Benin monarch ‘re-unites’ with ancestors
• Anxiety In Benin, Markets Closed Over Oba’s transition
After several months of speculations about his whereabouts since he disappeared from public functions, the Palace of the Oba of Benin insisted that the Oba was indisposed and had gone to the Savannah.
But yesterday, the Iyase (Prime Minister) of Benin Kingdom, Chief Sam Igbe, announced the passage of the reverred monarch, HRM Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Erediauwa, saying he has gone to “re-unite with his ancestors.”
A day earlier, a meeting of all the Enigie in the kingdom, palace chiefs, Odionweres, ward leaders, market women and a cross-section of the of the people was called to observe an over 400 years old Benin tradition.
Igbe, who was accompanied by the Esogban of the kingdom, Chief David Edebiri, broke the news to the heir apparent and Edaiken N’Uselu, His Royal Highness, Eheneden Erediauwa, children and other members of the royal family, as well as the Enigies and large crowd of sympathisers, who thronged the palace, currently undergoing massive renovation and reconstruction.
There were traditional rites that heralded the solemn moment of announcement, including breaking of white chalk at the entrance of where the Oba sits when holding court outside the inner chambers and then at entrance gate into the palace.
The chiefs, in a procession-like manner, accompanied by a man carrying the traditional Akpoki (a round sacred stool-like box with cover at both ends and said to be containing some traditional items of high spiritual powers), trooped to the centre of the main entrance gate.
There, the Iyase of Benin made some traditional incantations and broke a big white chalk and announced to the hearing of all that the monarch had reunited with his ancestors.
An official statement by Igbe, which was made available to newsmen, stated that Oba Erediauwa has joined his ancestors.
He described the Oba as “the Prince of Peace” and prayed God to grant his soul eternal peace.
According to the statement: “As announced by the Iyase of Benin Kingdom, Osorhue Bunrun, Oba Erediauwa of Benin Kingdom, the Prince of Peace, Ebo, Ayenmwirhe, has reunited with his ancestors.”
“May he find perfect peace with God, Amen.”
The core chiefs of the inner chamber of the palace had, before the public announcement of the death of the Oba, held hours of closed door meeting with the Crown Prince, the Enigie and other elders of the royal family before they came out to break the news.
The late Oba was a former Federal Permanent Secretary before he ascended the throne in 1979.
In accordance with the Bini traditional mourning rites for a translated monarch, every male in the kingdom is expected to shave his head throughout the mourning period that may last for up to three months, while all markets in the kingdom are to remain closed for about seven days.
Explaining the announcement of the transition of the Oba and traditional aspect of the mourning, the Obadolagbonyi of Benin Kingdom, Chief Omon-Osagie Utetenegiabi, said: “Yes, it is traditional. It is customary that when a sitting Oba becomes an ancestor, he translates to a greater glory.”
“The Oba of Benin does not die, because he is an institution; he mainly translates to a high glory as an ancestor.
“The news is first broken to his eldest son and the immediate family, which was done earlier today (yesterday). And the Iyase of Benin, as the highest-ranking chief, then breaks the news to the people of Kingdom and the world.”
“The Iyase is the traditional Prime Minister and the bridge between the people and the royalty and that is what he has done today.
“From today until the expiration of Emwinekhua, all Benin chiefs, all chiefs that have been entitled by the Oba to wear the round bead round their necks, which is two, will now wear one.”
“It is customary because when you see a chief wearing one bead, it shows that we are in a state of mourning.”
“After today (yesterday), we are awaiting further instructions on what to do.”
In his reaction, Governor Adams Oshiomhole described the monarch as a leader and father, who supported the administration of his government and development of the state.
A statement issued by the governor read: “Our hearts are heavy, laden with pains and grief, at the announcement of the passing on to glory of Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Erediauwa of Benin, our highly revered Oba, a distinguished Edo numero uno, an accomplished Nigerian, a seasoned bureaucrat, quintessential unifier, unique personage and exemplary Omo N’Oba, whose reign brought distinction, immense class, finesse and integrity to traditional institutions in Edo State and the country at large.
“His carriage comes with an élan that was peculiar with the reverence of royalty.”
“His uncommon courage was symbolic of the can-do spirit of the Edo mind.
“His unity of purpose was not in doubt, even as he used his revered position to promote constructive engagement amongst all shades of opinion and culture in Edo State.
“As a thorough-bred bureaucrat, rising to the pinnacle of his career as a federal permanent secretary, he understood the dynamics and intricacies of governance.”
He added: “He was the alternative voice to the many voiceless in our society, calling government attention to issues of development and transparent governance, without minding whose ox is gored.”
“He was brave, fearless, punchy and instructive in his verbal and written messages.
“To us at the Edo State Government, he was our strongest supporter, both in his uncommon faith in our ability and his readiness to offer uncommon advice to sharpen public discourse in our shared commitment to transform the state.
“It gladdens our heart, therefore, that our revered Oba was alive to witness the positive transformation of the state under his reign, and for standing with us through thick and thin in the course of making the Edo economy a treasure to behold.
“Being part of that eloquent history of transformation before his reunion with his ancestors gives us further reassurance that he will occupy a special pride of place in the hereafter.
“We are enveloped with a deep sense of nostalgia that our great Oba, a great-grandfather, grandfather, father, uncle and iconoclastic royal father of exemplary carriage and conduct, who sustained the dignity of the average Edo mind, has joined his ancestors.”
“We are, however, encouraged by the fact that another great son of the Great Benin Kingdom, HRH Edaiken N’Uselu, Crown Prince Eheneden Erediauwa, who is already showing manifest quintessential attributes of his great father, will step into his father’s big shoes.”
According to the governor: “Edo people will miss our iconoclastic royal father of the great Benin Kingdom.
“Nigerians and Nigeria will miss this great exemplar of a royal father, an Oba of distinction and integrity. Adieu until we meet to part no more.”
Expectedly, there was anxiety in markets and business centres across Benin City yesterday over the announcement of the demise of the monarch.
After the announcement in the palace, representatives of the place visited key traditional markets across the city numbering about 15 and they are expected to be closed to the public for the next seven days.
However, there was tension within the Benin Metropolis and adjoining towns following the announcement by the palace chiefs.
Many residents, including traders, market women, strangers and non-traditionalists were enveloped by fear and suddenly closed their shops over fear of traditional rituals which some fear might cost human heads.
The popular New Benin market and similar markets and business outlets within the City were forced to close down as against the normal closing hours of the day.
Traders and market women were hurriedly seen locking up their shops as rumours went about the town about the latest development.
The popular Oba Market was immediately shut few minutes after the announcement. Other markets closed included Ekiosa, Ekiowa, New Benin, Agbado, Ogiso, Edaikenan, Ogida, Oliha and Oguola