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HRM'S ENDORSEMENT: A SQUARE PEG IN A SQUARE HOLE.

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By Elias Osaghae (14-05-2014)

What seems a physical and psychological blow was unleashed on the opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State, on Saturday April 26, 2014. It was the day a royal emissary got to the door steps of the No.1 citizen's Aso Villa, to convey the goodwill message from His Royal Majesty, the Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Erediauwa 1. And it came at a time the All Progressives Congress was experiencing a break in ranks in their firmly held Edo State, over the seemingly undemocratic conduct of membership registrations and ward congresses. The Most Revered Oba of Benin was unequivocal in his message to President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, – a message of goodwill, prayers and endorsement to enable the President continue his good works for the country, delivered by no other
person than the heir apparent to the throne of Benin Kingdom.

According to the head of the royal emissary, HRH, the Edaiken N' Uselu, Crown Prince Ehenede Erediauwa, who was accompanied to the Presidential Villa by the Chairman of Ocean Marine Tankers Limited, Capt. Hosa Okunbo: “My father is praying for Mr. President in the Benin Kingdom. He is praying fervently for him to be able to withstand the pressure. He sent me to let Mr. President know that the spirits of the ancestors of the kingdom are with him and they will see him through. He also prays that the opportunity will come for him to continue the good work he is doing in Benin and other parts of South-South for at least another term. That is the commitment we have in this kind of special prayer coming from the Oba of Benin. He sent me as his eldest son. So you can imagine the importance that my father attaches to such a message.”
Some Nigerians may frown at this development and perhaps argue that a royal father should not be seen endorsing a political candidate. This writer dares to say that this perception was a development of the past when political leaders tried to seclude traditional rulers from any realm of politics, particularly when they (traditional rulers) have ideologies different from the political leaders. That practice was very prevalent in the then Western Nigeria where some traditional rulers were 'deported' from their domains or placed on ridiculous stipends for daring to voice out contrary opinions to that of the political leaders. But come to think of it, are traditional rulers' daily administration of their domains not apolitical? Royal rulers in civilized nations are often consulted on matters relating to state affairs. Its high time Nigeria' democracy accorded the traditional royal rulers their rightful place in public administration. The military which ruled Nigeria for almost two decades recognized this fact and accorded traditional rulers the unflinching recognition and roles in nation building.
So, our royal father, HRM, the Oba of Benin, Omo N'Oba N'Edo, Uku Akpolokpolo, Erediauwa I, has not done the unexpected by expressing his royal supports and prayers to the President of Nigeria and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces. As a trained and qualified political scientist, retired Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry Health and a former Commissioner of Finance in the defunct Bendel State, the Oba of Benin knows his onion as it concerns public administration. His knack for public administration is even more hereditary than western education. A stroll down memory lane reveals that public administration is a supernatural genre of the royal family of Benin. HRM's ancestral fathers were great public administrators who ruled the defunct Empire of Benin with great history.
So, our royal father, HRM, the Oba of Benin, Omo N'Oba N'Edo, Uku Akpolokpolo, Erediauwa I, has not done the unexpected by expressing his royal supports and prayers to the President of Nigeria and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces. As a trained and qualified political scientist, retired Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry Health and a former Commissioner of Finance in the defunct Bendel State, the Oba of Benin knows his onion as it concerns public administration. His knack for public administration is even more hereditary than western education. A stroll down memory lane reveals that public administration is a supernatural genre of the royal family of Benin. HRM's ancestral fathers were great public administrators who ruled the defunct Empire of Benin with great history.

HRN Oba Eweka II and HRN Oba Akenzua II (both of blessed memories), are grandfather and father of our present royal father, HRM Omo N'Oba N'Edo, Uku Akpolokpolo, Erediauwa I respectively. They are known to be, not only the precursors for the creation of Midwest Region which metamorphosed to Bendel State and now Edo and Delta States respectively, but also the facilitators of the early movements for agitations for the region. As early as 1920's Oba Eweka II became increasingly concerned about the long-term implications of various administrative proposals for new regions that would ride roughshod over the unique history and independence of most of the peoples of the Central Province, which later became the Benin and Warri Provinces. Therefore, in 1926, he requested the British to bring all the Edoid and Anioma (Western Ibo) areas together in one region that would have a direct reporting relationship with the center. He argued that the people of the Benin and Warri provinces were predominantly of one linguistic, cultural, religious, chieftaincy and historical stock and had functioned in the same cultural system before the British came. [File BP 44,VOL 1, The Oba of Benin. National Archives, Ibadan].
Still from the archives, “Oba Eweka II, was the first, following the dissolution of the old Central province, to conceptualize the consolidation of what later became the Midwest region of Nigeria in 1963. It was during his reign that the first pan-Edo association called the Institute for Home-Benin improvement emerged in 1932. Its mandate - according to its own documents - was to represent the "Edo speaking people of Nigeria viz: Benin City, Ishan, Kukuruku, Ora, Agbor, Igbanke, Sobe etc." In the same year, Thomas Erukeme, Mukoro Mowoe, Omorowhovo Okoro and others formed the Edoid Urhobo Brotherly Society in Warri. Unfortunately, Oba Eweka II joined his ancestors on February 8, 1933 and did not live to see his dream come true. It was, therefore, on the shoulders of his son, Oba Akenzua II, crowned on April 5, 1933, the spiritual and royal leadership of the future Midwest State Movement was to fall, according to Uyilawa Usuanlele: The Edo Nationality and the National Question in Nigeria: A Historical perspective, Osaghae and Onwudiwe (Eds). The Management of the National Question in Nigeria. PEFS. Ibadan 2001, and H Osadolo Edomwonyi: A Short Biography of Oba Akenzua II. Bendel Newspapers Corporation, 1981.
Meanwhile deep discomfort in Benin with the provincial administrative changes of 1939 was heightened by proposals in the new Richards Constitution of 1946 for the formal creation of the Eastern, Western and Northern Regions in Nigeria. The new constitution created a separate House of Assembly and House of Chiefs in the Northern region. Initially, the Eastern and Western regions were allotted a unicameral House of Assembly each, to which were later added a House of Chiefs for each of the Regions.
Continuing the mandate placed on his shoulders, Oba Akenzua II, in 1948 addressed the inauguration of what was known as the “Reformed Benin Community”, formed by Chief Humphrey Omo-Osagie in Benin, where he said, inter alia: “The aims and ideals of this new political body seem very laudable and there is no doubt that it will help develop usefully like its counterparts, the Egbe Omo Oduduwa of the Yorubas, the Federal Union of the Ibos and so on…. In the scheme of things, all Benins should strive for a state or principality of Benin in the new Nigeria in the making. The Hausas, the Yorubas, the Ibos, and so on are on the move and the fact that this or that non-Benin political party has awarded scholarships to Binis for higher studies should not deprive us of our identity, custom, tradition, language and culture, or lull us into a false sense of security. ….. I believe Nigeria expects each of her states to do or mind its own business, though all states have one common business to perform, that is work together in order to achieve in a short time independence for a United States of Nigeria..... Therefore, the Richards Constitution in 1950 must aim at creating more regions with full autonomy than there are at present, each with its own Governor. At least there must be a fourth region to be known as the Central or South West provinces…… I sincerely hope that the day will come when there will be a larger body to be known asthe Federal Union of the Central or South West Provinces in which the Edo, Urhobo, Itsekiri, Ishan, Ora, Ivbiosakon, Sobe and so on will be principal members of the union…." SOURCE: National Archives of Nigeria, Ibadan; File BP2647. Reformed Benin Community.
Oba Akenzua II political sagacity enabled him to wade through vehement intrigues and oppositions mounted by the regional authority with collaboration of power seeking Edo indigenes against the movement for the creation of Mid West Region. Suffice to elucidate some of the numerous political road-blocks, aimed at truncating the moving convoyof Oba Akenzua's movement for the creation of Midwest here:
* The politicization of the Ogboni cult and the mobilization of its members under the aegis of “Benin Community Tax-Payers Association” to pressurize Oba Akenzua in taking administrative decisions in favour of the Western Regional authority. According to Professor P.A Igbafe, “Having struggled to place a literate young Iyase in a position of power in order to deflate the Oba’s palace autocracy, the people found that the Ogboni cult was now too powerful and sinister for their comfort.”

* In May 1948 Chief Bode Thomas visited Benin and Warri provinces as an emissary of Chief Obafemi Awolowo to canvass support for a new political party with a “Yoruba orientation”. The result of Bode Thomas’s visit was to split the hitherto united nationalist front of young Benin and Warri based politicians into pro-NCNC and anti-NCNC factions, in order to break the ranks of the fledging supporters for Midwest Region.
* Political propaganda which rumored at the end of 1954 that the Oba had reached a secret deal with Chief Awolowo with aims to cause bad blood between the Oba of Benin and his chiefs. This brought a very vicious reaction from Chief Omo Osagie, a hitherto ally of the Oba in the movement for the creation of Midwest and culminated in the misunderstanding of the Oba's subsequent roles in the Midwest creation movement.
* Under these circumstances, on March 8th, 1955, Obafemi Awolowo invited Oba Akenzua II for a meeting in Ibadan. According to the minutes of the meeting, Chief Awolowo told Oba Akenzua II to disengage himself from politics before it becomes a disadvantage. Awolowo told him that he had planned to preserve the position of traditional rulers as an "important part of the social and spiritual life of the people" outside the political arena. In response, Oba Akenzua II politely but firmly drew a distinction between politics and his activities with the Midwest State movement. He went further to query why the Ooni of Ife and the Alake of Abeokuta were open supporters and contributors to the Action Group but were not being similarly advised. Awolowo reacted by promising to give other Obas similar advice, but also told Oba Akenzua II to go back to Benin and seriously reflect over his comments.[National Archives, Ibadan; File B.P.215 Correspondence with the Oba
of Benin.]
* On October 25th, 1955 Oba Akenzua was appointed Minister without portfolio in Awolowo’s government at Ibadan – an announcement that practically destroyed the Benin/Delta Peoples Party (BDPP). The Oba explained that henceforth he would use his membership of the Action group Government of the Western region to push for the creation of the Midwest. In response, Oba Akenzua was grossly misunderstood and members of Otu-Edo led by Chief Omo Osagie staged a mock funeral of the Oba right in front of his Palace.
There were more obstacles put forth to discourage Oba Akenzua II in the struggle he inherited from his father, Oba Eweka II. In all Oba Akenzua II remained resolute to the creation of Midwest Region. The Oba called and spoke in conferences to agitate for Midwest Region. Among his speeches were:

At the inauguration of the Reformed Benin Community formed by Chief Humphrey Omo Osagie in Benin in 1948: ““The aims and ideals of this new political body seem very laudable and there is no doubt that it will help develop usefully like its counterparts, the Egbe Omo Oduduwa of the Yorubas, the Federal Union of the Ibos and so on. In the scheme of things, all Benins should strive for a state or principality of Benin in the new Nigeria in the making. The Hausas, the Yorubas, the Ibos, and so on are on the move and the fact that this or that non-Benin political party has awarded scholarships to Binis for higher studies should not deprive us of our identity, custom, tradition, language and culture, or lull us into a false sense of security. I believe Nigeria expects each of her states to do or mind its own business, though all states have one common business to perform, that is work together in order to achieve in a short time, independence for a United States of Nigeria..... Therefore, the Richards Constitution in 1950 must aim at creating more regions with full autonomy than there are at present, each with its own Governor. At least there must be a fourth region to be known as the Central or South West provinces. Isincerely hope that the day will come when there will be a larger body to be known as the Federal Union of the Central or South West Provinces in which the Edo, Urhobo, Itsekiri, Ishan, Ora, Ivbiosakon, Sobe and so on will be principal members of the union.”
At the conference of traditional and political leaders of the Benin and Delta provinces on September 18, 1953 in Benin City: “Benin-Delta was a sovereign nation before the occupation of the country by the British. The divide and rule policy of the British Government had done much harm to the national solidarity of Benin-Delta Province in the past but as God now wants things to be what they were before the advent of the British Government, that is, the Yoruba State for the Yorubas and Benin-Delta State for the “BENDELITES”, that is, the inhabitants of the Benin-Delta Province, steps should now be taken without further delay or fear to move the British Government to repair the damage they have done by restoring the national status of Benin-Delta Province before they transfer power back to the Nigerians from whom they have taken it.”
Oba Akenzua II subsequently notified the Western House of Chiefs, Ibadan: “I think that the Benin Delta State can succeed very well without being tied to the apron strings of the Yoruba State. The fact is the Benin/Delta People’s Party will not allow the Benin/Delta State to be annexed to the Yoruba State whether the North and the East are broken into small States or not.”
At Agbor on March 12, 1963 during a tour for the creation of Midwest Region: “Whoever does not drop his or her ballot paper into the WHITE ballot box will be condemned by future generations. Even those who die before the plebiscite takes place will be condemned in the other world, if they die with the bad intention of voting against or persuading people to vote against the creation of a Midwest region.”

At the Oba's Palace, Benin City headquarters of the Midwest State Movement in 1962: “It was a rare event indeed for a government to lose a referendum in its area of jurisdiction. He reminded them that in 1962 General De Gaulle had conducted a successful referendum for a new constitution in France. No stone must be left unturned to ensure victory in this last lap of what he said was a war of liberation.”

And finally on July 13, 1963 the referendum was held in all areas of jurisdiction in Benin and Delta provinces. The result was an overwhelming 'YES' and gave the creation of Midwest Region a thumb-up with over 90% of the votes. The foresight, dreams and aspirations of Oba Eweka II, marshalled by his son, Oba Akenzua II truly came to fruition. The irony of the state of affairs in old Midwest, now Edo and Delta States, is that those who opposed the creation of the region have positioned themselves to earn the proceeds of the region's political gains, and want to continue dragging the region by the nose. A chief opponent of the creation of the region, who advocated for more regions in the Northern and Eastern Nigeria, except Midwest Region in Western Nigeria, became a celebrity paradoxically, taking salute from school children march in Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, the guise of 'Free Primary Education nniversary.'
Natural rulers do have political insights and foresight that cannot be over-emphasized. His Royal Majesty, the Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Erediauwa 1 has the background of profound political insights and a personal professional foresight, enough to know what is good for the Edo people. His recent endorsement of President Goodluck Jonathan is a package of his wisdom and foresight for the people of Edo State. The Oba of Benin have seen the effects of the transformation agenda of the President in spite of the opposition's attempts to rubbish the achievements. He equally knows that given the peace, supports and encouragements, President Jonathan can take Nigeria to the next level.
And the most significant lesson for the Edo people is not to walk the politically centrifugal way that does not make the progressive whole. There are two factors that bring rapid progress to a people – a committed leadership at state level and centripetal alignment. Our royal father is quite aware of the counter-productive politics of aligning with regional political groups. The events of 1980s when the Bendel State UPN government opposed President Shehu Shagari's federal government at the detriment of attracting Federal Government's presence at the state are still in the memory. While Governor Jakande of Lagos State, from the same UPN was enjoying a great rapport with the Shagari's administration, Governor Ambrose Alli was left in the cold and presidential powers were unleashed on his Bendel State.
People of Edo State are being shown 'politics of wisdom' by HRM's endorsement and that's why this writer opines that HRM's endorsement is a square peg in a square hole. Playing politics that stands on the way of progress is self genocide and our royal father is telling us this. Imagine if Edo attracts Federal Government infrastructural development, complimenting the State government efforts, our state will definitely be greater. Enough of this 'follow follow'. It is time for Edo people to know their true friends.

Elias Osaghae via osaghae.pastorelias@gmail.com +1 647 717-9914

 
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