Rumble in Benin palace

New Oba and others

New Oba and others

The feud that triggered the indefinite suspension of Chief Nosakhare Isekhure, by the Benin Traditional Council is neither new nor strange to all Palace Watchers. This unholy face-off had happened in the past and might happen again, if a calculated effort is not made by all well-meaning indigenes of Benin to assist the Omo N’ Oba N’ Edo Akupolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, to put a permanent stop to this type of maneuver among the palace chiefs, and its capacity polarize the institution.

Sometime in 2008 during the reign of the immediate past Oba of Benin, Oba Erediauwa, Chief Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion, the billionaire businessman who holds the title of the Esama of Benin Kingdom was at the center of the storm.  The crisis at that time resulted in the Esama’s indefinite suspension. He was stripped of his title, forbidden from using all privileges attached to the title by the Benin Traditional Council and barred from all palace activities, and in the process declared an (Oghion Oba) an enemy to the Oba. Igbinedion’s infractions, according to BTC then, were; his habitual disrespect for the Benin Palace; “unrelenting efforts” aimed at desecrating the revered Benin traditional institution; often presenting himself as the Oba of Benin, accused of illegally using the Uguakpata cap; awarding the royal Ikele beads to his visitors and attending palace functions, alongside other unspecified offences.

The BTC then went a step further to constitute a panel made up of palace chiefs to investigate and review the cases of the Esama and other five chiefs who were also suspended. These chiefs were accused of attending a parallel function organised by the Esama, when they were supposed to attend “Ugie-Ewere” programme at the Oba’s palace.

Interestingly, the old players in the BTC are still very much around, as they were during the reign of Oba Erediauwa. They decided the fate of Igbinedion then and are still very much around, except for Chief Nosakhare Isekhure, who was very active in the Igbinedion case, but unfortunately is now at the receiving end.

In view of the foregoing, The Palace Watch, decided to seek the opinion of a cross section of Benin indigenes on the matter.

Osaro Onaiwu was the governorship candidate of APGA in the 2016 governorship election in Edo State.

He said, “Ogidigan, the present Oba Ewuare II, is trying to see how he can put some discipline into the activities and behaviour of some of the Chiefs in the Benin Traditional Council. Isekhure’s suspension came as a shock to me, though. Isekhure has performed his function for such a long time. For me, Oba Ewuare II must be very familiar with the reasons as to how they arrived at Isekhure’s indefinite suspension. One thing you must not ignore is the fact that you might be seeing the Benin Traditional Institution from afar, without getting to know much about the intrigues in the palace. In the case of the Esama of Benin in 2008, his misconduct before the suspension was very obvious to many people in and around Benin. This as you are very much aware is unacceptable to every Benin person(s). He had to be called to order. If he had been allowed to continue to carry on the way and manner he was going, the Benin Traditional Institution, which is the pride of every Benin man or woman, would have been destroyed.

“When I was campaigning for election, I met all the Enigies, there were 140 Enigies across Edo South, when I met them, I told them, ‘If you want to serve the Oba, please by all means possible go ahead and serve the Oba very well. But if you want to be a politician as a Chief, you must first quit the palace. You cannot be a politician and still remain in the service of the palace.’ I told them, that is why our kingdom is having problem.  As a Palace Chief, you don’t need to dabble into partisan politics. These are some of the reasons why we always had problems in the palace. What Oba Ewuare II is trying to do therefore, is to try and see how he can bring about discipline and effective structure to the Benin palace system.

“So what Oba Ewuare is trying to do, is to sanitize the system. We do not throw our chieftaincy titles in Benin to anyhow people. We must now begin to look at credible Benin indigenes that have contacts in the country and across the globe, to help attract businesses and tourists to Benin City. This I think Omo N’ Oba Ogigidigan Ewuare II is set to do. And we must continue to encourage him. You see, an attempt to correct all those things that went wrong in the past 20 to 30 years in the Benin palace, must, as expected bring about huge noise as we are presently experiencing.  This is the truth of the matter. I must say without any fear or contradiction, that our generation is absolutely supporting the deliberate moves by Oba Ewuare to sanitize the Benin Palace system.  We want the Oba to put things right for us and for our children, because the pride of every Benin man is the palace.”

Another indigene of Benin, journalist, banker and politician, pleaded to remain anonymous, but reacted thus: “The Igbinedion and Isekhure’s circumstances are quite different. The case of Igbinedion, we all knew what led to it. But that of Isekhure is what surprises me. The truth must be told, even when the immediate past Oba was still alive, Isekhure never enjoyed the love or favour of the current Oba, even when he was a Crown Prince. I remembered when Isekhure was in the Constituent Assembly, his colleagues in the place and journalists addressed him Isekhure as ‘His Royal Highness’, but the present Oba as a Crown Prince then wrote to the authority of the place, telling them not to address Isekhure as ‘His Royal Highness’, that he was only a Chief in the Benin Kingdom.

I heard when the Crown Prince decided to draw his father’s attention to the letter he wrote to the Constituent Assembly about Isekhure, the late Oba questioned, what was wrong in addressing Chief Isekhure as ‘His Royal Highness,’ when the Enigies are being addressed as Royal Highness. The late Oba said that Chief Isekhure is more than an Enigie. But I am, however, disappointed at the conduct of Chief Isekhure if the allegation of the committee is true. That he was asked to come and play his role, before and during the coronation of Oba Ewuare II and that he Isekhure declined to do so. That action by Chief Isekhure surprised me, even though Isekhure and the present Oba were never best of friends, he would have honoured that invitation, as that would have been good ground and opportunity for him to cement relationship with the present Oba. I am also aware, that the present Oba, while the father was still alive, complained about the activities of Isekhure, especially Isekhure’s refusal to accord him, his due respect as the Crown Prince of Benin. The allegation was that Isekhure was in the habit of refusing to greet the Crown Prince the way and manner a sitting Oba is greeted in Benin. Isekhure was said to have told the Crown Prince then, “to wait until he becomes the de facto Oba, because according to him, and in line with the Benin tradition, Aigo Oba go Ovie, meaning, you do not serve a reigning Oba and serve his child.

Osa Director, Journalist and lawyer, he said: “the fact of life is dynamism. Dynamism of human relationship means that there will be conflicts and resolutions. Perhaps, this current crisis is part of what I see as the conflict that will naturally arise, as a result of the availability and the presence of so many Chiefs in the Benin palace. These Chiefs, as to be expected in any issue have different and divergent opinions, and in the process, there will be conflicts, and in the same process, there will be resolutions. And if you are not versed in Benin traditional ways of doing things, one might not be competent enough, to make informed commentary on matters concerning the palace and why certain decisions are taking. As regards the Isekhure issue, for me, it is still unfolding. I will just say, let’s keep our fingers crossed and see how it goes. Personally, I have confidence in the leadership qualities of our great Oba Ewuare II, to take Edo people and the Benin Traditional Institution to the next deserving level.

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