Suspension Of Benin Palace Functionaries Deepens Controversy Trailing Yoruba/Bini Historical Ties

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By Isaac Asabor On May 1, 2024

The history of the Binis, also known as the Edo people, and their con­nection to the Yoru­bas is a subject of historical and cultural significance in Nigeria.

The Bini people are primarily found in Edo State in southern Nigeria and are known for their rich history and the famous Benin Empire, which was one of the oldest and most highly developed states in West Africa until its annexation by the British Em­pire in 1897.

The relationship between the Binis and the Yorubas is rooted in the shared mytholo­gy and history of the region.

According to Yoruba tradition, the Yorubas trace their origin to Ile-Ife, an ancient city re­garded as the cradle of Yoruba culture.

It is believed that the deity Oduduwa, who is con­sidered the progenitor of the Yoruba people, descended from the heavens to Ile-Ife.

The connection between the Binis and the Yorubas is often linked to the figure of Odudu­wa.

According to one version of the narrative, the Binis claim descent from a prince of Ile-Ife, who was a son of Oduduwa.

This prince is said to have migrated to the Edo region, where he became the first Oba (king) of Benin, thus establishing the royal lineage that would lead to the forma­tion of the Benin Empire.

The history of the Yoruba people begins in Ile-Ife, which was founded by Oduduwa.

The Yoruba civilization is said to have begun at Ile-Ife, where the gods descended to earth.

They became internationally known due to their trade with the Portuguese, who provided them with guns.

The Yoruba were invaded by the Fulani in the early 1800s, which pushed the people to the South.

In the late 1800s, they formed a trea­ty with the British Empire and were colonised by Britain be­ginning in 1901.

It is important to note that these accounts are based on oral traditions and there are variations in the stories told.

The historical connection be­tween the Binis and the Yoru­bas is a testament to the rich cultural tapestry of Nigeria and the complex interplay of mythology, migration, and the establishment of powerful kingdoms in West African his­tory.

The controversy surround­ing the claim that the Binis mi­grated from Oduduwa, who is central to Yoruba origin myths, is rooted in the complex inter­play of history, mythology, and identity.

The narrative that the Yoruba people descended from Oduduwa, a figure believed to have settled in Ile-Ife, the spir­itual home of the Yoruba, is a widely held belief among the Yoruba people.

However, this narrative has been contested, particularly by the Binis, who have their own historical and cultural perspectives.

The Binis, associated with the historic Kingdom of Be­nin, now part of modern-day Nigeria, have a rich history that they trace back to the leg­endary figures of their own, separate from the Yoruba nar­rative.

The Bini royal lineage, for example, is said to originate from the son of the last Ogiso (king) of Benin, who was sent into exile and later returned to found the dynasty of the Oba of Benin.

As gathered by DAILY IN­DEPENDENT, five Benin tradi­tional functionaries have been suspended from their roles for engaging in what the Palace described as sacrilegious con­duct against Benin customs.

The Benin Traditional Council announced their sus­pension in a statement signed by the Iyase of Benin, Chief Sam Igbe, on Saturday, were he noted that the affected functionaries visited the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwu­si, where they falsely claimed to be emissaries of the Oba of Benin and rendered inaccurate and disjointed account of the connection between the Benin Royal Dynasty and the Ooni-ship of Ife.

In a now-viral video captur­ing the exchange, one of the emissaries told the Ooni that despite contrary narratives circulating online, their col­lective understanding has al­ways recognised Ile-Ife as their ancestral homeland. “We have always been told that Ife is our home,” the emissary said.

However, the Benin Tradi­tional Council has distanced itself from the representatives whom it described as “a group of self-serving traditional functionaries from Benin.”

The statement reads, “The attention of the Benin Tradi­tional Council has been drawn to video clips circulating on so­cial media in which a group of self-serving traditional func­tionaries from Benin engaged themselves in a sacrilegious show of shame and falsehood against the Benin Custom.

In the clip as been circulat­ed online, the individuals who have been identified as Johnbull Igbinosun, Iduhonre (Ihogbe), S.E. Aigbiremwen, Efesieogho­ba (Ogbelaka) and two other Og­belaka functionaries identified as Ogbeide Osagie and Osamu­diame Edo were in the pres­ence of the Ooni of Ife, falsely claiming to be emissaries of the Omo N’ObaN’ Edo Uku Ak­polokpolo, His Royal Majesty Oba Ewuare Il, Oba of Benin.

These individuals not only de­clared themselves subjects of the Ooni but also rendered inac­curate and disjointed accounts of the connection between the Benin Royal Dynasty and the Ooni-ship of Ife.

“While the BTC does not wish to be drawn to restating the well-known connection be­tween the two thrones of the Oba of Benin and the Ooni of Ife, the general public is urged to disregard the inaccurate ac­counts rendered by the ill-bred individuals named above.

For the avoidance of any doubt whatsoever, the BTC advise the general public to avail them­selves of the official account of the connection between the two ancient monarchies as contained in the authoritative book titled “I Remain, Sir, Your Obedient Servant” authored by His Royal Majesty, Oba Eredi­auwa, Oba of Benin (1979 — 2016), published by Spectrum Books/Safari Books, 2004 at pages 205-212.”

Describing the conduct of the representatives as sacrile­gious, the council advised the public to steer clear of them.

“The BTC considers the con­duct of these functionaries as inappropriate, sacrilegious and calculated to ridicule tra­ditional history and to bring disrepute to Benin custom.

” Consequently, on the authority of the Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, His Royal Majes­ty Oba Ewuare Il, Oba of Benin the Prescribed Authority over Benin Custom, the BTC here­by announce the suspension of the individuals mentioned above from their role as Benin traditional functionaries.

“The general public is ad­vised to refrain from having anything to do with them as traditional functionaries in Benin kingdom throughout their suspension,” the state­ment added.

Without a doubt, the contro­versy surrounding the histor­ical ties between the Yoruba and Bini people is rooted in dif­fering accounts of their shared past, particularly concerning the origins of the monarchy and the relationship between the ancient cities of Ife and Benin. This debate has signif­icant cultural and historical implications for both groups, as it touches upon issues of identity, heritage, and legiti­macy.

The crux of the controver­sy lies in the narratives about the ancestry of Oduduwa, a figure central to the creation myths of both the Yoruba and Benin kingdoms.

The Oba of Benin has challenged the his­torical narrative that imposes a pan-Yoruba ancestry on the Benin monarchy, suggesting instead that Oduduwa has Be­nin origins.

This position is op­posed by some Yoruba scholars and the Ooni of Ife, who assert the primacy of Ife over Benin’s history.

According to Mr. Osagie Onaise, “Resolving this contro­versy is important for several reasons. First and foremost is for the reason of cultural iden­tity as it affects how the people of Yoruba and Bini view their origins and cultural heritage.

“Secondly is that from the perspective of historical ac­curacy the distortion of facts been disputed by both ethnic groups can only be straight­ened as it encourages scholarly research and debate to achieve a more accurate understand­ing of West African history.

Onaise, who also looked at the implication of the alleged historical distortion from the perspective of Ethnic Rela­tions, said “It has the potential to influence contemporary re­lationships between the Yoru­ba and Benin peoples”.

On national unity, he said, “In a broader sense, resolving historical controversies can foster a sense of unity and shared history within Nigeria.

As gathered by DAILY INDE­PENDENT, the disagreement over the historical ties between both ethnic groups is no doubt critical about broader issue of how history is recorded, inter­preted, and used by different groups to assert their version of the past.

It underscores the need for a balanced and inclu­sive approach to history that acknowledges the complexity of ethnic and cultural ties in the region.

According to Mr. Israel La­wani, “In essence, resolving the controversy is not just about correcting historical re­cords; it is about reconciling communities and building a collective narrative that hon­ors the diverse contributions to the region’s rich history. It is a step towards fostering mu­tual respect and understand­ing among the various ethnic groups that form the Nigerian nation”.






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