Has the position of the Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, changed after Crown Prince Ehenede went to Aso Rock Presidential Villa to urge President Jonathan to “continue his good work,”claiming he was speaking for the reverred monarch? That is the million dollar question rocking Benin at present. Chief David Edebiri, the Esogban of Benin Kingdom, seems to be saying Yes. But some other palace chiefs and members of the Benin Forum have taken up issues with Edebiri, calling him all kinds of unprintable names and insiting the position of the Crown Prince as the emissary of the Benin monarch remains the true position of the Bini on the presidential contest. Our Correspondent, AGENE AKHERE, who has been following the development, reports…
Penultimate week, residents of Benin City were taken aback by newspaper reports that the Binis have decided not to support the re-election of President Goodluck Jonathan. For the very inquisitive minds, the statement was too heavy to discountenance, particularly when Chief David Edebiri, the Esogban of Benin Kingdom, was quoted to have made the statement. Following the development, many were wondering if the position of the palace had changed from the royal blessing the President got when the Crown Prince led top palace chiefs to Aso Rock Villa and conveyed a goodwill message to the President on behalf of the Oba of Benin. As it was then reported in the media, the Benin Monarch was said to have encouraged the President to continue in office and complete the transformation agenda he had started.
But a new picture had emerged when the Esogban of Benin Kingdom and Chairman Steering Committee of Benin Forum, which embodies all Binis in Nigeria and in the Diaspora, Edebiri, stated that notwithstanding the postponement of the general elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission, the Bini would not vote for President Jonathan. The Bini Forum is adjudged to be the mouthpiece of the revered Benin Monarch, Oba Erediauwa. Giving the reason for the seeming change of stance, Edebiri had said one of the alleged sins committed by President Jonathan against the Bini was the withdrawing of the only position given them by late President Musa Yar’Adua’s regime, which is Minister of State for Works portfolio, then occupied by Engr Chris Ogiemwonyi. Edebiri said the President “took the position and gave to Ogiemwonyi’s ex-wife, Stella Oduah, who comes from Anambra State and even made her a full Minister.
Jonathan Has Wronged Bini, Says Edebiri
“What was for the Bini was taken to Anambra by the present administration. Is that why the Benin people will vote for the PDP? Besides robbing the Benin people of the ministerial appointment, the home of the former Minister (Engr.Ogiemwonyi) was completely broken by the action of the presidency.
“Is that what they have done for the Benin people that will make us to vote PDP? Impossible. If they want to postpone elections 20 times, the people are here waiting for them. The consequences of what Jonathan has done will be very grievous for him and his party.
“You met a man who was appointed half minister by the previous administration; his people in Benin voted massively for you during the elections, you now want to compose a new executive, you dropped him and took his wife who comes from across the Niger.
“Consequently, this home became divided and irretrievably broken. Robbing Benin of their ministerial appointment, destroying their son’s home for the interest of some people in Abuja. And this time around you are coming to campaign here that we should vote for you, it is not possible that we will vote for such people because the Benin nation has been sidelined with ignominy in the present arrangement,” he said.
Angry Reactions, Condemnations
However, the comment drew a series of reactions from the Palace of Oba of Benin and from other palace chiefs, all of them denouncing Edebiri’s statement as not being a true reflection of the Binis.
Chief Amos Osunbor, who is the Eson of Benin Kingdom, said Edebiri lacked the authority to speak on behalf of the people, stating that ”only the monarch has the right to speak for the Binis”. Osunbor, who is the third in the hierarchy of chiefs in the palace, said Edebiri’s position “is an affront on the Oba, since he (Oba) had expressed his desire to have President Jonathan to serve a second term.” Osunbor further accused Edebiri of “climbing to the roof” to work for Governor Adams Oshiomhole’s ambition who recently appointed his son a Commissioner for a non-existing Ministry of Foreign Investment as compensation for his defeat during the last APC primaries.
He said: “My first reaction was to ignore him and the very vexatious remark he made. But I thought otherwise because of the inherent danger that such misguided statement portends for our people. So I have decided to call him to order in my capacity as the Eson of Benin Kingdom (3rd in hierarchy of Chiefs in Benin Kingdom). l wish to stress the fact that Esogban is not the highest ranking Chief; rather it is the Iyase of Benin Kingdom who is the Prime Minister.
“I wish to profoundly state categorically that the Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, through our revered Crown Prince Eheneden had already expressed his desire to have President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan serve a second term to enable him complete the transformation programmes that he has already started. Every Nigerian witnessed the epoch-making royal visit. I am therefore wondering about the intentions of Chief Edebiri because his latest comments ordinarily amount to an affront on His Royal Majesty. No one else but the monarch speak for the Binis.
“For clarity sake, let me emphasize again that Chief D.U Edebiri, subject of the Ovia and the Crown Prince and he cannot be seen or heard to be changing authority. However, Chief Edebiri is free to endorse whoever he so wishes in his personal capacity as the ‘oracle man’ but he should refrain from holding brief for the palace and Benin people. He can speak for his household,”.he said
Eholor Picked Holes
Also reacting, the Deputy Chairman of Labour Party in Edo State, Chief Patrick Eholor, picked holes in the statement by Edebiri on the re-election bid of President Jonathan. Eholor at a press conference held on Sunday in Benin, the state capital, blasted Edebiri for towing such political position on behalf of the Bini. He said it was wrong for the Esogban to play politics with the revered palace. Eholor, who is also a palace chief, said, “If someone like Chief David Edebiri makes such utterances, it’s important for we Binis to distance ourselves from such.” He added: “We cannot play politics with the palace. The palace is the palace, Edebiri is on his own. He cannot speak for the average Bini. Let it be clear, I am Chief Patrick Osagienwagbon Eholor, the Enowarie of Utoka. My father is one of the Izobaniyons, I am from Igbesanmwan. I know my history, my father’s dynasty has been on for over 1000 years.
“We are the only chiefs who will not kneel down in the palace, who will not shake, in case Oba Atokpeghe, anything happens to our father but he is an Esogban, a custodian of the chiefs. We have four high chiefs, including Ikhaghanoghe- Ison, Edebiri, Osuma, Iyase, and look at them, all well behaved”.
Eholor, who also doubles as the President of One Love Foundation, expressed sadness at the position of Edebiri, accusing the Esogban of dancing to the political rhythms of Governor Oshiomhole whom he stated ‘greases his palms’ in order to politicize the palace.”
According to him, “He is the same man when teachers were fired, this same man joined Adams to fire them. What kind of chief are we talking about? Chief Edebiri has no moral justification, has no right to speak for we Binis. We don’t play politics in the palace. We are kingmakers. We support whoever we want to vote for, but that is a private business.
“Edebiri has no right to say that they are going to punish Goodluck Jonathan with our votes because he denied Ogiemwonyi ministerial position. Let Ogeinwonyi come out himself and cry. It’s like saying if Adams Oshiomhole loses elections, no one should greet him again. Your heir apparent lost an election and he was now given a portfolio without meaning. It’s unconstitutional for the government to do that.”
Eholor urged the Bini people to ignore the utterances of Edebiri as that does not represent the minds of the Binis.
“I want to beg the Edo people that the Esogban does not have any moral right to speak for us, and we therefore want to warn him to desist from making such utterances. We don’t insult our seniors, but we may have no choice than to start disrespecting him. And I owe no one any apology,” he said.
He pointed that his strong view has nothing to do with his political leaning as a chieftain of the Labour Party in the state, stressing that, “politics is politics. We Binis have not concluded to vote for any party. Whether I am a chieftain of Labour, PDP, APC, the Bini position must be neutral.”
He said: “So for him to come out now and try to mislead the people; that the palace is playing partisan politics, by supporting anybody, that is my concern in the whole matter”.
Benin Forum Disown Edebiri
Also worried about the development, concerned members of Benin Forum have passed a vote of no confidence on the embattled Chairman, Steering Committee, the Esogban of Benin Kingdom, Edebiri for his “inability to properly manage the affairs of the group in accordance with its constitution”.
The Director of Media of the Forum, Barrister Osamwonyi Osagiede, had said: “Chief David Edebiri should be reminded that some months ago, our revered Benin monarch, Omo N’oba Nedo Uku-Akpolokpolor, Oba of Benin, who appointed him and 23 other prominent Benin sons and daughters, who are members of different political parties to oversee the affairs of the Forum, sent the Crown Prince (Eheneden Erediauwa) to President Jonathan to express his support for the re-election of Mr. President and his constant prayers for his victory at the polls.
“Therefore, it is odiously mischievous and rude for anyone for that matter to assume another position.
“The concerned members of the Benin Forum rose from an emergency meeting on Sunday, 15th February, 2015 in Benin City to re-emphasize the importance of the Forum and its undiluted role it is supposed to play for the entire Benin people. The members salute the Founder of the Benin Forum, His Royal Majesty, Omo N’Oba Nedo, Oba Erediauwa.
“The concerned members reviewed the journey and activities of the Forum since inception; and specifically, the dragging of the Benin Forum to political arena by the steering committee under the chairmanship of Chief David Edebiri, who always uses the organisation to enrich himself to the detriment of the Benin people.
“Right from time, he has single-handedly used our most revered Benin monarch’s name to score political points for his selfish interest.”
The Forum said Edebiri’s push that Benin people should not vote for President Jonathan “is totally unacceptable as it amounts to undermining the sanctity and authority of the Benin monarch. To every Benin man, the pronouncement and direction of the Benin monarch is sacrosanct.
“Chief Edebiri’s reaction to Patrick Eholor’s position that he (Edebiri) was speaking for the gods is most amusing and funny. When has he become the chief priest of Benin Kingdom or Ohen?”
The Forum reminded Edebiri how General Muhammadu Buhari truncated the tenure of the democratically-elected civilian government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari and the governorship mandate of a prominent son of Benin Kingdom, Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia, three months into office in 1983.
“If the gods have asked Edebiri to tell Binis to vote for the same man (Buhari), “then there is more to it than meets the eye; and it is hoped that he is not lying against his gods.”
The Forum subsequently asked Edebiri to immediately step aside as chairman of its steering committe.