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HomeAnti-corruption,Governance,Election ProjectIs Godwin Obaseki the enemy of the Oba?, By Kassim Afegbua

Is Godwin Obaseki the enemy of the Oba?, By Kassim Afegbua

……..Is Godwin Obaseki the enemy of the Oba ?

I can read Governor Godwin Obaseki’s book like a piece of elementary poem, scripted in very uncoordinated stanzas, meant to deliver diatribe, hate, scorn, disrespect and disdain by its thematic focus. Governor Obaseki is an artful dodger who wears a cloak of an unpretentious good guy, for optics, but he renders his audience prostrate when he strikes; wearing an unsmiling and frowny face–his real face. He is caustic and unrepentant when he has made up his mind to play God. Since the lucrative business of the Benin artefacts was made bare, Governor Obaseki has not known sleep; simply because he wants to run the business, even after he has exited the pantheon of leadership in Osadebe Avenue. Just last month, one of his turncoat aides was responding to a piece in which I had raised serious issues that border on the failed governance in Edo state; and all that this vendable lickspitle could say was that my position was borne out of Obaseki’s refusal to appoint me into his government. I couldn’t help but laugh quite deeply and meritoriously at his tomfoolery. He must think that every citizen is like him. Governor Obaseki has known my reading of his broken lyrics from day one; if I didn’t support his aspiration from day one, how then would I be enamoured to serving in his unproductive cabinet? My participation in politics has not degenerated to such a mindless bubble.

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A serious minded governor who has got a job to do would not pre-occupy himself with issues of custody of artefacts that traditionally belong to the Palace; from where they were stolen in the 1897 invasion. Except he wants to be a modern day invader, Governor Obaseki has no moral voice on this artefacts matter. Among the litany of woes that presently dominate public discourse in Edo state, taking custody of artefacts should be the least to gain the attention of the governor; but because money is involved, Godwin Obaseki, has readily reached out to his friends and business associates to make a business out of what ought to be a preservation of heritage and revered as such. The Oba of Benin, imbued with wits and uncommon wisdom decided to use the statutory channel to secure what originally belongs to the Palace. Thus a gazette was issued by the former president, President Buhari; he gave the Kingdom the right to keep in its possession, the artefacts; for their spiritual and traditional purposes. Governor Obaseki must have felt the resonance of this throughout his spine. In shame, he is still going ahead to sustain the building of his Edo Museum of West Africa Arts- EMOWAA- to be run by people who know nothing about the spiritual ingenuity and consanguinity of the artefacts. Understandably, the museum is said to be funded by the German Government who had commited an initial 10million euros, before the custody palava. Truth be told, the state government has no business bringing non-natives to speak to Edo Heritage represented by the Benin Kingdom. It is just an agenda to balkanise and decimate the suzerainty of the Benin Kingdom, that till date, still retains its monarchical originality in the face of modernity.

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Only recently, more efforts were made to balkanise the Kingdom, using some erring Enogies to set a war of attrition against the authority of the Omo n’Oba. They were allegedly cajoled by some agents of government to raise dust about the Kingdom. A letter was purportedly written to the Governor by them, complaining about their status; the Governor had surreptitiously instigated them to beat the drum of marginalisation to create opportunity for balkanising the Kingdom. It was a gambit that some of them fell flat for. Realising that what they were cajoled to instigate would be counter-productive, about sixty-four of those Enogies have now made a U-turn and have written to the Oba to apologise for their misdemeanour and deliberate attempt to desecrate the sanctity of the traditional ethoes of the land. Furthermore, they have written to withdraw their initial petition to the Governor which was being misconstrued as rebellious. While the Oba has maintained cerebral silence, he must be watching events through his spiritual binoculars, and perhaps feeling that the affront was not just against his person as the Oba, but more against the entire kingdom and her unconquered citizens. If Benin Kingdom could survive the invasion of the white colonialists using local conspirators to hurt the very heart of its suzerainty, the Benin Kingdom would surely survive any political administration that tries to pretentiously balkanise its hold on the entire Kingdom.

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Following the bloodied face which the presidential gazette has given the Governor on the issue of safe custody of the artefacts, Governor Obaseki seems desperate to extract a pound of flesh from the monarchy. Series of unprovoked actions have become his terms of reference. Monthly allocations have been stopped, the Palace is overlooked on many issues concerning it, meetings are called to undermine the kingdom, while the Governor tries to recognise traditional vassal communities within the authority of the Oba, just to decimate the Oba’s influence, reach, and control of the monarchy. No doubt, the Benin Kingdom from time immemorial has retained its potency within the traditional institutions in Nigeria. Her Kings have always been properly installed by a hereditary tradition, which provides for proper tutorial on traditional beliefs, traditions, cultures, values and mores of the people. A crown prince is made to go through those rites of passage in order to retain the genuity of this kingdom that has lived for centuries, and has remained unbowed and uncowed to any subterranean influence; overt or covert. The fact that political leadership can change every four years while the monarchy remains and retains its own indefinite transition, makes the thought of trying to redefine its sanctity by the political leadership a joke. What Governor Obaseki seems poised to do is to whittle down the influence of the kingdom by promoting internal dissension, that would suggest that the monarchy was not at peace with itself. For the Binis and those who know the undiluted history of the kingdom, the Palace remains the singular symbol of identity of the average Edo mind. Governor Obaseki needs to reconcile this with himself.

In deciding to deal with the Enogies (Dukes) directly, who were themselves appointed by the Benin Monarchy, the governor should have known that he was overreaching; he ought to know that he cannot create a direct line of authority with persons that are traditional representatives of the Omo n’Oba, when the Oba is still on the throne and is of sound mind and body. The Benin Kingdom is one; and remains undivided in terms of its spiritual sanguinity and its rulership under the firm grip by the Omo n’Oba. Any attempt to decimate it by political rascality or any other gambit will be defeated as the very weaving of that kingdom is godlike and divine. This is why every true Bini son and daughter must speak up against this subtle backroom plot to pull the string off the Omo n’Oba in show of executive brigandage. If Governor Obaseki needs to get busy, there are so many issues begging for Executive attention in the state: roads, health, insecurity, infrastructural decay, education and human capital development. With a 20% unemployment rate as at 2022, and a poverty rate of 12%, Edo State needs urgent intervention to grow its youth population. The life expectancy stands at 54.1years due to poor healthcare, poverty, unsafe water and malaria. Governor Obaseki’s intervention in these critical sectors has been mere sloganeering more than any conscious action to addressing the issues. In trying to regenerate the school of agriculture, Tayo Akpata University of Education, Igueben College of Education, the Governor had to send home the students and staff of these institutions for upwards of three years running, in very curious circumstances. Those schools are still shutdown till date, while the government showcases empty structures to boast of its intervention in infrastructural development. Such disruption in the academic calendar of the schools is absolutely an Obaseki Model of education.

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The point must be made that the role of traditional rulers in the governance structure in the state, nay the nation, cannot be over emphasised. Aside from being custodians of our culture, values and mores, they also help in enhancing community policing in modern times, for adequate security of lives and property. The Benin Kingdom has survived centuries of attacks and invasions which have affected its sphere of influence in modern day Nigeria, but the purity of its cultural heritage still retains its stature. The pride of the state is, amongst other things her culture and tradition, which the Benin Monarchy epitomises. It is therefore incumbent on any political leadership to sustain their recognition and desist from using backdoor tactics and subterranean influence to undress the masquerade. The Enogies have since retraced their steps from the deceit they were plunged into by agents of the State Government. The returned artefacts belong to the Benin Traditional Council, the administrative body of the Royal Palace. On the museum being built, if the intention is altruistic, it ought to be domiciled in the Palace and not any where else. The site of the museum appears to be another way by another means. Good spirited Binis and Edo people in general should speak up so that a governor whose exit date is at hand does not hurt the soul of a Kingdom that has lived for over 700 years. The state needs: clean and safe water to boost its life expectancy, wealth creation, infrastructural renewal and functional health institutions. Its education needs more teachers, chairs, and other equipment that would improve the learning environment. Shouting EdoBest in the face of EdoTrash is merely postponing the evil day. Following this exposé, I hope the governor’s aide will not claim this time, that my speaking up is borne out of “ignorance” and “lack of patronage;” jokers!!

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By Kassim Afegbua

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