An historic event will happened in the land of the Igodomigodo today. The ancient Benin Kingdom, which used to be called Igodomigodo, will have a new Oba. The Crown Prince of the kingdom, Prince Eheneden Erediauwa, will be crowned the 39th Oba of Benin in a colourful ceremony.
Benin Kingdom is as old as the beginning of the times, according to oral tradition. It is believed that the ladder used by Igodomigodo to climb down from the sky is still at Ugbekun, the community from where the Ogiso (Sky kings) ruled. The headquarters of the kingdom, which was fortified by the Moat, was described as a city more beautiful than Lisbon by the D’Aviera, the first Portuguese who visited Benin City. D’Aviera died and as buried in Benin. The well paved streets, such as Sokponba, Akpakpava, Mission Road, Plymouth Road, Sapele Road, are still in use in the ancient city.
In preparation for the coronation ceremony, the city centre and major streets are wearing a new look. The new palace, which was built by Prince Erediauwa, is an architectural masterpiece. For the first time in over 900 years, the palace ground is being landscaped. Lights are placed in strategic places around the palace to give it a magnificent look.
From Wednesday night, all the major roads to the city centre were condoned off. The Oba Ovoranmwen Square was closed to traffic. All commercial activities around the Oba Ovoranmwen Square have been prohibited while posters and banners of Prince Erediauwa adorned the streets.
Already, Prince Erediauwa has played the Akhue game at the Ediaken N’Use Palace and chosen the name he will answer as the Oba. The name will be unveiled today at the presentation of the Staff of Office by Governor Adams Oshiomhole. Once the name is revealed, his children will also stop suing Erediauwa in their names.
The journey to the throne began in May when the Crown Prince trekked from Benin to Uselu in Egor Local Government Area after he completed the rites and rituals to get the title of Edaiken N’Uselu. It was while he was at Uselu he performed the funeral rites of his father, Oba Erediauwa, whose transition was announced in April.
After the completion of the funeral rites, Prince Erediauwa began the return trip to Benin, to ascend the throne of his ancestors.
The joy of witnessing the coronation of a new Oba is that no one knows who will witness the next ceremony. The significance of the coronation ceremonies is that many shrines in various communities become known to the residents.
Among the rites and rituals performed by Prince Erediauwa on his way to the throne are the symbolic climbing of a sacred palm tree, known as Udin Amamieson Amieuwa (Suffer before pleasure) and the symbolic wrestling with the Chief Priest of Okhuaihe Shrine, Osarodion Usuanlele, the Ohen N’Ukoni Neyedo at Evbuekoi in Uhunwode Local Government Area. Both men will never set eyes on each other again.
Prince Erediauwa has also visited some shrines in some villages where he will be forbidden to enter again once he is crowned. Some of them are at Urhonigbe, Ikhibi and Ughoton, among others.
What thrilled visitors and residents in Edo State was the uniqueness of the events, ceremonies and rituals, which were done the ways they were done since the 11th century. For instance, during the trekking of Prince Erediauwa, residents were told to remove their caps and head-ties. Residents were also told not to climb anything or stand upstairs to see the Oba.
At Use, where the Crown Prince played the Akhue game, residents suspended all activities to welcome him. They wept and danced after he successfully played the game.
The performance of Ekassa Dance by Ogbelaka, which was supported by Eguadase, added colour to the event. Ekassa is a mystic dance that was first performed during the reign of Oba Esigie in commemoration of his mother, Queen Idia, in the 15th century. The mystical dance is meant to cleanse the land of evils. It places curses on the Oba’s enemies.
It is performed only at funeral obsequies of monarchs and during the installation of a new Oba. Only men and boys who have been purified spiritually are allowed to perform the dance.
To some palace chiefs, it was an honour to witness the coronation of a new Oba. Chief Osamede Adun, the Aiyobahan of Benin Kingdom, said he was 25 years old when the late Oba Erediauwa was crowned in 1979 and that he stood among the crowd to watch the procession and coronation.
He said: “I was about 29 years old then when Erediauwa was crowned. I was not a palace chief then. It was how they did it then; that is what is taking place now.
“Today, I am the happiest person. Back then, I was looking from the crowd. But today, I am a top palace chief. Where I can get to now, you cannot reach there. I am very happy to be near my Oba.”
Chief Adun described the Crown Prince as a man who abhors lies and embraces the truth.
He said: “Edaiken himself, as a king, does not like lies. If you want to be closer or be his friend, tell him the truth. And once he finds out that you are not truthful, he will not be happy with you. I am advising all my fellow chiefs, if you are talking with our king, give him the true picture of things. But if he later finds out that you told him lies, he will never be happy with you.”
Chief Ada Igbinovia, the Edosomwan of Benin Kingdom, said those who witnessing today’s coronation ceremony should count themselves lucky because of its uniqueness.
Chief Osarobo Orue, the Oba Iyekeagbon of Benin Kingdom, who claimed to have witnessed the coronation of Oba Akenzua, prayed that the reign of the new Oba of Benin would bring peace than his predecessors.
He said: “This is the third time I am witnessing the coronation of Obas of Benin. I witnessed the coronation of Oba Akenzua, Oba Erediauwa and that of Edaiken N’Usele. I will join in the trekking. I am 100 years old now.”
Chief Egharevba Igbinehi, the Ohanwan of Benin, said his forefathers were among those who came with Prince Oranmiyan from Uhe (Ife).
He said his function was to pray for the Oba before he begins any ceremony.
Prince Erediauwa will be crowned at a private ceremony inside the Usama Palace by the Usama N’ Ihiron, also known as Edion, led by Chief Oliha. It is Chief Oliha who will pronounce the name of the Oba.
Prince Erediauwa is expected to cross River Omiteghele with the assistance of Chief Isekhere. The river has dried but a bridge will be built while Isekhere will hold a paddle as he leads the Oba across the bridge.
It is from there the Oba will go to Urhokpota where he will be presented to the people and his name made public.