Benin Traditional Council versus Chief Isekhurhe saga lingers
By Kingsley Abavo
Like fairy tale, the saga of Benin Traditional Council versus one of the prominent title holders in the kingdom continue to run, with the latest slamming of indefinite suspension order on him.
Friction between the Benin Traditional Council and Chief Isekhurhe first came into public domain during preparation to the coronation activities of the Benin Monarch, Oba Ewuare N’ Ogidigan 11 sometime last year.
The Benin Traditional Council had issued a press release explaining the place and responsibilities of Chief Isekhurhe in Benin Kingdom.
Contrary to hitherto popular belief, the Council said Chief Isekhurhe was not Chief priest of the Kingdom rather; he was just a priest (keeper) of some shrine of the Oba, and even not a member of the royal family.
Obviously during the numerous activities of the crowning of Oba Ewuare 11, Chief Isekhurhe was not seen, a situation which caused a series of speculation and the rumour mill to over flow in town.
But on Monday, 16 January, 2017, the Benin Traditional Council in a Statement signed by its secretary and nine high ranking Chiefs of the Kingdom, which included the Iyase, Chief Sam Igbe, and the Esogban, Chief David Edebiri announced the indefinite suspension of Chief Isekhurhe for alleged sundry offences.
“He designated his house as a Palace where he held court in which he sometimes reviewed cases already dealt with in the Oba’s Palace.
“Of course gratifications were there offered or forced and collected. He used his position to influence new Chiefs celebrating their investiture to perform certain rites in his residence, during which monies, kola nuts and drinks were collected.
“Senior Chiefs were at times openly bad mouthed and vilified by him, and during those times, he declared that the Chiefs were not senior to him and that he would not pay respects to them again as palace cultures demand.
“He turned himself into a be all and end all, and a seeming authority in the Benin culture and tradition, especially palace procedures. He even pronounced himself as the head of the Royal family.
“The profanities and denigrations that issued from him and his followers during our mourning period are better just forgotten. During this period he told those who cared to listen to him that neither the Emwinnekhua nor the consequent coronation could hold without him.
“The Iyase sent for him to enable these matters to be discussed with him. He demurred. The Council of Chiefs then also sent for him, yet he refused to answer them.
“During Emwinekhua, he neglected and deliberately refused to perform his traditional duties before, during and after the event, and has since remained infinitely unrepentant.
“We recommend therefore, that he be suspended , and with the authority of Omo N’ Oba Uku Akpolokpolo, Ewuare 11, Ob a of Benin, he is with effect from today,17 of January, 2017 suspended indefinitely from performing the duties of the Isekhurhe title which he now bears.
“Those duties were originally performed by the Ihama of Benin. They will now revert to the Ihama N’ Ihogbe.”
The Council had earlier explained: “The Isekhure of Benin is a member of the Ihogbe Society of Benin, the leader of which is the Ihama of Benin. Ihama was one of the traditional spiritual personages who travelled with Prince Oranmiyan from Ife to Benin City in about the middle of the 12th century A.D.
“Isekhure was, as the family grew in Benin, one of the male children. The present responsibilities of Isekhurhe were part of the traditional duties of Ihama. When, as a result of old age, the Ihama found it difficult to walk from his Ogbe in Ihogbe Quarters to the Palace to perform some of his allocated rites, he pleaded with the reigning Oba Ewedo to empower one of his sons to take over the performance of the rites on his behalf.
“Uku Akpolokpolo approved and later in about 1280 A.D, created the title Isekhurhe, the position in which the descendants of Isekhurhe functioned for their father until the present Isekhurehe for reasons best known to him, to desecrate it.