Saturday, April 30, 2016

Oba of Benin: Portrait of an iconic monarch

It was one of the biggest and saddest news of
the day. The announcement of the death of the
paramount ruler of the great Benin Kingdom in
Edo State, Omo N’Oba n’Edo, Uku Akpolokpolo,
Oba Erediauwa, was one that jolted many
people across and beyond the ancient city on
Friday. The news of the monarch’s passage, who
had been reportedly down with an unknown
illness for some time, was broken by the Iyase
of Benin Kingdom, Chief Sam Igbe, in company
with other traditional chiefs following the
traditional breaking of native chalk at the
entrance of the palace.

It wasn’t the type of report many had expected
to hear even though there had been
speculations over his demise for months. The
late traditional ruler apart from being the
political and spiritual head of the Benin
Kingdom, was also a father to not only his
subjects but also many people across the

He was known to be a promoter of
peace and quality leadership during his lifetime.
Born in 1923 and formerly known as Prince
Solomon Akenzua, the late monarch was the
38th Oba of Benin after succeeding his father,
Oba Akenzua II on March 23, 1979.

Erediauwa attended Government College,
Ibadan, Oyo State, between 1939 and 1945,
before proceeding to the Yaba College, Lagos,
and later King’s College, Cambridge, United
Kingdom, where he studied Law and
oba-erediauwa-life-timesThe iconic monarch would later join the Eastern
Nigeria Civil Service in 1957 as a District Officer
on graduation from the university before
moving to the Federal Civil Service where he
retired as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry
of Health in 1973.

His robust career also saw him becoming the
regional representative of Gulf Oil for a short
while after which period he was appointed
Commissioner for Finance in the then Bendel
State in 1975 as a result of his exceptional

During the Nigerian civil war, the Oba Erediauwa
in his capacity as a high-ranking federal officer
was part of a government delegation to the
‘Aburi Conference’ which was initiated to find a
lasting solution to the crisis. As a result of this
revered position, he knew, worked with, and
advised all military heads of state at the time, as
well as potential leaders that eventually
emerged with democracy.

While on the stool, the late traditional ruler on
several occasions mediated in disputes involving
politicians across the country. Many presidents
and public office holders regularly visited him
for counsel and prayers during his reign as a
result of his vast knowledge on various issues.
Benin Kingdom under his watch witnessed
tremendous growth across all spheres while
peace constantly enveloped the area throughout
his time. Against odds, he managed to maintain
the sanctity and respect associated with the
Benin traditional stool. Apart from modernising
the palace courtyard, the late Oba also created
many chiefs for the easy administration of the
kingdom. An author of international repute, he
helped promote the rich cultural heritage and
history of the Edo people.
In 2009, a week-long colourful celebration was
put in place to mark his 30th year on the stool.
It was a festival where Benin’s rich culture and
were showcased.

Five years later, Oba Erediauwa lost his first wife
and friend of many years, Queen Esther. Like
him, she died after being struck by illness.

The Edo State Government in a statement on
Friday, described the late Benin monarch as, “A
distinguished Edo numero uno, an accomplished
Nigerian, a seasoned bureaucrat, quintessential
unifier, unique personage and exemplary Omo
N’Oba, whose reign brought distinction,
immense class, finesse and integrity to
traditional institution in Edo state and country at

“His uncommon courage was symbolic of the
can-do spirit of the Edo mind. His unity of
purpose was not in doubt even as he used his
revered position to promote constructive
engagement amongst all shades of opinion and

“As a thorough-bred bureaucrat, he understood
the dynamics and intricacies of governance. He
was the alternative voice to the many voiceless
in our society, calling government attention to
issues of development and transparent
governance, without minding whose ox is gored.
He was brave, fearless, punchy and instructive in
his verbal and written messages.”

The title of the Oba of Benin was created by Oba
Eweka I, the Kingdom’s first monarch, who is
believed to have ascended to power around
1180 and 1300. It is one of the most revered
traditional stools in Africa and the world.

1 comment:

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