Clement Adeyi, Osogbo
The age-long ancestral affinity between Ife and Benin kingdoms was reawakened last week the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, and the Oba of Benin Oba, Ewuare II, came together to rekindle the fire of their cultural values and tradition and to advocate peace, unity, progress and prosperity in their domains as well as the entire country.
The relationship between Ife and Benin started in the 12th century. History has it that Oduduwa, the father of the Yoruba race, who was believed to have descended from heaven to Ile-Ife, the cradle of Yoruba land, had sent his son, Oromiyan, at the request of the elders of Benin to come to them as a ruler of their domain. Oromiyan stayed in Benin for a short time as the first Oba of Benin after the Ogiso Dynasty came to an end. He established the Yoruba Obaship system in Benin. That is why Benin kings bear the Oba title till today.
It is, therefore, believed that both Ife and Benin kingdoms share the same historical backgrounds since Oduduwa is believed to be the founder of the Benin Kingdom. The visit by Oba Ewurare II was intended to rekindle that historical relationship. It was the first visit that he would pay to the present Ooni since he witnessed his coronation two years ago in Benin as the 40th Oba of Benin and after his father, the Oba Erediauwa’s visit to the immediate past Ooni, Oba Okunade Sijuade.
As early as 8.00 am of that day, the Ooni’s Ile’Odua Palace became agog with varieties of cultural activities when guests started trickling into the palatial premises awaiting the grand arrival of the royal visitor from the Benin Kingdom.
With excitement and in tandem with Ife culture and tradition, a teeming number of the Ooni’s palace chiefs, an avalanche of Ife traditional rulers, business technocrats, several other eminent dignitaries as well as cultural troupes who also donned Ife cultural costumes and armed with traditional music equipment swarmed to the palace in readiness to receive the visitor of the day.
A few hours later, the palace became a Mecca of sort when the itinerary of the Benin monarch comprising traditional rulers, palace chiefs, some family members, his special aides, cultural troupes decked in their costumes and armed with their traditional music equipment, also surged into the palace.
The Benin cultural troupe was the first to hit the stage with their native songs and cultural dances to herald the arrival of their king to the palace. The cultural display was on, until Oba Ewuare II arrived amid tight security and jubilation by the teeming crowd.
In a style reminiscent of a typical Ife festival, the Ife cultural orchestra took to the stage and thrilled the huge audience with cultural songs to welcome their visitors to a city reputed for culture and traditional values. The Benin cultural troupe hit the stage again to showcase their culture and tradition through cultural dance to mesmerise the audience.
The troupes from both kingdoms sang praises of the monarchs, eminent dignitaries and their cultural values in their native Ife and Benin dialects. Also, selected royal fathers from both kingdoms took turns to prayer for the kingdoms with emphasis on peace, unity and progress and the ability to cherish and promote the cultures and traditions of the lands.
While the Benin royal fathers prayed in turns for the Ife Kingdom, their Ife counterparts also took turns to pray for the Benin Kingdom amid chants of amen in their various dialects. It was a blend of cultures and traditions of two kingdoms that have enjoyed a robust relationship from ages past.
The historic visit witnessed a display of the best of traditions and cultures of both kingdoms, which added glamour to the historic occasion. The ethnic renditions were a portrayal of the fact that Ife and Benin kingdoms have a lot in common in terms of culture and tradition.
The two monarchs also visited “Orun Oba Ado” in company of palace priests and selected royal fathers to pay homage to all Benin kings believed to have been buried in the place, the culture that only ceased in about 100 years ago, when the practice was stopped by the British colonial masters.
Oba Ewuare was the first to speak: “This visit is to appreciate your imperial majesty (the Ooni) for the honour done me, the Benin royal family and the entire people of the kingdom through your personal presence at my coronation. This visit should provide us the opportunity to reawaken the cordial relationship between our two kingdoms.
“It is my wish that this visit would restart the cordial relationship since my father’s visit during Oba Sijuade’s reign, which because of the historical affinity, should continue to exist between our two kingdoms. We should explore and tap from what unite us rather than what divide us for the advancement of our cultural heritage and socio-economic development.
“It is gratifying to note that you and I had already been in regular communication even before this visit. We must increase visits to each other because such will augur well for the desirable close relationship between our two kingdoms.
“I use this occasion to highlight three major issues of national concern. They include the persistent herdsmen and farmers’ clashes and other criminal activities in the country, human trafficking and illegal migration as well as the social economic underdevelopment of the country. Suffice to say that these problems are plaguing the country in unacceptable proportions. The problems are further complicated by our porous borders, particularly in the North Eastern part of Nigeria and lack of adequate infrastructure, which call for the need to improve on the security architecture of the country.
“While commending the efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari in tackling the insurgency in the North East, I want to, on behalf of all traditional rulers in Edo State, join traditional rulers in Nigeria appeal to the president to, as a matter of urgency, intervene in these other threats to the unity of our country.”
Ooni Ogunwusi responded: “If not for the time constraint, I would have loved us to visit where Oranmiyan was buried. He was a king in Benin, Oyo and Ile Ife, where he died and was buried.
“This visit will be used to solidify our relationship. We are one big family. Ife will continue to protect what belongs to us as a people of similar heritage. I thank you for keeping Benin culture and tradition intact. We can’t grow as a nation if we don’t uphold our cultural heritage.”
He offered prayers for the peace, unity, prosperity and maintenance of the cultural heritage of both kingdoms as well as the socio-political and economic development of the country. He also commended the Benin Oba for deeming it fit to visit him and assured him of his kingdom’s lasting relationship with the Benin Kingdom.
While expressing worries at the current insecurity crisis bedeviling the nation, following the incessant bloodletting by the Fulani herdsmen, the Ooni called on royal fathers in all over Nigeria to assist the Federal Government in tackling the security infractions across the country. He added that community policing should be adopted and urged royal fathers to play prominent roles by using their subjects to monitor their domains to provide security for their people.
As a part of efforts to foster the relationship between the two kingdoms, Oba Ewuare II announced a collaboration between the foundations founded by two monarchs, Akpolokpolo Ewuare II Foundation and Ooni’s Hope Alive Foundation, to empower the youths, especially the victims of illegal human trafficking to give their lives a meaning:
“We are trying to form a synergy between Edo and Ife people. We have a challenge whereby some of our sons and daughters are being returned from Libya, Italy and other countries due to illegal trafficking. We need to reintegrate them back to the society and give their lives a meaning. That is why
I set up a foundation to rehabilitate and support them with welfare packages every month and to provide them with greener pastures that they are running after in foreign lands to no avail.
“The Ooni of Ife also has a foundation that is catering for such needs, especially youth empowerment. Both foundations will work together to provide support for the youths of this generation to discourage them from illegal trafficking. The relief cuts across different ethnic groups. There is no discrimination.”