ORAL TRADITION OF BENIN KINGSHIP
The story of the relationship between the people known as the EDOS and the YORUBAS have been discussed in different format on many occasions. For many years, the Obas of Benin and the Oonis of Ife have maintained their silence, leaving academicians and politicians to argue it out among themselves. But for the first time in the history of these two ruling houses, they have started talking about the history of the relationship between the two traditional rulers. From Prince Edun Akenzuas speech. you can hear the traditional rulers say it as they know it. Omo n’ Oba n’ Edo, Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Erediuwa’s recently published book have again restated what most scholars have been trying to say all these years.
The publication of the speech and this new book would help most researchers in understanding the fact that, there are two oral traditions about the man called the ODUDUWA OF ILE-IFE. Both traditions exists in theYoruba land and Edo land. A good examination will show some similarities and dissimilarities. But unfortunately, most Yoruba writers who have been in the fore front of writing about this subject, tended to do it as if no other tradition existed. Whlie many have been looking for the track left behind by Oduduwa’s soldiers, as they marched to conquer the EDOS, some have merely described the EDOS as sub-branch of the Yoruba ethinic group.
The Edo-speaking people rejects both positions. They have consistently argued that the man ODUDUWA was no other person than Prince EKALADERHAN, the runaway son of OGISO OWODO of IGODOMIGIDO. OWODO was the last ruler with the title of OGISO before the advent of the present dynasty in Benin. It looks as if it is necessary now to recount some of the tales on how Ekaladerhan ended up at UHE ( ILE-IFE). Ekaladerhan had been falsely accused by Queen Esagho as being responsible for the inabilitiy of his father’s wife to bear other male children. Queen Esagho had bribed or intimidated others who went to the oraclist with her into silence. The oracle had actually declared Queen Esagho as the culprit and demanded that she should be killed. But some of the executioners who knew the truth, spared Ekaladerhan in the jungle and advised him to run for his life.
Ekaladerhan ran, rested at Ughoton for some time and then moved westwards to a place the Edo-speaking world call UHE (Ile-Ife). The truth about what the oracle decreed came out later. Queen Esagho was executed but Ogiso Owodo died childless, regreting what he did to his only son and heir until the end. The fact Ekaladerhan existed is shown to this day when an Edo man, especially those living near and around Benin City, declare an inclement weather or a very dull day, “EKALADERHAN’S DAY.” For it said that when Ekaladerhan was to being taken to the forest for execution, the Edos were filled with mourning and the day was very dull. Therefore any dul day is called Ekaladerhan’s day. But of all yoruba academicians, only one of them came close to unearthing the personality of the man, called the ODUDUWA of Yoruba land.
“From what we are able to gather from research work on the early history of the Yoruba, we learn that the personage who has been given the name ODUDUWA was the powerful leader whom the nucleus of a strand of the present Yoruba race migrated into this land from their original home……..It is not certain what his original name was; but it could not have been Oduduwa…….But during the course of history, his figure has become wrapped in legend to the extent that we can now dimly discern the concrete outlines of the original……. We learn from oral traditions that when Oduduwa arrived in Ile-Ife, there was already a community of aboriginal people under the headship of ORELUERE”
The writer was Rev. Professor Bolaji Idowu, former head of the Department of Religious Studies, University of Ibadan, Nigeria AND former head of the Methodist Mission in Nigeria in his book, OLODUMARE.
The Edo people have always argued that Ekaladerhan changed his name to what is known today as Oduduwa for security reasons. He has just escaped execution at the hands of his own people by God’s providence. In Benin City and all over Edo-speaking world of today, ODUWA-path to progress is a very active word. if you add the following prefix of IZ, ID, you have the following names-IDODUWA, IZODUWA-all active Edo names. Then you also have OGHODUWA OGHODUA-an attribute or the name of the almighty God, the creator of the universe or IGHODUWA-I saw the path of progress. OKODUWA is a very active name among the Esans (Ishan).
Depending on which dialect of the Edo group you are translating from, it could mean:
- (a) Idoduwa-I have bought /missed the path of progress.
- (b) Izoduwa-I have chosen the path of progress.
When you add all of the above, including the Bolaji Idowu quotation, to the following statements credited to the Yoruba tradition about Oduduwa:
- a) The man Oduduwa trekked form Mecca or somewhere from the Middlle East in 90 days (North-East) (This is an impossible feat, but Igodomigodo-ancient Benin City is East of Uhe-modern Ile-Ife)
b) He stopped only once to rest at OGHO modern Owo town in Ondo state of Nigeria (Ogho/Owo is a half way house for a man running away from some pursuers from Benin City. It is about 70 miles from Benin City and almost the same distance to Ile-Ife. Owo was on the fringe of the ancient Benin Kingdom. A run away Benin prince will certainly keep moving until he gets to a place where his identity can not be revealed. Ogho is the Edo name for the city. And Owo man does not call himself the son of Owo but OGHO. Owo was part and parcel of the ancient Benin/Edo Empire. The legendary ASORO of the Benin Massacre of 1897 was an Owo crown prince )
- c) Oduduwa came from the sky in a chain ladder OGISO means king from or of the sky in Benin City. (Ogiso was the title of Ekaladerhan’s father Ogiso Owodo of Igodomigodo It is undestandable for Ekaladerhan would tell the people he met at Uhe, that he came from the sky since that was what OGISO meant.
- d) And other land marks in Benin City about the man Ekaladerhan
- e) Oduduwa is the ancestor of the Yoruba race. What happened to ORELUERE, the leader of the aboriginal community that was at Uhe/Ile Ife? Did Oduduwa come to Ile-Ife alone? If not, what happened to his followers? What happened to the aboriginal community at Ile-Ife? Which of these names sounds yoruba (ANAGO)-Oreluere or Oduduwa
- f) According to the Oni of Ife, Oranyan/Oronmiyan came to Benin in about 1190’s AD. This means that ODUDUWA came from the sky about 1100 AD. Is the Oni Ife saying the yoruba race began in the 1100’s AD?. Yoruba archeological history does not support such suggestion. It also means that Ile-Ife did not have a monarchial institution until Oduduwa arrived there. The question then is, why would the Edo-speakimg world with hundreds of years in monarchial experiment now appeal to an upstart monarchial institution for a king, if there were no prior relationship with the king? We are already aware that Rev. Samuel Johnson’s book, “The History of the Yorubas” was not only Oyo-centric but was heavily influenced by European writers account of the history of the yorubas as recounted to them by Sultan Bello of Sokoto and his men.
Therefore you may have to come to the conclusion that the Yoruba Oduduwa is the same as Ekaladerhan of the Edos.
The man who came to Benin City known as ORONMIYAN/ORANYAN (OMONOYAN) was a Yoruba man. Even though his father Oduduwa may have been an Edo man, he had a Yoruba mother. The language he understood was Yoruba (ANAGO). The men and women who traveled with him from Uhe/Ile-Ife to Benin were Yoruba men and women. And one of the family that came with him is the EDIGIN OF USE near Benin. In fact Edigin is a corruption of the yoruba (Anago) word OLIGI-the head of the wood cutter for the royal entourage. But when he got to Benin City, he met an established community who refused to accept him because he said his title was OBA instead of OGISO. Chief Ogiamen as usual led the oppsition against him as he did to his grandfather. It should also be noted, that it was the attempt by EVIAN and later his son OGIAMIEN to crown themselves the Ogiso (king) of Benin,. that prompted some of the executioners to let the world know, that the Oduduwa of Ile-Ife is the same man as Prince Ekaladerhan. Ekaladerhan (Oduduwa) refused to return to Benin City, telling the emissaries sent to him ” Eke ne oma eghele, ore re igiogbe ore-wherever a man find peace and prosperity is his home.” But sent his son known as Oronyan/Oronmiyan. He too left Benin in anger leaving a pregnant woman behind, who gave birth to the man who later became Oba EWEKA, the first, of Edo History. Oranmiyan therefore, was said to have called the land ILE-IBINU( the land of vexation) from where Benin is supposedly derived. This statement is still shaky since we have claims from some Nupe’s that Benin is Nupe derived. We have evidence that the Itsekhiris may have given the name to Europeans travellers who popularised the name Benin. We are therefore, not surprised that Oba Ewuare decided to do away with name Benin altogether, which to him was an alien name. He named us EDO N’EVBO AIHIRE-Edo the city of love. But BENIN has stuck for eternity.
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However, no one will fight for us, that is, for the overwhelming majority, only we will do it. Only we can save humanity ourselves with the support of millions of manual and intellectual workers from the developed nations who are conscious of the catastrophes befalling their peoples. Only we can do it by sowing ideas, building awareness and mobilising global and North American public opinion. No one needs to be told this. You know it very well. Our most sacred duty is to fight, and fight we will.
© Fidel Castro Ruiz 2003