I read with relish media reports of the Saturday, April 28, 2018 visit of the Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Ewuare 11, to the State of Osun during which he met with the State Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola at the Government House in Osogbo; and, thereafter, with the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, in his Ife palace.
If I am not mistaken, that was the second significant official trip outside Benin that Oba Ewuare 11 would embark on since ascending the throne in October 2016. The first was to Abuja and Sokoto in November 2017 where he met with President Muhammadu Buhari and the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar 111 respectively in what was described as vital diplomatic shuttles to essentially connect with Nigeria’s strategic and influential power centres and personages. Oba Ewuare 11, who had represented Nigeria in different outposts before his enthronement, had deployed his ambassadorial savoir-faire to utilitarian actuality, although he described his visit as a post-coronation thank-you tour. Both the Sultan of Sokoto and the Ooni of Ife were some of the dignitaries that spiced his coronation with their imperial attendance.
It is instructive that the stool of the Oba of Benin is a very powerful one that is ingrained in some ancient and pristine traditions. Successive occupants of the stool, apparently charismatic and venerated, have benefitted in equal measures from the influence that the stool confers. The royalty of the ancient Benin Kingdom is, without a doubt, held in awe-inspiring admiration by the Benin people. It also enjoys approbation by non-Benin people as well.
Benin Kingdom is blessed to have an Oba who, like his father of blessed memory, Oba Erediauwa, is profoundly educated, well connected and immensely cosmopolitan in outlook. His cosmopolitanism has emphatically shattered the primordial and enticing cocoon of ethnic nationalism that has afflicted many leaders, such that the Oba does not speak for the Benin people only on issues that concern the development of Edo state but also for the entire people-the Edo, Okpe, Esan, Afenmai/Etsako, Ora, Akoko-Edo, Igbanke, Emai and Ijaw.
For instance, at his meeting with President Buhari in 2017, he demanded the provision of infrastructure in Edo state and urged him to help the state governor, Godwin Obaseki, address security challenges, including human trafficking, in the state. He had called on the federal government to assist Edo state to establish small scale industries in rural areas to curb rural-urban drift. Oba Ewuare 11 also urged the federal government to complete the dualisation of the Benin-Auchi road. He is obviously interested in statewide development. The issues that the Oba engaged with during his Osogbo visit were not different from some of the issues he raised with the president, to wit: the growing insecurity and the prevalence of trafficking in persons. Suffice to surmise that he has taken upon himself the role of an ambassador and advocate against national insecurity and trafficking in persons. These are germane and topical issues that have assaulted our psyche and sensibility as a nation.
Not to engage with them in the way and manner Oba Ewuare 11 has taken up the gauntlet will aggravate and make them become a part and parcel of our shattered value system. A kingdom that has responsive king and chiefs cannot be assailed with such mindless assaults without taking actions. That is the philosophical underpinning of the Oba’s advocacy. A country with a legitimate government in place must deploy the force of its constitutional authority to preserve the security and wellbeing of its citizens. That is the undertaking to which the Benin monarch has called out government at the state and federal levels.
Oba Ewuare 11 understands the powerful synergies that exist between the institutions of traditional rulers and constitutional government much as he realises that without collaboration among the Obas, state and federal governments, it would be difficult to effectively tackle and surmount the insecurity that has led to incessant killings in parts of the country by suspected herdsmen as well as callous trafficking in persons.
With his eyes sharply-focused on achieving set goals, the Benin monarch targeted Ogbeni Aregbesola, who he believes would be able to spread the message to other governors on the urgency of the now to do the needful in order to restore peace in the body politic. I am sure that the Oba and the Edo State governor are already on the same page on these issues back home. It was only strategic that for royal somberness and effect, another governor and many others should be saddled with the task of sustaining and strengthening the advocaciest Importantly, the Ooni of Ife and the Orangun of Ila, Oba Abdulwahab Adedotun Bibire, were in attendance during the visit of Oba Ewuare 11 to Ogbeni Aregbesola. Oba Ewuare 11 undoubtedly spoke the minds of the royal fathers and charted clear trajectories for them to tread in their engagement with government at the state and federal levels on the imperativeness of preservation of security, peace and order in the country. The call by Oba Ewuare 11 on state governors and the presidency to take steps to strengthen the nation’s security architecture represents a significant royal intervention that bears so much weight. Tapping Ogbeni Aregbesola, he said: “I want you to mobilize your colleagues in the Nigerian Governors’ Forum to address the issue of insecurity in the country and do something to stop the unwarranted killings by herdsmen in Benue, Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Edo and other parts of the country.”
The Benin monarch, who had already established a Foundation to deal with the menace of trafficking in persons, said: “The modern slavery in our land today is that of human trafficking and unfortunately many people see it as an Edo state problem, but I tell you it is far from it. We all need to come together and fight this menace that is staring us in the face or else we will all suffer for it. On our part, we are doing all that is humanly possible to put an end to human trafficking in our land because it is a crime against a fellow human being. Other parts of the country don’t need to stigmatise Edo state. We need to see it as a national issue.”
Oba Ewuare 11 made his points loud and clear. The Osun state governor also harped on efforts that government is making to eliminate all forms of insecurity in the country. According to him, “I want you to know that the last National Economic Council meeting was devoted to discussing a way out of the current security challenge in the country….” Nigerians and members of the international community expect an expeditious solution to the unremitting senseless killings by herdsmen in parts of the country.
Ojeifo, an Abuja-based journalist, writes via [email protected]