- Crown Prince, Chief Priest in face-off
AS RESIDENTS of ancient kingdom of Benin remain in the dark over the indisposition of the Oba of Benin, indications emerged weekend that there exist a feud between the Isekhure (chief priest) of Benin, Chief Nosakhare Isekhure and Prince Eheneden Erediauwa, the crown prince.
The development it is alleged may result in the possible suspension of Isekhure from his traditional duties.
Although Palace sources say he has been suspended for usurping the functions of the Ihama of Benin, who is in charge of the title/names the crown prince takes upon coronation as Oba, aides to the Isekhure at his palace in Benin, yesterday, said there was no truth in the alleged suspension.
However, the feud between the Isekhure, a former APC chieftain, who has sympathy for PDP, dates back before the just concluded Presidential polls when the Isekhure reportedly told a delegation of PDP stalwarts on a courtesy visit, that the Benin people would vote PDP and former President Goodluck Jonathan.
His position was viewed as contrary to the political interests of the Royal family as the Crown prince and several other chiefs went public condemning the Isekhure’s stand and deriding it as not of the Palace.
The younger brother of the Oba, Prince Edun Akenzua, in stating the position of the royal family then, said the Isekhure was not the spokesman of the Benin Monarch, arguing that the Oba does not endorse any politician, but mandates the most senior chief at court, during a politician’s visit to say the prayer.
Isekhure’s prayer, according to the Oba’s younger brother was stereotype: ‘that God may give to Benin and to Nigeria the person who will develop the land and make it possible for citizens to put meals on their tables’.
In the present scenario, the Ihama, who was overseas when all these transpired, was immediately summoned home recently, but died soon after returning, leaving a vacuum that has now been filled by his eldest surviving son. But prior to this time, the Isekhure allegedly had assumed the duties of the Ihama.
This action drew the anger of the Royal family hence the purported suspension of the Isekhure, who is said to be the link between the Benin people, the gods and ancestors, and head of the Oba’s family.
Again as head of the Oba’s Family, the Isekhure is said to have waited to be informed about the Oba’s indisposition by the Crown prince, who appeared reluctant following their face-off.
The crown prince while keeping the chief priest in the dark is believed to have also commenced some activities that will herald his ascension to the throne without the Isekhure, who is seen by all Binis as the embodiment of Benin tradition and culture.
Meanwhile, the royal family has not still disclosed the present health status of the Oba of Benin, who after several weeks of speculation, was said to be indisposed and as such would not engage in any public engagement for the time being.
Making the announcement, March 15 2015, Secretary to the Benin Traditional Council, Mr. Frank Irabor had said, “it is hereby announced for the information of the general public that in the Palace parlance, “Uhunmwun ve Ekpen vb’ Ato”, meaning “the Leopard is ill in the Savannah bush”
“The explanation is that Omo N’Oba N’Edo , Uku Akpolokpolo, Erediauwa , CFR, Oba of Benin is indisposed”.
He added that public engagements including courtesy visits, hearing of complaints from individuals, families and communities, and in particular complaints over inheritance and land disputes, are therefore suspended until further notice.
The Palace directed all Benin Palace Chiefs and functionaries to note that their routine traditional duties continue as usual.
However, official activities to herald the coronation of an Oba of Benin which usually last about 10 days are yet to formerly commence in Benin City, but this paper gathered that some preparations may have begun since Friday July 31.
Palace sources nonetheless confirmed that when the coronation begins proper, “They will begin from Egua-Edaiken, the traditional residence of the heir-apparent to the Benin Throne. On a day fixed by the Edaiken, he is escorted by his Uselu people on his journey back to Benin City. On the way he stops at an historical palm tree named “Udin ama-mieson aimiuwa” (translated to mean “work before pleasure”) which the Edaiken “climbs” symbolically”.
“This little ceremony dates its origin to the time of Oba Ewuare the Great whose life as heir apparent to the throne was characterised by long suffering which included periods when he personally had to climb palm trees on this spot to cut the fruits for a living”.
It was gathered that, “This act of suffering by the father of the first Edaiken has ever since been re-enacted in a symbolic way by every Edaiken. From the palm tree the Edaiken continues his journey to Benin City; but at the first moat called (lya-akpan) in the vicinity of where the firm of defunct Mid-Motors (Nigeria) Limited now stands, the Uselu chief in the procession take leave of the Edaiken and return to Uselu while the Edaiken is thereafter escorted into the City by Benin town Chiefs”.
“Thereafter, the Edaiken enters the City via Iguisi (now Lagos Street) and proceeds to Eko-Ohae (bachelors’ camp) where he stays for three days. After three days at Eko-Ohae the Edaiken continues his journey to Usama, the venue of the traditional Coronation rites. Usama was the site where Orominyan, the father of Eweka I, built the first Palace and all succeeding Obas from Eweka I were crowned and lived there, until Oba Ewedo in the 13th century moved the palace to the present site in the centre of the town”.
Our source said, “The Edaiken remains in Usama for 7 days performing all the rituals and ceremonies of the Oba. Before the expiration of 7 days, he visits Use, a village a few kilometers outside Benin, where he performs the ceremony for choosing the name he will answer as the Oba of Benin”.
Interestingly, “This tradition started during the period of Oba Eweka I whose maternal grand-father, Ogie-Egor, lived in the next door village of Egor. When Prince Oromiyan left Benin, he left behind his Bini wife who was pregnant in the care of her father the Ogie of Egor. The woman delivered a male child who was dumb from birth”.
Furthermore, the, “Maternal grand-father then sent him to Use, the mother’s village, for treatment, but when he grew up and still could not talk, words were sent to his father at Uhe. His father sent 7 magical Akhue with which the dumb Prince participated in the popular village game known as Akhue. With only one seed remaining on the ground and every player having failed to strike it, the young Prince used the magical Akhue from his father and succeeded in striking down the remaining seed”.
“Excited by this feat, he spoke for the first time exclaiming in Yoruba, Owomika (my hand has struck it). He later assumed this expression for a title which became corrupted to Eweka”.
Later, ‘Having picked a name at Use, the Edaiken returns to Usama where the crowning ceremony is performed by Oliha, the leader of the Uzama and proclaims Edaiken in his newly acquired name as the Oba of Benin. It is significant to note that until the ceremony at Use, the Edaiken never knows beforehand what name he is going to be crowned with”.
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