A Rite of Passage

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Adibe Emenyonu writes on the rites of passage of Omo n’Oba n’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Erediauwa of Benin Kingdom, who recently joined his ancestors

Realistically, the Oba of Benin, Oba Erediauwa made an indelible mark in his 37 years reign as King. His dexterity, frank disposition on issues at local, national and international levels no doubt earned him a lot of respect. He made history as one of those who reigned and his efforts contributed in great measure to sharpen the course of discourse and history.

For instance in the heydays of the Sanni Abacha junta, some traditional rulers were falling on each other to take home some ‘Ghana Must Go’ bags with the intention of endorsing him to transmute from khaki to a civilian president, Oba Erediauwa remained one of those who refused to compromise.

Besides, Oba Erediauwa was in indeed a rare gem of lasting and permeating peace, unity which brought enormous relief to many because of his reputation of handling issues, including his high sense of maturity, fearlessness, fairness and great wisdom.

Therefore, when penultimate week, the Iyase of Benin, Chief Sam Igbe, broke the news that one of the foremost kings in Nigeria, the African continent, a lawyer and retired permanent secretary, His Royal Majesty, the Oba of Benin has finally left the savannah to reunite with his ancestors, his subjects, non-indigenes, politicians, friends and associates at home and in the diaspora were thrown into mourning. They wept and wailed, an indication of how much he was loved by his people and allies.

With the breaking of the traditional native chalk, called Orhue in Benin language at the main entrance of the palace of Oba by the Iyase (Traditional Prime Minister) himself in company of other palace chiefs, to signpost that the Oba has translated into a higher realm, chief, Enigies (Dukes) broke down in tears for the transited Oba.

Market women in the state capital and beyond with deep passion for the Oba were not left out in the tear shedding ritual for the revered king.

In accordance with the Benin traditional mourning rites for a king that has joined his forebears, the palace directed all male citizens to clean shave the hair on their heads beginning from the date of announcement of transition of the monarch.

The directive did not stop at that. The Benin Traditional Council also ordered all persons to bury their dead noting that all funeral rites would be prohibited in the kingdom from the date of announcement of “Emwinnekhua”, transition of Oba Erediauwa.

The rites of passage which were transmitted by the Benin Traditional Council and signed by its secretary, Frank Irabor also noted that all the burial rites have been approved by the Heir Apparent to the thrown and the Edaiken N’Uselu, Eheneden Erediauwa.

Some of these rites include that all Palace Chiefs, Enigies, Traditional Priests and palace functionaries who are entitled to wear beads as part of their normal traditional outfit, will henceforth cease to wear any from the date of announcement.

In place of this, they are to wear (Omonrhue), hand bead or white thread (Ikhian) until further notice. The traditional council further admonished friends and well wishers including those who reside and work for their living within the kingdom who may wish to join in clean shaving of their hair to do so.

Also as a mark of honour for the departed monarch, Edo state government declared five days public holiday with effect from Tuesday May 3, 2016 to mourn the revered royal father.

In a Government Special Announcement signed by the state Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Kassim Afegbua, only those on essential services in hospitals, health centres, the fire service and others are exempted from observing the public holiday.

Not only that, Nigerian National Flag also flown at half mast across the state during the five days mourning period.
The announcement came just as the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, during a condolence visit to the Edaiken N’Uselu and Crown Prince, described the translated Oba of Benin as a royal colossus, whose exploits in the annals of governance brought honour, dignity and candor into traditional rulership in Nigeria and beyond.

Oyegun, a Benin son was accompanied by another Benin indigene and Minister of State for Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire on the visit, revealed that the Oba of Benin was a great inspiration to all those who worked with him during his civil service years.

The APC boss who disclosed that their visit to the Crown Prince and other members of the royal family was meant to console and reassure them of the support of the people. He however posited that as sad as the exit of Oba Erediauwa may be, there was consolation in the fact that the great king left a well equipped, vibrant and articulate successor.
According to him, “with regard to the pedigree of the Crown Prince as an accomplished diplomat and administrator, there is no doubt that he has the ability and preparedness of His Royal Highness to successfully pilot the affairs of Benin kingdom to the desired destination”.

Politician were not left out in the eulogies for the departed king. Most of them across the state shelved their campaign programmes just to pay homage and obeisance to the king. One of them is the governorship aspirant of APC and former President of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Mr. Peter Esele.

Esele whose condolence message was issued by Sylvester Ikuvbogie, Head of Administration/Protocol, of the campaign, described the 37 years reign of the Oba as very eventful, peaceful and rewarding.

According to the statement, “the leadership style of Oba Erediauwa is second to none. We are therefore consoled in his everlasting legacy of consistency in policy formulation and evaluation as well as his administrative prowess.
“In view of this present situation in Benin kingdom, we members and team of Peter Esele Solidarity Committee, the Campaign Organisation of Peter Esele have suspended all campaign activities for seven days to honour our revered monarch, Oba Erediauwa as a mark of respect for our tradition and culture; which also for part of our core campaign policies”, the statement stressed.

While praying to God to give the Crown Prince the wisdom, good health, knowledge and understanding to pilot the affairs of the great Benin kingdom, the Esele campaign said though it has began its campaigns in Edo North district of the state, it has suspended all campaign activities for seven days as mark of honour.

Another aspirant of the party who also shifted his campaign programme is Godwin Obaseki. Obaseki who was to flag off his declaration during the period had quickly informed his supporters of an indefinite postponement and other campaign schedule.

Similarly, aspirants of the PDP like Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and Matthew Iduoriyekemwen also shifted their campaign schedules to honour the PBA’s exit.

Little wonder Patrick Obahiagbon, Chief of Staff to Governor Oshiomhole in his usual bombastic language, described Oba Erediauwa as a man of impeccable and unimpeachable integrity with the resilience of a royal salamander.
Obahiagbon, a former member representing Oredo federal constituency and popularly called the grandson of Igodomigodo said: “You cannot gloss over the fact that in the Oba, you find a coruscating display of that apothegm which holds that noblesse oblige. The sui generis quintessential quality of his came under bold relief especially during the locust and philistine years of military militocracy.

According to him, “the Oba was practically the only triton among the minnows of royal hierarchs that stood up to the military rascality and apachism that characterised the Abacha era.

“He stood still at all times with the people eyeballing political and military demagogues and damning their treacherous hooey and Blarney’s. It is therefore not be erroneous and superfluous therefore to pontificate that his integrity was altruistically integrious if you permit me that neologism”.