It was all jubilation and glamour all the way as the crown prince of Benin, His Royal Highness, Eheneden Erediauwa, emerged the 40th Oba of Benin Kingdom and received his staff of office from the Edo State Government on Thursday.
And shorty after his coronation, Erediauwa gave the name he had chosen to bear as Oba Emuare II. He would be addressed as Omo n’Oba n’Edo Uku Akpolopkolo, Oba Ewuare II, after Oba Ewuare I, who reigned in 1440 AD.
Oba Ewuare II was crowned in the early hours of Thursday at the Usama Palace before he proceeded on foot accompanied by a retinue of Benin chiefs, members of traditional societies and thousands of residents to the symbolic Omi River, where he was paddled through a bridge.
The new king later moved to the Urho-Okpota Hall, amidst cheers, dancing and drumming from a surging crowd of residents, where he received the staff of office from Governor Adams Oshiomhole at about 4.06 pm.
Present at the ceremony were top government functionaries led by President Muhammadu Buhari, who was represented by Vice-President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo; Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajimobi; his Osun State counterpart Rauf Aregbesola, and Dr. Ibrahim Dankwambo, the Gombe State governor among others.
Traditional rulers from across the 36 states also graced the event.
Among them were the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi; Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III; the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Lamido Sanusi; the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Achebe; the Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar, and the Otaru of Auchi, Alhaji Aliru Momoh, Ikelebe III.
In his maiden address, Oba Ewuare, said the over nearly two-week coronation activities provided him the opportunity to have a deeper understanding of the cultural ideals of the Benin Kingdom, which he said, would be sustained during his reign.
He explained that he would pay due attention to matters concerning the upliftment of the Benin tradition, security, welfare of the people and palace reformation.
“To that extent, we shall faithfully discharge this sacred responsibility. We shall pay due attention to all matters of custom and tradition, focusing on real issues of security of our communities and the welfare and development of our people,” he added.
Oba Ewuare continued, “We shall carry out reforms in palace administration in order to be adequately responsive to our people’s sincere and deep longing for justice, equity and stability.
“We shall strive to ensure that conflicts are resolved between individuals, families and communities along the principles of social justice. We shall use cultural diplomacy as a veritable tool for the promotion of harmonious relationships with our neighbours far and near.”
The Oba said having shrunk to one state from parts of Lagos, Asaba and even Dahomey, it was imperative to sustain the Benin Empire by promoting the language from one generation to the other, through its enshrinement in the school curricula.
He also said in order to promote tourism, through arts and crafts, two special purpose vehicles – Benin Royal Dynasty Trust and Benin Royal Academy for the Performing Arts-, in collaboration with the Benin Traditional Council, had already been established.
The new monarch, who paid glowing tributes to his late father, Oba Erediauwa, and mother, described him as the true symbol of the Benin cultural heritage and added that he enjoyed and benefited from the late Oba’s love more than anyone else.
In his honour, the new Oba announced the establishment of the Oba Erediauwa Annual Lecture Series, through the investment of N10m in a trust fund, adding that the proceeds would be used to support an annual and well researched course on any subject in Benin history, public administration or Edo language.
Oba Ewuare II also bestowed a posthumous title of Iyoba on his late mother, Princess Ikuoyemwen Akenzua, and lauded her efforts in teaching him to work hard in order to succeed.
“I therefore stand before you as the 40th Oba of Benin, a direct descendant of Oranmiyan, the son of Oduduwa, whom the Benin people of that era knew as Ekaladeran, their self-exiled prince, who later became ruler in Ile-Ife. The Benin people recognise Oduduwa and his origin but it is not our place to force this recognition on others outside our boundaries.
“The history of the world is a shared one and there will certainly be unexpected connections in the future. This is, thus, a time for unity and not divisiveness, a time for mutual respect, recognising that our wholeness as people is so much more than the sum of our parts,” he said.
The monarch, who unveiled his new royal crest, also urged well-meaning Nigerians to contribute to the development of the state.
While congratulating the 40th Oba of Benin, President Buhari expressed confidence that he would build on the legacies of his later father, whom he described as a man of integrity.
“We are gratified that with your meritorious service as ambassador to various nation and your sterling work in the oil and gas stand you out in fulfilling the obligation of your ancestor,” he said.
He said, “All those who know you are convinced that you will discharge your responsibility with great wisdom and integrity that your great ancestors have always displayed.
“On behalf of the President and government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I congratulate you on this historic occasion and assure you of support, especially the Royal Dynasty Trust, for youth employment and poverty alleviation.”