Republic Of Benin
Capital City: Porto Nova.
Area: 112622 square km.
National day: 1 August (Independence day).
Independence: 1 August 1960, Former French colony, known as Dahomey until 1975.
Population: 6.4 million.
Leader: Mathieu Kerekou, born 1933, President as at April 1996.
Languages: French (official), Fon, Yoruba, Bariba, Adja, Fulani.
Currency: CFA francs
About 1100 years ago Benin became a state. The population grew bigger and people needed more land. The state decided to include the land of surrounding villagers and made them part of Benin. By 900 AD Benin changed from a group of farming villagers into a powerful kingdom.
Benin and other parts of West Africa are blessed with a great rain forest, and the soil surrounding the Niger Delta area are extremely fertile. The powerful ruler or Oba of Benin City, controlled trade with its neighboring states in the past.
System of Government. The town and village chiefs made sure the law was upheld and peace prevailed between traders, crafters and farmers in Benin. All the chiefs advised the ruler or Oba and collectively they formed the Uzuma or the government of Benin.
The Oba lives in a beautiful palace and is revered by the people of Benin. Selected artists produced many fine bronze and or brass heads, figurines, brass plaques, and large rectangular metal pictures, which were used to decorate the Oba's palace.
Crowning of the Oba. Three years after the crowning of the Oba the title of Lyoba or (Queen mother) is bestowed on his mother. Oba Esigie in 1500 AD was the first to bestow this title on his mother Idia. The Oba's mother was an important and powerful person in the government of Benin.
The Obas of Benin had large armies around 100000 men and fought many wars conquering many towns. The weapons used by soldiers were swords, axes, spears, shields and bows.