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History of Edo State

Encyclopedia » History

Image: Map of Nigeria showing the position of Edo State



The Mid-Western Region was a division of Nigeria from 1963 to 1991, from 1976 being known as the Bendel state. It was formed in June 1963 from Benin and Delta provinces of the Western Region, and its capital was Benin City. It was renamed a province in 1966, and in 1967 when the other provinces were split up into several states, it remained territorially intact, becoming a state.

During the Nigerian Civil War, the Biafran forces invaded the new Mid-Western state, en route to Lagos, in an attempt to force a quick end to the war. While under Biafran occupation, the state was declared as the "Republic of Benin" as Nigerian forces were to retake the region. The republic collapsed a day after the declaration as Nigerian troops overtook Benin City. In 1976 it lost Ughelli to the new Rivers state and was renamed Bendel. Edo State was formed on August 27, 1991 when Bendel State was split into Edo and Delta States.



With Benin City as capital, the population of the entire state is approximately 4million. It is made up of three major ethnic groups; namely the Binis, Esan and Afemai. However the State has a high presence of residents from across the country and the world because of its cosmopolitan tendencies. Benin City the capital has a history of being one of the foremost destinations of Europeans during their exploration of Africa continent many centuries ago. Some of the flash points have remained enviable tourists’ attraction for the state.

The main ethnic groups in Edo State are: Edos, Afemais, Esans, Owans and Akoko Edos. Virtually all the groups traced their origin to Benin City hence the dialects of the groups vary with their distance from Benin City. The Bini speaking people who occupy seven out of the 18 Local Government Areas of the state constitute 57.54% while others Esan (17.14%) Afemai compirising of Etsako (12.19%), Owan (7.43%), and Akoko Edo (5.70%). However, the Igbira speaking communities exist in Akoko Edo as well as Urhobos, Izons, Itsekiris communities in Ovia North East and South West Local Government Areas especially in the borderlands. Also, Ika speaking communities exist in Igbanke in Orhionmwon LGA.

A lot of communities and indeed the ruling dynasties in all the clans trace their roots to the ancient kingdom of Benin. Cultural similarities are in the areas of religious worships, folk-lore, dances, festivals, traditional modes of dressing, arts and craft. The political pattern and behaviour are based on a situation where both the monarchial and republican ideas flourished in an integrated manner. The colourful traditional festivals in the state manifest its rich cultural heritage. Critical among these are the Igue and Ekaba festivals done among the Binis and Manhood initaition (age groups) by the Etsako people. With an estimated population of 3,218, 332 made up of 1,640,461 males and 1, 577, 871 females and a growth rate of 2.7% per annum (NPC, 2006), as well as a total landmass of 19,187 square kilometers, the state has a population density of about 168 persons per square kilometers.

people of Edo State.OBA OVONRNRANMWEN - Guarded before exile.
Onogie of EwohimiOBA OVONRNRANMWEN - Guarded before exile.




The ancient Bini Kingdom dates back to 900 AD. Historical evidence lends credence to the fact that the Oba of Benin used to send his sons to different parts of the then Bini Kingdom as vassals to establish and consolidate his imperial authority in these areas. This explains the cultural similarities of these people with the core Bini ethnic stock.

In the music sector, Edo State is blessed with a large coterie of nationally and internationally renowned performers. Sir Victor Uwaifo leads his pack, a multi media artist who was trained at Yaba College of Technology and the University of Benin. He has performed in major cities in the world. In 1995, Sir Uwaifo was invited for a performance at the United Nations Golden Jubilee celebrations.

Others in this category include Sunny Okosun, Peter King, Felix Duke, Osayomore Joseph and many others who have flown the flag of Edo State creditably. Itinerant traditional performers who are mainly hired for burial, naming ceremonies, age-grade festivals and others abound in Edo State. Chief Omobuare, who died in February 2002 at the age of 92 years, was a leading exponent of the traditional Esan music genre called Asologun. His virtuosity on the wooden piano and his philosophical ditties won him fame in Esan land and beyond.
Collins Elaiho, Segun Alile, the late General Bolivia Osigbemhe, Vincent Ugabi, Sir Waziri Oshomah, Aibor Bello, Omo Smart Idonijie, Constantinopolous Osigemhe, Benji Igbadumhe, Patrick Idahosa, Omoadoni, Adesua, Queen Orete and scores of others have modernized the rich folklore songs of their people into universally-accepted music forms.

The late Chief Isaac Ayeni and Anco Momodu (Anco Limited) are exponents who are largely regarded as the doyens of the traditional music genre in Edo State.
In Edo State, there is no dance or song that has no satirical connotation or bearing. The songs or dances that have evolved in many communities in the state have socio-cultural backgrounds. The same pattern of call and response mode of singing and the deft chorographical dance steps obtain in all the areas of Edo State.
Most traditional songs are accompanied by heavy beats which the dancers step in tune with. Praise-singing is commonplace among musicians in the state.

The involvement of the youths in the performance of these songs and dances ensures continuity in the traditional heritage of the people from one generation to the other.

Edo State has a very rich tradition of festivals and masquerades through which the people either appease the various gods and goddesses initiate men and women into age-grades or as a traditional get-together.

The Igue festival takes pre-eminence among festivals celebrated in Edo State. It is celebrated every December each year by the Oba of Benin to usher in the New Year and as a thanksgiving for the outgoing one. The Igue festival attracts tourists from across Nigeria and abroad. Most of the festivals have a yearly cycle and are open to general viewing and sometimes, participation. Some others like the Obazu festival held among the Aomas of luleha in Owan West Local Government Area is strictly restricted to the men folk.

Other important festivals celebrated in Edo State are Ekaba, Ukpe, Irua, Agiele, Adu-Ikukwua, Ebomisi, Eho, Ipihionua, Ugbele, Itakpo, Ofarhe, Emomorhe, Iko, Uzo, Ugozo/Ihiasa, Uba, Egbere, Owere, Ukpako, Oriminyam, Ohonmoimen, Itikiri, Ivhamen/Ororuen, Amekpe, Oto-Uromi, Ighele and Okpuge-Oro.
The masquerades in Edo State are generally believed to be earthly representatives of some celestial gods, goddesses or ancestors. Masquerades like the Igbabonelimi of Esanland are very popular social entertainers whose secrets and workings are only known to initiates who are sworn to utmost secrecy.
Many masquerades are linked to traditional festivals, while others are only social and have no ritualistic backgrounds.

The traditional cuisine in Edo State is fairly representative of what obtains in most southern states in Nigeria. Pounded yam or eba are eaten with vegetable, melon or okra soups cooked with either bush meat (Antelope, Pig and Grasscutter etc), beef or fish. Yam and rice, which are grown in the state is also eaten with other varieties of soup and meat or fish throughout the state. Garri, which comes in white or yellow variants can be eaten or soaked in water and accompanied with beans, meat, fish, groundnuts etc.
Rice and beans are popular across the state. The people of Edo State also prepare yam or cocoyam porridge in homes and restaurants.
Non-indigenous foods like amala, starch, pepper soup, fufu and banga soup, have lately crept into the local cuisine. This is due to the constant social interaction of the people with large migrant community from other parts of Nigeria.

Arts and Craft

From the earliest times of civilization, specialized professional guilds or societies were set up to promote the highest ideals in the various arts. These guilds were accorded royal patronage. To this day, some of these guilds, like those of wood carvers and bronze casters, are still operating at Igbesanmwan and Igun streets in Benin City.

Art, as a form of communication, has been greatly explored, especially for recording memorable events in the life of the various communities. Effigies of Obas, heroes and heroines were molded for posterity. Different media such as bronze, brass, mud (terracotta), ebony wood and ivory feature in these works of art. In the 13th century, Igueha introduced brass casting into Benin City. The indigenous artists in Benin have since evolved a peculiar house style in brass casting and created the largest brass industry in the African continent.

The Benin bronze works are the most favored and renowned art works of Edo State. Many of these artworks were looted by the British forces during the invasion of Benin Kingdom in 1897.
In recent years, the Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba Erediauwa has spear-headed renewed efforts to repatriate these valuable art pieces from Europe. The Idia ivory mask, which was the official symbol of the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC), is still lying captive in a British museum.

Edo State has produced some of the best crop of outstanding contemporary artists in Nigeria. Some of these renowned artists are Sir Victor Uwaifo (who is a multi media artist), Festus Idehen, Dr. Colette Omogbai-Onyeka, Tayo Aiyegbusi, Osagie Erese, Klem Emoda, Roseline Thomas-Osakwue, Cliff Oguigo, High Priest Osemwingie Ebohon, late Felix Idubor and late Professor Solomon Irein-Wangboje, who in their life times and even now, stand proud as some of the world’s best.

Formal art education is taught at the school of Art and Design, Auchi Polytechnic, Auchi and the Department of Fine and Applied Arts of the University of Benin.

Art galleries are mainly located in the state capital, Benin City, especially on the Airport and Mission Roads axis. The bigger and popular ones like Idubor Art Gallery on Sakponba Road, Victor Uwaifo Gallery along Ekenwan Road, Wangboje Creative Arts Centre on Owoseni Street and Ebohon Cultural Centre off Dumez Road all in Benin City attract tourists and art buffs all year round. Other arts and craft shops are found in the major towns of Edo State.

In the literary arts, the banner of Edo State has continued to be hoisted on the national and international fora. Dr. Festus Iyayi won the Commonwealth Prose Prize in 1989, while Funsho Aiyegina won the Poetry Prize of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) with his poetry collection “A Letter to Lydia and other Poems”.

Frank Aig-Imoukhuede, a former Federal Director of Culture, is the pathfinder in the virgin area of Pidgin English poetry. Odia Ofeimun, a past President of ANA, Harry Garuba, Mabel Segun and Helen Ovbiagele are authors of note in the poetry and prose genres.

In the performing arts, drama groups are mostly located in Benin City with the Edo Cultural Group, Uyi Edo Theatre Group, Earth Pot Cultural Group, Ova Theatre Group, Inneh Troupe, and Ebohon Cultural Troupe featuring prominently.

The State Arts Council has performing troupes that have represented the state at many national and international events. The Oba Akenzua II Cultural Centre, Benin City is the hub of cultural activities in the state, a fine architectural masterpiece with beautiful murals of Edo traditional motifs. The Centre is complemented by Urhokpota Hall which is close by on Ring Road. These two theatres have hosted performances, symposia and exhibitions.

Pottery, basket making, cane furniture, cloth-weaving, mat-making and gold-smiting trades thrive in Edo State with quality and standards comparing favorably with others anywhere in the world.

A craft shop, with wares such as carving, hand-woven clothes, ebony rings, bowls, ash-trays, flower pots and bronze objects, were opened by the state government in July 1968 in Benin City.

The art of basket-making is popular among the Esan ethnic stock. The ready availability of palm fronds has engendered the prevalence of practitioners in this trade in the five local government areas that are Esan-speaking. Their products, which are veritable works of art, include shopping baskets, waste paper baskets and farmer’s wicker baskets.

The Uneme-Nekhua and the South Uneme people in Akoko-Edo and Etsako West Local Government Areas are renowned for their dexterity and skills in traditional black smithing and ceremonial swords. Gold and silver smiths are found in all the major towns in the state. They specialize in the fabrication of ornamental adornments like trinkets, bracelets, bangles, chains and earrings favored by fashion-conscious men and women.
Somorika, Auchi, Igarra and Ubiaja take pre-eminence as major areas of traditional cloth-weaving. The colorful, artistic motifs of the Igarra people have won national and international acclaim.

Molded statues, statuettes and figurines of Olokun the goddess of the sea, is a major feature of the traditional worship in the core Bini council areas of Oredo, Orhionmwon, Uhunmwode, Egor, Ikpoba Okha, Ovia North East and Ovia South west.

Pottery making is largely done by the womenfolk who specialize in the production of the earthenware like cooking pots, bowls, mugs, water pots, pipes etc.

Ojah in Akoko-Edo Local Government Area is known nationally for its fine pottery. Other trailblazers in the art of traditional pottery are the people of Udo in Esan South East Local Government Area, Uhonmora in Owan West Local Government Area, Okpekpe and Imiegba in Etsako East Local Government Area.



Edo State has a lot of interesting places for any visitor to go. These places are simply breath taking.

Some of these are:

Ogba Zoological Garden:
The zoological gardens was established in 1915 and it was the first to have a legal statute backing in Nigeria.The garden is located in a forest reserve area near Ogba village about six kilometers from Benin City and covers a land area of about 20 hectares, which exhibits trees for their scientific and educational interestand value.Ogba zoological gardens has an appreciable stock of local and foreign species of wildlife .Over the years the gardens has served as a functional recreational park with very strong educational impact

Okomu National Park
Benin Moat:
The Benin moat, also known traditionally as Iya,is the largest man-made earthworks in the world. One of the wonders of the world. It predates the use of modern earth-moving equipment or technology in these parts. The moat encircles the old perimeter precinct of the City constructed, as a defensive barrier in times of war during the reign of {5th} Oba Oguola in the 13th century .An extension of the moat was constructed in the15th century during the reign of {12th} Oba Ewuare the great .The Benin moat is over 3200 kilometers long.

The Oba's Palace:
No visit to Edo State is complete without a visit to this edifice which itself is a personification of the proud and rich cultural heritage of Benin kingdom.

Revelation Tourist Centre:
Researchers, historical events, excursions and entertainment. Its a reflection of the creativity for whichProfessor Victor Uwaifo is known. The tourist centre is open daily from 10am to 5pm daily. Highlights at thecentre include- the hall of fame, slave market, public execution of criminals, ritual voodoo corner, ancestral shrine, british punitive war battle field, e.t.c

This is located in Akoko Edo Local Government Area. Somorika hills consist of an extended expanse of hills crowned by massive boulders perched precariously on the summits of hills and alongside seemingly inadequate locations on the sides. Somorika is about five kilometres north east of lgarra and 165 kilometres from Benin city. The hills are a part of the rolling landscape of the Kukuruku range. The beauty of the scenery is the huge, hanging rocks that rest on one another

Ososo Hills:
This centre is located atop the rocky area of Ososo in Akoko-Edo local government,north of Edo state. It presents a beautiful scenery for nature lovers and rock climbers. The tourist centre is an offshoot of a colonial rest house built in the 1930s.The first phase of a massive renovation programmed was commissioned in 1993 with a VIP lodge, four chalets and a main lounge consisting of a kitchen, restaurant and bar.

Emotan Statue:
The statue of the stately woman, clad in the traditional wrapper and a headgear associated with the Benin royalty stands opposite the Oba market in Benin City. The statue was erected in honor of Emotan a patriotic woman who traded in foodstuffs at the very spot where the statue stands in the 15th century. At that period, {11th} Oba Uwaifiokun {1430AD-1440AD} usurped the throne of the Benin kingdom in place of his senior brother, Prince Ogun who was the heir apparent. Ogun in those times of travail, paid secret and nocturnal visits to Benin from his exile. On many occasions, this market woman called Emotan warmed Ogun of impending dangers and advised him against interacting with some treacherous chiefs who may reveal his presence. On one occasion Emotan actually hid prince ogun from his adversary. When Prince Ogun eventually regained the throne and was subsequently crowned as the real Oba of Benin, he took the name {12th} Oba Ewuare the great {1440AD-1473AD}. He did not forget the pivotal role played by this simple market woman, Emotan who saved him from glaring dangers during his exile years. When Emotan died, Oba Ewuare ordered that the sacred Uruhe tree be planted at the very spot where Emotan used to display her goods in Oba market and decreed that thereafter, every person in Benin who is performing any ceremony of whatever must pay homepage to Emotan. Thus to this day every citizen, including the Oba himself pays homage to Emotan.

During the reign of {33rd} Oba Osemwende {1816AD-1848AD} the commemorative tree fell and he replanted another Uruhe tree on the same spot. In 1951, the British colonial administration officials injected the tree with poisonous chemicals and uprooted it. This action almost led to a violent mass reaction. After which the {37th} Oba Akenzua II {1933AD-1978AD} vehemently protested the destruction of the Emotan shrine. This had been there since the 15th century. Consequently, the colonialists acceded to the request for a replacement. A life-size statue was cast by Mr. J.A.Danfor in London from a clay Marquette modeled by Enomayo, professional brass caster from the Igun-Eronmwon.
The new Emotan statue was unveiled amidst pomp and pageantry by the Oba Benin, Akenzua ll on March 20, 1954.

The National Museum, Benin City:
The National Museum, Benin City contains artworks,artifacts and relics of the rich cultural history of the Bini people. Tourists can take a visual excursion through the varied collections and relish and re-live the artistic culture of the bini people. The Museum is a repository of the ancient, modern and contemporary artistic ingenuity, not only of the people of Edo state, but also of the major cultures of Nigeria. It is situated on king's Square, Ring Road, Benin City.

Edegbake/Oghodoghodo caves:
Those two caves are located near Fugar in Etsako central Local Government Area. They are prehistoric and are believed to have been the abode of a community of early men. Edegbake the smaller of the two, can conveniently accommodate 50 persons while Oghodoghodo has a capacity for 200 persons. A slow-flowing stream runs through Edegbake and there are prospect for amateur fishing, excursions and general relaxation.

The giant footprint of Ukhuse Oke:
Located in a sacred grove between Ukhuse-oke and Ukhuseosi in lulehe clan of Owan west local government area, very distinct footprints of a prehistoric giant are permanently embedded on the flat granite rocks. It is believed that the footprints were made when the world was still in its molten state. It presents a challenge for archaeologists and anthropologists.

The animal footprint of Ivbiodohen:
Footprints of various species of animals are embedded ia a flat granite stab that confound all imaginations. Legend has it that the footprints were imprinted during the formative stages of the planet earth. The footprints are very detailed and like the ones in Ukhuse Oke, will require an extensive archaelogical or anthropogical research. Ivbiodohen is in luleha clan of Owan west Local Government area north of Edo state.

The Ede or Anagwu Caves:
These caves also know in the local parlance as Igodo, are located in the heartland of Edegbe village which lies between Ivioghe and Iviukwe towns in Etsako East Local Government Area. The Anagwa stream flows through the basement of the caves. The caves play a significant role in the initiation rituals for the age-grade members of the community. The biggest chamber of the two caves is used for this purpose. The two chambers combined, can conveniently sit up to 500 persons

THE TOMB OF ASORO at Sakponba Road.
He was the valiant Odionwere Omada, Head of household staff, of Oba Ovonramwen. He mobilized a handful of Omadas and fought a very ferocious and gallant last ditch battle against the British invaders in defense of his Oba. The tomb marks the spot where he finally fell.

The guild of Benin bronze casters’ world heritage site. The street has the largest collection of bronze casters imaginable. Many of them are in family units who have been in the business for generations.

The first story building in Benin as it is fondly called, was started in 1903 and completed in 1905 by Chief Iyamu, the Ine of Benin. The splendor of the building as shown in the photographs above during the centenary celebration is a testimony to the awe the building must have generated a century ago when the architectural landscape was made up of mud huts.

THE BENIN MOAT at Sakponba Road.
The first phase of the moat was dug from 1280-1290AD by Oba Oguola as a defensive shield against invaders. The third and final phase was completed in 1460AD.



Privatisation: Edo State Government retains not more than 20% share holding in any of its commercially oriented enterprises.
Establishing Industrial Estates: Edo State Government allocates plots therein to private investors (both Local and Foreign).
Preparing and making available to enterpreneurs feasibility studies and project profiles.
Encouraging in enterpreneurship development and embarking upon skills acquisition programmes for youths.
 Providing soft loans to unemployed and self-employed university graduates as well as assisting investors in the establishment of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises
Providing loan to industrialists through the loan guarantee scheme.

The current policy of Edo State Government is to create the enabling environment for private enterpreneurship to thrive. This policy is occasioned by the recent political and trade liberalisation programmes at the Federal level. Our success in the transition to civil rule offers great hope for private investments, as the State has the capacity to support major manufacturing and service industries such as:


* Agric and Agro-Allied Industries
* Glass Industries
* Sheet Glass
* Table Glass ware
* Petro-Chemical Industries
* Fertilizer Plant
* Bitumen Processing Plant
* Paints and Pharmaceutical Company
* Manufacturing of Drugs
* Research Plants for Local Herbs
* Rubber Industries
* Motor Tyre Plant
* Crumb Rubber Production
* Plastic Production


* Waste to Wealth Company
* Collection of refuse
* Establishment of dumping sites
* Establishment of incinerators
* Conversion of waste to gasoline
* Electricity Supply Company

1. Power Generation
2. Transmission
3. Distribution.
* Public Transportation Company
* Hotels and Tourism Development Company
* Major River Tourism Resorts
* Theme Parks and Theatres in the urban centres of Delta State
* Tour operating companies with air, river and road transport services
* Hotels of International standard * Public Housing Projects/Company
* Health Care Facilities and Equipment Company.
* Manufacturing of syringes
* Manufacturing of basic medical equipment
* Educational/Health Institutions
* Communication Company

Edo State is seeking active partnership with private investors in order to harness her abundant human and material resources in the following areas:

Palm Oil Processing Oil Palm: Available throughout the State but under-utilized. Processed products in high demand both for domestic consumption and industrial use.
Wood Products Timber: (Hard Tropical Wood) Available in most parts of the State.
Rubber Products Latex: High demand for this product. Rubber trees thrive in all parts of the state Domestic use of Rubber is low. There is much scope for expansion in this industry and diversification towards finished products.
Fruit Juice eg pineapples, citruses, mangoes, cashew, pear, irvingia Assorted Fruits: Grown throughout the state. Production large enough to sustain a major friut juice Industry


The zoological gardens was established in 1915 and it was the first to have a legal statute backing in Nigeria.The garden is located in a forest reserve area near Ogba village about six kilometers from Benin City and covers a land area of about 20 hectares, which exhibits trees for their scientific and educational interestand value. Ogba zoological gardens has an appreciable stock of local and foreign species of wildlife .Over the years the gardens has served as a functional recreational park with very strong educational impact

This is located in Akoko Edo Local Government Area. Somorika hills consist of an extended expanse of hills crowned by massive boulders perched precariously on the summits of hills and alongside seemingly inadequate locations on the sides. Somorika is about five kilometres north east of lgarra and 165 kilometres from Benin city. The hills are a part of the rolling landscape of the Kukuruku range. The beauty of the scenery is the huge, hanging rocks that rest on one another

Local Government Areas

Edo State consists of the following Local Government Areas:

  • Akoko Edo
  • Egor
  • Esan North-East
  • Esan Central
  • Esan South-East
  • Esan West
  • Etsako Central
  • Etsako East
  • Etsako West
  • Igueben
  • Ikpoba Okha
  • Oredo
  • Orhionmwon
  • Ovia North-East
  • Ovia South-West
  • Owan East
  • Owan West
  • Uhunmwonde


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Updated 6 Years ago

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