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This piece is taken from my book, Edo, one of the world's most scintilating ancient civilizations.
Naiwu Osahon

The present day elegant ceremonial costumes of the kings and chiefs of Benin originated from Ewuare’s reign. Ewuare restored the annual cycle of royal ceremonies, the most important ones being Ugie Erha Oba, in honour of royal ancestors and Igue, to strengthen the mystical powers of the king.



Oba Ewuare’s vow to propitiate his head and give thanks to his ancestors with a major spiritual event if he gained the throne, is the genesis of the Igue festival, which started three years into his reign. The Igue festival is the leading spiritual festival of the Edo. It is a two week long thanksgiving festival to the head, as the focal point of anointing and the centre of the human person. The head symbolizes both the sacredness of creation and of the spirit entity in man. To quote the Isekhurhe, “it is to the head you raise your hands, in respect and adoration.” The Oba goes into seclusion for spiritual purification during the period. Igue activities include Igue ivbioba, Igue edohia, Ugie ewere, Otue igue Oba (chiefs paying homage to the Oba), Igue Oba and Ugie emobo (when the Oba comes out of seclusion). The incantations used at the Igue festival were developed by the Ihogbe family. During the festival, Edo people say prayers, cleanse themselves of their sins, bring members of their extended family together to bond, share gifts and blessings, feeding on the food of atonement and thanksgiving. The Ewere leaf that saved Ewuare’s life in the bush when he was nearly caught by the Royal troops, has its day of lavish use, with the leaves taken by youths from home to home around the city. They tear pieces of the leaves and paste them on the heads, particularly the foreheads of people, to show joy. At that moment of sharing, the salutation is ‘Ise Logbe’ (Happy New Year), and the reply or response is ‘Ogbe man vbe dia re’ (Many happy returns).



Oba Ewuare the great, was the most dynamic, innovative and successful Oba in the history of Edo kingdom. Under him, Edo was completely transformed religiously, politically, socially, physically and militarily. Ewuare re-organized the government of Edo by centralizing it and he set up three powerful palace associations of chiefs. The political elite of the kingdom was made up of titled chiefs and members of the royal family. The seven highest-ranking chiefs, who were, in fact, descendants of original elders of Edo, were constituted into Uzama with leadership authority next to the king. The brothers of the king who tended to be potential rivals were sent as hereditary rulers (Enogies) of administrative districts. The mother of the king was given the title of Queen mother and set up in her own palace in the town of Uselu just outside the city.



Naiwu Osahon


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Dear Fellow Edos,
>
>Thanks for your contribution to this unique Igue festival of our ancient Benin Kingdom. May I also thank the governor of Edo state, Comrade Adams Oshiomole for supporting Igue Festival this year. Igue festival started during the reign of Oba Ewuare the great. Apparently, Oba Ewuare and Chief Ogieka were friends. So Chief Ogieka gave one of his daughters to the Oba of Benin. Her name was Ubi. She married our Oba. But she was horrible to our Oba. It got to point that our Oba could no longer tolerate her. Oba Ewuare informed chief Ogieka of the bad behaviour of her daughter, Ubi. Oba Ewuare and chief Ogieka agreed that Ubi should not be wife of the Oba anymore. Chief Ogieka requested Oba Ewuare to marry his other daughter called Ewere. Oba Ewuare agreed. Ubi was escorted to chief Ogieka. The Binis were not happy with Ubi. People caused her when they were escorting her out of the palace. Ewere was escorted to the palace. There were jubilations and ceremonies when Ewere was escorted to the palace. Ewere was much better than Ubi. This was how Igue festival started.
>
>In my opinion, all Binis irrespective of their religious beliefs should participate in this annual festival.
>
>Oba gha to okpere. Ise.
>
>Regards,
>
>Lucky Ikponmwosa.
Lucky Ikponmwosa wrote:

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