EDO COLLABORATORS OF THE BRITISH 1897 BENIN INVASION
THE EDO ENEMY WITHIN
BRITISH SOLDIER SKETCH OF BENIN CITY BEFORE THE 1897 INVASION
June in Edo Kingdom’s History
by Otedo News Update
Dec 17, 2010
June in Edo kingdom’s history
1897 June 24
Okaokuo Ebeikhimwin, Benin army commander and defender of Ughoton (Gwato),
was executed by the British occupation forces. His crime was
waging a resistance war against the British occupiers, who had
captured Benin City, and their Edo collaborators.
The British started the invasion of Benin kingdom on February 9 1897.
The invasion comprised of three assault columns: the Sapoba, the Gwato
and the Main columns. The `Gwato Column’, which was composed of Royal
marines and sailors of the HMS Philomel and Barossa, was charged with
the blockade of the Benin River and destruction of all Benin towns and
villages from Ughoton (Gwato) up to the river port of Ikoro.
On February 10 1897, after an extensive bombardment, the British marines
and sailors of the Gwato column landed and tried to occupy Ughoton.
Unfortunately for the invaders Ughoton was Benin kingdom’s major
seaport and point of interaction with Europeans, and hence it was the
kingdom’s most heavily defended position. Here the British invaders
encountered a very determined and stiff resistance mounted by Benin
and Igbile (Izon) militias commanded by Ebeikhimwin of Ova. The
invaders were stopped dead on their tracks, and after incurring heavy
casualties in a bitter and bloody battle they withdrew with their dead
In late February, Ebeikhimwin preceded to Benin City when information
reached him that Omo n’Oba Ovonramwen had left the city. However when
he arrived in the city, he found out that his militia was no match for
the better-equipped British who were entrenched in their fort. So he
unleashed his fury on the villages and settlements of ekhaemwẹn and
nobles who had pledged loyalty to the British occupiers. It was
however a short-lived and an uncoordinated insurgency, and in May 1897
his position was betrayed to the British. A British unit led by
Captain Roupell, the acting Resident of Benin city captured him. In
June he was tried by the British occupiers and hanged in June 24 1897.
1899 June 27
The British occupation forces executed okhaemwen Irabor, the Ologbose
of Benin, a senior hereditary army commander of the Benin Armies, and
hero of the battle of Ugbine (January 4 1897) after a kangaroo court
trial. According to the British, he instigated and executed the `Benin
Massacre’ in which a Niger Coast Protectorate force that was escorting
Lieutenant James R Phillip, the acting Commissioner and Consul General
of the Niger Coast Protectorate Authority and six British men were
killed. In addition engaging in a resistance war against the British
On January 2 1897, Lieutenant James R. Phillip (RN), the acting
commissioner and consul-General of the Niger Coast Protectorate, in
company of six British trading agents: Clarke Crawford, Kenneth
Campbell, Arthur Maling, Harris Powis, Thomas Gordon and Locke, a
medical doctor; Dr. Robert Elliott, and Hubert Clarke, an interpreter
of mixed race, set out of Sapele onwards to Benin City. Philips
expedition was escorted by some 250 black African soldiers of the
Niger Coast Protectorate Force under the command of Captain Alan
The expedition however was an extraordinary one, in fact the first,
and the only one of its kind in British colonial history. Phillip’s
objective was the abduction of Omo n’Oba Ovonramwen, and replacing him
with a puppet `Native Council’. In the words of the acting Consul
General the cost of the mission was to be paid by the treasures that
he expected to find in the Oba’s palace.
On January 4 1897 Phillip’s
expedition was surprised and annihilated at Ugbine a village just east
of Ughoton Benin militias commanded by okhaemwen Irabor on the orders
of the commander in chief of all Benin army, Iyase Okizi. This
military victory in the opinion of the British and the experts of
Benin history and art history was a `Massacre’ hence the British
military disaster a Ugbine became known as the `Benin Massacre’.
After the British capture and destruction of Benin City Ologbose
Irabor continued his resistance of the British occupiers. It was a
resistance that lasted two years during which the Benin war commander
defeated the Royal Niger Company private army at Okemue and prevented
the British penetration of the hinterland and the European traders
from establishing trading posts in Benin City. Eventually with the
help of their Edo Collaborators, in May 1899 the British captured Ologbose
Irabor. As expected the British occupiers, in their usual kangaroo
court proceedings, the Ologbose was found guilty of being the chief
instigator and perpetrator of the Benin `Massacre’. On June 27 1899 he
was hanged for defending his land against a group of marauding British
thieves who hands were covered with blood and hearts fill with evil
August in Edo kingdom’s history
1897 August 5
Preceded by messengers carrying a white flag and a small musical band,
led by flute players, Omo n’Oba Ovenramwen entered Benin City
accompanied by the Ero of Urubi, ten of his loyal ekhaemwen and some
of his wives, including the bulk of the palace community
Captain Roupell ordered all British white officers and men in the city
to keep out of sight so as not to scare away the capitulating king.
1897 August 7
Omo n’Oba Ovenramwen formally surrender to Captain Roupell at the
Court House, which had been built on a part of the ruined his palace
Captain Roupell’s public humiliation of the Omo n’Oba was, in the
words of a writer to demystify, the Omo n’Oba’s mystique, and show the
`natives’ that the white men were the new masters of the land.
September in Edo kingdom’s history
1897 September 1
Omo n’Oba Ovenramwen was charged with ordering the massacre of Phillip
and his party. It was an ironic and absurd trial that would make
mockery of a kangaroo court, in which the accused had been presumed
guilty and a cotton tree earmarked for his execution. The trail was
preside over by three unscrupulous, shameless and ruthless thieves,
Sir R.D.R. Moor, K.C.M.G., Commissioner and Consul General, who stole
most of Omo n’Oba Ovenramwen’s personal effects including the famous
`FESTAC’ ivory mask OF Queen Idia N’Iyoba, Captain E.S.P. Roupell,
acting British political Resident, who personally directed the destruction and looting of the
Iyoba Iheya’s palace at Uselu, and Captain C.H.P. Carter, the
commanding officer of the British occupying troops Benin City.
Ekhaemwen Obakhavbaye, Obayuwana and Uso, and okaokuo Ugiagbe,
commanders of the Benin militias that annihilated Phillip’s invasion
force at Ugbine, who were present at the proceeding, were promptly
arrested and detained. That night Obayuwana committed suicide in
1897 September 2
Sir Moor, ordered Obayuwana’s body hung up in the front of the ruined
A desecration of the dead, which is a crime against humanity and all
1897 September 3
Ekhaemwen Uso and Obakhavbaye were condemned to death by Moor’s
kangaroo court for defending their nation and loved ones against
The murder of the ekhaemwen was to impress upon the natives the power
of the white man
1897 September 4
Ekhaemwen Uso and Obakhavbaye were publicly executed.
1897 September 9
Omo n’Oba Ovenramwen is arrested, detained and his wives taken from him.
1897 September 13
Omo n’Oba Ovenramwen is taken out of Benin by a NCPF unit of sixty men
commanded by Captains Carter and Henniker to Gele-Gele port, and
transferred on to a Protectorate yacht on the final journey to Calabar.
Phillip’s objectives, as stated in his letter dated the 16 November
1896) were finally achieved. The city had been `visited’ (invaded and
captured), the `obstruction’ (Omo n’Oba Ovenramwen) had been removed
and the `ivory’ (treasuries of Benin kingdom: Artworks, sacred and
religious items, mnemonics and visual history, including personal
effects) in his house(Palace) seized (as one shameless writer wrotey)
or obtained (in the words of another shameless one). Some of the
`ivory’ was shipped to England, and a fraction of it finally auctioned
in Paris to pay for the `visit’. A reference book has it that a large
collection of art from Benin is brought to France; these works
influence the artistic and formal concerns of modern artists,
especially Pablo Picasso and the Cubist.
October in Edo kingdom’s history
1896 mid October
An Itsekiri delegate, led by Itsie, an Itsekiri prince, visit Benin to
implore Ovenramwen to annul the curse that Omo n’Oba Osemwende had
placed on Olu Akengbuwa, the king of Itsekiri, in the late 1840s.
His mission was joined by chiefs Dore and Dudu the principal Itsekiri
traders. The traders mission was to beg Omo n’Oba Ovenramwen to lift
the trade embargo he had imposed on the Itsekiri. In addition they
came to ask (at the request of their European trading partners) to
allow a British official to visit Benin.
1896 October 31
The acting British vice consul, Lieutenant J.R. Phillips (RN) (Major
Moore was on leave) arrived in Sapele in response to the British
traders’ petitions and appraise the situation in the district.
The British traders successfully persuaded Phillips that Omo n’Oba
Ovenramwen was not adhering to the Gallwey’s `Treaty, obstructing
trade and massacring slaves. Coincidentally, it was same day the
trading chiefs arrived from Benin, and in the subsequent talks they
held Phillip, the vice consul was displeased with Ovonramwen’s terms
for a resumption of trade and for not giving a concrete reply to the
European traders’ request that a British official be allowed to visit
Benin City. Phillip ordered the Itsekiri trading chiefs not to supply
the roofing sheets and stop paying tributes to Benin. The British
traders realising that Phillip’s decision had dashed their hopes and
aspirations of total control of trade on the Benin River, and gaining
direct access into Benin territories, the chief agent of one trading
company made available to Phillips a confidential memo of Benin
kingdom’s resources, economic prospects and investment opportunities.
This was what prompted Phillip to ask his superiors in London for
permission to invade Benin City in Febuary 1897.
“AKUGBE O ETIN”
“They who have seen only a little vociferate about how much they have experienced, while they who have seen a great deal cannot even find the words to express what they have gone through”
– EWUARE OGIDIGAN (The great) Oba of Benin 1440 AD – 1473 AD
(A great Magician, Physician, Traveller and warrior; constructed Akpakpava street, created the Edaiken title, renamed the land Edo and the first Oba to come in contact with Europeans).
A postcard of the great Benin monarch Oba Ovoramwen Nogbaisi in exile in Calabar 1897. In February of 1897 the British launched a full-scale attack on Benin City which fell after eight days of fierce fighting. The Kingdom of Benin was totally destroyed, many inhabitants killed, the city looted and many valuable artifacts taken as trophies. The accused mastermind of the ambush and massacre of Captain Phillips and his party, Ologboshere, was put on trial and hanged. Oba Ovonramwen was to be hanged as well but after his surrender was deposed instead and exiled to Calabar with his two wives where he died January 1914.
OBA OVONRAWMEN FORCED TO SURRENDER AND BOW BEFORE A COMMON BRITISH CAPTAIN TO SAVE HIS PEOPLE FROM FURTHER MASSACRE BY THE MARAUDING BRITISH FORCES WHO WERE BUSY BURNING ALL THE TOWNS AND VILLAGES OUTSIDE BENIN CITY AS AN ACT OF TERRORISM BECAUSE THEY COULD NOT DEFEAT & CAPTURE OVONRAWMEN AND HIS GUERILLA-WAR TROOPS IN BUSH COMBAT AS PLANNED
OVONRANWMEN ON BOARD A PRISON SHIP
OVONRANWMEN IN EXILE WITH HIS CALABAR WIVES & CHILDREN
OVONRAMWEN CURSED THE EDO-BRITISH COLLABORATORS
WHO BETRAYED HIS LOYAL WARRIORS LIKE ASORO & OLOGBOSERE THAT THEY WILL NEVER EVER BE ABLE TO UNITE IN THE EDO KINGDOM THAT IS WHY THEY ALWAYS SIDE WITH THE ENEMIES OF EDO KINGDOM AGAINST THEIR OWN PEOPLE. THE REMEDY IS TO DO AWAY WITH THEM LEST THEY SABOTAGE US TO OUR DESTRUCTION LIKE THEIR FATHERS DID IN THE BENIN INVASION 100 YEARS AGO
GENERAL IRABOR OLOGBOSHERE
SHORTLY BEFORE HIS EXECUTION
THE SWORD OF OVONRANMWEN
ON DISPLAY IN A EUROPEAN MUSEUM
OBA OVONRAMWEN NOGBAISI THE KING OF BENIN
Oba Ovonramwen (1888 – 1914 CE.) Oba Ovonramwen Nogbaisi was on the throne during the British invasion of Benin City in 1897. To prepare the grounds before the invasion, the British first sneaked military spies into Benin, to infiltrate the nation’s security system during the Igue festival, a period of acute spiritual sensitivity for Edo people, when their monarch goes into seclusion for two weeks for spiritual cleansing and cannot receive visitors. The spies were eliminated for their hostile acts. The British then sent a delegation to Benin in March 1892. The delegation was led by Capt. Henry L. Gallwey, the Vice Consul for the Benin River District of the Niger Coast Protectorate, supposedly to conclude a Treaty of Protection with Oba Ovonramwen of Benin.
The British had deceived King Dosumu of Lagos to sign a similar treaty that ceded Lagos to the British in 1861. They forced the same kind of treaty on the Jaja of Opopo in 1887 to gain access and economic control of the eastern coast of Nigeria. Quoting Capt. Henry Gallwey, who after retirement became Sir Henry Gallwey, in a report on the 1892 visit to Benin, for the Journal of the African Society of April 1930, under the title: Nigeria in the (Eighteen) Nineties, he wrote in part: “Any idea I may have had of being received by the king the day I arrived was very soon dispelled. After being kept waiting for three days, I sent word to say that I could wait no longer.
CAPTAIN HENRY GALLWEY
To support my threat, every half-hour, I sent a carrier away with a load I did not require, telling them where to wait for me. This artifice rather worried the king, and he sent word to me asking me “not to be vexed,” as my interpreters put it. However, that afternoon, it was arranged for me to have audience with the king. I accordingly donned my uniform and sallied out with my companions into the burning heat of the afternoon, a most unreasonable time of day at which to hold a palaver. I am afraid, however, that the kings of Benin were never renowned for their reasonable natures. In spite of these pinpricks, it was all very interesting and amusing, and I never gave a thought to the discomfort of being encased in a dress intended to be won at levees and such functions in temperate climes…….”
After attempting to compromise the nation’s security earlier on, the British delegation could not be received by the Oba of Benin immediately they arrived because of the need to check out their real mission. When the Oba signaled readiness to receive the delegates, they were in “encased dress intended to be worn at levees,” to the palace. In other words, they were in military uniform to the palace of an Oba who was weary of visits of Europeans. After the incidence of the Dutchman, Commandant Willem Hogg, who pulled a pistol and shot at Oba Oresoyen in 1735, while on a courtesy visit to the palace to discuss business matters with the Oba and his chiefs, Benin Obas became a little more careful about granting direct audience to European visitors.
This is the genesis of the difficulties experienced by Capt. Gallwey while trying to have audience with the Oba in 1892. At the palace, the disposition and mannerisms of the visitors had to be carefully studied before the Oba could receive them, since they were in military uniform. Capt. Gallwey said the Oba was “unreasonable” and then generalized “… as all Benin Obas are wont to be.” He had made up his mind before the visit and was looking for excuses to set up Benin kingdom for British invasion. To emphasize that Benin was a special case to crack, the British rushed to force treaties on neighbouring territories. They attacked the Nana of Itsekiri, in their ‘palm oil war’ in 1894 and exiled Nana to Ghana; attacked the Koko of Nembe in 1895, and the Ashanti Prempeh of Ashanti in 1896, to produce duress inspired spurious treaties to take control of the kings’ respective areas of influence. The British accused Oba Ovonramwen of lack of cooperation, and to look good in the eyes of the rest of the world, added “human sacrifice,” as their reasons for launching their full-scale war on Benin in January 1897. The real reason for the British Expedition was that the British viewed the Benin kingdom as the main obstacle in their expansion drive into the agricultural interior of the West African coast from the River Niger.
The war lasted for eight days from January to early February 1897, and went in their favour because of their big guns and cannons, which the Edo army did not have. After capturing the ancient city of Benin and slaughtering thousands of the natives in cold blood, to grossly depopulate the city, and the few survivors had escaped to farms and villages, the British ransacked the palace of the Oba, homes of nobles and chiefs, artistes’ workshops, and shrines, to rescue “pagan art” and relieve Benin of the “evil.” Then the British burnt the entire city down to the last house.
Akin Adeoya in the Sunday Guardian of March 29, 2009, wrote: “There was a great kingdom of Benin that lasted for centuries with a highly stable administration and a civilization that built great highways and produced works of such great significance that the British who invaded and ultimately defeated the Ovonramwen’s gallant forces, nearly went mad with envy that not all their Christian piety or civility could help them resist the urge to steal these works of art, which their own civilization could not rival. These works of art, till today, still grace the shrines of the British Empire and civilization, the British Museum.”
The palace of the Oba of Benin, according to Joshua Utzheimer, 1603, was about the size of the German City of Tubingen.” This was razed down by fire by the British invading force, claiming to be on a civilizing mission. Is razing cities after the surviving few victims of their assault have surrendered, not the epitome of barbarism? Can any thing be more callous than this? Oba Ovonramwen who could not be captured but who surrendered to the British in August, 1897, was exiled to Calabar (in south-east Nigeria) where he died in January, 1914.
From accounts of members of the British army that invaded Benin City in 1897, we learn that the floors, lintels, and rafters of the council chambers and the king’s residence in the palace were lined with sheets of repoussé, decorated brass covered with royal geometric designs and figures of men and leopards. Ornamental ivory locks sealed the doors and carved ivory figurines surmounted anterior. A brass snake, observed for the first time by a European in the early eighteenth century, was still to be seen on the roof of the council chamber house. All of these, along with other invaluables, including precious works of arts, the invading British stole in the name of their king and country. What they could not steal or burn, they destroyed, including invaluable records of the Bini scintillating civilization, to allow their historians to falsify human history and African contributions.
According to Prof. Akin Ibidapo-Obe in: A Synthesis of African law, “the British stripped Benin of its pagan art treasure…..almost 2,500 of the famous Benin bronzes, valuable works of art such as the magnificent carved doors in the palace, were carried off to Europe for sale. Today, almost every museum of the world possesses an art treasure from Benin. It is important to relate the account of British brigandage and deliberate and wanton stealing of Africa’s invaluable art treasures to show that our culture was great and was envied.
The tradition and way of life that spawned such great achievement was deliberately destroyed and history was falsified to justify the introduction of their obnoxious laws, some of which purported to forbid our traditional religion.” This is how Prof. Felix Van Luschan, a former official of the Berlin Museum for Volkerhunde, described what the British deviously called Pagan art of Benin; “these works from Benin are equal to the very finest examples of European casting technique. Benvenuto Celini could not have cast them better, nor could any one else before or after him. Technically, these Bronzes represent the very highest possible achievement.” Only a highly civilized nation could have borne the expenditure and facilities of such marvelous works of art, some of the best masterpieces in the history of mankind.
When the Nigerian government requested to loan a replica of the Idia Ivory mask for use during the 2nd World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) held in 1977 in Lagos, Nigeria, from the British Museum of Mankind, the British authorities insisted on the Nigerian government depositing a sum of three million dollars before collecting the loaned copy. A 17th century Benin bronze head (nine inches high) stolen from the palace of Oba Ovonramwen, by the British invaders in 1897, was auctioned by Sotheby, New York, for US$550,000 in July, 2007.
Despite the British abuse of Edo culture and marginalization of Edo history, the splendour of Edo civilization continues to this day to astound and excite the world. Benin artifacts are among the most exquisite and coveted in world’s history, and the kingdom of Benin remains famous for its sophistication in social engineering and organization. The Bini Obaship institution is still one of the world’s most revered apart from being one of the most ancient. Edo was incorporated into what the British called the Niger Coast Protectorate, later known as the Southern Protectorate, and after annexing Arochukwu (Igboland) in 1902, and Hausa Fulani emirates in 1903, merged what they called Southern and Northern Protectorates in 1914 to form what in now Nigeria.
NAIWU OSAHON Hon. Khu Mkuu (Leader) World Pan-African Movement); Ameer Spiritual (Spiritual Prince) of the African race; MSc. (Salford); Dip.M.S; G.I.P.M; Dip.I.A (Liv.); D. Inst. M; G. Inst. M; G.I.W.M; A.M.N.I.M. Poet, Author of the magnum opus: ‘The end of knowledge’. One of the world’s leading authors of children’s books; Awarded; key to the city of Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Honourary Councilmanship, Memphis City Council; Honourary Citizenship, County of Shelby; Honourary Commissionership, County of Shelby, Tennessee; and a silver shield trophy by Morehouse College, USA, for activities to unite and uplift the African race.
THE KINGDOM BRITAIN INVADED
In 1897, the British, an uncouth tribe of callous, shameless barbarians, in the name of their monarch, and out of envy and greed, called the Edo people savages to destroy a brilliant African civilization that was far ahead of theirs, because they had big guns.
The rogue Imperialists thus viciously set back Edo’s advancement by stealing Edo’s sacred artifacts and things for profit and growth and burning what they could not take away, to turn a once accomplished people into common beggars for measly foreign aids. Edo people must begin preparation now to sue Britain and her monarch for 50 billion pounds reparations and the return of all our stolen arts & artifacts in their private & public collections back to the Oba Palace.
The greatest African force and the most important, most scintillating civilization to endure in the last two thousand years in the West African sub-region was the Benin civilization. It began its uninterrupted aggressive ascendance from the era of Oba Ewuare the Great (1440 -1473 CE), until it was sacked by British Imperialists in 1897, to steal and usurp Edo artifacts and civilization to advance further. The arts, particularly brass casting in Benin Kingdom, flourished during Oba Ewuare’s reign 1440 – 1473. He set up a war machine that extended Edo notion of kingship, objects, aesthetic, ideas and power, across the West Coast of Africa, and through dominance lent their name to the Bight of Benin. It was towards the tail end of Emperor Ewuare’s reign that the Portuguese first made their visit to West Africa in 1472. Oba Ewuare the Great died in 1473.
At the actuaries on the bank of what is today known as the Bight of Benin, the local people the Portuguese met there, when asked about the Kingdom in the interior, told the Portuguese it was called Benin.
The Portuguese abbreviated this to Benin/Benybecause they could not properly pronounce Benin. When the Portuguese arrived in the kingdom of Benin, they were stunned by what they found on the ground in terms of level of administrative sophistication, social engineering and military activities.
They found a monarchy dating back many centuries, with complex structures of chiefs and palace officials presiding over a kingdom expanding in all directions, and a highly developed kingdom with unique and very sophisticated political, artistic, linguistic, economic, cultural and military traditions, in the process of territorial conquests. Edo kingdom was in the throes of great conquests and had healthy, disciplined citizens; well planned and laid out streets, a palace extending over kilometers of territory and a king and his nobles, civilized to their bones. The Portuguese felt honored to be accepted by the Bini and quickly entered into treaties of cooperation with Oba Ewuare, (the first such between any European and West African countries), deepening political and trade obligations.
There is a hint that they tried to preach Christianity to the monarch but were not rewarded with favorable response. It was taboo to talk about alien Gods in a civilization ruled by vibrant African Gods. It was during Oba Ewuare’s reign, however, that an Aruosa delegation visited Portugal in 1472. A British adventurer called Ling Roth, was the first to refer to Benin as great, a tribute not only to the extent of the Benin Empire but also to the elaborate, detailed and efficient administrative machinery the people had evolved. The Portuguese made strong efforts to convert Oba Ozolua (1481 -1495), to Christianity with preachments. The Portuguese King exchanged several friendly correspondences with the King of Benin between 1481-1495. The Oba of Benin had no respect for White gods and deities and even for the Portuguese items of trade, which were being offered to build close links between the kingdom and Portugal. He was, however, impressed with their guns, a weapon strange to warfare in the West African region at that time. Oba Ozolua introduced bronze casting to Benin.
He did it through Iguehae, a great bronze caster, whose descendants have continued the tradition through the guild of bronze casters at the present day Igun Street in Benin City. A seventeenth century Dutch engraving from Olfert Dapper’s Nauwkeurige Beschrijvinge der Afrikaansche Gewesten, published in Amsterdam in 1668, described the palace thus: “The king’s palace or court is a square, and is as large as the town of Haarlem and entirely surrounded by a special wall, like that which encircles the town. It is divided into many magnificent palaces, houses, and apartments of the courtiers, and comprises beautiful and long square galleries, about as large as the Exchange at Amsterdam, but one larger than another, resting on wooden pillars, from top to bottom covered with cast copper, on which are engraved the pictures of their war exploits and battles, and are kept very clean.
Most palaces and houses of the king are covered with palm leaves instead of square pieces of wood, and every roof is decorated with a small turret ending in a point, on which birds are standing, birds cast in copper with outspread wings, cleverly made after living models.” Oba Esigie (1504-1550 CE). The Portuguese, a major European power at Oba Esigie’s time, finally happily succeeded in negotiating and establishing strong diplomatic and trade relations with Oba Esigie and his kingdom, Benin, the first such relationship between a West African country and a European country.
Oba Esigie’s son was the first accredited African envoy to the Portuguese court. The King of Portugal receiving the ambassador from the King of Benin in 1505 CE, described him as “a man of good speech and natural wisdom” Today, White historians lie that we were savages on our first encounter with Whites. One of the numerous Oba of Benin elite palace associations was assigned the responsibility of conducting affairs with the Portuguese. Until this day, a secret language, which some claim is derived from a mixture of Portuguese and Edo languages, is spoken by members of the association. Portuguese mercenaries fought along-side the Bini in many territorial wars after the treaty. Trade between the Portuguese and Benin was mainly in coral beads, cloths for ceremonial attire, and great quantities of brass manilas, which Bini craftsmen melted for casting. In exchange for Portuguese goods, the Bini offered tobacco, spices, cola nuts, ivory, earthenware, jewelry, artifacts, woven cotton materials, etc.
Benin City is where Christianity was first preached in Nigeria. A Catholic church was opened in Benin in 1505. The Portuguese failed to persuade Oba Ewuare and Oba Ozolua to convert to Christianity but made their first break through with Oba Esigie, to the shock and disbelief of the Uzama nobles. Oba Esigie’s conversion to Christianity was considered an unforgivable act, a betrayal, and a slap on the face of the traditional faith and the king’s Idu ancestary that confers legitimacy on the throne. This sacrilegious act, eventually led to the Igalla war in Edo history.
European slave trade in West Africa started with the acquisition of domestic servants in 1522 CE, and warrior kingdoms like Benin had plenty of them captured as war booties, but would not sell them. The slave trade was very unpopular with the Edo people.
They thought it was silly to sell fellow human beings. Their Obas and nobles were vehemently opposed to the business of slave trade and to the export of the productive fighting male.
The Edo, of course, could not control the day to day happenings of the slave merchants, who apparently largely acted under cover at first in the vast territories under Edo hegemony. However, it was forbidden to sell or take a native Bini into slavery and so elaborate identification marks on faces and chests were eventually contrived. The Bini therefore were hardly ever captured by Arabs or Europeans into slavery. Alan Ryder, writing on this in his book, Benin and the European, narrated the experience of the Portuguese merchant, Machin Fernandes in Benin as early as 1522 CE: That was during the reign of Oba Esigie. “Of the whole cargo of 83 slaves bought by Machin Fernandes, only two were males – and it is quite possible that these were acquired outside the Oba’s territory –despite a whole month (at Ughoton) spent in vain attempts to have a market opened for male slaves. The 81 females, mostly between ten and twenty years of age, were purchased in Benin City between 25 June and 8 August at the rate of one, two or three a day.”
None of the 83 slaves was an Edo person, according to Ryder, and no Edo person could have been involved in the sales. It was taboo in Edo culture. Edo Empire was vast, with a great concentration of people from different ethnic backgrounds, Yoruba, Ibo, Itsekiri, Ijaw, Urhobo, Igalla, etc., making a living in the lucrative Ughoton route that was the main centre of commercial activities in the southern area at the time, of what later became Nigeria.
Alan Ryder, recording the experiences of yet another European merchant, the French trader and Captain called Landolphe, in Benin in February 1778, said, “The Ezomo was the richest man in Benin, owning more than 10,000 slaves, none of whom was ever sold.” The author then commented: “His (the Ezomo’s). Refusal to sell any of his slaves is also noteworthy for the light it sheds upon the attitude of powerful Edo chiefs towards the slave trade: however numerous they might be, a great man did not sell his slaves.” Says Edo people: “vbo ghi da Oba no na mu ovionren khien?” Meaning, “What need does the Oba want to satisfy by putting out his slave for sale?”
The first British ship reached Benin River in 1553. British trade with the Kingdom of Benin was mainly in cloths, palm oil, cowries, beads and Ivory. Benin currency (igho), the cowrie, was popularly accepted in North, West, East Africa, and it greatly facilitated Edo’s economic buoyancy as a portable medium of exchange. Oba Ohuan (1604 1641 CE), was Oba Ehengbuda’s son. He ended the Eweka dynastic lineage. After him, powerful rebel chiefs established private power bases and selected Obas from among themselves. The selection process took the format of the Ihogbe (king makers), picking an Oba from among their ranks and presenting him to the Uzama for crowning.
This process produced a series of Obas, seven of them, with doubtful claims to legitimacy, thus seriously weakening the Edo monarchy. Lourenco Pinto, captain of a Portuguese ship that brought missionaries to the ancient Benin port of Warri in 1619, sent the following deposition about Benin to the Sacra Congregation at the instance of Father Montelcone. “Great Benin were the king resides is larger than Lisbon, all the streets run straight and as far as the eyes can see.
The houses are large, especially that of the king which is richly decorated and has fine columns. The city is wealthy and industrious. It is so well governed that theft is unknown and the people live in such security that they have no door to their houses. All the cities of this African Empire are organized, large and harmonious.”
By the mid 17th century and extending well over the period of confusion about who reigns in Benin, the Portuguese, Dutch, English, French and other Europeans, had expanded the slave trade in the area so much that they were calling it the Slave Coast.
The slave trade remained high in the area until 1840. The slaves were mainly war captives and were drawn from the entire area controlled by Benin all the way to the communities near the coast and to northern peoples such as the Bariba. The Atlantic slave trade had a destructive impact in Benin area, causing devastating depopulation around Benin and greatly militarizing the area.
Oba Eresoyen (1735 – 1750 CE), had only just ascended to his father’s throne when trouble came calling. Commandant Willem Hogg, the resident Manager of the Dutch Trading Station in Ughoton, had for nearly a year been pleading with Eresoyen’s father, Oba Akenzua I, to prevail on the Benin Chiefs owing the Ughoton Dutch Trading Station, did not supplied goods on which they had received credit lines. Also, Holland wanted to be allowed to participate in the Ivory trade and break the monopoly the monarch had granted the British and Portuguese ships calling at Ughoton.
Traders of the two countries were offering better prices for the commodity. The palace had seemed to Willem Hogg, unwilling to help the Dutch company recapture slaves who had escaped from the Dutch company’s dungeons at Ughoton while awaiting their evacuation ship from Elmina Castle on the Gold Coast, to arrive. Half-hearted promises had been extracted from the palace over the issue of the runaway slaves, against the overriding feeling at the palace that it was the responsibility of the Dutch to secure their purchases after taking delivery. These were the problems weighing on Willem Hogg’s mind when he decided to visit the palace to once more seek the help of Oba Eresoyen. In the presence of the Oba and chiefs, while discussing the issues that brought him to the palace, argument developed, leading to the loss of temper. The Dutchman got up from his seat, pulled out his pistol and shot at the monarch who was quickly shielded by his omada (sword bearer). The omada took the bullet intended for the monarch and died on the spot.
Regicide had been attempted and murder committed, and in the confusion that ensured, Willem Hogg sneaked out of the palace. This incidence explains the reluctance of the Obas of Benin to be exposed to European visitors from that time on, and why the British Capt. Henry L. Gallwey, Vice Consul for the Benin River District of the Niger Coast Protectorate and his delegation, suffered frustration and delays in March 1892, when they requested to meet with Oba Ovonramwen, to conclude a ‘Treaty of Protection’ with Benin kingdom. It was the responsibility of the Ezomo to take remedial action against the Dutchman because security matters for Ughoton gateway were under his portfolio. Ezomo Odia was not at the meeting. He had sequestered on his farm for a little while because of misunderstanding with the palace over the issue of the runaway slaves who had mostly taken refuge at his farm. Most of the other runaway slaves were with other chiefs. This was why progress was not possible on the matter. Since the chiefs do not sell slaves, they did not feel it was their business rallying runaway slaves for the Dutch? That summed up the popular refrain on all lips at the time.
To get Ezomo Odia to return to town, the oracle prescribed that all the princesses of the realm should pay a courtesy visit to Ezomo Odia. The princesses, on being told that Ezomo Odia was at his farm, when they arrived at Okhokhugbo village, braced up for the long journey through shrubs and narrow bush paths. At the farm, they met Ezomo Odia tending his yam crops. Before the Ezomo could ask, to what he owed the honour, all the princesses were down on their knees, between the yam heaps, to greet him and respectfully invite him back to the city. Upon which he mobilized a strong expeditionary force made up of specially chosen royal troops to capture the escaped Dutchman Willem Hogg before he could board a ship back to Europe who was then lawfully tried and executed for his criminal offense of murder against the King and people of Benin. Such was the power and authority the Oba had over all his subjects and European traders that operated in his Imperial Realm that cause the British to turn green with envy.
The Edo Empire before it was vanquished by British Imperialists was the greatest African force, and the most important, most scintillating civilization, to endure in the last two thousand years in the West African sub-region. It began its uninterrupted aggressive ascendance from the era of Oba Ewuare the Great 1440 -1473 CE until the British incorporated Edo Kingdom in 1897, into the Niger Coast Protectorate, later known as the Southern Protectorate, which included their newly annexed Arochukwu (Igboland) in 1902. Their Northern Protectorate of Hausa Fulani emirates in 1903, was merged with the Southern Protectorate in 1914 to form what in now Nigeria.
Before the satanic British invasion, Edo Kingdom controlled vast Yoruba land with populations several times larger than that of Edo, and exerted considerable influence on eastern Yoruba land, maintaining trading connection with Oyo.
Towns such as Owo (called Ogho in Edo), Ekiti, Akure, Ondo (or Udo in Edo), were all set up by Edo native migrants. The kingdom established Lagos, where it set up military camp of occupation which it called Eko (camp), and extended its dominance, power and influence from there all over the West African region, taking in modern countries like the Republic of Benin, Togo, Ghana and Sierra Leone and all the way to the mouth of the River Volta, to lend its name to the Bight of Benin, as a result of its influence and authority in the region. Its authority and influence extended eastward to the delta of the River Niger, Benin River, and to the new Benin (Warri), to Benin district, comprising of Sapele and Warri, to towns like Asaba, Agbor, Isele-Uku, Ika (Agbor), Aniocha, which all owe their corporate existence to Benin, to beyond the Gulf of Benin to Ahoada and Onitsha across the River Niger, the later which was established by Edo migrants led by Ogbogidi, an Edo military generalissimo. Edo’s dominance cut through to Idah (Igalla) in the north to the fringes of Kogi state and to the present day Congo.
The Edo spread their culture and traditions, particularly their Obaship ideology and system, all over their empire, by sending royal brothers to rule over tributaries, or holding hostage, sons of conquered chiefs to be trained in Edo, or by sponsoring candidates for thrones of conquered territories. Objects such as Ada and brass masks, were introduced to vassal lords as emblems of their authority, and these symbols have endured in virtually all the territories that experienced Edo control.
The Isekiris, Urobos, Ijaws and the Yoruba of Owo, Ekiti, Akure, Ondo, just to mention a few, all proudly trace their venerated royal lineages to the ancient Benin kingdom. Even in places outside direct Edo influence, the reputation of the Oba of Edo was such that leadership disputes were brought to him for arbitration, and the winners took back home, Edo regalia to form part of their leadership traditions. The fame of the Great Benin Empire was such that several European states sought to establish diplomatic relationship with her and trade with her through the Ughoton corridor. In 1897, the British, an uncouth tribe of callous, shameless barbarians, in the name of their monarch, and out of envy and greed, called the Edo people savages to destroy a brilliant African civilization that was far ahead of theirs, because they had big guns.
The rogue Imperialists thus viciously set back Edo’s advancement by stealing Edo’s sacred artifacts and things for profit and growth and burning what they could not take away, to turn a once accomplished people into common beggars for measly foreign aids.
Edo people must begin preparation now to sue Britain and her monarch for 50 billion pounds reparations. Oba Ovonramwen (1888 – 1914 CE). Oba Ovonramwen Nogbaisi was on the throne during the British invasion of Benin City in 1897. To prepare the grounds before the invasion, the British first sneaked military spies into Benin, to infiltrate the nation’s security system during the Igue festival, a period of acute spiritual sensitivity for Edo people, when their monarch goes into seclusion for two weeks for spiritual cleansing and cannot receive visitors.
The spies were eliminated for their hostile acts. The British then sent a delegation to Benin in March 1892. The delegation was led by Capt. Henry L. Gallwey, the Vice Consul for the Benin River District of the Niger Coast Protectorate, supposedly to conclude a Treaty of Protection with Oba Ovonramwen of Benin. The British had deceived King Dosumu of Lagos to sign a similar treaty that ceded Lagos to the British in 1861. They forced the same kind of treaty on the Jaja of Opopo in 1887 to gain access and economic control of the eastern coast of Nigeria.
Quoting Capt. Henry Gallwey, who after retirement became Sir Henry Gallwey, in a report on the 1892 visit to Benin, for the Journal of the African Society of April 1930, under the title: Nigeria in the (Eighteen) Nineties, he wrote in part: “Any idea I may have had of being received by the king the day I arrived was very soon dispelled. After being kept waiting for three days, I sent word to say that I could wait no longer.
“To support my threat, every half-hour, I sent a carrier away with a load I did not require, telling them where to wait for me. This artifice rather worried the king, and he sent word to me asking me “not to be vexed,” as my interpreters put it. However, that afternoon, it was arranged for me to have audience with the king. I accordingly donned my uniform and sallied out with my companions into the burning heat of the afternoon, a most unreasonable time of day at which to hold a palaver. I am afraid, however, that the kings of Benin were never renowned for their reasonable natures. In spite of these pinpricks, it was all very interesting and amusing, and I never gave a thought to the discomfort of being encased in a dress intended to be won at levees and such functions in temperate climes…….”
After attempting to compromise the nation’s security earlier on, the British delegation could not be received by the Oba of Benin immediately on arrival because the king’s security agencies needed to check out their mission this time. When the Oba signaled readiness to receive the delegates, they were in “encased dress intended to be worn at levees.” In other words, they were in military uniform to the palace of an Oba who was wary of visits of Europeans. After the incidence of the Dutchman, Commandant Willem Hogg, who pulled a pistol and shot at Oba Eresoyen in 1735, while on a courtesy visit to the palace to discuss business matters with the Oba and his chiefs, Benin Obas became a little more careful about granting direct audience to European visitors.
This is the genesis of the difficulties experienced by Capt. Gallwey while trying to have audience with the Oba in 1892. At the palace, the disposition and mannerisms of the visitors had to be carefully studied before the Oba could receive them, since they were in military uniform. Capt. Gallwey said the Oba was “unreasonable” and then generalized “… as all Benin Obas are wont to be.”
He had made up his mind before the visit and was looking for excuses to set up Benin kingdom for British invasion. To emphasize that Benin was a special case to crack, the British rushed to force treaties on neighbouring territories.
They attacked the Nana of Itsekiri, in their ‘palm oil war’ in 1894 and exiled Nana to Ghana; attacked the Koko of Nembe in 1895, and the Ashanti Prempeh of Ashanti in 1896, to produce duress inspired spurious treaties to take control of the kings’ respective areas of influence.
The British accused Oba Ovonramwen of lack of cooperation, and to look good in the eyes of the rest of the world, added “human sacrifices,” as their reasons for launching their full-scale war on Benin in January 1897.
The real reason for the British Expedition was that the British viewed the Benin kingdom as the main obstacle in their expansion drive into the agricultural interior of the West African coast from the River Niger. The war lasted for about ten days from January to early February 1897, and went in their favour because of their big guns and cannons, which the Edo army did not have. After capturing the ancient city of Benin and slaughtering thousands of the natives in cold blood, to grossly depopulate the city, and the few survivors had escaped to farms and villages, the British ransacked the palace of the Oba, homes of nobles and chiefs, artistes’ workshops and Obo’s shrines, to rescue “pagan art” and relieve Benin of the “evil.”
Then the British burnt most of the city down to ashes.
The palace of the Oba of Benin, according to Joshua Utzheimer, 1603, was about the size of the German City of Tubingen.” This was razed down by fire by the British invading force, claiming to be on a civilizing mission. Is razing cities after the surviving few victims of their assault have surrendered, not the epitome of barbarism? Can anything be more callous than this? Oba Ovonramwen who could not be captured but who surrendered to the British in August, 1897, was exiled to Calabar (in south-east Nigeria), where he died in January, 1914. From accounts of members of the British army that invaded Benin City in 1897, we learn that the floors, lintels, and rafters of the council chambers and the king’s residence in the palace were lined with sheets of repoussé, decorated brass covered with royal geometric designs and figures of men and leopards. Ornamental ivory locks sealed the doors and carved ivory figurines surmounted anterior.
A brass snake, observed for the first time by a European in the early eighteenth century, was still to be seen on the roof of the council chamber house. All of these, along with other invaluables, including precious works of arts, the invading British stole in the name of their king and country. What they could not steal or burn, they destroyed, including invaluable records of the Bini scintillating civilization, to allow their historians to falsify human history and deny African contributions. According to an article entitled:
“100 years after the invasion of Benin” by Richard Akinjide, a former attorney General and Federal Minister of Justice and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN,
“The response of the Kingdom of Benin against British Interference in the affairs of a sovereign and independent nation was a legitimate self-defense in accordance with the peremptory norms of customary international law otherwise known as “ju cogens”. If Britain could go to war just because of Jenkin´s ear, why should not the ancient kingdom of Benin protect her national interest against uninvited guests whose greed and grab in other parts of sub-Sahara Africa was already well known?
We must pass judgment in the light of prevailing circumstances at that time. We must therefore unhesitatingly reject the British interpretation as massacre the events of 1896 which led to the British aggression of 1897. The reputation of Major Edward Lugard preceded him in Africa, because of what Major Lugard did in India and Uganda, and what he and George Goldie did in Ilorin, Bida, Borgu and what other British soldiers perpetrated in Yorubaland which were then matters of public knowledge. The King of Benin was right in his suspicion of British intentions which were definitely to lure the noble Kingdom of Benin into the so-called British protectorate and therefore loss of the sovereign rights which Benin had enjoyed for about 2,000 years.
At that time as it is now, the kernel of European policy in Africa was devious and self-seeking. Independent African nations should be nothing but vassal states of Europe. The various European Navies were then the instruments of colonial policy. Hence the navigation Acts of 1649 and 1660, the staple Acts 1663 and the plantation Act 1673. They now advocate for us, using the World Bank, the IMF, the devaluation of our currencies, the exact opposite of the economic and monetary policies that ensured and helped their own growth and good quality of life for their own people. The colonial policy in French speaking African countries is even more worrying.
It is encapsulated in French; “plus ca change, plus ciest la meme chose.”
(The more things change, the more they remain the same).
In short what makes the French decolonization special was that it was never decolonized.
I end this monograph with a quotation from Sir Alan Burns, a former Governor General of Nigeria, in his book: History of Nigeria (4th Ed at 277)
“No European nation has the right to assume sovereignty over the inhabitants of any part of Africa, and claims put forward by the various governments at the Berlin Conference in 1885 took little account of the rights of the people who lived in the Territory.”
Akin Adeoya in the Sunday Guardian of March 29, 2009, wrote: “There was a great kingdom of Benin that lasted for centuries with a highly stable administration and a civilization that built great highways and produced works of such great significance that the British who invaded and ultimately defeated the Ovonramwen’s gallant forces, nearly went mad with envy that not all their Christian piety or civility could help them resist the urge to steal these works of art, which their own civilization could not rival.
These works of art, till today, still grace the shrines of the British Empire and civilization, including the British Museum.” Prof. Akin Ibidapo-Obe in: A Synthesis of African law, wrote: “The British stripped Benin of its pagan art treasure…..almost 2,500 of the famous Benin bronzes, valuable works of art such as the magnificent carved doors in the palace, were carried off to Europe for sale.
Today, almost every museum of the world possesses an art treasure from Benin. It is important to relate the account of British brigandage and deliberate and wanton stealing of Africa’s invaluable art treasures to show that our culture was great and was envied.
The tradition and way of life that spawned such great achievement was deliberately destroyed and history was falsified to justify the introduction of their obnoxious laws, some of which purported to forbid our traditional religion.”
This is how Prof. Felix Van Luschan, a former official of the Berlin Museum for Volkerhunde, described what the British deviously called Pagan art of Benin;
“These works from Benin are equal to the very finest examples of European casting technique. Benvenuto Celini could not have cast them better, nor could anyone else before or after him. Technically, these Bronzes represent the very highest possible achievement.”
Only a highly civilized nation could have borne the expenditure and facilities of such marvelous works of art, which are among the best masterpieces in the history of mankind. When the Nigerian government requested to loan a replica of the Idia Ivory mask for use during the 2nd World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) held in 1977 in Lagos, Nigeria, from the British Museum of Mankind, the British authorities insisted on the Nigerian government depositing a sum of three million dollars before collecting the loaned copy.
A 17th century Benin bronze head (nine inches high), stolen from the palace of Oba Ovonramwen by the British invaders in 1897, was auctioned by Sotheby, New York, for US$550,000 in July, 2007.
Despite the British abuse of Edo culture and the marginalization of Edo history, the splendor of Edo civilization continues to this day to astound and excite the world. Benin artifacts are among the most exquisite and coveted in world’s history, and the kingdom of Benin remaof Chrisins famous for its sophistication in social engineering and organization.
The Bini Obaship institution is still one of the world’s most revered apart from being second only to Japan, as the most ancient surviving monarchy in the world that dates back to two millennia before the advent of Christianity. In fact, the influence of ancient Benin Empire is still so strong today that Dahomey, an independent neighboring country to Nigeria, decided in 1975 to change its name to the Republic of Benin as a way of reconnecting with its glorious roots.
The Republic of Togo, on the other hand, named some of her landmark institutions such as Universite du Benin, Togo hotel du Benin e.t.c. after the great Benin Empire. President Gnassingbe Eyadema, during his 1974 visit to Benin City, publicly stated that the Togolese people originated from the ancient Benin Empire.
Oba Eweka II (1914 – 1933 CE), ascended his father’s throne in 1914 and when he died, his son, Oba Akenzua II (1933 – 1979 CE) took over. Between them, they restored a great deal of the tradition and dignity of Benin Obaship, and rebuilt, although on a smaller scale than the Ewuare palace, the grandeur, triumph, and supremacy, of Bini traditions. Large walled areas have now replaced the numerous compounds of former kings, with enclosed individual altars for each of the three immediate predecessors, and one general altar for the rest. Decorated sheets of brass adorn the rafters and lintels, and terra-cotta plaques recount the exploits of former kings. The current king of this great African kingdom and one of the most vibrant, colourful, and enlightened ancient civilizations in the history of the world, is Oba Erediauwa, Uku Akpolo Kpolo, the Omo N’Oba N’Edo (1979 CE –).
***ENAIWU OSAHON, Hon. Khu Mkuu (Leader) World Pan-African Movement); Spiritual Prince of the African race; MSc. (Salford); Dip.M.S; G.I.P.M; Dip.I.A (Liv.); D. Inst. M; G. Inst. M; G.I.W.M; A.M.N.I.M.
Naiwu Osahon, renowned author, philosopher of science, mystique, leader of the world Pan-African Movement.
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
THE WORLD MUST HEAR AND SEE
THE AGONY OF THE BENIN -EDO PEOPLE IN THEIR OWN LAND.
“Is Africa a scar on the conscience of the World?”
The highest source of migrants to the World in Nigeria and indeed West Africa is Benin City . The most depraved and deprived region in Nigeria . The social problem that is forcing our youths to flee from the land of their birth is known to all of us DEPRIVATION. Our youth have been deprived for a very long time; the latest is University of Benin that was founded due to deprivation caused by our cousins the Yoruba and Igbos over University of Ife , Ibadan and Nssukka. We the Bini people will not stealth our swords while alien dictates to us what we should do with this instrument of civilization that was conceived by its founders to cater for our people.
During my time at UNIBEN, THE MOST POPULAR LANGUAGES SPOKEN AT UNIBEN WERE YORUBA AND IGBO. Although Professor Irene Agheyisi was the head of my department my, other Edo lecturers were a handful, every institution, industries in the worldwide establish in any location were supposed to impart on the locality they have been established.
I wrote few days ago that there are certain unique features of the Benin people that can only be represented by the Benin people – brothers trust me, I have travelled round the world our IKPEN- the red yam is not found anywhere in the world, the closest is the Jamaica red yam but they do not taste the same, we have Iyokho it is like yam probably extinct now, we have the red and white Akaha, a root crop that is not even planted by our farmers probably extinct as well, we also have the water yam that is only exclusive to us.
Our fathers Osadebe and Ogbemudia did not establish this Uniben for it not to impart on our way of life, this institution was taken over by the Federal Government to have enough resources to bring the best out of Edoland in the form of research, projects and empirical monitoring of certain unique features of the Edo people for example the faculty of Engineering at Ugbowo has been one of the best in Nigeria, I doubt if it had carried out any research into the Biniman’s architecture building and who was responsible for some complex Oteghodos and structural designs of building and I doubt if the Faculty of Agriculture have made any research into our reserve land and how our bush fallow system can be preserved, aided by the Government in form of providing boreholes in our reserve land, the Israelis farms are in arid land but their irrigation system made their farming system the best in the World. Our various arms of Government do not have responsibilities but various institutions put in place to task them are inept because of their structure.
And again, if Uniben is not advancing our civilization and way of life so why was it established or taken over by the FG? What are the duties of University Commission? Another Federal institution that is not contributing anything to advancing our civilization is Federal Girls College Benin City, that institution in my time was like a cult, nobody knows how admissions are conducted, the institution will not participate in inter house sport with other institutions, they will not participate in inter quiz context, like Uniben I doubt if the thirty percent catchment quota is given to Benin City. Now our problems are not far fetch ehem? Up north of England- I mean Birmingham , Manchester , Liverpool, Blackpool, Leeds, Glasgow and Edinburg , for every 5 black men 3 are Edo people. In Dublin , Cork , Waterford and Longford, the remotest part of north of England , for every 5 black men 4 are Edo people.
And finally, those negotiating our stakes at our local, State and Federal level are dumb, if a Bini man could not be appointed as the VC of UNIBEN, forty years after its establishment so, what about our stakes at Federal Government Girls College Benin City, I did not know any of my peers who were ex-alumni of Federal Government Girls College Benin City, do you know anything about this college? I do not know any of my cousins, neighbors that attended this college. What about our stakes in the civil service, Navy, Police, Army, and Air force, SSS and Foreign Service? Benin people are moving out of their land because of deprivation; is it politically correct and justifiable that our children are dying in droves on their way to Lampedusa?
Dialoguing with keepers of Nigeria’s looted cultural objects as a fresh strategy in the efforts to reclaim these treasures appears to be yielding result with the emergence of ‘Benin Plan of Action’ as the outcome of the meeting held last week in Benin, the capital city of Edo State.
Hosted by Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) in Benin City last week, and specifically focused on the Benin bronzes, it was coincidentally held on February 19, the same date the British colonial army invaded Benin in 1897. The organisers described the gathering as a follow-up to two earlier meetings on the subject, held in Vienna, Austria in December 2010; as well as Berlin, Germany, October 2011.
Earlier, before the Vienna meeting, some agitator countries, including Nigeria had met at a two-day conference tagged International Cooperation for the Protection and Repatriation of Cultural Heritage, held in Cairo, Egypt. Organized by Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), the participants called for a collective approach to restitution, and promised to meet again.
But the Benin meeting brought a dialogue tone into restitution issue: for the first time, a claimant country hosted representatives of possessor museums.
Participants included Dr. Michael Barrett and Dr. Lotten Gustafsson-Reinius representatives of the National Museum of Ethnography of the Museums of World Culture Stockholm, Sweden Dipl. Ethn; Silvia Dolz of Museum für Völkerkunde Dresden, Staatliche Ethnographische Sammlungen Sachsen of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Germany; Dr. Peter Junge represented Ethnologisches Museum-Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Germany; Dr. Barbara Plankensteiner represented Museum für Völkerkunde, Vienna, Austria; and Dr. Annette Schmidt of the National Museum of Ethnology of the Netherlands.
Other participants from Nigeria included Rosemary Bodam, Peter Odeh, Babatunde Adebiyi (NCMM delegation); consultant of legal-related cultural object matter, Prof. Folarin Shyllon; and representatives of the Benin monarch, Prince Edun Egharese Akenzua (Enogie of Obazuwa) and Chief Stanley Obamwonyi (Esere of Benin).
British Museum, according to NCMM, was also invited, but the representative could not come due to unresolved traveling logistics. Other participants from Nigeria included Rosemary Bodam, Peter Odeh, Babatunde Adebiyi (NCMM delegation); consultant of legal-related cultural object matter, Prof. Folarin Shyllon; and representatives of the Benin monarchy, Prince Edun Egharese Akenzua (Enogie of Obazuwa) and Chief Stanley Obamwonyi (Esere of Benin).
In his speech at the opening of the meeting, the Director-General of NCMM, Yusuf Abdallah Usman revisited several arguments of the holders, which appeared to have been summed up by the museums’ declaration of a global sharing of the looted artefacts. Such collective sharing, the west had argued, is best achieved in European and U.S. museums space where ‘adequate protection’ of the cultural objects is assured. Usman noted that “as lofty as the European views are, they have not found much understanding with the dispossessed, whose moving tales have become strident finding listeners all over the world in support of the call for the repatriation of these artefacts.”
At the end of the deliberation, the Benin Plan of Action document highlights “developing a data bank by the collaborating institutions on Benin art collections in their holdings in form of a digital archive of electronic and hard copies; all collaborating institutions upon request shall have right of producing free of charge photographs of Benin art objects in the collection of collaborating institutions particularly for scholarly purposes; staff of the collaborating institutions shall have access to Benin Collections in their holdings in accordance with the existing procedures of the institutions; the NCMM shall improve the university education of its staff working on the collections and on this basis collaborating institutions will assist in securing support for internship and scholarship for postgraduate studies on the Benin collections.”
Also included in the seven-points Benin Plan of Action are measures to encourage collaborating institutions in assisting “with expertise in the establishment of a conservation laboratory in Nigeria; collaborating institutions shall assist the NCMM in developing its library and archive facilities; NCMM and collaborating museums shall create an enabling environment for an increased exchange of touring/travelling exhibitions for the Benin art objects and other art traditions where the European and Nigerian museum experts will work together in the planning and execution of such exhibitions.”
A cross section of European delegates to the meeting during the opening ceremonies.
It added: “that these individual steps are part of the dialogue which goal is to lead to the display of the objects in Nigeria.” And more importantly, the Benin Plan of Action will revisit the 1970 UNESCO Convention, in its next agenda.
To a keen observer of the restitution warfare, some of the items in the Benin Plan of Action are familiar: it’s an extension of the usual collaborative projects, which the NCMM has been engaging with the possessors in the past seven years.
However, what offered hope of possible return of the Benin objects, and perhaps by extension other artefacts of Nigerian origin under incarceration in museums abroad, is the expectation that the 1970 UNESCO Convention will be discussed in the next meeting, may be with a push to draw the attention of the rest of the world to the need for a review.
Aside the argument of a universal space being promoted by the museums holding the controversial objects, the 1970 UNESCO Convention, tactically, gives cover to the possessors.
At the press conference where the plan of action was unveiled, Usman, in response to a time frame and specificity for the return of the bronzes, noted that the meeting with the holders “is the beginning”.
Also, Dr. Junge of Ethnologisches Museum, Germany assured that the meeting had given a window that may lead to a new dawn in agitation for the return of the Benin objects. He noted that in over one and a half centuries of the Benin bronzes issue, parties in the dispute have not really come so close in dialogue as the just held meeting. “Between 160 years ago and now, nothing has been done, but the dialogue has started now,” Junge said. “The idea of Benin objects will change in our minds”, he assured. “I am sure, you will see the objects in Nigeria.” He however cautioned that “I am not saying in three days, next month or next year, but it will happen.” Junge’s concept of getting the works to Nigeria, it was learnt, would be with an understanding of loaning for showcasing and return them to the possessors’ museums.
And as the issue of restitution becomes more complex, offering perpetual cover to the holders under the 1970 UNESCO Convention and International Institute for the Unification of Private Law otherwise known as UNIDROIT 1995, Prof. Shyllon, an expert in antiquity laws picked holes in the document. Conventions, he noted, “don’t have retroactive effect.” He argued that “no country would enter into a convention about what happened yesterday. You cannot force a country to comply.” It should be recalled that the 1970 UNESCO document on cultural object is silent on the pre-convention disputed artefacts from repatriation cover.
Article 7 (b) (ii) of the Convention recommends “appropriate steps to recover and return any such cultural property imported after the entry into force of this Convention in both States concerned, provided, however, that the requesting State shall pay just compensation to an innocent purchaser or to a person who has valid title to that property.” Clearly the pre-convention looted artefacts were not in the radar of the drafters of the document.
And more complex is the UNIDROIT. It states in Article 3, paragraph 3: “Any claim for restitution shall be brought within a period of three years from the time when the claimant knew the location of the cultural object and the identity of its possessor, and in any case within a period of fifty years from the time of the theft.”
Although no formal claims from either the Nigerian museum authority or the Benin monarch met the UNIDROIT convention, there are grounds to press for restitution. For example, part of the introductory section cautions that “this Convention will not by itself provide a solution to the problems raised by illicit trade, but that it initiates a process that will enhance international cultural co-operation and maintain a proper role for legal trading and inter-State agreements for cultural exchanges”.
Perhaps, a window such as this informed the argument of Usman who noted in his opening speech on Day-one of the conference that those who drafted the documents “understand that the Conventions are mere aggregates of different views of varying and divergent interests.” He noted that “the drafters suggest that parties may seek other complementary means, other arrangements that will be agreeable to all parties.”
Also, the Hon Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke acknowledged the complexity in restitution, but pleaded with the visitors. He noted what he described as “the hurdles placed on our way by the various Conventions and applicable international laws that govern repatriation of heritage objects.”
He however urged the “visitors to earnestly reconsider the injustice that led to the uprooting of these cultural icons.”
In his response to the Benin Plan of Action, Akenzua (Enogie of Obazuwa), noted that “there is nothing in the Plan of Action that really address restitution.” He argued that the European delegation at the Benin conference were not policy makers, but professionals. “They are just like the museums professionals we have here, so they can’t make policy on restitution.”
Dr. Barbara Plankensteiner represented Museum für Völkerkunde, Vienna, Austria during the Benin Meeting.
If the Benin Plan of Action, in his opinion fell short of expectation, what would the Benin monarch recommend to get the works returned? “Currently, I don’t have the position of the Oba of Benin on the Plan of Action. But my personal suggestion to government is to take the case to the international court,” Akenzua said. “If we lose in court, there is nothing more to lose.” He recalled that “we requested for the Idia mask for FESTAC ‘77, the British government asked Nigeria to pay two million pounds.”
Coincidentally, there came a warning of a long and difficult battle ahead when the British Prime Minister, David Cameron – about the same time of the Benin meeting – described restitution as impossible. He reacted to the request for the return of Koh-i-noor diamond, an Indian origin gem, currently a central component of the British Crown Jewel mounted at the Tower of London. Cameron was on a visit to India, specifically, the site of British colonial massacre of protesters at Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar. He used his response on the return of Koh-i-noor diamond to address the issue of restitution generally. “The right answer is for the British Museum and other cultural institutions to do exactly what they do, which is to link up with other institutions around the world to make sure that the things which we have and look after so well are properly shared with people around the world.” Cameron was emphatic when he added “I certainly don’t believe in returnism, as it were. I don’t think that’s sensible.”
What the Benin Monarch said at the Meeting.
Text from the address by HRH Prince Edun Akenzua MFR, Enogie of Obazuwa, the representative of Oba of Benin during the meeting.
I thank the National Commission for Museums and Monuments for organizing this conference and inviting me to it.
The letter by which I was invited states that the Commission also invited representatives of some major European Museums to come and discuss the prospects of repatriating Benin objects located in their museums.
It says this meeting is a follow-up to an “on-going discussion on the ownership status of Benin Art works in foreign collections and the first and second rounds of the dialogue were held Vienna and Berlin in December 2010 and December 2011 respectively.
May I ask, respectfully, if the museum representatives present here today can take a decision on a matter that involves national policy on to return or not to return the artifacts?
As for the ownership status of the works, who does not know that Benin is the true owner despite the semantics and legalese by the international community?
I attended an exhibition of Benin works in Vienna in 2007. It was the first of a joint event by four nations: Austria, United States, Germany and France. the exhibition was attended by the Nigerian Minister of Culture and Tourism and the Director-General of the NCMM. the Oba of Benin sent a 4-man delegation, including this speaker. I addressed the meeting. The situation of things at that time has not changed. Permit me therefore to quote from my address in Vienna. (Excepts)
‘…I commend the organizers of this exhibition. I thank them for the invitation to His Majesty the King of Benin to send representatives and Prof Wifried Seipel for giving me this opportunity to say one or two things.
it was said that this is the first time these Benin works have been re-united in this fashion since they were forcibly removed from Benin more than 100 years ago.
From left, High Priest Osemwegie Ebohon, Chief Stanley Obamwonyi and representative of Oba of Benin, Prince Edun Akenzua.
As a member of the Benin Royal Family, from whose palace the works were removed in 1897, we are seeing some of these works for the first time, We are overwhelmed by nostalgia. We wish the re-unification of these works taking place in Benin, the natural habitat of the works.
In the second preface to the catalogue of the exhibition, the Museum Director, Dr Christian Feest and his colleagues wrote that it was the most comprehensive exhibition on the subject ever to have been mounted.
permit me to quote them:
‘…..The military act (by the British against Benin) seems unjustifiable, however, we must recognize the role it (the military act ) played in bringing these works of art to far broader attention. They are now forever on the map of the world art…….
The transformation of what has been treated as architectural ornaments into veritable archival documents, which had occurred up to their alienation from the Benin Royal Court, illustrates the steady changes in the attribution of meaning and value even within their local context.
The present consideration of these works within multi-layered discourses on the past and on identity in the competing contents and claims of local tradition, the nation state and globalization-
Is part and parcel of the continuation of shifts in meaning and the persistent viability of the material documents of the past…”
“There may be a shift in the allocation of meaning to the viability of the material documents of the past. But that shift seems to occur only in the minds of non-Benins, especially scholars, who see the works only from the narrow prism of scholarly interpretation or from a mere aesthetic consideration.
“The Director-General of Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments, at that time, Dr. O.J. Eboreime, expressed his pleasure that the exhibition was mounted. He said through it the creative and technology genius of the African artist would be better appreciated.
“I am afraid, the Director-General, himself a scholar, fell into the same trap into which other scholars had fallen.
If I may ask, why won’t interested scholars go to Benin City and study the works?… And said the act only seems unjustifiable.
I attended an exhibition of Benin works in Sweden, Stockholm in 2009. Only last September, I was special guest at the British Museum in London.
I can perceive two reasons, veiled as they are, for these museums to be mounting these exhibitions.
One: they want to advertise the museums and maximize their economic potentials and, two: they seek legitimacy for the act of looting which the British committed by inviting the Federal Government and the Oba of Benin to participate.
The British slapped us on the face in 1977 when it refused to lend us the plaque of Queen Idia’s face to use as a symbol for FESTAC. In the face of the insult, all we did was to make a beggars, plaintive plea to the countries holding the objects in captivity to return them to us. Then, we buy-back some of our own stolen properties from those who stole them or from our ancestors.
The Commission should now advise the Government, to treat the issue as an emergency.
The government should resuscitate the African Reparation Movement (ARM)which was established by President Babangida with late Chief M.K.O Abiola as Chairman. The ARM would recommend a line of action for government.
Our Legislative Houses should show more interest in the recovery of these cultural properties. Our law pundits should examine various aspects of the matter.
We have had enough of these meetings which only end as academic exercise.
Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for your attention.
HRH Prince Edun Akenzua MFR
Enogie of Obazuwa
Posted by africanartswithtaj at 21:17
DR.KWAME OPOKU4 April 2013 11:24
The repräsentative of the Oba has said all that needs to be said. It is now the turn of the Museums to offer their own views on the issues raised. Or are they going to keep quiet, as they have tended to do in the past, hoping that we will all soon forget about the issue of restitution of the Benin bronzes and other African artefacts now lying in Western Museums?
THE LEGAL CASE OF BENIN MEMORANDUM
SUBMITTED BY PRINCE EDUN AKENZUA
Posted by Otedo News Update on October 17, 2014 at 4:34pm
The Legal Case of Benin
Memorandum submitted by Prince Edun Akenzua
I am Edun Akenzua Enogie (Duke) of Obazuwa-Iko, brother of His Majesty, Omo, n’Oba n’Edo, Oba (King) Erediauwa of Benin, great grandson of His Majesty Omo n’Oba n’Edo, Oba Ovonramwen, in whose reign the cultural property was removed in 1897. I am also the Chairman of the Benin Centenary Committee established in 1996 to commemorate 100 years of Britain’s invasion of Benin, the action which led to the removal of the cultural property.
“On 26 March 1892 the Deputy Commissioner and Vice-Consul, Benin District of the Oil River Protectorate, Captain H L Gallwey, manoeuvred Oba Ovonramwen and his chiefs into agreeing to terms of a treaty with the British Government. That treaty, in all its implications, marked the beginning of the end of the independence of Benin not only on account of its theoretical claims, which bordered on the fictitious, but also in providing the British with the pretext, if not the legal basis, for subsequently holding the Oba accountable for his future actions.”
The text quoted above was taken from the paper presented at the Benin Centenary Lectures by Professor P A Igbafe of the Department of History, University of Benin on 17 February 1997.
Four years later in 1896 the British Acting Consul in the Niger-Delta, Captain James R Philip wrote a letter to the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Salisbury, requesting approval for his proposal to invade Benin and depose its King. As a post-script to the letter, Captain Philip wrote: “I would add that I have reason to hope that sufficient ivory would be found in the King’s house to pay the expenses incurred in removing the King from his stool.”
These two extracts sum up succinctly the intention of the British, or, at least, of Captain Philip, to take over Benin and its natural and cultural wealth for the British.
British troops invaded Benin on 10 February1897. After a fierce battle, they captured the city, on February 18. Three days later, on 21 February precisely, they torched the city and burnt down practically every house. Pitching their tent on the Palace grounds, the soldiers gathered all the bronzes, ivory-works, carved tusks and oak chests that escaped the fire. Thus, some 3,000 pieces of cultural artwork were taken away from Benin. The bulk of it was taken from the burnt down Palace.
NUMBER OF ITEMS REMOVED
It is not possible for us to say exactly how many items were removed. They were not catalogued at inception. We are informed that the soldiers who looted the palace did the cataloguing. It is from their accounts and those of some European and American sources that we have come to know that the British carried away more than 3,000 pieces of Benin cultural property. They are now scattered in museums and galleries all over the world, especially in London, Scotland, Europe and the United States. A good number of them are in private hands.
WHAT THE WORKS MEAN TO THE PEOPLE OF BENIN
The works have been referred to as primitive art, or simply, artifacts of African origin. But Benin did not produce their works only for aesthetics or for galleries and museums. At the time Europeans were keeping their records in long-hand and in hieroglyphics, the people of Benin cast theirs in bronze, carved on ivory or wood. The Obas commissioned them when an important event took place which they wished to record. Some of them of course, were ornamental to adorn altars and places of worship. But many of them were actually reference points, the library or the archive. To illustrate this, one may cite an event which took place during the coronation of Oba Erediauwa in 1979. There was an argument as to where to place an item of the coronation paraphernalia. Fortunately a bronze-cast of a past Oba wearing the same regalia had escaped the eyes of the soldiers and so it is still with us. Reference was made to it and the matter was resolved. Taking away those items is taking away our records, or our Soul.
In view of the fore-going, the following reliefs are sought on behalf of the Oba and people of Benin who have been impoverished, materially and psychologically, by the wanton looting of their historically and cultural property.
(i) The official record of the property removed from the Palace of Benin in 1897 be made available to the owner, the Oba of Benin.
(ii) All the cultural property belonging to the Oba of Benin illegally taken away by the British in 1897, should be returned to the rightful owner, the Oba of Benin.
(iii) The British should pay a monetary reparation, for the wanton destruction and burning of Benin Kingdom city, towns, villages and communities as well as the massacre and genocide of the Benin people like the Germans did to the Jews because of the Holocaust.
(iv) Britain, being the principal looters of the Benin Palace, should take full responsibility for retrieving the cultural property or the monetary compensation from all those to whom the British sold them be they private or public collectors.
1897 INVASION OF BENIN KINGDOM
The lies And Reactions in Britain
Posted by Otedo News Update on October 5, 2014 at 9:41pm
The more I research the exact events that took place on both sides (the Benin and the British) leading up to and including 1897, the more intrigued I become, take the below for instance.
From the Guardian publications of Jan. 14 1897 on The Benin Massacre on the Latest News at the Foreign Office/ Reason for hope / Interview with Sir John Kirk
London Wednesday Evening
The only news the government received suggested that there were no survivors of the massacre beyond a few native carriers, as such, they continued to treat the reported disaster as unconfirmed and was not planning on taking any steps towards organising a punitive expedition before the end of the week. The article went on to say ‘ there is reason to believe that it has been settled in principle that it will be neither advisable nor necessary to send troops from England to take part in the punitive expedition; but it is generally understood in military quarters that the services of a battalion of the West India Regiment would be utilised. It went on to say the expedition would start, if at all, in the first week in March.
Sir John Kirk a government official who had been sent to inquire into a disturbance in a part of the Niger coast, speaking to a Central News representative when asked if he could account in any way for the attack said that he could only suppose that the natives misunderstood the object of the expedition and assumed it to be a war party. He added that nothing was known yet as to why the party went or what authority they had to go, he went on further to say ‘I do not know why, with their experience, they ventured on such an expedition. We must wait for further information but I am quite sure that the men who have fallen could have given a very good reason for going.’
A correspondent of the London ‘Evening News,’ telegraphing from Lagos at 3.15 on 21st Jan 1897 morning gave details of the Expedition to the king of Benin, as nine British officers, and 200 carriers (other accounts report 250); landing from canoes, the carriers with presents and clothing and food, were sent ahead, whilst the officers proceeded slowly. When ten miles had been covered the officers suddenly came to a narrow point where dead bodies were heaped up on the road. Whilst viewing these frightful spectacles, the officers were suddenly surrounded and attacked. , Messers Philips, Crawford, Elliot, Maling, Campbell, Gordon and Powis were killed. Captain Boiaragon and Mr locke though badly wounded, escaped into the bush.
In an interview on February 10, Mr Locke one of the survivors reported ‘a place had been cleared in the bush, and the men, with guns, were lying down with the muzzles of their long flintlocks…’
He reported attack in a clearing as opposed to a narrow road in the first account above it.
How did people react to the news back in Britain?
Liverpool Reuter’s correspondence interview of Jan 18 1897 included in an article with a gentleman who had considerable experience both as an explorer and a trader in west Africa, he stated quite confidently that unless killed in actual fighting, white people’s lives were seldom scarified by African leaders and expressed the hope that the British official would have been taken captive rather than killed, he added that when expeditions are not perceived as hostile, white delegates are well received.
What else do we know?
Jan 16 – Reuter’s Agency stated that The Royal Niger Company had not received any details on safety or otherwise of Mr Locke and Captian Boiaragon. Both men had however, sent telegraphs of their safety to relatives rather than their employers or the government.
On Friday Night in London, news of their escape was well received in official quarters who were anxious to establish full explanations of the causes which led to the disaster. They stated that Captain Boiaragon as the senior surveying officer in the service of the crown would be tried formally by court-martial, when of course; all the facts of the case would be placed on official record. Someone was to face a disciplinary for this.
Liverpool Friday Night news article stated that despite the official telegrams, the news of the escape of Mr Locke and Captian Boiaragon gave rise to further hopes that there may well be other survivors. People remained hopeful at home.
We also know from Reuter’s Special Service article from London, Tuesday Evening Jan 13 1897 that ‘The cabinet sat from 3.30 till about six o’clock this afternoon, and there is still reason to believe that Ministers had under consideration the massacre of the Benin expedition.’ The article continues; ‘As the result of the inquiry in official quarters it was intimated that though to discuss the line to be pursued would be premature, but it was perfectly obvious that in the event of the fact of murder or detention of British officials being established, steps would be taken to effect their release or to punish the murderers. There was still no news by 7.00pm.
We further know that despite pressures from the likes of Mr Philip to invade Benin, e.g. He had written a letter in 1896 to Lord Salisbury, the British foreign secretary for approval to invade Benin and dispose of its king writing ‘I would add that I have reason to hope that sufficient ivory would be found in the king’s house to pay the expenses incurred in removing the king from his stool.’ The British government had been reluctant up to this point to do so, but now its hand’s been forced due to Mr Philip’s reckless actions.
Most important of all, we know that people back in Britain, had no idea of Mr Philip’s intentions and did not at any point entertain thoughts that any white person would have been killed by any Africans unless under war conditions. Mr Philip had openly created a war condition with the Benin when he defied all advice to respect Benin culture and law at an important celebration time.
This insight sheds light on the other side of the coin of the colonisation and empire building story; yes bad things happened but these were not due to government plans or errors, individual officers were mostly responsible and accordingly, should be held individually accountable for their actions in the history records.
FLY THE FLAG OF FREEDOM!!!