IT is not often that an Oba is crowned in Benin. Many loved to see it, but it never happened in their lifetimes. The last time an Oba was crowned in Benin was some 37 years ago. That was on March 23, 1979. A generation has passed since then. Those who witnessed it then hold it in high esteem. For those still alive, they talk about it with relish. The good thing is that it is here once again. Such is the reverence accorded to the coronation of an Oba of Benin. As they say in Benin, it holds in a day, but talked about forever.
62-year-old Chief Osamede Adun, the Aiyobahan of Benin Kingdom, said he was 29 when the late Oba Erediauwa was crowned in 1979 and that he stood among the crowd to watch the procession and coronation.
He said, “I was about 29 year-old then when Erediauwa was crowned. I was not a palace chief then. It was how they did it that they are doing it now. Today, I am the happiest person now. Back then, I was looking from the crowd, but today, I am a top palace chief. Where I can get to now, you cannot reach there. I am very happy to be close to my Oba.”
It was earlier scheduled to hold September 26 but due to the conduct of the Edo State governorship election, a new date was fixed. On Thursday, October 20, the Benin Crown Ambassador, Prince Eheneden Erediauwa, will assume the position of his forefathers as he becomes the 39th Oba of Benin. The crowning will be a culmination of a process that started with the announcement of the late Omo N’Oba N’Edo, Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Erediauwa.
Unease lies the head that wears the crown, says the adage. This best describes the process leading to the crowning of Prince Eheneden Erediauwa as the Oba of Benin. The final lap began on Saturday, October 8. Before now, the late Oba had to be committed to mother earth. The incoming Oba had passed through series of initiation before the last lap that commenced on Saturday.
The first task was to trek a distance of about 10 kilometres from his temporary palace at Uselu, Egor Local Government Area, to Eko-Ohae (Bachelors Camp) in present day Oredo Local Government Area. Another task that day was the climbing of a 500-year-old palm tree.
He was accompanied by a large crowd of Uselu people and others. The frenzy was palpable and there was celebration in many places. Commercial activities were paralysed along the routes he trekked from the Benin-Lagos road, through Lagos Street to Ekpo-Ohae at Urhokpota Hall, where the coronation will be performed on October 20.
The sacred palm tree the Oba-to-be climbed was said to have been first climbed by Oba Ewuare in the 15th century. He reached the sacred palm tree known as Udin Amamieson-amiuwa at about 4:30 p.m. and offered some offerings before climbing the tree.
He moved to the Iyan-akpan, now popularly known Five-junction, where chiefs from Uselu community handed him over to chiefs from Benin. From there, the Benin chiefs accompanied the Crown Prince to Benin City. Various cultural troupes, like the Iten Edo Theatre Group and Benin Royal Dynasty Trust Dance moved with the crowd in entertainment. He arrived Benin late in the evening.
A Benin chief, who said he witnessed the coronation of Oba Akenzua in 1933, Chief Osarobo Orue, the Oba Iyekeagbon of Benin Kingdom, said the reign of the new Oba of Benin would bring peace to Benin than his predecessors.
“This is the third time I am witnessing the coronation of Oba of Benin. I witnessed the coronation of Oba Akenzua, Oba Erediauwa and that of Edaiken N’Usele. I will join in the trekking. I am 100 years old now”, he said.
Mrs Omouwa Omoregie said the three months spent by the crown prince in Uselu ushered in peace and tranquility to the people of the community. She said it was the first time she had witnessed the coronation of a new king of Benin and that she was now in a better position to relate the story to her children.
Chief Ada Igbinovia, the Edosomwan of Benin Kingdom, said those who were witnessing the coronation ceremony should count themselves very lucky as it was an event one rarely experienced. Chief Egharevba Igbinehi, the Ohanwan of Benin, said his forefathers were among the chiefs that came with Prince Oranmiyan from Uhe (Ife). He added that his function was to pray for the Oba before he began any ceremony.