Who Took Out Iyase OKIZI or Did He Die A Natural Death?
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By Dr. Patricia Fadaka-Igbinovia (Last Update November 15, 2022)

In answer to the question 1:
It is pertinent to note that two of the nine white men survived and escaped the attack the 1897 expedition at Ugbine and the two men were Maxwell Boisragon and Locke. According to Pan Africanist Youth Congress for Global Peace, (2013), on the orders of the Okakuo (Commander in-chief) of the Benin Army Iyase OKIZI, Ologbose Irabor successfully killed and prevented the intruding white men from entering Benin to attack the privacy of the Oba Ovonramwen in festive session with the citizenry. British historians twisted this massive victory of the Benin Army as ‘Benin Massacre’. The British came back in full force to retaliate and captured Benin City after great destructions of lives and property and this they called ‘Expedition’.

Omo n’Oba Ovonramwen, accompanied by a retinue of loyalists gallantly entered Benin City on August 5, 1897 and by August 7, 1897; he surrendered to the British under the leadership of Captain Roupell at the Court House which had been erected on a part of the remains of his palace compound. On September 1, 1897, the Oba was accused of having ordered the Benin Massacre and he was exiled to Calabar.

More than two years after the seizure and annihilation of Benin City, Iyase OKIZI continued to be the commander-in-chief of the Benin Army and Ologbose Irabor held sway and on site in Okemue where the Benin warriors resisted and defeated the British Royal Niger private army thus, preventing the infiltration of the British/ European traders into Benin domain and establishing trading posts. Some insiders betrayed Ologbose and the British eventually captured him in May 1899. In fake court proceedings, he was adjudged to be the main perpetrator of the Benin Massacre and he was executed by hanging on June 27, 1899 for defending his fatherland. Although, Iyase OKIZI admitted he commanded Ologbose Irabor to do what he did, the British left Iyase OKIZI off the hook because he was not on site when the incidents took place, thereby avoiding a vicarious liability.

According to Bradbury (2013), after the British conquered Benin Kingdom, there was a period of interregnum between 1897 and 1914 (17 years) during which there was no Oba to manage the affairs and the British required strict obedience to their directives. The British Resident had direct access to overpowering militia and had no need for local rulership so he repressed rather than stimulate competition for supremacy. Iyase OKIZI with Ologbose Irabor, still expecting Oba Ovonramwen to return from exile continued to hold the fort until the encounter at Okemue, defeating the British and forestalling any further incursion to the hinterland of Benin Kingdom. Patriots Iyase OKIZI and Ologbose Irabor were betrayed by an insider, arrested and tried in a court and the latter sentenced to death. Iyase OKIZI embarked on building a new palace to accommodate the Oba on his expected return home and that palace was never occupied until the sudden death of OKIZI in 1901 according to Bradbury (2013).
Bradbury (2013) writes:
‘Obaseki was able to dominate the center of the stage for so long because the monolithic administrative structure (of the British) made no provision for the emergence of a force of opposition to him. However, the old political norms and habits were not dead, only dormant” (p. 215).
Bradbury went further to say that Aiguobasinmwin, the eldest son of Oba Ovonramwen, was awaiting his hereditary right to inherit the throne. Oba Ovonramwen died in exile in Calabar in January 1914. Bradbury (2013) writes: “ Aiguobasinmwin’s right to the throne was never strongly challenged by his nearest brother, Usuanlele. His only serious rival was Obaseki who would not have turned down the opportunity of founding a new dynasty” (p. 216). Bradbury reported that James Watt, the Resident at that time would certainly have encouraged Obaseki’s accession to the Benin throne because he was a most reliable agent of the government if there was any hope of making the move legitimate. However, the futility of such a move was made obvious to Obaseki that there would be strong resistance from the chiefs and the people. After Aiguobasinmwin petitioned the Royal Majesty to allow his hereditary rights as those of the English Monarchy, the government decided to try him out and crown him the Oba and assumed the title Oba Eweka II as continuation of the Eweka I Dynasty. The Resident did not grant the Oba the full powers as enjoyed by his late father because many of the roles had been acquired by Obaseki and the prominent chiefs during the interregnum. The British would continue to seek advice and rely on the experience of the chiefs. Iyase OKIZI and some other chiefs had died and there was need to appoint new people for the vacant posts. Some elite chiefs were appointed to the vacant posts and Agho Obaseki was appointed the Iyase of Benin (Prime Minister) to replace one of the roles of Iyase OKIZI who had served as both the Prime Minister and the Generalissimo of the Benin Army. The appointments were at the instance of the British officials rather than that of the Oba Eweka II.

Bradbury (2013) writes: “The Oba later told Talbot that it was he who had suggested to Resident Watt that Agho should be made Iyase but it is unlikely that he did not do so unprompted or without misgivings” (p. 216). This interference by the British created some role conflict and created a huge rivalry between the Oba and Iyase Agho Obaseki. There were reports of personal confrontations between both even to the point of the Oba going up Agho Obaseki’s house to beg for reconciliation in order to avoid the wrath of the British who had privately threatened him that he might suffer his father’s fate. In addition, in mid June 1919, Oba Eweka gave his second daughter in marriage to Iyase Agho and his third daughter to Chief Edogun for mutual partnership. Divine kingship was still in force despite the British usurpation. Thus, on August 30, 1920. Oba Eweka resented his status quo and wrote a letter reflecting the past glory of his late ancestors, recounting his degradation, and bitterness:
“The Iyase is ordering me at which I am not pleased because I do not want anyone but the British Government to command me. A servant cannot command his master (The Iyase has many times come to the Oba’s house and boasted that his orders surpass the Oba’s. I am deprived of my boys by the Iyase and I have to attend farm myself to keep my wives and children” (Bradbury, 2013, p. 228).

The District Officer earlier believed that the British could not dispense with the services of Iyase Agho for fear that the governance would become disordered but, Resident Talbot who took over from James Watt saw it differently. Iyase Agho dramatically suffered a downfall, as there was consensus among all the chiefs and district heads - all agreed that he should be suspended from office. Talbot, at the head of the meeting, accepted the views as an indication that Agho had abused his power and opined that although “Agho was very capable, he was dictatorial, arrogant, and that “his power rested entirely on his favor with the European” (p. 228).

On September 9, 1920, Talbot’s report recommending Agho’s suspension left Benin; Agho suddenly died the same day. The British reorganized the administrative set-up: The Oba’s scope of administration improved and his ability to confer valuable titles on distinguished individuals was reinstated.

The above synthesis was meant to exercise your minds on the question: Who took Iyase OKIZI out? You may want to ask too: Who took Iyase Agho out? These seem to be rhetorical questions, as answers were never established. You can speculate, if you like.
Must Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State of the 21st Century be judged by the activities of Iyase Agho Obaseki of the 20th Century? The answer is “NO” because that would amount to vicarious liability, which is not admissible in law and does not make sense. His predecessor, Agho Obaseki, made use of the opportunity available to him at the auspicious time and according to his own individuality. All Obasekis must not be judged by the activities and individuality of Iyase Agho Obaseki but of who they are individually and the circumstances they live in. This brings to spotlight the forth-coming elections in Edo State where two gentlemen: Godwin Obaseki and Osagie Ize-Iyamu are vying to serve Edo State as governors. Politicians are shredding them apart. Voters should judge them by the standards and aspirations they have for the people. Elections will come and will soon be over. Avoid harming one another. Every eligible person should go out and vote your conscience. May God guide and guard you all.

Whoever wins the governorship race for Edo State should plan with the Oba Palace the re-interment of Oba Ovonramwen in Benin City, the capital of the Kingdom he fought so well to preserve. The British razed the city to the ground with so many lives lost, looted the palace (the loots are all abroad in museums, even in Australia), humiliated him, and deported him to Calabar. Even where he stayed in Calabar is NOT a good tourist attraction. We should be very proud of this Oba Ovonramwen for his resilience and dignity despite all odds. Give Oba Ovonramwen a State Burial or National Burial. The amalgamation of the present Nigeria came after his demise in 1914.
Dr. Patricia Emwinghama Fadaka-Igbinovia (September 9, 2020).
Bradbury, R. E. (2013). History and Social Anthropology. Routledge Publishers. First published in 1968.

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Benin kingdom copy right