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Absolutely untrue that Benin Obas were buried in Ile Ife – Chief Edebiri, Esogban Of Benin Kingdom


Chief David Edebiri, The Esogban of Benin Kingdom

The Benin Kingdom has described as “absolute falsehood” the position of Oore of Mobaland, Oba James Adedapo Popoola, that until 1914, Benin Obas who joined their ancestors were buried in Ile-Ife.

Speaking to journalists in Benin City on some issues raised in the interview, the Esogban of Benin Kingdom, Chief David Edebiri said the position is not in anyway related to the Benin Kingdom and therefore should not be taken as true by the reading public. 
“It is absolute falsehood, that Benin Obas were taken to Ife for burial, it never happened in our history. The precursor of this present dynasty, Oronmiyan, who came from Ife as requested by the Benin people went back alive when he felt that he could not cope with the politics of Benin. He went back to Ife, maybe he would have been the one who died there and was buried and they now begin to say that is where Benin Obas were buried. I think that is where the notion came from; otherwise, the Oba that came after Orominyan, Eweka 1 died and was buried here according to Benin traditional rites within the palace environment.

“No Benin man can claim to know where the kings are buried. Then two successive Obas, the children of Eweka 1, both of them ruled within a space of two years, they died and they were buried here. So, I pity the Kabiyesi because in the first place, according to him, he is 17 years on the throne, maybe he wanted relevance and then to be able to do that he said what he said. But what surprises me is why do they drag Benin into their problems? If he wanted relevance in his area, he should not bring Benin into it. These two Obas in quick succession ruled in Benin and they were not taken to Ife.

“If one imagines what it will mean at that time to carry a corpse from Benin to go and bury in Ife, what was the method of preservation, what was the method of transportation of the remains being carried to Ife and that was done each time an Oba here joins his ancestors. It is not true at all, absolutely untrue and what I want to advise these people, in the history of a people, you have history and you have fable, you have folklore. It is possible this is one of their fables there, which has no sanctity of historical facts so ever. To bring what I am saying vividly, the most prominent Benin King that everybody knows about is Ewuare I. I will tell you what the doyen of Benin history Late Dr. Jacob Egharevba recorded about his death and burial that was in 1440.

In the short history of Benin by Dr. J.U Egharevba: page 17; “Ewuare died after a long reign and was buried at Esi, near Udo.” Udo is in Ovia West Local Government Area “as commanded before his death.” This is the Oba who commanded that if he died because he was sick, they should not bury him in Benin City, they should take him to Esi, which is his own mother’s village to bury. Up till this time we are talking, the burial place is preserved. Every Oba who wants to ascend the throne in Benin must go there to perform certain ceremonies. The ascension of Oba Ewuare II was not exempted from this, so that tells you that there is no iota of truth in the issue, it is a mere figment of their own imagination, it is not true. Many of the Yoruba kings today are products from the royal family of Benin. Benin people from here started the stools, but we have never said they should bring their corpses to us.

“In Benin, it is a taboo to bring the corpse of your son to you, if it is true that as claimed by the Ooni of Ife who is the father of Oronmiyan, which we do not dispute, and Oronmiyan did not stay here in Benin till his death, he went back to Ife, why should he wait for his grand children’s corpses to be brought to him each time any of them passes on here? There is no sense in it that you just sit down somewhere in Ife waiting for the corpses of your grand children to be brought to you, what do you do with it? So you can see that there is no sense in that.”

On the position by the Oore of Mobaland that Oba of Benin is number four in hierarchy, while he is number five, Edebiri said: “This is an Oba I am hearing of for the first time and I am sure many people who read that story, would have come across that news for the first time. All the cork and bull stories that he told in that interview, that he is the announcer of the passage of Ooni of Ife, well that suits him if his duty is to announce the passage of another king. He cannot claim to be number five in Yoruba land because that is in direct conflict with what the Alake of Egbaland was saying a few months ago. People now just get up and classify themselves, but they should not bring us into their reckoning, we don’t belong there. The political connection we had with them, we successfully severed the connection in 1963 when we had the plebiscite that created Midwest Region. So we have nothing to do with their classification, they can go on with whatever they think they are, the Oba of Benin cannot be classified with any of them. Maybe it is not generally known that some of the most progressive kingdoms in the Yoruba West have kings who have direct connection with the royal family of Benin, maybe they don’t even know.

“I pity the Kabiyesi because according to him, he said he has been disappointed by politicians severally, they have used him and dumped him, so he wants a place of relevance but it should not be done with Benin being dragged into their classification issue.”

In his response, the Oore of Mobaland said: “I don’t have anything new to say, I have told you my source. The statement I made about the burial of Benin Obas in Ile-Ife up till 1914, I quoted the late Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade, and it was the late Ooni who made that statement in my presence. For emphasis sake, the late Ooni said; “Prior to 1914 anytime an Oba dies in Benin they would cut his head, and come and bury it in Ile-Ife. It is actually the head of the Obas not the whole body, and Yoruba have a saying; “Ori ade kii sun ta” meaning the head that wears the crown does not sleep outside. So that was what I said in my interview with you. Anybody is free to issue any rejoinder, it does not matter. Having said that, it is okay! But if they say it is not so, the rest is left for posterity.”

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