The Death of Chief Eguavoen, Chief Agbonkonkon and British Military Barracks at Chief Ogiefa Nomuekpo premises along Forestry Road
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Written By Ekhaguosa Aisien Last Update (February 14, 2022)

ANOTHER famous suicide, also carried out in protest against the then Government of the land, took place in the same grounds once occupied by Ekpenede’s premises, three hundred years after Ekpenede’s time This was in 1897, seven months after Britain occupied Benin City.

Chief EGUAVOEN, the OBARADESAGBON of Benin was a first cousin of Chief AGHO, the OBASEKI He, likes all the other descendants of OSIFO the father of Chief OGBEIDE-Oyo the inneh n’ Ibiwe of Benin, originally hailed from IKE village in the ISI district. His house was in Unu Abehe Street,

Benin Kingdom

Occupying a portion of the grounds which had been occupied by Ekpenede’s premises three centuries earlier Eguavoen was one of the chiefs who went with the OLOGBOSERE to UGBINE village in January 1897 to accost James PHILLIPS and his party, approaching from UGHOTON, Ugbine village was founded by his uncle, Ogbeide-Oyo as a farming Settlement. It was called “Ugbine “because the founder was the then Inneh of Benin.

The Phillips Party was dispersed and lives were lost Britain conquered Benin six week, later
At the “Assizes” constituted by the victorious British on 1st September 1897 to try those Benin Personages accused of involvement in the Ugbine episode the name of Eguavoen, along with others, was mentioned. The accused were then slated for trial at 8: 00 am in two days time after the Court mention of the case.

The Court House was in the Military Barracks at Chief Ogiefa Nomuekpo premises along Forestry Road, the first Barracks of the British occupation forces in Benin

The Military Barracks housing the one hundred and twenty occupation troops and the white officers commanding the extended from the Ugbague Street junction of Forestry Road that is the Iyase Nohenmwen’s premises to the Ogiefa Nomuekpo’s premises at the IWEGIE street junction
The Ogiefa premises the same premises where Oba Ewuare, as prince Ogun had found temporary refuge from persecution four hundred and fifty years earlier, house the Officers’ quarters, becoming the military and administrative Headquarters of the fledgling Colonial Government of Benin until 1906 when the Administration moved into its completed FORT at the centre of the town.

Opposite these Barracks the first rubber plantation and the first orange orchard in Benin land were raised by the Banish. The seeds obtained from this pioneer Forestry Road rubber plantation were distributed to the chiefs and people and with these seeds the first private holdings of rubber plantations were cultivated such that a few decades later Benin land had become one huge rubber plantation, created and maintained by private enterprise. The citrus orchard experiment failed in the same proportion as the rubber plantation experiment succeeded.

At the approach of the February 1897 war Chief Ogíefa’s household had fled the City for the Iyekorhionmwon districts. The Chief remained there even after the British vacated his City homestead in 1906, leaving the building and the other immovable Barracks structures behind. The Ogiefa did not return to Benin City until 1911. Meanwhile the structure vacated by the British had become derelict and the premises had become a junk-yard from where people sourced for pieces of metal and sheets of corrugated iron roofing.

When the Court adjourned the Omo n’ Oba OVONRAMWEN, Oba of Benin formally deposed three weeks earlier in a “submission ceremony in the same Barracks, left for home, accompanied by his many chiefs, including Eguavoen the Obaradesagbon. The Royal party walked along Forestry Road turned right into Ugbague Street which took them to the OKEMOLE Quarters. Oba entourage walked into IBIWE Street, walking past the second Ekpenede Shrine the party arrived at the house of Chief Obaseki, where Ovonramwen had chosen to stay after his return from his nearly six months of fugitive existence in ERRUA village in the Uhunmwode district.

The Royal Palace had been destroyed by the conquering British, and its four foot-thick walls demolished with dynamite, to provide a free-fire zone for the chattering Maxim guns were the defeated Benin forces to regroup for a counter-attack against the occupation troops.

The house where he stayed is still standing and inhabited, though for the most part now derelict it is No 10 Ekpenede Street. It once belonged to a citizen who died childless during the early years of the reign of Oba Ovonramwen. The Oba inherited the property and then gave it to one of his favourite servants, AGHO who was his agent in the water-side trade with the Itsekiris and the Europeans. On occasions Agho travelled to the off-shore islands of Fernando Po, Sao Tome and Principe, in the prosecution of these royal trading activities. Ovonramwen ennobled him with the new title of “OBASEKI” Service to the Oba is of greater benefit than success at the marketplace” in consonance with the nature of Agho’s utility to the palace. His Itsekiri customers at the water-side beaches had fondly nick-named him:
“Asomoge n’Iwere”
“The Dandy, the Beau, of Itsekiri land”

Agho had commenced his trading activates on behalf of Ovonramwen when the Oba was yet crown prince and lived in the URUBI area of the City, not in Uselu .Agho was a member of the EKHEN EGBO Traders’ group involved in the trade between Benin and the hinterland. He trekked regularly Benin and the town of OYO and ILORIN via AKURE an agent of the crown prince, trading in gun-powder and porcelain on the outward journey and in Alakuta (swords), ukpon-egho (dyed cloths) and agate beads Ivie-egbo, on the homeward journey. His life-long foot-yaws affliction probably began during this period of extensive intra-continental trekking

He had his first son AlGBEDO by his first wife ETUOHUN, betrothed to him by Ovonramwen, and later another son GAIUS IKUOBASE by another wife EDUGIE also given to him by the Oba. This son later became an Iyase of Benin, like his father, in his time 
Obaseki’s Ekpenede Street house gave shelter to Ovonramwen during the five weeks he-inhabited his capital city, between his return from ERRUA village and his deportation to Calabar. Agho played the solicitous host to his monarch.

It was from this house that Obaseki later built his other residence, the OGBE, the palatial edifice he constructed seven years later on the Ore-Nokhua side of the Uroghotodin High Street. It is this second house of his with which he is historically more readily identified.

When the royal party arrived home at the Obaseki’s Chief Eguavoen took his leave of the monarch, doubled back along Ekpenede Street and walked the short distance to his Unu Abebe Street home.
He arrive home and decided to take his own life rather than wait to be condemned  in two days’ time and judicially executed. He had watched this scenario happen four months earlier to EBEIKINMWIN, the Benin Captain of war who had successfully defended the Ughoton axis against Britain in the February war and who was subsequently captured by a British military patrol led by Lt. ROUPELL, and publicly executed in the City in May.

Eguavoen called his family together, and told his wives that they should all, on the morrow, leave for their parents homes.

He was, at this time, already the father of fourteen sons, and he settled his affairs as best as he could though the agency of bequests.

Then the Obaradesagbon , with his whole family gathered around him at the shrine of his EHI propitiated this alternate self of his spirit world, a world of which he would presently be an inhabitant when he in turn, would become the EHI of his own EHI who would incarnate into the world.
Still dressed in the billowing white wrapper arranged in the chiefly eyoen mode Eguavoen moved from his EHI shrine to the ARUOBO, the shrine to his HANDS. There he propitiated his hands, after both his wrists and ankles had been decorated with the Ighoemeguae. The Emeguae were anklets and bracelets made of the stringing together of pieces of a highly valued type of coin the Igho-Ahano. Adornment with the Emeguae in old Benin was the ultimate acknowledgment of praiseworthy accomplishments in life.

So adorned and dressed the Obaradesagbon moved into his private quarters and requested to be left alone, having as his only companion OKUNBOR, his trusted servant and valet. Okunbor brought out the poison bowl, and aided his master to commit a successful suicide.

The Obaradesagbon died, in a half- reclining position, with his face turned towards the poison-bowl.the break of day, on the 2nd September 1897 Obaseki hurried from Ekpenede Street to Unu Abebe, to the Obaradesagbon’s to confirm what he had been told. He consulted with Oba Ovonramwen, and then he sent a massager to the British Military Barracks at the Ogiefa Quarters, Captain E. P. S. ROUPELL of the British Army Engineers, and twenty seven years old at that time, was the Acting Head of the new Government of the Benin Territories. The Edos learned to call him AMEHIEN: “Pepper juice because that name summed up his reflexive reaction in his dealings with his horse and cantered to the Obaradesagbon’s residence. He walked in and was conducted to the private apartment where the Chief lay. He examined the corpse, still undisturbed in its position of death Roupell lifted Eguavoen’s eye-lids and looked into the dead dilated pupils He put his hand over the Chief’s left breast and felt for heartbeats which had since ceased to agitate the chest-cage with their unending rhythm of life.

Satisfied that the Chief was indeed dead Roupell cantered back to Head-quarters and reported the confirmation of death to Sir Ralph Moor, his boss and Consul-General of the Protectorate, newly arrived from his Headquarters in Calabar Roupell suggested the cause of the Obaradesagbon’s death as “Heart Failure”

Faced with the fact of the death of Eguavoen who would have been obliged o stand trial the following day Sir Ralph Moor summoned Ovonramwen and all the other Chiefs to Ogiefa’s Quarters. Moor reiterated that the morrow was the Assizes, but he would no longer allow bail to those other chiefs who were to face charges in Court at day-break. Whereupon Chiefs USO OBAKHAVBAYE and OBAYUWANA were arrested on the spot and locked up in the Barracks guard room.
Ovonramwen and his other chiefs were allowed to go home. They walked down Forestry Road and turned into Ugbague Street. They were approaching Ibiwe Street when they were urgently summoned back to Ogiefa Quarters.

Chief AGBONKONKON, the Obayuwana of Benin, who had been locked up with the other two chiefs a short while earlier, had committed suicide in the guard room.
A second suicide in Benin City had thereby taken place, in the space of twenty four hours. Again the suicide was political in nature. Planned to deny satisfaction to the new Government which had established itself, by conquest in the land.

On leaving home that morning to join the royal party for the walk to Ogiefa Quarters in response to the summons of Sir Ralph Moor, Chief Agbonkonkon one of those directly accused of dispersing the James Phillips party at Ugbine village. had concealed an agbori-ahe, a heavy jack-knife, in the folds of his voluminous eyoen wrapper Other occupants of the Guard-room into which he had been pushed were some soldiers of the conquering force who were also under some punishment for one offence or the other.

There in the guard room Chief Agbonkonkon, the Obayuwana of Benin, and cousin to both Chiefs Eguavoen and Agho, took out the agbori-ahe, unclasped its heavy-duty blade, and deeply slit his own throat, from ear to ear. He was the great-grandfather of Senator Sunday IYAHEN, lately the Professor of Mathematics of the University of Benin, and now a Coordinator of the National Mathematical Centre, Abuja.

Ovonramwen and the chiefs in his entourage were allowed to see the body of Chief Agbonkonkon presumably to erase any impression from their minds that the Government was indulging in extra-judicial killings. The royal party was then allowed to return home.

Let us look a little more closely at Chief Agbonkonkon the Obayuwana of the Benin City of Oba Ovonramwen. What we know about him reveals that he was a hater of the bully, an enemy of the misuse of power. He knew that if these evils were not opposed society, of which he was a guardian, being a Chief of the Oba of Benin, would sooner or later pay for their being allowed to fester.

James Phillip, the acting Consul-General of the Niger Coast Protectorate was such a bully in January 1897. He had arrogantly attempted to bully Benin into accepting an official visit which the kingdom had repeatedly said it was not ready for. Agbonkonkon, along with some other guardians of Benin society had stepped forward at Ugbine village to tell Phillip that he was behaving badly.

A few years earlier Agbonkonkon had found himself challenged by a set of circumstances uncanningly similar to that which confronted him in the James Phillips affair, and he had reacted in the same manner as he was later to do to Phillips’ bulling a full-face confrontation with the challenge in order to bring about its abatement only that in this earlier instance no lives had been lost.

Two years later James Phillips bullied his way to Ugbine village, Chief Agbonkonkon the Obayuwana of Benin and the erha n ‘agbon of Princess Ehendía was there to accost him, in the company, amongst others, of Chief Irabor, the Ologbosere of Benin and husband of Princess Evbakhavbokun, the other Iiving Uvbi-Nokhua of Benin.

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