Edo origin of Ile-ife monarchy

A subject that has remained contentious in our history is the nature of relations between the present Benin dynasty and the Ile-Ife Monarchy as well as the events and processes that led to these relations. The earliest writing on the subject Samuel Johnson's History of the Yorubas (Lagos, C.M.S. Bookshop, 1898), trace the present dynasty to a grandson of Oduduwa, a fugitive fleeing religious persecution in Mecca. The work did not show the events that led to this baffling acceptance of Oduduwa's grandson a "foreigner" as the Oba of Benin, over and above the indigene Ogiamien. But his admission in the work that some of the narrated events in the book are legendary give enough grounds to doubt their authenticity. Chief Jacob Egharevba's A Short History of Benin on the other hand is conspicuously silent on Prince Ekaladerhan's migration to Ile-Ife and the events that happened thereafter, in spite of his undoubted knowledge of these events. This terrible omission by Egharevba (the cause of my slight quarrel with him in 1945) helped in no small way to lend credence to the earlier distortions which foreign writers had earlier introduced into Benin history.

 It is this distortion that this chapter sets out to correct by tracing and
relating the events and stories of personalities that led to these developments in the history of Benin and Ile-Ife. In order to have a better appreciation of these developments, it is necessary to start from the political crisis in Igodomigodo also known as Ile (Home) which was the capital of the migrants from Sudan scattered over the present west African and central African sub regions.Ogiso Owodo and the Political Crisis in Igodomigodo (Ile)Ogiso Owodo who became the last Ogiso of Igodomigodo ascended the throne about 1068 following the death of Ogiso Arigho his father. Owodo had some physical defects which affected his personality and  behavior. He was a hermaphrodite with fully developed male and female organs, which gave him conflicting emotions. (There are other known cases in history and their behaviors brought crisis and disaster to their people. Examples are Emperor Nero of Rome and King
Henry VIII of England (1491 - 1547). Even before his installation he was known to have an erratic character. He had murdered his mother and because of this known problem, his father Ogiso Arigho covered it up. He had a secret wife Imade who bore his only son Ekaladerhan, and did not take her into his harem until he was persuaded to do so. He had a strong passion for his late father's senior wife Esagho and fell under her influence. Esagho was known to be a huge woman believed to be a witch who practiced lesbianism.

In addition to Esagho, he married ten of his father's wives, murdered two and sent the rest packing from the palace. He also married many other women into his harem. Owodo also committed a lot of political blunders because of his erratic ways. From the beginning of his reign, he failed to cultivate the required loyalty and support of the Edion Uzama led by the Oliha. He bypassed and overruled them in the performance of the many ritual ceremonies connected with his installation. This made some of these ceremonies incomplete. A glaring example was his neglect and refusal to consult the Iso Temple. The Oliha and Edion Uzama's various attempts at bringing Owodo into line were met with rebuff and physical assault. In one of his fits, he is reported to have spat on the Oliha's face, though he  apologized later. The biggest problem of Owodo was the failure of his  numerous wives to bear children for him. This caused a lot of  quarrels between the wives and Owodo, before he was persuaded to  consult the oracle. Owodo sent Esagho and three men to consult on his behalf. After consultation, the Obiro instructed that Esagho  should be executed. But Esagho bribed the three men to report that  Owodo's only child Ekaladerhan was the cause of the problem and he  should be executed. But Ekaladerhan was a powerful mystic who was  destined for greater things and could not be so easily killed. This was known to Esagho and she secretly advised Owodo to banish Ekaladerhan and his mother instead. Moreso, Ekaladerhan was known to have a lot of strong allies who could destabilise Owodo's administration. Prince Ekaladerhan and his mother were taken into the forest and banished about 1084 A.D. But the Edion Uzama led by the Oliha did not leave matters entirely in the hands of Ogiso Owodo, as they were doing other things to safeguard the throne for Ekaladerhan. For so many years after the wives of Ogiso Owodo remained barren. He sent another team to the Obiro about 1087. This team found out that Esagho was the cause and should be executed, while the Ogiso should consult the Obiro. Owodo ordered the execution of Esagho which was done, but he failed to consult Obiro as was instructed. Due to this failure to consult the Obiro, Owodo could not be instructed on how to atone for the abominable adulterous acts of lesbianism coupled with sapphism which the executed Esagho had practiced with her co-wives. Since the wives of Owodo did not perform the atonement at the Iso temple with a bearded she-goat and other items to the spirit of Owodo's father, they remained barren.  This greatly distressed Owodo, especially after he realised that he has been misled into banishing his only child. He then sent soldiers to capture and bring back Ekaladerhan from Ughoton. But the soldiers did not return.

These developments further worsened Owodo's condition as he was always having abnormal fits. He started executing people, especially women at random. In one of his fits in about 1091, he executed a pregnant woman, an abominable act known as Kirikuvua.
This led to the peoples rebellion against Ogiso Owodo. They invaded his palace, drove him out and banished him from Ile - the capital of Igodomigodo. He fled to the village of Ihinmwirin with only three of his old wives and nobody knows where he died in misery as a farmer.
The Role of Oliha and Evian in the Conduct of the Affairs of Igodomigodo During Owodo's Misrule.  The Oliha as the head of the Edion Uzama Council, had the responsibility of ensuring the wellbeing of the kingdom through his control of the various religious activities especially the Iso Temple. The Oliha title holder tried to live up to his responsibilities during the misrule of Ogiso Owodo. Having failed in their attempt to bring Ogiso Owodo under control, the Oliha and other members of the Edion Uzama tried to find a solution to the crisis.

They were aware of the problems in the Ogiso's palace and the banishment of Prince Ekaladerhan. They could neither help Prince Ekaladerhan nor bring him into their plans for the resolution of the problems because of his tender age. The Oliha, other members of the Edion Uzama and the Ohen Iso then sent their relations and supporters to join and help Prince Ekaladerhan in Ughoton. They consulted the oracle of Iso temple and used their mystic powers to invoke Belial to send one beast herbivore or Osogan which was put at their service.  The Osagan was capable of eating up mighty trees and clear space in the thick forest. The Osagan was directed into the forest in a North-Westerly direction where he cleared a large area which was to be known as Ile-Ife about 1075. The beast then started moving from place to place to capture and transport people to settle in Ile-Ife.  One place the beast visited regularly was a market in Ile called Agbayo-Aigbare (meaning we go together, but we don't return together) so named because of the activities of Osogan. This market which was mainly used by women was the place where the Osogan selected and seized people for transportation to Ile-Ife. The Osogan was capable of carrying as much as twenty people in its open mouth at a time. The Oliha and the Edion Uzama selected some people and sent to the market for transportation by the beast to Ile-Ife. The people carried away by the beast were not killed as earlier believed. If they were being killed, people would have stopped attending the market. But the market held regularly in spite of the Osogan's activities. Soon craftsmen and physicians joined in the strange kind of migration to Ile-Ife. These people carried by the Osogan increased in population and formed a populous and commercial town known as Ile-Ife. It soon started attracting people from other places who went there to trade. This was how Ile-Ife came into existence in about 1075 A.D., though it had no king yet. Osigo Owodo paid no attention to the dwindling population of his headquarters.  He was too busy with his personal problems. But the problem of disappearance of people from the market as a result of the activities of Osogan, started to disturb other notable personalities who were not party to the Oliha's plans. This problem led to the emergence of community leaders in Ile, who were concerned about finding a solution to this problem.

These leaders had no access to Ogiso Owodo. They decided to find solutions to the problem on their own. Once such community leader who emerged during this period was Evian. Before this crisis he was already an important personality in Ile. His family came from Mede and were renowned diviners. Evian himself had acquired this trade from his forebears and had the five powers of a Magi. Through this power he was able to know of the activities of the Oliha. But since he was not consulted by Owodo and the Oliha, he joined the other community leaders in solving the problem. Later he was driven by his personal ambition of wanting to become king. He therefore invoked his power for control of malevolent spirits after which he went to the market of Agbayo-Aigbare to await the coming of Osogan. When the Osogan arrived, he waved his magical wand across the face and the Osogan fled the market into the Iso forest. This defeat of the Osogan was hailed by the people of Ile and it helped to enlarge the stature of Evian. This finally established him as a foremost community leader who was consulted regularly in the administration of Ile and other parts of Igodomigodo kingdom. Oliha and the Edion Uzama members on the other hand continued with the control of Osogan and its activities. The Osogan soon started to operate from the Iso temple in the Ugbeku bush. It was also directed to Ughoton to carry away the troops sent by Owodo to capture his heir Prince Ekaladerhan. In addition they continued to monitor the activities and movement of Prince Ekaladerhan in preparation for his installation after the exit of Owodo.   The Story of Prince Ekaladerhan who Became Imadoduwa Obalufon the First Ooni of Ile-Ife.
After the establishment of Ile-Ife in 1075 A.D., the town started to attract migrants who came to practice their trade as well as settle in the place. It became populous and specialised trades and services began to develop. Also because of its increasing population the administration of the town started to become problematic. But the town was destined and foreseen by mystics for higher things as the abode of a great king, whose descendants would establish dynasties in many places. One of such mystics was the Babalawo Osamienmwinaisetinru known as Setinru who had transformed the Edo Iha divination system into Ifa during his sojourn in Ado-Ekiti. He had received mystic messages that a prince would soon established his kingdom with his followers in Ile-Ife. About 1080 A.D., Setinru shifted his divination business to Ile-Ife. He became a foremost Babalawo whose presence attracted a lot of people to Ile-Ife who came
to consult him and to learn the divination system.

Thus Ile-Ife became a spiritual centre as well. Sentinru was to play an important role in the installation of Prince Ekaladerhan as the first Ooni of Ile-Ife. Prince Ekaladerhan, as already indicated, was the only child of Ogiso Owodo. He was born about 1070 A.D. by Imade, the secret wife of Ogiso Owodo. Because he was a mystic destined for great things, the attempts by Queen Esagho to use witchcraft to terminate the pregnancy failed. He grew up a tall, handsome and obedient prince in Ogiso's palace. He had a large circle of friends who were to form the core of his allies in exile. He developed interest in the religious practices in the kingdom. The mystical aura surrounding his person was well known. Due to the intrigues of Queen Esagho, he was taken to the forest and banished along with Imade, his mother. Ekaladerhan was joined by his friends and moved further near the sea where they built a new town called Ughoton. Due to the distance from Iso temple in Ugbeku, he decided to built a temple for worship in Ughoton. Since life in Ughoton revolved around the sea, he used water and sea creatures as symbols, while retaining virtually all the ritual practices of Zoroastrianism associated with Iso temple. This new temple was known as Olokun temple and thus was the origin of Olokun worship which was to spread far and wide. He appointed a priest for the temple who followed him to Ile-Ife, but later returned to Ughoton where his descendants continued as custodians of the temple. (Two of his descendants Chief D.O. Omuemu and Dr. A.O. Izevbigie have provided evidence for this and it is shown in Appendix). The obstruction and capture of his father's soldiers by the Osogan made him realise that he was a fugitive wanted in Ile. This made him abandon Ughoton for the forest, moving in a north westerly direction along with allies, supporters and subjects.  In the course of this escape, he changed his name to Imadoduwa (a reaffirmation of his destiny which means "I did not buy my way to prosperity") to conceal his fugitive identity. Driven on by some mystical forces, they arrived in Ile-Ife which was in dire need of a king to rule over the town. The people of Ile-Ife assembled at the house of Setinru, the supreme Babalawo to find a solution to this
problem. It was at this time that (Prince Ekaladerhan) Imadoduwa and his followers entered the town.

The people recognised him as the awaited king and started pointing at his direction. While some of the people were pointing him out and describing him in Yoruba language, Babalawo Setinru was asking them in Edo language whether they were referring to Ooni? Which in Edo language was a question meaning "this one?" The people now replied Ooni in unison after him. They proclaimed king with the title Ooni and renamed Oba Olufon Imadoduwa, the Ooni of Ile-Ife. Since that time in about 1090 A.D. all the rulers of Ile-Ife adopted the title of Ooni of Ile-Ife. All the elders and leaders of the people of Ile-Ife accepted him as king, and paid homage to him by kneeling and bowing to him as a mark of respect. The coronation took place immediately after. The name Obalufon was given by the Ifa-Olodumare through the supreme Babalawo Setinru who became Babalawo to Imadoduwa Obalufon the first Ooni of Ile-Ife. After his coronation, he established a large pantheon at the side of his house. There he housed the various deities he had known and worshipped in Ile the headquarters of Igodomigodo. Amongst them were the Iso temple, Olokun (or water) temple, Ogun temple, and so on. In addition he established a large garden continuing every known plant. He also kept a large forest behind the garden which was home to both benevolent and malevolent spirits as well as animals associated with these temples like swallows, locusts and so on. He was surrounded in his palace by many practising diviners, physicians and medicine men. He married his first and other wives in Ile-Ife. They had many children for him. At the time of his mother Imade's death about 1140 A.D., he was already blessed with twenty seven sons and seventeen daughters from five of his wives. In accordance with the tradition of his forebears in Igodomigodo, he started to send out the sons to various parts of Yoruba land like Ekiti, Ijebu, Ijesa, Egba, Ondo and so on. They were installed as Obas (king) over these people. The eldest son Aigbovo whose pet name was Omonoyan (given by his grandmother Imade) was designated as the successor to the Ooni.  But certain developments and circumstances in Ile (Igodomigodo) made his father Imadoduwa Obalufon the Ooni of Ile-Ife to send Aigbovo to Ile as king. These developments and events are the issues we shall discuss in the next section.

I have gone this length to show and establish the origins of Ile-Ife, its Monarch and the Ooni title and her connections with Benin. This is to provide a basis for understanding Benin's later request for an Ife Prince to rule over her. This Benin request for a seeming "foreigner" to rule over her, has continued to baffle a lot of people, who have never been able to understand and appreciate such a development. But this problem is not unconnected with the manner the issue had previously been presented by earlier writers, for instance, the late Chief (Dr) J.U. Egharevba in treating the subject in A short history of Benin wrote:  "It was some years after Evian's victory over Osogan that Owodo was banished for
misrule by the angry people, who then appointed Evian as administrator of the government of the country because of his past services to the people. When Evian was stricken by old age he nominated his eldest son, Ogiemwen as his successor, but the people refused him. They said he was not the Ogiso and they could not accept his son as his successor, because as he himself knew, it had been arranged to set up a republican form of government. This he was now selfishly trying to alter.  While this was still in dispute the people indignantly sent an ambassador to the Ooni Oduduwa, the great and wisest rule of Ife, asking him to send one of his sons to be their ruler, for things were getting from bad to worse and the people saw that there was need for a capable ruler. 

 This passage quoted above did not show that Ekaladerhan went to Ile-Ife and became Imadoduwa who became the Ooni of Ife. There is no doubt that Chief (Dr). Egharevba knew everything about Ekaladerhan's departure to Ile-Ife but became silent on it. This seemingly deliberate omission obviously created some of the aforementioned difficulties in understanding the Benin-Ile-Ife connection. Having shown and established the connections between Benin and Ile-Ife, it is now necessary to narrate the events that led to the request for a king from Ile-Ife and the founding of the present dynasty in Benin. The seeming complacence of Oliha and Edion Uzama during Owodo's misrule seem to have worked against them after the banishment of Owodo. None of them was called upon to rule over the people. Rather the people of Ile chose one of their community leaders Evian. He was appointed as an administrator about 1091.  Evian's rule was peaceful, but he had his own ambition to perpetuate his family in office. In short, he wanted to establish his own dynasty. When he became old, his administration started to weaken and problems started to develop. The people then started agitating for a new rule. During this period, too, the Oliha during Owodo's misrule died and he was succeeded by his young son. Evian took advantage of his situation to nominate his eldest son Ogiemwen and proceeded to enthrone him. The people of Ile led by the young Oliha did not accept this arrangement. Moreover, they were aware that Ekaladerhan the rightful heir was still alive and ruling in Ile-Ife. The Oliha and the other four members of the Edion Uzama decided to go to Ekaladerhan Imadoduwa the Ooni of Ife to beg him to return to Ile to assume his throne in 1153. The Ooni received them, but he was not happy with them. After the preliminary quarrels, the Ooni told them that he was not prepared to return to Ile for two reasons namely that his new kingdom Ile-Ife was too big to be abandoned and that he had become too old to embark on such a journey. In addition he was still bitter and had not forgotten about the way the former Oliha had neglected and abandoned him. But due to the persistent pleading of the delegation, the Ooni agreed to help them on the condition , they underwent some tests. They agreed. He gave them some lice to take home and return with them back to Ile-Ife after three years. Three years later about 1150, the Oliha and his team returned to Ile-Ife with the lice. The Ooni was happy with them for having been able to take care of insects as small as lice. He then concluded that since they have been able to take care of lice, they would be able to take care of his son. The Ooni called his eldest son Prince Aigbovo (alias Omonoyan who had been appointed as successor to the Ooni) to follow them to Ile to establish an administration. Prince Aigbovo Omonoyan obeyed his father's instructions and left Ile-Ife with some allies among whom was the Oloton who was made the sixth member of the Edion Uzama about 1100 A.D. he stayed in a palace built for him at Usama and became friendly with Erinmwinde the beautiful daughter of the Enogie of Egor. She soon became pregnant. But he did not seem to be receiving full cooperation from the people of Ile after two years of staying in Usama. It was because of this that he started calling the town Ile-Ibinu. He abdicated about 1163 A.D. and left some of his allies to look after his son. He instructed the people to enthrone his son as the next Oba, before he left for Ile-Ife.  From there Omonoyan proceeded to Oyo where he had another son Oranyan who later became the Alafin of Oyo. Omonoyan returned to Ile-Ife about 1167 and succeeded his father as the second Ooni of Ile-Ife. The instructions he left behind that his child from Erinmwinde should be enthroned as the king of Oba of Benin was adhered to. This child was male and was crowned Oba Eweka I. He founded the present dynasty. What happened was not really the founding of a new dynasty as such. It was rather the reestablishment of the dynastic line started by the Theban Prince Ogiso Igod