Oba, Bini mark end of year Igue
About a week after Ewere entered the harem, she began to think of her sister,
Oyoyo, and she cried every day. Oba Ewuare again sent a message to Ogieka,
asking him to allow Oyoyo to visit her sister.
This request was promptly granted by Ogieka, and Ewere was very pleased to see
her sister, but on arrival Oyoyo decided to marry as well. So the two sisters
became wives of the Oba.
When Oyoyo became pregnant, the Oba sent her to the Ihama at Idunmwihogbe for
proper care and there she gave birth to a daughter.
As a token of his gratitude, the Oba awarded the Ihama the Odibokofo (a large
collar made entirely of red beads) and gave his wives the right to dress their
hair in the Ukpokhokho style, like the Oba's wives. This elevated the Ihama to
a higher position than ever before, and the Odibokofo has been worn by every
Ihama at every Ugie-Ewere ceremony till date.
Throughout his reign, every year the Oba celebrated Ugie Ewere, that is the
anniversary of his happy and prosperous marriage to Ewere at the Igue
festival. Here the Ihogbes present symbolic Ewere leaves to the Oba.
The Bini have a long lineage of Obas, and Igue is also an occasion to
celebrate Ugie-Evhoba among other occasions. During this period, the
anniversary of their deaths is celebrated by the Bini, and for seven days
propitiations are made to the spirits of the departed Obas. This is done to
invoke their blessing on the reigning monarch and their family and subjects.
The Igue festival, which is a period for offering thanks to the gods for
sparing their lives and to ask for blessings, is also used for offering
sacrifices to some shrines in the palace. During this period, chieftaincy
title holders display their Eben emblem in the Ugie dance as they appear in
their traditional attire, according to the type of dress the Oba bestowed on
individual chiefs during the conferment of title, while the Oba seats
majestically in the royal chamber (Ogiukpo).
Confirmation and conferring of titles on deserving citizens by the Oba are
carried out during the festival, although this could be done any time the Oba
deems fit. While it is also a period to drive away evil spirits (Ubi) and
bring blessings (Ewere) to every home in the kingdom, it is a period
traditionally set aside by the Bini to thank the gods for blessings on the Oba,
his palace, harem and subjects. Ancestral gods are worshipped for protection
and propitiation done in the various palace societies. The shrines are
considered holy and therefore defied traditionally. The Oba pays homage at the
shrines and he is accompanied by some of his chiefs. Indeed, it is a period of
merriment, rituals and dancing.
During the seven days of elaborate traditional and cultural activities, Bini
chiefs are seen in their enviable traditional regalia, including the Iloi
(Queens) in their Okuku (hairdo). It is a rare occasion of their public
appearance, where the Oba's stalwarts (Ifietes) are seen in active service.
Traditional dances like Esakpaide, Ohogho and above all the display of Eben by
the chiefs while dancing and paying homage to the Oba in Ogiukpe at Ugha Oba
or the Oba's chamber.
During the festival, Ugie dance is performed by all important chiefs,
including the Iyase, leader of Eghaevbonore. When Chief Esoghan dances with
the Eben, the Iyase follows with the Eben. After homage to the Oba as leader
of his subjects or Eghaevbonore, nobody else dances with the Eben as homage to
the Oba on that particular day.
The Ugie dance as typified is a ceremonial palace dance performed during the
annual festival in honour of the Oba. It is also an ancestral dance by chiefs
who perform sacrificial and priestly functions in the shrines at the end of a
successful year while soliciting for a happy new year.
As the chiefs dance with the decorative Eben symbol of authority, they chorus
incantations, and using Edo proverbs they communicate wisdom, pay homage and
answer questions through gesticulations during the Ugie dance at the palace.
It is difficult for anyone who does not belong to any of the palace societies
The symbolic moments go into great conflicting details about the ritual
dialogue between the dancing chief at the ceremony and the Oba. The monarch is
seated majestically at Ugha Ozolua and arrayed in ceremonial robes amidst his
retinue of chiefs in Ughozolua, as he receives homage from his chiefs in the
dance, which reassures him of their loyalty.
During the dance with the Eben by each chief, every effort is made to prevent
its falling down during display. If it falls, there is a heavy penalty
involving sacrifices to some shrines at the palace for profanity.
After it is publicly announced by the town criers, the festival kicks off with
Otue, meaning greetings. Members of the Ihogbe (a palace society) together
with important Edo chiefs pay tribute to the Oba, who presents a bowl of
kolanuts. With the kolanuts, the chiefs bless the Oba and his family.
After this, there is a social gathering in the palace, during which members of
the various palace societies and the public entertain the Oba with different
dances. The Oba himself takes part in the dance. In other words, he entertains
his guests lavishly.
The second day is for rituals. The Oba, dressed in ceremonial attire with all
his wives and his young children assemble in the royal chamber. He is
sanctified by the Efas (priests of blessings). After this, the Oba offers
prayers before handing the sacrificial items to the Isekhure, who offers the
last benediction before the Ehondor slaughters the animals.
Chief Isekhure anoints the Oba in the presence of Chief Ihama, other chiefs
and members of the various palace societies. After the sacrifice, the chiefs
dance to the Oba and his family with the Eben.
Every chief scheduled for Ugie dance leaves his home dancing with his
followers. He dresses in his traditional regalia permitted by the Oba or
granted him on the day of conferment of his title. No chief dresses in a
manner or attire not permitted him by the Oba. As a chief moves from home to
the palace, he dances with two men beside him among others holding his hand to
and from the palace.
On the last day of the festival, that is, the seventh day, Chief Osuma of
Benin collects the Ewere and then hands it over to the Ihogbe, who in turn
hands Ebewere to the Oba in a dance procession and melodious traditional songs
The Igue festival has however endured and continues to retain its main
features despite modernisation in all aspects of political, economic,
sociological and technological development. The Bini Kingdom still pays so
much attention to traditional matters because, according to the Iyase of
Benin, Chief Sam Igbe, tradition is supreme.
Before this year's event, the Iyase had appealed to all Bini chiefs, Enigie
Edionwere, Igiohen and all elders and leaders to encourage and organise youths
to enable them take more interest in the Ugie-Ewere celebration. He also
appealed to motorists to respect the celebrants on the roads, stressing that,
"this festival is a way of expressing our love, joy and goodwill to our
This year's event was, however, marred by serious security problem in the
state capital. "The security situation has so deteriorated, with the
increasing incidence of policemen and civilians being mowed down by armed
robbers," the Oba lamented, adding, "we and our chiefs are very disturbed by
this development, and we have been deliberating on the situation for quite
Expressing sympathy with families that lost members and property, Omo N'Oba
Erediauwa prayed God to grant peaceful repose to the souls of those who died,
and quick recovery to those receiving treatment in the hospitals.
It on record that it was during the Igue festival that the British on trade
expedition turned down the advise of Benin chiefs not to defy the tradition of
the people by insisting on seeing Oba Ovenranwen Nogbaisi. The spontaneous
reaction of the chiefs ended the life of Consul Philips and his team. This
resulted in the Benin Expedition of 1897, which created room for the looting
of Benin historical relics including the FESTAC symbol yet to be returned to
the ancient city of Benin.