Benin City, the capital of Edo State, is mourning, even as the funeral rites for the late 37th monarch, Oba Erediauwa has begun, reports Victor Osehobo of our Benin Bureau.
Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, has approved the coronation of the Crown Prince of Benin and Edaiken of Uselu, HRM Eheneden Erediauwa, as the Oba of Benin effective April 29. The state government approved the appointment in a letter dated May 24 and signed by the Secretary to the State Government, Professor Julius Omozuanvbo Ihonvbere.
Titled ‘Appointment of His Royal Highness, Edaiken N’Uselu, Crown Prince Eheneden Erediauwa, as the Oba of Benin,’ the government said, “It is hereby notified for general information that in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 19 (1) of the Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Law, 1979 (as amended), and by virtue of all other laws enabling it in that behalf, the Executive Council of the Edo State Government of Nigeria has approved the appointment of His Royal Highness, Edaiken N’Uselu, Crown Prince Eheneden Erediauwa, as the Oba of Benin, with effect from April 29.”
The government’s announcement came exactly on the 25th day after the Iyase (Prime Minister) of Benin, Chief Sam Igbe, announced the transition of Oba Erediauwa. The palace also announced a 15-day funeral rite beginning from May 25, which is Ekioba market day, with palace rites, and would end on Wednesday, June 8, an Agbado market day.
Secretary, Benin Traditional Council, Frank Irabor, who gave these details, said other palace rites would be held on May 26, 27, 28, and then on Sunday, May 29 along with the entertainment of guests.
He said palace rites would continue on Monday, May 30, to Saturday, June 4, when there would be presentation of gifts. The rites would begin on Sunday, June 5, and culminate on Tuesday, June 7, with Ikowia.
According to the statement, the performance of Emwinekhua (royal funeral rites) is the sole responsibility of the Crown Prince. With the announcement of the funeral rites, “All burial ceremonies are prohibited. We advise everyone to go about his or her normal business and to stay away from places where traditional rites that are not open to the public are performed during Emwinekhua,” the statement said.
It also advised non-indigenes to show respect for the tradition and custom of the people during the period, saying the palace would work with security agencies to ensure safety of lives.
In a statement announcing the transition of Oba Erediauwa, last month, the Iyase, who spoke in Bini dialect and translated to English, said “Osorhue Bunrun, Oba Erediauwa of Benin Kingdom, the Prince of Peace, Ebo, Ayemwirhe, Emini Mini Mini, has reunited with his ancestors. May he find peace with God.”
The Iyase’s announcement was done simultaneously with the symbolic breaking of white chalk at Urho-Ozolua’s shrine within the Oba’s palace in the presence of a large gathering of palace chiefs of different categories, traditional rulers in Benin Kingdom, members of the royal family, Benin sons and daughters and journalists, who had all been summoned to the palace for the news.
Following the breaking of the native chalk at the main entrance of the palace, all the chiefs and Enigie broke down in tears. The Iyase, who announced that all markets in Benin Kingdom should be closed forthwith, added that palace chiefs with many beads should drop them and replace them with only one white bead. Benin sons were to scrape their heads.
Before breaking the news to the public, the monarch’s death had earlier been broken to his first son and Crown Prince, Ambassador Eheneden Erediauwa, and members of the royal family.
The crown prince, who arrived the palace at 1:10pm from his Uselu residence, was formally informed of the death of his father before it was publicly announced.
No sooner had the news gone public that many Benin males shaved their heads in honour of Oba Erediauwa. Our correspondent, who visited some barbers’ shops, observed that a considerable number of male residents had shaved their heads.
A barber at the Government Reserved Area, Favour, said he recorded a 75 percent increase in the number of customers at his shop, adding that he made money as the cut was easy being a complete shave, rather than the usual choice of hairstyle by his customers.
“Initially not many people came to shave their heads when the announcement was made but when some saw their friends with clean shave, they came to shave their heads too”.
A resident, Mr. Isaiah Usoh, described the act as a ‘rare privilege’ and a lifetime opportunity for all Benin sons because an Oba does not transit often. “I shaved my head out of respect for my late Oba; our great father. This happens once in a long time,” he said.
Meanwhile, Prince Eheneden was formally installed as the Edaiken of Uselu days before the announcement, following the successful completion of the mandatory traditional rites. The event attracted a large crowd of supporters who thronged the palace, while shops and other business outlets were shut temporarily on Saturday morning as a mark of honour and solidarity with the crown prince.
Oba market and some streets, as well as roads housing some traditional shines were cordoned off by security personnel and manned by colourfully dressed palace chiefs, while some commuters and lovers of Benin tradition struggled to catch a glimpse of the event.
After a brief consultation with palace chiefs and the performance of traditional rites at the palace, Prince Eheneden, clad in a white and red traditional regalia with a pair of dark glasses later rode on a long convoy to the newly constructed Edaiken palace at Uselu.
He later performed more traditional rites before he assumed the traditional stool of the Edaiken of Uselu which became his temporal place of abode.
As Benin Kingdom begins the funeral rites of the late Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Erediauwa, the palace called for media support, just as it commended the way and manner that journalists reported activities in the kingdom since the demise of the monarch, saying the sanctity of its customs and traditions have been maintained.
Prince Eheneden, while speaking with a delegation of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, led by its Chairman, Sir Roland Osakwe, said “I also want to particularly thank members of the NUJ, a great number of journalists have shown immense restraint, a lot of respect and honour to our tradition and custom, we have observed your reportage, with the exception of recalcitrant ones which you will always have, you will always have Judas in everything I believe that by and large we have been well pleased with members of the fourth estate of the realm.
“I believe that I can safely say that the palace, chiefs and Benin people are pleased and satisfied with the way journalists and reporters have accorded our custom and tradition a lot of respect, accommodating a lot of things, those that could be spoken of, those that cannot be spoken of, those that we can and cannot see, you know Benin is stuck to its traditions.
“We appreciate you and wish to appeal to you to keep up the good work and try to also check your facts, double check with the Benin Traditional Council when anything appears to come from the palace so that you do not inadvertently misinform the public because as you know information is power and you should not misuse it, take a little extra mile to check and report well.
“I believe you have tried, keep up the good work. Many people don’t understand our cultural practices and customs. It is only the practitioners that can say to some extent that they understand their own part. Even those that are inside, within the palace institution, they understand their own part and others don’t understand it, so it is division of labour. It is only the Oba that understands across board because he relates with all the palace societies which is like departments. Our palace system is complex.”
Omo N’ Oba Erediauwa was born in 1923 to Oba Akenzua II, the 37th Oba of Benin Kingdom. Before being crowned Oba on March 23, 1979, he was known as Prince Solomon Aiseokhuoba Igbinoghodua Akenzua.
He attended Government College, Ibadan (1939–1945) and Yaba College, Lagos, before going to King’s College, Cambridge, to study Law and Administration. On returning to Nigeria, he joined the Eastern Nigeria Civil Service in 1957 as a District Officer and later moved to the Federal Civil Service where he retired as Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health in 1973.
For a short period, he was the regional representative of Gulf Oil. In 1975, he was appointed Commissioner for Finance in Bendel State during the Military Administration of Major-General George Agbazika Innih.
Tributes have been unending for the Oba. Describing Oba Erediauwa as an Oba of Peace, “who brought prosperity to his people and understood them, Chief Utetenegiabi said the departed monarch could sit in judgment against his own son for a commoner. After today, we are awaiting further instructions on what to do. But the Oba of Benin does not die because he is an institution; he mainly translates to a higher glory as an ancestor.”