…Explains why Benin chiefs’ dressing resembles that of Catholic priests
…‘When you are praying to the Almighty God, you don’t need to shout’


BENIN-City was agog last week following the coronation anniversary of Oba Ewuare 11. Dignitaries from across the country and the Diaspora were on hand to witness the colourful ceremonies. Notable Edo State sons, including Governor Godwin Obaseki; his predecessor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole; deputy governor, Comrade Philip Shaibu; Secretary to the State Government, SSG, Osarodion Ogie; and business mogul, Captain Hosa Okunbor, honoured the monarch with their presence.

HRM Oba Ewuare II flanked by Oba of Lagos, HRM Rilwan Akiolu and other traditional rulers during the Gala Night to celebrate the Benin monarch’s 1st Coronation Anniversary.

The two weeks long programme of activities started with a musical performance on Tuesday, October 3 at the palace grounds with Ambassador Osayomore Joseph, the Ulele Power Sound exponent, taking the lead. Several policy statements were made by the Oba during the anniversary.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

For instance, on Thursday, October 12, the Benin Customary Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee was proclaimed by His Royal Majesty with a view to ensuring that those who have genuine cases get justice.

The monarch observed that the Palace Panel System in place before was not giving justice to the people as a result of which he decided to rejig it. A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the Oba, Desmond Agbama, said, “The Oba wants the people to have a sense of belonging and believes that when they bring their problems before the palace, they get justice. That is why he decided to abolish the former panel and set up the Benin Customary Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee (BCADRC). The committee is made up of erudite jurists and other personalities with proven records of achievement and integrity.

They include Hon. Justice Samson Uwaifo (ret), who is the Chairman; Prof.Gregory Akenzua, former Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council, Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma; Chief EdionweOliha, the Oliha of Benin; Hon. Justice Samuel Elaiho (ret), former judge of the High Court of Edo State; Hon. Justice Joseph Olubor (ret), former President of the Customary Court of Appeal; Mr. Daniel Inneh, former Secretary to the Oba of Benin and a retired Permanent Secretary, Edo State Government; Chief Abel Ehigie, the Olaye of Benin and Surveyor James Amadin Osazuwa”.

Another critical decision taken by the monarch during the anniversary was the launching of the Oba Ewuare II Foundation. The Foundation has components such as the farm produce discount project, scholarship scheme, foundry at Ogonerie and Benin Royal Academy for Performing Arts. The farm produce discount project will be a Sunday-Sunday Market to provide opportunity for those whose purchasing power has been reduced by the prevailing economic realities in the country, and to reduce hunger among the people.

Oba Ewuare II cutting his1st Coronation Anniversary cake. He is flanked by the Crown Prince, Ezelekhae Ewuare, Prince Obaghator Ewuare, Princess (Barr.) Mrs. Ikuoyemwen Ewuare Aimiuwu, Princess Osayuwamen Ewuare, Princess Oghogho Ewuare and Prince Ikponmwosa Ewuare.

“The Oba of Benin solicited the cooperation of farmers, market women, local government authority, Enigie and Edionwere to ensure the success of the programme. The scholarship scheme is for indigent and less privileged children, especially those who exhibit uncommon knowledge and interest in Benin Language”, the palace said. According to Oba Ewuare II, about 12 children are already enjoying the scholarship at different levels of education. The foundry at Ogonerie in Upper Sakponba Road was established to train young ones in art, craft and bronze casting. It will also help to improve the work of Igun Guilds of Bronze Casters. The Benin Royal Academy for Performing Arts, headed by Mrs. Josephine Abbe, is in charge of training the young ones in the various aspects of arts, and the Benin monarch pointed out that the support of international artists was being sought to put the academy on sound footing, and it will be a diploma awarding institution.

Grand Durbar

The very rich cultural heritage of Benin Kingdom was showcased on October 17 at the palace grounds as various cultural groups took turns to perform before the Omo N’Oba. The occasion featured the Inneh theatre Group, Ebohon Cultural Group, Edo State Arts Council, The Benin Royal Dynasty Trust Theatre Troupe, South Point Royal Academy, Paulson British International School, among others. The Special Durbar held on Friday, October 20 was quite unique and took place at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium. The event was sponsored by the Sultan of Sokoto, Abubakar Sa’ad III, the Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar and the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, in honour of the Oba of Benin.

The coronation anniversary climaxed with a special thanksgiving service at the Benin National Church, the Holy Aruosa Cathedral.   Speaking at the occasion, Governor Obaseki described his working relationship with the monarch in the last one year as inspirational and unique, noting that the cordial relationship had been instrumental to the successes recorded by his government in the last one year.

On his part, Oba Ewuare II urged traditional institutions to partner with government for the good of the society, declaring that he will soon embark on national and international tours and hopes to use the opportunity to build ties that will benefit Edo. The monarch thanked the state government for acceding to his request that Community Development Associations (CDAs) activities be criminalised in the state, noting that the new law had brought sanity to property management in the state.

Benin Traditional Institution and the Catholic Church

Another interesting revelation during the anniversary was the disclosure by the Oba of the relationship between Benin Kingdom and the Roman Catholic. He spoke when the Catholic Bishops Association, led by its President, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, paid a visit. Saying that he had so much respect for Catholics, particularly over the way they conduct the Mass quietly, and had more insight into the denomination when he served in Italy as ambassador, Oba Ewuare 11 hailed the respect accorded to Virgin Mary by Catholics, asserting that she deserves it as the mother of Jesus Christ.

The monarch said, “I am delighted today that many states in Nigeria and also many countries in Africa are now reflected on the map of Africa but in that old map (at the Vatican), I saw only Borno and Benin, there was no Nigeria at that time; and of course you know that going by the diplomatic relationship between Benin and Portugal and the establishment of what was going to be Catholic presence at the time eventually metamorphosed into Aruosa Cathedral.

“The way the palace chiefs in Benin Kingdom dress, as we were told, was modelled after the Catholic priests then. Many of you here today, perhaps, are not aware that I attended Immaculate Conception College (secondary school) and I believe that what the reverend fathers in that school imbibed in us – morality, uprightness and truth – has been helping me in particular. It further strengthens the image connection with my ancestors to always tell the truth and stand by the truth and, therefore, I also try now to pass on this concept of true light to many of our chiefs in the palace and to many of our people in Benin. I am like a preacher sometimes.

So, I cannot but say this. I cherish the way Catholic masses are conducted in a very sober manner; I have always cherished it. I have always liked the ambiance, the environment and not too much keen about shouting. I like sober environment; when you are praying to the Almighty God, you don’t need to shout. You must pray with a lot of reverence and be in sober mood.

That is what I believe in; you must revere the Lord God Almighty at all times. We here in Benin, we pray to the Almighty God. Today, you have come for this conference and as you have explained, we recognize a lady, a very iconic lady in the religious world, spiritual world; sometimes I wonder that, when God created the world, he first created man in His own image, so the Bible said. But looking at man, Adam, He found him lonely or something like that and decided to behold him to his companion.

However, after the temptation, she is to carry man and every other human being that wants to come to this planet earth in her womb for nine months. So, one will not be surprised that you now give recognition to the woman at Fatima, Lady Fatima, that carried Jesus for nine months. It shows to me the power of women, that women should not be relegated.

In Benin, there is an idiomatic expression that in day time, a woman kneels down nine times for the man, but in the night time, the man kneels down nine times for the woman. And as people say, for any rule, there is an exception but exception does not make the rule”.

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