Benin Kingdom: A New Era Begins

 

Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II,

His Royal Majesty, Omo n’ Oba n Edo Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, Oba of Benin and his courtiers after his coronation.

The installation of a new Benin monarch was a reaffirmation of the rich cultural heritage of the people as much as it brought back memories of the past in relation to the present

 

By Anthony Akaeze and Wilson Ibharayi

 

Oba Ewuare II

Governor Oshiomole presents the staff of office to Oba Ewuare II

There is often a word ascribed to Benin City and its kingdom each time a discussion of the town and its activities come up: ancient. The coronation of a new king for the kingdom on October 20, 2016, while retaining much of the rituals and traditions of its centuries old history, heralded the dawn of a new era for the kingdom and its people. In more ways than one, it represented a transfer of power from one generation to another, from the old to the new and how this will shape the future of the people. Decked in royal regalia like his forebears on such a momentous occasion, Prince Eheneden Erediauwa, who was crowned the 40th Oba of Benin kingdom, amidst pomp and joy, spoke of his mission  to lead his people to a better future. The event, which held at Urhokpota Hall, near the Oba’s palace and attracted dignitaries from far and near, was the culmination of months of rites that saw the monarch -in -waiting walk several kilometres within his kingdom, cross paths and streams to undergo initiation. It was a long process that kept not a few Edo indigenes on edge literally, waiting to see how the process would play out and the ecstasy within and outside the palace once the crown prince assumed the throne and had the staff of office presented to him by Adams Oshiomhole, out-going governor of Edo State , at 4.07 pm, spoke volumes of their relief and pleasure at the watershed. Happening on his birthday, 63-year-old Oba Eheneden, who is now to be addressed as Oba Ewuare II, used the occasion to unveil his vision for his people. He promised to empower and create jobs for his people through a series of initiatives in the area of tourism and scholarship. “We will initiate a cultural renaissance that will focus on tourism promotion through arts and crafts. To drive this initiative, we have already established two special purpose vehicles: the Benin Royal Dynasty Trust in collaboration with the Benin Traditional Council, will establish a foundry or two in Igun Eronmwon Quarters to enhance the productivity of the Bronze Casters Guild. 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 drama into an international brand. Through these initiatives, we hope to attract tourism to our land and provide jobs for our teeming youths.” That is not all. The new king also promised to “support efforts to build partnerships and seek international assistance for the restoration of Bini monuments including revival of the creative and artistic talents of Binis which are already globally acknowledged through our rich artifacts.” While expressing his willingness to “partner with the government to attract domestic and international resources for the establishment of clusters of agro- based industries in each of our seven local government areas,” he conveyed his desire to promote peace, understanding and welfare of the people and champion the revival of the cultural heritage and language of the Binis. “I strongly advise my Benin people to strive to maintain our culture, expecially our language, by insisting on its use in communicating with their children and each other…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 one main factor that the entire country and international community respect us for. I appeal to our Benin people to uphold and respect our traditional institutions at all times.”

Coming at a time history  , as a subject of study has been banned from public schools, the Oba implored government to also “include Edo language and Benin history in school curriculum.”

These promises and views were intermittently met with chants of support from thousands of Binis inside and outside the event centre. It was in every sense of the word, a show stopping event that pulled crowds from places as far away as South Africa, Norway, Denmark, England and Sweden.

Within Nigeria, emirate councils were well represented and some came with traditional dancers and horses. Among the royal fathers that graced the occasion are Saad Abubakar III; the Sultan of Sokoto, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi; the Emir Of Kano, Yahaya Abubakar, Etsu Nupe, Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II; the Ooni of Ife, Ogiamen Ikemwoli; the Olu of Warri, Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe; the Obi of Onitsha, Ikenchukwu Keagborekuzi; the Dein of Agbor, and representatives of prominent traditional rulers from across the country. Other dignitaries include Yemi Osinbajo, vice president, John Odigie-Oyegun, APC national chairman, Godwin Obaseki, the governor-elect of the state, Osagie Ize-Iyamu; the PDP governorship candidate, Rauf Aregbesola, Osun State governor, Abiola Ajimobi, Oyo State governor, Aliko Dangote, chairman, Dangote group of companies and some deputy governors. They all came to witness the finale of what began with the passing of Omo N’Oba Nedo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Erediauwa, Eheneden’s father, earlier in the year. On April 29, 2016, the death of Oba Erediauwa was announced by Sam Igbe, the Iyase of Benin. Four weeks after – May 25- the Benin Traditional Council released a programme for the final rites of the passage of the departed monarch.

On October 9, the Crown Prince commenced the process leading to October 20. As early as 7am, different cultural groups, title chiefs, men and women from different communities in the seven local government areas that make up the Benin kingdom began heading towards Uhrokpota Hall and adjoining areas to witness the event.

Before presenting the new Oba with his staff of office, Oshiomhole, who made history by becoming the first Edo indigene to preside over the inauguration of a new Oba, noted that the event was a historic one, which presented the Benin people and the entire Edo nation a rare opportunity to showcase their rich cultural and traditional heritage.

Osinbajo, who represented President Muhammadu Buhari, while congratulating and wishing the new king a successful tenure, conveyed the goodwill message of the President to the royal family. President Buhari described Oba Ewuare II’s father, Uku Akpolokpolo Erediauwa, as one of the most principled and forthright Nigerians he ever met.

For Stanley Omorogie, the Esse of Benin and head of Iwea-egua palace, October 20 was a great day for the Benin Kingdom. He described the emergence of the new Oba as an act of God ordained by the ancestors and said the people are hopeful of a better future.

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