Oba Ewuare 11 stops the installation of Pere Of Olodiama
SIMON EBEGBULEM, BENIN CITY
There is tension between Ijaw traditional rulers and the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare 11, following the attempt by the Ijaw traditional rulers led by the Paramount Ruler of Gbaramatu Kingdom in Delta state, Pere Oboro Gbaraun 11, to install one Godwin Ogunyebo, as the Pere of Olodiama Kingdom, in Ovia North East Local Government Area of Edo state last Tuesday. The domain of the revered Benin monarch. The tension heightened when the Ijaw traditional rulers both from Delta and Bayelsa state, who were on their way for the coronation ceremony were sent back by security agents including the Army which stalled the ceremony. Sunday Vanguard learnt that they have been several attempts to carry out the installation but has hit the wall following the resistant of the Benin traditional council who accused the Ijaw people of trying to install a monarch in the soil of Benin land which is under the jurisdiction of Omo N’Oba N’edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare 11, Ogidigan. After the botched attempt to install Godwin as the Pere of Olodiama Kingdom last Tuesday, the angry Ijaw traditional rulers accused the Federal Government of conniving with the Oba of Benin, to obstruct the land and territories belonging to the Ijaw people of Olodiama in Edo state. The traditional rulers who addressed journalists alleged that “armed security men who claimed to be acting from orders from above prevented them from accessing Olodiama Kingdom where a new King was to be crowned”. According to the monarchs they were heading to Gelegele community where the installation was to hold on Tuesday where they were barred from proceeding. Spokesman of Gbaramatu traditional kingdom, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, accused Oba Ewuare 11 of masterminding the incident, alleging that “the monarch has been making moves to annex ijaw enclave to his kingdom. The entourage and their chiefs were on their way to Gelegele for the coronation ceremony of the traditional ruler of Olodiama kingdom in Edo state, but we got information that there was a military siege in Gelegele throughout the night. From happenings we suspect that the Oba of Benin knows about the plot to stop the coronation. The Benin kingdom has been struggling to annex Olodiaman Kingdom as part of their territory because of the oil and the sea port recently sited in Gelegele. Olodiaman kingdom has always had king but there was an interregnum at a point but following interventions, the people agreed on a new king. So these monarchs from Bayelsa and Delta state were going to felicitate with the new monarch when information reached that no one was allowed in and out of the area. We are not happy with the situation, this is neither an issue of militancy or criminality. For the Federal government to reach the people it needs a head to talk to the people. Halting the installation is an aberration and something we cannot accept”.
Vanguard learnt that the state government became worried about the development in the area, when it got hint of the planned installation ceremony and alerted security agencies to stop what they described as illegality through a letter signed by the Secretary to the state Government, Osarodion Ogie. That was how security agents aborted the ceremony. The Benin monarch who was angered with the development reacted through his top chiefs, led by the Iyase of Benin Kingdom, Chief Sam Igbe and the Esogban of the Kingdom, Chief David Edebiri, who declared that the Ijaws have no right over Gelegele land following a Supreme Court judgment of 1986. The Iyase recalled that the Ijaws took similar action then but the then Bendel state government stopped the action declaring that Gelegele land is an enclave of the Benin monarch. Chief Igbe gave historical background of what was said then by the Bendel state government on the issue. His words, “Perhaps it is necessary to tell you that in 1986, exactly what they are doing now happened. On thursday November 20th 1986, Timothy Opunama in a publication in the Nigerian Obaserver, said that Gelegele belong to Ijaw and that the Oba of Benin has no jurisdiction over it. Now the government then reacted as follows, through the Hon. Commissioner to Local Government, Engr Eno Ejekodomi: “My attention has been drawn to a publication on page 4 of the Nigerian Observer of Thursday 20th November 1986, credited to one Timothy Ofunama who styled himself as the Amakosowei of Gelegele in which he gave the impression that the traditional administration of Gelegele was under the Pere of Olodiama clan and other Ijaw Chiefs in Ovia Local Government Area of Bendel state. The author of the vexatious publication also gave the impression that the Oba of Benin has no right to confer chieftaincy titles of Okao of Gelegele and that Gelegeleand other Ijaw communities are not under the jurisdiction of the Oba of Benin. In this regard, my Ministry wants to make it clear that the Oba of Benin who is the traditional paramount ruler in Benin Kingdom, is the prescribed authority for Oredo, Oriomwon and Ovia Local Government Areas by virtue of Bendel State legal notice number 44 of 1979 published in the Bendel state of Nigeria extraordinary gazette number 61 of 28 September 1979. It is also pertinent to point out that Gelegele in Ovia Local Government Area is part and parcel of Benin land under the jurisdiction of the Oba of Benin, haven regards to the judgment of the Supreme Court of Nigeria delivered on 19th August 1983, which made it clear that the land known as Gelegele belongs to Benin. As a matter of fact that judgment said that the Ijaws were tenants of the Oba of Benin. In the light of the foregoing, government sees the action of Timothy Ofunama who calls himself the Amakusowei of Gelegele as an attempt to incite crisis in that community. I want to stress that government will not tolerate that state of affairs which is capable of jeopardizing the peace, order and good government in the area.
“for the purpose of clarification, it is considered necessary to inform the general public that it is not only contemptuous to reopen an issue which the Supreme Court has delivered judgment on, but that it is also unlawful for anyone to call himself a chief or allow himself to be addressed as a chief if he had not been confirmed a chieftaincy title by a competent authority and has not been registered by the Ministry of Local Government as a chief. Finally I want to warn that all those who are parties to the aforementioned publications should desist forthwith from parading themselves either as traditional rulers or traditional chiefs as the penalty for their action under section 20 and 26 of the traditional Rulers and Chiefs law 1979 is imprisonment for six months or two years respectively without an option of fine”.
Reacting on the current situation, Chief Igbe said, “Once again they did exactly what they did before. They want to install a new Chief by whatever name and the matter has come to the notice of our father Oba Ewuare 11. The attention of the palace of the Oba of Benin and his chiefs has been drawn to a congratulatory advert of Tuesday 14th November 2017, which purports to congratulate one Godwin Oguyebo on his coronation as Pere Olodiama Kingdom in Ovia North East Local Government Area of Edo state. We want to state this categorically, that Ovia North East is under the authority of the Oba of Benin who is the prescribed authority. We only have one monarch in the whole Edo South senatorial district, that is the Oba. The title Pere of Olodiama Kingdom does not exist. Gelegele is under the over lordship of the Oba of Benin and there cannot be two Monarchs in Benin. We would advise that any one who recognizes of purports to install or present himself to be installed as a traditional ruler outside the provisions of the Edo state Traditional Rulers and chiefs edict of 1979 is in violation, and would be arrested and prosecuted accordingly. We are advising the Pere of Gbaramatu, Delta state to avoid falling foul of the relevant laws of Edo state. The Ijaw people in Gelegele are free to live in the area just as any other ethnic groups that live in that axis. Any attempt to lay claim to non-existent title and community or village under any guise would be totally resisted. We call on law enforcement agencies to fully investigate and arrest those that are behind this abominable and sacrilegious act”.
Also reacting in a statement signed by the Secretary to the state Government, Osarodion Ogie, Governor Obaseki ordered security agents to arrest the perpetrators of the illegal act which he described as sacrilegious and an affront on the authority of the Oba of Benin. “the pronouncement constitutes an unprecedented affront to the long-settled culture, traditions and norms of our people. Government is of the view that the claim of such a non-existent title in a non-existent community under any guise is a clear and pre-meditated breach of our Laws particularly the Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Law of Edo State which said Law sets out the list of all recognised Traditional Rulers and Chiefs in Edo State. The said Law further makes it a criminal offence for any person to recognise or purport to install any person as a Traditional Ruler except as provided for under the Law and in fact makes it an offence for any unqualified person to present or permit to be so addressed.”
The Edo State SSG, maintained that the state government is of the view that “this act is intended to precipitate strife and contestation leading inevitably to the breakdown of Law and Order in our dear State.” He said in the light of the foregoing, Governor Godwin Obaseki has issued clear directives to the Law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies to take all steps to immediately abort the proposed or purported coronation anywhere within Edo State on the date proposed or on any other date whatsoever..Obaseki also directed law enforcement agencies to effect the immediate arrest and prosecution of all persons involved in the said coronation either as beneficiary, participant or sponsor, to the full extent of all extant laws, as the government and people of Edo State have always projected a peaceful and welcoming disposition to all persons living within its boundaries. “Edo State Government will not tolerate actions and pronouncements which seek to abuse the hospitality which our land offers. Let it be clearly noted that this Government will take all necessary steps to preserve our peace, enforce our Laws and defend our revered institutions. All those who intend to test the resolve of Government in this regard should be assured of the certainty that swift and severe sanctions will be the natural consequence of their unlawful acts. Government calls on all citizens and or residents of the State, while remaining peaceful and Law abiding, to report all actual and potential breaches of the peace to the nearest Law Enforcement Agencies” Ogie stated.
The Benin National Congress (BNC), said described the attempt as a declaration of war against the Benins and warned that the Benins were ready to defend the Oba’s territory with every means. In a statement signed by Osaretin Igbinogun, the BNC said “ the entire landmass referred to as Gelegele in the supreme court judgment bothering Ughoton and the Bight of Benin belong to the Benins and customarily under the authority of the Oba of Benin is not in contest, what is in context however is the diabolic ploy by the Ijaws to seize the territory as theirs, this is an utter assault on the psyche of our people as there exists and indefatigably subsisting Supreme Court judgment manifestly defining the areas as Benin territory. The Ijaws should not overstretch the tacit support of former President Goodluck Jonathan; as the plans of his Presidency to constitutionally establish a Toriebi State for his kinsmen is still fresh in our memory. We need not emphasized that the Ijaw settlers have over stayed their welcome in Benin Kingdom; they should either quit or remain as tenants, using terrorizing means will not give them authoritative ownership; and no one born by a man or woman or institution can upturn our God given territory to strangers We wish to alert the security apparatuses to swing into action by stopping this warring act by one ‘Pere’ who seek to establish a fiefdom and declare himself as a Fief in our land, this is because, if the Benins resolved to militantly engage this war mongers we will not take likely to any clampdown on Benin youths for acting in self defense of our territory”.