October 21, 2016 / 12:07 PM / in a year

Pageantry and politics mix as Nigeria's Benin City crowns new ruler

Newly crowned Oba of Benin Kingdom Eheneden Erediauwa is guided through a symbolic bridge by the palace chiefs during his coronation in Benin city, Nigeria October 20, 2016.REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

BENIN CITY, Nigeria (Reuters) - Crowned with coral beads, flanked by high officials in bright white robes adorned with shining metal plaques, the new Oba of the historic kingdom of Benin greeted his people in a very 21st century corner of southern Nigeria.

Crowds packed Benin City to celebrate the coronation of Oba Ewuare II - carrying on a royal tradition that has endured through a punishing raid by imperial Britain in 1897 and the kingdom’s subsequent incorporation into the west African state.

Britain infamously carried away piles of plunder, including hundreds of metal panels - now widely known as the “Benin bronzes” and hanging in museums as far afield as London, New York, Berlin and Christchurch, New Zealand.

Similar regalia was in active use on Thursday in Benin City, the modern day capital of Nigeria’s Edo state and separate from the neighboring Republic of Benin.

“I am happy to witness this because I was young when the last king Erediuwa was crowned. I am now 55 years,” said Chief Samson Ekassa, one of a series of dignitaries at the event including Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and business tycoon Aliko Dangote, known as Africa’s richest man.

Traditional rulers wield significant influence in Nigeria, a patchwork state of 250 ethnic groups where Christianity, Islam and traditional beliefs all have followers.

Reporting by Akintunde Akinleye; Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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