IFE/BENIN CONNECTION: THE RELEVANCE OF DATING AND THE BURDEN OF SMALLNESS

One has been following the debate on the Ife/Benin connection that ensued as a result of the confusion brought about by the controversial “assertion” by the Omon’Oba Erediauwa, that Oduduwa was a Benin prince named Ekaladerhan who escaped being sacrificed by his people. This generated confusion raised the need to confirm what one had known hitherto in concomitance with some further research. Though the research is still a continuous process, one could confidently put this out for the public consumption for passing the test of place, time and space.

a. Oduduwa did NOT migrate from the North or the East. He was a bonafide Yoruba prince who was politically astute and dexterous in the art of war. (Professor Banji Akintoye)

b. Before Oduduwa, Ife kingdom was a conglomeration of principalities ruled over by smaller kings without any supreme ruler.

c. Obatala was one of the rulers in one of these principalities around 700AD when the battle for supremacy first ensued. It went on and off for almost a century before Oduduwa, almost two generations younger to Obatala (though others think they are contemporaries), eventually emerged and started the “authentic unifying dynasty in Ile-Ife and later Yorubaland.”

d. Oduduwa did not migrate from the North East or Middle East as Samuel Johnson (an Oyo man, strong in Christian faith, who tried his “intellectual” best to link the origin of Yoruba to the Middle East, but contradicted by other sources) would want us to believe. In fact most scholars believe that his bias for his Christian faith and unmitigated fantasy for Middle East origination led him to come up with the name NIMROD, later translated to Lamurudu as predating Oduduwa at Ile-Ife. Neither did he (Oduduwa) come from heaven on a chain as mythologists would want us to believe. It was a myth created around him for transcendental, metaphysical and mystical endearment. It is the same kind of myth that surrounded Alaafin Sango because of his weird powers and was eventually turned into a god.

e. Oranmiyan was a grandson of Oduduwa but not a son of Oduduwa (Professor Jide Osuntokun) as Omon’Oba mischievously claimed in his book, reportedly.

f. Oduduwa only had one son, OKANBI

g. Okanbi had EIGHT children. SEVEN (Onipopo of Popo, Onisabe of Sabe, Alara of Ilara, Ajero of Ijero, Orangun of Oke-Ila, Owa Obokun Ajibogun of Ijesaland and Oranmiyan) by his “legal” wife, and one (OOni) by his slave turned wife, named ORUNTO.

h. The five of the seven children by the “legal” wife, went to found their own kingdoms. The sixth, Oranmiyan remained with their father who was very old and blind. He (Oranmiyan) was the de facto ruler carrying out war activities and defending Ile-Ife. Oranmiyan was a great warrior like his father and grand father. He soon became popular and legendary in Ife. Reports of his escapades became mythical. Lots of saying evolved about his awe inspiring prowess e.g. “eyi mo wi, Oranmiyan gbo, akin l’ogun.” The seventh son, AjIbogun, was away to the sea to fetch water to cure his father, Okanbi’s blindness.

i. Before Ajibogun’s arrival, the Ogiso’s had sent emissaries to Ile-Ife for help. Based on the report of these emissaries, Okanbi concluded that the troublesome and non-compliant Ogisos would need a very “strong hand.” Okanbi felt that this “strong hand” could be dealt by a warrior like Oranmiyan who has, before then, repeatedly proved his mettle. He believed that Oranmiyan would be able to do the assignment and put the fear of Orisha in the feuding Ogisos. So he sent Oranmiyan to Benin. And he did not disappoint.

j. The assignment in Benin took a while. Okanbi was getting too old. AjIbogun was presumed dead because he took long to return. Okanbi was concerned about a successor and had to inform the Ijoyes or chiefs to allow his child OOni begat by his favorite female slave, ORUNTO to ascend the throne if he died and Ajibogun never returned.

k. On arrival at Benin, Oranmiyan’s war like acts put the town in order. But as restless as he was, Oranmiyan was in Benin for close to three decades. But he never could stay for ever as his adventurous spirit took the better part of him. He installed his son Eweka and returned to Ife with the hope of becoming king.
l. On his return to Ife, Oranmiyan met his brother, Owa AjIbogun who had returned from the sea and eventually learnt, just like AjIbogun that he has a half brother, OOni.

m. Ooni was heir apparent until Ajibogun arrived and with Oranmiyan away to Benin.

n. Okanbi, so impressed with the efforts of Ajibogun to bring home the sea water now favored him for the throne. He Okanbi then called his chiefs to inform them that Ajibogun would take over the throne when he died.

o. It dawned on Oranmiyan that he could not ascend the throne with his father’s support for his brother, AjIbogun. He therefore left with his warriors towards North to found Oyo-Ajaka and became the first Alaafin.

p. After sometime Ajibogun declined to ascend the throne, saying he wanted to follow the footsteps of his six other brothers.

q. Okanbi decided that because he, AjIbogun made such a great sacrifice to cure his blindness, he must have more land than his brothers, If he chose not to have the throne. He (Okanbi) gave him (AjIbogun) the AJASE SWORD, which he (Okanbi) inherited from his father (Oduduwa) and told him (AjIbogun) that from the gate of Ife palace to as far as he could go would belong to him. This is why the front of Ife Palace is called “Enuwa” (“enu aala ile Owa” meaning “the boundary of Owa’s land”) till today.

r. Ooni was asked to tend the palace, but later became the ruler of the town after the demise of Okanbi.

s. Because Oranmiyan was a great, valiant warrior, the Yoruba people of his era used to describe him as “a true son of Oduduwa” after his grand father who was the first towering warrior in Yorubaland. This has always been the practice in Yoruba tradition before Oranmiyan and long after he had left the scene. This explains the reason why misguided Caucasian historians and untutored African/ Nigerian historians “assumed” he was “direct son” of Oduduwa. It is the same way many outside and inside Yorubaland refer to some eminent political leaders in Yorubaland today as “omo Awolowo.” But Awolowo never had more than five ‘real children” of his own. If sometime in the future, a grandson of Chief Oluwole Awolowo or Segun Awolowo (Jr) becomes a political heavyweight with heavy following, he would be referred to as “omo Awolowo” after his great grand father Obafemi Awolowo.

t. Now if Oranmiyan was second generation (with his father, Okanbi being the first) after Oduduwa, Professor Saburi Biobaku could not have been correct with the so-called “categorical historical date” of the “end of the 10th century” as quoted by C.O.O.Ugowe in his article Benin/Ife Connection: Relevance of Dating.

u. At the minimum, Oranmiyan was sent to Benin about 90 years after the peak of Oduduwa, gauging by his position among his father’s chldren (he was the youngest, because his half brother, Ooni was older than him) and the age of Okanbi at the time (which though, we do not have a certain number but could be inferred from his blindness caused by the aging process).

v. How could someone (Oduduwa) a bonafide Ife prince and king who was well beyond his peak approximately 60 to 70 years before the disappearance of Ekaladerhan, be that same Ekaladerhan? Does that make sense?

w. Ugowe wrote inter alia “If we add 40 years, the age when he (Oduduwa) arrived Ife to 34 years thereafter when he sent Oranmiyan to Benin, Oduduwa’s age stands at around 74 by the year 1029 AD.” Though, indications are that Oduduwa never arrived at Ile-Ife from anywhere, but let us, for the sake of discussion agree that he did. And at 40 years of age as Ugowe posited. Okanbi was Oduduwa’s son and we are assuming that he was born just five years on his “arrival” in Ife. Okanbi, we also assume married at the age of, say 25. Okanbi had 7 children by the same woman with and average of 3 to 4 years interval. Oranmiyan would not have been born until when Okanbi was between 46 and 53 years old. This means that Oduduwa’s age by now (if he was still alive) would be around 92 and 98 years old. Before Oranmiyan would have distinguished himself and be a respected and feared warrior, he ought to be at his peak too, which would be 40 years old, using Ugowe’s standard. At that age of Oranmiyan, Okanbi would be around 86 and 93 years old while Oduduwa (if he was still alive) would be around132 and 138 years old.

x. If according to Ugowe, Oranmiyan was sent to Benin 34 years after Ekaladerhan disappeared into the bush to escape his murderers, then Oduduwa at that time would be aged between 132-34=98 and 138-34=104 years. What Ugowe’s theory is suggesting then is that Ekaladerhan was between 98 and 104 years when he disappeared from Benin and took the arduous journey that led him to Ile-Ife to become Oduduwa, distinguish himself, marry and have a son in Oranmiyan! The fact is that this is not a scientifically tenable theory.

y. But to ensure that Omon’Oba does not look like he was hallucinating, they have to contend in all their “stories” that Oranmiyan was a direct son of Oduduwa when he was not.

z. What seem tenable from the variety of sources and actually confirmed by Ese Ifa or Ifa Divination is that ODUDUWA LIVED NOT VERY LONG AFTER OBATALA, IF NOT IN THE SAME ERA WITH HIM. BUT EVIDENTLY, ODUDUWA COULD NOT HAVE BEEN ALIVE IN 1029 WHEN THE PRESENT DYNSTY IN BENIN BEGAN BECAUSE HIS SON OKANBI WHO WAS ON THE THRONE AT IFE AT THAT TIME WAS EVEN TOO OLD AND HAD GONE BLIND BEFORE HE SENT HIS OWN SON, ORANMIYAN TO BENIN. INDICATIONS ARE THAT ODUDUWA NEVER ARRIVED AT IFE FROM ANYWHERE. HE WAS BORN IN IFE, RAISED IN IFE AND ROSE TO PROMINENCE IN IFE BY CONTESTING FOR POWER AND SUCCEEDED IN ESTABLISHING THE MORNACHIES IN YORUBALAND. Oduduwa was never in position to send Oranmiyan to Benin. At the time the Ogisos were at each other’s throats, Okanbi who was Oranmiyan’s father was very old and Oduduwa was long.

aa. Professor Banji Akintoye figured that Oduduwa came to limelight roughly around (or between) 780AD and 820AD. Ife Before Oduduwa published by University of Ife Press also has a view on this. Late Prince Adewumi Olukitibi (1887-1971) of Olukitibi Royal House in Iwara, Osun State agreed more with Professor Akintoye than with Professor Saburi Biobaku. One of the official authorities on the History of Ijeshaland, Pa Olaniran Gureje-Asogbe, also has his dates around this time.

bb. To prove how generations of half baked historians have tried to muddle up Yoruba history, in 1850, one Briton named David May met one Mr. Esugbayibi in Iye, in the northern part of Ekitiland. He had just settled between Ishan and ItayI Ekiti after returning from Eba-Odan (Ibadan). He had retreated to Eba-Odan to escape the Northern aggressors from across the Niger. He called his settlement “Ibi Aye le mi de” later shortened to Ayede which eventually became Ayede-Ekiti. Mr. Esugbayibi later told David May that his ‘beaded crown” was directly from Oduduwa. The only reason for this was that the crown was sent from Ile-Ife. But does this mean it was “directly sent from Oduduwa?” Thus the fact that Oranmiyan was sent from Ile-Ife does not translate to “Oranmiyan was sent by Oduduwa” himself.

cc. Also during the era of Momoh Latoosa, a.k.a. “Asubiaro” who was the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Ibadanland from 1878 to 1886, he had sent a message to the Ooni of Ife reminding him that that throne in Ile-Ife could legitimately be occupied by any Oduduwa son. This message was prompted by the support of Ooni to the Ekitis and the Ijeshas during the early years of Kiriji War. Aare Latoosa wondered why the Ooni would be doing that when the art of wars being used by the Ibadan came from the archives of Ile-Ife. He was indirectly inferring that if and when the Ibadan defeated the Ekitis and the Ijeshas, he would depose Ooni for his own favorite Oduduwa son. But does this mean that Aare Latoosa or whoever he was going to install was “direct son” of Oduduwa? No. But as a descendant of Oduduwa? Yes.

So, yes, Oranmiyan was sent from Ile -Ife to Benin to put the fear of Orisha in the Ogisos. Yes, Oranmiyan was Oduduwa’s grandson sent by his father, Okanbi to help his weaker neighbors. But it was not Oduduwa who sent him and Oduduwa never came from anywhere. In Yorubaland, nephews call their uncles “Baba” or father. Grandsons or great grandsons call their grand father or great grand father “Baba.” It does not mean there is “IMMEDIATE AND/OR DIRECT” biological connection. It was the practice before Oduduwa. It has been the practice after him. It would continue to be the practice In Yorubaland. You can study and comprehend Yoruba history better, if you have an understanding of the nuances of their culture.

This explanation becomes important in view of the recent developments and efforts of some historians of the “Feel – Good – History” genre to sacrifice authentic history on the altar of psychological renaissance and political relevance. The so-called debate or “intellectual enquiry” as some apologists of Omon’Oba Erediauwa would like to characterize it, is fast turning into a canonized cacophony. Rather than an “intellectual enquiry,” it has become an ego trip for a people who otherwise have a great history but are disturbingly inflicted with deflated self esteem. They have chosen over and over to selectively use an incorrect premise to convince the rest of us that Oduduwa came from Benin and that Oranmiyan was his son! To lend the dignity and respect of one of the esteemed offices of Oduduwa descendants to this kind of inanity for unquantifiable and largely ephemeral political gain is to say the least, very unbecoming.

The manner and way his sentries have been going about trumpeting the fallacy of their so called “historical discovery” showed that they have been overwhelmed by their burden of latter day smallness. They convey an attitude evidential of a need to feel important and be reckoned with. They project attention-seeking and the longing to belong. They manifested a concerted but traumatic effort to fill the gaping hole in the psyche of some who, though are freeborn, but go around with “slave mentality.” It is an attestation to the fact that “slavery” is not limited to the physical alone; it can also be a thing of the mind. It renders true one’s long held belief that you can be in chains and still be free and you can be free and still be in chain because freedom, as well as slavery, is a thing of the mind.

One could perceive the need for self validation on the part of these protagonists of “feel-good-history.” This, to be civil, is very pathetic. It becomes even more pathetic when the self validation they seek keeps eluding them. Hence they employ all arguments, logical and illogical, reasonable and unreasonable but all essentially loathsome and odious to make a point that would not stand. Thus, they foreclosed the possibility of ever becoming satisfied, manifesting an emptiness that has become more consuming. As the cacophony continued, one could see a withering in their psyche as their need for self validation became more intense and self destructive. In the process, they have been gradually destroying the “brotherliness” that has existed for centuries, thereby unnecessarily amassing more enemies, and increasingly isolating themselves and exacerbating their own sense of smallness.

When you are small, there is always the insatiable desire to want to be big. And there is nothing wrong with such desire. When such efforts yield no positive result, there is always the room for morbidity, permeated with tendentious acts of pretext leading to inadvertent pathological egoism. For this reason and with all due respect, one could understand the predicament of OmoN’Oba Erediauwa and his intellectual sentries. If Omon’Oba is bothered by the perceived smallness of his kingdom and his influence, one would suggest that he ought not to worry too much about it. This is because it is not how big you are that really matters, it is how glorious you have been and can still be that really matters. More so, he and his advocates should take to heart the advise of the late American First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt that, “No one can make you inferior without your consent.”

The Yoruba people do not have the need to want to be big, because they are BIG already. They need not pretend that Oduduwa was one of their great ancestors, because he is. They need not a new validation, to be politically relevant in the scheme of things, because they are already RELEVANT. This is the truth known not only to every true son and proud daughter of Yoruba, but also known to their admirers and detractors alike.

IFE/BENIN CONNECTION: THE RELEVANCE OF DATING AND THE BURDEN OF SMALLNESS-Remi Oyeyemi, NIGERIAWORLD.COM, Monday, August 9, 2004

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