By Osaretine Osunde
The current Oba Ewuare II of Benin, Edo State, is arguably a reincarnation of his forefathers. Upon his ascension to the throne of his ancestors, His Royal Majesty took the title Oba Ewuare II. This singular act went a significant way towards identifying the path that His Royal Majesty was destined to take in his divine calling of leading the Benin people into the 21st century.
The fact that Oba Ewuare N’Ogidigan or Oba Ewuare the Great, who reigned between the years 1440-1473 AD was the inspiration of His Royal Majesty was not lost on keen observers of the throne and it was perceived as a deliberate decision by the new Oba to announce to the whole world that there has indeed been a reincarnation of the spirit of Ewuare in Benin kingdom.
Oba Ewuare N’Ogidigan, as history and oral tradition, has it, ascended the throne at a very crucial point in the history of the kingdom. Several reforms that had far-reaching effects in the history of the kingdom are attributed to him. Often regarded as a critical reformer of state, his exploits led greatly to the territorial expansion of the kingdom and it is acclaimed that the status of empire was achieved during his reign.
Oba Ewuare it was who ensured that the primogeniture system where the first son of the Oba would naturally be the heir apparent to the throne was instituted and this has been the practice ever since. This singular act put to rest the incessant squabbles that were oftentimes generated upon succession to the throne and it also went a long way in diminishing the powers of the Uzama chiefs, which at the time had increasingly become overbearing.
The structure of administering in the kingdom was also made to undergo some fundamental review during his reign and this led to the social renaissance of the Benin people that manifested in an educated and well-enlightened society, with enforceable rule of law, a thriving economic base and a brimming art culture.
One of the most awe-inspiring rulers the kingdom had seen, Oba Ewuare is also very well known as a fierce warrior king who helped to make Benin one of the largest and well-known empires of ancient West Africa. He was successful in a multiplicity of military exploits and is credited with over 200 victories.
The transnational nature of his rule was underscored by the fact that he was the reigning Oba when the first Europeans, led by the Portuguese explorer Ruy de Sequeira, arrived the shores of Benin in 1472.
This piece is not meant to be a historical journey through time, as it may be a herculean task to capture all the exploits of Oba Ewuare N’Ogidigan. However, it is essential that the pedigree in the name ‘Ewuare’ be clarified for the benefit of those who may not have comprehended the spirit behind His Royal Majesty, Oba Ewuare II, the reincarnated.
From the antecedents as enumerated above, it is obvious to see glaring similarities between the earlier Ewuare and the reincarnated Ewuare especially in the way and manner His Royal Majesty, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, Oba of Benin, went about setting the affairs of the kingdom of Benin in order upon ascension to the throne.
From the fearless nature exhibited by confronting the notorious menace of Community Development Associations (CDA), who were taken on and defeated, to the courage and uprightness displayed in reforming the Palace administrative structure for better efficiency, transparency and justice, to the laudable cause of recreating a pristine image for the Edo woman and Edo people via the drive against human and girl-child trafficking, to the philanthropic nature and people-friendly temperament, and the desire to pursue an urban renewal dream for the socio-economic benefit of the people, Oba Ewuare II has shown that he has come to continue and consolidate from where his previous incarnation left off.
His Royal Majesty has resolved to channel the warrior-king spirit in him into confronting the spoilers of the kingdom intent on fermenting decay, rot, abominations and spitefully foisting brigandage and irresponsibility on our revered cultural norms and traditions. He has resolved to correct all wrongs being perpetrated by these categories of actors who are bent on desecrating the proud heritage of the Benin kingdom.
His Royal Majesty has exhibited traits of a wise, humane and considerate ruler. However, taking this as weakness may well be the undoing of the detractors of the palace who take delight in engaging in smear campaign against the revered institution of the Palace of the Oba of Benin. While the stories of the past battles and victories are embedded in folklore and songs passed on from one generation to another, caution should be taken by enemies of the Palace as the same fearless and warrior-like nature, manifest over six centuries ago still abide within the disposition of His Royal Majesty.
His Royal Majesty, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, Oba of Benin is preoccupied with leading the Benin kingdom into the 21st century to compete on an even pedestal with other societies in the world keen on ensuring the utmost welfare, wellbeing and comfort of their peoples sustainably and inclusively.
His Royal Majesty has taken it upon himself to champion the creation of opportunities for self and societal development and to ensure that such opportunities are available to be explored and exploited to the benefit of the Benin people, the Nigerian nation and for all humanity.
This is the spirit of Ewuare manifesting in the 21st century, and the spirit of Ewuare is very much alive and well in His Royal Majesty, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, Oba of Benin.
*Osunde, a public commentator, writes from Benin