SIMON EBEGBULEM, BENIN-CITY
Penultimate Tuesday, traditional rulers from oil producing communities in the Niger Delta, led by the Amanayabor of Twon Brass, HRM Alfred Diete-Spiff, visited the palace of Oba Ewuare 11, Ogidigan, in Benin – City to ask him to lead the Traditional Rulers of Oil, Minerals Producing Communities (TROMPCOM) for two years. Diete-Spiff explained that the chairmanship of TROMPCOM was rotational and that it was the turn of Edo State.
The oil producing states include Rivers, Cross River, Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Imo, Abia and Akwa Ibom. According to the Amayanabor, TROMPCOM, was formed to ensure development in oil producing communities and peaceful co-existence between host communities and oil companies. After explaining the mission to the palace, Diete-Spiff told Oba Ewuare 11, on behalf of other traditional rulers in the oil producing communities, to accept the responsibility which, according to him, will help take the organization to the next level.
Ordinarily, the Oba of Benin, who is regarded as the greatest king in Africa, does not get involved in any form of association, but it was obvious that he was humbled by the comradeship and love exhibited by the royal fathers who came to him, and thus accepted to chair TROMPCOM.
It was surprising therefore when 24 hours later, the paramount ruler of Ibeno Kingdom in Akwa Ibom State, HRM (Dr.) Owong Effiong Bassey, declared he was the authentic Chairman of TROMPCOM, forcing the Benin Traditional Council (BTC) to issue a statement, distancing the monarch from any leadership crisis in TROMPCOM. Consequently, the TROMPCOM, in a meeting held in Akwa Ibom, suspended Diette-Spiff for alleged anti-TROMPCOM activities and alleged embarrassment of the Oba of Benin.
In a statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the Oba, Mr Desmond Agbama, the BTC said: “The attention of the Benin Traditional Council has been drawn to a news report on page 10 of Vanguard Newspapers of Monday 28th August, 2017 headlined “I’m TROMPCON Chairman, not Oba of Benin,” which was credited to HRM (Dr.) Owong Effiong Bassey, the paramount ruler of Ibeno Kingdom in Akwa Ibom State.
“Benin Traditional Council wishes to make the following clarifications for the avoidance of doubt;
“When the Amanayabor Twon Brass, HRM Alfred Diete-Spiff paid a courtesy visit to the Oba of Benin on Tuesday 22nd August, 2017 with HOSTCOM members, he informed the Benin Monarch that the position of Chairman for TROMPCON was rotational for two years, and that it was the turn of Edo State to hold the chairmanship position.
He pleaded with the Oba of Benin to kindly accept the responsibility. Out of respect for Traditional Rulers, the Oba of Benin received HRM Alfred Diete-Spiff, the Amanayabor of Twon Brass even at short notice, and without prior knowledge of why he was visiting. Moreover, it was generally believed that a man of the calibre of King Alfred Diete-Spiff cannot be doubted, especially in matters concerning fellow traditional rulers of TROMPCON and particularly when he was accompanied by members of HOSTCOM. During the visit, HRM Alfred Diete-Spiff said inter alia “I have to come personally to plead with Your Majesty to accept the position.
“The Oba of Benin being a seasoned diplomat is mindful of the difference between verbal communication and formal communication, and sensitive to the feelings of everybody, particularly for other Traditional Rulers like HRM Alfred Diete-Spiff. The Oba applied caution by accepting in principle the offer of National Chairman of TROMPCON, pending when he receives formal communication from TROMPCON on his purported nomination for the position.
It therefore came as a surprise to the Palace that the information of offer of National Chairman of TROMPCON brought by HRM Alfred Diete-Spiff was challenged by HRM (Dr.) Owong Effiong Bassey, the paramount ruler of Ibeno Kingdom in AkwaIbom State. His Royal Majesty, Oba Ewuare II, Oba of Benin is a wise and cautious Oba that treads carefully. The Benin Monarch would not be part of a body where people tussle for its leadership.
The Oba of Benin would not be part of a body where people are misled. Importantly, the Oba of Benin being a highly revered Royal Father, resolves controversies and, not part of controversy nor does he encourage it in any form or among people. The Oba of Benin however believes that for all intents and purposes, the aims and motives behind the formation of TROMPCON is no doubt good but advises on the need for TROMPCON to be administered fairly and equitably in order to fully accommodate all interest groups and stakeholders in the oil and mineral producing states in Nigeria, irrespective of financial, social and political status”.
The palace of the Oba, in a separate statement, warned against actions capable of desecrating the laws of Benin Kingdom, declaring that victims are regarded as enemies of the Oba which goes with great consequences. The statement said: “The Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba of Benin is the paramount traditional ruler in Edo State. The Oba of Benin remains the permanent Chairman of the Edo State Council of Traditional Rulers and Chiefs. This position was vested on the Oba permanently, in recognition of the fact that the Oba of Benin is both Spiritual and Administrative Head of Traditional Institutions in Benin Kingdom in particular and Edo State in general.
“In Benin Kingdom, there is only one monarch that is, the Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, the Oba of Benin. There are Enigie, Igie-Ohen, Edionwere and Ikao who are either dukes or heads of the various villages in Benin Kingdom. All of them are under the authority of the Oba of Benin kingdom.
The Enigie, Igie-Ohen, Ikao, Chiefs and Edionwere in Benin Kingdom pay obeisance to the Oba of Benin, and they revered the Monarch to the highest level. All sons and daughters of Benin extraction irrespective of social, economic and political status in the society are under obligation to respect, dignify and pay unalloyed homage to the Oba. The reason why this is so is not far-fetched. Historically, the Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, is God’s representative on earth, which means that the Oba is both a traditional ruler and spiritual leader of the people.
That of course explains why anyone coming into the presence of the Oba, especially when the Oba is on the throne, must greet the Oba in the most acceptable manner as prescribed by Benin custom and tradition. For instance, it is the tradition that everyone must kneel down to greet and address the Oba of Benin by chanting “Oba ghato kpere ise” meaning “Long may you reign our king, Amen”. There is no exception to this rule, except with some other royal majesties across the world. Even members of the royal family greet and respect the Oba in the same manner.
“Furthermore, culture and tradition are the ways and beliefs of the people, and it is the way a particular tribe, race or ethnic group is known, it represents their identity, and symbol of unity. The Oba of Benin is the custodian of the rich culture and tradition of Benin people. In other words, the Oba of Benin helps to promote, propagate, and preserve the culture and tradition of the people of the Kingdom.
On the other hand, the people in turn protect the image of the Oba of Benin and preserve the sanctity of the Palace and the revered throne of the Monarch at all times. Any attempt for anyone or group of persons to disrespect the Oba is viewed as sacrilegious and abomination which is forbidden and highly detestable by the people, while such a person or persons will be regarded as “Okhion-Oba” that is, an enemy of the Oba. Such an individual usually incur the wrath of the ancestors.”