Benin tradition clearly states that the country was weak on the inside around the 18th century while they were a very strong force outside their domain, feared by all.
Legend has it that Benin warlords and commanders who went out to battle never returned, no matter the outcome of the war.
The Bini Kingdom at the time covered much more than the present-day Benin City which may have included what is present-day Delta State, Etsako, and the likes.
When a Benin commander leads a troupe out to battle and loses, he goes on exile because of the shame of returning as a failure. On the other hand, if he wins the war, he sees no need to come back and be subject the Oba, so he usurps this new territory as their king.
That was was the fate of Benin. They had many of their bravest soldiers out to war who never returned home, weakening the home front.
However, on their death, they would always be brought back to be buried at home, because they were warriors.
There is an Edo Warrior in Port Harcourt
He is one of Nigeria’s top goalkeepers and a true warrior from Edo State.
At Kano Pillars, he won 4 League titles and at Enyimba he won one league title.
He recently moved to Rivers United where he hopes to continue his winning streak away from home.
Theophilus Afelokhai is a unique personality and until you meet him, you may not understand. He is easy going, jovial, always has a joke or two to tell and is most of all a “happy go lucky” person, though on the pitch he keeps his game face on.
He sees himself as a true Edo warrior who has come to Port Harcourt to conquer new territory and bring joy to the people.
And if Afelokhai sees himself as, or calls himself an Edo Warrior, it is for good reason too.
In his native dialect, the name, “Afelokhai” means, “One who leaves his home to conquer other territories” a feat he had achieved repeatedly, like the true Benin warrior he is.
“I am an original Edo boy. Na we get am (we own the land),” Afelokhai told NigerianFootballer.com in an exclusive interview.
So, the question is, “Will he continue this at Rivers United or will he be demystified?
His five previous league titles, four at Kano Pillars and one at Enyimba are enough for him to talk tough.
Port Harcourt may be different
Maybe, after the sojourn of Theophilus Afelokhai in Port Harcourt with Rivers United, the jury will decide on the state of his “warriorship” by counting the number of conquests he made, in terms of trophies.
In Port Harcourt, the style and mentality is quite different from in Kano or in Aba.
One issue that will shock Theophilus will certainly be the poor turn out at the grounds, especially now they will use the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium for their home games.
From playing in front thirty thousand fans every home day in Kano to ten thousand per home game in Aba, Afelokhai will have to be playing in front of just about three hundred people per match day.
That will be much less than a training session viewing at the other clubs he has played at. How will this near empty stadium affect the performance of the team?
Another issue with Rivers United may be the level of discipline within the ranks. Tardiness is the order of the day as they are known for lateness to training sessions without culprits bearing the brunt of their actions or inactions. There is the issue of key players skipping sessions and still getting to play games.
Was this the same in Kano and Aba?
Afelokhai told NigerianFootballer.com that he is aware of all of these but does not mind.
“After what I achieved at Kano and in Aba, it is clear that the meaning of my name is working in my life,” Afelokhai said.
“Port Harcourt for me will be like Aba and Kano,” he said.
Rivers United have taken up a new recruitment style this season snapping off Theophilus Afelokhai and Ifeanyi Anaemena from Enyimba, Bobby Clement and Godwin Aguda from Rangers, George Akpabio, a returnee from Israel with Bnei Sakhnin. The transfer rumour mills also point to the fact that many more might come in.
After all the club failed to tie up deals for Enyimba midfielder, Austin Oladapo who flew into Port Harcourt but failed to agree terms.
Stanley Dimgba was also in Port Harcourt but the deal fell through.
With so many signings, the fans may just prepare themselves to keep hearing about blending as the reason why they are not winning for most of the first half of the season, except of course, the club gets their acts together early enough and the results come in from the get go.
The club also now sees itself as the millionaire team of the league and this means that the pressure will be on for them to win something.
For those who see Rivers United as a merger of Dolphins and Sharks it would interest them to know that the Sharks side of the club only won the West African Football Union, WAFU Cup in forty four years of its existence.
The Dolphins side of the club won 3 league titles and 4 FA Cup in 26 years of its existence but since Rivers United, the club has tasted no silverware.
“I have told you that my surname means a man that goes to another place to rule, to conquer or get victory and dominate.
“After what I did at Kano and in Aba, I can beat my chest to say my name will work again for me in Port Harcourt,” the goalkeeper said.
Afelokhai is the name to watch out for during the 2020/21 Nigeria Professional Football League season.
Will he really be an Afelokhai to Rivers United or another big name player who flattered to deceive? We await the start of the new Nigeria Professional Football League season.