WEEK 5: THE SECOND BENIN EMPIRE (ILE-IFE DYNASTY)
As republican rule proved unsatisfactory, the nobles appealed to the one of Ife for a ruler. One of Ife sent his son, Oranmiyan, to rule over the Benin. Oranmiyan found the task of ruling the Benin a difficult one because of the factional war raging in the state. Oranmiyan came to the conclusion that only a prime of Edo blood could rule his people. Oranmiyan angrily called the empire “lle-ibinu” meaning the “land of Anger”. It was from his expression that the name of the empire i.e Benin was formed. Oranmiyan packed away from the empire and instead of going back to Ife, he went straight to establish the old Oyo empire. Before his departure from Benin, Oranmiyan had love affairs with a princess, and the result of this was the birth of a baby boy, called Eweka. Eweka is an Edo word meaning “I have arrived”. Oranmiyan’s son Eweka was crowned Oba Ewwka I about 1300. He was the first king of the Ife dynasty of Benin. The accession of Oba Eweka I to the throne of Benin marks the beginning of the second dynasty of Benin kings.
BENIN MASSACRE OF 1897
In 1896, J.R. Philips (an agent or vice consul of the Royal Niger Company) Sent a note to the Oba, informing him of his intention to pay him (Oba) a “friendly visit”. Unfortunately, it happened to fall in the time when the Oba and his men were celebrating the ‘Ague’ festival and when the Oba was not expected to see or welcome any white man, the Oba was in a dilemma, if he should agree to receive Philips he would incur the wrath of the gods. But if he decided otherwise he would definitely be inviting the angers of the Europeans.
At last, he decided to avoid the angers of the gods, and therefore humbly told Philips to postpone his visit until after the festival, explaining to him why this was necessary. In spite of these appeals, Philips was still adamant. On January 4, 1897, consul Philips and his entourage set out to Benin. When the information reached Oba Overemi, he sent one of his chiefs, Ologbosere and others to bring pressure to bear on Philips to call off the visit. But all appeals of Ologbosere and his companions were of no avail. Hot arguments ensued between Ologbosere and Philips. Philips still failed to see reasons and in the fight that followed the hot arguments, Philips and five others were murdered in cold blood. Other members of his entourage escaped into the nearby bush. The bad news of Philips death reached Britain and they quickly resolved to carry out the following measures;
- Benin city must be destroyed
- Oba Overemi and his fetish priest must be punished
- Ologbosere must be hanged.
Benin was attacked and later fell. And as planned, Oba Overemi was tried, found innocent, but in spite of this, he was sent to Calabar. He died in exile in about 1921. The fetish priest, Ologbosere and other principal offenders were tried and found guilty of treason. They were later hanged publicly.
Finally, all the houses in the city of Benin were razed to the ground and Benin empire came to an unceremonious end.
Explain the negative effects of the Benin Massacre on the history of Benin Empire.
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