•Oba Ewuare II stops the installation of Pere of Olodiama
By SIMON EBEGBULEM, BENIN-CITY
There is tension between Ijaw traditional rulers and Oba Ewuare 11 of Benin Kingdom following the attempt by the former, led by the paramount ruler of Gbaramatu Kingdom in Delta State, Pere Oboro Gbaraun 11, to install one Godwin Ogunyebo as the Pere of Olodiama Kingdom in Ovia North East Local Gov ation that stalled the ceremony. Sunday Vanguard learnt that there had been several attempts to carry out the installation without success following the resistance of the Benin Traditional Council (BTC) which accused the Ijaw people of trying to install a monarch on the soil of Benin without the authorisation of the Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo.
After the botched attempt to install the Pere of Olodiama Kingdom, the angry Ijaw traditional rulers accused the Federal Government of conniving with the Oba of Benin to obstruct the land and territories belonging to the Ijaw people of Olodiama in Edo State. The traditional rulers, who addressed journalists, said “armed security men, who claimed to be acting from orders from above, prevented us from accessing Olodiama Kingdom where a new king was to be crowned”. According to the monarchs, they were heading to Gelegele where the installation was to hold, on Tuesday, when they were barred from proceeding. Spokesman for the Gbaramatu Kingdom, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, accused Oba Ewuare 11 of masterminding the incident. “The monarch (Oba of Benin) had been making moves to annex the Ijaw enclave to his kingdom. The entourage and their chiefs were on their way to Gelegele for the coronation of the traditional ruler of Olodiama Kingdom in Edo State, but we got information that there was military siege in Gelegele throughout the night. From the happenings, we suspect that the Oba of Benin knows about the plot to stop the coronation”, Gbenekama said.
“The Benin Kingdom has been struggling to annex Olodiaman Kingdom as part of its territory because of the oil and the seaport recently sited in Gelegele. Olodiaman Kingdom has always had a king but there was an interregnum at a point, and, following interventions, the people agreed on a new king. So these monarchs from Bayelsa and Delta States were going to felicitate with the new monarch when information reached them that no one was allowed in and out of the area. We are not happy with the situation; this is neither an issue of militancy nor criminality. For the Federal Government to reach the people, it needs to talk to the people. Halting the installation is something we cannot accept”’
Sunday Vanguard learnt that the state government became worried about the development in the area, when it got hint of the planned installation and alerted security agencies to what it described as an illegality in a letter signed by the Secretary to the State Government, Osarodion Ogie. The Benin monarch, who was angered by the planned coronation, also reacted through his top chiefs, led by the Iyase of Benin Kingdom, Chief Sam Igbe and the Esogban of the Kingdom, Chief David Edebiri, who declared that the Ijaw had no right over Gelegele land following a Supreme Court judgment of 1986. The Iyase recalled that the Ijaw took a similar action then but the then Bendel State government declared that Gelegele is an enclave of the Benin monarch. Igbe gave historical background of what was said then by the Bendel state government on the issue.”
He added, “Once again they did exactly what they did before. They want to install a new chief by whatever name and the matter has come to the notice of our father, Oba Ewuare 11. The attention of the palace of the Oba of Benin and his chiefs has been drawn to a congratulatory advert of Tuesday, November 14, 2017 which purports to congratulate one Godwin Oguyebo on his coronation as Pere Olodiama Kingdom in Ovia North East Local Government Area of Edo State. We want to state categorically that Ovia North East is under the authority of the Oba of Benin who is the prescribed authority. We have only one monarch in the whole Edo South, and that is the Oba. The title Pere of Olodiama Kingdom does not exist. Gelegele is under the over lordship of the Oba of Benin and there cannot be two monarchs in Benin. We would advise that anyone who recognizes or purports to install or present himself to be installed as a traditional ruler outside the provisions of the Edo State Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Edict of 1979 is in violation, and would be arrested and prosecuted accordingly. We are advising the Pere of Gbaramatu, Delta State to avoid running foul of the relevant laws of Edo State. The Ijaw people in Gelegele are free to live in the area just as any other ethnic group that live in that axis. Any attempt to lay claim to non-existent title and community or village under any guise would be resisted. We call on law enforcement agencies to fully investigate and arrest those behind this abominable and sacrilegious act”.
Also reacting in a statement by the Secretary to the State Government, Osarodion Ogie, Governor Godwin Obaseki ordered security agents to arrest those behind the aborted coronation which he described as an affront to the Oba of Benin. “The pronouncement constitutes an unprecedented affront to the long-settled culture, traditions and norms of our people. Government is of the view that the claim of such a non-existent title in a non-existent community under any guise is a clear and pre-meditated breach of our laws, particularly the Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Law of Edo State, which said law sets out the list of all recognised traditional rulers and chiefs in Edo State. The said law further makes it a criminal offence for any person to recognise or purport to install any person as a traditional ruler except as provided for under the law and in fact makes it an offence for any unqualified person to present or permit to be so addressed.”
The SSG maintained that the state government was of the view that “this act is intended to precipitate strife and contestation leading inevitably to the breakdown of law and order in our dear state.”
Ogie added, “Edo State Government will not tolerate actions and pronouncements which seek to abuse the hospitality which our land offers. Let it be clearly noted that this Government will take all necessary steps to preserve our peace, enforce our Laws and defend our revered institutions. All those who intend to test the resolve of Government in this regard should be assured of the certainty that swift and severe sanctions will be the natural consequence of their unlawful acts. Government calls on all citizens and or residents of the State, while remaining peaceful and Law abiding, to report all actual and potential breaches of the peace to the nearest Law Enforcement Agencies”.
The Benin National Congress (BNC), on its own, described the coronation attempt as a declaration of war against the Binis and warned that the Binis were ready to defend the Oba’s territory with every means. In a statement by its spokesperson, Osaretin Igbinogun, the BNC said, “The entire landmass, referred to as Gelegele in the Supreme Court judgment bordering Ughoton and the Bight of Benin belongs to the Binis and customarily under the authority of the Oba of Benin, is not in contest. What is in contest, however, is the diabolic ploy by the Ijaw to seize the territory. This is an utter assault on the psyche of our people as there is a Supreme Court judgment manifestly defining the areas as Benin territory. The Ijaw should not overstretch the tacit support of former President Goodluck Jonathan; as the plans of his Presidency to constitutionally establish a Toriebi State for his kinsmen is still fresh in our memory. We need not emphasize that the Ijaw settlers have overstayed their welcome in Benin Kingdom; they should either quit or remain as tenants; no one born by a man or woman or institution can upturn our God-given territory to strangers. We wish to alert the security apparatuses to swing into action by stopping this warring act by one ‘Pere’ who seeks to establish a kingdom and declare himself as an emperor in our land. This is because if the Binis resolve to militantly engage these war mongers, we will not take lightly any clampdown on Benin youths for acting in self-defence of our territory”.