Categories Of Benin Chiefs
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If the categories of chiefs are not by design, it may have been by the inherent nature of the Edo that the title group system may well have developed from the group identity which characterized the structure of the “City-State” itself, which as they say, developed from a cluster of hamlets and villages: later to be known as Benin City from which both the Empire and the dominions evolved over the years. Broadly speaking the categories of chieftaincy titles in Edo land have been aptly described by Omo N’Oba Erediauwa, Oba of Benin, in his Press Conference of 24th February, 1982 as follows: “The Enigie who are in charge of Districts” who can only be created and assigned to a particular District by the Oba. The Oba went further to say at the press conference that “in the olden days certain City Chiefs (whom I will speak about) were assigned the responsibility of looking after certain districts and it was through such Chiefs that the Enogie of a district was able to reach the Oba.’
“The second category of chiefs comprises the City. Chiefs who are actually functionally resident in Benin City. Chefs are divided into the following groups:
(i) The Uzama headed by Oliha;
(¡¡) The Egaevbo N’Ore headed by Iyase;
(iii) The Eghaevho N’Ogbe headed by Uwangue;
(iv) Other titled Chief who does not fall into any of the above three groups but who have specific functions to perform. There are many subdivisions here each of them with its own head Chief.
(V) Intermediate or junior title holders. It is in this group that we have all the Chief priests other than a Chief Priest of the rank of Enogie. All Chief Priests are appointed by the Oba or with the Oba’s confirmation.

Continuing the press conference, the Oba said:
“Although all titles belong to the Oba and are conferred by the Oba himself, the Oba does give authority to certain Chief Priests to confer some minor titles. The holders of such titles assist the Chief Priest (or the Enogie if he himself is the Chief Priest) to perform his functions at the Shrine. It may happen that a particular functionary may have to bear the title similar to the one in the City so as to be able to perform his function at the shrine. Thus, for example, Ohen-Evian one of the oldest Chief Priests - has an Oliha. The holders of this category of ‘titles answer to their titles only in their village and when performing at the shrine with their Chief Priest. When they come to Benin they do not parade themselves with those titles. When a Chief Priest, in exercise of the authority given to him by the Oba, has to confer a title, he must first seek the Oba’s permission. After conferring the title, he must bring the holder to the Palace to obtain the Oba’s confirmation of it. The Oba himself may decide to confer this kind of minor title direct on someone under the Chief Priest,” The detailed analysis of what the Oba tried to   covey to the Press are analyzed here below in the following organizational  chart the essence of which are further discussed group by group. For further information about Chieftaincy titles in Benin Kingdom, Annexure gives a resume of all titles as at 3lst January, 1991.

Traditionally, Benin Chieftaincy titles though prestigious, impose lot responsibilities on the incumbent title-holders. The appearance of British rule in Benin; has considerably whittled down the powers of the Oba and those of his Chiefs since 1897 when a punitive war was waged on the Benins. In perspective, the old empire, though destroyed by the British left its legacy of the chieftaincy institution which now remains the pride of a people with a chain of history behind them. The custom of the Edo people, forbids them from abandoning their traditions which revolve round their kings and their religious beliefs. Over the years the impact of foreign (British) rule tended to negate the position of the chieftaincy institution but by and large, the persistence of the institution is a testimony of the Edo’ loyalty to their “king and country.” The British Colonial ‘, Masters saw this fact vividly when they evolved the now famous “indirect Rule” which, for all practical purposes left the so-called “natives” to be ruled directly by their Obas, Emirs, Obis, etc. while at the same time, the imperial masters remained in full control of the country. To the well-informed, the bedrock of cultural revival is the maintenance of the Chieftaincy institutions. The historical antecedents of the titles remain for all time the cultural heritage of the Edo people. If the Edo people should have a place in the context of the heterogeneous peoples of Nigeria, the values attached to the chieftaincy institution must find expression in the daily life of the people.

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