Ogiso and Ogiamien are Aborigine Binis while Oba Of Benin is of Yoruba descent High Chief Esotericist Monday Wehere
Why are you deliberately refusing to listen to our case? Why do you treat matters concerning other palaces across the country so seriously, but you are not ready to listen to the Great Ogiamien Royal family of Utantan in Bini?
Palace Watch was dumfounded over these grievous allegations and could hardly speak. After a while, I asked who it was and why the allegations? The voice at the other end responded: “I am High Chief Esotericist Monday Wehere, JP, Director of Information And External Affairs of the Great Ogiamien Royal Family of Utantan, Igodomigodo in Edo State.”
But I once sent you a text message requesting for an interview on this matter. Have we ever met?
No. But we have been reading and following your report of palaces across the country. We have also made several attempts to reach you, but you would not listen to our case. Hence, the accusation…
So, what is your side of the story?
That is exactly what we want. We are not afraid of them. If you must know, the events that have been taking place in Benin kingdom after the passage of the immediate past Oba of Benin and the eventual coronation of this present Oba of Benin Kingdom without recourse to the Great Ogiamen Royal Family are strange to Benin culture and tradition. What is happening now in Benin Kingdom as regards the Oba of Benin stool is strange and difficult for many Binis to comprehend.
This is the first time in the history of Benin Kingdom that the death and burial of an oba, together with the installation and coronation of a new one, were conducted in utmost secrecy, when they decided to by-pass all the people who were supposed to be part of these processes.
Is it fair for you to say the coronation of Oba Ewuare II was done in secret?
You might not know, but there were so many processes that were not observed before that particular coronation. Before I continue, I would want you to first speak with His Imperial Majesty, Rich Arisco Osemwengie, JP, the Ogiamien Of Utantan Igodomigodo nations.
Your Majesty, what is the bone of contention between the Ogiamen Royal Family and the Oba of Benin?
Ogiamien of Utantan: The Great Ogiamien Royal Family of Utantan in Bini is a distinct ruling family from the Oba of Benin Kingdom. Before now, this has been very clear to all, and there have never been any reason(s) to contest this position. In one of the letters the late Oba of Benin Erediauwa, sent to us, signed by Mr. Frank Erabor, who is the Secretary to the Benin Traditional Council (BTC), the Ogiamien’s Royal Family position with the Oba of Benin was made very clear.
The point of disagreement arose, when we got to know that the late Oba Erediauwa used his clout in 1979 to connive with a military governor of the then Bendel State, who knows nothing about Bini history, to secretly repeal an edict that recognised the Ogiamien Royal Family as a ruling house from Benin kingdom without Ogiamien Royal Family members knowing about this dangerous act.
Surprisingly, when I was installed as the Ogiamien in 2015, I was arrested alongside the Oliha of Ogiamien, who performed my installation rites and detained in the police headquarters in Benin. We were charged to court and remanded in Oko Prison in Benin.
This was done without allowing us bail. To our utter surprise, the judge said he would “look into our bail conditions after two weeks.” This was the extent they went to humiliate us for not committing any crime than ascending the throne of my ancestors. I spent almost two months in the prison. This is the summary of our disagreement.
And to add salt to injury, the current oba refused to recognise us as the Ogiamien of Bini, just because of the edict his late father secretly repealed in 1979. So, before his supposed ascension to the throne as Oba of Benin, he deliberately refused to perform the traditional ceremony between the Ogiamien Royal Family and any incoming Oba.
This same ceremony was performed by his late father before becoming the oba. We are not in any way interested or contesting to become the Oba of Benin. The Oba of Benin is different from the Ogiamien of Utantan, Igodomigodo.
For the record, the Ogiamien of Utantan are the original owners of Benin Kingdom; they are the Ogisos. The Ogiamien Royal Family has been in existence since the year 900 AD until 1200AD, when the then ruling Ogiamien leased part of the Igodomigodo land to Oba Eweka 1, as a result of the treaty at Ekiokpagha, which led to the leasing of half of the Igodomigodo land to the then Oba of Benin. All the documents of lease from Oba Eweka 1 to the immediate past Oba of Benin are in our custody.
We had to apply for a variation of bail in the Benin High Court. This was how we were able to secure our freedom from their arm-twisting tactics. The Ogiamien Royal Family had to challenge my arrest and the appropriateness of the edict they secretly repealed.
As we speak, the Oba and his people are not contesting the legality of our claims as the Ogiamien Royal Family. What they have been advancing is that it is too late for us to begin to ask for our right, even when it is clear to all that we got to know of their illegality very late, and the court has told them that it is not too late for us to ask for our right, that we have a case. This is where we are now.
High Chief Esotericist Monday Wehere, JP explained further: “What is today known as Benin Kingdom started as Igodomigodo nine centuries ago. It was founded by Ogiso Igodo and it existed for 300 years before King Orominyan of Ife invaded Benin. During that invasion, Orominyan fought without any success. Before then, Orominyan came to Benin with a strategy. He brought a large number of Yoruba men into Benin long before the proper expedition. These men went into relationships with our daughters who started having children for them. By the time Orominyan came to attack Benin in 11th Century, the number of the Yoruba-born children was high. In spite of this, however, he still failed in his attack.
When Orominyan was returning to Ile-Ife without achieving his aim, as one of the strategies they invented, he deliberately impregnated a princess, the daughter of an “Enigie” – duke or king in Benin under the then Ogiso. The princess’ name was Elimide. He left her behind before returning to Ife. It was Princess Elimide that gave birth to the first Oba of Benin, Oba Eweka 1, who, after becoming an adult, was invited back to Ile-Ife, alongside other children they had secretly produced through our daughters without our knowing their game-plan.
Up till today, they still live in a place called Yoruba Quarters in Benin City. It was at that Ile-Ife meeting, which had Eweka in attendance that these children were told the reasons they were given birth to in Benin, that it was Oba Orominyan’s desire to use them to overthrow the then Ogiso Erebo and his dynasty, which was then known as Igodomigodo. They were all made to swear to an oath never to betray Eweka, who was to become the Oba of Benin, if they eventually succeeded.
Expectedly, this particular war was protracted as many people died on both sides. The carnage was much. It was, however, difficult for the then Ogiso to use extra force, as he felt his grandchildren were being used in the war. He kept saying the children being used by the Oba to prosecute his war were children of Benin daughters, even though they were now supporting their father’s side to fight the Ogiso.
It was at this point a truce was called. As there were no victor and no vanquished, Ogiso Erebo was told there was no way this large number of children born by Benin women for Yoruba men could be repatriated, since they had already been integrated into the heart of Igodomigodo. He was told the only way to maintain peace was for him to divide Igodomigodo into two kingdoms. Let the oba take a part, while he would hold on to the other part.
It was a very difficult thing for Ogiso Erebo to accept, but after much persuasion, he realised that he had to accept this very difficult condition. So, he divided Igodomigodo into two parts. This was how Oba Eweka 1 became an oba in that part of Igodomigodo now known as Benin Kingdom. Ogiso took the other part now known as Utantan.
There was an agreement then known as Ekiokpagha Treaty, which was signed by Oba Eweka 1 and Ogiso Erebo. In that treaty, eight conditions were given that must not be breached by either side. One aspect of that treaty stipulates: “I am giving you Oba Eweka 1 this half of Igodomigodo on lease and not sold to you in any way. From time to time, you should go to my children to renew the lease agreement anytime there is a vacancy in the Oba’s stool.”
Another condition is that under any circumstances, the Oba’s army will never come to harass the Ogiso’s army. The third condition is that neither the Oba nor the Ogiso will ever have cause to marry from each other’s family. Another condition is that Ogiso children will never kneel down to worship the Oba of Benin. The sixth condition is that anytime the Oba is coming to re-enact the treaty, he would bring a cow alongside other items.
It was this condition the present Oba refused to fulfil before ascending the throne. The treaty was sealed with a death penalty – that any person from both sides who violate these conditions would be put to death.
When Palace Watch contacted Frank Erabor, secretary to the BTC, he directed us to the Esogban of Benin; Chief David Edebiri, whom he said was the right person to speak on the matter. Chief Edebiri, however, declined to comment, saying, “There are several aspects of the Ogiamien issue in court and with the police, but that they may react appropriately if necessary.”
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