Published On: Tue, Nov 21st, 2017

RE: ROYAL RECKLESSNESS OF THE BENIN TRADITIONAL COUNCIL AND ETHNO-POLITICAL RANTINGS OF GOVERNOR GODWIN OBASEKI OVER THE CORONATION OF THE “PERE OF OLODIAMA KINGDOM” BY IJAWS IN EDO STATE

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Ijaw Youth Council -IYC Worldwide

PRESS RELEASE

November 20, 2017

 

Mohammadu Buhari, GCON

President & Commander-in-Chief

Federal Republic of Nigeria

Abuja.

 

Your Excellency sir,

The Benin Traditional Council and the Edo State Government dismissed/condemned the coronation of the “Pere of Olodiama Kingdom” on the grounds that: (1) the title “Pere of Olodiama Kingdom” does not exist; (2) Gelegele and environ is under the overlordship of the Oba of Benin; and (3) the Oba of Benin overlordship covers the entire Edo South senatorial District – this is without regard to ethnic, cultural and socio-political considerations. While the ill-advised statement from the Benin Traditional Council was advisedly ignored, Governor Godwin Obaseki’s failed efforts to stop the coronation, biased, insensitive and irresponsible statement and the and threat to arrest and prosecute all persons involved cannot be over-looked.

The ethno-political pronouncement by the Edo State Government has once again reignited old Ijaw-Bini ethnic, political and social contentious relations, hence, Governor Godwin Obaseki should be held responsible for any Ijaw-Bini crisis in Edo State.

Ijaw ownership of the coastal fringe of Edo State was exhaustively laid bare historically by the Toru-Ebe State Creation Movement on Sunday Vanguard newspaper of October 30, 2011, pages. 20 & 21. The historical narrative is worth repeating:

‘Ijaw Autochthony (Aborigine) in Edo State

The Ijaw in Ovia South-West, Ovia North-East and Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Areas of Edo State are the autochtons of Edo State.  In fact from historical records they are the aboriginal inhabitants and traditional owners of the coastal fringe of Edo State. These communities, which space will not permit us to name, form Olodiama, Egbema, Gbaran, Okomu and Furupagha Clans in Ovia South-West, Ovia North-East and Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Areas of Edo State.  They predated the arrival of the Oba of Bini and his people.  This assertion is confirmed by erudite historians, competent colonial administrators and robust ethnologists, some of whom are Binis themselves.

  1. The renowned Benin traditional historian, a member of the Royal Society of the House of Iwebo, and first curator of the Benin Museum, Chief (Dr.) Jacob U. Egharevba of blessed memory asserted, unambiguously in his book titled, A Short History of Benin (1968), p. 1.

“Many, many years ago, the Bini came all the way from Egypt to found a more secure shelter in this part of the world.  After a short stay in Sudan and at Ile-Ife, which the people called Uhe” Tradition says that they met some people who were in the Land before their arrival——-”

About the year 1170 AD.  Prince Oranmiyan, one of the sons of Oduduwa of Ife, the father and progenitor of the Yoruba Obas… succeeded in reaching the city after much trouble at Ovia river with the ferryman (ibid. p. 6).  About a century another Oba Ewedo had to undergo similar troubles to those which his great-grand-father, Prince Oranmiyan had from the ferryman at the Ovia river (ibid. p. 9).

The opposition to these Yoruba invaders constituted by these ferrymen became a regular feature in Benin history between the Yoruba immigrants and the Uzamas (Ijaw-amas/Ijaw villages), representatives of the aborigines.

  1. Another historian who bore witness to the invasion of these new comers is E. Alademomi Kenyo in his book titled The Origin and Title of Yoruba Rulers (n.d) p. 3. He states:

 

“Up till that time, the Oba (in Benin) and his people were pure Yorubas and did not understand the language of the aborigines who usually salute themselves and the new people (the Binis) “Adoo, Dolo”.

 

iii.        Professor Alan Ryder, a British national, and former Professor of history at the University of Ibadan, in his book, “Benin and the Europeans 1485-1897”, 1969, page 27, writes thus.

“Whichever of the “slave Rivers” the Portuguese frequented, the people they first met and traded with, would have belonged to the Ijo (Ijaw) tribe which at that time dominated the coastal belt of the swamp forest, extending inland to a depth of 30-40 miles in the region”

At page 28 of the same book, he goes further to state:

“The Benin Edo live now as they seem to have done then outside the swamp forest area, and there are no reasons for believing that it ever extended nearer to the coast.  The Edo had been and indeed remained a land faring people with a positive distaste for activities, which involved traveling by water, they relied, therefore, very much on Ijaw allies.”

The foregoing historical accounts bears eloquent testimony to the fact that the Ijaw-aborigines within Edo State today do not only own the coastal belt of the swamp forest region which they presently occupy, but that they are the owners of the territories stretching from the swamps through the Ovia and Benin rivers.

Attempts by Bini to Assimilate the Indigenous Ijaw People in Edo

In the recent past, there have been several attempts by the Binis to assimilate the indigenous Ijaw people in Edo state.  The Ijaw in the present Edo State had from time immemorial and to date, their own traditional rulers.  For instance, the Pere of Egbema (The Agadagba) in Edo State is recognized in the Chiefs Law, Cap 37 of (1976) Bendel State and the Bendel State Edict No. 1 of 1977.

Oba Akenzua, the grandfather of the present Oba, respected the Agadagba of Egbema and related to him as an equal.  Unfortunately, the immediate past Oba of Benin, in an unprecedented action created Enogie (a traditional Dukedom) and attempted to install Benin ruler to oversee the Ijaw areas in Edo State.

In a letter with Ref. No. Palace 23/2/302 and addressed to the Chairman, Ovia South-West Local Government Area, Iguobazuwa, the Late Oba of Benin wrote as follows:

“In 1988 I created Enogie title (Dukedom) for the riverine Ijaw Villages in Ovia Local Government Council Areas, and installed my brother, Prince Uyiekpen Akenzua, as the new Enogie of the Area, with the title of Obayantor, with the traditional responsibility to look after those riverine communities”.

This was a deliberate assimilation policy.  If they own the places as they claim, they would have had their traditional rulers in the Ijaw areas from time immemorial and not at the time the late Oba of Benin attempted to install a Bini traditional ruler on the Ijaw riverine areas. There was an unprecedented protest in Ijaw Communities against the imposition of a Benin traditional ruler on them.

The then Military Governor, Col. J. Tunde Ogbeha (Rtd) arrested the situation by resorting to shuttle diplomacy.  On October 4th, 1989, the Military Governor, summoned a meeting of opinion leaders from Bini and Ijaw leaders of Edo State.  The purpose of the meeting was to reconcile the two ethnic groups. The conclusion of the Military Governor, Col. Ogbeha was that, the Binis and the Ijaws were like two parallel lines, which do not meet and therefore it would serve no good purpose trying to impose the Enogies who were appointed by the Oba on the Ijaws in the Ovia Local Government Council Areas.

Also, for several years, the Oba of Benin has been attempting, without success, to impose a Bini man as Odionwere (Village head) and an Okao on the Ijaw oil producing community of Gelegele without success.

In 2001, a bill was sponsored by one Hon. Mathew Iduoriyekemwen, the then majority leader in the Edo State House of Assembly, representing the same cabal, that do not want the creation of an homogenous western Ijaw State (Toru-Ebe), desiring to change the names of some Ijaw communities to Bini names.

The purpose of this ungodly bill, was to distort the history of the affected communities.  However, the Ijaw resisted them through widespread protests and the action of the member of the House was condemned and the bill died a natural death.

One may wonder what would have made a House member, a Bini nationality to attempt to change the names of Ijaw communities in Edo State. The obvious reason was to claim a land that does not belong to them.  This has always been the antics of the Binis.

From the forgoing, it is very unfair and immoral for the guest to claim the homeland of their host and landlord. What the Binis are doing against the Ijaw people is provocative.  It is against natural justice and peaceful co-existence.

Conclusion and Prayers

  1. Ijaw is a distinct ethnic group from Bini in Edo State and have always had distinct Royal fathers/traditional rulers in Ijaw clans of Edo State, hence, the purported overlordship of the Oba of Benin should not be extended to include Ijaws in their territory/homeland.
  1. The title “Pere of Olodiama” exists as the official nomenclature of the King of Olodiama clan (Ijaw territory) in Edo South Senatorial District, therefore, cannot be questioned and/or terminated by any traditional institution or government. His Royal Majesty, Godwin Oguyenbo, Alagbabenafa, Agadagba, the Pere of Olodiama Kingdom, installed on 14th November 2017, should as a matter of urgency be accorded his due recognition in Edo State
  1. His Excellency President Mohammadu Buhari must as a matter of urgency call on the Edo State government and the Benin Traditional Council to order to avert unnecessary ethnic violence
  1. His Excellency President Mohammadu Buhari should prevail on the government of Edo State to do the needful – accord proper royal recognition to all Ijaw traditional rulers and institutions in Edo State
  1. President Mohammadu Buhari should call all security personnel to order. All security agencies should be cautioned against actions directed at Ijaws of Edo State by self-serving individuals and/or institutions.

Signed for the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Worldwide:

 

Eric Omare, Esq.,                                             Henry Iyalah, Esq.,

President                                                                  Spokesman

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