THE highly revered Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Erediauwa, died on April 29 at the age of 93. The Iyase of Benin, Chief Sam Igbe, broke the sad news to the nation in accordance with Benin tradition. The formal announcement of the passage of this great king has thrown his people into mourning and the Edo State Government has granted five days of mourning, in his honour.
We join the late Oba’s family, the people and government of Edo State, and the entire country in mourning this outstanding monarch. The consolation for the country he has left behind is his outstanding legacy of love for his people and service to humanity which stood him out in the pantheons of the nation’s traditional rulers.
The passage of Oba of Benin has been attracting tributes from all over the world and all strata of society since it was made public. The late king was, indeed, a great ruler and a very dedicated as well as humble servant of his people. He was a man of immense wisdom and unimpeachable integrity; and above all, a man of peace. Benin Kingdom, throughout his 37-year reign, witnessed unprecedented peace and rapid development. He was a good father to all of his children, subjects, fellow traditional rulers and, indeed, fellow citizens across the country.
Erediauwa was reputed for building formidable bridges of understanding across the historical Benin Empire and beyond. He was accessible to his people and everyone who needed his counsel. He connected very well with the ordinary people as well as those in the corridors of power. He was a veritable pillar of support to successive governments in his immediate Edo State and the nation at large. In all of his dealings, he constantly spoke truth to power.
This latter point is one of his most remarkable legacies. Nigerians who were traumatized in the aftermath of the June 12, 1993 election annulment and the subsequent rude intrusion of the military in governance had the Oba of Benin and the Awujale of Ijebu land, Oba Sikiru Adetona, as the two towers of strength left to speak truth to power and give hope of a better future to the people.
These great attributes of the late king did not surprise those who had the privilege of following his early life and career until he ascended the throne of his forefathers as the 38th Oba of Benin on March 23, 1979.
Then known as Prince Solomon Aiseokhuoba Igbinoghodua Akenzua, the Erediauwa attended the prestigious Government College, Ibadan (GCI) between 1939 and 1945. His great humility at that early age, and at that period of Nigeria’s history when royal personages were held in great awe, is well documented.
After finishing from Government College, Ibadan, he furthered his education at Yaba College, Lagos and Kings College, Cambridge, in the United Kingdom, where he studied Law and Administration. He returned to the country on completion of his studies and surprisingly joined the then Eastern Nigeria Civil Service in 1957, instead of the Western Nigeria equivalent where he could be expected to get a privileged status. That probably signaled the desire of the future Oba of Benin to have firsthand knowledge of his country beyond the comfort zone of his immediate kingdom.
It was, perhaps, some of these deliberate choices that enriched his stellar career in the Federal Civil Service where he served and retired with distinction as a Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Health in 1973. One highlight of his service at the federal level was his role in what became known as the “Aburi Accord” in the heat of the crisis that eventually led to the unfortunate Civil War of 1967 to 1970. He was deeply committed to Nigeria’s unity and creditably played the role of an astute and patriotic civil servant.
The curtain has fallen on Oba Erediauwa’s glorious reign and the mourning of his transition is in full swing in Benin Kingdom and all over the country. Governor Adams Oshiomhole aptly captured the essence of the remarkable life of the departed ruler in his condolence message. He described him as “a distinguished Edo numero uno, an accomplished Nigerian, a seasoned bureaucrat, quintessential unifier, unique personage and exemplary Omo N’Oba whose reign brought distinction, immense class, finesse and integrity to the traditional institution in Edo State and the country at large.” We cannot agree more with this summation.
We bid the Erediauwa a respectful farewell and commend his exemplary life to all the traditional rulers in the country.