The Ooni of Ife, Adeyeye Ogunwusi, on Tuesday said Benin Kingdom in Edo State remained part of the expansive Yoruba race, a pronouncement that may spark fresh rivalry and altercation between people of the two ancient kingdoms.
The monarch made the comment in reaction to a statement credited to the palace of the Oba of Benin challenging the claim by the Alake of Egbaland, Adedotun Gbadebo, that the Ooni of Ife remained the pre-eminent spiritual leader in Yorubaland and environs.
Oba Ogunwusi, via a statement by his Director of Media and Public Affairs, Moses Olafare, said he was not interested in any supremacy battle with anyone but that he would continue to put the records straight and avoid distortion of history from any quarters.
The monarch said going by historical evidence detailing the Oduduwa lineage, Benin Kingdom remained part and parcel of Oduduwa House.
â€œWe in Oduduwa land have always seen and regarded our people in Benin kingdom as part and parcel of Oduduwa House. They are our brothers and sisters, coupled with historical facts to back up this position,â€ Ooni Ogunwusi said.
â€œThe statement credited to the Alake of Egbaland, did not emanate from us but the reality is that as a highly experienced and well informed monarch, Kabiyesi Alake, who is a bonafide Oodua descendant is entitled to his opinion based on his knowledge and understanding of history,â€ the Ooni said.
â€œLet me emphasize for the umpteenth time that Kabiyesi Ooni is less concerned over any supremacy hullabaloo. He is only interest for now in how the sacred throne of Oduduwa can explore measures through which the collective interest and genuine unity among Yoruba and other tribes within the larger House of Oduduwa can be enhanced.
â€œThis informed his resolve to build bridges of harmony among Yourba Obas. I am resolutely committed to how Yoruba ethnic group can restore its glory and pride of position among other ethnic inclinations in Nigeria and donâ€™t want to be dragged into supremacy contest or join issues with anybody.â€
The traditional ruler said he recalled that about six years ago, attempt was made by some people to upturn history during the launch of a book titled: I REMAIN SIR, YOUR OBEDIENT SERVANT, which he said stood historical facts on its head.
Oba Ogunwusi stated that If the position espoused by the Oba of Benin Palace in the media â€œis aimed at distancing our people in Benin from the South West and Yoruba, so be it.â€
He however added, â€œWe still identify with them as our kinsmen, regardless of the attempt to change the course of history.â€
The Alake had, while hosting the Oba Ogunwusi in his palace on February 7, rated the Ooni as the number one monarch in Yorubaland and other territories considered part of the Oduduwa House.
In his rating, Oba Gbadebo said Oba Ogunwusi was number one of the five principal Obas in Yorubaland, followed by the Alaafin of Oyo, then by the Oba of Benin (in third position), the Alake of Egbaland (fourth) and the Awujale of Ijebuland (fifth).
But in a swift reaction on Tuesday, the Esogban of Benin and Odionwere of the Kingdom, David Edebiri, rejected the ranking, saying the Ooni of Ife was a son of the Oba of Benin and that the Oba of Benin stool has no relationship with the Yoruba race.
The Esogban said, â€œWe wanted to discard this report as something that was not necessary at all. We do not see how the Alake of Egbaland suddenly woke up to think that the Oba of Benin is also a Yoruba Oba.
â€œThere is no basis for such classification; Oba of Benin has nothing to do with the Yoruba Obas. It is simply unnecessary, unless they simply want to stir up an unnecessary controversy.
â€œWe are not in Yorubaland. To be frank, it is because many of them are not willing to come up with the truth, the word Oba is alien to Yoruba monarchy; it is not part of their title from time immemorial.
â€œFor instance, the one they call the Oba of Lagos, these are recent adaptations. In the 50s, there was no Oba of Lagos, what we had was the Eleko of Eko. That is the title of the King there. In Ibadan, you have the Olu Ibadan. You come to Abeokuta, you have the Alake of Egba land. You come to Oyo, you have the Alaafin of Oyo. In Ilesha, you have the Owa-Obokun of IIesha. So no Yoruba monarch had as part of his titles the word Oba except the Oba of Benin.
â€œThat word Oba is indigenous to Benin. It is only in recent times you find everybody bearing Oba. When the Western Regional conference of traditional rulers took place in Benin City in 1942, go and check the attendance, there was no other monarch in the whole of the Western Region then that bore the title of Oba, except the Oba of Benin.
â€œSo it is an unnecessary excursion, an unnecessary attempt to turn history upside down by the Alake by classifying the Oba of Benin as third in the hierarchy of kings.
â€œOur own traditional history says that the Ooni of Ife was a Benin Prince who wandered from here to Ife, settled there and became the ruler there. That is the position, if they donâ€™t know, they should send people here; we will teach them.
â€œWe will show them landmarks. So this is unnecessary misrepresentation of history. Maybe the Alake wanted to mention a different place and not Benin.
â€œThe monarchical rulership in this part of the world started from Benin during the era of the Ogisos. It was the son of the last Ogiso, Owodo, that wandered from here to Ife and he became a ruler there, carrying everything about the Benin monarchical system to that place. There is no basis for such classification.
â€œThe Ooni of Ife, by historical facts, is a son of the Oba of Benin, so they are not in the same class. The Oba of Benin is the only one that answers Oba, the rest donâ€™t. But today, we hear Oba here and there, they are all recent adaptations. I am saying categorically that the word Oba is indigenous to Benin and not to Yoruba nation.â€