Alexander Okere, Benin
Security has been beefed up in Edo State, ahead of Thursday (today’s) coronation of the crown prince, His Royal Highness, Eheneden Erediauwa, as the new oba of Benin Kingdom.
Prince Eheneden will leave Usama Palace, where he has been since October 9 for Benin, the state capital.
He is also expected to pass through Isekherhe to perform the ceremonial crossing of a river before moving to Urho-Okpota for the coronation ceremony.
It was learnt that although the heir apparent would not be crowned in public, he would receive the staff of office from the state Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, as the 39th oba, at a grand ceremony to be graced by guests, led by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Also expected at the ceremony are state governors, the leadership of the National Assembly and other lawmakers, traditional rulers and members of the diplomatic community.
Our correspondent, who went round major areas in the state capital, observed heavy presence of policemen at Ovoranmwwen Square, Airport Road, Urho-Okpota and around the Oba’s palace on Plymouth Road.
The Commissioner of Police, Haliru Gwandu, had on Tuesday said that 5,000 personnel would be deployed to provide security for the historic event.
The acting Police Public Relations Officer, Stephen Onwochei, told The PUNCH on Wednesday that policemen would also be drawn from the anti-bomb squad unit of the command.
On its part, the 4 Brigade Command of the Nigerian Army expressed its readiness to assist other sister agencies in ensuring a hitch-free coronation.
The state command of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps said it had deployed 500 personnel to man strategic locations.
The spokesman for the command, Efosa Ogbebor, noted that the operatives would be drawn from the armed squad, Special Weapons and Tactical team and the anti-bomb unit.
Ogbebor explained that while the command would not deploy armed men at the Oba’s palace, parts of Ring Road, Plymouth Road, Mission Road and Akpakpava Road would be cordoned off to forestall any form of breakdown of law and order.
“Anyone who attempts that will face the full wrath of the law,” he warned.
Although motorists complied with the restriction of vehicular movement as directed by the coronation planning committee, traffic congestion was observed in some parts of Benin, due to the diversion of traffic.
The state sector command of the Federal Road Safety Corps said that 400 personnel would be on ground to ease the flow of traffic during the coronation ceremony.
The spokesperson for the command, George Otoaviokhai, said the deployed officers comprised 150 officers, 250 marshals and 15 vehicles.
Behold, the new Oba of Benin
Alexander Okere, Benin
Today marks the dawn of a new era in Benin, Edo State as the crown prince, His Royal Highness, Eheneden Erediauwa, ascends the revered throne to become the 39th Oba of Benin, succeeding his late father, Omo n’Oba n’Edo Uku Akpolopkolo, Oba Erediauwa.
Born on October 20, 1953, Prince Eheneden attended the famous Edo College in Benin from 1965 to 1967. He later went to Immaculate Conception College between 1968 and 1970 before moving to England, where he obtained his Advanced Level General Certificate of Education from South Thames College, South-West London.
The heir apparent holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from the University of Wales, UK. He also has a Master of Public Administration degree from Rutger University graduate school in New Jersey, USA. He was a graduate intern at the United Nations between 1981 and 1982 and is a member of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs.
Like his father, the crown prince is a seasoned administrator and a diplomat in the Scandinavian region, Europe and Africa. He is well-travelled. He has served as Nigeria’s ambassador to the Kingdom of Sweden, with concurrent accreditation to Norway, Denmark and the Republic of Finland. On July 21, 2008, he was appointed and sworn in as Ambassador Extraordinaire and Plenipotentiary of Nigeria to Italy.
While serving as the Nigerian ambassador to Angola and characteristic of the meaning of his first name, Eheneden (Peace), he was instrumental to the reconciliation meeting between the then President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and other officers of the late rebel leader, Jonas Savimbi.
The crown prince has enviable business acumen, with several interests in the petroleum, agro-allied and construction industries. He is the founder of South Point Royal School, Benin, and the non-governmental organisation, Benin Royal Dynasty Trust. He is married with children.
Although, the ancient Benin had been ruled by Ogisos from 40 BC to 1100 AD, the Oba dynasty began in 1200 AD with Oba Eweka I. The ascendancy to the throne is hereditary.
Prince Eheneden started the process to his coronation with several traditional rites considered imperative in the Bini tradition. It began with his procession on foot for about 10 kilometres from the Edaiken palace in Uselu, Egor Local Government Area of the state to Eko-Ohae (bachelor’s camp) in Oredo Local Government Area.
He was accompanied by Benin chiefs and cultural societies. The crown prince made a stopover at a sacred palm tree, Udin Amamieson-aimiuwa, where a brief ceremony was held. The palm tree is said to be about 500 years old.
On October 11, the heir apparent left Eko-Ohae for Usama palace on Siluko, amidst jubilation by thousands of residents. At the palace, various coronation rituals and customary rites, including the Ekassa (spiritual dance), were performed. After spending seven days at the palace, he went to Use community in Egor Local Government Area on Tuesday to perform the ceremony of choosing the name he would bear as the new Oba.
Prior to choosing a name which would be announced today, Prince Eheneden played the ancient Akhue (game of pebbles) with the Edigin N’Use, His Royal Highness, Ekpen Kelvin Edigin, as his father did in 1979. According to Bini history, the pebbles were sent by Prince Oranmiyan to his son, Oba Eweka I, who was known to be the first Oba to play the game.
The crown prince’s father was formerly known as Prince Solomon Akenzua before he played the customary game and chose the name, Erediauwa, 37 years ago.
The crown prince spent three months in Uselu, where he reigned as the Edaiken N’Uselu. It was during his stay at the palace that he conferred chieftaincy titles on his three wives, also known as Oloi N’Erie, in March, 2016. His first wife, Princess Iroghama was named Obazuaye N’Erie; his second wife, Princess Iyayiota, received the title, Obazuwa N’Erie; while his third wife, Princess Ikpakpa was named Ohe N’Erie.
Eheneden’s coronation historic, Oshiomhole tells British envoy
Alexander Okere, Benin
Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, has described as historic the coronation on Thursday (today) of the Benin crown prince, His Royal Highness, Eheneden Erediauwa.
Oshiomhole, who spoke on Wednesday when he received the British High Commissioner, Paul Arkwright, at the Government House, said it was the first time an elected governor and an indigene of Edo would present the staff of office to the heir apparent.
He said only military administrators and foreigners had performed the ceremony.
Oshiomhole said, “Thursday (today) will be the first time that an elected governor will have the pleasure, and somebody from Edo State, to formally present the staff of office to His Royal Majesty, the Oba of Benin.”
According to him, the reverence accorded the Oba of Benin is such that his permanence as the chairman of the Edo State Council of Traditional Rulers and Chiefs is not questionable.
“Every Edo person, including those who may not be directly under the (Benin) kingdom geographically, sees the oba as our paramount traditional ruler, which is why we have declared a public holiday for tomorrow (today), because every Edo person, regardless of his location in the state, has some strong positive sentiments about the coronation ceremony,” he added.
While welcoming the British high commissioner, the governor expressed hope in deepening the relationship between the United Kingdom and the state.
“We are also keen on how we can deepen and strengthen relations, particularly in the sphere of economic areas between the United Kingdom and Edo State Government.
“I think we are all clear that the challenge of government, whether federal or state, will have to focus more and more on how we can become less dependent on oil revenue by creating the necessary enabling environment to attract investors,” he said.
Earlier, Arkwright, who was accompanied by his wife, Tricia, explained that he was in the state to attend the coronation on behalf of Her Majesty, the Queen of England and the British Government.
He also congratulated the governor as he concludes his term in office on November 12.
He said, “This is the very first time I am visiting this state in Nigeria with my wife, Tricia. So, it is a particular pleasure for me to be here. I am here for two main reasons: I am here for the coronation of the new Oba of Benin, His Majesty, tomorrow (today), and I am very much looking forward to the ceremony and to give the greetings of the British Government and Her Majesty, the Queen, to the new Oba of Benin.
“So, I want to hear more about the successes. I want to hear more about how the United Kingdom can continue to support and help Edo State. And in particular, I am interested in some of the business opportunities that British companies may be able to find by coming here and investing here and creating employment opportunities and jobs here in Edo State.”
Oba of Benin is an institution, not a title – Esogban of Benin
In this interview with ALEXANDER OKERE, the Esogban of Benin, Chief David Edebiri, speaks on the coronation of the new Oba of Benin Kingdom and the Benin tradition
Esogban of Benin, Chief David Edebiri
How would you describe the throne and title of the Oba of Benin?
Oba of Benin is not a title, it is an institution. For almost 1,900 years, the Binis have practised what we refer to as the monolithic-monarchical system of government. We have a monarchical system of government that admits no equal, no contemporary and no contending force within its border. So, that makes the position of the Oba of Benin unique and supreme.
In other climes, you find one paramount king here; you travel five miles away (and) find another paramount king of equal status. But in Benin, from the first Ogiso, Oba Igodo, the position of the Oba of Benin is supreme.
To us, the Bini people, after the Almighty God, the next person is the Oba of Benin and he is God’s representative on earth. His paramountcy has never been debated or disputed by any other force.
Does this explain why he has always been the head of the Edo State traditional council?
Of course, yes. Severally, you would have heard the governor say that he (Oba of Benin) is the only paramount ruler in Edo State, not only in Benin or Edo South. In Edo State, the Oba is the only paramount ruler for the fact that I told you that our own kingship admits of no equal status or any contending force. He (Oba) creates titles. He creates the Enigies (people who take care of clans). Through them, he gets feedback on the position of the kingdom. So, he is the head of any traditional ruler council in Edo State.
How would you compare coronation of past obas with this one?
I was not old enough to know about the one that was held in 1933. I witnessed that of 1979. One of the characteristics of our system is that we do not easily change. The system has resisted several attempts to whittle it down but it has become stronger and stronger, instead. It is the same procedure that the father followed that the present oba followed. All the obas that have reigned since the time of Oranmiyan to Eweka I followed the same procedure.
Is it true that the Oba of Benin does not receive his crown in public?
In Benin, when the Oba is crowned, nobody is there; I would not be there. I have not seen one (coronation). It is not in public. It is not done at Ring Road or King’s Square. The one that is done in public is just the ceremonial one.
Many Benin residents suspended their private businesses to participate in the coronation rites. Why this deep devotion?
The oba is not made; he is born. He comes straight from God to represent him here on earth; that is the cause of their jubilation. Anybody that is a true Bini man most feel extremely excited that we are going to get a new oba from an unbroken line for 900 years.
How would you describe the new oba?
I do not know about his childhood. But once an oba, he has passed through his education; all the journeys he has made are all part of his education; he was being prepared for the throne. By the time he gets there (enthroned), he is not the usual person you used to know. Once you are born as the crown prince, both in character and behaviour, you must be distinctively far away from the ordinary person. He is not just an ordinary person. He is quite distinct and from childhood, he knows who he is. So, he behaves to type. As he grows up to an adolescent age, he could be seconded to a prominent chief to stay with him and study the rudiments of the system. Once he takes the title of Edaiken, he is bound to stay at Uselu.
What role does the Holy Aruosa Cathedral play in the Benin tradition?
The history of the Holy Aruosa dates back to the 15th century. the church was a Roman Catholic Church established by the white men, the Portuguese, who were first visitors to Benin. The first white man, John D. Schurrel, came in 1472. He was followed by another in 1485; this time round, it was Affonso d’Aveiro, a Catholic bishop. They (white men) established their churches in three places within the Benin metropolis and they became part of the state apparatus.
Following the fruitful reign of Oba Erediauwa, what are your expectations from the new oba?
Well, I do not expect anything less than what the father had done. As a matter of fact, I expect tremendous improvement on what the father had done. His style may be different. But I expect him to achieve much more than the father. That is what everybody prays for that the son should be above the father. With his exposure, as an ambassador to several countries of the world, his interaction with human beings, I do not expect anything less from him.
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