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Oba of Benin Dynasty
By: Naiwu Osahon
Edo Empire &
Edo Ethos & Social
The Ogiso Dynasty After the Ogiso Dynasty Oba of Benin Dynasty Oduduwa's Controversy Oba's Coronation Palace Societies Uselu Uzama
Oba Eweka I (1200 CE), ruled over Usama, renamed Ile-Ibinu, 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 Ile-Ibinu. 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 Ile-Ibinu as well.
Oba Ewedo (1255-1280 CE), succeeded Oba Ehenmihe. He changed the name Ile-Ibinu to Ubini and 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 of Ubini 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 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 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 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 Ubini 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 Ubini. 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.
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 Ubini 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.
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.”
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.
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, 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.
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.
A British adventurer called Ling Roth, was the first to refer to Benin as great, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Benin City is where Christianity was first preached in Nigeria. 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 (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 (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 (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 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 (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.
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 (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 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 (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 (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 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 Eweka II (1914 – 1933 CE), ascended his father’s throne in 1914 and when he died, his son, 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. 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 –).
Hon. Khu Mkuu (Leader, Pan-African Movement world-wide); Ameer Spiritual
(Spiritual Prince) of the African race; MSc. (Salford); Dip.M.S; G.I.P.M; Dip.
I.A (Liv.); D. Inst. M; G. Inst. M; G.I.W.M; A.M.N.I.M.
Awarded: Key to the City of Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Honourary Councilmanship, Memphis City Council; Honourary Citizenship, County of Shelby; Honourary Commissionership, County of Shelby, Tennessee and a silver trophy from Morehouse College, Atlanta, USA for his contributions to the unity and uplift of his race.