IGBINEDION AS TRADITIONAL CHIEF AND FAMILY MAN

THE ESAMA OF BENIN 

A royal father explained his offer of a traditional title to Chief Igbinedion on the grounds of "long existing friendship based on common appreciation of traditional values", while another made his offer in recognition of the "Esama's philanthropy and contributions to the socio-ecomonic and cultural development of the country". And yet another Traditional Ruler, The Alafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III said, "The Esama, by his display of philanthropy and goodwill to mankind, whether in his birthplace, in the Eastern, Western or Northern part of the country or across the seas, has today, graduated to the status of Esama of the world". For all these and many other reasons the Esama of Benin found himself being offered traditional titles from the major traditional centres of the country. There are still some he had to put on hold while some others he could not resist and these include The Ngwang Tarok of Langtang; offered by His Royal Highness, the Ponzhi Tarok of Langtang; and the Otun Parakoyi of Ibadan by His Royal Highness, the Olubadan of Ibadan. Amongst the traditional chieftaincy titles bestowed on the Esama of Benin was the Mayegun Ode Ondo one of the highest and most esteemed traditional titles in Ondoland by His Royal Highness Oba Itiade Adekolurejo Jisomosun III, the Osemawe of Ondoland. It is interesting to note that the title "Mayegun Ode Ondo" meaning the "harbinger of peace" appears to coincide with the Esama's first name - "Gabriel" which means the emissary of good news, peace and goodwill to all men. Perhaps the Osemawe of Ondo in deciding on the title for Chief Igbinedion was prevailed upon by the ancestors because from all indications the choice was well thought of. The Esama himself is also a Justice of Peace. Chief Igbinedion also secured the title of the Balogun Tayese of Oshogbo Kingdom from His Royal Highness the Ataoja of Oshogbo.
The life of Chief Igbinedion as a traditional chief like the life of any prominent figure with diverse interests, has been characterised by controversy. An interview conducted amongst a number of chiefs in the Uzama, Eghaevbo N'Ore and Eghaevbo N'Ogbe groups revealed a relatively consistent trend. Some believe that in his relationship with the Benin Palace and his fellow Benin chiefs, Chief Igbinedion was too withdrawn, reserved and even aloof. 
Some others amongst the same group of chiefs share a different opinion. They believe that Chief Igbinedion is to all intents and purposes a full­fledged man of tradition and that he is a principal flag bearer of the Benin tradition.
What was consistent amongst all in their assessment is that the Esama has been doing and is still doing a lot to raise the image of Benin culturally and otherwise, both within and outside the Kingdom while at the same time bestriding the business world. They all admire Chief Igbinedion's philanthropic gestures and the several other steps he has taken to popularise the Kingdom and its people. They are particularly impressed by the rate of growth of his business empire and the rapid development of his own personality worldwide both of which have brought Benin City and the Kingdom of Benin again permanently on the map of the world.
Perhaps the most succinct display of goodwill on the part of Benin chiefs towards the Esama is best shown in the letter of felicitation from the late lyase of Benin on the occasion of the Esama's 57th birthday on 11th September 1991, here reproduced under:

"My dear Esama,

Once again, it is your birthday - the 57th - your friends are celebrating.

I congratulate you on your birthday. My prayer for you is that you may have many more years of usefulness to serve your God and the country. May you continue to help humanity as you have always done. May your chieftaincy bring more glory and honour to Edo chiefs, particularly the Bini chiefs - the Uzamas, Eghaevbo N'Ore and Eghaevbo N'Ogbe on whose behalf I greet you today. We are all proud of your philanthropic gestures and for raising the name of Benin.

We pray that Edo may boast of many wealthy citizens like you and may you not succumb to the flattery of the mob.

Signed:

Chief S.O. Ighodaro The lyase of Benin
OFR, QC; M.A., RCL (Dunelm), B.A., LL.B, (London), LL.D (Bensu)."