Ring Road, Benin City, Nigeria

Oba Erediauwa Square: Busy Central Roundabout, Former Palace Forecourt

This busy center city thoroughfare has an ancient history that periodically resurrects when palace chiefs process through the roundabout.

Ring Road is one of Benin City's busiest intersections, with major roads such as Akpakpava, Airport, Sapele, Forestry, Old Sakpoba, and other streets running off the roundabout in spoke-like fashion. In the middle stands the National Museum, Benin City, as well as a small children's amusement park and other public structures. Around its perimeter are numerous commercial and governmental buildings, examples of colonial architecture, and numerous public sculptures. The latter are a notable feature of Benin City, and the then-Bendel Arts Council initiated the program in 1987 with four statues. Their numbers have grown significantly; while many were in place by the 1990s. figurative depictions of historic monarchs multiplied have multiplied in the past decade or so.

This area was part of the pre-1897 royal palace, consisting of sections of its many courtyards, as well as its huge forecourt and the shrine to Ogiuwu, the deity of death. Some even attribute the many traffic accidents on Ring Road as the deity's continued efforts to "feed." British colonial occupation cut through the palace, clearing certain areas for new construction. What is now Ring Road's "island" became the site of the British fort and barracks, providing an overview and a challenge to the remaining palace buildings, as well as the reconstructed palace after the monarchy's 1914 restoration.

Urhokpota ("Okpota's gate") Hall, another early colonial building, is also located along Ring Road. Its name refers to a ritual specialist named Okpota, who came to Benin from the Esan (Ishan) area during Oba Ozolua's reign. He told the monarch he could produce a charm that would draw wealth, and the Oba tested him by ordering Okpota to first use it himself. When the ruler saw gifts pouring in, he commissioned his own charms, which were buried under one of the palace entrances Built in 1906, it is one of the oldest colonial structures in Benin. Although British-built, the Native Council collected taxes for its payment, and it was used as a traditional court while the Oba was exiled in Calabar and no ruler was on the throne. Today it is the site of the public coronation of the Oba and first public reveal of his throne name. He then leaves and enters the nearby palace.

This city sector receives periodic facelifts because of its central site. During Adams Oshiomhole's governorship (2008-2016), a series of illuminated "dancing" fountains was installed, as were gardens and extensive landscaping. The 2016 enthronement of Oba Ewuare II brought further updates. Despite government efforts to create a park-like environment, however, the iron fence around the traffic island continues to host banners that advertise events and products, and shop-less merchants have crept back, using surrounding sidewalks as an open-air market.