By Simon Ebegbulem, Benin-City
Benin Kingdom has been the center of attraction in the past two weeks after the Crown Prince, Prince (Amb) Ehenede Erediauwa, commenced his journey to the throne. The Crown Prince will become the 39th Oba of Benin Kingdom after the grand finale of the events scheduled to hold on Thursday at the traditional Urho-Okpota ground. Since the commencement of the events lined up for the coronation, the ancient city of Benin has taken a new look, with colourful pictures of the Oba-designate erected at the popular King Square, Airport Road among other parts of the city.
Meanwhile, contrary to the belief that the Crown Prince, who is well travelled and educated, may shelve some of the rituals slated for his ascension to the throne, he chose to fulfil all the rituals as they were done by his fore fathers, removing nothing. Infact, that has attracted thousands of Edo sons and daughters, from home and abroad, to witness the epoch making ceremonies. As the Crown Prince moved from one place to the other, you could see the uniqueness of the Benin Kingdom, as no fewer than 10,000 persons, including Benin chiefs, cultural groups, foreigners, youths, residents of the kingdom followed him with excitement.
Governor Adams Oshiomhole and the governor-elect of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, led other leaders of the All Progressives Congress, APC, last week, including the state Chairman of the party, Anslem Ojezua, Chief of Staff to the Governor, Patrick Obahiagbon (Igodomigodo) and Rasaq Bello Osagie to pay homage to the Oba in the making.
The Edaiken began the journey to the throne, penultimate Saturday, with a foot procession, escorted by Uselu people, after he left Eguae Edaiken (Uselu) for Oredo.
He trekked a distance of about 10 kilometers from his temporary palace at Uselu to Eko-Ohae (bachelors camp) to Oredo Local Government Area. But while on his way to Oredo where Oredo chiefs took charge of his movement, the Edaiken stopped at the sacred Eguae Palm Tree which is called Udin Amamieson-Aimiuwa and aged about 500 years. The tree was first climbed by Oba Ewuare in the 15th century and some offerings were offered before the Crown Prince proceeded on his coronation journey. Commercial activities were paralysed along the routes he trekked through, mainly Benin-Lagos Road and Lagos Street.
That same day, he arrived at Iya-akpan, the present day Five-Junction where Uselu chiefs took leave of him and Oredo chiefs took over.
It was chiefs from Benin that escorted the Crown Prince to Benin-City. That same day at about 6:30pm, the Crown Prince arrived Eko-Ohae in Oredo, where he spent three days while private ceremonies were conducted.
Various cultural troupes, like the Iten Edo Theatre Group, Benin Royal Dynasty Trust Dance moved with the crowd to entertain them. On Tuesday, the Edaiken leaves Eko-Ohae for Usama palace where the coronation rituals continue. The coronation rituals will take place at the Uzama palace which was first built and lived in by Prince Oranmiyan. It was Oba Ewedo that moved the Oba palace to its present location. A makeshift building was erected at the Uzama palace ground and workers were seen maintaining the road leading to the Uzama palace.
The ancient road, known as ‘Odeoba’ (Oba’s Road), which the Crown Prince walked through was fixed also. The Crown Prince also walked through Oba Market Road, Ebo Street and Odeoba to Usama palace. Motorists and pedestrians have been barred from driving or walking on Ebo Street. Some chiefs, in red attires, were seen on the road preventing people from passing through.
The coronation ceremonies also climax on Tuesday when the Crown Prince, who will remain in Usama palace until the Thursday coronation date, will head to Use village where he will choose a name he wants to be addressed as king. The moment he picks his name for the throne, he stops answering Ehenede Erediauwa. After picking the name, Edaiken returns to Usama to prepare for the D-Day which is Thursday. He is expected to take a good rest on Wednesday and, on Thursday, he passes through Isekherhe to Urho-Okpota, where the coronation will take place.
Urho-Okpota ground, located at Ring Road, the heart of the ancient Benin City, has been condoned off following on-going work ahead of the grand finale of the coronation. The ground is wearing a new look. Traders have vacated the area. The hall which is known for hosting great traditional and political events is located adjacent the Oba Market. The ground has been venue for the crowning of every Oba of Benin, and that is the reason most politicians in the state who are either aspiring to be governor or running for any political position scramble for space in the hall for the declaration of their political intentions.
It is generally believed in the kingdom that the gods of Benin will always grant success to any politician who declares his intention at the traditional Urho-Okpota hall. It is a ground for the making of kings. That ground, even as small as it is, will play host to President Muhammadu Buhari and other world leaders who will witness the coronation on Thursday.
Throughout the coronation period, burial rites in Benin have been prohibited. And since the commencement of the rituals, all commercial activities around the Eko-Ohae and Urho-Okpota have been banned. When you enter Benin, you don’t need to be told that a new king will soon emerge because you can feel it.
The Aiyobahan of Benin Kingdom, Chief Osamede Adun, who has been following the events so far, 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.
“I was about 29 years old then when Erediauwa was crowned. I was not a palace chief at that time. It was how they did it then, that is what is taking place now. Today, I am the happiest person. Back then, I was watching from among 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 near my Oba,”Adun stated.
He described the Crown Prince as a man who abhors lies and derives pleasure in the truth. “Edaiken himself, as 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 my fellow chiefs, if you are talking with our king, give him the true picture of things and when he later finds out that you are telling him lies, he will never be happy with you”.
Chief Ada Igbinovia, the Edosomwan of Benin Kingdom, said those who are witnessing the coronation ceremonies should count themselves very lucky as it was a rare experience in one’s life time.
A chief, who claimed to have witnessed the coronation of Oba Akenzua, Chief Osarobo Orue, the Oba Iyekeagbon of Benin Kingdom, said the reign of the new Oba of Benin would consolidate the peace being enjoyed in the kingdom. “This is the third time I am witnessing the coronation of Oba 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”, he said. Chief Egharevba Igbinehi, the Ohanwan of Benin, said his forefather was among the chiefs that came with Prince Oranmiyan from Uhe (Ife). He said his function is to pray for the Oba before he begins any ceremony.