The Oba of Benin is regarded as one of the most important Nigerian monarchs; he is also referred to as Omo N’Oba or the Emini mini mini. The ancient Benin Kingdom was first ruled by Oba Eweka 1 in the culture rich tradition of the Bini.
Although Nigerians place very little importance placed traditions, the process of the ascension of the Oba of Benin is altogether interesting and mysterious.
The 10-day ceremony starts at Egua-Edaiken, the traditional residence of the heir-apparent. The Ceremony begins with the heir-apparent (Edaiken) traveling to Benin accompanied by his people on a day of his choosing.
On his way back, he will stop at a historical palm tree; Udinamaimesunaimiuwa which literally translates to ‘work before pleasure‘ and climbs this tree.
This symbolic tree climbing rite dates back to the time of Oba Ewuare whose rule was characterised by so much suffering he was sometimes forced to climb palm trees to forage for food.
Having scaled this mini-hurdle, the Edaiken will continue his journey into Benin. However, he will be forced to leave his chiefs behind at the first moat which is called Iya-akpan.
The heir-apparent will then be escorted back into Benin by Oredo chiefs and will enter through Iguisi(also known as Lagos street) to Eko-ohae(known as bachelor’s camp) where he will stay for 3 days.
Then he performs the Usama rite, a rite first performed by Oromiyan when he built the first palace where all his successors were crowned and lived until the 13th century when Oba Ewedo moved the palace to its present site in the centre of the town. The Edaiken will remain in Usama for 7 days to perform all of the rituals and ceremonies of the Obas.
Before the 7th day, he is expected to visit a village few kilometres from Benin where he will perform the ceremony of choosing a title he’ll answer as the Oba, a tradition which started at the time of Oba-Eweka the first whose maternal grandfather Ogie-Egor lived in.
After picking a name at Use, the Edaiken will return to Usama where the crowning ceremony will be performed by Oliha. The Oliha is the Leader of the Uzama and he will proclaim the Edaiken in his newly acquired title as the Oba of Benin.
It is significant to note that until the ceremony at Use, the Edaiken never knows before hand what name is going to be crowned with. Henceforth,the Edaiken will cease to use personal names and he will be known as Oba.
Additional information and reporting by @zegbua