Oba of Benin: A City’s Mourners’ Basket Full of Tears
By John Mayaki
They broke down in tears uncontrollably, palace chiefs. They grieved, and wept just as children, when news filtered in on the demise of Oba Erediauwa, the Omo N Oba N Edo, Uku Akpolokpolo, the Oba of Benin.
I mean mourners dressed gorgeously in traditional regalias joined by President Muhammadu Buhari, Governor Adams Oshiomhole among others whose tears literally filled a basket.
When men and women place their hands on their heads, it simply means the unexpected has happened! This was the scene on Friday at the City palace where audience gathered with sour-tasted mouths.
Over there, you could see Captain Hosa Okunbor conspicuously at the palace shedding tears. A former member representing Oredo in the House of Representatives, Razaq Bello-Osagie did not miss out amongst the City’s mourners’. Chief David Edebiri, the Esogban of Benin Kingdom, former Head of Service, Princess Ekiuwa Inneh, amongst others were also sighted with expressions of disbelief.
At the various market squares in the modernised-ancient city was another spectacular way to mourn. In a jiffy, the shops were deserted, as shoppers took to their heels and the entire inhabitants wore mournful looks altogether.
The morning after, Saturday precisely, male mourners besieged available salon shops to shave their heads according to tradition as burial ceremonies were embargoed. Chiefs of the kingdom were ordered to wear a single bead as a sign of mourning.
The Iyase of Benin Kingdom, Chief Sam Igbe and the Esogban of the Kingdom Chief David Edebiri broke the news, first to the Crown Prince, Prince Eheneden Erediauwa, the Edaiken N’Uselu, at the Oba’s palace at about 1.20pm.
The Crown Prince, soon after arriving the palace, had gone to the Iwebo Oba, accompanied by palace chiefs, where Chief Igbe briefed him and the Royal family on the situation.
Next to be briefed were the Chiefs, Enigies, Igiohen, Edionwere, market women leaders Princes and Princesses of the kingdom who had been invited to the palace for a meeting 24 hours earlier by the Secretary to the Benin Traditional Council, Frank Irabor.
Irabor, in the invitation letter which was widely circulated on Thursday did not disclose the agenda of the meeting.
Igbe, in announcing the Oba’s transition, broke a white native chalk at the main gate of the palace.
He said:”Osorhue Bunrun. Oba Erediauwa of Benin Kingdom, the Prince of Peace, Ebo, Ayemwirhe, Emini Mini Mini, has reunited with his ancestors. May his soul find perfect peace with God.”
The above announcement triggered tears from from mourners and it was President Muhammadu Buhari that was first among the roll call.
He received the news with sadness and an immense feeling of great national loss.
He did not only on behalf of the Federal Government, extended condolences to Governor Adams Oshiomhole, the people of Benin Kingdom and Edo State on the passage of the beloved monarch, he equally extended special commiserations to Crown Prince Eheneden Erediauwa and other members of the late Oba’s immediate family.
He also prayed that God will grant Crown Prince Erediauwa the wisdom and courage he will require to build on the laudable legacies of Oba Erediauwa.
He assured them of the fullest sympathy and solidarity of the Federal Government and all Nigerians as they mourn Oba Erediauwa, who he said will always be remembered as one of the most outstanding traditional rulers of his era.
President Buhari said his place of honour in the history of the Benin Kingdom and Nigeria has been assured by his long and highly successful career as a public servant, administrator and chief custodian of the much-celebrated culture and traditions of his people.
A tearful Oshiomhole developed a heavy heart when the news reached him. He battled to withhold tears with heart laden with pains and grief to no avail.
But a former Vice President consoled him.
It was Atiku Abubakar who called on the people of Benin kingdom, the people and Government of Edo State and all Nigerians to take heart at the passing on of this illustrious royal personage, adding that with the remarkable life he lived, the place of the Oba in Benin and Nigeria history is assured.
He described the late Oba Erediauwa of Benin as an exceptional leader who spared no efforts in protecting the tradition and values of his people.
Atiku said the late Benin monarch radiated royalty, majesty, wisdom, intelligence and nationalism even as he spared no effort in protecting the traditions and values of his people.
According to him, the passing on of the monarch comes at a critical time when the country is facing numerous challenges of nation-building and would miss his wise counsel sorely.
The former Vice President also extends his condolences to the Benin royal family and calls on all its members to take heart and honour the memory of the late Oba by working for peace, which was a cardinal pursuit of the monarch during his lifetime.
Among the list of mourners was Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, who described the late Oba of Benin as a committed nationalist and traditional ruler par excellence, whose reign brought tremendous progress to Benin Kingdom in particular and Edo State in general.
Tambuwal said the deceased monarch lived a life of service for his people and the nation at large.
“Oba Erediauwa has written his name in gold, through his invaluable contributions to the growth and development of the nation’s socio-economy, as well as his globally acknowledged views on governance, public policy, history and leadership.
“He was an accomplished Nigerian and a seasoned bureaucrat whose ideals will be cherished for a long time by succeeding generation of Nigerians,”
It was at this juncture we saw Patrick Obahiagbon running down from the hills to console with a heavily loaded bag on his head full of books; He delivered a tribute that left us with no option than to prepare for the rites and installation of a successor.
The Chief of Staff to Edo State Governor said, “You cannot gloss over the fact that Omo N’ Oba Erediauwa, Oba of Benin, was a man of impeccable and unimpeachable integrity with the resilience of a Royal salamander. In him you found a coruscating display of that apothegm which holds that noblesse oblige.
“This sui generis quintessential quality of his came under bold relief especially during the locust and philistine years of the military militocracy.
“He was practically the only triton among the minnows of Royal hierarchs that resisted and stood up to the military rascality and apacheism that characterized the Abacha era.
“He stood at all times with the people, eyeballing political and military demagogues and damning their treacherous hooey and blarneys.
“It won’t be erroneous and superfluous therefore to pontificate that his integrity was altruistically integrious if you permit me that neologism.
“Omo N’ Oba EREDIAUWA, Oba of Benin was a cornucopious emblematization of the rich heritage of the Benin culture both in his modus vivendi and modus operandi.
“He left no one in doubt that he was the spiritual and traditional agglutinating anodyne that offers a centripetal canopy for the Benin ethnic nationality into one harmonious and synchronized armada and of particular interest to me here was how he was able to bring this about especially against the backdrop of modernism and attenuating cum corrosive forces of religious petulancy and perfervidism.
“Its in his cosmopolitan and cerebral mien that is situated the Alladins lamp that gave him the enablement in striking a delicate equipoise and hence at a meeting of the ‘Benin Anglican Dioscesan Synod on June 3,1980, the revered monarch posited thus ….’The conflict between traditional religion and Christian religion is not supported by scriptural teaching.
“But must Christian religion condemn and push out the traditional? Must traditional worship and Christian worship not be seen as complimentary?’
After mourning comes the installation of a successor which is primogeniture.
Late Oba Erediauwa will be succeeded by his son, Crown Prince Eheneden Erediauwa, the Edaiken N’ Uselu. Prince Eheneden served as an Ambassador to several countries until he was recalled back home.
After performing various rites, he was formally installed as the Edaiken N’ Uselu in March and has since relocated to a temporary abode at Uselu.
Prince Erediauwa is now expected to begin the coronation rites, which may last more than 10 days.
On his way back to Benin to ascend the throne, he would be escorted by his Uselu kindred to Benin City, and on his way, he would stop at an historical palm tree named “Udin ama-mieson aimiuwa” (the palm tree first climbed by Oba Ewaure in the 15th century)
The Edaiken will enter Benin City through Iguisi, now Lagos Street, and proceed to Eko-Ohae (bachelors’ camp) where he will stay for three days.
From there, the Edaiken will move to Usama, venue of the traditional coronation rites. Usama was the first palace where Prince Orominyan lived until Oba Ewedo moved the palace to the present site in the 13th century.