…Oba Ewuare II: It’s time to correct distortion of Benin history
By Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu
People from all walks of life gathered in Benin-City, yesterday, as Oba Ewuare II marked his second year anniversary on the throne where President Muhammadu Buhari urged traditional rulers to guide their subjects and politicians against hate speeches as the country goes to another general elections.
Vehicular movement was disrupted around Ring Road adjacent to the palace as vehicles were diverted to create space for the colourful ceremony which also witnessed the unveiling of a book, The Benin Monarchy, an Anthropology of Benin History’.
Dignitaries at the event include former President Goodluck Jonathan, former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, who chaired the event, the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, and his predecessor, Chief John Oyegun.
Also there were Senator Matthew Uroghide, who represented Senate President Bukola Saraki, Senators Ali Ndume and Francis Alimikhena; senatorial candidate Patrick Obahiagbon; Speaker Kabiru Adjoto; Governor Godwin Obaseki and his wife; his deputy, Philip Shaibu; former Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, and Honourable EJ Agbonnayinma.
From the traditional institution were the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Saaid Muhammed III, the Otaru of Auchi, Alhaji Aliru Momoh Ikelebe III, and the ruler of Igarra, HRH Oba Adeche Saiki.
Buhari, who was represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, said: “The story of Nigeria will not be complete without the contributions of the Benin Kingdom, the kingdom is one of the oldest as it dates back to 1280 and the tradition chain has been passed down from one generation to another uptill today”.
Saying Nigeria had started the process for another general elections, Buhari pointed out that traditional rulers had vital roles to play. “I urge you to sensitise the people on the need to eschew violence and hate speeches, preach the message of peace and harmony, development, elimination of the use of drugs and substances, security and economic prosperity. All these messages, if combined, will help us downplay or completely remove the negative messages of violence, ethnicity and religious intolerance and differences. We must also ask our citizens to resist money politics that can lead to under development in the long run. This administration will continue to deliver on our change mantra to provide security, fight corruption and improve the economy for the betterment of all Nigerians”, the president said.
Also addressing the gathering, Gowon, who was the Chairman of the occasion, said his first introduction to the uniqueness and opulent antiquity of the Benin Kingdom was during the reign of Oba Akenzua II. “As military head of state, I met with and had a cordial relationship with His Majesty. He was one of the highly respected royal fathers who provided support and worked tirelessly but quietly with us as we steered the ship of the Nigerian state through its most turbulent period. It was due to the efforts of the committed patriots like Oba Akenzua that we were able to attain peace and keep Nigeria one. Providentially, the crown prince then, Solomon Akenzua who would later become His Majesty Oba Erediauwa, worked closely with me as Cabinet Secretary in Dodan Barracks. In fact, he was part of the federal government team at the historic peace talks in Aburi, Ghana. Our close relationship extended beyond government and we remained in touch all though his reign as Oba of this unique kingdom”.
Oba Ewuare II, on his part, said he almost joined the military during the civil war as a secondary school student when they got the news in Lagos then that the Midwest Region, including the palace of the Oba of Benin, had been attacked by the separationist forces but was dissuaded by his father and timely intervention of the federal forces ordered by Gowon as then head of state.
He said Ewuare I, from whom he took his name, was a warrior. “So it has been in the spirit to have been a warrior, perhaps that was why the warrior instinct was getting on me when we got an excuse to want to join the army. But God and our ancestors intervened to show that this is peace time we are going to use diplomatic methods, and peaceful methods, economic methods to fight whatever battles we have to fight and here we are today, we are doing our best that we have to use our wisdom to ensure that the people are empowered, that the youths are empowered, that my people in Benin are empowered, that there is development in the kingdom, that there will always be development in the kingdom and we will ensure that from all aspects; arts and culture, utilities, basic necessities of life are provided for our people”, the monarch said.
The radiantly dressed monarch said the Oba of Benin from 1933 till date should be identified as scholar kings even as they ensured the preservation and sanctity of the Benin culture and traditions. He went on: “The 20th century marked an epochal turning point in the history of this kingdom; not only did it usher in the colonial dependency of the monarchy, it also oversaw the transformation of the obaship especially in line with the subscription of the colonial legacy of western education. With the exception of Oba Eweka II between 1914 and 1933 whose responsibility it was to restore the monarchy after the unfortunate British invasion and period following it, all other Obas from 1933 deserve the appellation of Scholar Kings.
The impact of western education on the leadership of the Benin ancient kingdom has ever been felt since my grandfather Oba Akenzua II, the first educated monarch in Benin history came to the throne from whom the baton of western enlightenment was passed to my father Oba Erediauwa, we call him the educated philosopher king and then to myself, my father affectionately called me Ambassador Emeritus. That was how the intellectual foundation for the Benin monarch was laid before the 21st Century”
Oba Ewuare II said the book was to correct some distortions and the narration of the history and tradition of the Benin people.
The foundation of a satellite town was laid which he said he hoped would attract a cluster of industries particularly agro-allied industries that would create massive job opportunities “for our teeming youths and stem the scourge of rural urban migration.”
Governor Obaseki said it was a privilege to have been sworn-in few days after the Oba ascended the throne and that his administration had enjoyed robust relationship and support from the monarch.
In a goodwill message, the Edo South senatorial candidate of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), Dr Ese Owie, described His Royal Majesty as an intellectual and sublime diplomat whose adeptness was consistently demonstrated during his extraordinary years of service as Nigeria’s Ambassador in the Scandinavian, Africa and Europe. “His years of service were distinguished by exceeding accomplishments and a blemish free Foreign Service Career”, Owie stated.
“His Majesty has remained true to his commitment at the time of ascending the Throne of His Revered Ancestors. Oba Ewuare has demonstrated an abiding Faith in Unity and Greatness of the Great Benin Kingdom and the Empire’s role in the shaping of contemporary global affairs. His Majesty’s engagement with Royal Fathers across the Country over the last 2 years epitomises the finest genre of traditional statesmanship.”