By Jimitota Onoyume
Warri the oil rich city in Delta state was agog last week Saturday as the Itsekiri ethnic nationality rolled out the drums to receive His Royal Majesty, Oba Ewuare 11, the Oba of Benin who was on a thankful you visit to the Olu of Warri, His Majesty, Ogiame Ikenwoli, for gracing his coronation ceremony in Benin in 2016
As early as 8am, cultural dancers in rich colorful costumes took over a portion of Ajamimogha road, where the Palace of the Olu of Warri, is located. One of the lanes was blocked to vehicular traffic. Not even the slight rain discouraged the dancers.
At about 3pm the Oba of Benin in his rich royal attire, his family members and some of his prominent chiefs drove into the palace and shouts of” they are here rented the air.”
In the entourage of the Oba was one of his sons described as the crowned prince. When he was introduced as the crowned prince there was surprise on many faces in the hall apparently because of the myth around the Benin monarchy that a reigning king must not see his crowned prince until he (the king) passes on . A guest said, “what we heard in the past was that the Oba, after the birth of his first son would not relate with him or come close to him and that they don’t see or live in the same house until the Obas passes on”. None of the chiefs who accompanied the royal father was however available to offer explanation.
Meantime, the Oba was treated to rich cultural dances by different Itsekiri groups. The compere, the Eson of Warri Kingdom, Chief Solomon Areyinka, in his rich baritone voice stressed the ancestral relationship between the Benin and the Itsekiri kingdoms, saying that it spanned over five hundred years.
His Majesty, Olu of Warri in his welcome address harped on the historic relationship between the Binis and the Itsekiri, promising that it will continue to grow from strength to strength. He said the artificial boundaries of state creation that placed the two ethnic groups in two different states would not constitute any impediment in the ancestral ties.
“Although the mainstream of our people are presently separated from your people by the geopolitical boundaries that have been set for the convenience of the governance of Nigeria, we see the link between our peoples as remaining intact in very meaningful ways. In that regard, such boundaries are seen by us as both artificial and superficial and no more than that. They can neither divide nor separate us. Interactions between us, especially as they affect the fortunes of our peoples, have not and cannot be impeded by these boundaries”, he said.
Chiefs of Itsekiri kingdom were introduced to the Oba and his entourage with their functions. Some of their titles were similar to those in Benin kingdom. Gifts were later brought out for the Oba.
The Oba of Benin on his part explained the functions of his chiefs in the palace after they had earlier been introduced by a member of his entourage. He said mere calling them chiefs was not enough as it was necessary to introduce their functions.
In his address he thanked the Olu and the Itsekiri nation for the reception, promising to accord his host similar gesture whenever he visits him in Benin. He further enjoined traditional rulers in the country to continue to consolidate peace in their domain, adding that they should always promote values of development. He lauded the Olu for doing this since he ascended the throne.“I am delighted to be here today to convey my deep and sincere appreciation to you and the entire Itsekiri nation for the uncommon, yet spectacular support accorded us during the period of my coronation as the 40thOba of Benin kingdom.
“As traditional rulers, we must continuously work for the peace, security and development of our people and society. Your Majesty, I commend the ardent and painstaking role you have played in this regard “, he said.
He added that the two ethnic groups would continue to build on the things that unite them. “This occasion further brings to the fore the close affinity of the Itsekiri and Benin people. We should strive to interact closely in order to explore factors that unite us more than those that divide us”, he added. It was a day to be remembered for a very long time as the rich culture of both ethnic groups with their colorful costumes were on display.