By Simon Ebegbulem
BENIN—FRESH tension is brewing between the Yoruba and the Benin Traditional Council, as the Esogban of Benin Kingdom, Chief David Edebiri, described as absolute falsehood and provocative, the claim by the Oore of Mobaland, Oba James Adedapo Popoola, that until 1914, Benin Obas were buried in IIe-Ife.
He also described as untenable, the claim by Oba Popoola that the Oba of Benin is number four in the cadre of Yoruba kings.
The Esogban was reacting to an interview granted by Oba Popoola to a national newspaper (not Vanguard).
Speaking to Vanguard in Benin City, Chief Edebiri, who is also the Odionwere of Benin Kingdom, said the position of Oba Popoola was misleading and must not be taken seriously.
According to him: “It is absolute falsehood to say that Benin Obas were taken to Ile- Ife for burial. It never happened in our history. The precursor of this present dynasty, Oranmiyan, who came from Ife as requested by the Benin people, went back alive when he felt that he could not cope with the politics of Benin. He went back to Ife. Maybe, he was the one who died there and was buried and they now claim that Benin Obas were buried in Ife. I think that is where the notion came from.
The Oba that came after Oraminyan, Eweka I, died and was buried here according to Benin traditional rites, within the palace environment. No Bini man can claim to know where the kings are buried. The two successive obas, the children of Eweka 1, both of them ruled within a space of two years, they died and they were buried here.
“So, I pity the Kabiyesi because in the first place, according to him, he is now 17 years on the throne. Maybe, he wants relevance and to be able to do that, he made his wild claims. But what surprises me is, why drag Benin into their problems? If he wanted relevance in his area he should not bring Benin into it. These two Obas in quick succession ruled in Benin and were not taken to Ife.
“One can only imagine what it entailed at that time to carry a corpse from Benin to Ife for burial. What was the method of preservation, what was the method of transportation of the remains being carried to Ife and that was done each time an Oba here joined his ancestors? It is not true at all, absolutely untrue. What I want to advise these people is, in the history of a people, you have history and you have fable and you have folklore. It is possible this is one of their fables which has no sanctity of historical facts.
“So, to bring what I am saying vividly, the most prominent Benin king that everybody knows about is Ewuare I. I will tell you what the doyen of Benin history, Late Dr Jacob Egharevba, recorded about his death and burial that was in 1440. In the short history of Benin by Dr J.U Egharevba, page 17 says: “Ewuare died after a long reign and was buried at Esi, near Udo” Udo is in Ovia West Local Government Area, “as commanded before his death.”
“This was the oba who commanded that if he died because he was sick, they should not bury him in Benin City, they should take him to Esi, his own mother’s village, to bury. Up-till this time, we are talking, the burial place is preserved, and every Oba who wants to ascend the throne in Benin must go there to perform certain ceremonies. The ascension of Oba Ewuare II was not exempted from this. So, that tells you that there is no iota of truth in the issue. It is a mere figment of their imagination. It is not true. Many of the Yoruba kings today are products of the royal family of Benin. Their lines were begun by Benin people from here but we have never said they should bring their corpses to us.
“In Benin, it is a taboo to bring the corpse of your son to you. If it is true, as claimed by the Ooni of Ife who is the father of Oranmiyan which we do not dispute, and Oranmiyan did not stay here in Benin till his death, he went back to Ife, why should he wait for his grand children’s corpse to be brought to him each time any of them passesd on here?
“There is no sense in it that you just sit down somewhere in Ife waiting for the corpses of your grandchildren to be brought to you. What do you do with it? So you can see that there is no sense in that” he stated.
On the claim that the Oba of Benin was the fourth in the cadre of Yoruba kings, Chief Edebiri said: “This is an oba I am hearing of for the first time and I am sure many people who read that story, would have come across that news for the first time. All the cock and bull stories that he told in that interview that he is the announcer of the passage of Ooni of Ife, well that suits him, if his duty is to announce the passage of another king.
“He cannot claim to be number four in Yoruba land because that is in direct conflict with what the Alake of Egbaland was saying a few months ago. The political connection we had with them, we successfully severed the connection in 1963 when we had the plebiscite that created Midwest Region.
So, we have nothing to do with their classification, they can go on with whatever they think they are. The Oba of Benin cannot be classified with any of them. Maybe it is not generally known that some of the most progressive kingdoms in the Yorubaland have kings who have direct connection with the royal family of Benin. Maybe they do not even know.”