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Indigenous Political Systems Of The Edo People
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The State Societies.

One is uncertain about the process of change from stateless to state societies in traditional Nigeria. One is uncertain about why nations within the same Sudanic agrarian civilization are at different levels of political development. The co-existence of several political cultures in traditional Nigeria, is nevertheless, a testimony to the variety of political imagination which exists therein. While the Ibo and the Tiv typify indigenous democracies, Edo, Oyo, Zazzau exemplify indigenous states.

The Edo Society.

For a number of reasons the Edo were a distinguished group in indigenous Nigeria. Numbering about one million, they are one of the major nationalities in Africa. Their complex political culture apart, the Edo possess a remarkable culture whose beauty and creativity continue to marvel and inspire modern artists the world over. The Edo are divided into groups. They include the primary Edo who inhabit the Benin province and speak Edo proper, Ishan, Isoko, the iviosakon, Akoko-Edo, Urhobo and Etsako. These latter Edo-related groups have their own dialects that is related to the Edo proper as well.

The Edo society is a differentiated one. The first type of differentiation is status and rank-ordering by age. Dominating the Edo rural scene in particular, the age-groups are three in number, namely: the youth (iroghae), the middle-aged (ighele) and the elders (Odion). Membership in each group, particularly the Iroghae is by initiation and it lasts for many years. One moves up after having mastered the functions and culture of his current group. The social functions of the age-group reflect the Edo philosophy of personality development. To the youths are assigned a physical role, the execution of public works. The middle aged, combining strength and courage, are given the military assignment of defending the realm. The elders, whose wisdom is symbolized by hoary heads and calm faces, are given the distinguished responsibility of decision-making. It is right to observe here that the age-group are integrative forces among the Edo; their integrative power stemming from their inter-lineal form and their village-wide character.

The second type of social differentiation among the Edo is along class lines. In this regard, the Edo society is divided into three main classes-the royal class, the Chiefs or nobles and the people or commoners. While the first and third groups appear to possess internal homogeneity, the aristocracy of Chiefs consists of three segmented units, the Uzama (the hereditary chiefs), the Eghaevo Nogbe (The palace chiefs) and the Eghevonore (the town chiefs), the latter two being non-hereditary. The royal class has a variety roles to perform, and they include governmental, political, military and religious. The commoners, the main prop of Edo society having no specialized functions on the political scene, bear the mundane responsibilities for economic production.

The connection between rural sociology and rural politics is a close one in Edo community. In villages military power is in the hands of the ighele who supply the manpower. This, as far as is known is rarely used to challenge the village elders and chiefs. The ighele, in consequence, exercise little or no power on decision-making for the village. Since the village leadership rotates in cycles of generations, the ighele patiently await their customary turn to become the village elders.

The State Societies.

One is uncertain about the process of change from stateless to state societies in traditional Nigeria. One is uncertain about why nations within the same Sudanic agrarian civilization are at different levels of political development. The co-existence of several political cultures in traditional Nigeria, is nevertheless, a testimony to the variety of political imagination which exists therein. While the Ibo and the Tiv typify indigenous democracies, Edo, Oyo, Zazzau exemplify indigenous states.

The Edo Society.

For a number of reasons the Edo were a distinguished group in indigenous Nigeria. Numbering about one million, they are one of the major nationalities in Africa. Their complex political culture apart, the Edo possess a remarkable culture whose beauty and creativity continue to marvel and inspire modern artists the world over. The Edo are divided into groups. They include the primary Edo who inhabit the Benin province and speak Edo proper, Ishan, Isoko, the iviosakon, Akoko-Edo, Urhobo and Etsako. These latter Edo-related groups have their own dialects that is related to the Edo proper as well.

The Edo society is a differentiated one. The first type of differentiation is status and rank-ordering by age. Dominating the Edo rural scene in particular, the age-groups are three in number, namely: the youth (iroghae), the middle-aged (ighele) and the elders (Odion). Membership in each group, particularly the Iroghae is by initiation and it lasts for many years. One moves up after having mastered the functions and culture of his current group. The social functions of the age-group reflect the Edo philosophy of personality development. To the youths are assigned a physical role, the execution of public works. The middle aged, combining strength and courage, are given the military assignment of defending the realm. The elders, whose wisdom is symbolized by hoary heads and calm faces, are given the distinguished responsibility of decision-making. It is right to observe here that the age-group are integrative forces among the Edo; their integrative power stemming from their inter-lineal form and their village-wide character.

The second type of social differentiation among the Edo is along class lines. In this regard, the Edo society is divided into three main classes-the royal class, the Chiefs or nobles and the people or commoners. While the first and third groups appear to possess internal homogeneity, the aristocracy of Chiefs consists of three segmented units, the Uzama (the hereditary chiefs), the Eghaevo Nogbe (The palace chiefs) and the Eghevonore (the town chiefs), the latter two being non-hereditary. The royal class has a variety roles to perform, and they include governmental, political, military and religious. The commoners, the main prop of Edo society having no specialized functions on the political scene, bear the mundane responsibilities for economic production.

Nigeria: Cafeteria

The connection between rural sociology and rural politics is a close one in Edo community. In villages military power is in the hands of the ighele who supply the manpower. This, as far as is known is rarely used to challenge the village elders and chiefs. The ighele, in consequence, exercise little or no power on decision-making for the village. Since the village leadership rotates in cycles of generations, the ighele patiently await their customary turn to become the village elders.

On the national level, the distribution of power relative to the decision -making is not a simple affair in Edo land. In a culture where the traditional masses are a truly silent majority, power is for all practical purposes elite-centered. It is shared among the King ,the hereditary chiefs and the non-hereditary chiefs, the Uzama, the Ezomo, the Military commander, is one of the most influential men in Edo political system. Known traditionally to be a loyalist, he is one of those constant favorites of the Edo king, and in consequence a person who carries considerable weight in the council of state.

The town nobles, the Eghaevonore, are the institutional representation of the people’s power and the people’s interest. Nineteen in number, they are led by four, pre-eminent chiefs who are known as the four pillars of Edo. Among these four, the Iyase, Prime minister, is recognized leader of the town chiefs. Because the group is populist in tension and vision, it is independent of the King. Indeed, it is designed as an institutional check upon Monarchial authority.

The royal class and the aristocracy constitute the power elite in Edo land for a number of reasons. In the first place, it is they who share in the main whatever common wealth there is to share. In the second place, they are recognized and respected as influential leaders by the traditional masses. In the third place, it is they who make decisions for Edo land. And the council of state is the arena where they meet.

The council of state is composed of the Uzama, the Town and palace chiefs and the King who also is its chairman. Although the Edo Monarch is supreme in constitutional theory, in practice he makes laws and decisions with the aid of his council.

The Edo Monarch initiates the decision-making process through his power of convocation of the state council. In the council, the tables the various problems and issues facing his realm. Each of the council groups then withdraws to a separate chamber of deliberation, each group takes position and makes its decision-making process of Edo land. The town chiefs, with an amazing determination and vigilance, struggle to protect the interest of the commoners. And the Iyase is the symbol of such determined vigilance. It is for this reason that he is seen as the traditional opposition to the king. In any event, the art of reconciling the council view points, when they are divergent, is one in which indigenous Kings are masters. The Edo Monarch shares in this ancient wisdom of reconciliation.

Exerpts From a symposiun paper at the 4th national Festival of Arts by Dr opeyemi Ola.
Culled from the Now defunct Nigeria Magazine of 1975 .

The book is meant for people who are hopeful but seem not to have yet found their purpose on earth. This book will help enable people and communities to progress with a peace of mind towards their destiny.

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Edo Baby Names: