Bini gets new Oba, promises reforms in palace administration
Some are lucky to experience it, while it never happened in some people’s lifetime, yet, there are those who are opportune to witness it more than once, depending on how long the king reigns on the throne or how long they live.
But after over one year wait, the Benin Kingdom, last Thursday, experienced this not very regular occurrence, as it got a new Oba with the name, Oba Ewuare II. He is the 40th king of the Kingdom beginning from the short reign of Orominyan, who was the first Oba after the end of the Ogiso dynasty to the end of the last monarch of the kingdom, Oba Erediauwa. He is the 70th King from the reign of the Ogisos. The Kingdom is believed to have existed for more than 2,000 years.
A day before his official presentation to his people, he took a new name as is customary of the Kingdom. He dropped the name Eheneden Erediauwa and from that day onwards, all his children would drop Erediauwa as their surname and begin to bear the new name, Ewuare. He would now be addressed as Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku’ Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II.
Activities in the ancient kingdom stood still for the better part of last Thursday. He chose the name Oba Ewuare II after the name Oba Ewuare, The Great, who ruled the Kingdom from 1440 –1473. He is said to be the most revered, dynamic, innovative and successful monarch who transformed Benin politically, socially, religiously and otherwise. He was reputed to have encouraged ivory carving.
The coronation of the new Oba, it was gathered had earlier been performed secretly according to tradition, before the presentation ceremony. The Guardian gathered that the crowning ceremony was performed at about 3.00 am on that day at Usama Palace. The crowning at Usama palace was performed by the Usama N’ Ihiron, also known as the Edion, led by Chief Edionwe Oliha. Chief Oliha was supported by other powerful rulers in the Kingdom, including the Edion, Edohen, Ezomo, Ero, Eholo N’ Ire, Oloton and Edaiken.
The long wait for the Oba started as early as 8am, as people started thronging the Palace of Uzama, where he has been staying for the past three days, as part of the coronation ceremonies. He was to leave that place for Urokpota Hall after crossing a wooden bridge to River Omi (Ezomi), the river at Isekere. Various cultural groups beginning with Eben-Ikasa group were already at the Uzama Palace waiting to escort the crown prince. Then came Askanosoghionba (The hand that stings Oba’s enemies) group at about 11.30 and thereafter, Ekasa group from Eguadese came by12 noon and then Ohen-osa of Holy Arousa 12.24 pm. The new Oba emerged at exactly 1.05pm dressed in all natural beads weighing over 20 kilogrammes. Two aides on both sides supported him. By 12.50 pm, eight persons had earlier arrived the Uropkpota Hall venue of the public presentation with the traditional stool and a hand rest wrapped with white cloth. The hall is about four kilometres from the Uzama Palace. He arrived the wooden bridge at 1.54 pm and crossed over at 2.05 pm. At exactly 3.25 pm, the new Oba entered the hall with shouts of Iyare-yare renting the air. He was formally presented to the people.
THE very colourful ceremony held at the traditional Urokpota Ground and attracted dignitaries from the political class, business world, traditional institution and others. The new Oba said irrespective of the different perspective of history among the Bini and Ile-Ife, they both agreed that Oduduwa built so many kingdoms, which the Bini believe is a Prince from their kingdom called Ekhalderan, whose first son Oronmiyan was the first Oba of Benin after the Ogisos.
“The long line of succession of kings in the Kingdom known as Benin started in the 12th century by modern reckoning, there may be some different views about the origin of some of our ancestors, but there is unanimity in the shared heritage between the people of Benin and Ile-Ife in identifying Oduduwa, as the forebear of kingship in many kingdoms in parts of Africa called Nigeria today.
“Historians all agree that Oduduwa sent his son Oromiyan at the request of elders of Benin to return with them as ruler of their realm. Oronmiyan’s stay in Benin may have been short, but before he left, a child was born to him who was later crowned Oba and he is known today as Eweka the 1st. Oronmiyan’s time in Benin, was however short-lived. He was an Oba and so he was the first Oba after the reign of Ogiso Dynasty came to an end. He established Obaship in Benin, by implication therefore, the listing of past Oba should begin from Oronmiyan, as it is listed in Egharevba’s short History of Benin. This actually made my late father the 39th Oba that reigned in Benin if the listing is counted from Oronmiyan.
“I, therefore, stand before you today as the 40th Oba of Benin. A direct descendant of Oronmiyan, the son of Oduduwa, whom Benin people of that era knew as Ekhaladeran, their self-exiled king who later became ruler in Ile-Ife. The Benin people recognise Oduduwa and his origin, but it is not our place to force this recognition on others outside our boundaries. The history of the world is a shared one and there will certainly be unexpected connections in future. This is thus a time for unity and not divisiveness, a time for mutual respect, recognising that our wholeness as a people is so much more than some of our past,” he said.
Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku’ Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II noted that the new dispensation as Oba of Benin is to protect the interest of the people ‘pay due attention to all members, customs and tradition, focusing on real issues of security and the welfare of our people.
“We shall carry out reforms in palace administration, in order to be adequately responsive to our people. We shall strive to ensure that conflicts are resolved between individuals, families and communities along the principles of social justice. We shall use cultural diplomacy as a veritable tool for the promotion of harmonious relationships with our neighbours far and near. I, also, strongly advise our people to maintain our culture, especially our language by insisting on its use in communication with our children and among ourselves,” he said.
He disclosed that Benin Empire, which encompassed parts of Lagos, Asaba in Delta State and even then Dahomey in Benin Republic, has now shrunk into one state and so urged government to include the study of Edo language and Benin history in school’s curriculum.
He promised to strengthen bilateral relationship with the kingdoms across the world, even as he appreciated the presence of the representatives of the Zulu Kingdom in South Africa, the Kabaga Kingdom of Buginda, the Queen of England and the monarchs of Sweden, Denmark and Norway.
He said he would improve on the artistic talents of Benin, just as he lamented the rising rate of crime and juvenile delinquency in the society and called on private government partnership to create more jobs for the youth.
He said in memory of his father, he would established the Oba Erediauwa Annual Lecture Series, with the sum of N10m to be invested in a trust fund to sponsor research on any topic in Benin History, public administration or Edo language. He also unveiled a new crest, which motto translated as ‘No Pain No Gain.’
On his part, the Edo State Governor, Oshiomhole Adams, said the ceremony is unique as a new governor would be sworn in the state almost the same time a new Oba is coming in, adding that his administration has been able to establish that the country’s democracy would flourish with support from the traditional institution as demonstrated by the new monarch’s father, Oba Erediauwa.
Vice President Osinbajo on his part prayed for successful reign of the new monarch and called for the traditional institution to support government policies.
The ceremony brought to a close series of activities, ceremonies and rituals, which started since March 2015 when the Crown Prince moved from the palace to Uselu to become the Edaiken N’Uselu, as Benin tradition demands. That climaxed the 12-day intense cultural and traditional activities within the Kingdom as performed by the Crown Prince who many before now thought would discard some of the ceremonies, but surprisingly added glamour to all of them.
THE new Oba began his coronation ceremonies with a-10 kilometre trek from his temporary palace at Uselu to Eko-Ohae (bachelors’ camp) in present day Oredo local government, where he had been since March last year. He also climbed the sacred palm tree said to be 500 years and was first climbed by Oba Ewuare in the 15th century. He reached the sacred palm tree known as Udin Amamieson-amiuwa and offered some offerings.
Erediauwa left Uselu accompanied by a large crowd mainly indigenes of Uselu. He trekked through the Benin-Lagos Road, through Lagos Street to Ekpo-Ohae at Urhokpota Hall. He, thereafter, moved to the Iyan-Akpan now known as Five-Junction, where Chiefs from Uselu community handed him to Chiefs from Benin. From this point, Chiefs from Benin escorted him to Benin City.
Various cultural troupes, including the Iten Edo Theatre Group, Benin Royal Dynasty Trust Dance thrilled guests, while markets within the vicinity of the palace remained closed throughout the coronation ceremonies. He has started his reign and his people wish him long years on the throne. His father spent 35 years on the throne.