THE Uzama (King Makers)
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The Uzama otherwise known as Edion Nene — the four elders or the four pillars originated long ago during the reign of Ogiso Igodo or Obagodo in. about 4O B The Ogiso at that time picked the four elders (Edion Nene) to help him administer the country. They were Oliha, Edohen, Ero and Eholo Nire. Their position was not hereditary, but when any of them died, the Ogiso will give the title to another person.

Until it came to the time of Ogiso Orriagba, (685 — 712 A.D) he added one to the number to make them five. He added Ezomo to them and made their position to be hereditary. They were called Edionisen — the five elders. They took care and made sure that Ogiso kings were protected and the next Ogiso who was to be crowned was enthroned — accordingly.

Before Owodo who was the last Ogiso died, (1 1 00 A.D) the position of Ezomo was no longer in existence. They were four of them again. It was the Edion Nene that made it possible for Evian to rule the country in about (1100 A.D — 1 170 A.D) because of what he did by killing ‘the man eating animal’ called Osogan. When the Edion Nene found that Ogieamien was mismanaging the country and opposing to the restoration of the monarchy, they went to Uhe (Ife) to bring back Ikaladerhan the only son of Ogiso Owodo who was exiled.

They eventually met him as Ododuwa. He sent his son Oronmiyan to Benin. It was through Oronrniyan that the present monarchy was established. He was the father of Eweka I (1200 — 1235 A.D.). It was the Uzama — led by Oliha, Edohen, Ero and Eholor Nire that brought Oromiyan from Uhe (Ife) to Benin.

It was Eweka I that reestablished their position and added Oloto,n to the group They became five again. However, they became so powerful and treated the Oba as equals or at best regarded him as Primus inter pares.

They kept Oba Eweka I , Oba Uwakhuahan, Oba Ehenmhen and Oba Ewedo at Usama and treated them as their equals because they brought Oromiyan from Uhe (Ife).
Oba Iwedo: (1255— 1280 A.D)

Oba Ewedo was not happy with the Edionisen’s Primus inter pares position at Usama palace. There was a developed power struggle between them and in order to avoid their behaviour, he moved the palace to the present place. He called them “Emwan nei zama omwan” meaning people who have no respect for their Oba. The word Uzama was derived from their behaviour.
Qba Ewedo therefore decided to reduce their powers when he moved the palace from Usama in the following manner..

(1) He prohibited them from carrying before him their state sword Ada.

(2) He compelled all chiefs including the Uzama to stand in rows before him instead of their sitting position.

(3) He created the position of Iyase (meaning I ya ona se uwa) meaning ‘this I create to be higher than you all (which form the Uzama group) Most of the functions that were performed by Uzama were given to Iyase.

(4) Oba Ewedo further created additional titles such as Esogban — who was made to be in charge of the shrines of the elders. Uwangue (the master of Oba’s wardrobe) Osodin and Uso (keepers of Oba’s harem) and Esekhurhe (the keeper of the Oba’s ancestral staff and the recorders of the Oba’s ancestors).

He further created a group of chiefs known as Eghaevbo N’ore or State, “Executive Council” headed by the Iyase and Eghaevbo N’Ogbe, “Palace chiefs” who .first came as Oba’s personal staff but they soon rose to an enviable positions that they were more or less counter balanced the powers of the Eghaevbo N’Ore chiefs which were sometimes unruly to the monarchy.

In about (1440 — 1 473) history tells us that Oba Ewuare the Great added his son to the Uzama chiefs who are -the “king makers”. Oba Ewuare is the 12th Oba of Benin. It is not ruled out that Oba Ewuare added his Edaiken Prince to the Uzama in order to under study them to know more about the limits of their powers and how to deal with Oba Esigie (about 1504 — 1550)

There came to the period of Oba Esigie who found the powers of Uzama to be disturbing indeed. Some historical facts (not very popular) in the struggle between Oba Esigie and the Uzama but it is a research finding to be reckoned with. Some said that the cause of the Idah War, was master minded by Oliha because of some jokes in which Oba Esigie disgraced Oliha’s wife to be unfaithful. It was said that Oliha was always boasting of the fidelity, beauty and good manners of his wife called Imaguero. But Oba Esigie always replies Oliha not to trust women. Oba Esigie tested chief Oliha’s wife by sending his cripple. The infidelity of Imaguero was proved beyond expectation. She fell for a cripple. What a disgrace!

The story went on that Oliha did not take it kindly and even some of the Uzama’s joined chief Oliha. Chief Oliha then went to Idah and brought Idah war to Benin.
The Benins and the Uzama never heard about the war, the Idah brought to Benin. The mother of Oba Esigie, Queen Idia then took the Uselu people to war, before she was joined by the Benin troops. This is one of the Origin of Ugie Iron.

The Uzama N’Ibie
From what we have been discussing, it will be seen that the Edion Nene or the Uzama had been in the fore front in the development and the evolution of chieftaincy titles in Benin. The powers of the Obas have their checks and balances derived from both popular opinion and traditional regard for ancestral rituals and religious observances. The Oba according to E.B. Eweka and F.H. Marshall’s Intelligence Report remarked that in a sense, the Oba may have been an absolute ruler who was himself ruled by religious observances and rituals which if neglected might evoke the wrath of “the gods”. In this context, one may recall what happened during the reign of Oba Esigie when the Uzama refused to carry out a certain ceremony at Ugie Festival. When an impasse seemed inevitable, especially if the ceremony was performed without the Uzama; a way out of the difficulties was devised. A fresh set of Uzama was created and a moat dug for them to cross so as to fulfill the tradition that all members of Uzama normally lived behind the moat. In due course, even though a reconciliation was reached with the Uzama Nihiron (the seven king makers) yet, a new set of titles later known as Uzama N’Ibie or “Uzama ne I ya bii iran” (meaning Uzama used to shelve thern off the other .aside) carne into existence. The new sets of Uzama N’Ibie are seven in number. Though they are regarded as junior Uzama, yet they normally perform the duties of Uzama Nihinron when the later are not around. Their titles which are hereditary are as follows:


1. Ine N’Igun—eromwon

Oba Oguola (1280-1295 A.D.)

2. Ihama N’Igun-eronmwon

Oba Ewuare (1440-1473 A.D.)

3.  Ogiegor

Ogiso (Before 1100 A.D.)

4. Elema

Oba Ewuare (1440-1473 A.D.)

5. Ogiemien

Oba Ewedo (1255-1280 A.D.)

6. Eholo N’ Igbesanmwan

Oba Ewuare (1440-1473 A.D.)

7. Eholo N’ Igieduma

Oba Esigie (1504_1550 AD.)

Note Most of these chiefs who were created as Uzama N’Ibie were already having their respective titles given to them by different Ogiso and Obas . They were given a new assignment by Oba Esigie as Uzama N’Ibie. One believes beyond reasonable doubt that Ugie Iron is to settle once and for all problems and power tussle between the Oba and the Uzama. It is to the Uzama that even though their position is very high, yet they cannot compare themselves with the Oba. They have to submit and obey the Oba. Ugie Iron then is a great festival of great events between the Oba of Benin and the Uzama Nihinron.
It should be noted too that the vacant Ezomo position as Edionisen during Ogiso period was filled by Oba Akenzua I 1713 A.D. They became seven. Ezomo title as Uzama or Edion has been since the reign of Ogiso Orriagba (685 — 712 A.D) .The title became vacant during the reign of Ogiso Obioye (967 — 1012 A.D) until it was filled by Akenzua I in 1713. Ugie Iron is a reminiscent of the past events in Benin history between ‘the Uzama and the Oba mostly with Qba  Ewedo (1255 — 1280 A.D) Oba Ewuare (1440— 1473 A.D. and Oba Esigie (1504 — 1550 A.D).

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