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Nation of people who are mostly located in the Midwestern part of Nigeria, Western  Africa.




Benin Chief... The Route To Honour

The Benin City Pilgrimage Stations By Ekhaguosa Aisien; Aisien Publishers, Benin City, 2001

By Ehichioya Ezomon

WERE the newly ennobled chiefs of Benin Kingdom to
undergo interviews before their conferment perhaps,
not many of them would be able to name, and in
sequence, some 14 pilgrimage stations or shrines they
are bound to visit in the course of the sanctification
and validation of their titles.
Probably fewer still could relate the history, and
significance, of these stations, some of which date
back to between 150 and 750 years. However, in The
Benin City Pilgrimage Stations, Dr. Ekhaguosa Aisien,
a consultant surgeon who practices at Azuwa Hospital,
Benin City, tells the individual stories of the city's

The 236-page book delves, sometimes in detail, into
aspects of the Benin History. Such areas are: The
kingdom's peoples, their customs, tradition and more;
The Monarchy as represented by the Ogiso Dynasty (31
monarchs) and the Oba Dynasty (39 monarchs, including
incumbent Omo N'Oba N'Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba
Erediauwa); the wars and conquests of the Kingdom or
Empire; the people's defiance of and resistance to
bullying, which was partly responsible for the Benin
Conquest of 1897 and the subsequent exile of Oba
Ovonranmwen to Calabar by the British colonialists;
the creation of Government Reserved Areas, and the
introduction of gunpowder and cigarette into the city;
the introduction of Christianity into Benin as the
first place where the religion was preached in
Nigeria; and the revolt of the Chiefs against it as a
state religion.

Others are the creation of five of the 14 shrines
directly by the first coming of Christianity to Benin
City 500 years ago; the supreme sacrifices some
individuals had to pay, particularly females to save
the monarchy; the ancient Benin Prisons (Ewedo) on
which plot stands today the Federal Benin Prisons on
Sapele Road; the construction of the great Moats,
which divide the city into Inner City and Outer City;
the construction of the giant overhead reservoir in
front of the Oba's Palace; the erection of the first
two-storey buildings in Ughoton and Benin City in 1718
and 1906 respectively; the link between Benin and
Upper Egypt and Sudan as the possible origin of the
Benin peoples; the change of Ubini or Ubini-Uhe to Edo
by Oba Ewuare in honour of a slave, Edo, who saved his
life before he ascended the throne; and the naming of
Akpakpava Street.
The Benin City Pilgrimage Stations stands out in its
uniqueness of focusing on the processes an ennobled
citizen has to undertake to consummate the royal
offer. For the simple reason that the Chiefs
constitutes an elite group, which assists the Oba in
administering the vast kingdom, the knowledge of their
coming to such position is of immense advantage not
only to those who aspire to chieftaincy but also to
the generality of society.
The book contains illustrations of about 126
photographs as old as 1892, maps and tables of the
major characters, places, objects, events, roads and
the processional routes the newly ennobled takes to
the designated shrines for sanctification.
With generous use of anecdotes, images and medical
terminology, the author marries oral and written
accounts to present an informative, educative and
enlightening piece on Benin history.
The Pilgrimage Stations in sequential order comprise
Aro Edion Edo (The Edion Edo Shrine); Aro Ekpenede
(Fore-court); Aro Iden; Aro Emotan; Aro Ekpenede (Main
shrine); Aro Oto Ogbe; Aruosa N'Ogbelaka and Aro Ewua
Others are the Isekhurhe Palace; Aro Igun N'Ugboha;
Aro Iyantor Erhie; Egedege Nokaro; Aro Ezomo Agban;
Aruosa N'Erhie; Aruosa N'Akpakpava and Aruosa Iyase
The ceremonial outings by the new Chief called
Okhaemwen (he who speaks), consist of the first two to
the palace of the Oba; the actual pilgrimage to the 14
stations within the Inner City covering a distance of
about six kilometres, and the last outing
(thanksgiving), not compulsory, is performed in
recognition of the Uzama Chiefs, the king makers
located in the Outer City.
Naturally, the new Chief sets out from his house to
the palace after the second day of the conferment of
the title on him by the Oba's messengers. The ceremony
is called Ekponmwen Obo (thanksgiving done with the
hands only) because no drummer accompanies the
celebrant. The essence of the visit is to assure both
the monarch and the honoured citizen that it is the
intended title that was given and received.
The next outing is the Egie Ekete (title conferment
from the throne), wherein the Oba, sitting in his
quadrangle in the palace, "formally and publicity
'confirmed' the new Chief in the title already
conferred, in the presence of a great concourse of
people." Now the Chief is ready for the Ekponmwen
Orere or Ighogh'Egie (public outing of thanksgiving),
doing a 'Lap of Honour' round Benin City, on a
pilgrimage to designated shrines.
Aro Edion Edo (The Edion Edo Shrine): Situated between
the main entrance of the Oba's palace and the Oredo
Local Council headquarters on Ring Road, Benin City,
the shrine is dedicated to the spirits of the
collective dead of the city. It is the first
pilgrimage station visited by the new Chief who, after
offering his thanksgiving to the Oba sitting on the
throne, walks a short distance from the palace to the

Aro Ekpenede (The Aro Ekpenede Shrine): Located in two
places (stations 2 and 4), the first is about 100
metres from the Aro Edion Edo. The celebrant arrives
at Iwebo Street, turns right towards the shrine and
twirls his Eben once or twice as acknowledgement of
the shrine. At the main shrine on Ekpenede Street,
which the celebrant encounters later, he presents his
propitiation gifts and receives the recognition and
prayers of the shrine's keepers.
Aro Iden (The Iden Shrine): Surrounded by an iron
fence, on Iwebo Street, it is the sacred grave of
Iden, wife of Oba Ewuakpe (27th Oba of Benin), who
offered herself to be buried alive by the Oba, as
sacrifice to save her husband's throne from being
abrogated by the people.
Almost swallowed up by the Oba Market, the grave is
not yet officially a shrine. But as a precautionary
measure, rather than reverence, the new Chief only
takes notice of it as the procession sweeps by. It is
forbidden for anything that has life to step on Iden's
Aro Emotan (The Emotan Shrine): Erected on the grave,
the dwelling place of a childless widow, Emotan, who
dedicated her life to the service of other people's
children, and saved the throne for Oba Ewuare (13th
Oba of Benin), it is the best known shrine in Benin
City. It is visited and honoured not only by new
Chiefs "but also by children of deceased citizens
during the Isoton portion of the funeral obsequies of
their late parents," which are common sights on Benin
streets, except during the Igwe Festival that lasts 14
days. The Emotan structure was commissioned and
unveiled by Oba Akenzua II (38th Oba of Benin), father
of the incumbent Oba Erediauwa II.
Aro Oto Ogbe (The Oto Ogbe Shrine): Representing the
land shrine for the Iyeke-Ogbe (Ogbe-Ewuare) community
organised by Oba Ewuare after the construction of the
Inner (Ewuare) Moat some 550 years ago, the shrine is
visited by the celebrant after the procession to
Emotan and Ekpenede Shrine (4th or 5th station if
notice is taken of Iden Shrine). The Ikhinmwin tree
behind and on the sides depicts it.
Aruosa N'Ogbelaka (The Osa N'Ogbelaka): It could well
represent the death of Christianity of old in Benin
City. The shrine is located on the site of one of the
four Chapels built by Oba Esigie (17th Oba of Benin),
the first Benin Monarch to embrace Christianity. But
his Chiefs led by the Oliha revolted against him and
in the ensuing civil war, were worsted. The Oliha, who
wanted a new dynasty, like it happened after the reign
of the Ogisos when Prince Oronmiyan of Ile-Ife was
invited to begin a new dynasty 400 years earlier, also
invited the Atta of Igalla, to remove Esigie. But
according to the author, "the Atta was robbed of
victory by the guns of the same Christian forces he
had been called upon to help drive away from Benin."
Following the victory, Oba Esigie built a Cathedral
and four Chapels.
The Aruosa Shrine stands today where the Aruosa Chapel
stood 500 years ago. Unfortunately, by the reign of
Oba Orhogbua (Esigie's son) the Cathedral and Chapels
became Aro Osa or Aruosa (Shrines to the Supreme God).
While Orhogbua abdicated his priesthood, for which he
had trained abroad, to the few Portuguese priests and
native catetchists, by the reign of his son, Ehengbuda
(19th Oba of Benin), Christianity had gone "native" in
Benin. The Catetchists and trained 'Brothers' became
the Ohen Osa or Ohensa (Priests of the Supreme God)
when the Vatican and Portugal could no longer sustain
the missionary efforts of manning the Chapels.
Situated off Sapele Road, more than one kilometre from
the last shrine (Aro-Oto Ogbe) of call by the
celebrant, the Aruosa Shrine is where the Pilgrim
receives his first "chalk-bath", "denoting his
sanctification for service to God, to his monarch and
to the Benin Kingdom."
Aro Ewua N'Ogbelaka (The Ewua N'Ogbelaka Shrine):
Located on the parallel Ogbesasa Street, and the
seventh station in the pilgrimage route, the shrine is
Christianity-derived, "a relic of the first coming of
Roman Catholicism into Benin" during Oba Esigie's
Isekhurhe Palace: Here is the first station outside
the Ogbe half of the Inner City, which itself is
divided into two by the Sokponba and Oba Market Roads.
Less than one kilometre from the Aro Ewua, the
Isekhurhe, a hereditary title holder, is one of the
principal Chiefs of the Ihogbe, the official
"relatives of the Oba." It is situated near the Uzama
Palace, where Prince Oronmiyan (Ist Oba of Benin from
Ile-Ife (Uhe)) stayed when he arrived in Benin on the
invitation of the Uzama to help drive from power
Ogiamien, who stepped in as ruler after the last Ogiso
A descendant of Ihama, one of the three relatives
Oronmiyan left behind in Benin City to look after his
wife, Erinmwinde, mother of Oba Eweka (2nd Oba of
Benin), he belongs to the Iuoba Guild, which prepares
the sepulchre of the Obas of Benin, resembling those
of the Pharaohs of Egypt. Along with the Ihama, the
Isekhure takes part in the propitiation of the head of
the monarch, and of the ancestral spirits of the land.

Presently occupied by a graduate of American
Universities, Chief Nosakhare Isekhure, the Isekhure
Palace is the first station where the celebrant
unwinds in his tasking pilgrimage. Here he receives
some comprehensive tutorial "in the ways of the new
office he has now assumed. With strength regained the
new Chief steps out and moves down the Utantan
(Sokponba Road) to the Ninth Station on his route."
Aro Igun N'Ugboha (The Igun N'Ugboha Shrine):
Dedicated to the blacksmiths of the city, who made the
arms of war of those days and other metallurgical
needs of the Kingdom. The composite shrine and another
are located in the quarter of Igun N'Ugboha, directly
facing the Erhie Street junction on Sokponba Road.
They serve as the ancestor-worship shrine for the
guild, the guardian spirit of the metallurgists and to
the legendary founder of the guild, Enowe N'Ugboha.
Today the blacksmiths make the Eben and Ada ceremonial
Swords of State for new Chiefs.
Inyantor Erhie (The Iyantor Erhie Shrine): It consists
of a clump of Uwenrhien-Otan reeds in front of No. 10,
Erhie Street. One of the landmarks of the quarter, it
was traditionally the area where the Royal Harem
(Erhie Oba) were serviced, whether ill or pregnant,
and looked after. It is variously called Iyantor
Erhie, Osa-Nailaban Shrine and Eimwen Amaru Shrine.
Chief Uso N'Ibiwe is responsible for the care of the
Egedege Nokaro (The First Storey-Building in Benin
City): Interestingly in his lap of honour, the
ennobled citizen recognises the first two-storey
(storey) building in Benin City, which is eight years
older than the current Oba's Palace built in 1914 but
188 years younger than the first two-floor building
constructed in the Kingdom at Ughoton in 1718. Erected
by Chief Iyamu, son of Chief Osawe, then Inneh N'Ibiwe
of Oba Ovonranmwen, the house is located on Erhie
Street and because of its height appropriately tagged;
"Eti ii mu Uloko" (Thickets do not stunt the growth of
the Iroko). Now inherited by Chief Osayande, the
Esogban of Benin, the property, essentially in its
original state till date, is officially not one of the
Pilgrimage Stations that must be visited by new
Chiefs. Yet, some of them call at the premises on
their way to the next shrine.
Aro Ezomo Agban (The Ezomo Agban Shrine): Situated at
Upper Erhie, the shrine is double: commemorating two
personages. The less-known Oghogiotor, a warrior and
member of the Ibiwe Royal Society, responsible for
care of the Royal Harem; and Agban, the Ezomo of
Benin, whose period spanned the reign of Oba Orhogbua
and Oba Ehengbuda (18th Oba of Benin). Agban it was
who prosecuted the pacification of the Western Ibos.
His lineage, right from the first Ezomo of Benin,
Chief Ekenika, presides over the Uzebu Quarter of the
city, and therefore in charge of the maritime gateway
into Benin because of their expertise in maritime
For their exploits, the Ezomo title was made
hereditary and included in the Uzama), the seven noble
kingmakers of Benin, who crown the Prince, Edaiken,
the younger of the Uzama. In his pilgrimage a new
Chief is received by the keepers of the composite
shrine, and then moves to the Twelfth Station in the
Route of Honour.
Aruosa N'Erhie (The Osa N'Erhie): Again one of the
Chapels built by Oba Esigie but which turned into a
shrine when Christianity went "native" during the
reign of his grandson, Ehengbuda. Of importance to
note under this head is that the newly ennobled
citizens take the same route, which the Roman Catholic
Priests and the congregation took from the Ogbelaka
Chapel Aruosa N'Ogbelaka to the last of the old
Christian relics in the city, the Akpakpava Cathedral
Aruosa N'Akpakpava, during the yearly Corpus Christi
and Mardi Gras public processions through the streets
of Benin. And it is only at the Aruosa N'Ogbelaka that
the celebrant is given a body "bath" of powdered
chalk, signifying sanctification for the tasks ahead
of him. But unless the keepers of the Aruosa N'Erhie
are waiting for him, the celebrant does it honour with
four trills of the Eben and moves along.
Aruosa N'Akpakpava (The Osa N'Akpakpava): Standing
opposite the T-Junction made by the Igbesanmwan Street
with Akpakpava Road, it is the Cathedral established
with four Chapels by Oba Esigie. But its later day
status as the Holy Aruosa Cathedral was the handiwork
of Oba Akenzua II in 1946, who built the Temple on the
old site of the Roman Catholic Cathedral 450 years
then. The Temple proclaims "the Doctrine of Godianism,
the doctrine of one-to-one mutual interaction between
God and Man, without the need for an Enlightened One,
a Way-Shower or a Redeemer coming between to explain
God to Man or to lead Man to God." The Oba of Benin
makes this Temple famous today as a place of worship.
So the new Chief on his pilgrimage stands in front of
the Holy Aruosa Temple and acknowledges with his Eben,
his gratitude to Osanobua Noghodua (Supreme God) for
the gift of life, and for the honour and social status
bestowed on him.
Iyase N'Ohenmwen: His abode at Ugbague, off Ewaise
(Forestry) Road, he was the Prime Minister (Iyase) of
Benin during the throne of Oba Osemwende (34th Oba of
Benin). A man of immeasurable wealth, he invited the
Oba to his house, to enable him showcase his material
and human possessions. And for the occasion, he rolled
out red carpet (linen), which stretched from the
palace to his house, a distance barely short of one
kilometre. After the royal visit, the Iyase folded the
bale, and together with the boxes (ekpoki) of money
and the young men and women, who lined the route, sent
them as gifts, an imuohan, to the Oba for honouring
the invitation. Subsequently, the Oba blessed the
Iyase N'Ohenmwen, and the generations that would
spring from his loins, and included the Ohenmwen's
premises "to the stations, which a new Chief must call
at in his thanksgiving pilgrimage through the city."
The keepers of the shrine, who are direct descendants
of Ohenmwen, are always there to welcome the newly
ennobled citizen to the last station, which signifies
his successful completion of the pilgrimage.


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Last modified: December 20, 2008