EKALADERHAN, ODUDUWA, ORANMIYAN AND THE TRANSMUTATION OF A DYNASTY.
**Excerpts of Prof. Uyilawa Usuanlele on Chapter three – The Benin Monarchy; an Anthology of Benin History**
…The crux of the matter is that Oduduwa, the revered and heavenly ‘progenitor’ of the Yoruba, who descended from heaven to the Ora hills or migrated from Mecca, is demystified as a Benin prince by this tradition. The problem with Ife history is that the origin of Oduduwa according to Obayemi ‘ is yet to be identified beyond the mythistorical plane' (Obayemj: 1992: 66). Apart from the claims of origin from heaven, Mecca and probably from the direction of Oke-Ora or Ora hill around Ife (Johnson, 1921; Ooni Aderemi, 1937: 4; Obayemi, 1992: 70 and 83 and Akinjogbin, 1993: 2), none of the sixteen Ife communities or villages that constituted the Ife kingdom claims him as their own.
Consequently, Ekaladerhan’s association with Ife and his name change to Oduduwa cannot be dismissed out of hand. This is because Benin people had an extensive interaction with Ife in the pre-Oduduwa period, as attested by the yet to be published Ikedu traditions of Ife. The ikedu tradition identifies the rulers of Ife as Oghene, a name which only the Benin’s and some Edo people use to address the king of Ife and God respectively. There are also words and names in the ikedu tradition that are very close to Edo words such as Orisanobu-Oghene (Osanobua-Edo) for God, Uko (emissary-Edo) for policeman, Owiogho (Owa-Igho) for house where money is kept, Otu (Otu-Edo) group of age grade, Ehele (Eghele-Edo) largest and middle class, Oma (Omwan-Edo) free citizen, Ekila (Eki-Edo) trade fair and so on (Akinjogbin, 1993: 8-11)…
…A puzzle in Benin-Ife relations, particularly in relation to Ekaladerhan’s transmutation to Oduduwa as claimed by Benin writers and Oba Erediauwa, which scholars in the field have not considered over the years is the observation of H. L. Ward-Price, District officer and later Resident of Oyo province (1920s-1930s) during the burial of the Ooni Ademiluyi Ajagun of Ife in 1930 that: “The body of the king is then washed with water from his private well. The two big toes are tied together with a thin metal chain specifically made for the purpose by a blacksmith. The hair of the head is shaved; coral beads are placed around the neck; the skin is well rubbed with a kind of chalk found at Benin, some two hundred miles away. This treatment, combined with the tight binding cloth round the body serves to delay decomposition. (Ward-Price, 1939: 142).
The distance travelled to obtain the chalk raises a fundamental question of why the Ife royalty choose to go far-away Benin and not other nearby places in Yoruba land? Present-day Ifedayo in the Ife central local government area, nearby Iperinde in Ilesha, Iwaraja in Osun State, and various locations in Ondo State are all known to be rich in efun (Yoruba) or Kaolin chalk (KPMG, 2008: 11 and Ajeigbe et al., 2014: 118)…
…. Given that the use of white kaolin chalk is not known as a funeral ritual ingredient among Yoruba and is widely used in funerals and particularly royal funerals in Benin, the collection of Kaolin Chalk from Benin and rubbing on the corpse of the Ooni of Ife, shows this custom was obviously borrowed from Benin and most probably through the agency of Prince Ekaladerhan, who the Benin’s claim is Oduduwa. The rubbing of the body with chalk from Benin is either a symbolic burial in the natal soil(home), or a ritual propitiation, which is also a Benin custom. These custom lend some credence to Benin’s claim that Prince Ekaladerhan is the same person as Oduduwa…
…Further evidence of this pre-Oranmiyan dynastic link between Benin and Uhe or Ife can be seen in some other rituals performed by the Ooni's of Ife that relate to Benin. The most recent Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade, Olubuse II, stated that the Ooni must perform certain rituals with seven black cows before he can travel to Benin (cited in Osemwegie-Ero and Owie, 2016: 96-97). This rite seems suggestive of a revocation or cleansing of some oath about Benin, otherwise why would he have to perform such rites when going to visit his presumed ‘son’ whom he had sent to rule over Benin.
Prof. Osarhieme Osadolor in the same book page 12, put clearly “This is not necessarily the use and abuse of oral tradition, but how the Yoruba’s explain that gap in history, and how the Benin version fills the vacuum “. “Osadolor clearly understands the inconsistency and huge gap of who Oduduwa is to the Yoruba’s which was easily a grafted pieces that makes it whole with the coming of the Benin writers in explaining how Ekaladerhan transmuted into Oduduwa –
Excerpts from the RED BOOK.