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OBA EWUARE AND CHISTIANITY

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By Ekhaguosa Aisien (Last update 29-08-2018)

The currently accepted opinion regarding when the Christian religion was first preached to the people of Benin situates the period in the reign of Oba Esigie, Ewuare’s grandson. But a closer look at the reign of Oba Ewuare, along with the folk stores about the reign, suggested that it was during his reign that Christianity was first preached in Benin, earlier than it was once thought. And it was the king- head himself, Oba Ewuare who was naturally the principal target of the effort at the conversion of the Benin by the Portuguese. And it was clear also that Ewuare’s reaction to this attempt at his conversion was positive. He was receptive to, and enthusiastic about the teaching.
catholic church in Sao Tome
Oba Ewuare
One of the best remembered and often repeated stories about Ewuare was the attempt he made, one fine day, to destroy the deities of the land by incineration. The story narrates that Oba Ewuare invited all the deities of the land to the palace, to a banquet as a show of his appreciation to them for all of their support during his struggle for the throne.

The deities were the IHEN, the mystics, who in life accomplished extraordinary things which suggested that they possessed supernatural attribute, and who at death were therefore defied and worshiped. Priesthood was created for the particular IHEN so recognized, and this priesthood was hereditary going from father to the eldest son.

Honouring the Oba’s invitation were Okhuaihe, Ake, Ovator n’ Igieduma, Ogan n’ Ekhua, Ireghezi n’ Ekae, and all the other IHEN who were alive in the land at the time.

Ewuare received them in a large hall in the OGBE Quarters, near the palace, in a place called the IWETON, said to be behind the Oba market. A large door provided the entrance into the hall.

With the formal welcome concluded with prayers and the breaking of kola- nut, Ewuare bade the IHEN to settle down enjoy themselves because a sumptuous banquet had been prepared for them. He then left his guests and returned to his living quarters in the palace.

The meal of pounded yam was brought in, along with pots of stew choc-a-black with venison meat, and supported with kegs of sweet palm wine. The deities disported themselves around the meal provided and fed themselves to satiety washing the meal down with the sweet palm wine from the calabashes.
When Ewuare was told that IHEN had all been prodigally fed and were in an expansive mood of relaxation, he ordered that the only door to the banquet hall be shut and barricaded from the outside. The hall should then be set on fire, so that his guests would, with no means of escape from the burning building, be incinerated.

The order was carried out. The thatched roof of the hall was set on fire in many places. The hall went up in a great conflagration, with all the deities in Benin land trapped in the inferno, a scenario similar to the burning of heretics at the stakes in the medieval Europe of those days

The deities brought their supernatural capabilities to bear on the emergency situation the found themselves in shrouding themselves in cocoons of non-inflammable ethereal clouds, each and every one of them exited unharmed from the burning hall, either right through the substance of the two-feet thick mud walls of the hall or over the top of the portions of the high wall already denuded of their roof cover by the fire.

The AKE deity, the god of archery, and patron/guardian of the hunters of the land, was the only IHEN who suffered any physical blemish in this treacherous and murderous encounter in Oba Ewuare’s palace. In his attempt to escape from the burning hall through the caves of the roof, some portions of his fore-arms and of the shins of his legs were singed by the fire. The burns healed leaving de-pigmented patches over those portions of Ake’s limbs. Thenceforth in attempts to hide these skin blemishes, Ake took to adorning his body with the red pigment of the cam-wood tree — umee, a habit that this deity’s devotees subsequently adopted, and sport to this day.

For this act of unprovoked murderous treachery perpetrated against the deities of the land by the king, apparently in an attempt to destroy the native religion of the land, Ewuare, it was said, was later punished. The disease of generalized oedema anasarca , was inflicted upon him in his later years, a disease of which he subsequently died. The nature of this infirmity determined that the remains of this Oba be not interred in Benin City, his capital, but away from home, as it was believed that his death was a retribution for a transgression against the OVIA deity. Were the corpse to be buried in his house, as was the custom with every dead Edo adult, the act would elicit the wrath of the ofended deity against the house or community where the internment took place.

At death, therefore, the body of this greatest of the ancient Obas of Benin had to be taken to the non-descript village of ESSI, his maternal grandmother’s village, beyond the OVIA river, and there interred. a world away from Benin City.

The folklore explanation of the unexpected, uncharitable and murderous action of Ewuare against the deities of the land, personages who constituted the pillars which upheld the religion of the land. was that Ewuare became bad tempered when he as told that the deities were unhappy with him. They were said to have accused the Oba of ingratitude. They had played their different roles in support of his struggles to attain the throne of his father, Ohen. But since he became the king, Ewuare seemed to have conveniently forgotten the debt of gratitude he owed them.

But Ewuare was now the king and, as the source of all power and alt beneficence in the land, he felt uncomfortable to be seen to be beholden to any group or entities in his kingdom for his tenure-ship of his supreme office. A solution to this feeling of indebtedness to these beings would be to use the power he now had to destroy these benefactors, and so free himself of any sense of obligation to them.

Other episodes of similar reasoning are to be found in the lives of Ewuare himself, and also of his son OZOUJA: the destruction of a benefactor as a means of ridding oneself of the sense of obligation lo the benefactor.
The other potent reason for bringing destruction, instead of gratitude, to a benefactor was that the gift which was in the power of the benefactor to confer was so potent that this recipient wanted to hold on to the monopoly of the power inherent in the gift conferred on him. The death of the benefactor would permanently take care of the fear of the recipient that the same power, in the hands of another person, might someday be used against him.

The easily remembered examples of this type of reasoning are Ewuares treatment of the worm-infested tree which gave him the talisman of instant wish-actualization and, also of Oba Ozolua’s slaying of Orinmworia, the man who saved him from being slain by ISE after ISE had defeated him in the battle of Utekon village.

There is a well-known saying in Yoruba land that the first person a newly crowned Oba executed when he came to the throne was the personage who was the most instrumental to his attainment of the throne. This was in order for the new Oba to rid himself of the feeling of indebtedness to any other moral for his position at the apex of society, possessed as he now was of the power of life and death over everybody else in the community.

This tendency, to use unrestrained power to the disadvantage of a benefactor instead of using the power to his benefit in gratitude, seems to be a recurring theme in the story of human relationships. Unrestrained power does not co-exist easily with a sense of gratitude and obligation.
But a more plausible way to look at this event of the attempted incineration of the deities of the land by Oba Ewuare is to argue that this episode tells the story of the attempts made by Portugal to converts the king of Benin to Christianity.

The well-known scenario which depicts the Christian missionary in Africa, in the 19th and 20th centuries, in the actual act of receiving the converted natives into the new religion always involved, at some point, the destruction, by incineration, of the heap of gathered idols which the newly converted natives had been worshipping, and which worship they had now renounced.

This writer, as a little boy, was a witness to one of such episodes more than seventy years ago, in the town of URHONIGBE in the Orhionmwon territories of the Benin kingdom. It was in the year 1936, The Rev. W. 1. Payne, the English missionary in charge of the Benin District of the Anglican Church visited URHONIGBE town, the seat of the famous shrine of the OLOKUN deity, the god of the sea. There was already an Anglican Church building in the town, as well as a primary school, run by [he church. The author was six years old, and a pupil in the school. He was living in Urhonigbe because his father was, at that time, the court clerk of the Native Court of the town, the scribe of the Judiciary created for the community by the British Colonial Administration.

A motley crowd of people gathered one evening in front of the church building. They were the new converts to Christianity, souls just won for Christ by ¡he English missionary on his pastoral visit to Urhonigbe from his headquarters in Benin City. Each convert had come to the gathering bringing with him or her all the idols they had hitherto worshipped, the physical representations of their erstwhile religion which they had now repudiated.

The idols were gathered together in a heap in front of the church building. Bundles of firewood were procured and heaped upon the religious artifacts. The mound was then set on fire. It was verily like the burning of heretics at the stake in medieval Europe.

All the Christians, old and new, Inked hands with the white missionary, formed a circle and danced round the crackling conflagration in the early darkness of the dusk, singing and dancing and clapping to Edo Christian songs, like witches in a coven,

The folklore memory of the attempted destruction by fire of the deities of the land by Ewuare almost certainly represents the attempt, by Portugal, to convert this monarch to Christianity. Portugal was already in colonial occupation of the equatorial off-shore islands, especially of Sao Tome. A thriving agricultural industry had developed in this colony, based on the sugar cane cultivation. A vibrant church was flourishing there, and it was the seat of a Bishop. The Island authorities must therefore have been desirous of establishing mutually beneficial contacts with the African mainland. And one of the first things they would attempt to do in this regard would be the Christianization of Benin. Ewuare went through the motions of incinerating the artifacts representing the gods of the land, all in an attempt to convince his new friends of the seriousness with which he regarded their advice about the evils of idolatry and the benefits, both spiritual and political, of declaring for Christ. Of course it was not until the reign of his grandson. Oba ESIGIE, that this effort at Christianizing Benin took root and Christianity flourished for a long while in the land before it went into regression.

It should be emphasized that the Portuguese, on first getting to Benin, must have been greatly relieved that the kingdom was not as yet a Moslem kingdom, judging from the fact that much of what Portugal had seen of Africa up to that point in time. and certainly as far down south as the latitude of Cape Verde, had largely been Islamized, And taking into account the centuries—old struggle with Islam which Christian Europe had been engaged in, in their own home front, coupled with the fact that Moslems were even, at that point in history, still in occupation of portíons oI’Europe, including arcas of the Iberian Península, when Portugal was already in Benin it must have seemed doubly importalil to the Portuguese in Benin to attempt to plant the Christian religion in this “virgin” soil. so far un-exposed to Islam, Achieving this would permanently make Benin land an extension of Christendom, a natural friend and ally rather than the hostile territory it would be had it been Moslem.
It would, therefore, have been undrinkable for Portugal, in the 1460’s and 1470’s, not to attempt to convert to Christianity a well — organized West African Kingdom like the Benin of Oba Ewuare, and so keep the kingdom for ever from the orbit of Islam. And Portugal seized the opportunity. The result of the effort, as remembered by folklore, was the gathering of the gods of the land together al IWETON by Ewuare, and his attempt, in one fell swoop, to destroy them, as demanded by his new-found friends.

The OSAH and OSUAN Chieftaincy Titles:

The Osah and Osuan chieftaincy titles were created by Oba Fwuare. Their creation is further evidence that Christianity was preached, and perhaps practiced, in Benin during his reign. ¡am of the opinion that these two chieftaincy titles are Christianity-derived J. U. Egharevba, the father of Benin historiography, relates that these two personalities the Osah
and the Osuan — came to Benin City during the reign of Ewuare.

The chief characteristic associated with these two important palace chiefs was the drinking of human blood and the eating of human flesh. And these chiefs did this only as an integral part of the function which they performed for the palace during those ceremonies designed to open the doors of abundance and peace for the kingdom.

This strange predilection associated with these two chiefs, a predilection to which they owe the honour in which they are held by the whole of the kingdom. a predilection which they mandatorily had to indulge in if they were correctly to carry out the ceremonial functions assigned to them — was, without doubt, a bastardization of the Christian Eucharist, a macabre and literary interpretation of the Holy Communion ceremony performed by the Portuguese Reverend Fathers in the palace of Oba Ewuare. in the Holy Communion ceremony, the flesh of Jesus the Christ ritually has to be eaten, and his blood ritually drunk, in order to obtain the forgiveness of the sins of those taking part in the ceremony.

The Osah and Osuan chiefs, I believe, represent the Roman Catholic Reverend Fathers from the Church in Sao Tome, or possibly from Lisbon itself, who, at the Holy Altar set up in Ewuare’s palace, celebrated the Eucharist, ritually eating the flesh, and then drinking the blood of Jesus the Christ, so that the doors of the grace of Heaven might be opened to bless the Oba and the Benin Kingdom.

On  “The Evolution of Benin Chieftaincy Titles”, Prince Ena Eweka writes that one of the stories relating to these two chiefs, the Osah and the Osuan states that they came to Benin from the Benin river, through Ughoton. That is, they came from across the seas, and that Osuan arrived in Benin three months before Osah who “arrived later lo join his brother Osuan”. These two were almost certainly Portuguese Reverend Fathers sent to Benin from the Church in Sao Tome by the Portuguese Bishop of that Island colony to pursue the proselytisation of the Benin kingdom.

Osah was probably a senior priest in the Prefecture of Sao Tome, from where they both came, because when Osah alternately arrived in Benin, he took over the leadership of the Benin missionary enterprise from Osuan, who had arrived a little earlier to prepare the grounds for their missionary activities, preparations like the procurement of suitable accommodation., and the building of a place of worship, etc.

In addition to being Roman Catholic priests — or more correctly, because they were Roman Catholic Priests — these two personalities belonged, in their time, to some of the most highly educated bodies in the world — the priesthood of the Roman Catholic Church trained in the Roman Catholic monasteries of Christendom. The Priests were knowledgeable in the Sciences, in Medicine, Philosophy, and in the other religions of the world, in addition to their own. They were masters in the knowledge of the Botany and the Zoology of their environment, in whatever part of the world they lived and worked.

The Jesuit priests working in Chile, South America, introduced the native South American herbal drug, quinine, to Europe. The drug made possible the later colonization of most parts of the world by the Europeans in that it protected the colonialists from the deadly malarial attacks in the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world.

Gregor Mendel was an Austrian Roman Catholic priest of the 19th century. It was in his monastery in Austria that he founded the modem science of Genetics by his discovery, through experimentation with plants in his monastery garden of the scientific laws of heredity, resulting in the modem application of the D.N.A. in medical and forensic fields.

In Ewuare’s time, Osah, the Roman Catholic Priest, was additionally a surgeon who treated wounds and fractures, whether they were war-wounds or domestic injuries. Where he looked after his surgical patients is now represented by the UWEN shrine, in IGUN Street. Benin City.

Osuan was the Roman Catholic Priest who additionally practiced midwifery, coping with the problems of those Benin City women who were experiencing difficulties in child-birth. Where he carried out his practice is now represented by the ORA shrine, also in Igun Street.

It is revealing to note that these two medical treatment shrines exist together in the same premises in IGUN Street. We must conclude that the premises were most probably the site of the first Medical Centre or Hospital run by Europeans in Benin.

According to Ena Eweka, the shrines UWEN and ORA are coir-jointly called:

Ebo n’Edo,

Which could roughly be transited as?
“The European-run Curative Centre in Benin “— in modern parlance: “The European Hospital.

The word “Ebo” can be translated as a ‘Native Doctor or a ‘Native Healer”

It can also, with a little inflection in the voice, be translated as a “European ‘

The Ebo n’ Edo — “the European-run curative Centre in Benin’
— was probably the public counterpart of the IWEGIE, the Curative Centre located within the Oba palace, and run by the Ebos”, the Ewaise, the royal physicians who look after the palace population.

Of course a Roman Catholic Chapel must have been an integral part of the whole EbO n’ Edo” set-up in IGUN Street.

Four hundred years after the arrival in Benin of Osah and Osuan with the first coming of Christianity, the same religion came a second time nearly a century ago after Benin City was conquered by the British. Yet, it came with its habits, its methods of operation, virtually unchanged. It again promptly set about establishing medical institution in whatever location
it was striving to win the souls of the populations for Christ.

The modern equivalents of the “Ebo n’Edo” shrine of Igun Street, the “Ebo n‘ Edo’s” which came with this second coming of Christianity to Benin, are: the St. Philomena Hospital in Benin City, the St. Camillus Hospital in Uromi, and the Notre Dame Hospital in Uzairue in Afemai.

It should be noted ¡n passing that the ancient Maternity Guild of OGIDA Quarters in Benin City, beyond the Oliha Moat — that other centres where cases of difficult child-birth were attended to in old Benin had no European in-put in its creation. The OGIDA guild was established by an IKA man.

He was a prisoner-of-war brought to Benin during the campaigns by the Benin armies in the Western Ibo territories during the reign of Oba ESIGIE, Ewuare’s grandson, after the IDAH War (OKUOATTA) ended

The war-captive was locked up in the EWEDO, the Palace Prison, situated where the Benin Federal Prisons is now sited, not too far removed from the royal harem

He earned his freedom when he performed a medical feat. He was able to bring much needed relief to a royal consort who was having a difficult childbirth in the royal harem. He saved the life of both the young mother and her royal baby.

On the orders of ESIGEE this native obstetrician was given his freedom, and then ordered to set up a materniy guild beyond the Oliha Moat for the benefit of the city women in labour. His descendants are the Enigie of Ogida Quarters to this day.

The people of the EGUADASE Guide, in Eguadase quarters Benin City are also products of this period in Benin history. They were prisoners-of war brought from the Ika territories during the campaigns in those parts by Esígies armies. They were recognized as expert agriculturists with a pronounced expertise with the yam crop.

Esigie constituted them into a guild of Royal Famers, and settled them in the area of town now known as Eguadase, derived from the original name of:

Emadase:

“The yam crop is of more Worth to the Oba Than coral beads and other articles of adornment”.

Prince Ena Eweka writes that Osah and Osuan “through some magical powers would plant corn and okro which would produce fruits and be harvesied on the same day they were planted “.

This information would suggest that these Roman Catholic priests also attempted to teach the Benin people improved methods of agriculture They, or some of their other compatriots almost certainly introduced some exotic crops into Benin, tropical plants from Sao Tome and also from the South American continent, especially from Brazil. These non indigenous crops, which the Edos designate as ‘Ebo” or European” were probably introduced into Benin by these learned Botanists from across the seas, crops like:

Ivin ebo           European kernel--------------Coco-nut
Edin ebo          European palm fruit---------Pine Apple
Iyan ebo          European yam---------------  Potato
Oghede ebo   European plantain---------Banana
Ize (ebo)          European Rice---------------Rice

The involvement in Edo agriculture, five hundred years ago, of these Portuguese Reverend Fathers, as recorded by Prince Ena Eweka, calls to mind the role played by Chief OSUAN in the celebration of the kingdoms yearly EHO festival. In the chapter on the EHO festival in the book: “The Edo Cultural Voyage”, edited by Chief. O. U. Igbe, the Iyase of Benin, a priest called the Okhue Osuan: “Chief Osuan’s Parrot”, journeys from Igbekhue víllage in Iyekorhionmwon to Benin City to meet Chief Osuan in his palace. The meeting between these two personages signals the beginning of the EHO festival season for the Edos.

The EHO festival ¡s all about the agricultural! Year, with the products of the year’s farming season employed in the propitiation of the ancestral spirits of each home-stead, in gratitude for yet another year of the bountifulness of the soil.

The involvement of these Sao Tomean priests in Edo agriculture five hundred years ago explains, with much relief, the role of the Osuan and his Okhue Osuan “in the signaling of the end of [he Edo agricultural Year, the celebration of which is the EHO festival. This is a role by the two personages, which would otherwise have remained unexplainable but for the supposition made above.

Did these European priests have an Agricultural Experimental Farm in Igbekhue village five hundred years ago, a farm which was tended locally by the personage who ultimately became the “Okhue Osuan”

It should be pointed out here that Igbekhue village is in the general vicinity of Sokponba village, the site chosen only a hundred years ago by another European Mr. Hitchens the first Botanist and Forester of the British Colonial administration in Benin, where he built a Forestry Experimental Station and a Rest House.

The unbelievably crystal-clear waters of the headstream of the Igbaghon (Jamieson) river, in the Igbekhue-Sokponba forests, was probably what attracted these Europeans of these two different epochs in Benin history to those parts. The Igbaghon waters are so crystal-Clear in the Sokponba area that one can clearly see a pin in many feet of it depth its attractiveness  inviting people to dive into it and to swim in it for relaxation

To further confirm the identities of these two priests, the Osah and Osuan, as European, there was a hint of homosexuality in their behavior, as reported by Ena Eweka:

"At the Eghute festival “, he writes on page 60, “when pregnant women vacate the city so as not to see weird things, it is said that a male priest referred to as Izeho gives birth to a child”

“Eghute” means a sea-shore or a river beach, suggestive of the Atlantic Ocean and the Benin river, through which these important personalities came to Benin over five hundred years ago. The Osah and Osuan are important actors in the Eghute festival.

The role played by chiefs Osah and Osuan at the coronation of a new Oba and during important festivals like the EGHUTE and the ODODUA, is also very suggestive of their original priestly antecedents. At the coronation of a new Oba the Osah and Osuan act as the Enobore, the arm supporters, of the new monarch.

In Europe where the Roman Catholic priests came from, it was the head-priest, the Bishop or Archbishop, who put the crown on the head of the new monarch. In Benin, since the time of the Ogiso kings, it has been the OLIHA who performs this function, the crowning of the kings of Benin. With the Oliha performing the function which Archbishops perform in Christendom, the Osah and Osuan, being transmogrified Roman Catholic priests, yet intimately got involved in the coronation proceedings, attesting by their involvement at that period in history, that this was a Christian king who was being crowned.

There is an anectode which narrates how Osuan left Igun Street, where his ORA shrine is still sited, side by side with Osah’s UWEN shrine, and was made to reside outside the walls of the Inner City, the IYeke Iya, where he lives to this day, opposite the premises of the “Nigerian-Observer” Newspaper.

It was during the reign of Oba Ozolua, Ewuare’s son. The king had hundreds of women in his harem, but for a long time none of them had become pregnant. This was a source of worry to the monarch, and even more so to his harem.

One day, Ozolua and Osuan sat together in the palace, partnering each other in a game of ISE, the mancala game. As the game progressed, the king began to confide in his chief about some of his personal problems, telling Osuan that the royal Harem was almost in uproar with discontent because of the absence, there, of pregnancies.

The reason for such a state of affairs is the trick which nature played un humanity by suggesting that the fertile period in a female’s monthly cycle was the day immediately following the cessation of her “period.” Nature, as every modern woman now knows, postpones the fertile period for five to eight days thereafter, in order to get the womb prepared for a possible pregnancy Therefore, efforts made at child concept the day following the cessation of the monthly ‘period” were usually ineffectual because of the un-readiness of the system for reproduction, yet this was precisely the day when the wife in a polygamous home mandatorily received her husband’s attention The ancestral spirits of the household would usually carpet the husband who neglected his duty to his wife on this one important day of the month (see UHUKI: Melzian’s BINI DICTIONARY, PP 200-201)

In a household with a large harem relative barrenness was frequently the state of affairs because the husband prematurely attended to his wives when the wives still needed a few more days to get primed for pregnancy. In this set-Up, only the favourite wives readily became pregnant because they were not restricted to the mandatory one day in the month, for the husband’s attention.

This throws light on the story of Ogiso Orriagba and the birth of his only son, Ogiso Odoligie. It also throws light on the story of Ogiso Owodo, his wife Esagho, and his only son Prince Ekaladerhan.

Osuan thought for a long while about this piece of confidence as the ISE game progressed then volunteered some advice to his monarch he said to Ozolua:

“Purchase a pregnant slave-girl from the market, and send her into the harem to live with the harem women. With these wives daily seeing the ballooned-out, pregnant state of the slave girl’s abdomen, each of them would likewise soon begin to attain that state”

Ozoiua felt grievously insulted by this piece of advice from his chief. His virility, the potency of his manhood. Had been called into question! Osuan was telling him to harbour in his own harem a pregnancy which he was riot responsible for! Who else would do such a thing but the impotent?

He rose from his seat in a rage and rained blows on his Ise partner. And in that fit of anger, he banished Osuan from the Inner City to behind Ewuares moat. And this has been the chief’s new abode since these last five hundred years.

This anecdote tends to lend further credence to the supposition that the two personages, the Osah and Osuan were medical Roman Catholic priests, and that Osuan was the obstetrician. It was Osuan and fnot Osah whom Ozolua confided in with regard to this late-stage “infertility” problem which was exercising his mind and causing discontent in his harem.

The ENINA and the AVBAVBA GODS:

Yet another lead which points to the supposition that the introduction of Christianity to Benin took place during the reign of Ewuare, and that this monarch, rather than his grandson Esigie. was indeed the first Christian King of Benin, is suggested by the fact that the introduction of the two gods, ENINA and AVBAVBA into the Benin Pantheon of Deities, is attributed to Ewuare.

Enina is the god of Mercy, and , avbavba the god of Forgiveness.

These two gods are personifications of some of the finest attributes of man. The attributes which they represent are important parts of the make-up of Christianity and of other religions as well. The attributes are harped upon continuously by these religions, especially by Christianity.

Mercy and Forgiveness are abstract concepts, but Ewuare concretized them and incorporated them into the Benin Pantheon of Deities. This says something about the sophistication of the thought -processes of this king of Benin of more than 500 years ago. He created a chieftaincy title, the ERIYO, to be the priest of these gods. Chief Eriyo ministers to the gods on behalf of the Oba for the good of the Benin kingdom.

Chief Jacob U. Egharevba writes in the ‘’Short Hisiory of Benin” about the names earned by Oba Ewuare from the peoples who are neighbours of the Benin people as a result of the known exploits of this monarch during his life time. The EKITI Yoruba said of him:

Qba Ado n’gbogun lodo ile, Ogbomodu n’gbe I’orun:

“The Oba of Benin wages war on the earth below, with the sound of thunder and lightning. As the god of Thunder does it, the skies.”

This description of Ewuare at war is, I believe, a clear reference to this king’s employment of guns, and perhaps also, of cannon, in his warfare activities. A sword in action in battle does not make a noise like thunder. So, it would not be unreasonable to assume that Ewuare did employ fire-arms in his warfare activities, lf he did make use of these new weapons, and he must have obtained them from his Portuguese friends. Therefore, the long-held belief that it was during the reign of Esigie, Ewuare’s grandson, that guns first featured in Benin warfare, might need to be reconsidered.

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