Category: Ogiso


Edo Origin and Ogiso Dynasty

By Prince E.Eweka

It is said that the Benin monarch date back to Ogiso Igodo who was reputed to have begun his reign in the year 900 AD. It is not entirely sure if that year is the appropriate year one can say that Ogiso Igodo reigned. This is so because Edo Civilization is well over 6000 years old. According to R.G Armstrong in his book “The Study of West Africa languages” the glotto-chronological period of separation between Edo, Yoruba and Ibo has been put between 3,000 and 6,000 years. It is no wonder, therefore that prof. A.F.C Ryder aptly wrote about the Edo, that “Linguistic evidence suggests that they have occupied this region for some thousands of years”. P.Amway Talbot confirmed that about the seventh millennium BC, the Edo (Benin) and Ewe (popo) and then the Ibo, followed maybe about thee second millennium BC by the earliest Yoruba”. These suggestions give strong indications that Benin Civilization has grown over some 6000 years if not more.

Many writers have put the Origin of Edo people as coming from Egypt while others thought they originated from Ife. Such an eminent writer as Chief (Dr) J.U Egharevba even suggested that the Edo People migrated from Egypt, made a short halt in Sudan, then at Ife, and finally came to this land where they met an inferior people. The most exciting point about this theory is that no one has paused for a while to ask where the Egyptians migrated. No one is certain about the Origin of the Edo people whose Origin appears to have lost in myths and legends of the distant past. In the absence of any archaeological evidence, one is forced to have a second thought on this issue of migration from Egypt. Science tells us that living things grow around fertile areas of the world. As a matter of fact, civilization has always thrived in areas of fertile land, which sustains life, and Edo people cannot be an exception to this rule.

Let us examine the beliefs of these Edo people. Their mythical story of creation says that Edo is the candle of the world (“Edo ore Isi Agbon”). They say that when God Almighty was creating the world, he also created the king who was to rule the various parts of the world. These kings, before descending from heaven to earth, were asked to make their choices of whatever gifts they wanted God to endow them with. While others chose wealth, wisdom or magical powers, the king of Benin had nothing left other than a dirty snail shell containing sand The story says that when the king of Benin got to the world, which was water, logged then, he poured the sand on a point now known as Benin which came to be dry land. The other kings who had been hovering around without a dry land to settle upon had to ask the Benin king for land. This is the Origin of the saying that “Oba Yan Oto Se Evbo Ebo” meaning that the Oba owns the land up to the European country.

Whichever way one looks at the Origin of Edo both historically or mythically one comes to the conclusion that Edo origin is not known in precise terms, common among the Edo themselves, they say that the original people called Edo grew on this land even though it cannot be ruled out that other people might have migrated to join the actual Edo people.

Modern Archaeological finds show that the oldest human skull was found in Africa. Here in Nigeria, the Nok civilization has thrown a new vista on the age of Africa civilization. Who knows if the Nok civilization itself is not a spillover of the early Edo people, especially as the regions occupied by both the Edo and The Nok are within the same landmass.


The peculiar features of the early Ogisos

The founding of the kingdom: Igodo or Obagodo established the kingdom in the sense that it was during his period the components of Benin were united and formed into a central Administrative Unit.


Establishment of good government and the guild system: His successor Ere (who incidentally was a grandson brought in fair laws and established the guild system for which the Edo people are still known. It is to his credit that the palace system was organized and established from which its present form has evolved.


Primogeniture law: Orire brought about the primogeniture law, which lasted more than one century. During ogiso Ighido, this law broke down as a result of palace rivalries. It got into a chaotic situation at a time, and this gave rise to the saying that “ogiso will only summon the council meeting whenever there is trouble” (Ogiso Mamie Emwen Ei Fiagba”). This situation remained for nearly two centuries when Ogiso Oriagba re-established the primogeniture laws. This brought stability once more to state. The guild system was re-established, and all the arms of the government were re-kindled.


Establishment of Benin Army:The stable situation of the state brought about the formation of the Benin Army during the reign of Ogiso Odoligie. A class of people known as “Iyokuo”-the warriors– was established.


Inflation and subsequent currency reforms: During the reign of Ogiso Ohuede, there was severe inflation. Other pestilences followed. People counterfeited the coins of the realm by bringing illegal money into the country. What happened was that people suddenly discovered a large number of cowries (which was the then known coin or money in use) and after that flooded the country with it. The attendant result was inflation. When Ogiso Obioye came in as ruler, he harnessed the whole currency by nationalizing cowries wherever they were in private hands or with the state. This money became scarce, and its value restored. It is this state of affairs which gave rise to the expression “a valuable article purchased with Obioye’s Coin”. Ogiso Obioye, therefore, was the first king who reformed the currency.


The Plight of Ikaladerhan: The last Ogiso (Owodo) brought a lot of stresses and hardship on the nation he was incompetent. He more or less fell back to the habit of not summoning the state council meeting unless there was trouble. He was preoccupied with the primogeniture law especially as he had only one son who he thought might die before him which might leave him without a successor. This obsession drove him to consult the oracle as to how he might have more male Children who might succeed him. In the end, the tragic episode of Ikaladerhan’s banishment came into our history. However, Ikaladerhan by a change of fortune eventually emerged at Uhe (or Ife) as a king with the appellation Ododuwa derived from the Benin word “Imaghidoduwa or Imadoduwa” which is an exclamatory word “I have not missed the path to prosperity” a reminiscence of his surprise at his emerging as a king in a strange land after having left as a refugee.