The Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) has accused Benin palace chiefs of distorting Oduduwa history, saying their comments were capable of triggering discord between the Yoruba and people of the Benin Kingdom.
The group also said the research being relied on by the chiefs to deny the relationship between people of the two races lacked credibility.
The National Coordinator of the congress, Gani Adams, said in a press statement made available to PREMIUM TIMES on Friday that the comments credited to the palace chiefs about Yoruba origin were unhistorical and unreliable.
Mr. Adams said such poorly researched claims lacked historical credibility, could be inflammatory and could set the two noble race against each other.
He said the relationship between ”the Yoruba Omo Oduduwa and the Edo was rooted in history and shrouded in mystery in other to keep the two vibrant nations together and oil the chord of communal relationship for ever.”
“Even, though some writers of historical documents about the relationship and chord of brotherhood between the two have allowed personal sentiments and pecuniary consideration to overrule their sense of judgement, clarity, fairness, objectivity and harmonious cohabitation. And the purported statement from an high chief of Benin belong to this trend,” the OPC leader said.
“We should not indulge in diluted information coined by agents of destabilization which emphasised those things that divide us instead of talking of those things that unite us.”
‘Whatever angle or point of view any writer come out with in this discourse, the fact remains constant that there is a bond of relationship which is not fleeting but fundamentally essential between the Yoruba Omo Oodua and the Edo Omo Eweka the Great.”
He appealed to the traditional institutions in Benin and Ile-Ife to be wary of palace chiefs who he said were only out to pitch the two noble royal houses against each other by their sheer impetuosity and face service.”
Mr. Adams commended the royal sagacity and visionary posture of the Ooni of Ife, Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi, not only for remaining calm, but for refusing to “dignify the sender of those ill-researched statements with any response”.
“I must also commend the political maturity and sagacity being displayed by the Imperial Majesty, Oba Enitan Adeyeye Babatunde Ogunwusi, Ojaja 11, who has been consistent in his peace diplomacy shuttle among the traditional Obas in Yoruba land which has kicked – off a brand new era of harmonious relationship among the Obas in the south – west,” Mr. Adams said.
He warned those he described as ”scripters of divisive statements, the procurer of false history and the spreader of ill -researched historical fallacy to put a stop in their unholy act and allow peace, unity, harmony and era of brotherly interaction take control among the traditional rulers in the South West including their sibling in Edo State.”
”We are warning them to stop sowing seeds of discord among the Omo Oduduwa and their siblings in Edo State,” the OPC leader said.
The Ooni of Ife had 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, had 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.
“We 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,” Ooni Ogunwusi said.
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, “We 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.
“There 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.
“We 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.
“For 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.
“That 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.
“So 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.
“Our 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 don’t know, they should send people here; we will teach them.
“We will show them landmarks. So this is unnecessary misrepresentation of history. Maybe the Alake wanted to mention a different place and not Benin.
“The 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.
“The 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 don’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.”