In the ancient time Benin was known as Igodomingodo, the geographical area now known as Benin, was the hub of a conglomeration of little towns that developed or spread into most of the areas of modern Bendel State.
During this period, Igodomingodo made constant progress especially in the areas of spiritual, philosophical and administrative development. It`s efforts were largely concentrated on the arrangement of human order so that by the time Europeans made contact with the people of Benin in the 15th century, they had already established an administrative system which is now, baffled the Europeans and earned for the Capital of this “far flung” African country, the appellation “City”.
The nucleus of this great civilization was the monarchy which the Binis perfected around the 18th century when, after a series of experimentation with the Ogiso, and some of the past-Ogiso Obas, they introduced a monarchical system that is based on the principle of primogeniture, beginning with Ewuakpe, about 1712 A. D.
What is today known as Edo or Benin City was originally known as Idu. It started out with one man who sired the human race. His family initially grew into groups of small farm settlements linked with footpaths. Over time, the settlements grew bigger, turning into villages and towns hundreds and perhaps thousands of years later. As each settlement got bigger and farms moved further away, new settlements sprang up around the new farms until the Idu family spread all over the earth. The immediate Idu family that could trace their ancestry to Pa Idu, grew after hundreds and thousands of years, into large communities and towns such as Udo, Abudu, Iguobazuwa, Urhonigbe and so on.
Each of the Pa Idu’s immediate extended family communities, villages and towns, had its own Edionwere. The Idus initially, naturally, married each other from within close family ties, then across their communities, villages and towns. They had quality family get-togethers; skirmishes, of course, particularly over farm land boundaries; and fought some wars with distant neighbours together. At some point, deep in the BCE era, all the Edionweres of Idu communities, villages and towns, decided to come together and set up a Council of Edionweres, to take decisions on their behalf and settle differences between communities. The first inter community Council they set up was called Ik’edionwere and it brought together the Edionweres of all the different communities, towns and villages of Idu people who recognized themselves as coming from the one original Pa Idu ancestry and speaking the same Idu language. They were related to one another as brothers, sisters, cousins, nephews, nieces, uncles, aunts etc, who happened to have set up settlements near or far from one another.
The Ik’edionwere members selected one from among their members, usually the oldest in age, to lead them. Often he was very old, so he nominated a much younger member of the council as his Oka’iko, a helping hand. This was how what became known as the Edo kingdom evolved. It was by no means a perfect arrangement from day one, but it worked for hundreds and perhaps thousands of years, solving some problems, creating others, with occasional damaging fights for supremacy among the council members.
The Political & Spiritual Purpose of the Holy Land
Ogiso Igodo (40 BCE – 16 CE). In 40 BCE, ‘Igodo,’ an ambitious, young, smart, Edionwere, from Idunmwun Ivbioto district, emerged as the Oka’iko. Igodo staged a coup, by abolishing the Ik’edionwere and declaring himself the Ogiso. He set up the Odibo-Ogiso group to help him consolidate his authority. Ogiso means ruler from the sky. By calling himself Ogiso, he was implying direct lineage to Pa Idu, the youngest son of Osanobua from the sky. He named his combined territories or sprawling nation state, Igodomigodo, and set up his capital at Ugbekun. The people of Igodomigodo enthusiastically accepted him as their ruler. They saw him as the reincarnation of Pa Idu and accorded him divine qualities. They transferred to him, all the myths associated with Pa Idu, including the God-son creation myth. All Ogisos and Obas of Benin naturally try to strengthen these myths in a variety of ways, including not allowing themselves to be seen eating in public and so suggesting that they can live without food. They are in myth, not mortal but god-kings, with celestial mystique attached to them.
Ogiso Igodo, after consolidating his hold on power, set up a Royal Council which included members of the disbanded Ik’edionwere Council and the Odibo-Ogiso group. He toyed with the idea of his succession by heredity and recommended in the alternative, succession by a close relative, who is mature, wise, and acceptable to the Royal Council. Ogiso Igodo died in 16 CE. None of his sons was able to succeed him to the throne.
Ogiso Ere (16 – 66 CE). Ogiso Ere, who was Ogiso Igodo’s kinsman, succeeded Igodo to the throne in 16 CE. Ogiso Ere transferred the capital of Igodomigodo from Ugbekun to Uhudumwunrun. This implies that Igodomigodo was a sprawling kingdom with more than a few large gathering points rather than a series of small hamlets. It was a very sophisticated kingdom too from that far back in history. Ogiso Ere, a lover of peace, was also a very resourceful king. He brought his kingdom several innovations. He was the first to wear a Cowry Crown. He introduced the guild system of carpenters and wood carvers, which eventually developed into the world’s celebrated wood works and bronze casting factories of today’s Igun Street in Benin City. Ogiso Ere built the first ever Igodomigodo market, known then as Ogiso market and in modern times as Agbado market. Ogiso Ere, invented the famous African kingship paraphernalia which includes the Ada (a sword of honour), Eben (a sword for dancing), Ekete (a royal stool), Agba (a rectangular stool), and Epoki (a leather box). These still serve today as the symbols of Obaship authority in many West African countries that experienced Bini control and or influence.
The Ada with one cutting edge is sometimes described as the senior sword of state, and the Ebe, with its double cutting edge, is the thrusting sword, (or the sword for dancing), trilled four times in thanksgiving and in self-identification, to the spirits of the ancestors. It must not fall when being trilled. While the Ada is believed to link the Edo with Egypt where a similar sword was used in battles, the Eben is linked with the Bronze Age, which the Bini may have used to fight their way through the desert and bush path to reach their present location. All Benin chiefs have the authority to use the Eben but only a few among them are allowed to possess the Ada. The Ada chiefs include, Enogies, the Ovies in Urhobo land, who can pronounce death sentence on citizens, and the Uzama nobles (Oliha, Edohen, Ero, Eholorn’ire etc), during the Ogiso era. None of these chiefs is allowed, however, to carry the Ada into palace grounds. Only their Eben can go in with them.
Ogiso Orire (66 – 100 CE). Ogiso Ere died in 66 CE and was succeeded by his son, Ogiso Erire, introducing the primogeniture (son succeeding his father) principle. He is credited with greatly expanding the kingdom. He had no male child so Igodomigodo was thrown into a long and devastating succession battles that lasted for 285 years. During that time 19 Odionweres attempted to usurp the position of Ogiso without receiving recognition from the people, and the consensus of the Elders’ Council. The issue was finally resolved with the compromise choice of Ogiso Odia in 385 CE.
Ogiso Odia (385 – 400 CE), was an Odionwere with ocultic gift of prophesy and prediction. His ascension introduced the system of gerontocracy (i.e. the oldest person in the community rules), until the death of the twenty-second Ogiso when the primogeniture system was restored.
Ogiso Ighido (400 CE – 414 CE), succeeded Ogiso Odia. Ighido was a successful blacksmith producing knives, chains, hoes and cutlasses when he was oracularly chosen to be the Ogiso. He was the oldest citizen around at the time anyway, an Odionwere. Ogiso Evbuobo (414 -432 CE), was very old when he was chosen to be the Ogiso. He died at the age of 110 years. Ogiso Ogbeide (432 – 447 CE), was from Ugbague quarters. A proud king. He died on Ugie Day.
Ogiso Emehe (447 – 466 CE), was one of Edo’s greatest diviners. He was an oguega oraclist from the Emehe quarters. Ogiso Ekpigho (466 – 482 CE), was a money lender before he became king. He was heartless and merciless in the business of managing money. Even his name suggests his trade, ‘bag of money.’ Ogiso Akhuankhuan (482 – 494 CE), was an economist and trader who specialized in the textile trade before he was chosen king. Ogiso Efeseke (494– 508 CE), was very wealthy before becoming Ogiso. He came from the Urubi quarters. He had large herds of cows and goats.
Ogiso Irudia (508– 522 CE). His period was not considered eventful in anyway. Ogiso Orria (522– 537 CE), was a great hunter who specialized in killing or capturing and training elephants. He hailed from Oregbeni quarters. Ogiso Imarhan (537– 548 CE) had a thriving business in terracotta, making pots before becoming king. He was from Oka quarters. Ogiso Etebowe (548– 567 CE), was a powerful boxer and wrestler from Oroghotodin quarters. He wasn’t a giant in size but had the reputation of ‘destroyer of leopards.’ Ogiso Odion (567– 584 CE), was a renowned hunter, fairy and folktales teller, intelligent singer, dancer and a moralist. Ogiso Emose (584– 600 CE), was a posthumous child. He inherited the mother’s wealth. He loved beautiful things. At his coronation, he took the mother’s name ‘Emose,’ and so earned the reputation of being regarded as a woman Ogiso.
Ogiso Ororo (600– 618 CE), was brought up as a blacksmith at Eyanugie. He travelled far and wide as a trader in Ogisodom before becoming Ogiso. Ogiso Erebo (618– 632 CE), was a fisherman and canoe carver, chosen from Okhorho quarters. He had a repertoire of stories about sea animals such as mermaids, sharks, crocodiles etc. Ogiso Ogbomo (632 –647 CE), was chosen from Ugbowo quarters. He was a nurse or doctor, treating venereal diseases, arthritis, epilepsy and pregnant women. Ogiso Agbonzeke (647–665 CE), was a philosopher, historian and a great poet with a rich range of songs and proverbs. He interpreted native laws and customs well and had the reputation of telling truth from lies. Ogiso Ediae (665– 685 CE), was the last Odionwere Ogiso. A great carver and sculptor. He died at the age of 115 years.
Ogiso Orriagba (685– 712 CE) ascended the throne of his father, Ogiso Ediae, under the primogeniture system, and was determined to introduce stability to the succession process. He was not happy with the gerontocratic system that tended to produce very old Ogisos counting their days to the grave. He felt that the son taking over from his father system, would bring young blood to the throne, so he canvassed seriously for the process and backed it with the Oba’s next of kin taking over in a situation where the Oba left no son. He invoked the spirit of Erinmwindu, and the ancestors of the land, to support his efforts and positively influence members of the Royal Council. The Edion‘isen, (Royal Council, later known as the Seven Uzama, and which included chiefs Oliha, Edohen, Ero, Ezomo and Eholo-Nire), after long deliberations adopted the system of primogeniture and swore on the shrine of Erinmwindu to uphold it at all times both for the monarch and themselves. The rule was extended to their properties, duties, and debts, when they die.
Ogiso Odoligie (712– 767 CE), was a soldier. He defeated Udo, Iguabode, and Urhonigbe towns; united and enlarged his kingdom. He used tamed elephants to prosecute his wars. Ogiso Uwa (767– 821 CE) inherited a rich kingdom. A luxury lover, extravagant and a gambler, he introduced brass work to Igodomigodo. Ogiso Eheneden (821–871 CE), like his father, inherited an expanded kingdom and wealth. He introduced innovations that improved the arts and crafts and the practice of agriculture. Ogiso Ohuede (871– 917 CE), introduced the UKO (or ministerial system of government), and developed the guild system. He was considered a weak king. Ogiso Oduwa (917– 967 CE), experienced serious rebellion during his reign. He could not control the large kingdom.
Ogiso Obioye (967– 1012 CE), was a resourceful king. He introduced the use of cowry as currency to Igodomigodo. His reign witnessed fire outbreak, severe inflation, food scarcity and immigration. Ogiso Arigho (1012– 1059 CE), was a great merchant. He introduced the double payments system, a bank, and the slave labour culture to Igodomigodo.
Ogiso Owodo (1059-1100 CE), was the thirty-first and last Ogiso of Igodomigodo. He freed the slaves. He was considered a weak king because he could not handle Osogan who was a thorn in his flesh during his reign. Ogiso Owodo had only one son, called Ekaladerhan, despite having many wives. In attempt to unravel the cause of his wives not being able to bear children, he sent his first wife Esagho and three male messengers, namely Osaghae, Osagiede and a fourth person to consult an oracle. Details of what happened have been preserved for centuries in palace folklore and practice and who better to provide this than an illustrious Edo prince soaked in the tradition.
According to the book, Ekaladerhan, written by His Royal Highness, Ovbia Oba Edun Agharese Akenzua, the Ogie-Obazuwa, published by Ukhege Heights, Benin City, 2008, Odionmwan and his aids, Omokpaomwan and Osifo were summoned to appear at noon before Ogiso Owodo, because there was a job for the executioners. The prison cells were empty, so they did not know who was going to be executed.
They brought out their whetstone, some lime and ash and began to sharpen and polish their swords. A stranger in his mid 50s approached them and said he wanted to share something with them but that they had to take an oath with him before he could reveal it. They wondered why they should take an oath with the stranger and tried to dismiss him. He insisted that he would not leave until they took the oath and heard him out. With the swords put together, the intruder untied an edge of his cloth to bring out a kolanut and some ehien-edo (alligator pepper). He incised his arm with the tip of the sword and asked the others to do likewise. He plucked a cocoyam leaf to collect the blood from the four of them, broke the kolanut, dipped the pieces in the blood and placed them on the sword. Then, he added three ehien-edo seeds.
The three men placed their hands on the sword and swore not to divulge the information they were about to receive. Each of them took a piece of the kolanut and one seed of the ehien-edo and chewed them with a sip of water. Then the intruder began to speak: “I was one of the four persons sent by the Ogiso to the oracle to find out why his wives could not bear children. Esagho was one of us. The Obiro revealed that a sorceress had cast the spell on Ogiso’s wives to prevent them from bearing children. The sorceress must be destroyed and her blood sprinkled on the shrine of Olode. She is an evil woman, I can see her face. She is trying to hide but can’t. Her name is Esagho, Ogiso’s wife.
“On the way home, in stormy whether, Esagho ripped off cloth from her waist.” Seeing the nakedness of an Ogiso’s wife carried the death penalty. “We lowered our gaze and screamed, what is this? She accused us of removing her cloth to rape her. Rape you, we screamed. One of us tried to strangle her for lying but the rest of us restrained him. We fell on our bellies, buried our faces in the mud and pleaded with her but she would not bulge. She insisted we agree to say that the oracle fingered Ekaladerhan and not her. We knew that no one would believe our story against hers so, to save our necks, we gave in. On arrival at the palace, Esagho told Ogiso that the oracle declared Ekaladerhan as the Alagbode. That the Alagbode passed over the bridge and burnt it, so he must be sacrificed to the gods for Owodo’s wives to bear him children. This is the genesis of what you are about to do now.”
The executioners could not believe their ears. They asked for the names of the other messengers and the stranger said they were Osaghae and Osagiede and that “they could not live with the treachery so, they drank poison one after the other these last two years. “I have waited for this day to tell what I know. Now that I have done so, I am ready to die,” he said. The executioners debated the issue and decided they would save the life of the prince. They would not want to soil their hands with the blood of the innocent. They would tell the prince what happened and let him escape. The messenger was happy with their decision and asked them to tell the prince the truth at the time of the execution. They took oath again, swearing not to divulge their decision not to execute Ekaladerhan. “If I do, may I become victim of the sword; my body food for the birds; my branches obliterated from the surface of the earth.”
Ekaladerhan had just finished his meal and his best friend and play mate, Okpomwan, was clearing the plates. “Hurry,” Ekaladerhan said, “let’s continue our hunting. The sun has already climbed high. We have to get more lizards for the cats.” There was a knock on the door. Okpomwan answered it. “Greetings from your father,” the leader of the three visitors said. “It is his wish that you accompany us on a journey. He sent you this agba as proof that we act on his authority. Wear it on your right arm.” It was too large for his young slim arm so they cut it and pressed its ends together. Okpomwan wanted to go with the prince but they would not let him. It was a journey for the prince alone. The kids sensed something sinister but were helpless and too young to resist. It was the first time Ekaladerhan was going anywhere without his friend.
They walked and walked. The sun was at the centre of the sky, scorching the earth. The prince was extremely tired. He threatened several times that he could not continue. Eventually at Igo forest, they came face to face with the man who took the oath with the executioners. The executioners and the prince were surprised and the executioners exchanged greetings with the man. He appeared to have materialized by magic and they joked about his mysterious powers. “Who is this man?” The prince asked. The messenger said: “the sun is there but it has no heat. This is the day of the sun without sunshine; the clouds that bear no rain. A strange phenomenon! No wonder, the glory of the land is about to depart.” Odionmwan, leader of the executioners said, “this is the end of the journey.” Then he began slowly to tell Ekaladerhan the reason for the journey, but that they didn’t want the blood of an innocent person on their hands.
“What would you do to me then?” The prince asked. “Leave you here to find your way. Do not return because you will be executed,” Odionmwan said. “Find my way? To where?” The prince said with tears rolling down his cheeks. As the executioners were leaving, he begged them not to leave and asked to be killed instead. He clung to one of them. Odionmwan said to him, “Ekaladerhan, the son of Ogiso, your father ordered that you be executed. We will not spill the blood of the innocent. So wander into the jungles beyond. Do not look back; do not return. Fate may layout pain and sorrow for you, but we layout hope and prayers.” They gave him a hunter’s knife, a bag with some survival items, a cross-bow and arrows, and told him these were all they had to give him along with their hope and prayers. “Go now with Osanobua. Go, good spirits will go with you and guide you.”
Odionmwan brought out a cock from his bag, cut its neck and smeared their swords with its blood. “It would be the evidence that the deed has been done,” he said. The messenger said, “this place shall henceforth be known as Urhu Okhokho or Aghi de ere yi.” He brought out a short stem of Ikhinmwin from his bag and planted it at the spot to commemorate the event. Then, they freed the man from Ekaladerhan’s grip and headed for home. He ran after them for a while, sobbing, pleading, but it was of no use. He flung himself to the ground, sobbing. Exhausted from sobbing, he did not know when he drifted into sleep. He slept for a long time and woke up refreshed. He realised he was alone in the bowel of the jungle and it was getting dark. He lifted himself slowly from the ground and emboldened by despair, began his journey into the unknown, with the Odionmwan’s parting words ringing in his ears: “do not look back, do not return,” as he kept walking, running and trotting. Light was failing, his legs got tangled in ropes and shrubs now and again. He thought he was being followed. He looked back; saw no one, as he continued running. When it got too dark, he took shelter under a large tree but was too frightened to shut his eyes. He took off the next day, trotting. He had turned his back on the land of his birth, forever. He had been running for three days.
He got to a brook and stopped. The clear water rippled slowly southwards. According to Edun Akenzua’s book, Ekaladerhan, “the bank was full of brightly coloured flowers, some red, others yellow, blue and green. The grass was luscious and equal in height, rising in even progression from the river bank towards the bush. All was neatly arranged as if by a horticulturist, but then, nature is the greatest horticulturist of all. He went down to the brook, stretched his legs out into it and let them bathe in the cool water. It felt good. He scooped some of the water to wash face and drink. Finally, he put his clothes aside and plunged into the shallow water and bathed his entire body.
With the birds singing, the butterflies dancing, oblivious of his presence, the trees, the animals for companion and the beautiful brook all to himself, he felt a special bond and decided to settle there. After taking his bath he stretched out on his back on dried leaves for a nap.”
In those days, groups of hunters would go on safaris in the jungle, sometimes for several weeks at a time. Their wives would accompany them. They would pitch camp and from there the men would hunt at night. In the morning, the women would disembowel the game brought from the hunt, clean and stack them up on racks above fire to dehydrate the animals and prevent them from rot. At the end of the expedition, they would take large quantities of dehydrated animal home for family needs and the rest to trade by barter. One day, a band of hunters on a safari got to a piece of land slopping gently into a slow-running brook. The brook was clear and a bush of bamboo trees was near-by. They liked the topography and decided to set up camp there. They cleared the ground and used the bamboo sticks to build their tents while the women cooked yams brought from home. They spent that first night in the camp hoping to start their hunt the following evening.
That night one of the men needed to ease himself and asked the man sleeping next to him to accompany him. He too needed to answer the call of nature. “They picked up their akare and walked some distance away from their camp to squat and empty their bowels a few meters from each other. One suddenly thought he was hearing heavy breathing from under a near-by shrub. He listened attentively and was convinced his ears were not deceiving him. He could trace a form under the shrub in the moonless night. The form moved slightly. He whispered to his colleague that there was something near-by. He raised his hand to train his akare at the form but his friend exclaimed that he should hold it, that it was a man not an animal. A man here in the jungle? What the hell is he doing here by himself? Ekaladerhan recognized them at once as people from Igodomigodo. He joined their camp, told his story and impressed the hunters with his agility and hunting prowess. It was his first human contact since his banishment.” They called him a man, so he must have been there by him self for three or more years because he could not have been much more than 15 years of age when he was taken from home. They thoroughly enjoyed each others company. After they had packed their things and left for home, he too packed his kits and left. “He was sure that the hunters would take the news of their encounter home and his father would send troops after him. He resumed his running to get as far away from the area as possible. The news quickly spread in Igodomigodo that Ekaladerha was alive. The hunters were brought before Ogiso Owodo. “You saw Ekaladerhan?” He asked. “Yes my Lord,” they said. “You saw the dead among the living?’ “He is not dead. We saw him.”
“Shut up! Do you mean you saw a ghost? Can’t you tell the living from the dead? We gave Ekaladerhan to the gods. Does anyone ever return from the great beyond? Answer fools!” The king was in rage. The hunters were subjected to rigorous interrogation. They stood by their story. Finally, they were made to take an oath to attest to the veracity of their story. In Igodo, statements made on oath were held to be true because perjurers died within three years. Owodo sent for the Okaokuo. Get your men, go with these men and bring Ekaladerhan back home. Go at once. You have three moons in which you must bring him back. Turning to another aid, he said: “You go and bring the Okao-Odionmwan here to explain how the man he executed came alive again. Keep him in the dungeon until they bring Ekaladerhan back.”
They trooped out of Ogiso’s presence. They had reached the end of the road. They were in a quandary. If they failed to bring Ekaladerhan back they would die and if they succeeded, they would still die because they would not want his death on their conscience. On their way out of the palace arguing and blaming each other for the mess they had put themselves into by reporting their find, one of the hunters suggested that when they leave, he would not come back. He would find a settlement elsewhere. They all agreed, including members of the king’s troops assigned to go with them, that that was what they would all do.
Okpomwan now in his late teenage, was coming from his farm when he came upon a crowd of people moving down the road, talking loudly, some giggling excitedly, some quarrelling. Okpomwan recognized an elder among them and asked what the commotion was about. “So you haven’t heard that Ekaladerhan has been found?” “Ekaladerhan? Where?” Okpomwan screamed, unable to contain himself. They told him how they found him in the forest and that Ogiso had ordered them to go and bring him. They are going home to get ready for the journey. “I will go with you sir. I’ll run to the palace to seek Ogiso’s permission and meet you at home,” Okpomwan said. Ogiso read Okpomwan’s mind and asked him if he had heard that they found his friend in the forest and whether he believed them? “I have asked them to go and bring him even if it is a ghost,” Ogiso said. Okpomwan said “I ran into Okaokuo on the way, he told me the story. May I go with them?” “He will be glad to see you. Go,” the Ogiso said. “Thank you my Lord.” Soon as Okpomwan arrived at Okaokuo’s home, the other members of the team began arriving with their belongings, wives and children. He soon learnt that the team was going for good and would not return to Igodomigodo. He too said he was prepared to go with them for good. Okaokuo’s wife prepared one last major meal of pounded yam for the entire team before they left.
When they eventually reached where the hunters had camped and encountered Ekaladerhan, it was deserted and the huts had been taken over by shrubs. For three days, they searched far and wide, calling out Ekaladerhan’s name; the only response they got was the echo of their voices. The leader of the party then assembled them and said: “we are far from home, yet we have found a home. A home free from fear, uncertainty and treachery. God protect us here. This settlement besides this brook shall be known henceforth as Iguekaladerhan in memory of the prince. Through here, the glory of Igodomigodo departed; by the same route shall it return.” He planted the ikhinmwin stem. “It is the first tree on earth; it was planted by God as the forerunner of all trees. Wherever man has established a settlement, Ikhinmwin is planted to sanctify the land. I plant it here now. It shall consecrate this land and bear testimony that man has chosen this place as home.” After that ceremony, the men began to build their homes and prepare the ground for farming. A new settlement had begun.
Ekaladerhan in the meantime had been running for several days, crossing rivers after rivers, to get as far away from Igodo as he possibly could. He did not want the troops he expected his father to send after him, to catch him. One afternoon, tired of running, he sat under a tree to rest and soon slept off. When he woke up, he saw two Eghodin birds in the air. Eghodin birds fly where there is smoke and fire. He wondered if he had run all this far only to be back to Igodo. The bush was clean around the near-by pond and cocoyam plants littered the place. He tried to pull one out of the ground but the stem broke so he got a piece of stick to dig the yam out of the ground. As he was doing that, a man came out of the bush, holding a bow in his left hand and a bag was slung across his shoulder. He was very dark in complexion, unlike the men of Igodomigodo. The man moved with caution towards him and it suddenly dawned on Ekaladerhan that there were other humans on earth. The intruder too was puzzled. He had never seen a man as huge and muscular. Was the giant a god or a spirit? He thought. Ekaladerhan sensed his confusion and decided to take advantage of it. He spoke to him but he did not understand. The man too spoke and Ekaladerhan did not understand.
He began to move away but Ekaladerhan beckoned that he should follow him. After walking a short distance, Ekaladerhan stopped suddenly; placed a finger to his lips, to suggest that the man should be quiet and indicated that the man should wait; then he moved stealthily alone into the woods. The stranger was afraid of happenings and even more scared to run away. Ekaladerhan soon returned with a live antelope slung on his shoulders, to the hunter’s surprise. Ekaladerhan presented the animal he apparently caught with bare hands to the man and motioned to him to take it home. The man gratefully carried his gift and hurried away but soon returned with another man. They both prostrated, muttering words, which seemed to be of gratitude for the antelope. Back home, the hunters recounted their encounter in the forest. News spread that the god of the forest had arrived as was predicted long time ago by their oracles. People began to visit the forest to catch a glimpse of the friendly god.
One day, a young lad accompanying his father to hunt gave a piglet a chase not knowing that the mother was near-by and watching. The mother pig charged at him and dug its teeth into his calf. The lad’s father chased away the pig. His son’s leg was bleeding profusely so he carried him on his back and as he was heading home, Ekaladerhan stopped them, plucked some leaves, chewed them into a pulp to paste on the wound. The bleeding stopped immediately, then he peeled the skin of cocoyam to bandage the wound. When the bandage was removed a week later, the wound, as if by magic, had completely healed. They concluded that the forest god was not only a master-hunter, he was an herbalist too. From then on, they brought their sick to him for treatment. Their friendship blossomed. They brought him food, clothing and other gifts and as the moons rolled by Ekaladerhan began to pick a few words of their language.
Three harvests later, the people gathered at their village square to discuss their relationship with their god-friend. Agbonmiregun, the priest, said at the gathering: “Dear citizens, I welcome you. We are here to jointly express our thanks to God for hearing our prayers. For a long time we prayed to Him to send us a leader. The oracles foretold that God would send the leader from the land of the Rising Sun. I thought it would not happen in my life-time. Now the leader has come. He has come down to teach our young ones the technique of hunting. Since his advent, our sons have become brave and accomplished hunters; farmers now have plentiful harvest. The barns are full; no more hunger. Disease and sickness have been reduced. With a single leaf, he cures yaws, guinea worm and scabies; just one leaf and mortality rate has been reduced. Should a personage of that statue continue to live there, in the forest? I say no! And I know I speak for all of you. I propose that we invite him to live among us. We should build a house for him, and give him our daughters to marry to beget his kind and perpetuate his line in our country. I call on you to give me the mandate to send a delegation to invite him down.”
“Go on, Agbonmiregun; send a delegation to him,” the people shouted unanimously.” Agbonmiregun then turned to Ilowa, “take with you as many persons as you consider necessary and go to him. Come over and collect wearing apparels and a staff for him. Ogun, Eshindale and Obameri will go with you. Go and tell him it is our wish that he comes and lives among us. Go and prepare. You set out on the seventh day from today.”
Ilowa and his delegation meet Ekaladerhan in the forest. “Greetings, god of the forest. My name is Ilowa. I am the custodian of records for our people. This is Ogun, Eshindale, Obameri….. They are elders in our country. We bring you greetings from our people. The oracles foretold your coming a long time ago. We did not know it would be in our life-time. We are happy that our eyes have seen you. Glory be to Olodumare. Your coming has liberated us from hunger and from diseases. We thank you for the wonderful things you have done in our lives. We have been mandated to bring you these gifts and to invite you to come and live with us. We will build a home for you on the highest peak in town and give our daughters to you in marriage.”
Ekaladerhan after thanking them profusely said among other things, “…..I am overwhelmed by your warmth, friendship and generosity…..but I cannot accept this kindness. I pray, friends, do not be offended.”
“Son of the forest, do not turn down our invitation, we beg of you. Olodumare himself sent you to us; otherwise you would not have been here. We thank Him. For His sake, do not turn your back on us. The trees and the animals and birds are always here. You can visit them whenever you wish,” Ilowa pleaded, but to no avail. Ekaladerhan was tempted to explain that he was not a spirit, but decided it was more beneficial to let them think he was one. Disappointed, the delegation returned home. Three harvests passed before they tried again. This time, their friendship with Ekaladerhan had grown tremendously and Ekaladerhan had performed several more of what seemed to them like miracles in their lives. Ekaladerhan accepted their invitation and gifts, then asked for permission and disappeared into the forest. Moments later, he was back with a bush pig. “Let us celebrate with this,” he said.
The men excitedly lit a fire and soon they were feasting. After they had left, Ekaladerhan could not sleep that night. Tears rolled down his cheeks as he ruminated on his life. He knelt down and thanked Osanobua. Then he told him self that from that day on: “my name shall be Ize-Odo’uwa.” Meaning I have chosen the path of glory.
The following morning, town criers took to the streets before the first light, beating the drums, summoning citizens to the village square. A large crowd assembled including all the leaders: Agbonmiregun, Ilowa, Obameri, Eshindale, Ogun….. Agbonmiregun mounted the rostrum and welcomed everyone to the gathering. “I will not waste time,” he said. “I have good news, but a song is sweeter in the mouth of the minstrel. The minstrel today in Ilowa. I shall now invite him to step forward and sing the song.”
Ilowa on the rostrum, after greeting formalities, said: “it is now over six harvests since a man appeared in our forest and has been living there. The oracle had foretold of his coming and we have been expecting his arrival. Since he came, our land now yields great harvests. Our hunters no longer come home without a game. Our sons are now accomplished hunters and sharp-shooters. Generally, we are now used to a better life. Olodumare sent him to bring bounty to our land. You are witnesses to the miracles this great teacher, hunter and physician has performed. Lest we become like the blind man who does not see the beauty of day and the glory of the sun, the elders and your good selves decided that the Forest-god be persuaded to come and live amongst us.
“A delegation led by this speaker and including Ogun, Eshindale and Obameri, was sent to invite him. It took 39 moons (three harvests), to persuade him to accept the invitation. It is now my joy and privilege to break the good news that he has agreed to come and live with us.” A thunderous ovation greeted the announcement. The people burst into spontaneous songs of joy, promising to build a house for the Forest-god at the highest peak of town and reveling in the prospect of the god ushering in the cradle of their New World.
When they asked him, “Baba, we do not know what to call you,” he said “my name is IZE-OD’UWA n’ovbie Ogiso. It is a long name. You may simply call me Ize’oduwa. My father’s name is Ogiso.” He looked skywards as he called his father’s name.
Ogiso Owodo, apart from the domestic problem of his wives not being able to bare children, was not a very popular king and his execution of a pregnant woman for some minor misdemeanor, proved to be one offence too many for his subjects and his frontline chiefs, who banished Owodo from his throne. Owodo took refuge at a place called Uhinwinirin.
During the period of Owodo’s banishment, a monster snake that appeared to be coming out of the Ikpoba River, (although the Igodomigodos believed it was coming from the sky), bit people now and again at the Ogiso market and many died from the attack. The Igodomigodos as a result, nicknamed the Ogiso market, “Agbado Aigbare,” (meaning we go there together we never return together), which is how Ogiso market acquired its current name of Agbado market. Every effort to tackle the monster snake, including spiritual means failed until Evian, kindred of the Ogiso royal family, succeeded in throwing a fire-hot iron rod into the mouth of the monster snake. The feat appeared to have sent the monster snake to its eventual death. It endeared Evian to his people, because the monster snake never bothered the people of Igodomigodo again.
The death of Ogiso Owodo at that same time created leadership vacuum for the first time since the re-introduction of the son succeeding his father to the throne in Igodomigodo’s history. There was confusion and anarchy in the land with powerful chiefs jostling for the throne. The Edion’isen, after long deliberations, installed a temporary administrator, the hero, Evian, an old man at the time, to oversee the affairs of Igodomigodo. He turned out to be a very popular administrator. He invented the acrobatic dance called Amufi and the traditional dance called Emeghute. He ruled until very old age and before his death, nominated his oldest son, Irebor, to succeed him. Many of the people of Igodomigodo and the Edion’isen would not have this. They rejected Irebor on the ground that his father, Evian, was not an Ogiso and, therefore, lacked the divine authority to bequeath kingship (Ogisoship), to his heir.
Leadership vacuum was again created in Igodomigodo. The Edion’isen (Royal Council, made up of Chiefs Oliha, Edohen and Eholo-Nire), whose ancestors had sworn during the reign of Ogiso Orriagba (685– 712 CE), on the shrine of Erinmwindu to uphold the primogeniture system for the monarch and themselves, was in a fix. Apart from the fear of the ‘Erinmwindu curse,’ the Chiefs were not prepared to countenance a mere mortal from a non-Ogiso lineage ruling them. It had to be the God-son’s first son or nothing. It was during this period of bewilderment and uncertainty that the Edion’isen, decided to send a delegation into the forest to look for their son, Prince Ekaladerhan.
Oliha assembled a team of six men and two maids. Edohen, Eholo and two other nobles volunteered to join the party and also assembled their own teams. Oliha, as leader of the search group, invited four experienced hunters to join them making thirty-one persons in all who set out from Urhu-Okhokho the next day, heading westwards in the bush. They camped early on that first day and kept moving deeper and deeper into the forest as the days mounted. It was not an easy assignment, and before long, they had lost two members, one to a snake bite and the other through drowning. After four moons in the woods without trace of Ekaladerhan, they were running out of food and frustration had begun to set in. They sat down to discuss terminating the mission and decided to sleep over it and let Oliha decide the following day, when before evening to pack and begin to head back home.
In the meantime, Izoduwa whose name was initially corrupted to Ijoduwa, called his new community Uhe (re-birth) and his new home ‘Ilefé,’ (successful escape), which his subjects corrupted to Ile-Ife. He had acquired the Yoruba title of Ooni, and his subjects were according him great reverence as their ancestor because they believed he was a deity and the direct descendant of Olodumare. This notion was strengthened because Izoduwa looked skywards on the rare occasions when he had to mention his father’s name, Ogiso. They assumed he came directly from the sky, so, his banishment link with his God-son Igodomigodo lineage never had to be raised or revealed to his Yoruba subjects. As his fame spread among the Yoruba communities far and wide as the spiritual leader of the Ifa divinity, his name was corrupted to Oduduwa. Izoduwa had eight children and his first was a son by a Yoruba woman called Okanbi. This son was called Omonoyan (meaning precious child),’ which the Yoruba corrupted to ‘Oronmiyan.’
The Ifa myth of creation draws significantly from the Bini and Egyptian corpus. It claims that Olodumare sent his son, Orunmila, (another name for Oduduwa), from heaven on a chain, carrying a five-legged cockerel, a palm-nut and a handful of earth. Before then, the entire earth surface was covered with water. Oduduwa scattered the earth on water; the cockerel scattered it with its claws so that it became dry land. The palm-nut grew into a tree representing the eight crowned rulers of Yoruba land. Oduduwa had eight children who later dispersed to found and rule other Yoruba communities. The Yoruba myth of creation is community based, confirming lineal relationship with it’s (earth based Bini, and universe based Egyptian), mother sources.
In the morning after the Oliha search party had decided to terminate their mission, two young females in the camp, Osayi and Emoze, talked two young males in the camp, Sokpunwu and Idiaghe to go a-hunting for the youths to prepare a lavish returning home party for the elders.
The young men were arrested in the forest by a crowd of hunters who did not understand their language and assumed they were enemies planning evil. The captives’ hands were tied as they were being led to the place the youths were gesturing they came from in the woods. Oliha, Eholo and Edohen were surprised when the hunters descended on them and arrested every one in the camp. They were taken to meet Oduduwa, the Ooni of the community. Oduduwa suspected they were Igodo people but he did not know any of them. The leaders of the captives too, felt that there was something familiar about Oduduwa. He looked like his father, huge, fair in complexion and masculine. Oduduwa instructed Ilowa and the others to treat their captives well. “Let them have their bath, give them food and let them rest for the night. I want to see their leaders again in the morning. I want to interrogate them.”
In the morning, the village elders were surprised that Oduduwa could converse with the captives and concluded that gods are capable of anything. “Men of Igodo,” Oduduwa said presently in Igodo language, “we meet again but at a strange place and in a strange circumstance. Welcome to our sanctuary. Now who are you? What do you want? How did you get here?” His manner of address and the mention of Igodo convinced the captives that they were indeed in the presence of Ekaladerhan. Thus persuaded, Oliha felt at ease to speak. “Hail, noble One, you are right. We are men of Igodo. I am Oliha. This here is Edohen and the next is Eholo. We left home some four moons ago in search of Ekaladerhan n’ovbie Ogiso. Now our eyes behold him that we seek.” “Why do you seek him,” Oduduwa interjected rather sternly.
Oliha took his time to explain what had happened in Igodo since Ekaladerhan’s father died and said that they had been in search of him to invite him to his father’s vacant throne. That since the father died, anarchy, hunger and diseases had become the order of the day in Igodo, with powerful chiefs fighting each other to occupy the throne. That an old man, Evian, took over but he died and his son wants to succeed him. That Evian was not of royal blood; only the son of Ogiso succeeds Ogiso.
Oduduwa, after listening attentively said: “I will not dwell too long on contemplation before responding to your request. My age and this new situation prevent me from going back with you. But I will not desert Igodo in her hour of need. I will give my son to you, if you wish. After all, he is my blood. He is, therefore, of the royal line of Owodo, your last Ogiso. But before I release my son to you, you will have to submit yourselves to a test. If you pass, it will be proof that you will be able to look after him. I will present your matter to my people tomorrow and after that you will take the test.”
For the test, he gave the three leaders, a louse each to nurture for three moons. If they bring them back healthy, “I will be convinced that you will take care of my son,” Oduduwa said and turned to Ilowa, Eshindale and Obameri, “separate them into three groups and each of you take a group home for the three moons they would be with us for the test. Give them good accommodation and hospitality. None of their groups is to meet with the other until they come back here in three moons’ time.”
Oliha’s group went with Ilowa to his house and one of Oliha’s boys wrapped the louse in a cocoyam leaf and put it under a water pot. Eholo’s group followed Eshindale home and after racking brains with his men, decided to keep the louse in a gourd. Oliha, who followed Obameri home, decided that his Odemwigie would keep the louse in his bushy hair. “Do not have a bath or a hair-cut until further notice,” he told him.
In the meantime, Oranmiyan was protesting against being sent to the strange land with the strange people. “Why not send someone else dad?” The father decided to tell him his secret and insisted he kept it to him self. “It is not a strange land, it is our ancestral land, he concluded.” Oranmiyan was pleased to be taken into confidence by his father and promised to do honour to the family name in Igodo.
After three moons, Izoduwa, surprised at the level of preservation and development of the lice, concluded that if the Edion’isen could so adequately take care of the lice, his son was likely to be in good hands. In the meantime, many ordinary people in Igodomigodo were not excited about the prospect of an Ife prince ruling them and also did not consider the Igodomigodo’s stool vacant. Irebor was on the throne and he was warning the people of Igodomigodo against what he described as (Ogie a mie, aimie Oba, meaning it is an Ogie that rules Igodomigodo and not an Oba), in protest against the intrusion of the Ife prince. The word Ogieamie then became the nickname of Irebor and subsequently the hereditary title of the ruler of Irebor’s Igodomigodo.
Oronmiyan’s intervention in Igodomigodo was around 1170 CE. Ogieamie Irebor prevented Prince Oronmiyan from entering the heart of Igodomigodo kingdom. The Edion’isen built a palace for Prince Oronmiyan at Usama. The Yoruba prince refused to fight Ogieamie. Unable to bear the animosity for too long, Oronmiyan renounced his office and called Igodomigodo, Ile Ibinu, (meaning a land of annoyance and vexation). He declared that only a child of the soil, educated in the culture and traditions of Igodomigodo could rule the kingdom.
Prince Oronmiyan, on his way home to Ife, stopped briefly at Egor, where he pregnated Princess Erimwinde, the daughter of the Enogie of Egor. Enogieship was created by the Ogiso dynasty. Egor was a dukedom and the Enogies of dukedoms were usually relatives and siblings of Igodomigodo monarchs. Many members of the guild of royal drummers whose ancestral home was at Ikpema quarters in Benin City, where allowed to settle in Ovia territory of Egor by the Enogie on the instructions of the Igodomigodo monarch at the time. Therefore, Oronmiyan’s choice of the Enogie of Egor’s daughter, on his way out of Igodomigodo, could not have been a casual decision and may have been arrived at through divination, and with the connivance of the Edion’isen. There was a strong link with the Igodomigodo royal family.
Oronmiyan left three of his chiefs behind to take care of the pregnant princess. The three chiefs were Ihama, Letema and Legema. Judging by Oronmiyan’s understanding of the intricacies of Igodomigodo traditions and culture, it is very likely that the ancestors of the three chiefs, like his own, were soaked in Igodomigodo mores. Ihama, the leader of the chiefs was definitely an Edo chieftaincy title. Oronmiyan, after his Igodomigodo experience, went on to establish the first Alaafin dynasty in Oyo. Apart from the seed he sowed in Benin, he eventually fathered two younger sons, Ajaka and Shango, who succeeded him in turn as the Alaafins of Oyo. Ihama and the two other Oronmiyan chiefs in Ile-Ibinu, successfully supervised Princess Erimwinde’s pregnancy and her eventual delivery of a baby boy who was speechless at birth, but who from early years loved playing the game of marble. When the Alaafin was informed by his chiefs in Ile-Ibinu about his son’s predicament, he sent seven ‘akhue’ seeds to the boy through Chief Ehendiwo. Children throw the seeds against targets on the ground in the marble game. While playing the marble game with other children, one of Oronmiyan son’s throws hit the target and in the excitement he screamed: ‘Owomika,’ (meaning I have hit the target). This is how his title of Oba Eweka was derived