AFRICANGLOBE – Many centuries ago, at the time when Benin was called Igodomingodo, that geographical area now known as Benin was the hub of a conglomeration of little towns that developed into most of the areas of modern Edo and Delta states in Nigeria.
Throughout that period, Igodomingodo made steady progress especially in the area of spiritual, philosophical and administrative development. Its efforts were largely concentrated on the arrangement of human order so that by the time Europeans made contact with the people of Benin in the 15th century, they had already established an administrative system which till this day baffled the Europeans and earned for the capital of this far flung African country, the appellation “City”. The nucleus of this great civilization was the monarchy which the Benins perfected around the 18th century after a series of experimentation with the Ogisos who introduced a monarchical system that is based on the principle of primogeniture.
The Owodo Era till now has made direct ascension and endured making the Benin Royal family one of the oldest families in Africa. It’s history spans more than 800 years. Benin City remains today as conservative as it ever was. Benin recognizes the fact that all living organisms including states and cities change. That changes has reduced to mere historical fact, the political influence Benin exercised over places such as Eko (Lagos) which she founded during the time of Oba Orhogbua at about 1550 A.D. Dahomey, Onitsha, Asaba, Agbor, Issele-uku, Warri, Idah etc.
Many of this towns actually owe their corporate existence to Benin. Since the interaction between African Kingdoms began around the14th century, Benin found herself in a unique geographic position by occupying mid-way between what the early Europeans referred to as the “Yoruba” and the “Ibo”. This proximity to the two areas no doubt broadened the outlook of the Binis in later years.
The Eastern and Western neighbours of Benin have exercised a considerable Influence on her socio-political life. The Influence of the Yoruba is more felt. This is so because after about 800 years of intercourse, both cultures had to complement each other. the Yoruba accepted the socio-political reforms introduced by the Benins.
The Ekaladerhan contact with the Yoruba had been a subject of controversy. He was said to be the son to the last Ogiso who was banished in the 12th century and wandered in the jungles for several years. Neither Ekaladerhan nor the people on whom he stumbled were aware of the existence of other people on earth than those that belonged to their Immediate environment. To the people, Ekaladerhan must be a forest god, especially as they discovered him in the jungle. He was a man who hunts and understood the habits of animals to an astonishing degree. These fact put mystique on his being and personality. In no distance time, Ekaladerhan who was banished by his own people had been accepted by a people who stumbled on him in the forest. He was brought into town where he married one of them and lived to old age.
When his father Owodo was banished for ordering the assassination of a pregnant woman, Evian was appointed administrator. He tried to appoint Ogiamen his son as his successor but his effort ended in a total fiasco as a result of the opposition he faced by the Benins, this led to disorderliness and anarchy.
A search party was then sent to look for the long banished prince and the trail Inevitably ended at Uhe where Ekaladerhan had established. Alas, he was a very old man. Even if he accept the delegation’s plea to return home, he was not physically capable of undertaking such a hazardous journey. He allowed his son Oranmiyan who had agreed to go with the delegation. Oranmiyan arrived around 1200AD. He fathered Eweka the first, Oba Erediauwa is the 38th king of the Edo by this direct line of succession from Eweka the first.
The history of Benin monarchy can be traced back to the Ogiso era in the 10th century. It is believed that there were thirty one of them before the arrival of prince Oranmiyan from Ife. The first Ogiso was Obagodo who handed in an effective system of administration, Owodo the last Ogiso was banished from the kingdom for misadministration. At the time of his banishement, Owodo has no successor because his only son and heir apparent, Ekaladerhan had earlier left for an unknown destination after having been secretly granted freedom by those sent by his father, Owodo to execute him as sacrifice to the gods to enable him have male children. History had it that Ekaladerhan founded Ughoton which was called IGUEKALADLADERHAN (The land of Ekaladerhan) It is believed that Ekaladerhan first settled at a place now called Ughoton after several months of wandering in the jungles.
Hunters from Benin stumbled on him in the forest and after their return to Benin, he packed up his tent and left because he was afraid that the hunters would tell of his existence and his father would give fresh order for his arrest and execution. As he feared, the hunters reported their discovery whereupon his father sent soldiers along with them to go and arrest him, But by the time they arrived, Ekaladerhan had gone! Afraid that Owodo would not believe that they did not meet him soldiers and hunters stayed put. It was they who, infact, founded Ughoton and named it after Ekaladerhan. His chance arrival at Uhe changed his fortunes. His adopted named, Izoduwa which means I have chosen the path to prospenity symbolic and has obvious reference to the story of his life just in the same way as Oronmiyan, the name of his eldest son.
It was the search for Ekaladerhan that took the Benins to Uhe, when he was located and his identity became known to the search party, Izoduwa refused to return with them because of his old-age. But after testing the sincerity of their intention, he sent one of his sons, Oronmiyan to accompany them to Benin, perhaps the nearest account of the antecedent of Oduduwa to the Benin oral tradition narrated here is the version written by T.A Osae and S.N Nwabara in “ A Short History of West Africa: A.D.1000-1800” that the name of the much revered legendary ancestral hero of the Yoruba is Oduduwa. He is portrayed in several variants of the legend as an eastern prince who driven out of his kingdom in the east, finally entered Nigeria after a long march with his followers”. When it is realized that Benin is to the east of Ife, the version of Benin Oral tradition is further strengthened by that account Irrespective of the divergence of the version of the account of of how Oronmiyan came to Benin, there are certain common facts namely, that Oronmiyan was the son of Izoduwa (Oduduwa) and the father of Eweka I. Ekaladerhan is said to be a tall handsome prince, endowed with great physical strength and an adept swordsman.
His sudden appearance among the Yoruba people of Uhe may well be an explanation for the mysticism surroundingthe personality of odusuwa of Ife, Ovonmiyan’s son, Eweka 1, became the Oba of Benin in about 1200 A.D. According to the Benin version, Eweka 1 therefore established no new dynasty. He was the great grand grand-son of the Benin monarch Ogiso Owodo. From Eweka 1 who ruled up to the middle half of the thirteeth century to Oba Erediauwa who is presently the reigning monarch, a total of thirty-eight Obas have ruled in Benin. In most cases, the period of each Oba witnessed self sacrifice, effective administration, innovation in the cultural pattern of the environment, territorial expansion and socio-economic development of the kingdom.
The history of the Kingdom of Benin cannot be accredited to one Oba that rules the kingdom but a collection of different Obas who at different times strengthened the kingdom through unparalled leadership style.
By: Ekuase Sunday