The last one N’Oba will be more relevant to the explanation below.
The name, title or word is not an original Yoruba word. After a series of events that led to the death of Ogiso Owodo, the departure of Ekaladerhan(heir apparent) and the emergence of Evian as the temporary head or Ogie of Igodomigodo , the kingdom was going through tough time ranging from the struggle for power amongst different groups . The Kingdom was plagued with famine, sickness and diseases. There was exodus of people from Igodo. The people attributed these to the anger of the gods as regard the injustice done to Ekaladerhan and the activities going on then. This made Oliha to lead a party to bring back Ekaladerhan who was rumoured to be alive in Uhe(Ife). Oliha and is party technically succeeded by bringing back Oranmiyan who was one of the Sons of Ekaladerhan (Oduduwa) to Igodomigodo.
Omonoyan (Oranmiyan) met strong resistance from Ogiamien and his supporters. He relocated back to the land he was used to since he wasn’t able to cope with the ongoing turmoil in his fatherland and left behind a child he had with the daughter of Enogie of Ogida, Eweka.
After Eweka became of age to assume the throne of his forefathers, he was still being challenged by Ogiamien and his supporters. Many wars were fought between them to enforce their authority as the sole head of the Igodomigodo Kingdom. After several years of warfare, Ogiemien finally conceded the head of the Kingdom to Eweka.
Note that during the reign of Ogiamien as the head of the Kingdom, The name Oba was already being used to refer to Eweka by his supporters as ‘omo no do baa n’Igodo’ or ‘Omo n’obaa n’Igodo’ meaning ‘the child that came to shine for Igodomigo ‘ or ‘the child that shines for Igodomigodo’. Then he has not yet adopted the name Eweka as his Kingship name. Some simply referred to him as ‘Omo’ in a short form. So, after the truce reached between him and Ogiemien , the people still referred to him as the child that have come to shine for the Kingdom and brought peace and prosperity to the Land and felt he should adopt the name as his title. The name was finally adopted as his Title for the King of Igodomigodo considering the events that led to his emergence. (omo n’obaa n’Igodomigodo in Edo language and the short form, Oba).
In view of the above, it is logical to say the word Oba was first used to describe the new king to be by those around him and the people of Igodomigodo. This was later adopted and used to refer to the King of Igodomigodo. The name was later changed from ‘omo n’oba n’Igodomigodo’ to ‘omo n’oba n’Edo’ after Oba Ewuare changed the name of the Kingdom (empire) to Edo.
Finally, I hereby conclude that the true meaning of the word Oba is in the literary meaning and the full pronunciation of the sentence ‘Omo n’oba n’Edo’.
• Ukpon Noba (Red Cloth) was adopted to emphasize the significance of the new title of the monarchy.
• Also note that during the Ogiso dynasty, there was an Ogiso named Ogiso Obagodo. Obagodo literarily means ‘he’s shining very bright’. This is to buttress the points raised above as regard the true origin of the word Oba.
• I have come to understand that Edo/Benin history can best be explained in the names given to places, persons and traditional titles and idiomatic expressions which still exist up till date.
Benin ‘Obaship’ as a devine essence.
In Benin Kingdom, South South Nigeria, its highly revered monarch, referred to, as Oba, stands alone in the hierarchy of mortals. Within the Benin cosmos, he has no equal. As the royal head of the Benin Kingdom, the Oba has in pl…ace what historians describe as “a sophisticated administrative system with a substantial spiritual component” because the departed Obas and God are consulted as a matter of routine in the running of the kingdom. The monarch’s palace located in Ogbe Quarters in the heart of Benin metropolis is hailed as an architectural masterpiece. It showcases the indigenous civil engineering skills of the Benin people, just as it is said to reveal the creative uses to which the magnetic Ulakpa red soil, regarded as unique to the people of Benin, can be put to.
To people of Benin origin, it is said that the Oba is not only God’s chief representative on earth; all his subjects consider him as ‘god’. “It is for this reason the Binis say: Oba o re Osanubua nagbon, meaning “The Oba is a god man or the god on the human world”).
According to High Priest Osemwegie Ebohon, Benin oral tradition says that the Oba has a divine essence and so is the godhead of his people. “Invariably, he leads the worship of all deities in the land whether or not he is physically present”, he added. In practical terms, this means that all traditional prayers in the kingdom said with kola nut begin with the Oba and end with “Long may the Oba reign”. Secondly, when several persons are gathered, the Benin man in the group is spiritually senior to everyone present because he is considered by Bini culture as godhead representative of the Oba. Therefore, the responsibility of offering prayers for the group automatically falls on him.”
In ancient times, the Oba was not just the spiritual leader of the Benin Kingdom. He also had civil, social and political authority over the people. He was the undisputed head of state and government of Benin Kingdom and commander-in-chief of the Benin Army. “Today,” in the words of Ebohon, “even though the ancient glories of the Benin Kingdom are no more, the Oba still commands tremendous love, awe, reverence, authority, power and influence in Edoland. His words are still law in the kingdom and some ancient practices have been carried over to modern times.
“One of these practices is the salutation of the Binis. The general salutation is woven around the person of the Oba. For instance, the salutation follows this format: Ob’Owie, a combination of the words, Oba and Owie, literally means “King of the morning” while its ordinary meaning is “Good Morning”. Ob’Avan, whose literal meaning is “King of the Afternoon” and ordinary meaning is “Good Afternoon”, is derived from the words, Oba and Avan. Ob’ Ota, literally meaning “King of the Evening” and “Good Evening” in its ordinary meaning, is coined from the words, Oba and Ota.
However, it is not totally wrong to say that some customs and traditions of Bini have been abused as they relate to the Oba of Benin and the Benin heritage. The Isekhure (Chief Priest) of Benin Kingdom, Chief Nosakhare Isekhure, speaking a few weeks ago for the Ihogbe of Benin Royal Family, who is custodians of Erhinmwindu Shrine, from which all authorities emerge, said there are three broad social gradings in Benin Kingdom, which still subsist today.
Chief Isekhure named them as the Benin Royal Family constituting the first family in Benin; the Nobles Family, comprising the Uzama Nihiron, the Ivbie Aronto, (Efa) and Enigie of non-royal descent and the commoners or other subjects of the Oba, excluding the women folk. “In this breakdown, the Oba stands alone as the spiritual head of Erhinmwindu Deity, which is the ultimate shrine from which all other shrines derive their authorities. It is a historical fact that the Iyase title, created by Oba Ewedo, was elevated as head and leader of the commoners (Okao Ovienoba). That placed him as first among the commoners on behalf of whom he can undertake advocacy and make representations to the Oba-in-Council. He is the head of Eghaevbonore chiefs.