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Kingsley Abavo, Benin

Members of GBD in celebration mood
at the grave site of Oloi Iden near Oba Market in Benin-City.

On Sunday, the 14 of February, 2021, the world was again ecstatic celebrating St. Valentine Day but a socio- cultural group in Benin Kingdom under the aegis of the Great Benin Descendants (GBD) upheld Oloi (Queen) Iden as their own symbol of love.

GBD about four years ago began conscientization of descendants of Benin Kingdom about the importance of celebrating Oloi Iden instead of St. Valentine, who they say is a total stranger to them.

Oloi Iden was said to had paid the supreme price of death for the love of her husband; Oba Ewakpe, and to unite the Kingdom that was going through crisis and disintegration in the early 17th century.

“Oloi Iden paid the ultimate price for the love of her husband and Benin Kingdom at one of its most difficult period in history”, Imasuen Izoduwa, Coordinator-general of the group, explained in an interview with Journalists.

“History has it that when everyone deserted the Oba, she stood by her husband, and when a supreme sacrifice was required for the restoration and revitalization of the Kingdom, Oloi Iden volunteered herself.”

GBD decided to pick her ahead of Queen Idia another iconic woman in the history of Benin Kingdom, because their acts were not the same, Izoduwa said.

“Queen Idia physically led the Benin armed forces to war against the Igala people and was victorious.

“But she had a stake in the Kingdom, her son was the Oba. So, invariably, she fought for her son as against Oloi Iden who had no child yet she presented herself to be sacrificed for the reinvigoration and restoration of Benin Kingdom.

Hence she is addressed as Iden n’ kpohuo; the ‘Great Woman.’

“Iden made the same sacrifice as Jesus Christ for the Christians; they believe he died to save humanity. And in our belief as a people, ‘Edo y’ isi agbon’ ( the centre of humanity).

“That is why we advocate that celebrating Oloi Iden should replace the St. Valentine day in Benin Kingdom, he said.

Reiterating Oloi Iden represents the symbol of true love, Izoduwa asserts that February 14 was given to GBD by ancestors of the Kingdom, as the day to mark her great sacrifice.

“GBD has always been creating realistic ideas, taking history from the textbooks in terms of how we can use it as a tool to propagate the future of this Kingdom.”

“We are making inquiries, we are investigating our narratives to making clarification about our history and with time, Oloi Iden will replace celebration of St. Valentine in Benin Kingdom” Nosakhare Edwin Idehen, a member of the group quipped.

Appealing to descendants of Benin Kingdom, Secretary-general of the group,  Samuel Erhinmwiose said: “wherever you are, let’s return home, try to embrace the Beniness in us, let’s stop this western celebration, we don’t know who Valentine is, we don’t even know how he came into being. Please let’s try celebrate our own; Oloi Iden, Idia and many others. Let’s try remembering home.

Advocating rejuvenation of the Benin tradition and culture, he called for its propagation in the homes of all Benin descendants.

Similarly, July 22 every year has been set aside to mark Edo national day and June 28 to honour and celebrate heroes and heroines of the Kingdom; Obarisiagbon, Obakhavbaye, Ologbosere e.t.c, the group disclosed.

Before the coming of GBD, there had never been any day set aside to celebrate anyone in the Kingdom, it added.