The recent exchange of postings in the Vanguard by Tony Momoh and HRH Prince Edun Akenzua, on the issue of who is who in the Edo State Council of Traditional Rulers and Chiefs, revealed a lot of stresses and CONSPIRACIES that has enveloped the council in recent years. But first, what is the duty of the council? Is it advisory to the governor of the state? Does it enact laws? Even when it sends recommendation/advice to the governor, is he bound or obligated to accept or implement those recommendations? With due respect to all those who have been members to that council, we can simply say that ” IT IS A CULTURAL GATHERING OF A GROUP OF PEOPLE REGARDED AS THE CUSTODIAN OF EDO HERITAGE.” If this is so, what then are THEY quarrelling about-chairmanship, representations and in Tony Momoh’s words breaking of KOLA NUTS?
On Chairmanship, the African society respects and recognizes the “homestead” as number one. If Benin City is accepted as the homestead of the Edo-speaking world, it automatically follow that , the only ruler known to the Edos for more that two thousand years, is the de facto head of the homestead and all those who migrated from it. And in this case, the Oba of Benin. He too breaks the KOLA NUTS or passes the privileged to some else. In the Edo- speaking world, it is the oldest man in the absence of a chief, who breaks the KOLA NUTS. What is Tony Momoh quarreling about? Is it not the same in Edo North and Edo Central in spite of the presence of Islam in the area? So Tony Momoh want the Otaru of Auchi to break the KOLA NUTS, right? I can hear Eromonsele the Enogie of Irrua, Okaigiesan of Ishan rolling in his grave. And he expects the Enogie of Ewohomi and Uromi to accept that?
On representation, the law is also clear-two representatives from each local government area. Those Edos described as Binis today, have been under represented for years because of the peculiar relationship of the Benin chiefs, the Enigie and the Oba of Benin. Does Tony Momoh know that all the Enigie in Esan Land ( Edo Central ) and some of those we call traditional rulers in Edo North, actually derive their office from an Oba of Benin just as the Enigies in Benin Kingdom. Oba Ovoranmwen installed an Enogie of Ekpoma in Benin City in 1896,shortly before the British invasion and conquest of 1897. That was his last political act as far as the creation and maintenance of a dukedom is concerned. That Enogie of Ekpoma is probably the great grandfather of the present Enogie of Ekpoma. He was led back to Ekpoma under armed escort. The irony of this incident is that the present Enogie of Ekpoma was neck deep in the conspiracy against the Oba of Benin, hatched by the Otaru of Auchi. Does Tony Momoh Know that until 1897, the power of the Oba of Benin extended to Auchi? And I want to state it again, that there is no time in the history of Benin Empire, an Oba of Benin fought a war to force those who have migrated to come back to Benin City. What the Oba has always done is to install an Enogie there, who will be responsible for administering the area and reporting back to the Oba of Benin.
The postings of Tony Momoh and Edun Akenzua reminded me of a conversation we had with Chief Anthony Enahoro, when he visited Chicago for the Edo Okpamakhin Organization in 1998. He had delivered a keynote speech at the Edo National Convention the previous year, where he emphasized the need for unity among the Edo-speaking world. He had advocated an Edo language as the cement or glue for the unity. He had asked me a rhetorical question on why the people of EDO NORTH left the plain lands and went up the hill to settle. He wondered if a conqueror had invaded Benin City at a point in time and set people fleeing into the hills. I did not respond. I just smiled back at him. I knew and understood his problem. I had thought so myself when I visited Ibillo, Igarra, Auchi and some communities in Edo North. I did a personal research and some of the findings have come to the surface in this chit-chat.
They are as follows:
1) Contrary to popular beliefs, the migration of Edo-speaking people did not occur as it is commonly told. Not every one was running from a despotic Oba of Benin. The Edo-speaking people have lived where they are for over six thousand years
2) People migrated for different reasons-
a) Avoidance of the public works eg. moat digging in Benin city
b) Search for new land for cultivation
c) New Military bases to stem the tide of invasion especially the Nupes and Igallas. The Atta of Igalla esounced at Idah was a thorn in the flesh of Benin.
d) Those who settled in the hills in Edo North were not running away from Benin soldiers. They were running away from Nupe’s Islamic warriors on horse-back and the earlier slave raiders who had invaded that area before Islamic Jihad. The Edos in the hills were running from slave traders from BIDA, the headquarter of the NUPES. They took position among the rock and hills, which they could easily defend.
e) The OTARU OF AUCHI was an agent of the Nupes of Bida in this nefarious trade. The Otaru himself created his own agents known as DAWODU, and gradually undermined the traditional Edo traditional System of governance in AUCHI and environ.
f) The ancient Edo Empire may have had the appearance as a slave society as stated by Tony Momoh, but an Edo man was forbidden to be sold into slavery. Only prisoners of war were enslaved. But in any case, Benin City was no less different from Bida of the Nupes. It was Bida who appointed an agent called Otaru at Auchi. Bida was involved in trans saharan slave trade. Edo people captured from the Edo North were either castrated or sent to the caravan heading north.
A few months ago, Chief Anthony Enahoro was given a chieftaincy as the
Okakulo of Edo State, by the Otaru of Auchi. My telephone rang off the hook from friends, quarrying the power of the Otaru to create and invest such a title. My response then was that, the Otaru of Auchi aided by some people was challenging the Oba of Benin.
But the pain was not what Otaru did, but those who participated or went to the ceremony especially the Enigie in Esan Land. Is Chief Anthony Enahoro now one of the Otaru’s Dawodu? My answer was no. I said the chief is probably unaware of the conspiracy at work. And I told one of those who had called me that the conspiracy would soon unravel. Asked why, I responded by saying, there is no way the Onogie of Irrua, Uromi, Opoji and Ewohimi would accept the Otaru of Auchi as their overlord and forget where they came from originally. What you are seeing today is the unraveling of a carefully crafted plot against the Oba of Benin and the Binis.
AND HEREIN comes the governor of Edo state, Chief Lucky Nosakhare
Igbinedion. It is one of the ironies of history that he is now the man God has given the assignment to solve the problem he helped to create, as he fought for the highest office in Edo Land. His NRC and PDP fight for the governorship of Edo State was tied with a lot of unnecessary alliances and promises. Politics gradually crept into the affairs of the traditional council that was how the Military Administrator Onyereagbulem got involved in a conspiracy he knew nothing about – POOR IGBO MAN. Tony Momoh has alluded to it -Edo North and Edo central is his political base. Tony Momoh seems to be saying is ” Do what the Otaru says or we will not vote for you again.” My advice to Lucky Igbinedion is simply this: “NOBODY POINT TO HIS FATHER’S HOUSE WITH HIS LEFT HAND. DO WHAT IS RIGHT ACCORDING TO THE LAW OF THE LAND”. The Binis should be represented in whatever ways the Oba of Benin decides to do it.
The only thing the British invaders left for the Edo people is a MANACLED OBASHIP INSTITUTION. When they restricted the authority of Oba Eweka II, to what has become known as Benin Division, they created the problem we are now facing. The biggest mistake the Enigie in Benin Kingdom made was to challenge the Oba of Benin. What they should have asked for was an arrangement where they could enjoy a near status of the Enigie in Edo North and Edo Central, bearing in mind that their dukedoms were all created in similar fashions. The problem we face today is the direct result of a British political arrangement designed to humiliate the monarchy in Benin City. Before 1897, the Edo-speaking world had only one traditional ruler, and that was the Oba of Benin. All the others were his chiefs. Before 1897, only the Oba of Benin can create chieftaincy titles in the Edo-speaking world. When the Otarus of Auchi were creating their Dawodus in the early 1900’s,
Benin City had fallen to the British and Oba Ovonranmwen tucked away at
Calabar. In fact the titles of some of these chiefs who now call themselves traditional rulers, may even tell you the duties assigned to them by the Oba of Benin.
Like very group of people in the world with nationalistic pride, the Edos have theirs. They give titles to amplify those beliefs. EDORISIAGBON WE SAY OVER AND OVER AGAIN. We are not ashamed. If Tony Momoh does not believe it, he may change it to BIDA. He might even find out that the Nupes of Bida have similar slogan or appellations.
Let us stop quarreling over who breaks the KOLA NUTS. For that is what the Edo State Council of Traditional rulers and Chiefs has become. It is a council without legislative powers.