The Oba of Benin Kingdom: A history of the monarchy

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Who is the Oba of Benin Kingdom in Nigeria and
why is he so important to so many people?

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Benin City, Nigeria – A wooden staff thumps on the
landing in front of the temporary palace. “Long live
the king!” bellows Chief Osa, as he raises his fist.
The sun reflects off the golden decorations on his
horn-shaped red hat.
The other Iwebo chiefs who have followed Osa in a
procession onto the palace grounds and now stand
behind him say “Isee” in agreement.
Then Osa and Chief Osuan, the crown prince’s
escorts on his way to the ascension, enter Usama
palace, a nondescript bungalow on fallow terrain in
the centre of town.
It is 8am and it will be at least seven hours until
Crown Prince Eheneden Erediauwa shows himself
in public, but his subjects have already come out
in great numbers. Thick crowds clog the roads in
the heart of Benin City in the south of Nigeria, in
expectation of the coronation of the new Oba of the
centuries-old Benin Kingdom.
Coronation day in Benin – not to be confused with
the West African country that used to be known as
Dahomey – on October 20 was preceded by 10
days of ceremonies and rites.
Banners with the crown prince’s portrait and flags
with his name fluttered all over the city, the
pavements received a new daub of black and white
paint and the lawns in front of the cultural centre
were trimmed. It didn’t matter which local radio or
TV station you tuned into, all of their bulletins
started with what the crown prince had been up to
that day on his way to the throne.
“The Oba is a father to all of us,” says 24-year-old
student of mass communication Esosa, who left
home at 5am on coronation day to get a good
view of the proceedings.

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