Oba Erediauwa (1923 – 2016)
Omo N’Oba N’Edo, Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Erediauwa, no doubt was a leader with a charming personality and background.
He, indeed, was the mature fruit of the seed his grandfather, Eweka II, planted and, his father, Akenzua II properly nurtured.
Born on June 22, 1923, he was christened Prince Solomon, Aiseokhuoba, Igbinoghodua Akenzua by his grandfather, Oba Eweka II, after his then crown prince and heir apparent, Oba Akenzua II presented him as a new baby.
Oba Eweka II had lifted the baby up, smiled and proclaimed: “Agho! (Chief Agho Ogbedeoyo, the Obaseki of Benin, acted as the Oba during the interregnum between 1897 and 1914).
“You have passed through this route; you have reincarnated to become an Oba. You will be Solomon- wise as King Solomon.
“The Lord will be your pillar and strength (Igbinoghodua), but nobody should dare cause or invite your wrath (Aiseokhuoba).”
Reincarnation is in the beliefs of the Binis. As a young Prince and heir apparent, Oba Erediauwa was groomed and well-equipped, steeped in the culture, norms and traditions of the Benin Kingdom, but prepared for Nigeria of the 1980s and beyond.
Prior to his ascension to the throne, he served in several top federal (national) public service positions in different parts of Nigeria, such as Lagos, Enugu and Rivers.
Until he was crowned Oba on March 23, 1979, he was known as Prince Solomon, Aiseokhuoba, Igbinoghodua Akenzua.
But he was hardly identified by those names, except by the title, Omo N’Oba Erediauwa, Oba of Benin.
Apart from the usual traditional palace tutorials, which begin at birth, the late Oba went to Government School, Benin, after which he proceeded to Government College, Ibadan in 1939 and came out with flying colours with his London matriculations, which qualified him to gain admission into Yaba College in 1945.
After the completion of his course at Yaba College, he was admitted into King’s College, Cambridge to study Law and Administration.
On his return to Nigeria, he joined the Eastern Nigeria Civil Service as a District Officer (DO) in 1957 and later transferred his services to the Federal Civil Service and rose to the position of Permanent Secretary.
He retired from service as a Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health in 1973 and became the regional representative of Gulf Oil Company.
He was appointed Commissioner for Finance in the military administration of Maj-Gen. George Agbazika Innih in 1975.
His early retirement from the service was to have time to expose him fully to the intricacies of the administrative challenges that would confront him in the performance of his duties as Oba of Benin.
His father, Akenzua II, was Secretary to Eweka II, his father and this made him to have a first hand knowledge of traditional issues that arose from the native administration.
The political turbulence that confronted Akenzua II, due to the exposure of the new elites to participatory native administration in the 1940s and introduction of party politics in the 1950s, could only have been surmounted by a ruler of Akenzua’s experience, patience, courage and subtle diplomacy.
As Oba, he witnessed the rule of the army, formation of political parties several times after he ascended the throne in 1979.
Although, it would be said that he was insulated from partisan politics.
A six-footer, he was an unmoving pivot around which the life of his subjects revolved and used his kingly office to influence the welfare and the fortunes of his people.
Over the years, he had discharged his responsibilities with much wisdom and dauntless courage.
His refusal to succumb to the administrative tantrums to change his stance on the vague urges of the military proved that he rated the welfare of his people far above his personal sentiments or pride, even more above his interest.
His main focus was to re-establish the great Edo culture and tradition in line with acceptable norms of a modern society.
He was crowned as the 38th Oba of Benin at 56 and all through his reign, he demonstrated inflexible integrity and regal mannerisms that tied him to the souls of the ordinary folks.
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