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THE EFFICACY OF THE ENTHRONEMENT OF OBA OF BENIN AND THE CULTURAL IMPLICATION

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Abstract

The study provides an historical overview to the legitimacy and enthronement process of the Oba of Benin Kingdom from coming to power of the Oba dynasty till the British conquest. It is argued that the Benin Kingdom between the thirteenth and nineteenth centuries was a super-complex society but not a state, as it was not based on suprakin (territorial) social ties and there was no professional (bureaucratic) administration in it. The kin-based extended family community always remained this society’s focus, and the supracommunal institutions were built up by its matrix, what is impossible in a state. So, being not less complex and developed than many so-called early states’. The resilience and sustenance of the kingdom and her monarchy for this long period has been attributed to several factors such as the successive line of capable and effective Oba (kings) and her trade with the Europeans – Portuguese, Dutch and British – which enabled her to acquire arms and ammunitions for the defense and expansion of her territories in the 19th century.

CHAPTER ONE/INTRODUCTION

Background of the study
Benin Kingdom was located in the thick equatorial rain forest zone of present-day southern Nigeria with rich vegetation which supports agriculture and provides most materials for craft industries. The kingdom was probably one of the oldest, most remarkable, famous and at one time, one of the most powerful kingdoms of the forest region of West Africa (P.A. Igbafe, 1982). Pre-colonial Benin was made up a single and powerful kingdom which was headed by the Oba (king) who was assisted by different categories of chiefs which included the palace chiefs (eghaevbo n’ogbe) and town chiefs (egbaevbo n’ore). It was one of the oldest and best known kingdoms in the south central Nigeria. Benin City, the metropolitan headquarters of former Benin Kingdom, is now the administrative headquarters of Edo State of Nigeria. The former Benin Kingdom has also now been constituted into seven local government areas of Edo State namely; Egor, Ikpoba-Okha, Oredo, Orhionmwon, Ovia East, Ovia West and Uhunmwode. Benin kingdom was known to the Europeans as early as the second half of the fifteenth century when she was first visited by the Portuguese. The first Europeans are said to have visited Benin during the reign of Oba Ewuare the Great (c.1440). According to Hubbard, “the second half of the century (fifteenth) saw the arrival of the first European in Benin, the Portuguese, Ruy de Sequeire in 1472 in Ewuare’s reign and Alfonso de Avienro in 1485 in Ozolua’s (c.1481) reign” (Hubbard, 1948). Thereafter, trade and diplomatic contacts were established between the kingdom and Portugal. Later, other Europeans such as the Dutch, French and British also visited and traded with the people. Benin Kingdom however, maintained her independent status until 1897 when, as a result of trade dispute between the Oba and British traders, she was conquered by the British expeditionary forces and incorporated into the protectorate of Southern Nigeria as part of the larger British Empire. What came to be known as the Benin kingdom did not being its existence as a kingdom in the sense of it being headed by a king or a traditional ruler, as it is known today. It really began as a conglomeration of villages each of which was headed by the oldest man in the community who is referred to as the Odionwere or village head. As time went on, these village united for the purpose of security against external aggression or for commerce, and the most powerful of the old people was said to have automatically assumed the supreme headship which eventual metamorphosed into what was known as king or Oba in Edo language. Omo N’ Oba Erediauwa in his lecture on The Evolution of Traditional Rulership in Nigeria. Given under the auspices of the university of Ibadan, Institute of Africa studies on 11th September, 1984 said that in Benin, the first to emerge as such a leader almost immediately assumed the position of a king, for by the wisdom he was described as being from heaven {Oyevbegie No Riso. This is the origin of the title Ogiso which came to be the title of the earliest Benin kings, before the advent of Oromiyan

There were 31 Ogisos. Even though some historians think that the Ogiso era began about the year 900 yet the age of the Edo people’s settlement in the kingdom is over 6000 years. Judging from the long history of the people it is reasonable to suggest that the development of their kingship is much longer than the 900 AD. The much revered position of the Benin Monarchy tends to suggest that the people found themselves inseparable from their monarchy which is regarded as the embodiment of custom and culture. The long existence of their king make it unintelligible as to who came first, the people or the king? Thus it is the belief of the Edo people the God sent them to the world along with their kings. Kings are therefore assumed to be born and not created, “Aise Agbon Rio Oba”. Coming back to the Ogisos, We have thirty one of them who have been named as follows:-

1.Igodo
(or Obagodo)

  1. Iredia 23. Oriagba
  2. Ere 13. Etebewe 24. Odoligie
  3. Orire 14. Odion 25. Uwa
  4. Odia 15. Imarhan 26. Eheneden
  5. Ighido 16. Orria 27. Ohuede
  6. Evbobo 17.Emore
    {female}
  7. Oduwa
  8. Ogbeide 18.Orrorio {female} 29. Obioye
  9. Emenhen 19. Irrebo 30. Arigho
  10. Akhuankhuan 20. Ogbomo 31. Owodo
  11. Ekpigho 21. Agbonzeke
  12. Efeseke 22. Ediae
    Of all the West Africa societies, the kingdom of Benin is the one most mentioned in contemporary European literature. Since the end of the 15th century, a great deal of material about Benin has been supplied by sailors, traders, etc, returning to Europe. However, information on the Edo people before this date is very difficult to obtain, as there was no written record and the oral record is at best rather fragmentary. Thus, there is a shortage of information on the early days of the migration and setting down of the Edo in their present-day home. At the same time, a reinvestigation of sources dealing with the early history of Benin showed that some information has not been fully exploited yet, although there remain gaps in our knowledge which may never be filled. Dmitri .M. Bondarenko and Peter .M. Roese(2003). In the name of their forebears, the Edo people have always dwelt. They cannot say much without a reference to their past which, again and again compels them to seek to know who they are! The heartland of the Edo revolves round Benin City on which the famous Old Benin Empire held sway for over two thousand years. Contrary to the beliefs of what the earlier writers had believed that the Edo migrated from the Yoruba race or from Egypt or from Uhe, modern historians are now beginning to accept neither the fact that the earlier beliefs as to the Edo origin are neither supported by arehaeological nor ethnological facts. Famous Edo works of arts, stand out uniquely – (neither Egypt’s nor Ife’s works have much in common with the Benin artifact). Were the Benin to originate from Ife or Egypt then their works of art and ethnological traces would have been replicas or similar in structure and form to those of their tutors. This assertion is made without prejudice to whatever political or social contacts the Edo people may have made with this ancient civilization.

STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Benin is most famous as a result of her powerful monarchy with the centralized system of government with in-built checks and balances for promoting healthy competition among the political institutions which ensured enduring stability. The monarch regulated the socio-political and economic activities not only for his own benefit but that of the general well-being of the people of the kingdom. In this respect, it is not unimaginable to argue that the strength of the monarchy and its lasting stability was bolstered partly but importantly, by the activities of Benin professionals and craftsmen, who ensured that the needs of the monarchy were adequately and promptly met. Although there is no doubt that some of the crafts that later constituted the guilds in Benin pre-dated the monarchical system, various studies on Benin guilds have revealed that Benin arts or crafts grew and developed under the aegis of the guilds of craftsman (K.A. Agbontaen, 1997, pp.45-58). It is in view of the above that the study intends to examine the efficacy of the enthronement of Oba of Benin and the cultural implication

OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
The main objective of this study is to examine the efficacy of the enthronement of Oba of Benin and the cultural implications, but to aid the successful completion of the study, the researcher intends to achieve the following specific objectives;

To examine effectiveness of the throne of the Oba of Benin kingdom in modern democracy
To ascertain if there is any significant relationship between Benin craft and Benin culture
To examine the role of Oba of Benin in preserving the Benin culture
RESEARCH QUESTION
The following research questions were formulated by the researcher to aid the completion of the study;

Is the throne of the Oba of Benin kingdom effective in governance in modern democracy?
Is there any significant relationship between Benin craft and Benin culture?
Does the Oba of Benin play any role in preserving the culture of the Benin people?
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The study will be of great significance to the ministry of culture and chieftaincy of Edo state as the study will enlighten some of the modern day chiefs on some of their history that might have eluded them. The study will also be of great benefits to students of religious and cultural studies as the findings of the study will contribute immensely to the literature of African culture with specific emphasis on the Benin throne. The study will also be beneficial to researchers who intends to embark on a study in a similar topic as the study will serve as a reference point for further research on the subject matter.

SCOPE AND LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
The scope of the study covers the efficacy of the enthronement of oba of Benin and the cultural implications, but in the course of the study, there are some factors that limited the scope of the study;

a) AVAILABILITY OF RESEARCH MATERIAL: The research material available to the researcher is insufficient, thereby limiting the study
b) TIME: The time frame allocated to the study does not enhance wider coverage as the researcher has to combine other academic activities and examinations with the study.
C) FINANCE: the finances at the disposal of the researcher was a major constrain to the scope of the study, as the researcher could not cover all the ground she needed to cover to expand the scope of the study as a result of limited finances.
1.7 OPERATIONAL DEFINITION OF TERMS

Oba

Oba means ruler in the Yoruba and Bini languages of contemporary West Africa. Kings in Yorubaland, a region which is in the modern republics of Benin, Nigeria and Togo, make use of it as a pre-nominal honorific

Oba of Benin

The Oba of Benin is the traditional ruler of the Edo people and all Edoid people and head of the historic Eweka dynasty of the Benin Empire – a West African empire centred on Benin City, in modern-day Nigeria. The ancient Benin homeland has been and continues to be mostly populated by the Edo

Enthronement

An enthronement is a ceremony of inauguration, involving a person usually a monarch or religious leader being formally seated for the first time upon their throne

Efficacy

Efficacy is the ability to get a job done satisfactorily. The word comes from the same roots as effectiveness, and it has often been used synonymously, although in pharmacology a distinction is now often made between efficacy and effectiveness.

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