I Remain Sir, Your Obedient Subject

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Written by S. O. Ogbemudia ( June 13, 2004) (Last Update June 17, 2021)

The controversy arising from the autobiography of Omo N’ Oba N’ Edo Uku Akpolokpolo Erediauwa, Oba of Benin, of his autobiography titled: I Remain Sir, your Obedient servant , which I have speedily read, is obviously deriving from the historical account of “the Benin-Ife connection” contained in chapter 36 of the book. Essentially, what Omo N’ Oba said was that whilst it is true that Prince “Oranmiyan came from Uhe (Ife) to rule Benin, his father Oduduwa was indeed Prince Ekaladerhan, son of Ogiso Owodo of Benin. He gave an account of how Ekaladerhan became Oghene N’ Uhe (Oduduwa). I shall return to these later.

Meanwhile, a barrage of reactions followed largely from eminent Yorubas. Apart from the Oba of Lagos, his Royal Majesty, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, and a few others who supported Omo N’ Oba’s account, the torrents of reactions charged al the Oba, refuting, castigating and reversing what he said.

The Ooni of Ife, His Royal Majesty, Oba Sijuade Olubuse, led the pack, but besides his inelegant and uncharitable language, he didn’t materially counter or traverse Omo N’ Oba’s claim. But he had opened a floodgate. Their anger is that the author was effectively upturning an age-long (but wrong) Yoruba claim that Ife is the cradle of Yoruba civilization Oduduwa, the progenitor of Yorubas (or Yoruba Obas) and that Benin (of the Benin throne) was founded by a Yoruba Prince. This last claim, which Omo N’ Oba went at length to correct, was okay with the Yorubas so long as it flowed from Ife to Benin. But once the Oba wrote that it is the reverse order, from Benin to Ife, hell was let loose. Why? Whichever way it goes, I thought that it reinforces the close affinities between the two peoples. But that is by the way.

Eminent historian, Prof. Ade Ajayi, picked up the gauntlet. He charged, barked but his effluxions did not add much to what Ooni said. His position was that Oduduwa either dropped directly from heaven with some (accompanying) 400 deities to become the progenitor of Yoruba, or he (Oduduwa) came from somewhere in the Far East.

With respect, I find both permutations amusing. This celestial allusion to heavenly descent is nothing more than an exercise in historical mythology, lacking empirical validity. The idea of emergence from the East; far, middle or near should be rude to Yoruba esteem. None of these “east’s” add value or substance to their account. If you remove “far: what is left is “east” which we understand locally to mean Ibo land! There is no ethnological similarity with the middle or Far East, which are further separated by dissimilarities in physiognomy and pigmentation. Yet, I guess it will be of good idea for them to pursue and establish a valid linkage with the cradle of civilization’ wherever that may be”

I admire the account given by Mr. C.O Ugowe (THE GUARDIAN: May 23rd 2004, page 13) who had earlier written a book “Benin in World History”, published in 1997. His version of the Benin-Ife connection agrees with what Omo N’ Oba has written. He gave many examples where princes moved from their places of Places of abode to assume thrones in their places of origin, arguing, correctly, that such movement would not make them descendants of where they just left. In support of the view that Prince Ekaladerhan and Oduduwa was one same person, he cited the example of how Oba Erediauwa was originally Prince Solomon Eweka, Later Prince Solomon Akenzua and finally Omo N’ Oba Erediauwa.

I had personally dealt with this issue of Benin-Ife relationship in my book: Years of challenge, published in 1991. What I said then also essentially tallies with and are materially validated by Omo N’ Oba’s account.

I wrote that the Benin people were headed earlier by Odionwere and later Ogie (Ogiso). The first Ogiso was Igodo after whom the kingdom was flamed Igodomigodo. In all, there were 31 Ogisos, the last being Owodo who was banished. His eldest son Ekaladerhan was not immediately available to succeed his father. Evian assumed control but, when he attempted to hand over to his son, Ogiamwen, the Uzama chiefs opposed and instead, appealed to Oghene of Uhe (Ooni of Ife) assist them obtain a king. This has been explained that the elders were only appealing for the return of the rightful heir, Ekaladerhan n’ Omonoyan (distorted as Oranmiyan) to return to become their Oba, Oranmiyan, who came with some members of Yoruba nobility could not stay long and he left his son who became Eweka I.

Omo N’ Oba wrote that the person whom the Benin emissaries found in Ife Was actually Prince Ekaladerhan, the son of Ogiso Owodo who was banished to be executed, but spared by the executioner and wandered into the unknown, from Ughoton, The mission to search for him was to bring him home to ascend the throne and so end, the period of interregnum. The Benin emissaries reported back to the elders at home that he was happy where he was, and in any case, too old to travel but he was prepared to send his youngest son if the Benin people would submit to a test that they would take good care of him.

There are a plethora of cases and history books are replete with accounts of how Benin Princes founded and ruled many kingdoms which have become great places iii modern times. Prince Ekaladerhan’s emergence in Ife is neither new exclusive nor surprising.

Note that Omo N’ Oba did not say that the Benin Prince, Ekaladerhan (Oduduwa) founded Ife or the Yoruba race. Many Yoruba ‘nations’ have different accounts of their ancestry. He restricted himself (even where logic and facts provided several other dimensions) to the “Benin-Ife connection, and gave what is a reasonable, intelligible and incidentally, empirically supportable account. Let our historians, archeologists, social researchers and chroniclers of our past be courageous, objective and impersonal in conveying their findings. That way, we can factually reflect on our past, correct the present and guide the future. I congratulate Omo N’ Oba N’ Edo Uku-Akpolokpolo; Erediauwa, Oba of Benin for his book which is a priceless gift and an invaluable contribution to the building of our great nation for this reason. I say to him proudly, just as he pledged his ‘obedience’ to an unknown Nigerian in 1952 that “I remain, sir, your loyal subject.

Late Ogbemudia, two time Governor of defunct Midwest and Bendel States

(Source:The Sunday Vanguard, June 13, 2004)

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