Many writers have put the origin of Edo people as coming from Egypt while other thought they originated from Ife. Eminent writer like Chief (Dr) J.U Egharevba even suggested that the Edo People migrated from Egypt, made a short halt in the Sudan, then at Ife, and finally came to this land where they met an inferior people. The most interesting point about this theory is that no one has paused for a while to ask where the Egyptians migrated from. No one is really 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 archeological evidence one is forced to have a second thought on this issue of migration from Egypt and rather let their origin in their present environment prevail.
Benin And Ife (Edo and Yoruba) Controversy on "who is the father of who?"
Some contemporary historians claim that kingship began in Benin in the 13th century with the arrival in Benin of the PRINCE FROM UHE( Ile-Ife or Ife) ORANMIYAN, son of ODUDUWA, who was sent to Benin at the request of the people of Benin, to become King, circa 1200 AD. The respected Benin historian, Jacob U. Egharevba, in his SHORT HISTORY OF BENIN, stated that Benin requested Oduduwa to send a king to rule over them. Some persons who read Egharevba have concluded that there were no kings in Benin until ORANMIYAN arrived. Here too the Edo historians claim those who have jumped to that conclusion have not taken into account, the period of the OGISOS of Benin. Egharevba named 15 Ogisos who ruled over Benin. He referred to the period of the OGISOS as the FIRST DYNASTY of Benin Kingship. Dr. O.S.B. Omeregie, in a paper on THE EVOLUTION OF BENIN which he presented as part of a series of lectures on the LOST TREASURES OF ANCIENT BENIN, organised by Nigeria's NATIONAL COMMISSION FOR MUSEUMS AND MONUMENTS in Benin City on June 25, 1982, named 31 Ogisos of Benin. Both Egharevba and Omoregie however, named OGISO OWODO as the last of them and the father of EKALADERHAN.
However, the view that the first king of Benin came from Ile-Ife, has raised an interesting, albeit controversial question about the BENIN-IFE CONNECTION and the origin of the Benin royal family itself. Since Egharevba, some historians hold the view that the Benin royal family has its origin in Ife and that the OONI OF IFE is the FATHER of the Oba of Benin. Some have even said that the entire people of Benin come from Ife.
There are anthropological and folkloric evidence that prove the existence beyond a doubt. Songs and rituals are still performed today in both Benin and Ife which eulogise it. In Benin, the story is told with nostalgia; in Ife, with euphoria and pride and belief that the Ooni of Ife is the father of the Oba of Benin.
That belief was, no doubt, on the Ooni's mind when he hosted the Oba of Benin who paid him an officail visit on November 11, 1982. The Ooni, speaking with the pride of a father receiving a son who made good abroad, described the oba's visit as a "short home-coming" He said, inter alia: "We welcome Your Royal Highness most heartily back to Ile-Ife, the cradle of our common culture. The origin of your dynasty and ours...... Today is really a very good day for us in Ife and its environs because since you left in 891 AD, we have come to know that your dynasty has perfomed wonderfully well. As we have mentioned briefly during our historic visit to your domain not too long ago, we said that we were there to pat you on the back for a job well done... Your present visit.... we regard as a short home-coming where you will have an opportunity to commune with those deities you left behind.... Now, my son and brother, long may you reign."
That address made a clear, unequivocal allusion to the suggestion that Benin, or at least , the Royal Family, owes its origin to Ife. But in his reply, the Oba of Benin tacitly rejected that submission. In the prelude to his main speech, he said: "IF THE OONI OF IFE CALLS THE OBA OF BENIN HIS SON AND THE OBA OF BENIN CALLS THE OONI HIS SON, THEY ARE BOTH RIGHT."
He did not elaborate But that assertion, innocuous as it might seem, represents the other part of the story which never really been fully told, although told with varying details in Ife and Benin. Despite the varying details, the central theme THAT BENIN DID GO TO IFE TO GET A KING, remains constant. The question then is: WHY DID BENIN CHOOSE IFE INSTEAD OF A NEARER "COUNTRY," TO GO AND LOOK FOR A KING, ESPECIALLY AS IFE ITSELF NEITHER HAD A KING NOR A MONARCHY? The question was answered by the Oba of Benin himself in a lecture he delivered on the EVOLUTION OF TRADITIONAL RULERSHIP IN NIGERIA under the auspices of the Institute of the African Studies of the University of Ibadan on September 11, 1984.
The Oba said, inter alia: "Another important traditional ruler whose origin deserves examination is the Oduduwa of Ife whose origin is also shrouded in myths and legend. He is believed to be the father of the principal rulers of Yorubaland, the father of Oranmiyan who was the the father of EWEKA I of Benin and who was the founder and the first Alafin of Oyo Kingdom; Ife traditional history says Oduduwa descended from heaven ( in a like manner to the Edo account). Some modern historians say that the great Oduduwa was a fugitive from the Moslems of the Middle-east and that he came to settle in what is present -day Ile-Ife. We in Benin believe, and there are historical landmarks for such belief,that the person whom the Yoruba call Oduduwa was the fugitive Prince EKALADERHAN, son of the last OGISO OF BENIN by name OGISO OWODO; he found his way to what is now Ile-Ife after gaining freedom from his executioners and wandering for years through the forests. It was after the demise of his father and when, in the interregnum, Evian, and later his son Ogiamien, tried to assume the kingship, that those who knew that Ekaladerhan was still alive organized a search party to fetch him. It was this search party that emerged at Ile-Ife and discovered Ekaladerhan, known then to the people of Ile-Ife as Oduduwa and already enjoying the status of a King. After failing to persuade him to return with them to Benin, they succeeded in getting him to send his son, ORANMIYAN, to rule Benin...."
BY: Kweku Darko Ankrah