The Benin Kingdom

Uku Akpolokpolo, Erediauwa, C.F.R. OBA OF BENIN

Oba of Benin
The Oba of Benin, OmoN'Oba, N'Edo Uku Akpolokplolo is the king of Benin Kingdom. Oba Erediauwa, and the reigning Oba of Benin, is a leader with a charming personality and background.

Hence, a new Oba, groomed and well-equipped, steeped in the culture, norms and traditions of the old Benin Kingdom, but prepared for Nigeria of the 80s and beyond! The six-footer Oba was born in 1923, and he graduated with a B.A. (Tripos) in law at Kings College, Cambridge, England. Prior to his ascension to the throne, he served in several top Federal (national) public service positions in different parts of Nigeria such as Lagos, Enugu, and Ahoada.

Oba Erediauwa was crowned on March 23, 1979, as the 38th Oba of Benin. Oba Erediauwa, like his father Oba Akenzua II, and his grandfather Oba Eweka II, ascended the throne of the Benin Kingdom in the throes of impending and profound political changes and re-orientation in Nigeria.

Oba Erediauwa's era has witnessed tremendous intellectual, cultural, social, and economic growth. Dynamism is one of his chief assets because he has succeeded in maintaining and improving the role of the Edo monarchy in the face of massive modernization onslaughts from varied sources. His mother, Iyoba ne ovbiErua, is alive and dwells in her palace at Lower Uselu. As crowned prince, he was Prince Solomon Aisiokhuoba Igbinoghodua Akenzua but he was crowned as Oba Erediauwa. It was part of the rites of ascendancy to the revered Benin throne that he got the title "Erediauwa," interpreted to symbolically to mean "one who has come to put the house or society in order."

The OmoN'Oba is seen as a quintessential icon of royalty and splendour. During the 30+ years of his charismatic reign, the Benin kingdom has remained unified, peaceful and has witnessed expansion. This is attributed to his large and stately personality and the handling of issues before him with a rarity of wisdom.

He modernized the palace courtyard and created many Enigie (chiefs) to help administer various parts of the kingdom. He is one of the most revered African monarchs. As an author, his high educational background has helped bring to light the correct history of Edo people and the ancient Benin Empire- one of Africa's oldest kingdoms.

About the Benin Kingdom

The land now known as Edo state-with Benin City as its capital-has a long history of civilization. Historians and researchers trace its existence to as far back as prehistoric times, as a well-organized unified-community, under a very formidable monarchial authority called 'Ogiso'. The community was run by a versatile government machinery with legislative, executive and judiciary arms. There were also some form of checks and balances that were quite democratic in nature.

The inhabitants were called Igodomigodo- Benins or Edos. As Prince E. Eweka put it "No one is really certain about the origin of the Edo people, whose origin appears to have been lost in myths and legends of the distant past". What is very certain is that Edo Civilization is well over 6000 years according to scientific evidence. And before the first ancient inhabitants of Edo land were unified under the monarchial authority of Ogiso, the Igodomigodos {Edos} {Binis} governed themselves through the ancient system of seIf governance called Owere {community elders}. The oldest male person in the community who is also the senior amongst the Oweres is automatically installed as Odionwere {senior among the community elders}. Odionwere and Owere managed the day-to-day affair of their various communities. This system is still practiced in Edo-land to this day.

Benin City was the seat of the government of the ancient Benin Empire one of the most powerful African Empires during 15th 16th century. Its authority and influence spread as far as to the coast of Benin republic, the Niger delta, the North West of Niger river and to Onitsha in the east. When Benin City was invaded and eventually fell to British forces in 1897, Edo land was placed under the jurisdiction of the British southern protectorate.

The fall of Benin Empire was an event the British colonial power had always hoped for, it gave them the opportunity to stretch their Empire into West Africa hinterland. With Benin Empire out of their way, a country called Nigeria was born with the amalgamation of southern protectorate and the Northern protectorate in 1914 under the British colonial conqueror - Sir Frederick Lugard.

When Nigeria gained her independence in 1960 three regions were in existence: the Northern region, Eastern region and western region, under whose jurisdiction Edo land was placed. The Western Region was dominated by the Yoruba ethnic-linguistic group with the Benin and Delta [Bendel] people sharing a common origin, cultures, religious worships, and ancestors traceable to the ancient Benin Empire as minorities. This historical tie and common roots and identity between Benin and Delta, was transformed into a political consciousness that crystallized into a geo-political umbrella movement. Consequently a powerful lobby group head by the late Oba Akenzua II was formed, which lobbied vigorously for the creation of a separate region for Benin and Delta people [Bendel]. This idea of a separate region did not find favour with the western regional government, but after much political and constitutional debate, a referendum was eventually held on July 27, 1963. The result was massive and an overwhelmingly 87% of the qualified voters backed the proposition of a separate region for the Benin and Delta people, 29% more than the statutory minimum. The Midwestern region act of 1962 was subsequently brought into force on August 9 1963 and a new region called Midwestern region was born and legally came into existence, with Benin City as its capital; constituting the fourth region of Nigeria. Dennis Osadebey was appointed administrator on August 9, 1963 and he eventually became the first premier of the Midwestern Region in February 1964.

When Nigeria was further restructured, from four regions to 12 states On May 27 1967, Midwestern region was change to Midwestern state but retained its original geographical boundaries. On February 3 1976 when Murtala Muhammad regime further subdivided Nigeria's states from 12 states to 19 states Midwestern state was change to Bendel state with some little adjustment in the geographical boundaries and minor cession of some riverine areas to Rivers state .On August 27, 1992, two states were created out of Bendel state Edo state was one of them, which retained Benin City as its capital in preservation of the Midwestern region's historical perspectives.

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