The Ekaladerhan, Oduduwa Historical Controversy
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(By Editorial of the Nigerian Observer) ( Friday May 7, 2004) (Last Update June 16, 2021)

Ancient black history and civilization cannot be complete without mentioning the Benin and Oyo empires of old. Indeed, the high level of social, political, economic and organizational development attained by these empires has been a source of pride to the African continent and peoples.
The Oba of Benin and the Ooni of Ife, in a way, represent these two great civilizations and their words on the origin, growth and development of the ancient empires must be taken as authentic and authoritative. Therefore, it becomes a most interesting subject when an historical controversy concerning the ancient Benin and Yoruba empires, such as has just been thrown up by the statement of the Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo, Uku Akpolokpolo, late Oba Erediauwa, takes center stage.
The Benin Monarch, no doubt, has stirred the hornet’s nest with the launch of his biography on April 29, 2004 titled I remain, Sir your obedient servant, that Oduduwa, the progenitor of the Yoruba race, was one Ekaladerhan, a Benin Prince who had once escaped the community’s axe-man, but later re-appeared in Ife, after wandering in the bush from Benin for a long time.

EXPECTEDLY, the comment has drawn swift reaction. The late Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse II, during the launch of a book, a “Memoir of a Jewel”, in Lagos said the Oduduwa legend had no connection with the claims of Oba Erediauwa.

DECLAPING that the name of Oduduwa should not be corrupted or bastardized in order to create unnecessary history, he stated that “Oduduwa, the legend, the father of the bigger Yoruba dynasty, has no connection whatsoever with the Ogiso dynasty in Benin history as portrayed by the Oba of Benin because Oduduwa descended directly from heaven, through a chain to where is now known as Ife today in the company of 400 deities “.

Late Oba Sijuwade said the purported claim by the Oba of Benin that Ekaladerhan, who he said escaped from Benin and later became the ruler of Ife, was a misrepresentation of facts.
As far as the Ooni is concerned, “the Oba of Benin, whose dynasty commenced in 1191 AD was an Ife Prince borrowed to the people of Benin at their request after the rule of the Ogisos had ended in Benin history.

“It was a request that Ife must help to provide them with a ruler, then Oduduwa the legend decided to send Prince Oranmiyan who established that dynasty and whose first son in Benin from a Benin woman was Owomika (Eweka), the progenitor of all Benin Obas including Omo N’Oba, since 1191 AD”, the Ooni said.

THE Ooni also made it clear that “the word ‘Oba’, which is part of any of Benin Oba’s title shows clearly that they are from the bigger Yoruba dynasty. It is rather too late in the day to re-write our history, which cannot be backed with any documentary evidence,” the Ooni added.

THE Ooni has made very salient points, which he has equally, buttressed with reference to archival records. It is an incontrovertible fact that the present Oba dynasty traces its root to Oduduwa and Ife. Historians do not have any problem with that. History has enough records to prove that also. Therefore, the fact that Oduduwa sent his son, Oranmiyan to Benin, based on request and became the father of the present Oba dynasty is not in doubt. No one can rewrite that history.
WHAT has been in contention and still is in contention is how and why that relationship between Benin and Ife came about. That is, why did the Benin people have to go to Ife to ask for a king? Benin was already very civilized by ancient standard and had an established way of doing things, including a very well developed culture and tradition.

WHAT therefore was the compelling reason for going to Oduduwa to ask for a king, knowing the differences in language, customs and tradition? Therefore, if there is any controversy, it is from this point in history and the Benin Monarch has in a way thrown a challenge to historians to set record straight, once and for all. The statement of the Oba concerning Ekaladerhan and Oduduwa is not new. A few history books have recorded similar detail, There is the feeling that the major history textbooks were authored by Yoruba’s who had a head start in western education and thus recorded history the way it is at present

The Benins in their Oral Tradition equally claim that, there is a Prince called Ekaladerhan. He was the only son of the last Ogiso Owodo. But due to palace intrigues, he was sentenced to be executed. However, the axe-men, who were to carry out the execution knew the intrigues and therefore decided not to execute him but advised him to wander away, never to return to Benin so that the secret of the fact that he was not actually executed would never become known.

EKALADERHAN was said to have wandered in the forest for quite some time before he stumbled into a settlement. He was said to have uttered the word. “Ile-Ife” meaning, I have escaped to safety, when he got to that community. This was said to have been corrupted to Ile- Ife.
AISO, because of his princely qualities, having been brought up in the palace as the son of an Ogiso, the people recognized the leadership and other qualities in him, which made them to appoint him their leader.

At that, Ekaladerhan was also said to have uttered the word Izoduwa, meaning, I have taken the path of prosperity. That word was later corrupted to Oduduwa, which became his name.

However, at the demise of Ogiso Owodo, there was no son to survive him. That became a problem. But those who were asked to execute Ekaladerhan eventually disclosed that Ekaladerhan was not actually executed and they revealed the circumstances under which they carried out their action. Thus, with an Ogiso’s son alive, no other person could ascend the throne. That in a nutshell, was the genesis of the interregnum in Benin history. It was therefore, the decision and the resolve of the Benin people to get Ekladerhan to ascend the throne of his forefathers that led to the delegation that was sent to Ife, where Ekaladerhan had found a new home. We are still referring to the Benin Oral Tradition. There even could be other versions of it.

THE Benin Oral tradition also had it that when the search team got to Ife, they met a king who was satisfied with his new found thriving community. He refused the offer to take up the kingship of Benin Kingdom but offered to send his pet child, called Omonoyan in Benin, corrupted to be Oranmiyan. The rest is recorded history. This is the position or account of the Benin people, which the Oba has only further highlighted in his remark during the book launch. The revered royal fathers have set the ball rolling by elevating the issue to a high pedestal for public discourse. It is now left for historians to research and come out with possible answers to the historical controversy.

LIKE we said earlier, a new task has been put before Nigerian historians. They should dig deeper into the matter and if they have to rewrite history, so be it. It is a very good academic and research exercise for our historians and for better success; we call on eminent Nigerians to commission a historical research on the present controversy. It won’t harm anybody. Instead, it will further expand the frontiers of historical knowledge. That is the way we see

AFTER all, was there not a time when the earth was thought to be fiat until superior scientific knowledge later proved that the earth is, in fact, spherical?

(Source: Nigerian Observer Friday May 7, 2004)

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Benin kingdom copy right