The Urhokpota Hall was built in 1906, 9 years before Nigerian became a country. The glaring summation is that the collapse of Benin Empire paved way for the possible amalgamation that crystallized into a country, which Florence Sham called “Nigeria”. For the purposes of continuous records, a senior administration officer in the office of the District office Mr. Crewe Reade conceived of the idea to build the hall when he noticed that the spot had an unusual crowds gathering to organize some form of agitation to the Oba palace.
The architectural design is a combination of a typical County town hall building common in Victoria time in Britain, with an elevated semi pyramidal wall-Clock-House platform as those found in West Minster Abbey or the City Hall of Manchester In England. The Hall was built to accommodate and hear those who would want to representation to the Oba of Benin, motivated by the newly established indirect rule system, which the British colonialist brought after conquest. The areas in question have been known severally as “Unue-Ogun”, “URHO-OKPERE”. The space on which Ethiope Publishing House is buith was also called “Eki Ekpokoro”
I grew up to meet the space as a goat market and later it became a motor garage where traders from all destinations from neighboring market-spots emptied their goods. The territory which Urhokpota is located form part of the elaborate palace territories. Which started from Adesogbe to Alaka, passing across, the current Airport road to Ezoti street axis closing up at Iya Ikpokpan Road, now known as Sapele Road, Benin City, occupying the whole of the current Edo State House of Assembly and the whole premises of the Specialist Hospital along Sapele Road? Even the present prison yard opposite the High court was an annex of the Oba Palace. This description became the position when Oba Ewedo moved the palace from Usama to Ogbe N’ Alaka and . Installed the ISEKHURE OF BENIN.
The first building erected by Oba Ewedo for the 1st Isekhure of Benin called Ediagbonya was in front of the Palace, precisely where the National Museum and all the developed expanse of land is now located. The Isekhure residence was overlooking the spot now known as Urhokpota until, a new layout was created named “OROGHOTODIN” The area became known later as “OGBOKALIGBAN” or commonly called “OGBOKA”, the premier political spot in Benin land. Over’ time the appellation Utantan was used to describe the stretch and configuration of the layout from the moat within. Ugbekun/Ihinmwinrin area.
Today, the area is called SOKPONBA ROAD and it host many Benin great men like Oto Kpekpe N’ ldunmwunn Oza, Enikikhidi N’ Ogbelaka, Oshodin Izevbokun, Tyase Okoro Otun, Tmazehiagan, Emaye, and spots like, Ernehe Igun Ematon, Igun Erhunmwon. For the purposes of record and emphasis, it must be noted that before the Colonial labor office and later the National Museum were erected on the spot, there used to be at the back of the existing building, retained, three lkinmwin trees (labodia lewis). These trees were protected in that neighborhood and my grandfather Chief Eguavoen Isekhure used to send use to get ritual items from there when we were young, until the pressure of modern development had them removed.
Within the same vicinity exist Emotan shrine opposite the Oba Markets, which clearly demarcate the neighborhood as a royal ground. It is no accident that the place is now known a BENIN KING SQUARE. Significantly, the spot whose historical profile is being discussed today has two fundamental features to it (1 ) The .messages to the Iyase, for onward transmission to the Oba, if they feel concerned about any public issues that affect them. The neighborhood is also identified as a remarkable area where prince Ogun got the material with which he murdered his brother Uwaifiokan before ascending the throne as Oba Ewuare the great. The same neighborhood houses Aro Edion-Edo, Ekoha, Arue Iden etc. it is., therefore, important to have in focus ah the contributory features that made-up. the Benin King square, within which the Urhokpota hall is located, which. Of Course, made it one of the historic and3 a unique neighborhood in Benin history..
It is normal that during the reign of an Oba, people who have mystical powers to display often offer themselves to the services of thc Oba. A certain man call Okpota sent this message to one of the Oba that he had some powerful medicine that could command the willingness of the peopled to serve. The Oba asked him that he will provide him with a place within the neighborhood to demonstrate the portion for himself first, to be convinced that such a feat exists. That was how a small hut vas built and Okpota stayed there and made the portion for himself in the house. As soon as this was done, people started trooping to his place. When the message got to the palace, the Oba sent a word to admit him and granted him permission to do the same portion for him. This he did. When the man died, the spot was named “Urhokpota”.
The Benin kings are notable in the remembrance of heroes and heroines and that also explain the remembrance arcades of Queen Iden shrine,Emotan, Idia . Iye Esigie, and of course, the name Edo, who was a servant to chief Ogiefa, who assisted Prince Ogun in the course of his escapade to safety and died in the process. When Ogun became Oba Ewuare, he changed the name of the kingdom from “Ubini” which has been corrupted as Benin to “Edo” just to remember a hero-servant.
Since the erection of the Urhokpota Hall, it has played host to many conferences in the Old Western region. Several meeting of Obas and chiefs have been held there. Most importantly, the grand coronation activities that require public audience is done outside the hall by ah reigning Oba. In the past, there use to be by the side of the Hall a building of the Native Authority Police. Since the creation of Midwest State, Which many of us are privileged to have witnessed, the Urhokpota Hall played host to many cultural festivals in which 1 was a participants. Ah the Midwestern State festivals of Arts and culture organized from 1964 to 1974 were ah done at the Hall. .Many notable theatre groups from Ori Olokun club to the Federation of Boys and girls club, and the emergence of Edo cultural group, Ozolua Play House, Ovonrammven theatre group, in the early 60s helped to establish what now flourishes as a renewed effort at consolidating our cultural heritage. The Urhkpota spot is the democratic spot OT the Benin people in term of participation, articulation, agitation and expression of political demand, of both partisan and non-partisan nature. We did not copy political agitation from any other part of the World, it has been an inherent part o our political culture.
The Urhokpata Hall has accommodated some of the most grandiose political campaigns events in this country. Notable politicians, from Zik of Africa, to Awolowo, and Alhaji Shehu Shagari and others of similar status had come to Benin on political campaign and their usual anchor point has always been Urhokpota Hall. It is therefore , a thing of glory that the current Chairman of Oredo Local Government, Mr. Victor Edos Ebomwonyi, and his team, are presiding over the affairs of the council during the marking and celebration of’ her one hundred years of contemporary existence of the building. The historical importance of the area dates back to more than 900 years ago, when Oba Ewedo moved the palace from Usama to its present site as earlier stated. A few years ago, had an occasion to attend a seminar organized by the Justice Department of the Catholic Church. It was during that occasion that I saw the profound renovation effected by the current managers of Oredo Local Government Council. The Urhokpota Hall and its environ has never looked neater, better structured, and renovated as we are experiencing today. 1 want to believe that this is a testimony of those who feel inclined to spend public money on public facilities that will bring joy and dignity to the people. May the council continue to have the vision and commitment to do more for Oredo people as you have done. It is my prayer that the Council and those occupying positions now and in the future shall continue to 1ook ahead to what Urhokpota will be in the next 100 years. To build a better future, the plan and vision must start today.
Thank you all
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