Early in 2015, the Benin monarch, Omo N’ Oba n’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo Erediuwa, the 38th Oba of Benin, bowed to nature’s call and joined his ancestors. And so it was that after a long year, on Thursday October 20, 2016 in Benin, the then governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, performed the ceremonial handing over of office to the Oba’s successor, Prince Eheneden Erediuwa, the Edaikenn’Uselu, who was officially crowned the next Oba of Benin and head of the Eweka Dynasty. His father before him was Prince Solomon Akenzua, son of Oba Akenzua II, before adopting the name Erediuwa upon ascending the throne in 1979.The new Oba chose to go by the name of Ewuare II.
His coronation was a wonderful one; however there was a big BUT in the course of the ceremony which cannot comfortably be wished away. As is usual with such ceremonies, the coronation of the Otu attracted dignitries from the length of breadth of Nigeria to Benin, and even the Diplomatic Corps was well represented, along with several other foreign guests. To underscore the importance of the coronation and indeed the position of the Oba, Nigeria’s Vice President, Prof. YemiOsinbajo, was sent by the President to represent him. All other first class chiefs and Natural rulers (6 in Nigeria) were present, including the Sultan of Sokoto, Mohammad Sa’ad Sanusi; Emir of Kano, SanusiLamidoSanusi; and the recently crowned Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi. These monarchs were not only visible throughout the ceremony, but were seated conspicuously in the front now. And this is exactly where the BUT arises!
The Obong of Calabar, Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu V, was present but it was a strain for one to even catch a glimpse of him throughout the proceedings! His presence was hastily acknowledgedbut throughout the NTA network live transmission, there were only a few passing glimpses of the Obong.
At the end of the event, I came away with a feeling of unfulfilment and dissatisfaction but I put my expectations on the print media to assuage these feelings. However, the reverse was the case. By the time I went throughallthe major national dailies, the same omission was glaring.
BUT PUTTING FACTS IN THEIR HISTORICAL PERSPEC-TIVE, this omission should never have happened. In 1897, Oba OvonramwenNogbaisi was the Oba of Benin when the colonialists were trying to corner the economic produce of the hinterland of Nigeria, which today is known as the Niger Delta region. In line with the tradition of the area of resistance to colonial oppression and economic sabotage of the region, the Oba, like his counterparts, King Jaja of Opobo and others, stoutly resisted the encroachment of the colonialists and imperialists. In anger, the colialists sought how to do away with the Oba and initially planned for his execution. But upon having him deposed, the decision was later taken to banish him from his Kingdom. The Oba was sent on exile to a distant part of the hinterland, specifically:CALABAR. And so it was that Oba of Benin was bundled with his entourage to Calabar where the Obong of Calabar hosted him, treated him graciously and even gave him wives from Calabar to add to the ones he had come along with. Thus the cordial relationship between the present day Cross River and the Benin Kingdom was born even till this day.
The Oba lived in peace in Calabar and was given all the dignity of royalty that he actually was, until he died in 1914 in exile.Upon the death of the Oba, the throne was returned to its original lineage.AND THAT IS EXACTLY HOW THE KINGDOM WAS RESTORED AND WE HAVE THE OBA OF BENIN ON SEAT TODAY.
The Obong of Calabar, EdidemEkpoOkon V is a true custodian of the rich cultural heritage of his people, and is a torch bearer of excellence. His influence spreads solidly over old Cross River, meaning that he is a monarch highly revered across the state and even up to AkwaIbom and far beyond. He is cultured and well educated man of integrity, a Christian who upholds the tenets of Christianity right in the palace for which he was commended by the notable Rev. W. F. Kumuyi of Deeper Life Christian Ministries some months ago.
Now, President MuhammaduBuhari has described Oba Erediuwa, father of the current Oba as one of the most principled and forthright Nigerians he had ever met. And as Oba Ewuare II begins the quest to write his name in gold in Nigeria’s history, I want to wish him good success in continuing the traditions of excellence which his predecessors laid. I also add a whispered word of appeal that he makes arrangements to host the Obong of Calabar specially in his palace to further cement the wonderful relationship between the two kingdoms.
So finally to the former Ambassador of Nigeria to Angola and Norway, a man of pedigree and dignity, as you rule on the throne of your fathers, I congratulate your whole kingdom for the rancor-free succession which has been the tradition of the ancient stool. As the custodian of Bini custom and tradition, I congratulate you on the way you are incorporating women into chieftaincy affairs – notably Chief Daisy Danjuma (nee Enakhire), And Others You Will Bring In. Bini monarchs have traditionally had a noble place for women; I recall stories of Queen Idia and Madam Emotan, to mention a few.
Oba Gha to Okpere, Ise!