July 23, 2023

The heritage of culture is diverse and prosperous in the craft of man’s creativity. The ancient society of history, customs, and traditions has been made and destroyed out of love, tradition, and duty, but above all, love conquers duty because love is a duty, a service to humanity. In the delight of true love for humanity, we discovered Queen Iden (OSEMWEKHA 2021) of the ancient Benin Kingdom.

Out of the noble queens from the ancient kingdom of Benin, Queen Iden remains remarkable in her love and service for the peace and stability of the great kingdom, where barbaric customs were abided as a means to an end instead of a solution, these customs procured challenges under the reign of King Ewuakpe.

The ancient Benin Kingdom is regarded as a land of warrior kings with tales of powerful adventures and expansion that have continued to linger on in Africa and Nigerian History, however, despite how ranked the Benin Kingdom is set upon the reign of her kings, the cordial roles of female warriors in Benin are barely sung unlike Idia known to all but for Iden, her history is rooted deep in Benin’s peace and stability.


For many, Queen Idia ranks as the heroine of Benin but for us, Queen Iden sets the plane of heroism and should be ranked not only for her personality but the patriotic role she played in bringing stability to Benin. Iden, Nokpokhuo an embodiment of pride, virtue, and Charisma, the true African Beauty, lived in the first decade of the eighteen century (c 1700 A.D). emanated from the clan of Oka village, now the present-day Upper Sokponba in Ikpoba Okha local government. Born from a humble background, but rose as one of the dearest wives of Oba Ewauakpe.

Oba Esigie of Benin Kingdom Bronze Sculpture

During the early era of the regal rule, Oba Ewuakpe ruled as the twenty-seventh monarch of the ancient Benin Kingdom, upon becoming Oba, he was saddled with two major disadvantages which made him incapable of handling absolute power to his advantage and that of his subjects, though young but lacked patience which came along with age, safe to say a King without virtue, of what use is it understanding a King who wasn’t next in line but thrust into office by his father Akennezuma (Asien 2001) after the reign of  Oba Ore-Oghene who died without a child (Asien 2001) and as customs demands, Ihogbe decided that Akennuzama his cousin be next Oba, upon being presented, Akennuzama entrusted the crown in his son Ehennegha whom by the Ihogbe to Uzama was crowned Oba of Benin with the titular name Ewuakpe.

The fame of Iden arose after the demise of the Iyoba (Queen Mother) Ewebonoza, Mother to Oba Ewuakpe who passed on at Uselu, it brought sorrow to Ewuakpe who had very deep love and commitment to her. She was his guide against misrule and the misfortune that would have long befallen him. In the Early ancient customs of the Benin Kingdom, it was the practice to sacrifice human lives during funerals for it was believed that the slaves and virgins would escort the deceased home but in the case of Ewuakpe, he went to the extreme with the notorious history of human sacrifice in Benin, who is said to have introduced it through the sacrifice of twelve human beings at the annual propitiation of the Oba’s ancestor, he did not only sacrifice slaves with his mother, he also murdered titled chiefs who came to mourn with him during his mother’s burial. He claimed that they were spotted on white while coming to the palace to mourn his dearly beloved mother.

Furthermore, emissaries were sent to him from Ikoka,

(P.Okao n.d.) his mother’s village to mourn with him and represent Ikoka at the final burial of his mother, Oba Ewuakpe asked his guides to slaughter them because they wore white instead of black, which was the official color for mourning the dead in Benin. However, due to his ignorance of the Law, he feigned unawareness of the Law that prohibited people from entering the palace on black. Ever wondered why chiefs wear white despite mourning the dead? This is due to the customs that have existed right from history.

Before Oba Ewuakpe arrived at Benin, a rebellion took place among the palace chiefs who vowed not to accord respect to the king on the throne, in order words crown existed without a ruler, Iyase led a palace coup to drive all the slaves and servants as well as the guards and wives of the king of which majority of them found it an avenue for freedom and not to be stigmatized with a King of no recognition, while others fled, Queen Iden remained with her words “Once a woman is married to an Oba, she remains in his home until his demise”, this is the same rule every Edo woman bears today that upon marriage to her husband, she remains a chattel or possession of her husband till death, she cannot return to her home. This flared Iyase who had been interested in Queen Iden before marrying the King, Iyase’s weakness and financial instability couldn’t allow him to pay Iden’s bride price until she married the king. Despite the turbulence, Queen Iden remained until the King returned from Uselu to meet the palace empty, and when he asked, Queen Iden narrated the revolt that occurred in the Palace, this saddened the king as he began his reign of insignificance in Benin.

Ongoing, the Oba became a mere man as the people that made him the king had rejected his lordship. They refused him food, clothing, homage, and labor. He suffered from so much humiliation and rejection. He then asked Queen Iden to also join the other women and leave him to die alone in the palace since he can no longer provide for her, she bluntly refused and rejected the offer as she choose to suffer with the oba and continue to love him forever which she refused. History according to Egharevba expressed the king’s loneliness when he climbed the room to fix a leakage but fell instead and was brutally injured (Asien, The Benin City Pilgrimage stations 2001). The loneliness became too much and he decided to visit his mother’s people at Ikoka for assistance, rather than assistance the people of Ikoka expressed backlash at the king and cursed his presence in their midst due to the sacrifice of the chiefs sent to represent Ikoka regarding his mother’s funeral perpetuated by the Oba (Asien, The Benin City Pilgrimage stations 2001).

This sounded more like trouble looming to Oba Ewuakpe as he loses his sword-bearer due to starvation on return back to Benin, he cursed Ikoka, he declared that he declared that when they cut grass, the grass will be growing along with them and when they digging well the well will be covering up with them and when they are mending their roof, the roof will go bad along with them, that no great man will ever come out of Ikoka except for women because of his mother, Ewebonoza, who might come back to life again through Ikoka village. Up till this very day, there is no great man in Ikoka, the women are the wealthy while the men are poor and useless to the society. This is to express the strength of the King’s Office despite being rejected by the people.

A question we should ask ourselves is, “Were the Benin People not served the same breakfast as that of Ikoka”, well yes he served them their cup as well for his rejection On his way back to Benin, after sealing the curse on Ikoka again by throwing off his spiritual staff of authority to the bush making the curse on Ikoka irrevocable. Ewuakpe also laid a curse on Benin that the people shall never in their lives work in absolute unity like the one they had which led to his humiliation

and rejection at Ikoka (Umagbanedo), which was a huge blow to the Benin people leading to poor stability and poor harvest in the land, because of one King these two kingdoms were soiled. Now we might wonder how powerful is the office of the Oba. a shoe Queen Iden was able to fit in upo her role as a savior to deliver her husband.

The power, loyalty, and resilience of a woman should not be over-estimated, an adage states that a “woman can make and destroy a being” that’s how powerful God made the female gender to be Queen Iden’s life depicts the love and loyalty of a woman to her husband and her nation. Though persuaded to move on with her life, she refused to leave the Oba in a miserable state, Iden took the rapper she had and went to the Oba market and sold them for seven cowries. With the money, she traveled to Ugbor village and brought a diviner to the palace, Ewuakpe asked the oracle what he must do to bring to an end this rejection of his rule by his people, the oracle told Ewuakpe to stage a make-believe scenario which would suggest to the observer that the rejection of his rule by the people has been called off and that the people already resumed their loyal and obligatory service to the Oba. But what would make the plan work was the sacrifice of a human being.

WHO WOULD BELL THE CAT? A question I would leave us wondering till we arrive at the stage of unveiling, the instruction given by the oracle was that “the sacrifice should not pass the 12th midnight”, the quest of the couple-in-love proved abortive as no one would dare lay their lives for an unrecognized king, who wants to die? Nobody. It became more depressing and frustrating for the king after preparation for the sacrifice had been availed the only ingredient unavailable for the meal was a human life which Queen Iden offered on a platter of Gold. Guess what happened? Oba Ewuakpe refused her giving her life to save him but according to Queen Iden, this was her destiny and nothing will ever make her happy than to see the monarch come back again to his full glory and splendor. The unity and peace of the kingdom of her husband and father’s land were worth her life.


Her service to the monarchy and her people to bring balance to the order of her land in an undescribed and unimaginable being and only a being immortalized in spirit can take such a bold step and which is why Iden remains remarkable to date in history of Queens in Benin, a King among Queens. On performing the ritual rites, history gave us two accounts, one says she was buried alive while the other says she was slain by the native doctor and buried but

based on the history of sacrifices in Benin, most sacrifices were conducted with the chosen ones buried alive, it was more remarkable than slitting a knife through the throat,  (Asien, The Benin City Pilgrimage stations)she gave her last wishes and also chose the spot to be buried and before was she used for the sacrifice, she made one request from her husband.

The gravity that came with being buried at the market square was understood by Iden who considered it a huge step to take, she gave her wishes requesting of her husband that if the purpose of the sacrifice was indeed attained, and the Edo people came back to accept the lordship of the palace and monarch, then she must be protected, in her grave from all insults of the market place. That anyone who steps on her grave must be put to death. This request was fully carried out until 1897 when Benin was taken over by the British (Eweka).

Iden’s heart of nobility and service to the king and her people is considered heroic to date and not in vain, the next day her grave began producing fruits. While Oba Ewuakpe sat down at the palace mourning the death of his dearly beloved wife, Iden, he regretted why he allowed her to persuade him to offer her as a sacrifice, now he is all by himself. He did not realize that the sacrifice was already working outside the palace. Queen Iden and the Benin Kingdom.

On the note of yielding fruitful seeds of the sacrifice, the Esogban, in his residence at the semi-official site of the Ogbe Eguanran, on looking at the Unuogua, saw the burnt-out torches, the broken calabashes of oil, and the head-pads, abandoned as it seemed, by a multitude of people

(Asien, The Benin City Pilgrimage Station 2001). The articles all constituted the tell-tale evidence that the Benin people had resumed their long-abandoned service to their king. He felt betrayed and left in the lurch. The Esogban quarreling loudly about the perfidy or deceit of the Edo, he went to the storehouse of his wealth, both in men and material, and carted an appreciable portion of it across to the palace. There, he pleaded for the forgiveness and endorsement of the palace. The Oba answered Esogban with a lone voice reassuring him from a half-closed door that the Esogban was not the ‘Oba’s Enemy’. The chief returned home happy knowing that he has reconciled with the Oba and he is no longer in a disadvantaged position with his peers, this marked a significant return of Balance for the throne.

Dear reader, even Iyase saw the need to reconcile with the throne and blamed himself for his over-trusting nature; people were always taking one advantage or the other of him leaving him to carry the can of worms. He too also opened the storehouse of his wealth and went to the palace to declare his allegiance; a little apprehensive about whether his declaration would be accepted by the king or not.

An order of change began in Benin and it was all upon the sacrifice rendered by Queen Iden who to date is visible in the marketplace in Benin, respect and homage are still paid to the immortalized queen for such noble love, her sacrifice restored and rehabilitated the monarchy of Benin, and for the last three hundred years there has not occurred similar circumstances when there took place a complete breakdown in the relationship between the people and the palace, this is due to the constitutional changes made by Oba Ewuakpe towards the end of his life (Asien, The Benin City Pilgrimage Station 2001). The king understood the need to be educated on the significance of power and as the saying “absolute power corrupts absolutism”.

The significance of Iden’s sacrifice did not only restore balance, but it also brought an order of the rule of primogeniture in Benin on the line of succession, the principle of primogeniture which has become the most stabilizing factor of the political institution of Benin though challenged by the case of Idehen v. Idehen was introduced as a result of the sacrifice of a woman. The nobility in Iden’s Love proves the relevance of women in pre-colonial Benin.

Show me a woman of less virtue and I would banter words, all women carry a symbolic virtue

that remains iconic to date and Iden expressed this as well as Queen Idia and many other female warriors that emanated from Benin including the Dahomey warriors, the Agojie, Queen Amina of Zaria and many others among the line of powerful women in history.

IS LOVE BLIND? I might want to leave you to that question but from a personal perspective, Iden’s love wasn’t blind, it saw Benin through the present and the future, love is a powerful virtue every being carries in their heart, it is only dependent on how well it is managed with capable hands, the place of women in the evolution and development of socio-political culture in Pre-colonial Benin cannot be overemphasized and when you look within the gathering of the king and his chiefs, there is always one or two powerful women in their midst, the Queens are not left out of the affairs of political matters, even their title is political and women chief’s as well but are also restricted but not excluded.

In conclusion, Love they say “is the greatest of all” but the love of a woman for her kingdom is supreme, the nobility of Queen Iden’s love is incomparable to the extent of the Love of man, I’ll leave us to this question, can you lay down your life for love and duty?

[1] The Legendary story of Great QueenIden of Benin Kingdom,

[1] E. Asien, The Benin City Pilgrimage Stations, BeninCity: Asien Publishers and University of Benin Printing Press, 2001, p.66

[1] E. Asien, The Benin City Pilgrimage Stations, BeninCity: Asien Publishers and University of Benin Printing Press, 2001, p.66

[1] P. Okao, Ikoka Produced by Polens movie Nigerialimited

[1] J.U Egharevba, A Short History of Benin, p.37

[1] J.U Egharevba, A Short History of Benin, p.37

vi J.UEgharevba, A Short History of Benin, p.37

[1] E.B. Eweka, Evolution of Benin Chieftaincy Titles,Benin City: 1992 Uniben Press pp.27-40

[1] E.Asien, The Benin City Pilgimage Stations, p.71

[1] E.Asien, The Benin City Pilgimage Stations, p.71

[1] E.Asien, The Benin City Pilgimage Stations, p.71



Asien, E. 2001. In The Benin City Pilgrimagestations, 71. Benin City.

Asien, E. 2001. "The Benin City PilgrimageStation." 66. Benin City: Asien Publishers & University of BeninPrinting press.

Eweka. 1992. "Evolution of Benin chieftaincy title,Benin City." 27-40. Benin City: Uniben press.

OSEMWEKHA, rig General Patrick Eghosa Onaghise and EKAIWEIGINUA. 2021. OperaNews. Accessed May 28, 2023.

P.Okao, Ikoka. n.d. Ikoka,.Directed by P.Okao. polens movie Nigeria Limited.

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