By SIMON EBEGBULEM, BENIN CITY
The Benin Traditional Council, on Monday, announced the funeral rites for the Benin monarch, Oba Erediauwa, who joined his ancestors. It listed the funeral rites as Ekioba, Ekenaka, Agbado Eken. The rites, according to tradition, are carried out by the Edaiken N’Uselu, Crown Prince Ehenede Erediauwa, and within the 15 days of the exercise, all funeral ceremonies are prohibited. In this interview, Prince Solomon Ebuwa, the Chairman of the Assembly of Benin Aborigines World Wide and a former National Coordinator of the Great Benin Centenary, explains the rituals in the kingdom just as he debunks the insinuation that human beings are used for sacrifice.
Can you tell us about the aborigines and the on-going rituals in Benin Kingdom following the announcement that the king has joined his ancestors?
The Assembly is an umbrella body for all the Binis that migrated from this kingdom to other parts of the country. For example, if you go to Delta State, you find the Isoko and the Itsekiri who migrated from Benin. If you go to Akoko Edo, they migrated from Benin; we have many ethnic groups like that. We now look at the possibility of uniting our people. People who were referring to us as minority are making a mistake, we are majority people. This Assembly is a big umbrella that provides shade for every person that falls within this concept.
Talking about traditional rites, let me tell you that our Oba is not dead, he only joined his ancestors. Of course you witnessed the official announcement made by the Iyase of Benin, informing Edo people that the Oba has joined his ancestors. That is the first process. All that is going on now is internal affair of the palace; after that, another programme will be out to inform everybody about the coronation. The coronation will not come until after some rituals are completed. Yes, the new king is already known, it is always like that because, in Benin history, the ascending the throne of the Oba is from father to the first son. After the Ogiso era that transformed into the Obaship era, you found that His Royal Majesty Oba Erediauwa was the 38th Oba of Benin. You can then look at how many years this throne has been in existence. The Oba that joined his ancestors was on the throne for 37 years. Some Oba may have spent 40-50 years each on the throne, so you can imagine the many years this process has been on. Nobody can change the Obaship now it has been established by the authorities of the kingdom and the ancestors. Erediauwa was a great Oba, the Benin people across the globe are yearning for a greater Oba to come and we have seen that quality in the Crown Prince. In Benin you pray that your son will be greater than you. And His Royal Highness the Edaiken N’Uselu possesses those qualities. Because of that, the Assembly of Benin Aborigines is calling on every Benin son and daughter across the globe to extend maximum support and cooperation to the king in the making. The Almighty God has made him to be the next king of Benin Kingdom and so shall it be.
But what is this issue with the Ogiamien family who are saying they have their own kingdom? Besides it is said that any Benin king must have mock battle with the Ogiamien?
The period the Obaship started is so many years ago and this kingdom has never had a deputy Oba or acting Oba. Oba is Oba. The processes that have been on all these years, no individual or group can change them. All the processes of becoming an Oba are well known to the Binis, so for any group or persons or individuals to think of revisiting the processes of coronation will be resisted. If you look at our history very closely, the Oba appoint all title holders. No one of them can come and rise against the authority of the Oba because they are subjects of the Oba. There is only one kingdom in Benin. And this issue of mock battle, with Ogiamien is just for our children to understand the history of Benin Kingdom.
When a new king emerges, he develops his own style of administration but he will never destroy the ones his fore fathers may have put in place. But any of the processes can be altered if it becomes an issue. When Oba Erediauwa was coming as king of Benin, he told our people that he will follow everything that needed to be done in the process of becoming king.
He said he will not change anything. But a new Oba may come now and say in this modern era he wants to embark on reforms; there is nothing bad about that. I also recall that when Oba Erediauwa was performing some rites for his father, when the news broke, people were running away from Benin. They were afraid that they may be used for sacrifice and the Force Headquarters had to come to the palace to make enquiries and the Oba told officers that came that there was nothing like that.
What is the position of the Aborigines on the Edo 2016 governorship race?
We are looking towards having a united state and people. Our stand is that there should be free and fair primaries by all the parties, and whoever emerges is our candidate. It is not the duty of the Benin Aborigines to go to the Electoral College to select who will be the flag bearer.
All these people involved are our people, so we don’t take sides. We are not partisan but we believe our people will elect capable hands that will take over from Oshiomhole who has done very well for the state. Meanwhile, we are not happy about the incident at Auchi where the deputy governor’s campaign train was attacked. The Assembly abhors violence in this campaign. We appeal to the contenders to see the election as not a do or die affair.