According to Benin tradition, the Oba never dies, he only joins his ancestors or he transits. Nobody announces his burial because he did not die in the first instance. What is announced after an interlude is coronation, which usually lasts 3-4 months.
Photos: Burial ceremonies of Oba Erediawa, Uku Akpolokpolo, The Late Oba Of Benin Kingdome
Breaking of white chalks: During this period, the custom prohibits social engagements like burial ceremonies while markets are shut. The Esogban of Benin Kingdom breaks white chalks in front of markets to signal the closure of markets for a period, but no open announcement. All male Bini sons are required to shave their heads in respect of the Oba. The burial arrangements are not public, so many, except a privileged class, do not know his resting place.
Pilgrimage to Uselu: Immediately the Isekhure of Benin Kingdom announces the coronation programme, the crown prince proceeds to Uselu where he is the Edaiken, and where he will spend 90 days and make all necessary rituals. After that, he will climb the traditional tree (Udianamasunamieuwa tree) and proceed to a wrestling contest at Ogiamien’s palace on Sakpoba Road.
The history is that Ogiamien had never pledged allegiance to the Oba, he has always been at loggerheads with the monarch and would always want to prevent every incoming Oba from gaining access to the kingdom.
A palace source, who corroborated the narration, said, “They will begin from Egua-Edaiken
5, the traditional residence of the heir-apparent to the Benin throne. On a day fixed by the Edaiken, his people at Uselu will escort him on his journey back to Benin-City. On the way, he stops at an historical palm tree named `Udin ama-mieson aimiuwa’ (translated `work before pleasure’), which the Edaiken climbs emblematically.”
“This little ceremony dates back to the time of Oba Ewuare the Great whose life, as heir apparent to the throne, was characterized by long suffering which included periods when he personally had to climb palm trees on this spot to cut the fruits for a living. “This act of torment by the father of the first Edaiken has ever since been re-enacted in a representational way by every Edaiken. From the palm tree, the Edaiken continues his journey to Benin-City. But at the first moat called lya-akpan, in the area where the firm of defunct Mid-Motors (Nigeria) Limited now stands, the Uselu chief in the procession, takes leave of the Edaiken and returns to Uselu, while the Edaiken is escorted into the city by Benin chiefs”.
“Thereafter, the Edaiken enters the city via Iguisi (now Lagos Street) and proceeds to Eko-Ohae (bachelors’ camp) where he stays for three days. After three days at Eko-Ohae, the Edaiken continues his journey to Usama, the venue of the traditional coronation rites. Usama was the site where Orominyan, the father of Eweka I, built the first palace and all succeeding Obas from Eweka I were crowned and lived there, until Oba Ewedo in the 13th century moved the palace to the present site in the centre of the town.
“The Edaiken remains in Usama for seven days performing all the rituals and ceremonies of the Oba. Before the expiration of seven days, he visits Use, a village few kilometers outside Benin, where he performs the ceremony for choosing the name he will answer as the Oba of Benin”.
Interestingly, he added, “This tradition started during the period of Oba Eweka I whose maternal grand-father, Ogie-Egor, lived in the next door village of Egor. When Prince Oromiyan left Benin, he left behind his Bini wife who was pregnant in the care of her father, the Ogie of Egor. The woman delivered a male child who was dumb from birth.
“The maternal grand-father then sent him to Use, the mother’s village, for treatment, but when he grew up and still could not talk, words were sent to his father at Uhe. His father sent seven magical Akhue with which the dumb prince participated in the popular village game known as Akhue. With only one seed remaining on the ground and every player having failed to strike it, the young prince used the magical Akhue from his father and succeeded in striking down the remaining seed.
“Excited by this feat, he spoke for the first time exclaiming in Yoruba, Owomika (my hand has struck it). He later assumed this expression for a title which became corrupted to Eweka. “Later, having picked a name at Use, the Edaiken returns to Usama where the crowning ceremony is performed by Oliha, the leader of the Uzama, and proclaims Edaiken in his newly acquired name as the Oba of Benin. It is significant to note that until the ceremony at Use, the Edaiken never knows beforehand what name he is going to be crowned with”.
Reinforcement by Oliha: Another source puts it this way, “Ogiamien poses a problem to every Edaiken. However, he is usually defeated. After that, the Edaiken advances to Uzama-Nihiron at Siluko road, where the Oliha of Benin prepares him spiritually, physically and traditionally for final ascension to the throne. That is where he gets a name. His name is changed and the new name is what he answers throughout his reign.”
Coronation: Following the fortification, he saunters to the famous Urhokpota Hall in the heart of Benin at the King Square where the formal coronation of Oba of Benin takes place.
The governor is most likely to present Crown Prince Ehenede Erediuwa with his staff of office same day. From that day, he becomes the 39thOba of Benin.
Installation rites in progress: Before the palace announced the passage of the monarch, on Friday, the crown prince, was formally installed in March as the Edaiken of Uselu after the successful completion of traditional rites.