Tuesday, September 22, 2015 10:11 pm
There is crisis within Benin Kingdom over the installation of a parallel monarch.
By Jethro Ibileke/Benin.
The Benin Kingdom, which dates back to several centuries and traversed the entire West African region at its pick, has always been known to be peaceful. In recent times, aside from cases of crime, which is very peculiar to any modern city of its status, Benin City, the administrative capital of the kingdom in particular, and the entire Kingdom, has not witnessed any major disturbance for a long while.
The Benin Royal Institution, symbolised by its head, the Monarch, is one of the most respected all over the world. In fact, the Benins revere their Monarch, His Royal Majesty, as second, only to God the creator, God’s visible representative on earth. Even known to be tolerant and accommodating, an average Benin man does not play with anyone on an issue bothering on his king. The Benins are always passionate about Oba of Benin, Omo n’Oba n’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Erediauwa, and the traditional greeting “Oba gha to’kpe re e,” to which they respond with a resounding “Ise e.”
It was no surprise then when on 17 September, the entire Benin Kingdom, the dukes, traditional chiefs, men, women and youths from all nooks and cranny of the kingdom, gathered at the royal palace in Benin and stood up as one to condemn what they termed abomination, rebellion and desecration of their Monarch, and by extension, the entire kingdom, by one Richie Arisco Osemwegie, who coroneted himself as “His Imperial Majesty, the Ogiamien of Utantan Benin Nation.”
A kingdom could accommodate as many palace chiefs as it chooses to have, but certainly not two Royal Majesties at the same time. That was why the Benin people did not take it lightly, the seeming usurpation of authority and traditional coup planned and executed by the self imposed traditional ruler.
Trouble started when the Ogiamen family placed an advert in the Nigerian Observer newspaper of Friday, 14 August, 2015 with the title “The Great Ogiamen Palace Utantan Bini Nation,” in reaction to an earlier statement by Secretary to Benin Traditional Council, Frank Irabor in which he gave reason that Ogiamen, a chief of the Oba palace should not be addressed as “His Royal Majesty.”
In the Observer publication, the Ogiamen family alluded to an alleged treaty signed by Chief Ogiamen and Oba Eweka I in which it was agreed that Ogiamen sold half of Benin to Eweka I in return for homage that the Oba’s family should pay to the Ogiamen family in perpetuity. Also that Ogiamen, being the first King in Benin, none of his children should bow or kneel before the Oba of Benin and that an Ogiamen cannot be the Oba’s palace chief.
The controversy generated by the Ogiamen family’s publication was yet to die down when the family claimed that they could not locate the reigning Ogiamen, Osarobo Okuonghae who they said disappeared 17 years before and therefore they pronounced him dead. They went to the police to get a clearance for the coronation of Richie. With the clearance in hand and in defiance of the warning from the Benin palace, Richie Arisco Osemwingie, in collaboration with Patrick Osabohien and other members of his family, gathered at their Sakponba-Road family compound in Benin, to coronate him Ogiamen on 9 September, in a ceremony that lasted for five hours amidst drinking and dancing by family members.
Spokesman for the Ogiamen family, Monday Wehere, had said that they installed a new Ogiamen because the family wanted to re-position itself to reclaim what belongs to them. He added that it became necessary as the family has not heard from the last Ogiamen Osarobo since he left in 1998 and was not sure whether he was still alive, adding that the family decided to appoint the next in line as Ogiamen because Ogiamen Osarobo has no child known to the family, hence the reason they deviated from the traditional ritual of appointing an Ogiamen by primogeniture.
“We need to put our house in order. The Ogiamen we have suddenly disappeared and we cannot trace him. If we do not put our house in order, who will renegotiate Ekiokpagha treaty. The whole of us have resolved that Osarobo cannot rule us again. He just disappeared. He has Master Degree in History. He left 1998. He has no child as at the time he left. Because of embarrassment, Ogiamen title has been moved to another lineage. Prince [Osemwengie] is a direct scion of Ogiamen. Osarobo cannot come to this palace again. It took us five hours to install the new Ogiamen. The head of the family pronounced that he (Osarobo) is dead,” Wehere said.