THE BINI - IFE JOURNEY: IN WHICH DIRECTION? PART 11
Wed, 7 Mar, 2012
IF BINI-LAND IS ORIGINAL? HOW ORIGINAL IS THE NAME?
The "Ile Ibinu" question
You are right that the term 'Bini' is foreign. It has passed into common usage because there just has not been a satisfactory unique term to describe the Edo speaking people of the core Edo Kingdom - which has been relatively consistently loyal to the Obaship for over 500 years.
The original term came from a phrase "Ile Ibinu" [House of Quarrel] –a singnificantly known Yoruba phrase (emphasis mine) reportedly attributed to Oduduwa [or his son] as a way of describing frustration with the endless quarrels that characterized political life in Edoland. "Benin" is also of foreign origin - even scholars do not agree about where it came from. My hunch is that it is a corrupted term from early Portuguese writings.
Writings by Caucasians like Northcote, Hans Wolff, Bradbury etc... reflect a struggle with terminology. They interchange "Bini" with "Benin" with "Edo proper", none of which is satisfactory. I consider the term "Edo proper" to be potentially offensive to other Edo speaking groups who, it could be argued, would by default be considered "Edo improper" - a rather silly connotation. Why did not they describe the 'English' as "English proper", as against the Scots, Irish and Welsh all of whom are British and speak English as their primary language.
To illustrate this dilemma, let us take the Oyos, for example. The solid core of the old Oyo Empire consisted of Oyo speaking dialects, which Ajayi Crowther used to translate the Bible. Present day "Yoruba" is actually the 'Oyo' dialect, just as the phrase "Edo" refers to the 'Bini' dialect. In fact during the early part of this century, Egbas and Ijebus were not even described in documents as 'Yorubas' by the British. But at no time was the "Oyo" dialect described as "Yoruba proper". It was just "Yoruba" - a phrase that was then gradually used to describe all Yoruba-speaking peoples irrespective of dialect. Based on this perhaps "Bini" should simply be termed "Edo".
Note that this nomenclatural struggle is not peculiar to so called 'Binis'.
The term "ISHAN" for example, comes from 'Esa' which is in turn derived from 'Esafua' , meaning "those who fled". Some Ishan friends of mine like (or accept) it. Other's do not, preferring to be called by the names of their villages and sub-clans. I know Ishans who prefer to be called Edos rather than Ishans.
"IVBIOSAKON" means 'the children of those who file their teeth' referring to a custom that used to be common among northern Edos - they used to file their incisors to a point. It was adopted by the British administration in the 1930s. Many Edo speaking people so described do not like the phrase. "Ora", on the other hand, was named after 'Ora-Ekpen' or 'Eranrin-Ekpen' - the son of Uguan - the banished son of Oba Ozolua. "ETSAKO" means the same thing as "IVBIOSAKON". The British used the phrase 'Etsako' to describe Edos of the North-East and "IVBIOSAKON" to describe Edos of the North-West (excluding the 'Akoko-Edos')
The "INEME" (also called "ULEME" or UNEME") people take their name from an old Bini word "ileme" meaning blacksmith. They are migrants from Obadan.
How Oba of Benin goofed, by Ooni of Ife
Sunday, May 09, 2004
"Records in the archives made it clear that since 1191AD, the Ooni of Ife had to be informed, and clearance must be given by him on the new Oba of Benin to be installed up to 1916"
We have to thank God Almighty for the life of our great mother whose memoirs we are launching today. Before I continue my speech, I would want all of us to rise for a two minute-silence while we pray for the repose of the soul of our late revered father and leader of our people - Papa Obafemi Awolowo of blessed memory. Our mother has laid good examples for the women in this country to follow, and in her excellent ways of doing things she can be described as the mother of the blue whales which are the biggest creatures on earth. It is worthy of note that even at this age mama could still write her memoirs for both this generation and the generation unborn to read.
For several decades, mama has gradually metamorphosed from a simple woman to a housewife, the jewel of inestimable value, and holder of the all-significant title of Yeye-Oba of Ife and now the ultimate: Yeye-Oodua. Our prayer for our very dear mama- Yeye Oodua is to physically live forever if it is possible.
At this juncture, it is just right to allow the entire world to know that the name Oduduwa, the founder of dynasty and from where we derive the present title of Mama can never be corrupted or bastardized by any living being in an attempt to create for himself an unnecessary distortion of historical fact.
Oduduwa the legend, the father of the bigger Yoruba dynasty has no connection whatsoever with Ogiso dynasty in Benin history as portrayed by the Oba of Benin, because Oduduwa descended directly from heaven through a chain to where is now known as Ife today in company of four hundred deities.
Last Thursday 29th April 2004 Omo N’oba the Oba of Benin goofed during the launching of his book titled “I remain, Sir, your obedient servant” in this same building where he described Oduduwa on page 205 as one Ekalederhan, a Benin Prince who had once escaped the community axe-man, later reappeared in weeeks after wandering in the bush from Benin for a very long time.
According to him, the same Ekalederhan, having become the ruler in weeks refused to go back to Benin on request, but instead sent Oranmiyan his son basically on a home-coming mission to start the present dynasty in Benin. It will interest the public to know the facts about the Ife-Benin relationship which are as follows:
1. The Oba of Benin whose dynasty commenced in 1191 AD was an Ife Prince borrowed to the people of Benin on their request after the rule of the Ogiso have ended in Benin history.
2. It was a request that Ife must help to provide them with a ruler, then Oduduwa the legend, decided to send Prince Oranmiyan who established that dynasty and whose first son in Benin from a Benin woman was Owomika (Eweka) the progenitor of all Benin Obas including Omonoba since l191 AD.
3. Since Oranmiyan dynasty started in Benin, all the heads of the Obas of Benin on demise were buried in Ife in a sacred place called Orun-Oba-Ado up to the year 1900.
4. Records in the archives made it clear that since 1191AD, the Ooni of Ife had to be informed, and clearance must be given by him on the new Oba of Benin to be installed up to 1916.
5. The official language in the palace of Oba of Benin till 1934 was Yoruba.
6. The father of the present Oba of Benin was a member of the House of Chiefs in the old Western Nigeria under our late revered father Sir Adesoji Aderemi, my predecessor and the First African governor in the whole African continent.
The Oba of Benin should go and read what his fore fathers told the Portuguese explorers during their visit to Benin on 2nd July 1550AD about the relationship between Ife and Benin. So, it is too late for Omonoba to rewrite our history. The word Oba, which is part of any of Benin oba’s title, shows clearly that they are from the bigger Yoruba dynasty. It is rather too late in the day to rewrite our history, which cannot be backed with any documentary evidence.
I have to thank the Benin first historian Jacob U. Egharevba for his publications, which contained the correct account of the relationship between Ife and Benin which the Oba of Benin is now condemning. At this stage, Mama, you are Mama Oodua. Covering the entire Yoruba nation both here and in diaspora including the Benin Kingdom where Omonoba Erediauwa by the grace of God is the Oba.
Excerpts from the address of Ooni Ife at the launch of H.I.D Awolowo's biography.