Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
Prince Eheneden Erediauwa was on Thursday presented with the staff of office and crowned the 39th Oba of Benin Kingdom in a colourful ceremony witnessed by thousands of people from near and far.
With his ascension to the ancient Benin throne, he adopted the royal title His Royal Majesty, Oba Ewuare II, which according to him could be traced to the time of Oranmiyan who came from Ile-Ife to rule the kingdom after the Ogiso dynasty.
The new Oba Ewuare II took his title from one of his forefathers, Oba Ewuare the Great, who ruled Benin Kingdom between 1440 and 1473. He was credited with expanding the thriving city-state in the 15th century into an empire.
The new Oba was crowned at about 2 a.m. yesterday by the Usama N’ Ihiron, also known as the Edion, led by Chief Edionwe Oliha, the Oliha of Benin, before the formal presentation of the staff of office by Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State at Urhokpota Hall.
Other members of the Edion are Edohen, Ezomo, Ero, Eholo N’Ire, Oloton and Edaiken.
Upon his crowning, there was great jubilation and fireworks to mark his ascension to the throne.
The crowning proper was done at a private ceremony inside the Usama Palace, a temporary building erected for the coronation ceremony.
During the coronation, the rich tradition and cultural heritage of the kingdom was on display, when the Oliha of Benin immediately after the presentation and unveiling of the royal crest by the new monarch, announced his title to the public.
“He will bear His Royal Majesty, Omo N’Oba N’Edo, Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, One of Benin,” said the Oliha of Benin.
The pronouncement was greeted with a loud ovation by the crowd that witnessed the ceremony.
Before the pronouncement by the Oliha of Benin, a source said after the coronation ceremony was performed in private that the new Oba was presented to the people outside.
The crowd, which had gathered at the Usama Palace, then accompanied the new Oba through Isekhere to Urhokpota Hall.
Among those that escorted the Oba were Chief Omohor of Benin Kingdom, bearer of the ancient sword carried by the Oba; the Ikpakohen group (royal drummers) from Ikpema; the Ekassa dance group; and the Isienmwenro guild, among others.
The Oba and his escorts passed through a bridge constructed at the now dried up Omi River and was received by Chief Omoruyi Isekhere who was waiting to take him across the bridge.
On his way to Urhokpota Hall through Isekhere, the group performed some ceremonies at Iwehen Street under the watch of Ewaise N’Iwehen before proceeding to cross the bridge to Urhokpota.
Speaking at the presentation of the new Oba, President Muhammadu Buhari, who was represented by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, described the royal kingship of Benin as a source of pride not only to the Edo people but to Nigerians and the African people.
He said the royal house of Benin had thrived on a tradition of resistance to colonial oppression to egalitarianism and was built on superior administration.
He also described the ceremony as not just ceremonial, noting that the rituals the new Oba had to undergo before his coronation was an obligation.
He recalled that when Buhari was the Minister of Petroleum Resources in the 1970s, the late Oba Erediauwa served in the same ministry as a permanent secretary, adding that he remained one of the most principled and forthright Nigerians that the president ever met.
Osinbajo said: “President Muhammadu Buhari has asked me to convey his special felicitations to you to remember your great father who under the president as Minister of Petroleum served the federal government as permanent secretary.
“The president told me that your great father was one of the most principled and forthright Nigerians that he ever met.”
He also congratulated Governor Adams Oshiomhole for being the first Edo man in the history of the kingdom and the first indigene to hand over the staff of office to a new Oba.
“Your Royal Majesty, the history of the Benin people is not just a source of pride to the Edos, but to Nigerians and indeed the African people, because of its tradition of resistance to the colonial oppression to egalitarianism, and its superior administration.
“We are gratified that with your meritorious service as ambassador to the nation and your sterling work in the oil and gas sector stand you out in fulfilling the obligations of your ancestors,” the vice-president said.
He also congratulated the new Oba, saying: “All those who know you are convinced that you will discharge your responsibilities with great wisdom and integrity that your great ancestors have always displayed.
“On behalf of the president and Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria I congratulate you on this historic occasion and assure you of support, especially the Royal Destiny Forum for youth employment and poverty alleviation that you have set up.”
In his address, Oba Ewuare II said the event marked the end of activities prescribed by custom and tradition for his ascension to the revered throne of the ancient Kingdom of Benin.
He said he accepted with faith and humility the destiny which had been ordained upon him and shall be the embodiment and expression of the culture, aspirations and history of the people.
He noted that as the principle actor in the events of several months that led to this awesome position, he has had a unique opportunity to reflect on the values and essence of “our historical continuum, what royalty represents to our people as justice, peace and unity”.
These details, he promised, shall be reawakened, and would be sustained in the dispensation that would soon unfold.
“The time-tested, rancour-free succession process bequeathed to us in our customs and tradition is a great tribute to the far-sightedness and wisdom of our forefathers and our people.
“This collective achievement is a veritable proof of our ability to manage our own affairs. It makes us proud of our heritage,” he stated.
Oba Ewuare II paid tribute to his late father and mother whom he described in glowing terms, noting that he enjoyed and benefited from the fatherly love and wisdom of his father more than anyone else, just as he paid tribute to his father’s visionary leadership, courage and dedication to the protection of the cultural heritage by ensuring that the legacy of several centuries were preserved.
On his late mother, who passed on before his father was crowned in 1979, he promised to immortalise her by bestowing her with the title “Iyoba” (Queen Mother), which custom allows to be conferred posthumously and would be conducted at the appropriate time.
According to him, since the Oba’s stool remains the channel through which the powers of the ancestors continue to guide and protect the kingdom and its people, he promised to discharge that sacred responsibility, as well as pay due attention to all matters of custom and tradition, while also focusing on the issues of security, welfare and development for the people.
He also pointed out the need to carry out reforms in the palace’s administration in order to be more responsive to the people’s sincere and deep longing for justice, equity and stability by ensuring that conflicts are resolved between individuals, families and communities along the principles of social justice.
Oba Ewuare II promised to forge links with other traditional institutions in Nigeria, Africa and beyond, and initiate a cultural renaissance that would focus on tourism promotion through arts and crafts.
To drive this initiative, he said there were already in place two special purpose vehicles: the Benin Royal Dynasty Trust which will in collaboration with the Benin Traditional Council, establish a foundry or two in the Igun Eronmwon Quarters to enhance the productivity of the Bronze Casters’ Guild.
The other, he said, was the establishment of the Benin Royal Academy for Performing Arts that will train youths and develop their talents. In this regard, the academy will reach out to international choreographers in different parts of the world to transform Benin dance drama into an international brand.
He pointed out that through these initiatives, he hoped to attract tourism to the land and provide jobs for the teeming youths, as well as seek partnership for the restoration of the Benin movement including reviving the creative and artistic talents on Bini, which according to him, are already acknowledged globally.
The monarch, who thanked those who played one role or the other towards his coronation, also used the opportunity to unveil a new crest with his motto: “Amamieson Aimiuwa, Osakhue No Khuodin”, meaning: No reward without industry, God protests the defenceless.
Earlier in his address during the presentation of staff of office to Oba Ewuare II, Oshiomhole described the ceremony as a celebration of Benin and Edo State culture, saying that the new Oba has all it takes to fit into the big shoes left by his father.
Dignitaries at the event included the governors of Gombe, Osun and Oyo States; deputy governors of Edo and Imo States; and traditional rulers comprising the Sultan of Sokoto, Emir of Kano, Obi of Onitsha and Olu of Water, among others.
Also present were the representatives of the Queen of England, members of the diplomatic corps, Edo State governor-elect, Godwin Obaseki, Africa’s richest man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, and captains of industry.
Meanwhile, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike has congratulated the New Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, on his successful coronation .
In a congratulatory message, Wike wished the new Oba of Benin, a peaceful and prosperous reign on the throne of his forefathers .
He prayed God to grant the Oba of Benin the good health and wisdom to lead the Benin Kingdom to greater heights.