{Benin City, Nigeria Local Time}
Bookmark and Share
Family Morning salutation In Benin Culture

Last Update (January 23, 2019)

The Edo live in their families and have tended to live in their past as well. In the thousands of years that have passed, their families have grown large and each has run into the next through inter-marriages Today, no family can stand without traces of one or the other families in them Yet, the morning salutation of a family, at once gives a glimpse of who they are and where they come from It tells where one might go to start an enquiry into the character of an ¡individual. That often means that a person and his or her family can be known as far as possible into the depths of time

That is a good glimpse of the reach of the Edo oral culture. They developed this thousands of years ago and it has helped them trace others who do not belong in their past or in their present The Edo say that those who have no morning salutations among them are strangers, or slaves. Over the years, strangers arid slaves in their midst have been Known to take to the family greetings of those with whom they have lived. This aspect of Edo culture has sometimes brought startling results. Men and women have often failed to ask their families or have spited them to live as husbands and wives. They find out later that they are from the same family roots and if their branches were close enough on the family tree, the family made them buy a goat for atonement. The family shared the goat slaughtered and as a symbol of the deafness of the man and the woman, they gave them the ears of the goat, for food.

Edo custom is that a woman once married, must use the morning greeting of the family of her husband’s father because Edo culture is patriarchal. Like most other things in Edo life, the morning greeting has its roots in the leadership in war, in peace and in the community. The list that follows confirms this trait. Whether it is in Benin City the largest town, or in smaller towns or villages in the land, leaders and circumstances create or influence the morning greetings. The list below is of those known or discovered at the time of writing..Any reader who knows any should please contact the publishers for editing .

Those not familiar with the custom might ask how the people use these greetings. The first thing to know is that the young say the greeting to their parents and to those more than two years older than they are. The practice is to say it at first meeting in the morning, and not after usually, no one says it after the sun has passed overhead on its way to the west.

The elder does not answer in the same words. Several families have words of praise with which they answer back .The young might say lavbieze no nwanren and the elder might answer back if he or she were much older —Eh, ovbieze no z ‘uwa. Koyo omwinmwen. If he were only a few years older he or she might say, Eh, koyo otenrnwen or ko ‘lenmwen for short.”

For what is left of each day, other general greetings of the people would apply. One might say obavan in the afternoon, obota in the evening or obe ‘vbariu if the person were busy .Age does not matter in these cases.

This could be attributed to the successful use of Ogun force in the conquest of Osogan (the monster that terrorized Benin) by Evian. It became another source of power and this source of power was looked upon as the most significant to be crystallized in the position of the Oba himself. In other words, Ogun (god of iron, smiths, warriors and hunters) was a symbol of strength too. The Oba decided to assume the family morning salutation of ‘Enaumogun’. All adherents, children of the Oba at that time began to greet ‘Enaumogun’. The Edion ne Isen who had earlier rendered ‘Enaiso’ in the Ogiso era changed their tone because they could not greet Enaumogun since they did not belong to the Oba’s family lineage. Oliha, the head of the King Makers took on ‘Enaogele’ because ‘ogele’ became his popular appellation at that time after he successfully preserved the seven lice, thereby passing through the lice test and won an acclamation by it “O gele mu irru” meaning he indeed preserved the lice. Because of the joy he Edohen expressed in their ability to survive the turbulent period and come to a period of great relief and joy, he (Edohen) invented ‘Enatose’. His prayer during the turbulent period was “Te ima gha to se oyenmwe uwa “May we live long to merry in prosperity” And after  that period of’ political  confusion, he said, “A to se oyenmwe uwa’’ meaning  “ One has  lived long   to merry   prosperity”. Some members of Edohen family however greet ‘Enauvbe’. In sometime past, Edohen of that time had no male child and when he joined his ancestors, his nephew born of his own sister stepped into the shoes to inherit the title and so, the family greeting shifted to Enauvbe simply because the late Edohen’s Sister was married into the lineage of Enogie of Uvbe whose morning salutation the new Edohen and his immediate family must render. In another setting,  ‘Enaemehi’ greeting that originally belonged to the Oloton family was welcome into the family of Chief aganimwoyi the Obazuaye (Nogienebo of Benin . He married the daughter of Oloton of Benin (one of the Uzama N’Ihinron).This wife refused to render her husband’s family morning salutation with the statement:. “Me ne  ovbi  eknnagben, I  I setin tue ukhu Ovien Omwa”-”l, a noble’s daughter cannot afford to render a commoner’s morning salutation” because oloton their forefather and Oranmiyan’s relative was among those that accompanied Oranmiyan from Uhe. She decided to stick by her own family greeting Enaemehi’ (Lamehi), and it was incorporated into the Bazuaye family. It is still maintained till date.

Ero took on the greeting of ‘Enaumosun’, osun being the god of medicine and Eholo ne Irre (Eholo of Irre village took on the greeting of Enairre as Evian because of the joy of associating with Evian who was the conqueror of osogan the monster that terrorized Benin for quite some time and had people swallowed up live in its mouth at Okedo (on Agbado market days.). Here the origin of AMUFI (A Guild specialized in catching eagle live) comes into play. This group of people from different families groomed in (traditional) tree top acrobats was constituted and camped in a settlement named Evbo-Amufi in Ikhuen N’Iro Community. On every Agbado market day  Amufi would appear in their paraphernalia comprising charms and ropes tied on Okha trees at the market place with heavily made fire bearing a sizeable iron rod placed at the middle by Evian by the side, all to attract the monster to destruction. The charms which enabled them to swing, behaving in a manner similar to that of avamu (a kind of bat) also enabled them to ‘tapua’(vanish) in case the ropes disengaged in the  process of the dance. On this fateful day, the acrobatic display attracted osogan and as it moved closer in its flight to perform its usual market day routine of swallowing one person, it met its waterloo: Evian swiftly picked the red hot rod from the fire and threw it into the rnonster’s mouth. That saw to the end of osogan till date. It is worthy of note here that the last Okao Amufi was the Author’s paternal grandfather, Aken (Prince) Samson Erreikomwe Erhahon and the Iast display by Amufi was in 1942 during Oba Akenzua iI’s reign. Till date, any family represented in Amufi has AVAMU as taboo.

.Ezomo of that time was not a hereditary title as it was a title given to a war chief in Benin where as those of the remaining four members of the Edion N’Isen were and still remain hereditary titles. So, every Ezomo then before the reign of Akenzua I could not be pinned down to a particular greeting. The hereditary Ezomo family started from Ezomo  Ehennua who hailed from Ebhurhu in Esan land. Ehennua according to Benin traditional history was the son of Aikhalama of Ebhurhu in Esan land who rebelled against the Benin Monarch, Oba Ewuakpe (formerly Prince Idova who later became Prince Ehennegha who ascended the throne instead of his old father, Prince Akennuzama who relinquished it to him) and was killed by Okizi who led the Benin troop to Esan. Aikhalarna’s wife by whom he had a son (a kid) was brought to the Oba in Benin and got converted to OIoi, thereby making Ehennua become his umwobo(stepson). She gave birth to Qba Akenzua I, thus Ehennua and Akenzua I became half-brothers. Ehennua was also Akenzua I’s ETE NE OT1N “that is a rebel brother because his (Ehennua’s) father was a rebel. This is the origin of this greeting: Koo te ten mwe (koo  ete ne oten mwe), “hello my rebel relation which is frequent in Edo greeting and conversation because of its erroneous use. An example is when two persons are quarrelling and the third person now comes in as a peace maker. One of them when asked by the peace maker to let go of the .quarrel, may answer “I hon ‘te ‘ten mwe” or “ghe ze ye ore te”meaning “ I hear my rebel relation” or “don’t mind him rebel” In actual sense, the other person, with. Whom he has engaged in the quarrel is the rebel and not the peace maker. The point I am making here is that, the word ‘te’ in greeting or conversation is ignorantly used by the speakers of the language.

Ehennua assisted his brother in pulling down Ozuere the usurper and his strongholds, thereby enabling him ascend the throne as Oba Akenzua I. His reign was prosperous and that earned him the nickname “Akenzua N’Isonorho” (Akenzua the Rainy Sky) Ehennua who was always at the service of the Oba, his younger brother helped to restore peace and joy as his brother was being troubled by some anti Royalists particularly lyase Ode who was fond of harassing and killing people as well as having his crew intercept okun-highly decorated box used in isoton (a procession dance round the town taking place in traditional obsequies). It came to a point when the Oba felt enough was enough and decided to get rid of Iyase Ode. His half brother, Ehennua being a man of strength and forceful personality with the nickname ‘UTI’ successfully killed Ode on a fateful day this earned Ehnnua the praise-name “Utigbeni’. After a short while, he sought permission to go back to Ebhurhu since he was his father’s heir to succeed him to the throne and become the next Onojie. This, his brother, Oba Akenzua I vehemently refused to grant. He pleaded with his brother to remain in Benin. with him, saying “E da omwa se ovbi iye omwa rae, “and promising him a hereditary title, he conferred on him the title of Ezomo to be resident in Uzebu quarters where he seems to enjoy sovereign rights to a greater extent than any other ruler and bequeathed him privileges attractive enough to make him relinquish his Esan stool such as sharing some praise-names, having his wives being called iloi, Sons and daughters to okoro and uvbi respectively. And in order to make Ehennua still feel much at home, he allowed him adopt the family greeting of”Enaegiesan”. To interpret this means, “Owner of Esan title.” Qba Akenzua I above all bequeathed .him the right to possess Ada (the symbol of authority) hence only the Ezomo has Omuada (scepter bearer) besides the Benin Monarch. This nobility bestowed on Ehennua from whose time and turn the Ezomo title became hereditary, there is this question “Ovbi Oba re u khin ra ovbi Ezomo?” meaning “Are you a scion of the Royal family or the Ezomo’s?

Because of the power tussle between the Oba and. Edion, the title of Iyase  coined “I ya ona See  uwa” meaning “With this, I surpass you” was created by Qba Ewedo who got fed up with the behavior of the Edion which to him was repulsive and felt enough was enough of their disrespect to the monarchy. Addressing them, he said “Uwa zama omwa” meaning “You pay no one deference” From this statement, the word ‘UZAMA’ was coined. Besides Iyase title, Qba Ewedo created the titles of Esogban, Uwangue, Osodin, Uso and Isekhurhe. Prior to this development, Oba Ewedo  had already moved the Palace from Usama to the main City out of which Ogiamie had kept the Obas Eweka I, Uwakhuaihen and Ehenmihen who enjoyed little or no respect from Edion. In addition, Oba Ewedo seized power from Ogiamie and retrieved the Ogiso’s throne,  Erhe. In protest, Ogiamie engaged him in battle at Ekiokpagha.

All Iyases that have existed in Benin up till Oba Ohen’s reign had their individual family salutations and these they and their families rendered, more so when the title was not a hereditary one. The title ‘Iyase’ originally was a Warlord and more or less Prime Minister but now, he is the Head of the Eghaevbo N’Ore. He is the spokesman of the people. The vacuum was not filled for about eight decades following the death of Iyase  Emuze during Oba Ohen’s reign. Upon accession on the throne by Oba Orhogbua (Oba Esigie’s eldest son and successor) emerged an Iyase  in the person of Eze of Eze-Chima from Obodo Ikem (Obbior) now in Aniocha North Local Government Area. He found favor with the monarch and had the title conferred on him, thus becoming the first non Benin on whom to be conferred the title ‘Iyase’ of the kingdom having agreed to some terms arid conditions such as adopting the family salutation of ‘Enavbieze’ (Lavbieze) with his family as identification. It had been the tradition that whoever the Oba of Benin bestowed with the title of iyase  Must relinquish his family morning salutation and take on ‘Enavbieze’ (Lavbieze) including iyase N’Ohennwe up to the time of Hon. Gaius 1kuobasoyenmwe Qbasçki who was made Iyase of Benin in 1948 during the reign of Qba Akenzua II. His father, Chief Agho Ogbeide-Oyo who was bestowed with the title of ‘Obaseki’ (which became the family name even though not hereditary) by Oba Ovonramwe, was made iyase in 1914 the year Oba Eweka II ascended the throne. Chief Humphrey Omorogbe  Osagie who had the title conferred on him by Qba Aknzua II maintained’ Lagiesan and, all other Iyases up to the present have retained their family morning salutations.

Family greeting (lineage identification greeting) was » not an imposition by the Qba on any family. The ways by which families formed their UKHU included the following:

(i) Through individual’s profession of his Ewae e.g. Enaumogun,, Enatose  by Amaghizemwe family (Isienmwero). This family greets Enatose besides Edohen’s family and its appellation is Asaka ne o sa oghian Oba “The giant ant that stings the king’s enemy”

(¡¡) Originator’s appellation e.g. Enaogele, Enaegiesan, Enatose

(iii) Originator’s profession eg. Enabo

(iv) Originato’s habit e.g. Enagiewan

(y) The found —land’s name e.g. Enauvbe, Enaumodu

The family morning greeting has a perpetuating effect on the traditional ancestor of the family title. The salutation consisted of two parts:
The family word, and the introductory word was (E)na’ literally meaning ‘Owner of’ and expressively implying “I belong to ..... . .“ Or “I am of”. The family word for the full Ukhu salutation would take for instance, the form of’Ena iso’ meaning “I belong to or I come of Iso or Ogiso family.” In most cases, the variant of ‘n’ is now used in its stead, making the introductory word ‘la’-’Laiso’. The letters ‘n’ and l’ are used .interchangeably as in node, lode ‘yesterday’.

The simple reason why appellation is being used by the receiver to the giver — sender who renders the family greeting is that it i.e. appellation stands in the position of condiment to family greeting.

It is worthy of note here to learn that ILOI (the queens) are exempted from rendering the morning salutation Enaumogun (Laumogun) to their lord. Instead, they greet him ‘Oburhiomwe’ simply because Oba re o yaen Umogun  eren. While as ‘Omonorrowa’ and as ‘Edaiken’, his wives render Enaumogun (Laumogun) to him.

Comment Box is loading comments...