covenant the Spirit of the river, (known by the Bini as Ohinmwin, and by the western Ibos, as Oshimili), had with Oba Ewuare. The Spirit always threw the drowning Edo person out of the water. Not servicing the covenant for hundreds of years, may have got the Spirit angry in modern times. The lagoon expedition introduced common salt (umwen) for the first time to Benin, displacing eventually, odoo, which was the Benin traditional salt. The sample salt acquired the name ‘umwen’ because an Ishan servant of Chief Osague, asked to taste the salt, said in tasting it, that it was “Obhen,” meaning, all right.

Ekenika played a prominent role in Oba Orhogbua’s military campaigns that brought the Lagoon lands all the way to the Atlantic Ocean where it is known as the Bight of Benin, under the control of Benin. He was a commander in Orhogbua’s maritime army, and the first person to step on the uninhabited Island of Lagos. He beat back Aworis’ counter attacks from the mainland. The Aworis had noticed some discarded ebieba leaves, (used in wrapping food by the Benin soldiers), floating on the water. They were tropical forest leaves strange to the brackish mangrove swamplands of the lagoon so, they knew they had strangers in their midst and attacked from the direction the leaves were coming.

Ekenika was rewarded with the title of Ezomo of Benin. He was the first person in Benin history to bear the title. Ekenika was set up at Uzebu quarters in Benin City by Oba Orhogbua, to closely monitor Benin’s most important route, territories and population, and to provide regular backing for the Lagos camp. Both Lagos and Uzebu habitations, therefore, came on stream at the same time. Uzebu was at the western outskirt of Benin, straddling the city’s gateway to the sea through Ughoton, the lagoon territories and people, under the control of Benin from that area, and opened Edo to Europe and the world. The Uzebu quarters served as training ground and store of weapons for the soldiers of the lagoon campaigns. The Portuguese would have lent a hand, particularly in the training and use of fire arms and cannons. Oba Orhogbua was virtually a Portuguese anyway. A very close relationship existed between Benin and Portugal at his time.

Ezomo’s permanent residence or palace was at the heart of Uzebu quarters, as the commander of the Uzebu military camp. Ekenika’s Uzebu activities and campaigns triggered and influenced the development, origin and background of the controlling elite and names, of towns and cities along the Benin riverine route: Ijebu Ode, Ijebu-Mushin, Ijebu-Ife, Ijebu-Ugbo, Ijebu-Remo, Ijebu-Oro, Ijebu-Ijesha in Ijesha land, Ijebu-Owo in Owo land. There are strong family links between Ekenika and the nobles in all the territories of the Benin riverine route. The traditional head of Owo town for instance, bears the name Ojomo, the full title being Ojomo-Olude. The Obazuaye family in Benin descends from Ekenika and the Lagos branch of the family are the Bajulaiyes. The prominent Olisa clan in Ikorodu and Ijebu Ode are related to the Oliha, the head of the Uzama group in Benin. There are many more of such links with Benin around West Africa. The Ijaw kingdom of Ogba in Bayelsa state has a concentration of the descendants of the Ekenika’s, particularly in the village of Akabuka.

The title, Alare Ezomo, was conferred on a prominent son of Uzebu quarters in Benin, in the 1930s, by Oba Akenzua II, emphasizing the strong family ties of Bini people with the Ijebus. All Ijebu Ode natives describe themselves as Omo Alare. That is, the descendants of Alare. Alare is the ancestral deity of the Ijebu race and it is claimed that every thing an Ijebu person owns, money, land, property, belongs to Alare. This is the secret of the Ijebus’ relative ease at accumulating wealth. He can accumulate wealth but has no right to part with what belongs, in totality, to Alare.

Oba_Ehengbuda

Oba Ehengbuda (1578 – 1604 CE). Ehengbuda ascended his father’s throne in 1578 CE. While his father, Oba Orhogbua, might be considered a water warrior who made his greatest impact in the lagoon territories, Oba Ehengbuda campaigned mainly on land in the Yoruba areas.

All the warrior Obas, most times, personally led their troops to war. Oba Ehengbuda, while prosecuting his military activities in the Akure area, sustained burns which healed to leave scars on his body. This was systematized in the Iwu body marks which every Edo adult had to acquire to be able to participate in royal and court activities of the land. The markings also served to identify the Edo person for protection during the slave trade. Strong efforts were made to prevent Edo people from being sold into slavery. Edo people openly and actively encouraged and facilitated the escape of slaves from the holding centres in the kingdom and particularly from the Ughoton port.

As a result of Oba Ehengbuda’s accident, the responsibility for leading the army in war was delegated to the Iyase. Chief Ekpenede, who was the Iyase at the time, became the number one commandant of the Edo army. He prosecuted several successful campaigns in Yoruba territories and concluded many treaties, including a major one with the Onakakanfo (the commandant) of Oyo, which demarcated the boundary in Yoruba territories at Otun town in northern Ekiti between the Edo and Oyo powers. At the ceremony marking the boundary, the two commanders stood at the boundary with backs turned by each, to their respective homeland directions, Benin and Oyo. The Edo General planted an ikhinmwin tree, and the Oyo General planted a palm tree of the spirit world, a high savannah date palm, unfamiliar to the Edo at the time.

Because of the military feats of Iyase Ekpenede, and particularly with the conclusion of the Edo/Oyo treaty, which carried significant value, it was thought that Iyase could begin to habour ideas of his own, and could stage a coup against the monarch if allowed to return and live in the city with the Oba. The Iyase was, therefore, instructed to move to any town of his choice and not to return to Benin City. In the town he moved into, the Iyase enjoyed untrammeled power. Even tributes earmarked for the monarch ended up being hijacked by the Iyase, and as long as he was alive, no other Iyase was appointed in his place.

Agban was the second Ezomo to be appointed after the demise of the first one, Ekenika. Agban’s reign straddled that of Oba Orhogbua and his son Oba Ehengbuda. His exploits were mainly in western Ibo land. The area was brought under Edo suzerainty from Oba Ewuare’s expansion of Edo kingdom’s era. Ezomo Agban’s military campaigns ran into difficulties at Ika town of Ogidi but he triumphed in the end and named the town ‘Agbor,’ a corruption of Agban. His success and pacification efforts in the western Ibo territories were so impressive, he was almost being treated as the Emperor of the area by the Edo. He did not participate in the successful Ubulu-Uku war, however. That was left to Chief Imasan, the Enogie of Emokpaogbe to prosecute because it was triggered by the killing of Imasan’s daughter by the Oboros.

On one occasion, while verbally presenting a war report to Oba Ehengbuda, thunder claps interrupted Chief Agban. Offended by the temerity, he decided to teach thunder a lesson. He arranged for a tall scaffold with a wide base, and reaching far into the sky, to be erected. He tied hundreds of calabashes filled with palm oil on the rungs of the scaffold from the base to the far flung tip and set the scaffold on fire with the intention of smoking the thunder deity out of hiding. Before the scaffold crumbled and fell, Benin City was visited by a hail of showers, followed by rain of large frozen ice blocks, and the mournful sounds, like the wailing of thunderstorm in distress, in the sky. Whatever was responsible, it was some consolation for a people that believe nothing is impossible to achieve. That in a nutshell propelled the stupendous height that Edo people reached in almost every field of human endeavour.

In the Epe/Lekki waterways, while Oba Ehengbuda was two days away from an eight days journey through the lagoon to visit his Dukedom and military camp, Eko (Lagos), a freak storm hit the lagoon and capsized many of the river-craft in the royal float, including that bearing the monarch, and he died.

Oba_Ohuan

Oba Ohuan (1604 1641 CE), was Oba Ehengbuda’s son. He ended the Eweka dynastic lineage. Powerful rebel chiefs established private power bases and selected Obas from among themselves. The selection process took the format of the Ihogbe picking an Oba from among their ranks and presenting him to the Uzama for crowning. This process produced a series of Obas, seven of them, with doubtful claims to legitimacy, thus seriously weakening the Edo monarchy. By the mid 17th century and extending well over the period of confusion about who reigns in Benin, the Portuguese, Dutch, English, French and other Europeans, had expanded the slave trade in the area so much that they were calling it the Slave Coast. The slave trade remained high in the area until 1840. The slaves were mainly war captives and were drawn from the entire area controlled by Benin all the way to the communities near the coast and to northern peoples such as the Bariba. The Atlantic slave trade had a destructive impact in Benin area, causing devastating depopulation around Benin and greatly militarizing the area.    

Oba_Ahenzae

Oba Ohenzae (1641 -1661 CE), was the first of the seven Obas with doubtful legitimacy. His Ezomo was called Ezomo N’Ogun. Ezomo N’Ogun was the first person in the history of Benin to propitiate his own head, (that is to give thanks to the spirit of good fortune), with a live elephant. The incidence helps to demonstrate the demoralizing effect the slave trade had on African communities through deaths, kidnappings, sacking and disappearance of towns and villages, and the truncation of African progress and civilization. Only two other Edo personages have achieved Ezomo N’ Ogun’s feat of using live elephant in rites. Iyase Ohenmwen achieved it some 170 years ago and Oba Akenzua II pulled it off in February 1936. Servants sent by Ezomo N’Ogun to capture a live elephant, took 14 days to come home with one. While the richly garlanded elephant, restrained with strong ropes to the legs, arms and body, was being led in procession through the streets to the ritual site, an elderly man, watching from the safety of the verandah of his home remarked rather loudly:

“What is the cause of the rejoicing of these
people over the fragment called life?”
Dragged before the Ezomo for his impertinence,
he pleaded to be allowed to explain himself and when allowed said:
“My Lord, what I mean is, what is the cause of the rejoicing
of these people over the fragment called life when
it is possible to capture an elephant within 14 days
in the jungle between Benin City and the bank of River Ovia?
A feat that would have been impossible within such a short time
during the time of Ezomo Agban.”

The slave trade had gone on for about two hundred years at the time and had taken its toll on the populations and communities around the city of Benin, turning once lively and sprawling towns and villages during Ezomo Agban’s time, into a long stretch of thick jungle. The jungle was in fact, so close, it was within 14 days return journey from the Ezomo N’Ogun’s backyard in Edo kingdom. Elephants and wild lives were now the close neighbours of the Edo people who were not allowing themselves to be enslaved. Instead of punishing the old man as his persecutors had hoped, Ezomo N’Ogun thanked and rewarded him generously for his wisdom.

The other six colourless Obas with questionable claims to the throne were

Oba Ekenzae (1661 -1669 CE);

Oba Akengboi (1669 -1675 CE);

Oba Akenkpaye (1675 – 1684 CE);

Oba Akengbedo (1684 -1689 CE);

Oba Ore-Oghene (1689 – 1700 CE), and Oba Ewuakpe.

Oba_Ewuakpe

Oba Ewuakpe (1700 – 1712 CE), was thrust into office by his father, Akenuzama, who had declined the offer to be king on the grounds of old age.  The offer had been made to Akenuzam by the Ihogbe, after the death of his cousin, Oba Ore-Oghene, who had no heir.

Oba Ewuakpe, whose birth name was Idova, but was hurriedly re-named Ehennegha by oracular directive before the Ihogbe presented him to the Uzama nobles for crowning, was too young, inexperienced and impatient. These led to a series of problems for him. His first problem was that he could not offer propitiatory rites at the Oba’s ancestral shrine as required by tradition because his father was still alive and not an ancestor yet. Then his mother, Ewebonoya, died at her Uselu palace, soon into his reign.  

To provide her with the level of comfort she had become accustomed to as Queen mother, he sacrificed humans, a great number of them, to continue to attend to her needs in the ethereal world. Edo people, appalled by the human sacrifice and blood letting, rebelled and laid siege on the palace, flinging its gates open. The palace staff and his hundreds of wives took flight excepting Iden, one of his wives, who refused to return to her parent’s home at Oka village. When the siege became too unbearable, the Oba escaped with Iden to his mother’s village, Ugolo quarters at Ikoka, by the side of Ovia River. His mother’s relatives spawned him and didn’t want him in their midst. The humiliation was so much, he cursed the people of Ikoka village and returned to his palace. The palace was leaking badly from neglect, and weeds and crawlers had taken residence.

He cleared some space for his wife and himself to stay to think of what to do next and lay their heads for the night. The following morning, Iden took the few articles of vanity she had, and sold them at the near-by Oba’s market. She used the money she raised, to travel to Agbor to recruit a reputable seer. The oracle recommended a make-believe ceremony and human sacrifice. Since they were not in a state to capture any human for the sacrifice, Iden talked her husband into allowing her to give her life to save the throne, as long as her grave would not be jeered at by passers-by and market women.

Queen_Iden_of_Benin_kingdom2

Iden went to the market after closing hours, to collect discarded broken calabashes that had been used in selling oil, and thrown away leaves’ head pads. She collected dried shrubbery from the bush near-by. In the mean time, the husband was stripping the palace garden’s palm trees bare of dry husks and fronds, which with faggots, he tied into torches. The following night a huge scaffold of the palm fronds, torches and calabashes, soaring into the sky, was assembled and set on fire, with its embers and arches allowed to litter the palace grounds. The leaves’ head pads were strewed from the palace gates deep into the palace grounds, to give the impression that a lot of people had come to make deliveries at the palace. The aftermath of the ceremony was that it left the setting looking like a big event and merry making had taken place involving many people. The fireworks would have been noticed from far and near.

For the final ritual, Iden wore what was left of her finery, and hand-in-hand with her husband, they walked quietly down Iwebo Street to the spot she had chosen as her final resting place. After Ewuakpe had tearfully and painfully dug the grave, she climbed gracefully into it helped by her husband, and laid down facing the direction of the palace. All along, he was crying and trying to talk her out of the project. She was adamant. To fill the chasm with sand, as he was asked to do by his wife, was the hardest task he had ever faced in his life. He started filling it slowly from the feet side, saving her asphyxiation till the very end when he would cover her face with sand. After the did was done, he crashed on the grave, crying bitterly like a child, over what he had done.

Esogban had noticed the fireworks in the night and in the early morning hours, sneaked around the palace grounds to see what had happened. He found the palace compound littered with head pads etc, and felt betrayed that the king had won back favour, and people were providing services to the palace behind his back. He rushed home, threw his wealth chess open and assembled choice items that would please his king, and with servants included, he headed for the palace with his peace offering.

In response to his solicitous voice at the entrance to the palace’s first vestibule, a lone voice from behind a slightly opened door reassured him that he was in good standing with the palace and that he was not an enemy of the Oba. Esogban left his offering where he was told to, and returned home happy with himself. When the Iyase heard about Esogban’s visit to the palace, he too rushed to make peace with the Oba. That was how Oba Ewuakpe regained his throne and the trust of Edo people. Iden’s grave is one of the stations procession ceremonies in Benin City pay homage to today.
To ensure that what happened to him would not happen again to another Oba, he decided to put in place a sound succession process. He felt that a period of tutelage was necessary before one becomes an Oba, and that the best way to guarantee this was the principle of first son succeeding his father to the throne. His chiefs’ bargaining chip, was that the principle should be extended to their own first sons and that the Oba should surrender his traditional inheritance right to their estate, to their own first sons. Ewuakpe agreed, and the principle has held again since, with minor skirmishes.

Iyase N’Ode was Oba Ewuakpe’s Iyase. His military campaigns outside the kingdom were all successful. Iyase N’Ode is remembered in Benin oral history as a threatening foe and a very powerful magician, who could transform himself into an elephant in war or at will. He conquered many kings in Yoruba land to achieve for himself the status of ‘Okhuen.’ There have been only two Iyase’s in the history of Edo kingdom who attained the status of ‘Okhuen,’ (meaning conqueror of many kings). The other was Ekpenede during the reign of Oba Ehenghuda. With that status, they could no longer live in the city of Benin with the Oba for fear of their nursing the idea of coup. Both these Iyases who could no longer live in Benin City, chose to spend the rest of their lives in Uhunmwode district, close to Ode Ekhuarha, the gateway to the territories they had conquered and or were monitoring. It included Etsakor, through to Yoruba land of Ado Ekiti, Akure, Idanre, to Idah and Idoma, and Nupe-land in the north and Ukpilla and Ineme, where raw iron-ore materials were coming from.

After Oba Ewuakpe’s death, a strong dispute broke out over whom was the senior of his two sons, Prince Ozuere and Prince Akenzua, born of different mothers. The Iyase N’Ode backed Prince Akenzua for the throne, but Prince Ozuere succeeded in gaining it.

Oba Ozuere (1712 – 1713 CE), was only able to serve for about a year because Iyase’ N’Ode’s candidate, Prince Akenzua, became Oba.

Oba_Akenzua_I

Oba Akenzua I (1713 – 1735 CE). Ehenua played a crucial role along side Iyase N’Ode in the fight to install Prince Akenzua as king. Oba Akenzua I, rewarded Ehenua with the title of Ezomo and made the title hereditary for the first time. He also for the first time promoted Ezomo to the rank of Uzama, the seven kingmakers of the kingdom, whose most junior member is the Edaiken. Other members of the Uzama are the Iyase, Oliha, Ero, Eholor N’ire and Edohen. Ezomo was the last title to join the group of nobles; most of the others had been members since the Ogiso era.

Oba_Eresoyan

Oba Eresoyen (1735 – 1750 CE), had only just ascended to his father’s throne when trouble came calling. Commandant Willem Hogg, the resident Manager of the Dutch Trading Station in Ughoton, had for nearly a year been pleading with Eresoyen’s father, Oba Akenzua I, to prevail on the Benin Chiefs owing the Ughoton Dutch Trading Station, unsupplied goods on which they had received credit lines. Also, Holland wanted to be allowed to participate in the Ivory trade and break the monopoly the monarch had granted the British and Portuguese ships calling at Ughoton. Traders of the two countries were offering better prices for the commodity. The palace had seemed to Willem Hogg, unwilling to help the Dutch company recapture slaves who had escaped from the Dutch company’s dungeons at Ughoton while awaiting their evacuation ship from Elmina Castle on the Gold Coast, to arrive. Half-hearted promises had been extracted from the palace over the issue of the runaway slaves, against the overriding feeling at the palace that it was the responsibility of the Dutch to secure their purchases after taking delivery.

These were the problems weighing on Willem Hogg’s mind when he decided to visit the palace to once more seek the help of Oba Oresoyen. In the presence of the Oba and chiefs, while discussing the issues that brought him to the palace, argument developed, leading to the loss of temper. The Dutchman got up from his seat, pulled out his pistol and shot at the monarch who was quickly shielded by his omada (sword bearer). The omada took the bullet intended for the monarch and died on the spot. Regicide had been attempted and murder committed, and in the confusion that ensured, Willem Hogg sneaked out of the palace. This incidence explains the reluctance of the Obas of Benin to be exposed to European visitors and why the British Capt. Henry L. Gallwey, Vice Consul for the Benin River District of the Niger Coast Protectorate and his delegation, suffered frustration and delays in March 1892, when they requested to meet with Oba Ovonramwen, to conclude a ‘Treaty of Protection’ with Benin kingdom.

It was the responsibility of the Ezomo to take remedial action against the Dutchman because security matters for Ughoton gateway were under his portfolio. Ezomo Odia was not at the meeting. He had sequestered on his farm for a little while because of misunderstanding with the palace over the issue of the runaway slaves who had mostly taken refuge at his farm. Most of the other runaway slaves were with other chiefs. This was why progress was not possible on the matter.

Since the chiefs do not sell slaves, they did not feel it was their business rallying runaway slaves for the Dutch? That sums up the popular refrain on all lips at the time. To get Ezomo Odia to return to town, the oracle prescribed that all the princesses of the realm should pay a courtesy visit to Ezomo Odia. The princesses, on being told that Ezomo Odia was at his farm, when they arrived at Okhokhugbo village, braced up for the long journey through shrubs and narrow bush paths. At the farm, they met Ezomo Odia tending his yam crops. Before the Ezomo could ask, to what he owed the honour, all the princesses were down on their knees, between the yam heaps, to greet him and respectfully invite him back to the city.

Ezomo Odia after making peace with the monarch at the palace went to Ughoton to arrest Commandant Hogg, who was brought to the palace grounds in a mouth-gag, with waist manacles. He was executed at the Ozolua Quadrangle. The two Dutchmen subordinate officers to Willem Hogg at the Dutch Ughoton station were not molested in any way. Six months after Commandant Hogg’s execution, on instructions from Elmina Castle, the senior of the two officers at the Dutch Ughoton station, one Herr Van Marken, who had taken over leadership of the station, visited the palace to make peace and facilitate the resumption of business between Benin and Holland.

Oba_Akengbuda

Oba Akengbuda (1750 – 1804 CE), inherited the throne of his father, Oba Eresonyen.

Oba Obanosa (1804 – 1816 CE), was Prince Osifo and Oba Akengbuda’s son. There was a great commotion known as the ‘Okpughe’ during Prince Osifo’s reign as Oba Obanosa. Prince Osifo was a handsome dandy who, before he was crowned king, felt he had a rival whose name was Osopakharha. The prince hated Osopakharha for his popularity, guts, flamboyance, and for what the prince described as his pretensions. The problem really was that they were look-alike young men, competing for influence and space in public esteem.

Osopakharha was the son of the Esogban of Benin. The family lived at Ugbague quarters and there was nothing special about that. Osopakharha was the warlock of a witches coven known as Eniwanren-Aso (the Elders of the night). The prince’s parents were the patron and matron respectively of the coven. Even after the death of the prince’s father, Oba Akengbuda, the prince’s mother, Iyoba Ose, remained the matron of the coven. Osopakharha hated the prince for hating him, and for trying to clip his wings as if he was his slave or underling.

Before becoming Oba, and against the strong advise of his parents, (the king and queen), the prince kept threatening Osopakharha publicly that he would order Osopakharha’s death on becoming king. Most people took the prince’s threats against Osopakharha as unworthy of the prince and expected him to out grow it. The prince was generally highly regarded even by his elders who saw him as intelligent, wise, and with great promise, and nicknamed him Obanosa, (Oba with the wisdom and attributes of God). He chose his nickname as his official royal name at his coronation.
Not to be outdone and perhaps to further provoke the king, Osopakharha immediately chose to be called Oba Aso, (meaning the king of the night). The king of the night continued to match the Oba in flair and grandeur in social space, and to make things worse, became the lover of Iyoba Ose, (the Queen Mother), and was frequently at her palace at Uselu.

The order to kill Oba Aso led to heavy street fighting, accompanied by a great deal of public posturing and bravado on both sides. Five thousand people died and all the streets adjoining Ugbague quarters were sacked, and for decades permanently deserted. Oba Obanosa took ill immediately after Oba Aso’s death and the source was oracularly traced to Iyoba Ose. Obanosa ordered that the Iyoba Ose be stoned to death with molded bricks of esorhue (sea chalk), at her Uselu palace in public view. Obanosa then rushed the minimum traditional burial rites required of him as the first son, to enable the mother’s soul rest in peace. A few days after burying his mother, he too died, as Osopakharha, the king of the night, had repeatedly warned would happen in these words: “obo no biekhu, kevbe ekhu, era gba yowa.” Meaning, ‘the hand that opens a door goes with the door in the direction the door takes.’

Oba Ogbebo (1816 CE). There was a strong tussle for the throne between the two sons of Oba Obanosa, Prince Ogbebor and Prince Osemwende, over who was the senior. Prince Ogbebor triumphed but ruled for less than a year.

Oba_Osemwende

Oba Osemwende (1816 – 1848 CE), who took over the throne from his brother, died in 1848, leaving his two sons, Prince Ogbewekon and Prince Adolor, with the problem of who was the oldest to serve as Oba.

Oba Adolor (1848 – 1888 CE), Prince Adolor won the battle and ruled until 1888. The leadership tussle surfaced again between the two sons of Oba Adolor, Prince Ovokhorhor and Prince Ovonramwen. This time, the battle was not as acrimonious as in previous times and was resolved in favour of Ovonramwen.

Oba_Ovoranmwen

Oba Ovonramwen (1888 – 1914 CE). Oba Ovonramwen Nogbaisi was on the throne during the British invasion of Benin City in 1897. To prepare the grounds before the invasion, the British first sneaked military spies into Benin, to infiltrate the nation’s security system during the Igue festival, a period of acute spiritual sensitivity for Edo people, when their monarch goes into seclusion for two weeks for spiritual cleansing and cannot receive visitors. The spies were eliminated for their hostile acts. Some while after this, the British sent a delegation to Benin in March 1892. The delegation was led by Capt. Henry L. Gallwey, the Vice Consul for the Benin River District of the Niger Coast Protectorate, supposedly to conclude a Treaty of Protection with Oba Ovonramwen of Benin. The British had deceived King Dosumu of Lagos to sign a similar treaty that ceded Lagos to the British in 1861. They forced the same kind of treaty on the Jaja of Opopo in 1887 to gain access and economic control of the eastern coast of Nigeria.

Quoting Capt. Henry Gallwey, who after retirement became Sir Henry Gallwey, in a report on the 1892 visit to Benin, for the Journal of the African Society of April 1930, under the title: Nigeria in the (Eighteen) Nineties, he wrote in part: “Any idea I may have had of being received by the king the day I arrived was very soon dispelled. After being kept waiting for three days, I sent word to say that I could wait no longer. To support my threat, every half-hour, I sent a carrier away with a load I did not require, telling them where to wait for me. This artifice rather worried the king, and he sent word to me asking me “not to be vexed,” as my interpreters put it. However, that afternoon, it was arranged for me to have audience with the king. I accordingly donned my uniform and sallied out with my companions into the burning heat of the afternoon, a most unreasonable time of day at which to hold a palaver.

“I am afraid, however, that the kings of Benin were never renowned for their reasonable natures. In spite of these pinpricks, it was all very interesting and amusing, and I never gave a thought to the discomfort of being encased in a dress intended to be won at levees and such functions in temperate climes…….”

After attempting to compromise the nation’s security earlier on, the British delegation could not be received by the Oba of Benin immediately they arrived because of the need to check out their real mission. When the Oba signaled readiness to receive the delegates, they were in “encased dress intended to be worn at levees,” to the palace. In other words, they were in military uniform to the palace of an Oba who was weary of visits of Europeans. After the incidence of the Dutchman, Commandant Willem Hogg, who pulled a pistol and shot at Oba Oresoyen in 1735, while on a courtesy visit to the palace to discuss business matters with the Oba and his chiefs, Benin Obas became a little more careful about granting direct audience to European visitors.

This is the genesis of the difficulties experienced by Capt. Gallwey while trying to have an audience with the Oba in 1892. At the palace, the disposition and mannerisms of the visitors had to be carefully studied and analyzed before the Oba could receive them, since they were in military uniform. Capt. Gallwey said the Oba was “unreasonable” and then generalized “… as all Benin Obas are wont to be.” He had made up his mind before the visit and was looking for excuses to set up Benin kingdom for British invasion. To emphasize that Benin was a special case to crack, the British rushed to force treaties on neighbouring territories. They attacked the Nana of Itsekiri, in their ‘palm oil war’ in 1894 and exiled Nana to Ghana; attacked the Koko of Nembe in 1895, and the Ashanti Prempeh of Ashanti in 1896, to produce duress inspired spurious treaties to take control of the kings’ respective areas of influence.

The British accused Oba Ovonramwen of lack of cooperation, and to look good in the eyes of the rest of the world, added “human sacrifice,” as their reasons for launching their full-scale war on Benin in January 1897. The real reason for the British Expedition was that the British viewed the Benin kingdom as the main obstacle in their expansion drive into the agricultural interior of the West African coast from the River Niger. The war lasted for eight days from January to early February 1897, and went in their favour because of their big guns and cannons, which the Edo army did not have. After capturing the ancient city of Benin and slaughtering thousands of the natives in cold blood, to grossly depopulate the city, and the few survivors had escaped to farms and villages, the British ransacked the palace of the Oba, homes of nobles and chiefs, artistes’ workshops, and shrines, to rescue “pagan art” and relieve Benin of the “evil.” Then the British burnt the entire city down to the last house.

The palace of the Oba of Benin, according to Joshua Utzheimer, 1603, was about the size of the German City of Tubingen.” This was razed down by fire by the British invading force, claiming to be on a civilizing mission. Is razing cities after the surviving few victims of their assault have surrendered, not the epitome of barbarism? Can any thing be more callous than this? Oba Ovonramwen who could not be captured but who surrendered to the British in August, 1897, was exiled to Calabar (in south-east Nigeria), where he died in January, 1914.

From accounts of members of the British army that invaded Benin City in 1897, we learn that the floors, lintels, and rafters of the council chambers and the king’s residence in the palace were lined with sheets of repoussé, decorated brass covered with royal geometric designs and figures of men and leopards. Ornamental ivory locks sealed the doors and carved ivory figurines surmounted anterior. A brass snake, observed for the first time by a European in the early eighteenth century, was still to be seen on the roof of the council chamber house. All of these, along with other invaluables, including precious works of arts, the invading British stole in the name of their king and country. What they could not steal or burn, they destroyed, including invaluable records of the Bini scintillating civilization, to allow their historians to falsify human history and African contributions.

According to Prof. Akin Ibidapo-Obe in: A Synthesis of African law, “the British stripped Benin of its pagan art treasure…..almost 2,500 of the famous Benin bronzes, valuable works of art such as the magnificent carved doors in the palace, were carried off to Europe for sale. Today, almost every museum of the world possesses an art treasure from Benin. It is important to relate the account of British brigandage and deliberate and wanton stealing of Africa’s invaluable art treasures to show that our culture was great and was envied. The tradition and way of life that spawned such great achievement was deliberately destroyed and history was falsified to justify the introduction of their obnoxious laws, some of which purported to forbid our traditional religion.”
 
This is how Prof. Felix Van Luschan, a former official of the Berlin Museum for Volkerhunde, described what the British deviously called Pagan art of Benin; “these works from Benin are equal to the very finest examples of European casting technique. Benvenuto Celini could not have cast them better, nor could any one else before or after him. Technically, these Bronzes represent the very highest possible achievement.” Only a highly civilized nation could have borne the expenditure and facilities of such marvelous works of art, some of the best masterpieces in the history of mankind.

When the Nigerian government requested to loan a replica of the Idia Ivory mask for use during the 2nd World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC), held in 1977 in Lagos, Nigeria, from the British Museum of Mankind, the British authorities insisted on the Nigerian government depositing a sum of three million dollars before collecting the loaned copy. A 17th century Benin bronze head (nine inches high) stolen from the palace of Oba Ovonramwen, by the British invaders in 1897, was auctioned by Sotheby, New York, for US$550,000 in July, 2007.

Despite the British abuse of Bini culture and marginalization of Bini history, the splendour of Edo civilization continues to this day to astound and excite the world. Benin artifacts are among the most exquisite and coveted in world’s history, and the kingdom of Benin remains famous for its sophistication in social engineering and organization. The Bini Obaship institution is still one of the world’s most revered apart from being one of the most ancient. Benin was incorporated into what the British called the Niger Coast Protectorate, later known as the Southern Protectorate, and after annexing Arochukwu (igboland) in 1902, and Hausa Fulani emirates in 1903, merged what they called Southern and Northern Protectorates in 1914 to form what in now Nigeria.

Oba_EwekaII

Oba Eweka II (1914 – 1933 CE), ascended his father’s throne in 1914 and when he died, his son,

AkenzuaII

Oba Akenzua II (1933 – 1979 CE), took over. Between them, they restored a great deal of the tradition and dignity of Benin Obaship, and rebuilt, although on a smaller scale than the Ewuare palace, the grandeur, triumph, and supremacy, of Bini traditions. Large walled areas have now replaced the numerous compounds of former kings, with enclosed individual altars for each of the three immediate predecessors, and one general altar for the rest. Decorated sheets of brass adorn the rafters and lintels, and terra-cotta plaques recount the exploits of former kings.

Oba_Erediauwa

The current king of this great African kingdom and one of the most vibrant, colourful, and enlightened ancient civilizations in the history of the world, is Oba Erediauwa, Uku Akpolo Kpolo, the Omo N’Oba N’Edo (1979 CE –).  
 

BY NAIWU OSAHON Hon.  MSc. (Salford); Dip.M.S; G.I.P.M; Dip. I.A (Liv.)

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OBA GHA TO KPERE! ISE!

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

EBENINALIVETODAYBenin_empire

FLY THE FLAG OF FREEDOM!!!

 

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