The State was created in 1991 out of the former Bendel State. Edo State lies roughly between longitude 06o 04'E and 06o 43'E and latitude 05o44' N and 07o34' N. It is bounded in the south by Delta State, in the west by Ondo State, in the north by Kogi State and in the east by Kogi and Anambra States. It occupies a land area of about 17,802 square kilometers. From the 1991 census the state has a population of 2,159,848.
Original request for the creation of Edo State was presented to the National Assembly in Lagos on July 16, 1981 by a delegation headed by the Oba of Benin, Omo n'Oba Erediauwa. A Steering Committee had earlier been set up to work out proposals for the state's creation. The then Commissioner for Information, Social Development, Youth, Sports & Culture, Mr. Magnus Odion Ugbesia, was the Steering Committee's Secretary, which had its first sitting on December 10, 1980.
Bendel State was one of the oldest political entities in Nigeria, having started out life as the Midwest Region (created by referendum, August 9, 1963, and excised from the then-Western Region); it then became known as Midwest State, and then as Bendel State (a contraction of the phrase BENin DELta). As time went on, the "federal character" provision for the sharing of federal revenue amongst the states in the Federation was hampering the growth and development of the state. Federal employment and school admissions policies were also guided by a quota system (to ensure even spread). As more states were created, from four (1963-1967) to 12 (1967-1976) to 19, and then to 21, Bendel State, by remaining intact, became disadvantaged in regards to access to federal revenue. Although the demand for the creation of the State did not come to fruition in the Second Republic, this demand led the Babangida regime to split the then Bendel State into two parts -- one which had an Edo-speaking majority (Edo State), and the other which had a more heterogeneous mix of ethnic groups (Delta State). With the creation of Edo State, the dream of the Edo-speaking peoples and other groups in the territory for a separate identity and entity was finally fulfilled.
Edo State is one of the more homogenous states in Nigeria. The cultural and linguistic affinities that exist among the various groups in the state points to this fact. A lot of the communities in the State trace their roots to the ancient kingdom of Benin. Customs, burial rites, diet and traditional modes of dress tend to be similar throughout the State. The political pattern and behaviour were based on a system under which both monarchial and republican ideas flourished in an integrated manner. The monarchial (or chieftaincy) system revolved largely on primogeniture, while the republican element was reflected in the free selection by villages and communities of elders.
Inside Edo State;
The People of Edo State
The People 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.
PEOPLE AND DEMOGRAPHY
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 Igala-speaking communities exist in Esan SOuth East, Igbira related communities in Akoko and Afemai Areas as well as Urhobos, Izons, Itsekiris and Yoruba communities in Ovia North East and South West Local Government Areas especially in the borderlands.
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 Ihi Ebo festivals. 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.
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-smithing 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.