By Lucky Isibor,
A Benin based socio-cultural organisation, the Great Benin Descendants (GBD), has appealed to Ife people to stop forcing history on Benin people by minding their beliefs and the origin they profess.
The group said they are concerned about the correct presentation of Benin history assuring that they have put machinery in motion to correct all distortions in Benin history adding that they are not interested in rewriting the history of the Yoruba people.
The position of GBD was made known Saturday, November 16, 2019 in Benin City, Edo State at a press briefing organised by the group.
The group who spoke through the Coordinator General of the Great Benin Descendants, Mr. Imasuen Amowie Izoduwa said they were particularly angered by recent pronouncements by some Yoruba elements and historians claiming that Oba of Benin heads were being interned in Ife in place called “Oru Oba Ado” until 1914.
“We are not concerned with or interested in rewriting the history of the Yoruba people. The Yoruba’s are free to believe whatever they want about the origin of their own race.
“In recent times, we have watch in disdain some fallacies propagated by Yorubas, asserting some historical claims that Oba of Benin heads were being buried in a place called ‘Orun Oba Ado’ until 1914 when such practice stopped and also classified the Oba of Benin as a Yoruba King.”
The GBD said such claims are not only spurious but calculated to distort the origin of the Ife monarchy as represented by the Ooni of Ife, the progenitor of Oranmiyan who they claim hails from Benin.
While enumerating historical facts with reputable academic authorities to buttress the claim that Oduduwa, known in Benin as Oranmiyan and progenitor of the Ife monarchy, the Great Benin Descendants challenged those disputing the claim to do so with proof of academic work especially as it is contained in the works of Oba Erediauwa of blessed memory titled “I Remain Sir, Your Obedient Servant.”
While advancing archaeological and scientific proof to puncture the alleged claim by the Yorubas that the heads of Benin Obas were interned in “Orun Oba Ado”, the GBD said, “scientific work are more authentic than other methods used in the passage of historical events. Frank Willet carried out an archaeological excavation on that so called Orun Oba Ado site and it was found out that no human skeleton was buried there other than materials likened to Hamites which dates back to about 8th to 9th century.
“The purported site where the Yorubas alleged was the final resting place of the Obas of Benin has since been discredited with more credible techniques of finding relics of historical past and the dating are quite far apart.
“A puzzle in Benin-Ife relations, particularly in relation to Ekaladerhan’s transmutation to Oduduwa as claimed by Benin writers and Oba Erediauwa, which scholars in the field have not considered over the years is the observation of H. L.Ward-Price, District officer and later Resident of Oyo province (1920s-1930s) during the burial of the Ooni Ademiluyi Ajagun of Ife in 1930 that: ‘The body of the king is then washed with water from his private well. The two big toes are tied together with a thin metal chain specifically made for the purpose by a blacksmith.The hair of the head is shaved; coral beads are placed around the neck; the skin is well rubbed with a kind of chalk found at Benin, some two hundred miles away. This treatment, combined with the tight binding cloth round the body serves to delay decomposition.’ (Ward-Price, 1939: 142).
“The distance travelled to obtain the chalk raises a fundamental question of why the Ife royalty choose to go far-away Benin and not other nearby places in Yorubaland? Present-day Ifedayo in the Ife central local government area, nearby Iperindein Ilesha, Iwaraja in Osun State, and various locations in Ondo State are all known to be rich in efun (Yoruba) or Kaolin chalk (KPMG, 2008: 11 and Ajeigbe et al.,2014: 118)…….
“Given that the use of white kaolin chalk is not known as a funeral ritual ingredient among Yoruba and is widely used in funerals and particularly royal funerals in Benin, the collection of Kaolin Chalk from Benin and rubbing on the corpse of the Ooni of Ife, shows this custom was obviously borrowed from Benin and most probably through the agency of Prince Ekaladerhan, who the Benin’s claim is Oduduwa. The rubbing of the body with chalk from Benin is either a symbolic burial in the natal soil (home), or a ritual propitiation, which is also a Benin custom. This custom lend some credence to Benin’s claim,” GBD said.