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Oba’s coronation address

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“In the name of God Almighty, and of our ancestors, we wholeheartedly welcome the Head of the Federal Military Government and all of you distinguished persons to this momentous gathering.

Today, the day of our Coronation, marks a turning point in our life.

When one at such a point stands up to speak, one is either so heavy at heart that one is short of words or one goes all out to unburden one’s soul to one’s audience.

We must, therefore, ask you to bear with us while we reflect on the past, touch on the present, and look at the future.

Our Coronation today makes us the 38th Oba of Benin in Oba Eweka I Dynasty that began at about the 12th Century A.D. and ends forty-five years of reign of our father, Oba Akenzua II of blessed memory.

His was a reign in the service of the people as it should be.

Let us remember a few things about our father that must be told.

Shortly after Oba Akenzua II ascended the throne in 1933 he saw the need for the expansion of the Oredo pipe-borne water system that was commissioned in 1910 and the necessity for financial contribution by his people.

Consequently, he accepted the introduction by the Native Administration in 1936/37 of the levy of water rate.

A move which would have inculcated the spirit of self-reliance and social responsibility in...the people however, generated dissension which came to be popularly known as the “water-rate agitation”, agitation he had to contend with for a couple of years.

There followed a long period of peace and quiet ‘during which he served as a nominated member in Nigerian Legislative Council, 1945-47.

Subsequently he became a member of the Western House of Chiefs; and it is on record again perhaps seeing farther ahead than most, that he proposed in the course of a Debate that as a source of increasing its Revenue the Government in (1952) should introduce the Lottery on the lines of the then popular Irish Sweep-Stake.
Majority members opposed the idea which they derisively termed gambling and immoral means of earning money.

Yet barely five or six years later Government Lottery became (and today is) a major source of internal revenue.

He took active part in the politics of the day, but only as a means to an end, that end being the creation of what came to be known as the Mid-Western Region of Nigeria.
In the old Western Region he was one of the First Class Obas, a member of the House of Chiefs, and a member of Government.

In the fifties he had seen vision of, and sowed the seed for the creation of a new Region in the country through which to secure the rapid development of the area comprising the Edo-speaking people, the Itsekiri, the Urhobo, the Ijaw and Western Ibo.

He began to advocate the amalgamation of what were then the Benin and the Delta Provinces. He christened this union “Bendelites”.

He personally led campaign tours to whip up enthusiasm for the creation of the proposed state and so in 1963 after nearly six years of vigorous campaigns the Mid-Western Region was born. and Oba Akenzua II saw his vision come true.

Although the new Region was christened “Mid-Western”, but today, almost two decades later, the name “Bendel”, which Oba Akenzua II has proposed for the new Region re-echoed. and happily we now live in “Bendel” State.

The British Government in 1937, in appreciation of his services to’ his people, saw it fit to return to Oba Akenzua II some of the royal regalia removed during the reign of his grandfather (Oba Ovonramwen) in 1697.

Some years later. in 1945. the British Government awarded him the CMG, again for his services to his people.

In 1950 he had his first and only holiday in 45 years when he visited Britain at the invitation of the British Council, a holiday that he more than merited.

In 1966 he got introduced to academic circles when he was appointed the Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University; and in 1972 he was awarded Honorary Doctor of Laws of the University of Benin.

These honours, no doubt, were the crowning glory for a man whose interest in promoting education dated back to the 1930s, for in 1934, shortly after his Coronation, he was invited by the then Colonial Government to the formal opening of the first institution of Higher Learning in the country the Higher College, Yaba.

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