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The King ‘finally’ joins his forbears

…Grace, power of tradition in Benin kingdom
NOT many lands can boast of the kind of cultural and artistic heritage like that of the Benin Kingdom, in Edo State. Benin City is filled with art works, art studios, galleries, outdoor sculptures, cultural centres, and traditional institutions among others. Despite modernisation, the city still wears it’s traditional look, depicting it as a visually rich epicentre of Benin indigenous and modern culture, a self-contained part of society that brims with towering sculptures and cultural monuments. Following the recent confirmation of the ‘final’ transition of His Royal Majesty, Omo N’Oba Erediauwa, the Oba of BeninAgozino Agozino, writes on what makes Benin Kingdom  unique.
Rumored to have died in August 2015, the myth of dying, living and eventual death of the Omo N’ Oba Erediauwa, the Oba of Benin, is a mystery that arouses the curiosity of a non-indigene.
  But to students of Benin culture and history, the Oba, seen as a divine ruler and representative of the gods does not die, he can only join his ancestors in another realm, and that can only be revealed not by ordinary men but those knowledgeable in the mystery of the kingdom.
And so, it was in the case of the highly revered  monarch, when the rumour started making the rounds that, indeed, he had, finally, joined his ancestors, even before last week’s confirmation of his final death.
Similarly, residents of the ancient kingdom, who were in the know that the monarch might have died, kept sealed lips until the rumored death of the Oba, eventually, became a reality through the official announcement from the appropriate quarters in the Oba’s palace by Crown Prince Eheneden Erediauwa. This, is the richness of the Benin kingdom.
Not only that, the kingdom is still believed to have kept all its culture intact. The power house in Benin City which is the Oba’s palace, with over a century of history remains intact. The palace, which dates back to centuries, and located in the heart of Benin City, is a repository of history and relics.
Sculptural pieces in the form of bronze casts, brass works, stone pieces and relics of all kinds, comprising plaques and other forms of art,  depicting the land’s history, greets any first time visitor.  Major events in the history of the land are richly preserved in mural sculptures displayed on the walls and panel doors.
The palace is the abode of the highly revered Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Erediauwa. The monarchy in Benin is rich and revolves around the people’s daily life and it commands the respect of every Edo indigene, including traditionalists, Christians and Muslims alike.
It is a popular story in the city, how at its peak, the Benin Empire had its tentacles spread as far as modern Ghana in the West, Niger in the North and the Cameroons in the East. But for the Atlantic Ocean, its spread down south would have continued unchecked.
Infrastructure in the city was said to be unique. Well paved roads, drainages, an array of architectural edifices with civil and structural works compared to today’s works. The 1897 British expedition is credited with checkmating all that. And for a long time, the once glorious empire lost its steam.
Though officially confirmed dead, Oba Erediauwa’s life and times we’re etched in royal mythology like that of his predecessor, Oba Akenzua 11, his father, who ascended the throne in 1933 as his reign was believed to have brought much development to the people.
Like  his father’s reign, Oba Erediauwa was an accomplished administrator, who used his wealth of experience to rule the people. He obtained the  most qualitative Western education in England’s prestigious Cambridge University, as a historian and a lawyer and being an administrator, who rose to the very top of both Regional and Federal Civil Service, he worked with, and also advised the former Federal Military Heads of State and some former civilian government officials.
Many believed that the late Oba Erediauwa established himself as one of Nigeria’s brightest monarchs in his generation. Apart from attracting massive development, he, indeed,  brought well-earned respect to the kingdom as the Oba of Benin.
Crowned on March 23, 1979, as the 38th Oba of Benin, he reigned for 37 glorious years, which earned him accolades from eminent Nigerians.
Before his coronation, he was known as Prince Solomon Aiseokhuoba Igbinoghodua Akenzua. He attended Government College, Ibadan (1939–1945), then Yaba College, before going to King’s College, Cambridge, to study Law and Administration.
He joined the Eastern Nigeria Civil Service in 1957 as a District Officer, later moving to the Federal Civil Service where he retired as a Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health in 1973.
For a short period, he was the regional representative of Gulf Oil. In 1975, he was appointed Commissioner for Finance in the then Bendel State, during the military administration of Major-General George Agbazika Innih.
Ascending the throne on 23 March 1979, Erediauwa celebrated his 30th anniversary in 2009. During this period, he, severally,  acted as a peacemaker among politicians. For example, he intervened in a dispute between the former governor of Abia State, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu and Tony Anenih, former chairman of the People’s Democratic Party Board of Trustees, and resolved another face-off between Anenih and former Governor of Edo State, Lucky Igbinedion.
Apart from the ceremonial aspects, his 30th coronation  anniversary was a week-long carnival and a showcase of Benin arts and culture, with numerous performances of traditional music and dance, as well as an art exhibition and food fair. His death was officially announced on April 29, 2016.
“Our ancestors, who founded this Edo land, intended it to accommodate the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak,” he was once quoted to have said. No doubt,  the Benin kingdom and, indeed, Nigerians at large will miss the fatherly advice of Oba Akpolokpolo.
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