The New Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II – Profile and Coronation Event
The Oba of Benin, or Omo N’Oba, Emini mini mini is the traditional ruler of the Edo people and head of the historic Eweka dynasty of the Great Benin Empire. The ancient Benin homeland(not to be confused with the modern-day and unrelated Republic of Benin, which was then known as Dahomey) has been and continues to be mostly populated by the Edo (also known as the Bini or Benin ethnic group).
The title of Oba was created by Oba Eweka I, Benin Empire’s first ‘Oba’, who is said to have ascended to power at some time between 1180 and 1300. The Oba of Benin was the Head of State (Emperor) of the Benin Empire until the Empire’s annexation by the British, in 1897.
‘We are fortunate to have Oba Ewuare II’, Adam Oshiomhole said during the event. The new king picked the name of another great king. Oba Ewuare 1 (1440-1473) is seen by many as one of the greatest Obas of Benin Kingdom. He ascends the throne after Oba Erediauwa who was born in 1923, son of Oba Akenzua II. Before being crowned he was known as Prince Solomon, Aiseokhuoba, Igbinoghodua Akenzua. He attended Edo College, Benin City, Government College, Ibadan then Yaba College, before going to King’s College, Cambridge to study Law and Administration.
According to history, Ewuare N’Ogidigan planted the first Emotan tree before Akenzua 11 commissioned the statue. He started the Ewere ceremony and the Igue festival to commemorate his third year of peaceful reign. Ewuare 1 conquered 201 towns and villages and expanded the Benin Kingdom. He was said to have restructured Edo governance. He added the titles of Ihama N’Iguneromwon, Elema and Eholo N’Igbesamwan, the Uzama N’Ibie (Uzama Minor) group of noble title holders.
According to Simon Ebegbulem of Vanguard, Oba Ewuare 11 was crowned at about 2am on Thursday at the Usama palace by the Usama N’Ihinro, known as the Edion, headed by Chief Oliha. After being crowned, the Oba used a white hand-kerchief to cover his mouth as stipulated by tradition after which the Ihama presented him to the Bini people at Usama palace. However, the name the monarch picked was kept secret until the grand finale of the coronation at Urhokpota Hall where it was disclosed after he was handed the staff of office by Governor Adams Oshiomhole. The Oba spent seven days at Usama palace. That palace, located along Siluko Road, was the first palace built by Oronmiyan before Oba Ewedo moved it to the present location in the 15th century.
However, the final journey to the throne was between Usama palace and Urhokpota Hall where Oba Ewuare II met dignitaries from all over the world who came to grace the occasion. The last journey was not easy. Vanguard, however, learnt that it is only the gods that give the Oba the strength to survive that last tedious task. The task, worsened by the full regalia made of coral beads with the crown on his head, sources said, weighed up to 20kg. Oba Ewuare left Usama palace that Thursday at about 1:45pm and had to follow the ancient path as did by Oba Ewedo to ascend the throne.
And before he left the Usama palace, a he-goat was slaughtered at the gate while Ihama, accompanied by Chief Leteman, poured libation to pray to the ancestors. He was held by Chiefs Osa and Osuan, two chiefs, to represent Benin ancestors, the twin brothers who escorted Prince Oromiyan from Uhe (Ife). When he arrived the palace of Chief Oloton, Oba Ewuare 11 stopped to pay homage and performed some rites. He stopped at Iwehen N’Ewaise Shrine before he proceeded to cross the River Omi Oteghele. Amidst joy and hailing from the crowd, Oba Ewuare 11, assisted by Chief Isekhere, crossed River Omi Oteghele where he met 92- year-old Chief Samson Edogun, who had assembled a mock army to fight the enemies of the Oba who may want to stop him from getting to his destination, which is Urhokpota Hall. He arrived Urhokpota Hall at 3:25pm where the ceremonial coronation was conducted by the Usama N’Ihinro and, new name publicly announced.
Oba Ewuare II Acceptance Speech
“We are going to miss Oshiomhole because he has done very well for Edo State. No doubt, you have said it all, that your successor will do as much as possible to try and fill your own big shoes that you will be leaving behind, thank you for letting the world know that I am already filling my father’s shoes and I hope the governor-elect will do his best to fill your shoes”, the new Oba of Benin said. Our heritage, our pride “Today marks the end of activities described by custom and tradition for my ascension to the revered throne of this ancient kingdom. I accept with faith and humility the destiny which ordained that henceforth I shall be the embodiment and the expression of culture and aspirations and history of our people. As the principal actor in the event of several months that led to this position, I have had the unique opportunity to reflect on the values and essence of our historical continuum. What royalty represents to our people is justice, peace and unity.
These ideals shall be reawakened and be sustained in the dispensation that will soon unfold. The time-tested, rancour free succession process bequeathed to us in our customs and tradition is a great tribute to the far-sightedness and wisdom of our fore-fathers and our people. This collective achievement is a veritable proof of our ability to manage our own affairs. It makes us very proud of our heritage. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, let me begin by paying deserved tribute to my illustrious father, Omo N’oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Erediauwa, CFR, who joined his ancestors after 37 years of glorious reign. With all due modesty, I must admit that as a son and heir, that I enjoyed and benefited from his fatherly love and wisdom more than anyone else. His visionary leadership, courage and dedication to our cultural heritage ensured that the legacies of several century was preserved.
He was a true symbol of our cultural identity. Throughout his reign, his palace was a warm and welcome home for all who had need for good counsel, guidance and material assistance. Traditional rulers from far and near consulted him for clarity on touchy issues. Or to resolve a vast range of socio-cultural problems. Ethnicity, religion and social status were no barriers to reaching him for advise and support. He was a good and caring father to us all. He led our common cause with dignity, tact and wisdom. In the community of royalty, he was exemplary and hence he was revered throughout this kingdom and beyond. Though for him, our culture and tradition was his priority but he was open to new ideas and respectful of progress made through social and scientific innovations. Time constraint will not allow me to give full account of all my father’s achievement or the benefit his reign brought to Benin Kingdom, our state, our country and indeed, humanity.
“Our responsibility for us now is daunting, but I am confident that with the blessing of God Almighty, the love and support of my family, my people, Nigerians in general and my friends in the international community, we shall succeed in this mission of building upon the legacies of our father.
Let me crave your indulgence to also make few remarks about my late mother, Princess Eghiunwe Akenzua of blessed memory, who passed on to the great beyond in 1976 when my father was still the Crown Prince. It was my dear mother who taught me to work hard for success in everything I set my mind upon to achieve. Circumstances and act of faith did not allow her to enjoy the status of a Queen in her life time. But she was a Princess in her own right. By my coronation, today, she is now entitled to be bestowed with the title of Iye Oba (Queen Mother). Which customs allow us to confer posthumously. This will be consummated at the appropriate time. Why I am the 40th Oba of Benin Kingdom
“History also reminds us of the importance of the present time which is the only opportunity we have to take the different and too often fragmented components of our collective past to prepare the foundation for a unifying and collective future. A long line of succession of kings in the Kingdom known as Benin started in the 12th century by modern recording.
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 lle lfe in identifying Oduduwa as a forebear of kingship in many kingdoms in some part of Africa and the part called Nigeria today. Historians all agreed that Oduduwa sent his son Oromiyan at the request of elders of Benin to return to them as ruler of their realm. Oromiyan staying 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. Oromiyan’s time in Benin, however short-lived, he was an Oba and so he was the first Oba after the Ogiso dynasty came to an end. He established Obaship in Benin, by implication the listing of past Obas should therefore begin with Oromiyan as it is listed in the line of Obas. This actually made my revered father the 39th Oba of Benin, if the listing is counted from and should be counted from Oromiyan. I therefore stand before you today as the 40th Oba of Benin. “A direct descendant of Oromiyan, the son of Oduduwa who the Benin people of that era knew as Ekharaderan, their self exiled Prince who later became ruler in IIe Ife, the Benin people recognized Oduduwa and his origin but it is not in our place to force this recognition on others outside our boundaries. The history of the world, is a shared one and they will certainly be unexpected connections in future. This is a time for unity and not divisiveness’. A time for mutual respect, recognizing that our wholeness as equals is so much more than some of our past.
Now, what does the new dispensation hold for us? The Oba remains the channel through which the powers of the ancestors continue to guide and protect the kingdom and its people. To that extent, we shall faithfully discharge this sacred responsibility, we shall pay due attention to all manners of all customs and traditions, focusing on real issues of security of our communities and welfare of our people. We shall carry out our reforms in palace administration in order to be adequately responsive to our people’s sincere and deep longing for justice, equity and stability. Using culture as unifying factor
“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 relationship with our neighbours far and near.
I also strongly advise my Benin people, we should strive to maintain our culture, especially our language by insisting on its use in communicating with our children and each other. You will agree with me that the Benin empire which encompasses part of Lagos, across to Asaba, even to the then Dahomey, has now reduced to one state. To survive, it is imperative that we maintain our culture which is now the only unifying force for our people. Our culture and tradition remains the grand main factor that the entire country and the international community respects us for. And I appeal to our Benin people to uphold and respect our traditional institutions at all times. I employ government to also include Edo language and Benin history in our schools’ curriculum. We shall forge links with other traditional institutions here in Nigeria, in Africa and beyond. We must especially acknowledge how honoured and gratifying we are to have in our midst today, representatives of monarchs from other parts of the world. The Zulu King in South Africa, the Kabaka of the Kingdom of Buganda, as well as the Queen of England and the monarchs of Sweden, Denmark and Norway are all represented in this event by the Ambassadors of these countries.
“I hope this will provide an opportunity to strengthen contacts and build linkages and will compliment and enhance excellent bilateral relationships that already exist between our countries. We shall uphold and maintain the principle of neutrality and none partisanship in political party activities. While our people remain free to play politics in the political party of their choice, we shall, however, continue to pray for and always support the right kind of political leaders who will safeguard the welfare of our people, provide for their basic needs and who will accord due recognition to the traditional institution. We will initiate a cultural renaissance that will focus on tourism promotion, through arts and craft.
To drive this initiative, we have already established two purpose vehicles, namely the Benin Royal Family Trust, in collaboration with the Benin Traditional Council established an office in Igun, Iguewon quarters to enhance the productivity of the bronze casters. The Benin Royal Academy for performing arts will train youths and develop their talents. They will reach out to international choreographers in different parts of the world for the purpose of transforming Benin dance into an international brand. Through this initiatives, we hope to attract tourism to our land and provide jobs for our teeming youths. We shall also support efforts to build partnership and seek international assistance for the restoration of Benin monuments including the revival of the creative and artistic talents of the Binis, which are already globally acknowledged through our rich artefacts.
“It is pertinent at this point to express our deep concern about poverty and the rise in crime and juvenile delinquency in our society. The problem is both a consequence, and it is aggravated by wild spread youth unemployment. The solution will require a well-articulated and structured youth development and empowerment programmes with the active support of government at all levels. We should partner with government to attract domestic and international resources for the establishment of clusters of agro-based industries in each of our seven Local Government Areas.
In this regard, the transformation of Gelegele into an export processing zone. Agro-allied industries shall remain one of our major projects in the state. With the support of the Federal Government, we shall join forces with government at all levels and other well-meaning individuals in pursuing poverty alleviation strategies which will be driven by the Royal Dynasty Trust. We will also partner with relevant government agencies to pursue programmes for the preservation of our forest endowment. To this end, we will establish a prize for the local government in Edo state that is best in annual tree planting competitions.
Today is an important day for us. It marks a turning point in our lives. We will, therefore, do two important things to mark this day. First, to honour the memory of our illustrious father. We establish today Oba Erediauwa Annual Lecture series. For this, the sum of N10million will be invested in a Trust Fund and the proceeds will be used to support an annual well-researched work on any subject in Benin history, public administration or Edo language.
Secondly, we will unveil a new crest which states my motto, meaning no reward without industry. Finally, we appreciate your presence here today especially those who have supported us in various ways. We remain grateful to the multitude of people who line the roads everywhere we passed and all those who worked tirelessly to the success of this event. The show of support and affection for me, in particular, each time I step out of any out door traditional activity since I was initiated into Ewebo up till now has been very amazing.”
Editor Note: We got a little help from our friends at Vanguard Nigeria to Complete this report.