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Oba Akenzua II
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Prince Godfrey Edokpa- Orhogbuyunmwun Aiguobasinmwin Eweka was born on the 5th of April, 1899 at Irhirhi village in the late Orhumwense’s house. He was heir presumptive to the crown prince (heir Apparent) to the throne of Benin at a time that tried the soul of the Edos as their King’s life was hanging on the balance. His grand-father, Ovonramwen, the last independent King of Benin was deposed and deported to calabar after the war of 1897 on 13th September 1897.

He was the only child of his mother, Queen Ariowa as the Benin custom did not permit a second birth to the mother of a would-be King. This is seen in the adage that “Omo Kpa r’ Ekpen bie”. His mother hailed from Evbodobian village in Orhionmwon Local Government Area of Edo State. She did not live to see her son enthroned in 1933 as she passed away in 1926 but her body was embalmed at Evborubu village,according to custom until she was officially
buried after the accession of her son as Oba of Benin in 1935. She was
then proclaimed “IYOBA” (Oba’s Mother) The son built a house and raised monument to her memory at the entrance to Eguae-Iyoba. He also built a house at her village to commemorate her name.

His father, then Prince AIguobasinmwin Ovonrawen (Eweka II) was born by Queen Eghaghe who hailed from Uvbe village in Orhionmwon Local Government Area of Edo state. She was of Egbede family. Her mother was the daughter of Chief Evbuomwan, the Enogie of Abavo. Her father was Osenugbe of Isi. She passed away peacefully on 18th February, 1933 after the passing away of her son Eweka II. She was buried by her grand-son Oba Akenzua II.

Oba Akenzua, fther, Oba Eweka II was a bold and courageous per which earned him the appellation of Ovbiudu. He rebuilt the present palace after the ruin of the old palace after the Benin Expedition war of 1897, hence the appellation of “ Eweka N’ Ologbe”. The term became so appropriate in that it was Oba Eweka I, who started the second dynasty after the deposition of the last Ogiso and the coming of Oronmiyan, a grand-son of Ogiso  Owodo from  Ife where his father  was on exile after being expelled from Benin through the evil machination of Esagho, the wife of Ogiso Owodo. It was Oba Eweka I who built the first palace.

After the deportation of Oba Ovonramwen, the son, Eweka II retied to his mother’s sister Ediagbonya house at Ekhor to pursue farming to earn a living until he was called back to Benin by the consul, he was appointed District Head. He then resided in his grandmother’s house at Ogbe quarters.
At the demise of his father in exile in 1914, his accession was challenged and became a matter of debate. But for the wise judgment of the British Officials, on the strong evidence of some Benin Chiefs, the table would have turned in favour of Chief Agho Ogbedeoyo, the Obaseki of Benin, who had acted for the Oba during the Interregnum, 1897-1914. If this was the case, Oba Akenzua II would have terribly missed the crown.

Oba Akenzua II in his youth was place under the Tutelage of his father’s friend Chief Ajayi, the Ovienrioba of Benin. Here he was groomed in the deposition and comportment of an Oba.
While still with the Chief he was sent to the Benin Government School under the headmastership of late Mr. Okai a Ghanaian in 1907. He passed the then Standard Six in 1915. In 1918 he proceeded to king’s College, Lagos, where he studied and passed the then Junior Cambridge examination in 1921. Which was the highest class attanable then in the college? Among his classmates at king’s College were the late Bishop A.W. Howells, Justice R. Ade Doherty and Dr Samuel Manuwa. His tutors included Mr. Earnest Ikoli and Mr. Charles James Smart who became a popular letter writer in Benin City before his death in 1966.

Oba Akenzua II distinguished himself as a brilliant scholar. He was a very keen sportsman; he was very good at cricket and football. After his accession to the throne, he took great delight at playing billiard. He had billiard table in his palace which he played most of the evenings with some Chiefs
Apart from his Western Education, he was very vast in the knowledge of Benin tradition, customs and culture. He was trained in Royalty obligations art of administration and component of an Oba. All these contributed immensely to his qualities, wisdom, virtue and forthrightness in his rule in the years of his reign.
On his return from the college, he was appointed a transport clerk in the Benin Native Administration, and later transferred to his father’s palace as the Oba’s confidential secretary, in these posts; he acquired more knowledge of administration and human relationship.

In 1925, he was sent to Abeokuta to study Native Administration system under Sir Ademola II, the late Alake of Abeokuta. To put the knowledge so gained into practice and on his return to Benin, he was appointed the District Head of Eguaedaiken, although he had not been initiated into the Palace Society or installed the Ediaken. He was virtually in change of the area of Iyeke-Uselu. That is the whole of the area after and beyond Uselu up to Benin Divisional boundary with Ondo State, in matter of jurisdiction and administration. He performed his duty creditably and judiciously without blemish and earned praise of the Colonial Administration Officers and the admiration of all. He depicted the genuity of a born ruler. He was, in fact, well prepared to assume the Obaship of his people at the time he was called upon to put on the mantle of his forefathers as a great ruler

On The demise of his father Oba Eweka II, after a brief illness he was called upon to be initiated into the Iwebo palace Society only as entry to the rest society is of right after the installation, According to tradition, he had to perform the right of Odafen-Vbonoreguae, the Ukonniwebo, Edaiken and Iyanehien respectively before he was officially informed of the passing away of his father, although he was privy to it before then. After the announcement, he had to perform the rites of the burial ceremonies for fourteen days.

Before his installation he had to face a dramatic challenge, neither from his chiefs nor his brothers as in the cases of his father and grand-father, but his senior half sister, princess Ighiwiyisi. On the ground that she was the first born of their father and therefore devolved on her to succeed their father as the Oba of Benin.

After a protracted debate the Colonial Officers, the Benin Chiefs strongly protested against her claim that there was no precedence of a woman becoming the king of Benin. She further argued that in the event that she as a woman cannot reign as Oba, she should be granted the prerogative to nominate a substitute from any of her brothers. This her new tactics was equally rebuffed and proved to have had no precedence in the annals of Benin history as there had been on several occasions of seniors sisters of an Oba of Benin and no instance could be cited to support her claim several examples were cited such as the one most recent and that of princess Ayubini, the senior daughter of Oba Osemwende and senior sister to Oba Adolo. Finally, The Government upheld the points raised by the Edaiken Prince Godfrey Edokparhogbuyunmwun Eweka to succeed his father as the Oba of Benin. After going through the various stages and ceremonies he was crowned Oba Akenzua II, Oba of Benin on the 5th April, 1933, amidst unprecedented and tumultuous jubilation crowd in the history of Benin.

He was presented with the staff of office of First Class Chief by His Honour Lt. Governor Buchanam Smith. He also read the address or message from His Honour Sir Donald Cameron, the Governor of Nigeria.

The following was the message:
“I welcome the Oba-elect to the seat of his father, and of his fore fathers. I wish him well and i ask him to trust me and to heed what i am going to say. I am anxious-almost above all things in Nigeria to make a success of the policy of administering the people through their own chiefs, but my experience here and elsewhere make me doubt whether it will be possible to achieve this if we pursue the methods of the past. No sufficient attempt has been made in the past, I believe to teach and train the Chiefs in the very difficult “Art of Administration”. That is not our policy in the case of Administrative Officer. We train him in England before he came to the country at all, and we train him through many years before he is place in such a responsible position as that of resident.

On the other hand  we have in the past taken the Chiefs quite untrained and quite uninstructed in methods of administration according to civilised standard, and left him to work out his own salvation as best he could with the minimum of interference and guidance from Resident or other senior Administrative Officer, I believe this to be a dangerous position from which no possible good can come; especially in these days when the people can express themselves  and their  grievances when all the acts of Government, including those of the Native Administration are quite properly, open to public criticism, and when it is no longer possible to rely on fear and superstition in administering subject people. It is my sole desire, I repeat to make a real success of the policy of Native Administration but I fear, as the words I have used in the foregoing remarks must disclose, that if some better methods of training and guidance of the Chiefs in the art of administration are not introduced, Native Administration through the Chiefs cannot endure in modern society in which we all now have to live in Nigeria and most eventually crumble and fade away.”

His first year in office was concentrated in acquainting him with the practical role of an Oba and the intricacies of Benin traditional law and customs. He engaged himself with the rehabilitation of the palace to meet the modern treads of the society. He under took renovation of the palace which hitherto instill awe and fear in the minds of people, particularly visitors, who attempt to visit the palace. It was most difficult then to have an audience with the Oba as there were large empty court yards before the real occupied  parts of the palace where traditional, common office was created  where the Oba could receive visitors and discuss freely with them, He also created a special reception room for august visitor’s to the palace.

The walls abounding the large enclosed courts gave way to large expanse of open court yard with forming a fence it were, to mark the extent of the Palace.
In 1934 the Oba attended the opening ceremony of the Yaba Higher College Lagos. He was accorded rousing royal reception by the Edo Community in Lagos in particular and all sundries in Lagos and environs. On his return journey, he called at Abeokuta to pay a courtesy visit to the Alake of Abeokuta, Oba Ademola II  

The same year (1934), there was the great Forest Reserve dispute between the colonial Administrator and the Benin people. There follow a long dialogue which resulted in the establishment of the Benin Native Authority Forest Department under a British Forest Officer with the late Ranger Adams Obasogie Ekuawe at the head of the field staff.

At the end of two years of the accession to the throne he created his immediate three junior brothers Enogie; Uwaifiokun Eweka, the Enogie of Obagie, Ogiesoba Eweka, Enogie of Aideyannoba and Iyi Eweka , the Enogie of Oghada. He also initiated after few years of his reign other hereditary titles of Obarayi-Edo on Chief Ogiemudia Obaseki, Chief Johnson Francis .O. Akpata, the Aihie-Oba of Benin, and Arala of Benin on Chief Sunmola Omo  Lawal Osula. He also made the Osula of Benin and Obaseki Titles hereditary.

On the invitation of the Queen, Elizabeth II, of England the Oba Akenzua II, visited England with his wife Queen Idada, the Ohan of the harem on October 5, 1950
On the 5th of February, 1956, Queen Elizabeth II of England visited Nigeria and had a stopover at the Benin Airport where she was received by Oba Akenzua II, the Resident and other dignitaries from all over the kingdom

In Oba Akenzua II relentless efforts to regain the lost glory of his kingdom, his late grand- father Oba Ovonramwen’s coral regalia were returned to him in 37 from the British Museum by the government.
He had courage ability and patience to surmount all trials and intrigues of his reign. He worked relentlessly to find solutions between the British rule and culture of his people. He was forceful and dynamic in the advancement plans for the welfare of the nation.

He was awarded Companion of the order of Saint Michael and Saint George (C.M.G) by the British Queen, conferred with the Doctorate Degree LL.D (Causa) on the 19th May 1966 by Ahmadu Bello Zaria. He was also after the Nigeria independence awarded the commander of the federal Republic of Nigeria (C.F.R.N) and he was appointed justice of peace (J.P).

Oba Akenzua II was a Minister of State in the then Western House in 1955 and a member of the Western House of Chief from 1959 to 1963, before the creation of Midwest Region.
To keep perpetual the knowledge and his of the past of his people from which posterity could learn and draw inspiration from our past history and culture, the Oba initiated the establishment of the Benin Museum under Chief Jacob U.Egharevba as the curator. To the Museum, he contributed generously and in no small measure several antiquities. Many people of goodwill also donated to growth of the Museum. The Federal Government has taken over the management of the museum under trained curators and under the Department of Antiquities. A befitting building in the heart of the City has been created to house the museum, officially opened to the public on August 10, 1973.

He was equally a notable royal monarch of Benin kingdom. He initiated the campaign for the creation of Mid-West Region which materialized in 1962.

With the fall of the tree at Emotan shrine in 1951, there was great indignation that the fall was due to evil machination of the enemies of progress and peace in the realm. It was known that an expatriate working for the French Company known as M. Gualia used a winch on the tree few days before it was blown down by storm. The tree was at the site of a royalist called Emotan who gave cover to Prince Ogun that enabled him gain the crown from his usurping brother, Uwaifiokun. Ogun later reigned as Oba Ewuare. On her death, the Oba deified her and order that on all occasion celebrations, homage should be paid to her.

To perpetuate the memory of the woman and to keep the tradition going Oba Akenzua II caused a statue of Emotan to be erected at the site, and it was unveiled by him on 11th March 1954.

The Oba’s interest in Education and for the progress of his people to measure up with other Nigerians, he sponsored the establishment of Edo College, Benin City in 1935 under the proprietorship of the Benin Native Authority. He gave land freely towards this program. The College was open in 1936 under the principal-ship of Mr. B.D. Coker, a Ghanaian and former headmaster of the Benin Government School, The original site is now occupied by the Idia College while the Edo College moved to a new and larger site along Murtala Muhammed Way, Benin City.      

His love for education and the great premium he placed on Western Education he saw to it that his children got maximum training in modern education as much as their intellect and ability could carry.

The Roman Catholic Fathers approached the Oba for land for the establishment of a secondary school which the Oba gladly gave Immaculate Conception College was then established and open in 1943.

The Roman Catholic Mission also was granted land permission to establish and run Saint Philomena Catholic Hospital for the welfare of mothers and humanity in general in 1944.

Chief A. O. Airewele established the first secondary school with commercial bias and later in 1947 changed it to western Boys’ High School on a land given him by the Oba. In 1960 to give room for expansion, the school was moved to Ikpoba Hill (Oregbeni) and in 1975 changed its name to Airewele High School.

In 1954 the Eghosa Grammar school was established, first as Anglican Grammar School was established until 1975, on a site formerly given to one  Enaruna for a Commercial School which he later transferred to Mr. Osazee Okpogie from whom the Anglican Mission acquired it.               

A split occurred in the Benin Baptist Mission over ownership of its schools and polygamist not allows taking of the Lord supper in 1940. The members on the side of the American Missionaries were given land in Ogbe quarters for its own school and Church. The Mission later acquired land at the Ring Road where the Central Baptist Church now stands. The school was first opened at a temporal site along Akpakpava Road and later at Ogba under the Headmastership of Mr. Osadolo Edomwonyi with Miss Walden as the Lady Manager. The faction of Benin Indegens became known as United Benin Baptist Mission with Reverend S. I, Usuanlele as its spiritual leader.  

In 1958 the Oba once again exhibited his magnamity in granting land at Ugbowo to one time tailor, Mr. Ezenwan to build a secondary school, irrespective of his tribe as an Igbo person. This school was formerly known as Edo boys’ High School now known as Adolo College after the takeover by the state Government  

The Roman Catholic Mission in order to boot the training of females in post- primary school which hitherto has been neglected and regarded by the Binis as undesirable approached the Oba for land which he gave freely for the establishment of Saint Maria Gorretti Girls’ Grammar School It was built and opens in 1959.

Bishop Enoyeogiere Edokpolo in 1961 acquired land from the Oba for the building of a secondary school with commercial bias. The school is now known as Edokpolo Grammar School.             

The same year, the Anglican Mission was granted land freely by the Oba for the establishment of the Anglican Girls’ Grammar School    

Oba Akenzua II was soft spoke and well comported in conformation with his office of a natural ruler. He exhibited dignity and exerted authority over his People He worked relentlessly for the peace, love unity and progress of his people. Oba Akenzua II was referred to as Iso N’ Orho and Osanobua N’ Agbon. He was a promoter of the Nigerian culture. As a personified God on earth, he was an embodiment of peace, tranquility endurance. He settles disputes with utmost dispatch, Justice fair play and impartiality. He was unruffled even in face of disloyalty of some decedent element in his domain. He was very calm and sober even when he was angered. His words were law to his people and all who revered him. He welcomed administrative reforms and as well identified himself with the policies and aspirations of the government for the unification of the entire nation. He played the role of a father and Elder State man. His fatherly disposition was devoid of politic and he enjoyed the honour and respect of all people of good will. He participated actively in Nigeria constitutional development. His love for all was demonstrated by his efforts to promote unity peace and stability in Nigeria. As an Oba he was cool and collective and never ruffed even when aggrieved he was a real embodiment of dignity and authority, even in times and in face of all odds among all people.

 He believed in honest labour, in that less than a year of his ascension he ordered his courtiers not to rely solely on benevolent gifts and homage paid to and through them as courtiers and Oba’s emissaries, but to go about their own honest labour to earn a living for themselves and their dependants, rather than linger around the palace waiting for manna to fall from heaven as the practice was in the past.

When Oba Akenzua II passed away to the great beyond in 1978 the whole world mourn him for he has lift behind foot prints on the sands of time. He left for his Son, Oba Erediauwa an enviable heritage unprecedented in the annals of Benin history. The Edos will ever live to remember him as a father, builder and great ruler.

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