1. The events of today mark the end of activities prescribed by customs and tradition for my ascension to the revered throne of this ancient kingdom. I accept with faith and humility the Destiny which ordained that henceforth, I shall be the embodiment and expression of the Culture, Aspirations and History of our people.
2. As the principal actor in the events of several months that led to this awesome position, I have had a unique opportunity to reflect on the values and essence of our historical continuum. What Royalty represents for our people are Justice, Peace and Unity. These ideals shall be re-awakened, and will be sustained in the dispensation that will soon unfold.
3. The time-tested, rancor-free succession process bequeathed to us in our customs and tradition, is a great tribute to far-sightedness and wisdom of our forefathers and our people. This collective achievement is a veritable proof of our ability to manage our own affairs. It makes us very proud of our heritage.
4. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, let me begin by paying deserved tribute to my illustrious father, OMO N’OBA N’EDO, Uku Akpolokpolo EREDIAUWA, CFR who joined our ancestors after 37 years of glorious reign. With all due modesty, I must admit that as his son and heir, I enjoyed and benefitted from his fatherly love and wisdom more than anyone else. His visionary leadership, courage and dedication to the protection of our cultural heritage, ensured that the legacy of several centuries was preserved.
5. He was a true symbol of our cultural identity. Throughout his reign, the Palace was a warm and welcome home to all who had need for good counsel, guidance and material assistance. Traditional Rulers from far and near consulted him for clarity on
touchy issues or to resolve a vast range of socio-cultural problems.
6. Ethnicity, religion or social status were no barriers to reaching him for advice or support. He was a good and caring father to us all. He led our common cause with dignity, tact and wisdom. In the comity of Royalties, he was exemplary and hence, he was revered throughout his kingdom and beyond. Although for him, culture and tradition occupied the pride of place, he was open to new idea and respectful of progress made through social and scientific innovations.
7. Time constraint will not allow me to give a full account of all my father’s achievements, or the benefits his reign brought to Benin Kingdom, Edo State, our country, and indeed, to humanity. His life of service is aptly captured in the title of his own Auto-Biography – “I remain, Sir, your Obedient Servant’. His views and wise counsel on several issues affecting man and society are well documented in his work – ‘Cradle of Ideas: A compendium of Speeches and Writings of Omo N’Oba Erediauwa of Great Benin”. These two literally works give some insight into the monumental legacy that is now left for us.
8. Our responsibility from now on is daunting. But I am confident that with the blessing of God Almighty, the love and support of my family, my people, Nigerians in general and my international friends, we shall succeed in this life mission of building upon the legacies of our father.
9. Let me crave your indulgence to also make a few remarks about my late Mother – PRINCESS IKUOYEMWEN AKENZUA, of blessed memory, who passed on to the great beyond in 1976, when my father was still Crown Prince. It was my mother who taught me to work hard for success in everything I set my mind upon to achieve. Circumstances and hands of fate did not allow her to enjoy the status of a Queen in her life time. But she was a Princess in her own right. By my Coronation today, she is now qualified to be bestowed with the title of IYOBA, (QUEEN MOTHER) which custom allows us to confer posthumously. This will be consummated at the appropriate time.
10. Reminiscences are not just for sentiment because the experiences reinforced in us the importance of history. History also reminds us of the importance of the present time which is the only opportunity we have to take the different and too often fragmented components of our collective past to prepare the foundation for a unified and collective future.
11. The long line of succession of Kings in the Kingdom known as Benin started in the 12th Century by modern reckoning. There may be some differing views about the origin of some of our ancestors, but there is unanimity in the shared heritage between the peoples of Benin and Ile-Ife in identifying Oduduwa as forebear of kingship in many kingdoms in the part of Africa called Nigeria today.
12. Historians all agree that Oduduwa sent his son Oronmiyan at the request of elders of Benin to return with them as ruler of their realm. Oronmiyan’s stay in Benin may have been short, but before he left, a child was born to him, who was later crowned Oba (King) and is known today as Eweka I. Oronmiyan’s time in Benin, however short lived, he was an Oba; and so, he was the first Oba after the Ogiso dynasty came to an end. He established Obaship in Benin. By implication, the listing of past Obas should therefore begin from Oronmiyan as it is listed in Egharevba’s book – Short History of Benin, making my revered father 39th Oba that reigned in Benin – if the listing is counted from and, should be counted from Oronmiyan.
13. I therefore stand before you today as the 40th Oba of Benin, a direct descendant of Oronmiyan, the son of Oduduwa whom the Benin people of that era knew as Ekaladerhan, their self-exiled Prince who later became ruler in Ile-Ife. The Benin people recognize Oduduwa and his origin but it is not our place to force this recognition on others outside our boundaries. The history of the world is a shared one and there will certainly be unexpected connections in the future. This is thus a time for unity and not divisiveness, a time for mutual respect, recognizing that our wholeness as peoples is so much more than the sum of our parts. – “E pluribus Unum.”
14. Now, what does the new dispensation hold for us? The Oba remains the channel through which the powers of the ancestors continue to guide and protect the Kingdom and its people. To that extent, we shall faithfully discharge this sacred responsibility. We shall pay due attention to all matters of custom and tradition, focusing on real issues of security of our communities and the welfare and development for our people. We shall carry out reforms in palace administration in order to be adequately responsive to our peoples’ sincere and deep longing for justice, equity and stability. We shall strive to ensure that conflicts are resolved between individuals, families and communities along the principles of social justice. We shall use cultural diplomacy as veritable tool for the promotion of harmonious relationships with our neighbours far and near. I also strongly advise my Benin people to strive to maintain our culture especially our language by insisting on its use in communicating with our children and each other. You will agree with me that Benin Empire which encompasses part of Lagos across to Asaba even then Dahomey has now shrunk to within only one State. To survive it is imperative that we maintain our culture which is now the only unifying force for our people. Our culture and tradition remains the one main factor that the entire country and international community respects us for. I appeal to our Benin People to uphold and respect our traditional institution at all times. I implore Government also to include Edo language and Benin history our schools’ curriculum.
15. We shall forge links with other traditional institutions here in Nigeria, in Africa and beyond. We must specially acknowledge how honoured and gratified we are to have in our midst today, representatives of Monarchs from other parts of the world. The Zulu King in South Africa, the Kabaka of the Kingdom of Buganda as well as the Queen of England and the Monarchs of Sweden, Denmark and Norway are all represented at this event by the Ambassadors of their respective countries. I hope that this will provide an opportunity to strengthen contacts and build linkages that will complement and enhance excellent bilateral relationships that already exist between our countries.
16. We shall uphold and maintain the principle of neutrality and non-partisanship in political party activities, while our people remain free to play politics by subscribing to any political party of their choice. We shall however continue to pray for, and will always support the right kind of political leaders, who will safe guard the welfare of our people, provide for their basic needs, and who will accord due recognition to traditional institutions.
17. We will initiate a cultural renaissance that will focus on tourism promotion through Arts and Crafts. To drive this initiative, we have already established two Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs), The Benin Royal Dynasty Trust will in collaboration with Benin Traditional Council establish a foundry or two in Igun Eronmwon Quarters to enhance the productivity of the Bronze Casters Guild. Benin Royal Academy for Performing Arts will train youths and develop their talents. They will reach out to international choreographers in different parts of the world for the purpose of transforming Benin Dance Drama into an international brand.
18. Through these initiatives we hope to attract tourism to our land and provide jobs for our teeming youths. We shall also support efforts to build partnerships and seek international assistance for the restoration of Bini monuments including revival of the creative and artistic talents of Binis, which are already globally acknowledged through our rich artifacts.
19. It is pertinent at this point to express our deep concern, about the pervasive poverty at the grassroots and the astronomical rise in crime and juvenile delinquency in our society. The problem is both a consequence of and is aggravated by widespread youth unemployment. The solution would require well-articulated and structured youth development and empowerment programmes with active support of government at all levels. We shall partner with the government to attract domestic and international resources for the establishment of clusters of Agro-based industries in each of our seven local government areas (LGAs).
20. In this regard, the transformation of Gelegele into an Export Processing Zone for Agro-Allied industries shall remain one of our major projects in the state, with the support of the Federal Government. We shall join forces with Government at all levels and other well-meaning individuals in pursuing poverty alleviation strategies which will be driven by the Royal Dynasty Trust. We will also partner with relevant government agencies to pursue programmes and policies for the conservation of our forest endowment. To this end we will establish a Prize for the Local Government in Edo State that is best in annual tree-planting competitions.
21. Today is an important day for us. It marks a turning point in our life. We will therefore do two other important things to mark this day. First to honour the memory of our illustrious father, we established today Oba Erediauwa Annual Lecture Series. For this, the sum of N10, 000,000.00 (Ten Million Naira) will be invested in a Trust Fund and the proceeds will be used to support an annual well researched oration on any subject in Benin History, Public Administration or Edo Language. Secondly, we will unveil a new crest which states my motto: “AMAMIESON AIMIUWA, OSAKHUE NO KHUODIN” meaning: No reward without industry, God protects the defenceless.
22. Finally, we appreciate your presence here today and especially those who have supported us in numerous ways to bring this coronation to the high level of pomp and grandeur that we have seen. We remain grateful to the multitude of people who lined the routes everywhere we passed and all those who worked tirelessly to ensure success in all activities that have culminated in today’s event. The show of support and affection for me each time I step out for any outdoor traditional activity since I was initiated into Uko N’Iwebo up till now has been amazing. The support of Palace Women Groups: Isikhuian, Ewuwuagba, Emehe and Uselu Community Women Group has been phenomenal. I will never forget how they serenaded me with melodious songs of praise and support everyday unfailingly. The Uselu Youths were also wonderful. My special appreciation goes to His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto who showed his love and support for us and, of course by logical extension, the ancient throne of Benin and the Benin People, by directing that the famous Durbar tradition of Sokoto Caliphate be brought to Benin to support my coronation. Your participation and support are indications of the love you have for the throne and the deep respect for our common heritage. We are immensely grateful.
23. May the good Lord and our Ancestors guide you safely back to your respective destinations.
24. God bless you all
Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo