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Monday, 25 November 2013

THE BENIN THRONE AND THEIR CHALLENGES


The Benin throne was established in 475AD. For 713 years, the Ogisos ruled over the Kingdom and created 100 enigies. (Dukes). As the Oba Erediauwa CFR presents his new book "cradle of ideas: a compedium of speeches and writings" on the 28th of November, 2013 at the Oba Akenzua Cultural Centre Benin City, this article will dwell more on the challenges faced by the 38 Kings that have ruled over this great kingdom. One major challenge Oba Erediauwa faced was his suspension by the former military administrator of Edo State, Commodore Onyeregbulum of blessed memory. I was invited to play at the Obas anniversary during the period of his suspension. As my band played “congratulations!" to usher the king into the arena, the Oba of Benin, revered and respected by all because of his strict adherence to the traditions of his ancestors apparently broke one of the tenets by busting into a dance-half waltz (as he is Cambridge trained) and half Esakpade-a Benin traditional dance. The arena went into immediate excitement and celebration. A suspended king who all expected to look sad and pensive, dancing to the music of a commoner? The press men sighed and waited impatiently for the question and answer session. "your majesty" one of the pressmen quipped, (it was another case of Jesus healing on Sabbath day) "you should not be dancing to the music of Eno Louis". The royal father said "I did not dance to the music of Eno Louis". The journalist either did not believe their ears or that their eyes did not see the Oba dance. the oba continued." I danced to the music of an Ogbelaka man". There was a thick silence.
My father from Ogbelaka was the head of the royal musicians and thus extended that right to me.
The continuous misunderstanding between the palace and some chiefs reminds one of Ovio, a wealthy man who lived during the time of Owodo, the last Ogiso. The peaceful nature of oba Erediauwa and his solomonic wisdom made him deal with such matters in a fatherly and civilized way that stunned all other subjects. Ovio was banished and he eventually founded Obior in Delta State where the immediate past deputy governor Elue of Delta state hails. I was there too to play for Honorable Elues home coming.
Erediauwas father, Oba Akenzua the second, faced a major challenge when the Benin was run over by Biafran soldiers. Was he to remain loyal to the federal government or cooperate with the Biafrans to become a major catalyst in the Benin republic being suggested? The Obas ancestors quickly intervened and Benin was liberated, averting a blood letting that many thought was inevitable. Oba Akenzua was a founding father to the Mid West region with all the intrigues that followed. The Western regions asset have not been shared till this present day. The Mid west region was part of the Western region.
Eweka the second became the Oba of Benin in 1914. The fact that he ascended the throne of Ovorawmen at all makes him a hero in the preservation of the Benin kingdoms aristocracy. Second only to that of Japan in longevity His challenges and that of his father were one and the same. He could have been banished along with his father but was much favored by posterity and destiny. His doggedness to reclaim his throne can only be compared to that of David and Goliath. Ovonramwen surrendered to the British to save his kingdom and beloved subjects from being razed from the surface of the earth. He was not at all a coward or self centered, he was ready to lay down his life for a kingdom he so much cherished.
Adolo mounted the Benin throne in 1848. ‘Dolo’ in edo language means ‘repair’ Adolo, his father Osemwende and grandfather Obanosa were together “the bridge between the rapidly fading past and rapidly threatening future” (Prof. Iro Eweka). Alan Ryder wrote “the threat to the very existence of the kingdom posed by British intervention came no nearer in Adolos lifetime. It might even appear to have receded”. Obanosa bore the title Edaiken-heir apparent for a long time. He was said to have plucked white hairs and sent it to his father to show he was getting old only for his father to send back to him salt and native chalk, meaning “life is sweet”.
Akengbuda reigned for 55 years. The Obi of Obuluku had asked for Adesuwa’s hand in marriage. (Adesuwa was chief Ezomo’s daughter and was already betrothed to the Oba.) Adesuwa’s refusal and her subsequent murder by the Obi led to a battle that ended with the Obis head been brought to the Oba Akengbuda.
Eresoyen, Akengbuda’s father built a house of money. The walls and floors were paved with cowries. He subdued the Agbor rebellion.
Akenzua the first was Ewuakpe’s first son. His first challenge was the usurping of his throne by his younger brother for one year. Akenzua the first was the richest king to ever ascend the throne of his ancestors. He was named “Isonoro” meaning “endless wealth from heaven”
“Benin is admired for its government, laws, tolerance and hospitality to visitors”, so wrote Dutch trader Van Nyendael in 1702 during the reign of Ewuakpe. His wife Iden sacrificed herself to fulfill the oracle for a human sacrifice. Ewuakpe was treated unkindly by his mother’s people and he cursed them.
In 1692, Pope Innocent the 12th sent a personal letter to Oba Oreoghene who was crowned three years earlier. Christianity had come into the kingdom already and the Pope encouraged him to remain a catholic. One might ask at this point what will become of his ancestors? This departure from the norm must have led to conflict.
Oba Ahenkpayes high handedness led to his dethronement in 1684, the year Akengbedo ascended the throne. Ahenzae, Akenzua and Akengbo all had peaceful reigns, even when an oracle predicted the predicament of Ovoramwen about 200 years later.
About 1606 A.D, Ohuan became Oba. Handsome and feminine in appearance, he had to walk naked across the kingdom when he was young, to dispel rumors about his real gender. He quelled a rebellion of an unfriendly Iyase (Senior chief).
Between the last Ogiso and Uhuan, 17 kings reigned, prominent amongst those were Esigie, Ozolua, Ezoti, Ewuare, Oguola, Eweka the first. Duarte pires wrote about Esigie. “I am a true friend of the king. He ordered his son to build a church and learnt to read and write”. Oba Esigie introduced the use of guns and initiated the first king mother (Iyoba) after his mother Idia who assisted in Ida war.
Ozolua was a great warrior. Enemies fled into the bush at sound of his coming. He took the title “Uku-akpolokpolo (emperor of the big kingdom). Obulu uku, Ise luku, Ugwashu uku etc, all fell to his sword. Ozolua was eventually poisoned by his warriors.
Ewuare captured 201 town and villages. He made walls and ditches around the city. Patrick Darling concludes ‘what is arguably the largest single archaeological feature on this planet – the Benin moat’ Ewuares challenges were different from all others. He lost his two sons on the same day. The tough laws made to mourn his two sons made citizens of his kingdom to flee. To stop the depleting of his kingdom, tribal marks were introduced (Iwu). Neighboring kingdoms were warned not to harbor Benin people on the run. Oguola, Ewuares son, introduced bronze casting. He also dug trenches around the city to prevent attacks from enemies.
Eweka the first was dumb during his early years. Some charmed seeds sent to him by his father helped him make his first utterance “owomika” meaning “I have succeeded in winning my game of pebbles”.
The fact that he was a young king controlled by his father led to great jealousy. The trick to kill his father by asking the king to advice his father to tie egbela (suicide robe) succeeded and the elders finally got rid of his adviser.
The different Benin king faced different challenges. Benin history is well documented. Oba gha to kpere Ise.

By Eno Louis Enobakhare

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