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Bini kingdom

 

Many centuries ago, at the time when Benin was called Igodomingodo, that geographical area now known as Benin, was the hob of a conglomeration of little towns that developed or spread into most of the areas of modern Bendel State. Throughout that period, lgodomingodo made steady progress especially in the areas of spiritual, philosophical and administrative development. Its efforts were largely concentrated on the arrangement of human order so that by the time Europeans made contact with the people of Benin in the 15th century, they had already established an administrative system which, till this day, baffled the Europeans and earned for the Capital of this "far flung" African country, the appellation "City". The nucleus of this great civilization was the monarchy which the Binis perfected around the 18th century when, after a series of experimentation with the Ogiso, and some of the past-Ogiso Obas, they introduced a monarchical system that is based on the principle of primogeniture, beginning with Ewuakpe, about 1712 A. D.

From the days of Owodo until now, the system of direct ascension has endured making the Benin Royal family one of the oldest families in Africa. It's history spans more than 800 years. Benin City remains today as conservative as it ever was. Shifting slowly, sometimes uneasily, under the pressures or demands of modernity, Benin recognizes that all living organisms (including states and cities) change. That change has reduced to mere historical fact the political influence Benin exercised over places such as Eko (Lagos) which she founded at the time of Oba Orhogbua (about 1550 A.D.) Ghana, Dahomey, both across the borders of modern Nigeria; Onitsha on the Niger and many other places such as Asaba, Agbor, lssele-Uku, Warri, ldah etc. Many of these towns actually owe their corporate existence to Benin. Since inter-action between African kingdoms began around the 14th century, Benin found herself in a unique geographic position by occupying mid -way between what the early Europeans referred to as the "Yoruba country" and the "lbo country". This proximity to the two areas no doubt broadened the outlook of the Binis in later years.

Quite tolerant and receptive of other ideas and norms, it is no wonder that today both the Eastern and 'Western neighbors of Benin have exercised a considerable influence on her socio-political life. The influence of the Yoruba is more felt. This is so because after about 800 years of intercourse both cultures had to rub off on each other. Thus, while the Binis have accepted many Yoruba gods, the Yoruba on the other hand accepted several of the socio-political reforms introduced by the Binis.

Contact with the Yoruba was made quite accidentally by Ekaladerhan, the son of the last Ogiso, who was banished in the 12th century. After wandering in the jungles for several years, he showed up in a town. Hitherto, neither Ekaladerhan, nor the people on whom he stumbled were aware of the existence of other people on earth than those that belonged to their immediate environment. To the people therefore, Ekaladerhan must be a god, a forest god; especially as they discovered him in the jungle. He was adept in hunting and he understood the habits of animals to an astonishing degree. These facts, no doubt put mystique on his being and his personality. By a twist of Fate, Ekaladerhan who was banished by his own people had been accepted by a people who stumbled on him in the forest. He was brought into town where he married one of them and lived to a ripe old age.  

When his father Owodo was himself banished for ordering the execution of a pregnant woman, Evian was appointed administrator. But he sought to appoint Ogiamien his son as his successor. The move was resisted by the Bini and that gave rise to political strife and anarchy. A search party was then sent to look for the long-banished Prince and the trail inevitably ended at Uhe where Ekaladerhan had established. Alas, He was a very old man. So, even if he wished to grant the delegation's plea to return home, he was not physically capable of undertaking such a hazardous journey. But he allowed his son Oronmiyan, who had volunteered, to go with the delegation. Oronmiyan arrived around 1200 A.D. He fathered Eweka the first. Oba Erediauwa, is the 38th king of the Edo by this direct line of succession from Eweka the first.

The history of Benin Monarchy dates back to the Ogiso era which has been traced to about the 10th century. Although it is not possible in this brief note to give a full account of all the Ogisos, it is believed that there were thirty-one of them before the arrival of Prince Oromiyan from Ife (called Uhe by the Binis). The first Ogiso was Obagodo who handed in an effective system of administration. The last Ogiso, Owodo, was said to have been banished from the Kingdom for misadministration.

At the time of his banishment, Owodo had no successor because his only son and heir-apparent, Ekaladerhan, had earlier left for an unknown destination after having been secretly granted freedom by those sent by his father, Owodo, to execute him as sacrifice to the gods to enable him have male children. Record has it that Ekaladerhan founded Ughoton which was, in fact, called IGUEKALADERHAN (the land of Ekaladerhan). It is believed that Ekaladerhan first settled at a place now called Ughoton after several months of wandering in the jungles. Hunters from Benin stumbled on him in the forest and after their return to Benin, he packed up his tent and left because he was afraid that the hunters would tell of his existence and his father would give fresh order for his arrest and execution.   As he feared, the hunters reported their discovery whereupon his father sent soldiers along with them to go and arrest him. But by the time they arrived, Ekaladerhan had gone! Afraid that Owodo would not believe that they did not meet him (after all was Owodo not once deceived that Ekaladerhan was executed when, in fact, his life was secretly spared?), soldiers and hunters stayed put. It was they who, in fact, founded Ughoton and named it after Ekaladerhan. His chance arrival at Uhe changed his fortunes. His adopted name, Izoduwa (later corrupted, but meaning literally in the Edo language "I have chosen the path to prosperity) is symbolic and has obvious reference to the story of his life just in the same way as Oronmiyan, the name of his eldest son.

It was the search for Ekaladerhan that took the Binis to Uhe; when he was located and his identity became known to the search party, Izoduwa refused to return with them because of his old-age. But after testing the sincerity of their intention, he sent one of his sons, Oronmiyan to accompany them to Benin. Perhaps the nearest account of the antecedent of Oduduwa to the Bini oral tradition narrated here is the version written by T. A. Osae and S. N. Nwabara in "A Short History of West Africa A.D. 1000 to 1800" that "the name of the much revered legendary ancestral hero of the Yoruba is Oduduwa.. He is portrayed in several variants of the legend as an eastern Prince who, driven out of his kingdom in the east, finally entered Nigeria after a long march with his followers." When it is realized that Benin is to the east of lfe, the version of the Benin oral tradition is further strengthened by that account.

Irrespective of the divergence of the versions of the account of how Oronmiyan came to Benin, there are certain common facts; namely, that Oronmiyan was the son of lzoduwa (Oduduwa) and the father of Eweka 1. Ekaladerhan is said to be a tall handsome Prince, endowed with great physical strength and an adept swordsman. His sudden appearance among the Yoruba people of Uhe may well be an explanation for the mysticism surrounding the personality of Oduduwa of lfe. Oronmiyan's son, Eweka 1, became the Oba of Benin In about 1200 A.D.   According to the Benin version, Eweka I therefore established no new dynasty. He was the great-grand-son of the Benin Monarch Ogiso Owodo. From Eweka I who ruled up to the middle half of the thirteenth century to Oba Akenzua II, who reigned from 1933 to 1978, a total of thirty-seven Obas have ruled in Benin. In most cases, the period of each Oba witnessed self sacrifice, effective administration, innovation in the cultural pattern of the environment, territorial expansion, and socioeconomic development of the kingdom.

 

The Obas that ruled Benin after 
the Ogiso dynasty

1. Eweka I (about 1200 A.D.) He created the Uzama. They were six in number in his time. He made Uzama hereditary titles. He also established other three major Palace societies-Iwebo, Iweguae and lbiwe.

2. Uwakhuahen

3. Ehenmihen

4. Ewedo (about 1255 A.D.)
He removed the seat of government from Usama to the present palace. Built the first prison which was named after him.

5, Oguola (about 1280 A.D.) He ordered the digging of the first moat round Benin City to keep out enemies. He also introduced Brass casting to Benin.

6. Edoni (about 1295 A.D.)

7. Udagbedo (about 1299 A.D.) The Ga of present-day Ghana migrated from Benin during his reign.

8. Ohen (about 1334 A.D.) The paralyzed Oba who killed his lyase for spying on the Oba's deformity and was himself stoned to death.

9. Ogbeka (about 1370 A.D.) The Urhobos migrated from Benin during his reign to Abraka and environs. No doubt they call the Binis Ikhuo'roka (the people of Eka) after the King.

10. Orobiru (about 1400 A.D.)

11. Uwaiflokun (about l432 A.D.)

12. Ewuare, the Great (about 1440 A great magician, physician, traveler A.D.) and warrior. Constructed Akpakpava Street and the inner-most city wall; created the Edaiken title. He renamed the land Edo. He was the first Oba to come in contact with the Europeans; encouraged Ivory, wood carving; invented Ema-Edo.

13. Ezoti (about 1473 A.D.) Reigned for only 14 days.

14. Olua (about 1473 A.D.) Father of Iginuan who left Benin to settle at Ode-itsekiri and later became the Olu of Itsekiris.

15. Ozolua the Conqueror. (about 1481 A.D.) Conquered Ondo and ljebu-Ode. Father of Aruanran the giant Prince. Father of Alani of Idoani, Olokpe of Okpe, Olowo of Owo, Eze of Aboh and Uguan of Ora.

16. Esigie (about 1504 A.D.) European connection with the kingdom became stronger during his reign. Portuguese missionary activities were encouraged. Created a school of Astrology (Iwoki) and could speak the Portuguese language. Onitsha was founded by people who emigrated from Benin during his reign. His mother, Idia, was the famous warrior who lately became more popular when an Ivory carving of her face was adopted as Festac symbol. Created the title of Iye-Oba (Queen mother).

17. Orhogbua (about I550 A.D.) Created a camp (Eko) now known as Lagos. One of his grandsons was made the Eleko of Eko. Introduced the Use of native cooking salt. Was a product of Portuguese education.

18. Ehengbuda (about 1578 A.D.) English explorers visited Benin during his reign. A great magician. The era of War-Chief Ezomo Agban, the conqueror of Agbor, who erected a ladder to climb to the sky to wage war against intruder (Thunder) up there.

19. Ohuan (about 1606 A.D.) He was a great herbalist.

20. Ahenzae (about 1641 A.D.) Portuguese missionary activities passed on to Benin Native fathers called Ohensa.

21. Akenzae (about I661 A.D.) Encouraged Portuguese missionary activities.

22. Akengboi (about 1669 A.D.)

23. Akenkpaye (about 1675 A.D.)

24. Akengbedo (about 1684 A.D.) Missionary activities encouraged. More Binis joined the Christian faith.

25. Oreoghene (about 1689 A.D.) Emissaries from Pope Pius xii visited Benin in 1692.

26. Ewuakpe (about 1700 A.D.) Passed a law that no one except the Oba's eldest son should wear a crown. Beginning of primogeniture. Iden his wife offered herself as a sacrificial lamb for the welfare of the king, against whom the Chiefs had rebelled.  

27. Ozuere (about 1712 A.D.) Reigned for one year.

28. Akenzua I (about 1713) Father of Obi of Issele-Uku. Era of peace and prosperity.

29. Eresoyen (about 1735 A.D.) Introduced the idea of banking. Built a house called Owigho (Bank) Invented Ivory flutes and introduced Odudua masquerade.

30. Akengbuda (1750 A.D.) Obi of Ubulu-Uku murdered Adesuwa which led to the Oboro war and the subsequent defeat of UbuluUku. A French captain J. F. Landolphe visited Benin during his reign (1769 and 1787).

31. Obanosa (about 1804 A.D.) Reputed for the long years he stayed as Edaiken of Uselu before being crowned.

32. Ogbebo (about 1816 A.D.) Reigned for 8 months.

33. Osemwede (1816-1847) Akure punitive expedition (1818) English and Italian explorers visited Benin.

34. Adolo (1848-1888) Established Ekiadolo. Sir Beecroft visited Benin City(1851). Benin came under the British protectorate in 1885.

35. Ovonramwen (1888-1914) Confrontation with the British which led to the war of 1897. Deported to Calabar September 13, 1897, where he lived until 1914.

36. Eweka II (1914-1933) Built the present palace. The old one which was burnt down by the British during the 1897 war, had fallen into ruins. Motor road from Benin to Sapele opened (1915). An expert carver in Ivory and wood and a clever blacksmith, Oba Eweka was nick-named Ovbi-Udu (Lion hearted) by the Edos on account of his courage.  

37. Akenzua II (1933-1978) Earl of Plymouth visited Benin City on February 24, 1935. Edo College established 1937. First Oba's conference held at Benin City in 1937. Benin Divisional Council museum opened in 1947. Began the campaign for the creation of Mid-Western Region (now Bendel State). Erected the Statue of Emotan on 11 th March, 1954. Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II visited Benin, on 9th February, 1956, to pay him a courtesy visit. Appointed Chancellor of the University of Ahmadu Bello, Zaria on 9th March, 1966. His era witnessed intellectual, cultural, social and econornic advancement.

 

The coronation ceremonies of 
an Oba of Benin

The coronation ceremonies of an Oba of Benin usually last about 10 days. They 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. 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 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 Oredo Chiefs.

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, 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. 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. 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.

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 before hand what name he is going to be crowned with. From this moment also the Edaiken ceases to use his personal names and he is henceforth known by the new name of an Oba. Also significant is the fact that both at Egor and Use, there still exist almost in their original form the shrines established by the diviners and the native doctors who brought the magical akhue seeds from Uhe. After the crowning ceremony the new Oba then leaves Usama on the 7th day for the town centre to be proclaimed and presented to Benin people.

On his way to the City he stops at lsekherhe to perform the ceremonial crossing of a bridge, a reminder of the day Oba Ewedo on a similar journey erected a bridge to enable him pass lsekherhe territory without stepping on the ground. After crossing the bridge the Oba and his entourage engage in a mock battle with Ogiamien and his followers. The resistance of Ogiamien forces collapses while the Oba and his entourage proceed to Urho-Okpota. Urho-Okpota (the gate of Okpota) dates its existence to the era of Oba Ozolua about 15th Century, and it is the area now known as "Ring Road" including where Exhibition Centre and the Local Governrnen't Secretariat now stand.   Okpota was a powerful native doctor who prepared a charm of good luck for the Oba. It is said that the charm which was buried at the gate of the Palace brought prosperity to the Kingdom. The Oba lodged Okpota in a house near the Palace in the area of the present day Exhibition Centre. The verandah to his house soon became a meeting place for the elders, even for the Oba, and Urhokpota has ever since remained a Centre for meeting and useful deliberations. For the same reason Oba Eweka II chose the site for building the new Native Court, now known as Exhibition Centre. The ceremony at Urhokpota completed, the new Oba then moves into the Palace as the Oba of Benin. But he still has Ogiamien's challenge to meet and so 7 days after, he assembles his troops and proceeds to Ekiokpagha where he engages in a mock battle with Ogiamien, a reminder of the real battle between Oba Ewedo and Ogiamien in the 13th century when the latter attempted to prevent the former from entering the City from Usama. By the treaty between the two, Ogiamien surrendered his claim to the ownership of land to the Oba.

 

The Main Societies in 
the Oba's Palace

There are three main societies in the Oba's Palace namely Iwebo, Iweguae and Ibiwe. Each society occupies its own section of the Palace and entry into it is by special initiation usually lasting seven days. They were established during the reign of Oba Ewuare the Great in the 15th Century. In the 16th Century, two Obas, namely Esigie (1504 A.D.) and Ehengbuda (1550 A.D.) carried out reforms in Iwebo and Iweguae societies respectively.

Iwebo, the most senior society takes charge of the royal ward-robe and regalia, making and repairing the coral bead garments and ornaments used by the Oba on ceremonial occasions. In the past, this society used to oversee financial matters, trade and commerce. With the exception of Oloton, all the other six members of the Uzama have to be initiated into lwebo society as nominal members before they can assume their titles. The Oba's eldest son on being initiated into it, has to attain the rank of Uko N'Iwebo (like every other member aspiring to a Chieftaincy title) before he is formally conferred with the title of Edaiken of Uselu.

Iweguae is the centre of all the Palace activities and is next to Iwebo in seniority. Occupying the central position, this section of the Palace is the residence of the Oba and, therefore, its members provide him with his personal and domestic services. It is only after his coronation that the Oba can enter into lweguae and stay. Chief Oloton is the only other Uzama who is a nominal member of this society.   Ibiwe is the third society in the Palace and its duty is to look after the Oba's harem; the welfare of his wives and children. In this regard, As in the case of lweguae, the Oba can only enter this section after his coronation when he has to inherit all the assets and liabilities.

Other Palace societies and guilds include lwegie, lwehen, Ebo and Ewaise (the royal physicians and diviners), Ihogbe (the worshippers and recorders of the departed Obas), Efa (the sanctifiers and purifiers of the royal homes), lguneronowon (the brass-smiths), Igbesamwan (carvers and carpenters), Ogbelaka (the Cards), Avbiogbe (commissioners of lands and constables who also ring bell and make important announcements), Eben (who inter the remains of a deceased Oba), lsienmwenro (public executioners), lkpema and lkpemaba (drummers), lkpeziken and lkpakohen (fife-players ' ), lsekpokin (fan and leather box makers), Emehe of Urubi (royal carriers who must always carry loads on their heads before seeing the Oba and Irhema (the bearers of sacrificial victims) .

 

Uselu

Like some other villages around Benin City such as Ego, Use, Oka and Ihimwirin, to mention a few, the foundation and growth of Uselu dates back to the period of the Ogiso. But its significant position in the history of Benin did not come into limelight until the Palace of Edaiken (Eguae-Edaiken) and the Palace of the Queen mother (Eguae-lyoba) were established there during the reigns of Oba Ewuare and Oba Esigie respectively. Uselu is therefore divided into two sections: the upper Uselu where the Eguae-Edaiken is situated and lower Uselu where Eguae-lyoba is established.

Oba Ewuare the Great sent his senior son, Kuoboyuwa, to hold brief for a man called Iken of Uselu, who was a strong powerful warrior who constantly challenged the authority of the Oba and he often prevented Uselu people from paying the annual tributes to the Oba in Benin City. As a result of this opposition constituted by Iken, Oba Ewuare wanted to eliminate him by sending him to the battle front during the war between Benin and Owo. Kuoboyuwa, the senior son of the Oba was to hold brief for him during the period.. Iken won the war but he was killed on his way back.

When the Oba realised that Uselu people would react violently if Iken failed to return from the war front, he decided to make the position of his son a permanent one to enable him assume full responsibility of the ruler of Uselu. He therefore conferred on him the title of Edaiken (Edayi Ni Ken) that is the person holding brief for Iken. The Palace of Edaiken was established there.

It has since that period become traditional that the first son of every Oba of Benin, is conferred with the title of Edaiken and on coming of age, leaves his residence in the centre of the town for the Palace of Edaiken (Eguae-Edaiken) at Uselu where he remains until when he is called upon to ascend the throne as Oba. The Edaiken of Uselu, like the Oba of Benin his father, also has various title Chiefs under him, apart from the central ones created by the Oba himself. Eguae-Iyoba (Palace of the Queen mother) is located at the lower part of Uselu. It was established by Oba Esigie for his mother Idia the Queen warrior who also exercised a lot of political influence in the administration of the kingdom.  

Oba Esigie started this tradition probably to forestall the conflict that would have arisen between his mother and himself over the exercise of political power. An almost independent domain of the Queen mother was therefore carved out for her. Thus it has become strongly -established in Benin tradition that a year or two after the coronation of every Oba, he invests his mother with the title, lyoba (Queen mother) and sends her to reside at lower Uselu in Eguae-lyoba (Palace of the Queen mother). If it happens that the mother dies before the coronation of the son, the body is preserved till a year or two after the coronation to enable the Oba confer the title lyoba on her and later bury her at Eguae-lyoba.

 

The Uzama

The Uzama are the most ancient and the highest ranking order of Chiefs in Benin. The origin of Uzama dates back however to the era of Eweka I. In the thirteenth century. They perform the function of crowning the king, The idea that they make a king by crowning him may be correct but they do not choose a king as the Oyomesi of Oyo Empire who can make and unmake a monarch. Eweka I ordered that every Oba of Benin should be crowned by Chief Oliha, the most senior Uzama, because it was he who led the team of elders to Uhe (Ife) to persuade Izoduwa to return to Benin, to rule.

Oliha also performed a rare function of preserving the seven lice given to the team by Izoduwa for three years. No wonder he was given the appellation Ogele mun iru (he indeed preserved the lice). Today he is still called Oliha No Gele. Izoduwa (Oduduwa) remembering the circumstances that led to his banishment refused to send his son. But after much persuasion, he agreed on the condition, that the people would subject themselves to, and pass a test of their ability to care for his son. The test was to give them seven lice to care for.  

Oliha preserved them in the hair of his slaves for three years to the delightful surprise of Oduduwa. The other Uzama are Edohen, Ezomo, Ero, Eholo-nire, Oloton and Edaiken. Six of them were created by Eweka I, and made hereditary. The seventh, Edaiken, which is held by the eldest son of the Oba and Heir-apparent to Benin throne was the creation of Ewuare the Great. Immediately the Edaiken becomes Oba, the title of Edaiken automatically devolves on his eldest son.

So too any of the other Uzama titles when the holder dies. One of the Uzama, Oloton was one of the courtiers who accompanied Prince Oronmiyan from Ife. He was left in Benin among others to look after the young Eweka 1. This explains why he is the only Uzama who can be initiated into the Iweguae society. All other Uzama are initiated into the Iwebo society. The Uzama occupy unique positions outside the inner wall on the western side of Benin City. Of these Uzebu, Urubi and Uselu belonging to the Ezomo, Ero and Edaiken respectively are considerable villages. Idunmwoloton is a ward in Benin City, while ldunmwoliha, Idunmwedohen and ldunmweholo consist of little more than the immediate dependents of the Chiefs.

Each Uzama enjoys a large degree of independence in his own domain. He keeps a court with palace associations organized on similar lines to those of the Oba, though on a smaller scale. This does not apply to Oloton however because titles at ldunmwoloton are conferred by the Oba at the time of his installation. Some titles are still held at Uzebu, Urubi but the Palace societies have ceased to function. When the Edaiken moves to Uselu all the Palace societies are restored and begin to function just as those in the Oba Palace.  

Apart from this specific role of the Uzama during the coronation of an Oba, some of them had individual responsibilities in the past, With the advent of colonialism some of these responsibilities have since faded into insignificance. The Ezomo, for instance, was the senior war Chief or General. He was undoubtedly the wealthiest and the most influential of the Uzama. Ero was the guardian of the North-Western gate-way to the City and had some responsibility for the Edaiken and the Queen mother near whose Palace his own domain is situated. Oloton is the keeper of the shrine of Azama, at which special sacrifices are made at the naming of the Oba's eldest son and on other occasions. The Uzama therefore occupy a unique position In the social and political set up of the kingdom.

Oba Ewedo was crowned in about 1255 A.D. Prior to his coronation, he had become apprehensive of the power and influence of the Uzama who were almost equal to the Oba. He felt that the Uzama would constitute a great check to his political power, and so, to avoid this situation, Oba Ewedo decided to move the seat of his administration from Usama which was surrounded by the residence of the Uzama, to the present site of Oba Palace in the centre of the town. He made all necessary arrangements for the removal without informing the Uzama chiefs until the day of his coronation.

But alas the centre of the town he was moving to had as many powerful individual sectional leaders as the Uzama behind the moat. During the interregnum powerful individuals had sprung up and had carved out areas of influence for themselves all over the town centre. One of such powerful leaders was lsekherhe who laid claim to that part of the town surrounding the area now known as Ibiwe street. Another was Enekighidi of Ogbelaka off Sapele Road. The most powerful and leader of them all was Ogiamien whose father, Evian, had opposed the mission to Uhe in search of Ekaladerhan. And since post-interregnum Obas lived behind the moat, the town centre leaders felt reasonably secure until Oba Ewedo decided to move into their midst.  

On the eventful day, Oba Ewedo left Usama shortly after the ceremonies and the first of the powerful leaders he encountered en route was lsekherhe who refused to allow the Oba pass through his "territory". But after the Oba (who had a fowl hanging from his neck) had explained his mission Isekherhe let him pass but not before the Oba had paid Isekherhe a fee of a wife and the sum of "Ugiamwen" (equivalent to 65 kobo in modern currency). But the leader of them all, the powerful Ogiamien was waiting only a short distance away and he called on Oba Ewedo to return to where he came from.

The Oba explained that he was going to offer sacrifice with the fowl on his neck. But when Ogiamien pulled this off, the Oba and his followers became indignant. Fight broke out and Ogiamien fled but throwing a challenge to the Oba to meet him in battle at Ekiokpagha in seven days time. Ekiokpaha (Okpagha market) is situated along Sokponba Road near the St. Matthew's Cathedral Church.

In the subsequent engagement at Ekiokpagha, Ogiamien was defeated by the Oba. He later surrendered and made peace with the Oba. A symbolic treaty was established between them by which Ogiamien surrendered his claim to the ownership of land to the Oba to whom he also pledged loyalty. Ogiamien was in return made a Chief by the Oba and was allowed to retain his nick-name, Ogiamien, as a title and to retain authority over that part of the land he occupied subject to the superiority of the Oba.

The Isekherhe confrontation and Treaty of Ekiokpagha have since then become significant events in the coronation of every Oba of Benin. He has to cross a bridge and engage in mock quarrel with Isekherhe and Ogiamien in front of lsekherhe's house at lbiwe Street, and on the seventh day, engage in a mock battle with Chief Ogiamien at Ekiokpagha. It is also on record that Evian the father of Ogiamien had earlier tried to prevent Oronmiyan from entering the kingdom on his way from Uhe. But this attempt was foiled by a ferry man at Ovia river.  

Also at the time of Eweka I the son of Oronmiyan, a similar attempt was made by Ogiamien the son of Evian to prevent him from entering Benin City from Ego. War ensued between the people of Ego and Ogiamien at Isekhere leading to the defeat of the forces of Ogiamien. Therefore the engagement at Ekiokpagha between Ewedo and Ogiamien marked the final phase of the series of resistance put up by Ogiamien to prevent the establishment of the Monarchy in Benin City.

 

THE END