Posted by Nelson Dafe, Benin City | 7 May 2016 | 4,475 times
The Oba Market in Benin City is wearing a deserted look. It is the traditional main market of the Benin Kingdom. Edo males steeped in tradition have shaved their hairs and every Edo man, woman (and children old enough to know some bits about the Bini tradition) are mourning the passing of their king.
The departed king, known as Omo n’Oba n’Edo Ukuakpolokpolo, Oba Erediuwa, continues to be remembered with fondness by his people as a man whose reign was marked by peace. He’s credited for facilitating peace in his kingdom through his well-cultivated nature.
“During his reign there was no inter-tribal war. Benin City and other parts of the kingdom were very welcoming for all non-Edos,” an Edo man told News Express.
The reign of Oba Erediuwa was not without some trying times for the Benin monarchy, though. It was during the period of his kingship in the mid-1980s that one of Nigeria’s most famous armed robbers Lawrence Anini and his gang terrorised southern Nigeria from their Benin City base until he was caught and killed in 1987.
The Oba also had a running battle with Benin City’s most popular chief, The Esama of Benin, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion. The height of their quarrels came in 1991 when the monarch tracked to court after he was taken to the post-election tribunal following the Esama’s accusations that the Oba unduly influenced the victory of (now All Progressives Congress chairman) John Oyegun over his son Gabriel Igninedion.
Through all of these crises, the Oba still maintained an image of a quintessential and educated ruler, who refused to invoke the gods to deal decisively with those who annoyed him.
“There were things he endured from his subjects that other much stricter Obas would not have. They would have sworn against a lot of their perceived enemies and invoked the gods to finish them off. But this Oba never did that. His goodness is one of the reasons why he lived long and reigned as king for long,” another Benin man said.
While the departed Oba Erediuwa was modern in his ideas, he maintained a conservative style in terms of how traditional institutional structures were maintained. According to some, if there are observable differences between the out-gone king and his successor son, The Edaiken of Uselu, Prince Ehenede Erediuwa, then it is already perceivable in this area.
A trip to the palace of the Oba at the centre of Benin City and other traditional grounds around the Edo Kingdom would reveal massive renovations going on. A local resident said: “Traditional sites that were seen as anachronistic and untouchable have been cleared up or renovated. The new king surely wants his palace and other traditional grounds to have a modern look. He’s a modern man in taste and style. He’s the king of enjoyment.”
Prince Eheneden sometimes spots a dark shade that makes him not out of place as a movie star. His background, though, has been very much in the field of diplomacy as he has been Nigeria’s ambassador to several Western countries.
Edo people will hope that the new king brings his diplomatic experience to bear in his traditional administration of one of the world’s most popular kingdoms.
•Photo shows soon-to-be-crowned King of Benin Kingdom, Prince Eheneden.
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