May 18, 2024

Benin Monarchy And The Puppetry Of Some Enigie

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By Washington Osa Osifo, PhD.

Colonialism and modern government victimized and diminished traditional political institutions, particularly in great Benin Kingdom, which, in the defence of her sovereignty, fiercely fought against their satanic incursion. At best, the institutions were reduced to collaborative administrative facilitators of colonial mission, particularly in the Northern and Eastern Nigeria. Indeed, Warrant Chiefs were created in the East. Politically independent Nigeria, short-sightedly inherited the oppressive mentality against the traditional institutions and largely retained them as symbolic reminders of our great history to date., pub-3120625432113532, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0

The Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Edit of 1979 recently dusted from archival shelf by an unhinged iconoclast and hurriedly being tested by puppetry typifies the perpetuation of an obnoxious colonial tradition. Many of its provisions are at variance and absolutely antithetical to the traditions, values, and heritage of our people. Similar laws may have been operational in parts of the North, West, and East of Nigeria, where monarchical systems were not as matured, sophisticated, and centralized as in Great Benin. Here, the monarchical system is widely recognized and studied as one of the most advanced, sophisticated, and most highly centralized systems globally. It’s complex structures, established way back into obscure memory, have continued to marvel scholars. It is one of African’s contributions to world civilization.

And any attempt to tamper it could only have emanated from the darkest columns in hell. It is as horrific as pulling a sword through the heart and soul of Edo people! This might trigger bloody revolts from the forces of traditionalists and culturalists in Edoland and beyond!

The throne of the Oba of Benin is sacred in the truest sense of the word. The Oba is a godform to any ‘Ovbi’Edo Kpataki’, a true Edo man, and he had power of life and death over all subjects before colonialism.

He is the centre of the worldview of the people. Hence, a man is called ‘Okpioba’ and a woman is called ‘Okhuoba’. Edo idioms, expressions, and everything significant in the kingdom are named after the Oba.
No where else comes close to this. The closest is the British monarchy, where every political, cultural, and traditional decision or action is done in the name of the Queen or King of England. The process and procedures of induction of Edaiken and coronation of an Oba have been undiluted and preserved over the centuries. Again, it is only comparable with the tradition of the British monarchy with all its symbolisms. The process is highly complex, tortuous, and wrapped in transcendental spirituality. Political leaders have no bearing whatsoever with the process. The official presentation of the staff of office to a new crowned Oba is only symbolic of government recognition. The Oba of Benin, in the worst of times, could reign and thrive within the kingdom with a plate full of spiritual and traditional duties and responsibilities without social intercourse with political leaders. That underscores the independence of the throne of Benin kingdom.

In response to the dynamics of growth and development of the highly centralized monarchical system, Oba Oguola (1280 AD – 1295 AD)created Enogie (Duke)title and Avbiama village was one of the earliest Dukedoms in Benin Kingdom. The title ‘Enogie’ means ‘the one sent forth as representative’. Essentially, the Enogie of a town departed Benin City to live among the people under his authority. As the Oba’s representative, his duty was to oversee the interest of the Palace in the community as directed by the Oba. But if an Enogie falls out of favour for whatever reason, the Oba could neutralize him by dealing directly with the Odionwere, who is the de facto traditional leader of the village or community. The Enogie would, by that action, lose his accreditation and authority. Not only is he not an indigene of the community, but he also does not derive legitimacy from the people.

The Odionwere and Edion in-Council ( Council of Elders) are the authentic leaders of the people. And they, too, act on behalf of the Oba. It is clear from the foregoing that the question of institutionalizing the office of Enogie as an autonomous ruler may turn the villages and communities into theatres of bloody crisis. It can not find a place in the village or community traditional governance system established from time immemorial.

The leadership of the Edo state government has been caught in technocratic divertimento in the last seven years. Thus, it has been in the character of Governor Godwin Obaseki to abandon the ship of state, preferring to prosecute imaginary wars and enemies with uncommon ferocity. The facts speak for itself; a fierce onslaught against APC in his first term and the PDP leaders in his second term, scheming to castrate and neutralize the legislative and judicial arms of government, power tripping against religious leaders and traditional rulers, scrambling for land not for developmental purposes in the most ingenious but destructive manner etc. These and many more speak volumes of an atmosphere of toxicity that has characterized the state administration. Ordinarily, the demand for fairness and suspension of judgement is compelling but every attempt to build up defensive arguments to shield the authorities of the State government collapses in the face of staggering weight of evidence to the contrary. What is more, Governor Obaseki lacks philosophical anchor and emotional intelligence that ought to fundamentally drive purposeful and visionary leadership and service delivery to the largely distressed citizens of the state. Thus, the toxic and sterile environment that prevails incentivized cantankerous and incendiary elements. At the moment, it is rife in the public domain that the raging fire of the weird contestation over artefacts with the Palace is still smouldering. And then came, the wicked and ill advised refusal to release Palace entitlements for several months. This was closely followed by the so-called proposal to create seven traditional councils in Edoland with all its sacrilegious imputation. And then this; the most vexatious of it all, the court case? All of these, under the watch of Governor Obaseki, who appear to have portrayed himself as cold heartedly vindictive with proven penchant for stoking distractive crisis, particularly so, in grim untested territories. It is far-fetched to regard the events highlighted as mere coincidences. The conspiracy and intransigence of the litigants in the court case, the Enigie, without an iota of doubt, are under the influence and direction of a control centre. It is dramatic puppetry! Call it the voice of Jacob and the hands of Esau.

Contentious royal feuds between siblings and uncles of the king or queen litter the history of monarchies from the ancient world.

Benin Kingdom have had her share of royal feuds and surreptitious maneuvers in modern times, but they were subdued and well managed with a few crackdowns. The ongoing court case is anything but a royal feud. Rather, it is a vicious and diabolical attempt to undermine the power and prestige of the Benin throne by seeking the balkanization of the Kingdom. The Enigie who offered themselves as tools for this act of sacrilege were myopic and intensely driven by potential financial benefits of the struggle while the fiendish puppet manipulator concealed from them a more satanic mission – to pull down the world acclaimed ancient structures. It is saddening that some Enigie allowed a raging tyrant to lit a match for an apocalypse threatening the Edo nation. The future of Enogie title has been put on the cross fire and uncertain. Innocent generations will bear the consequences of this thoughtless blunder unless the greedy conspirators immediately retrace their steps and embrace acts of contrition. Edo people will stand firmly behind the Palace and defend their pride and identity as symbolized by the institution of Obaship in Great Benin.

In conclusion, it is obvious and must be mentioned again that Sections 21-23 of the Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Laws, 1979 and the law itself, are one of the negative vestiges of military rule in Nigeria. It does not reflect our democratic values, traditions, and ethos as these sections specifically contradict and attempt to whittle down the powers of traditional rulers, especially first-class traditional rulers like the Oba of Benin Kingdom. These provisions give unbridled powers to the Governor and his Executive Council to act as “appointees” and “supervisors” to a traditional ruler whose seat, title and authority is traced customarily to his ancestors and the will of his people, and not the stroke of an Executive pen or a tinge of legislative prescription. No traditional ruler, let alone the revered Oba of Benin, deserves to be subject to the manipulative schisms of politicians, masquerading as members of the executive or legislative arms of government The traditional institution and indeed our culture should be insulated from politicians. This can be done not by sing songs or sound bites as the present occupants of Osadebe Avenue are wont to do, but by avoiding the use/abuse of anachronistic Legislations like the TRCL to attempt to whittle down the powers of traditional rulers, reduce the size of their kingdom or bulkanize it. Indeed, in view of this attempt to misuse/abuse these referenced provisions of the TRCL, we call for an urgent review of the law. We recommend a review process that will reflect the cultural values of the people. This is best achieved through public debates in the review process..We are hopeful that this should be the priority of the next government in Edo State. If this is done, no other governor will have the leverage and opportunity to use the same for otherwise altruistic purposes, as we have witnessed in Edo State recently.

Washington Osa Osifo, PhD
Public Affairs Analyst.

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