Saturday, October 22, 2016 7:13 pm
By Ademola Adegbamigbe
On Thursday 20 October 2016, the new Oba of Benin, Ewuare 11, received his staff of office from Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State. It was an event that attracted the creme dela creme of Nigeria-traditional rulers, captains of industry, politicians and others. He seized the opportunity of the occasion to make a statement on the relationship between the Yoruba and Benin.
Oba Ewuare II, explained why he should be regarded as the 40th Oba of Benin contrary to the belief that he is the 39th Oba. In his words:
“There may be some divergent views about the origin of some of our ancestors but there is unanimity in the shared heritage between the people of Benin and Ile-Ife in identifying Oduduwa as a forebear of kingship in parts of Africa and Nigeria of today.
“Historians all agreed that Oduduwa sent his son Oranmiyan as requested by elders of Benin to return with them as ruler of their realm. Oranmiyan stayed in Benin, but his stay was short. But by the time he left he had a son known today as Eweka I. Oranmiyan’s time in Benin was however short-lived, he was an Oba. So he was the first Oba after the Ogiso dynasty, he established Obaship in Benin. Therefore the listing of past Obas should start from Oranmiyan. This actually made my late father the 39th Oba of Benin while I am the 40th Oba of Benin.”
In his May 2004 publication, entitled, The Benin-Ife Connection, Omo N’Oba Erediauwa
claimed that Ekaladerhan (or Oduduwa) came from Benin to rule over Ile Ife. In other words, the Yoruba ancestors came from Benin and not that Benin’s patriarch originated from Ife.
Also Premium Times, published a story on 12 February 2016, entitled “Yoruba group, OPC, lambasts Benin chiefs over comment on Oduduwa history.” The Esogban of Benin and Odionwere of the Kingdom, David Edebiri, according to the story, rejected the ranking, saying the Ooni of Ife was a son of the Oba of Benin and that the Oba of Benin stool has no relationship with the Yoruba race.
The Esogban added: “We wanted to discard this report as something that was not necessary at all. We do not see how the Alake of Egbaland suddenly woke up to think that the Oba of Benin is also a Yoruba Oba.
“There is no basis for such classification; Oba of Benin has nothing to do with the Yoruba Obas. It is simply unnecessary, unless they simply want to stir up an unnecessary controversy.
“We are not in Yorubaland. To be frank, it is because many of them are not willing to come up with the truth, the word Oba is alien to Yoruba monarchy; it is not part of their title from time immemorial.
“For instance, the one they call the Oba of Lagos, these are recent adaptations. In the 50s, there was no Oba of Lagos, what we had was the Eleko of Eko. That is the title of the King there. In Ibadan, you have the Olu Ibadan. You come to Abeokuta, you have the Alake of Egba land. You come to Oyo, you have the Alaafin of Oyo. In Ilesha, you have the Owa-Obokun of IIesha. So no Yoruba monarch had as part of his titles the word Oba except the Oba of Benin.
“That word Oba is indigenous to Benin. It is only in recent times you find everybody bearing Oba. When the Western Regional conference of traditional rulers took place in Benin City in 1942, go and check the attendance, there was no other monarch in the whole of the Western Region then that bore the title of Oba, except the Oba of Benin.
“So it is an unnecessary excursion, an unnecessary attempt to turn history upside down by the Alake by classifying the Oba of Benin as third in the hierarchy of kings.
“Our own traditional history says that the Ooni of Ife was a Benin Prince who wandered from here to Ife, settled there and became the ruler there. That is the position, if they don’t know, they should send people here; we will teach them.
“We will show them landmarks. So this is unnecessary misrepresentation of history. Maybe the Alake wanted to mention a different place and not Benin.
“The monarchical rulership in this part of the world started from Benin during the era of the Ogisos. It was the son of the last Ogiso, Owodo, that wandered from here to Ife and he became a ruler there, carrying everything about the Benin monarchical system to that place. There is no basis for such classification.
“The Ooni of Ife, by historical facts, is a son of the Oba of Benin, so they are not in the same class. The Oba of Benin is the only one that answers Oba, the rest don’t. But today, we hear Oba here and there, they are all recent adaptations. I am saying categorically that the word Oba is indigenous to Benin and not to Yoruba nation.”