Ogiso Period In Ancient Benin Kingdom


Little of this period is known. The Ogiso rulers feature prominently in Benin folktales and fables where some of them are often dealing with personified animals such as tortoise. Mainly for the reason the Ogiso has been designated semi-mythical rulers, though some scholers think otherwise. Rather, the supernatural feats attributed to the Ogiso rulers merely reflects their divine attributes and stress the aura surrounding the ogiso ruler.

Many of the names of the Ogisos, some being women, are remembered in Benin tradition. Egharevba listed fifteen Ogiso and he also agreed that they are up to thirty as generally believed. Their capital was initially at Ugbekun where the site of what is regarded as the first palace exists.

Benin tradition says that the Odionwere system from which the Ogiso kingship system emanated existed in Benin communities before the actual foundation of the kingdom itself. It is reasonable to assume therefore that once an Odionwere took over political leadership, worshipped the gods on behalf of the people and assumed responsibility for the general well being of the people he could, if he had a forceful personality, gradually extent his influence over adjacent Odionwere and their communities. His easy acceptance by other community would depend on his ability to surround himself with supernatural attributes and also to plead divine mission as an explanation for his leadership.

It is thus comprehensive to agree that the Ogiso emanated from the Odionwere system, which existed before the establishmentof Benin kingdom. Benin traditions refer to Igodo as the first Ogiso ruler. It also refers to Obagodo who was the prominent Odionwere in one of the Benin communities. Inspired by his forceful personality, Obagodo claimed to have a divine mission from the gods to rule over the over-increasing communities around Benin. Under Igodo, this community was collectively know as Igodomigodo, meaning “town of towns” or large city of Igodo. This marks the beginning of the Benin kingdom and it’s monarchical system under Igodo and his successors.

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