Christianity made our girls stop dancing naked –Momodu II, Ojirua of Irrua
Ojirua of Irrua in Edo State, Williams Okuagban Momodu II, is a 90-year-old who has spent almost 50 years on the throne. The first-class monarch tells Sola Shittu how Christianity has changed some ...
Williams Okuagban MomoduOjirua of Irrua in Edo State, Williams Okuagban Momodu II, is a 90-year-old who has spent almost 50 years on the throne. The first-class monarch tellsSola Shittuhow Christianity has changed some traditions in his domainYou ascended the throne about 50 years ago…
I ascended the throne in June 1971 when I lost my father. I am preparing for my 50th coronation anniversary in June 2021, by the grace of God. Since I ascended the throne, things have been moving on very well in my domain and there is no problem. Peace reigns and people are trooping into Irrua everytime. If you have known Irrua from 1971 till now, you would know it had never been like this and I thank God for that. I have been able to bring several things to Irrua; we have Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, some private institutions, universities, and a polytechnic, and very soon, we will open another university, Technical University, here. So, I am happy.
And what would you describe as the most memorable moments of your coronation day?On my coronation day, I was afraid because I wasn’t sure I would occupy this position till this day. It was a new institution to me and I never expected my father to pass on at that time because I was then a young nurse at the General Hospital, Benin City. Later, I left for another place. It was a very difficult time and our stipend was not like this. At that time, we didn’t call it salary but stipend so we had no choice but to manage the money.
I thank my Irrua people don’t allow me to feel any pressure. I don’t ask but they come and say ‘Kabiyesi’ (king), take. God has blessed me with many well-to-do sons and daughters of this land who are at home and abroad.Do you have any significant tradition in the community that you cherish?
Yes, we have a lot of them. We have a festival for all our native doctors; it used to be a very big festival during which our virgin girls would parade naked but the church has changed everything. If you were here during that period, you would see naked girls with beads on their waists parading in front of people.
Yes, that was the tradition. They danced to my palace here and introduced the festival to me but now Christianity has taken over and most of the traditions are no longer there. Very soon, the Ebilegun will start their own festival and they dance naked. We have a lot of tradition here which modernisation and Christianity have taken away and you can’t force things on people. Everybody does what they like now because of the freedom of religion and we thank God for that.
At what age did you ascend the throne of your forefathers?I can’t really remember now but I celebrated my 90th birthday last month. I was born in 1930.READ ALSO:Court asked to suspend sovereign wealth MD, order forensic audit of accountsBut you look younger than your age, what’s the secret?
That’s why I told you I’m happy I have good people in my domain. They really care for me, to be frank. I have no problem at all. In Irrua, we have people who are well-to-do; some are abroad and many are in the country but outside Irrua. They are generous to me and I’m grateful to them.
What is the history of Irrua?We have a very short history. It started during the time Omo N’Oba lost his first son and as a result of that, he made a rule that nobody should cook and that there should be no smoke. If he saw smoke, he would know people were cooking. He also made a rule that no man should sleep with his wife; he made so many rules that people couldn’t bear.
Ewuare I was the one that made the draconian rules then; the present Oba of Benin is Ewuare II. The first man who came here had just got married to the Omo N’Oba’s daughter then and she was pregnant so they decided to leave where they were. Three of them: Irrua, Uromi and Ubiaja came to this place. The three left at the same time. When our fathers moved to this area, they were tired and decided to rest under a palm tree. It was while they were resting that a palm fruit fell on him (Omo N’Oba’s son-in-law) and he picked it up and tasted it. He discovered it was nourishing. So he told his wife that they should not leave this place because it would be a good land. He gave the fruit to the wife to taste and she also confirmed it.
Meanwhile, the Oba had sent messengers to pursue them and bring back his daughter. When the messengers got to the, the Oba’s daughter said: ‘Tell my father that we are not coming again. Iruwamene.” The messengers were surprised and they said it was her father that said she should come back and she again said, ‘Iruwamene; tell my father I am no more coming, I am already at home.’ So the other two said, ‘Well, we can’t stay with you here.’ Ubiaja moved on and Uromi followed. So that was the origin of the name – Iruwamene. When the English came, they couldn’t pronounce the name so they shortened it to Irrua; that was how we got the name but the original name was Iruwamene. So we are very close to Benin because the first queen was Omo N’Oba’s daughter.
As an agrarian community, what is your major crop here?We are mainly farmers; we produce yam and other farm produce. We are already in the farming season, you can hardly see anybody at home now because they are already on their farms. We are great farmers, we produce our foods, so we are not lazy people. I am also a farmer; I came out of the farm to attend to you, even at my age. Although old age has come, I have people working for me on the farm. I have a small farm at the back of my house and I have already planted my seeds for the season.
You mean you still go to farm at this age…(Laughs) We are great farmers, we produce yam, cassava, beans, rice and others. Farming is part of our lives. That’s why you could not find anyone around because we were all on our farms already.Do you have harvest festival?
Oh yes, we do. It is usually in the month of November. People bring their yams here for the festival and the whole place is full of yams. We drink and merry from morning till evening to celebrate it. It is our own way of showing gratitude to God for given us good harvest, so harvest festival is in fact one of our key festivals here.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE:FG confused over management of Chinese COVID-19 medical team –Okechukwu, Reps’ Dep minority leaderI noticed three marks on your face like the tribal marks some Yoruba people have, do you have any link with them?This facial marking started from my grandfather Momodu I. I am Momodu II and the 16th traditional ruler of Irrua. He was a man who travelled a lot. He returned from one of his journeys and said he would like to have the three marks. He used himself as an example by having the marks on his face first. Whenever I travel to Yorubaland, they respect me greatly because of the marks. I studied in Ibadan at Oyo State College of Nursing and Midwifery, Eleyele, and each time they spoke Yoruba to me and I said I didn’t understand, they were surprised. I told them that I was a prince from Irrua. It is a great mark of respect in Yorubaland and that’s why I love Yoruba people till now.
So I think my grandfather must have come in contact with the marks in Yorubaland and fallen in love with it. I wanted to marry a Yoruba woman then but I couldn’t get enough money. So the marks are still given in the family. I gave my first son the marks and it has been very helpful to us. I have 36 children from five wives. I lost my first wife three months ago.
What were you doing before you ascended the throne?I was a nurse at the General Hospital, Benin. I became a nurse after I graduated from the school of nursing at Eleyele in Ibadan. That was the period when Mid-Western State was created. So immediately I finished my programme, they said it would be better for me to go to my state. I later discovered that nursing profession was dominated by women. There was a time I was given a query. They said I was very proud. They said I was a very hard-working man but that I wasn’t obeying my seniors. I said, ‘Go to hell, I am a prince and you are a woman.’
So I resigned in annoyance and took another job at a company that was into oil palm production. It was from there I got to the throne. At the company, I was on daily pay of seven shillings and six pence. It was a lot of money at the time.I live happily like a big man (laughs). Any day you were absent from work, you would not be given money. I was employed as a casual worker; they said they wanted to test me first because I was still very proud as a prince and didn’t tolerate rubbish. In those days, a prince didn’t work; people paid them.
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Dunno if pops is angry or not Kai what a miss Glory to God I see wetin the hungry no dey for market.. Lol Thought they claimed dancing naked started with this generation? Let's gain followers 😇. Like ❤️ + rts They have upgrade to social media ooooo I witnessed that festival during my stay in irrua.... I knew It will fade away with time because it got to a time grown up girls will not coming out any more just kids.. will love to visit that town one more time
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