Crown Prince Eheneden Erediauwa becomes Edaiken of Uselu
– By Tony Osas Okungbowa
Benin Crown Prince, Prince Eheneden Erediauwa, has been formerly crowned as the Edaiken (Duke) of Uselu after which he was escorted by a mammoth crowd to his Uselu Palace on Saturday. Uselu is an important city in Benin Kingdom. The head of the city, since the days of Oba Ewuare, has been the eldest son of the Oba after the former head, General Iken, failed to return from the conquest of Owo. The son of the Oba was made to act as Regent for Iken, the original head of Uselu. But, Iken never returned and the Oba decreed that that title shall permanently be held by only the eldest son of the Oba where he would learn statecraft and be prepared to take over the rulership of Benin at the transition of his father, the Oba.
Edaiken’s journey to Uselu started from his private residence at the Government Reservation Area (GRA) in Benin city with a procession to the Benin Royal Palace where departure ceremonies were performed by the Iwebo Society led by the Eribo of Benin, after successful completion of the Odyssey of mandatory rituals prerequisite to the installation the rightful successor to the Benin Imperial throne.
The event attracted a large crowd of supporters that thronged the palace. Shops and other business outlets were temporarily shut down throughout the duration of the ceremony on Saturday as a mark of honour and solidarity with the Crown Prince. The Oba market and some streets as well as roads housing some traditional shrines were cordoned–off by security personnel and manned by colourfully dressed palace chiefs, while some commuters and lovers of Benin tradition struggled to catch a glimpse of the event.
Women groups adorned in Benin traditional attire, drummers and entertainers, youths and visitors, palace chiefs including politicians and government officials led by Edo state governor, Adams Oshiomhole, defied the scorching heat of the afternoon sun to witness the Edaiken departure ceremonies at the Palace.
The arrival of the convoy of the Crown Prince in company of some first class Benin chiefs and retinue of Benin sons and daughters as well as security team from his private residence to the palace, marked the commencement of the ceremony at about 2.00pm.
After a brief consultation with palace chiefs and the performance of traditional rites at the Benin palace, Prince Eheneden Erediauwa, clad in a white and red traditional regalia with a pair of dark glasses proceeded to the gate of Uselu popularly called Five Junctions called Adanisen in Benin (near NTA Benin) where he was received by Uselu chiefs, prominent leaders, sons and daughters after a brief ceremony.
The heir apparent to the traditional stool, at about 4.00pm, rode from the Five Junctions in a long convoy with Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo state and his deputy, Barr. Pius Odubu in company of other top government officials and palace chiefs to Edaiken palace at Uselu in Benin.
The Edaiken is expected to go through some traditional rites before he is assumed to have taken the traditional stool of Edaiken of Uselu which will become his temporal place of abode since the year the Iken of Uselu didn’t come back from the conquest of Owo in present day Ondo state.
Like some other villages around Benin City such as Ego, Use, Oka and Ihimwirin, to mention a few, the foundation and growth of Uselu dates back to the period of the Ogiso. But its significant position in the history of Benin did not come into limelight until the Palace of Edaiken (Eguae-Edaiken) and the Palace of the Queen mother (Eguae-lyoba) were established there during the reigns of Oba Ewuare and Oba Esigie respectively. Uselu is therefore divided into two sections: the upper Uselu where the Eguae-Edaiken is situated and lower Uselu where Eguae-lyoba is established.
Oba Ewuare the Great sent his senior son, Kuoboyuwa, to hold brief for a man called Iken of Uselu, who was a strong powerful warrior who constantly challenged the authority of the Oba and he often prevented Uselu people from paying the annual tributes to the Oba in Benin City. As a result of this opposition constituted by Iken, Oba Ewuare wanted to eliminate him by sending him to the battle front during the war between Benin and Owo. Kuoboyuwa, the senior son of the Oba was to hold brief for him during the period. Iken won the war but he was killed on his way back.
When the Oba realised that Uselu people would react violently if Iken failed to return from the war front, he decided to make the position of his son a permanent one to enable him assume full responsibility of the ruler of Uselu. He therefore conferred on him the title of Edaiken (Edayi Ni Ken) that is the person holding brief for Iken. The Palace of Edaiken was established there.
It has since that period become traditional that the first son of every Oba of Benin, is conferred with the title of Edaiken and on coming of age, leaves his residence in the centre of the town for the Palace of Edaiken (Eguae-Edaiken) at Uselu where he remains until when he is called upon to ascend the throne as Oba. The Edaiken of Uselu, like the Oba of Benin his father, also has various title Chiefs under him, apart from the central ones created by the Oba himself. Eguae-Iyoba (Palace of the Queen mother) is located at the lower part of Uselu. It was established by Oba Esigie for his mother Idia the Queen warrior who also exercised a lot of political influence in the administration of the kingdom.
Oba Esigie started this tradition probably to forestall the conflict that would have arisen between his mother and himself over the exercise of political power. An almost independent domain of the Queen mother was therefore carved out for her. Thus it has become strongly -established in Benin tradition that a year or two after the coronation of every Oba, he invests his mother with the title, lyoba (Queen mother) and sends her to reside at lower Uselu in Eguae-lyoba (Palace of the Queen mother). If it happens that the mother dies before the coronation of the son, the body is preserved till a year or two after the coronation to enable the Oba confer the title lyoba on her and later bury her at Eguae-lyoba.