Thursday, May 26, 2011

Maman Fadikpe goes home amid fanfare

Madam Fadikpe goes home in a blaze of glory

Across the world, countless tourists know Ouidah. Like numerous other settlements dotting the West African coast, the Benin Republic port town of Ouidah was a notorious slave trade hub. 

Ouidah, widely hailed as Land of History and Tourism, lies west of Cotonou, the economic capital of Nigeria’s immediate neighbour to the west.

Many habitues hold up Ouidah, which the Anglophone sometimes spell as Widdah, as a very important town as far as African traditional religion is concerned. Ouidah is famous for its shrines, which include at least one, where you could savour the experience of wearing a python for necklace. Devotees say the python is harmless, but some tourists could find the experience unsettling.

This is Ouidah: however, the focus of this week’s Travels is not Ouidah. Today, we are dwelling on Kpomasse, which is one of Ouidah’s neighbouring settlements. As guide to Kpomasse, take your bearing from Marche Kpasse; a vibrant emporium, which stands to the left on your way to the western Benin frontier town of Hilla Condji.

Almost opposite Marche Kpasse, the wayfarer would find a right turn; this is the road to Kpomasse, one of the villages inhabited by Beninoise nationals; whose ancestry is linked to the Egba people of Abeokuta in Nigeria’s Yoruba-speaking south-west.

As I had predicted last Thursday, 19 May, in my weekly Travels column of Daily Sun, all roads led to Ouidah on Saturday, 21 May, 2011. However, the vast majority of those that came this way were headed for Kpomasse: the world virtually came here for the burial of the late Queen Mother Marie-Marguerite Fadikpe.

Expectedly, the mammoth crowd that converged on Kpomasse last Saturday featured blacks, whites and some offspring of double-blessing unions. In the same vein, the rite of passage threw up elements of various faiths; for example, although numerous service of songs and prayers for the repose of the soul of the departed much-loved lady preceded the interment; nonetheless, traditional dances and masquerades were also on hand to thrill the countless guests that turned up for the occasion.

The climax of the day’s events was a reception that followed at the Palace of Roi (King) du Kpomasse aka Olota Kurunmi II, Oba Anatole Nicolas Adjirotutu Fadikpe. Olota Kurunmi II is a son of the deceased as well as King of Egba clan in Benin Republic.

The burial ceremony, not surprisingly, featured much feasting and merry-making; for, the late Queen Mother had not only lived to attain the Biblical Three Scores and Ten years; but, was a role model and an icon of moral virtues.

Monarchs and members of the diplomatic corps were among the many distinguished personalities that graced the occasion with their presence. At least three other kings, Roi du Ouidah, Roi du Oueme, Roi du Centrale de la Vallee witnessed the event.

The Nigerian Embassy Cotonou was represented by Alhaji A. A. Lawwal, who holds the office of Minister. He was accompanied to Kpomasse by Mrs. Akinola Abiodun, an Administrative Attache. Mr. Okezie I. Jonathan, Personal Assistant to Chief Uko Elendu, Cotonou Chapter President of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO); was also there.

Although the Alake of Egba Land, Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo III was not at the event in person; there is no doubt that he was there in spirit; for the Egba monarch sent a representative armed with a royal staff. Interestingly, Chief (Mrs.) Alaba Lawson, Iyalode of Yorubaland, probably brought the largest contingent to the event. Every female member of the Iyalode’s over 30-strong delegation was clad in georgeous aso-ebi and intimidating gele. The few male folk in that group were also impeccably attired.

As to her reason for coming all the way from Nigeria to attend a burial in the Benin Republic village of Kpomasse, this is what Iyalode Yorubaland had to say: “We had to be here. Although we had another occasion in Nigeria, we had to come to Kpomasse because the Olota Kurunmi II is one of us. His interest in his ancestral home, and the love he has shown from the very beginning compelled us to come here. The Oba of Kpomasse had earlier visited us in Egba land, and everyone was very happy about his visit. So, we needed to reciprocate his gesture of love”.

It is said that one good turn deserves another, and the Nigerian delegation’s visit was an auspicious pay-back opportunity. However, the trip to Kpomasse was not entirely in this context; for, there was observable infectious affection on both sides.

Interactions like these are invaluable ways of building on the ties that bind. Iyalode, who was decorated with the national honour of Member of the Federal Republic (MFR) years ago; sheds more light: “In the near future, we hope that more of our traditional rulers will visit their counterparts in Benin and vice versa. This will further consolidate on the good ties between the people of Benin Republic and Nigeria. As you have seen today, we have so much in common”.

Maman Fadikpe was a role model and also mother of the reigning monarch. Born Miss Gougbai, the late Madam Marie-Marguerite Fadikpe, also fondly called Omo Baba Mouko-Mouko; passed on at the age of 71 years on Sunday, 23 January, 2011. Maman Fadikpe, who held the title of Iya Alatche of ‘Oros’ in Tori-Bositto was buried amid fan fare last Saturday.

As we pointed out in last week’s report; the Gougbai and Fadikpe Families are cosmopolitan clans, whose relations can be found in many countries as well as faiths. “These Fadikpes; though Beninoise, are ancestrally Egba; and, expectedly, have relations among Nigeria’s Egba people” … “A glimpse of select names of the families involved in Mama Fadikpe’s funeral easily clues one in on the unity in diversity, which many nations could take a cue from: Adande, Adelanwa, Baba-Moussa, Codjo, Comlan, de-Souza, d’Oliviera, do-Rogo, Dossou-Yovo, Fadairo, Favi, Lawson, Lisboa, Moustapha, Pierredis, Sijuwade, Sotondji, Tejuoso, Yessouphou.

“It is worth noting that we have only mentioned comparatively few of some 121 Families listed in the funeral programme; in other words, if you look closely, you are likely to find someone you know or actually related to among Mama Fadikpe’s survivors”, one had written.

For four days: from Wednesday, 18 May to 21 May, 2011; the usually sleepy village of Kpomasse was akin to a bee hive. There were uncommonly high human and vehicular traffic across Kpomasse and surrounding settlements, since when a Service of Songs, featuring Hanye Choir at Renouveau Charismatique de l’Eglise de Savi; flagged off the event at the Palace of His Majesty The Olota, King of Kpomasse.

On Thursday, 19 May; the Adjogan Choir from Holy Trinity Church, d’Avotrou; had also performed at the king’s residence; followed by another service of songs on Friday, 20 May; by Hanye Choir at Tori-Bossito Church. On Saturday, 21 May; the remains of the late Queen Mother was collected from the mortuary of CNHU, the local university teaching hospital; and, taken in a funeral cortage to Tori-Bossito where it lay in state at the Gougbai family compound behind the Gendarmerie garrison in Tori-Bossito.

Later, the body of the late Mama Fadikpe had travelled to the Palace of Oba Adjirotutu Fadikpe before eventual interment at Ailahocon.
-         By MAURICE ARCHIBONG, who was in Kpomasse.

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