Dr. Ekhaguosa Aisien, was born on Sunday August 31st, 1930 to George Idemudia Aisien and his wife, Egunmwendia Amadasun, in Egboha, his maternal village. His father, Idemudia was an Omada (sword-bearer) to Oba Eweka II. A favourite of the Oba, he ultimately graduated to become his first confidential secretary.
Born around 1894, Idemudia had the fortune, rare in those early colonial years, of receiving a few years of formal education early on in life. His literacy proved to be immensely beneficial, both to himself and to his children.
Ekhaguosa began formal schooling at the St. Peter’s Church Missionary Society (CMS) School in Benin City. On completing his elementary education, he was admitted into the CMS Grammar School, Lagos in 1946.
The country’s oldest secondary school, CMS was already eighty-six years old at the time of Dad’s admission as a young ‘Grammarian’. He proved to be an excellent student and by 1952, was admitted as one of only ten federal scholars to the University College, Ibadan, then the country’s only university, to study agriculture.
On resuming at the University, however, he came to realize that his preferred discipline was medicine rather than agriculture. His request for a conversion of his course of studies from agriculture to medicine was turned down by the University authorities. Two years later, in June 1954, having obtained his Inter B.Sc qualification, he abandoned his course at the university, along with his federal scholarship, and returned to Lagos.
Following a three–year hiatus, during which he returned to his former school (CMS) as a science teacher, he was ultimately admitted in 1957 to King’s College, University of London, to study medicine on a scholarship from the Western Region of Nigeria. He qualified as a doctor in 1962 and the following year, he returned to the newly-created Mid-Western Region of Nigeria as a Medical Officer.
He was deployed, first to the General Hospital, Benin City, and shortly afterwards to the General Hospital, Forcados, the only facility catering for the entire riverine territory of Western Ijaw.
It was during this posting that he met our Mum. They got married in February 1966, after he was transferred to Uromi, where he oversaw the General Hospital.
In April 1968, the hospital was declared a Military Base Hospital and Dad was commissioned into the Nigerian Army as a Field Officer with the rank of Major. He ran the hospital until August 1969, when he returned to Britain to undergo specialist training as a surgeon. By December 1971, he had become a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh.
The family departed for Nigeria in February 1973 aboard a Nigerian-owned cargo ship, the ‘Nnamdi Azikiwe’. The cruise lasted for well over a month, with intermissions at such West African coastal cities as Dakar, Bathurst (now Banjul), Freetown, Takoradi, Tema, and Lome.
On arriving in Nigeria, Aisien was deployed to the General Hospital Warri as a Consultant Surgeon. Two years later, in 1975, he was transferred to the Specialist Hospital, Benin, where he headed the Surgical Unit. Within two years, he was appointed Chief Medical Director of the Hospital. A year and a half later, he retired from government service and, along with two colleagues, founded a private medical practice.
Aisien and two colleagues founded a group practice, Azuwa Hospital, in 1978, in Benin City, Nigeria. The practice flourished for almost three decades, serving as a model facility for younger medical practitioners.
Many years afterward, he was called upon by the Military Administrator of the then Bendel State, Col. Tunde Ogbeha, to undertake a reorganization of the State’s health services. Among other things, it was the ‘Aisien Panel’ that relocated the State Hospital Management Board to its present site and conferred upon the Central Hospital the name it presently bears.
Aisien also served pro bono as Chairman of the Bendel State Library Board from 1985 to 1988, an appointment which proved to be very apposite, considering his cultural and literary affinities.
Aisien’s interest in writing began to develop during his secondary school days in Lagos. His earliest efforts were generally fictional, some of them detective stories. On the precise morning during which he attended the interview that awarded him the scholarship to study medicine in England, it happened that the BBC had just broadcast a short story of his, titled ‘Ezana’. The panel was suitably impressed, with favourable consequences.
While living outside Benin, from 1946 to 1975, Aisien became acutely aware of the richness of Benin’s history and cultural heritage and came to conclude that Benin was indeed a worthy subject of interest. The chief factor behind this conviction was his father. Idemudia Aisien was a rich library of information on old Benin. In addition to being literate and long-lived, he was a great story teller. Aisien became infected by his father’s passion for his favorite subject, the world of pre-colonial Benin. At length, he became a confirmed disciple of his father’s, ultimately spending the greater part of his spare time on Benin-related writing and research.
In 1986, Aisien designed the Iwu Dress (Ewu Iwu) as a national dress for the Edo people. This project was wholeheartedly embraced and supported by the Benin monarch at the time, Oba Erediauwa.
Among the most notable of his nearly twenty publications are ‘The Benin City Pilgrimage Stations’; ‘Elegbe, The Prince Of Benin’; ‘Ewuare, The First: Oba of Benin’; and ‘Iwu: The Body Marking of the Edo People’.
Shortly before his death, he was designated the Odionwere (‘Oldest Living Man’) of his paternal village, Oben, in Orhionmwon Local Government Area, Edo State, Nigeria. Unfortunately, he passed away before the investiture could be performed.
His writings and his exemplary life are a worthy bequest, both to his progeny and for enthusiasts of Benin history and culture. It is also likely that his works will travel well with time, and that his recognition and acclaim will continue to amplify posthumously.