The Benin-Ife Connection

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Written by C.O. Ugowe (Last Update June 17, 2021)
The absence of relevant dates to point the way in the discussion of Benin/Ife contact has been detrimental to the full appreciation or understanding of that episode as a historical episode, in fact a great historical episode. Without dates, the subject has been left for too long in the category of folklore and fables, that speak the language of "once upon a time or in the long distant past."

Fortunately for the history of this episode, Dr. S.O. Biobaku, from his wide study of available stock of knowledge and information on the subject has left us with a categorical historical date for the arrival of Oduduwa at Ife when in his sixth and concluding lecture on the "Origin of the Yoruba", he stated inter alia "that the second major wave of Yoruba migration which we may well call the Oduduwa migration is the best known to tradition and must have taken place towards the end of the 10th Century."

With this date as a guide, the dating of the Benin/Ife Connection and the events of the episode is feasible and imperative to impart credibility and scientific authority on the event and serve as a cross check on the conclusions I have reached so far. This is the task and the challenge I now wish to take up as the conclusion to my earlier submission, namely, that Ekaladerhan and Oduduwa are names of one and the same person, known firstly as Ekaladerhan in his natal home, place of birth and origin, BENIN; before he became known as Oduduwa at Ife, his place of refuge and later abode. But firstly, 1 wish to state from the onset that all dates and ages of individuals stated or worked out in this Article should read or be read with "around" to signify that the figure falls within a range or band of plus or minus 5 years. I shall begin by working out the bio-data of our star actor in the episode, namely Prince Oranmiyan, whose home coming from Ife to Benin was a paramount factor in the Benin/Ife Connection.

To work out the date of Oranmiyan's arrival in Benin I am guided by the king list of Obas of Benin. In 1979, Omo N'Oba Erediauwa ascended the throne of Benin as the 38th monarch of the period that started with the arrival of Oranmiyan. Here too, I take my bearings from the fourth lecture of Biobaku's "Origin of the Yorubas" where he approved of 25-30 years as the average number of years to assign to a generation.

Thirty-eight generations separate Omo N'Oba Erediauwa from Oranmiyan. Benin monarchy passes from father to first son, and the crown prince marries early, so I will choose 25 years generational gap for the Benin monarchy, 38 generations x 25 = 950 years which separate Omo N'Oba Erediauwa's coronation from Oranmiyan's arrival in Benin. Omo N'Oba Erediauwa ascended the throne in 1979; Oranmiyan arrived Benin 1979 minus 950 years = 1029AD. Thus Oranmiyan arrived Benin around 1029AD.

Against the background of Oduduwa's arrival at Ife at the close of the 10th century (Biobaku) around 995 A.D as stated above, the year 1029 A.D calculated above is a credible and realistic date for Oranmiyan's coming to Benin i.e. 34 years after Oduduwa surfaced at Ife.

This date also justifies the use of 25 years as the average generation gap for Benin monarchs. In the light of the above, existing dates on the king lists of Obas of Benin in our history books are in need of urgent review. Talbot, for example places Oranmiyan's arrival at Benin at 1300 A-D, that is three centuries after Oduduwa's arrival at Ife, and Egharevba puts the date at 1170 A.D close to two centuries after Oduduwa's arrival at Ife.

As noted earlier Oduduwa arrived Ife by the end of the 10th century. I interpret this to mean the last decade of the 10 th century i.e. 990 to 999 i.e around 995. Thus the interval between Oduduwa's arrival at Ife (995 AD), and his despatch of Oranmiyan to Benin (1029 AD) above is 1029 AD minus 995 AD,4 years, as stated above.

Thus Oduduwa - the leader of the successful migration had been at Ife for 34 years before sending his son (an eligible bachelor) to reign in Benin. The next question is what could have been Oduduwa's age when he dispatched Oranmiyan to go and reign in Benin?

He could not have been 10 years of age when he arrived at the head of the party to Ife. Similarly he could not have been 20 years of age or even 30. The earliest age he could be to qualify for that leadership position would be in the prime of his life at 40 years of age or thereabout. If we add 40 years, the age when he arrived Ife to 34 years thereafter when he sent Oranmiyan to Benin, Oduduwa's age stands at around 74 by the year 1029 AD.

Thus Oduduwa's year of birth can be approximately 1029 minus 74 i.e 955AD. From the few clues available from dates in written history records, we have been able to construct a bio-data of Oduduwa to his birth in 955AD up to the year he dispatched Oranmiyan to Benin in 1029 covering approximately 74 years.

Similarly, let us construct Ekaladerhan's Bio Data, from available information: based on Egharevba's "Short History of Benin". He was the first son of his father. Like most Crown Princes who marry early, his father who too was a Crown Prince would have had him before ascending the throne, let us say 10 years before he ascended the throne; for an example the present Oba of Benin was that age when his father ascended the throne. Thus we take it that Ekaladerhan was around 10 years of age when his father ascended the throne as Ogiso Owodo. It is also assumed that he was in his late teens or early 20s when he left Benin on exile, big and strong enough to fend for and defend himself, to some extent. It is thus assumed that he was around 20 plus or minus five years of age at the date of his exile, 10 years after his father ascended the throne.

After Ekaladerhan's banishment, his father Ogiso Owodo continued his generational reign for the next 15 years making a total of 25 years. Thus at the time of his father's death, Ekaladerhan was around 35 years. The elders who had intended to make Ekaladerhan Ogiso after the death of his father gave up the intention because he had moved farther away beyond Ughoton to destination then unknown, beyond Benin territory.

At around age 35, Ekaladerhan on learning of his father's death and the prospect of a renewed offensive to get him back to Benin, set off from his last known abode Ughoton.

With the exit of Owodo, Evian was appointed Administrator of the Realm because of his past services. When Evian was stricken with old age, he nominated his eldest son, Ogiamen, as his successor but the people refused him, they said he was not the Ogiso and they could not accept his son as his successor because as he himself knew, it had been arranged to set up a republican form of government; this he was now selfishly trying to alter (Egharevba). It was while this was still in dispute that the Kingmakers having then learnt of the whereabout of their banished Prince Ekaladerhan sent emissaries to him at Ife to ask him to return home, culminating in the home coming of Oranmiyan to reign on the throne of his ancestors.

To the rulership of Evian, and his son as narrated above, around 25 years generational rule is estimated for Evian, five years for his son Ogiamen and five years to the period of failure to achieve a stable republican government making a total of 35 years. To the protracted negotiations at Ife for Oranmiyan's home coming that included three years test imposed on the kingmakers, a total of four years is approximated. Thus, we have a grand total of around 74 years, made up of 20 years of age for Ekaladerhan before his banishment, 15 additional years on the throne for his father Owodo, 30 years for Evian/Ogiamen, five years of failed attempt at working out a stable republican governance, four years of protracted negotiations for Oranmiyan's home coming. Thus, by the year 1029 when Oranmiyan arrived Benin, people of Ekaladerhan's age mates, born the same year with him still living in Benin on that date, who lived through all the above vicissitudes of history would be around 74 years of age (20 + 15 +30 + 5 + 4 = 74 years) of age, coincidentally the age of Oduduwa by that date.

Like his age mates who welcomed Oranmiyan on his arrival in Benin, Ekaladerhan, wherever he was, would also have been around 74 years of age in 1029 AD. He was at Ife, the same individual and person with whom the kingmakers from Benin negotiated at Ife where he was called and known as Oduduwa. At this juncture there is a complete congruency in identity, a complete unity of oneness in person, age and location between Ekaladerhan and Oduduwa. Thus Ekaladerhan and Oduduwa of history were certainly and in reality, names of one and the same person at two different periods of a lifetime, in which he was firstly Ekaladerhan in his place of birth and origin, Benin; before he became known as Oduduwa in his place of refuge and later abode, Ife.

From the amount of commentaries it has generated so far in the mass media, there is no doubt that the on-going controversy over Benin/lfe connection has proved to be a matter of considerable public interest. Besides helping to shed light on what really happened on the Benin/Ife axis in the 11th century AD, the on-going debate enables our present and future generations to appreciate the fraternal links that Nigerians in various parts of the country had forged among themselves in the distant past. This should inspire in the present and the future generations of our peoples and citizens the necessary tolerance, forbearance and mutual respect for one another, even though tongues, tribe and religion may differ.

In addition, the events we have presented and described in this article happened here in Nigeria and in Africa long before similar events that make the headlines in the world's history books; thus attesting to the fact that, contrary to the insinuations of some cynical foreign historians, that Africans have no history of their own, prior to the coming of the Arabs and the Europeans, we Africans have history as long and as distant in time, and as filled with events, heroes and heroines as are to be found in the history of any of the other races of mankind, provided of course, we do not allow our histories to be taken over by myths, legends, and folklores.

Ugowe is The author of Benin in World History (1997)

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