By Osazee Idada.
In the 19th century, disputes over trade led to strain relationship between Benin and its chief trading partner, Great Britain. Well, after a series of successful trades, a British Vice-Consul, Henry Galway, visited Benin with the intention of annexing the kingdom through a treaty. He presented this so-called treaty of “trade and friendship” to the Oba Ovonramwen who was skeptical about it and Britain as well.
In November 1896, an Acting Consul-General James Robert Philips set out for Benin with his “friendly troops” that consisted of two trading agents, two Niger coast protectorate officers, a medical officer, and 250 African soldiers in the guise of porters sending a letter to the Oba that he is coming for a “Friendly visit” to discuss trade and peace. (while he was awaiting permission from the British authorities to invade Benin).
Unfortunately for Phillips, he arrived during the ongoing Igue festival. During the Igue season, the Oba is prohibited from being in the presence of any non-native person. Despite been warned by a small fraction of the Benin army of the ongoing festival and the consequences, Philips gave deaf ears.
Chief Agho Obaseki, the then Iyase of Benin Kingdom played a crucial role in the events leading to the Fall of Benin from the Punitive Expedition of 1897. Haven been seen as a betrayal who had his eyes on the throne, he was prevented from returning to Ovonramwen because the British saw him as useful for the new political order they were to impose. Alfred Turner, the British Resident, appointed Obaseki to the Council of Chiefs in September 1897.
Chief Agho Obaseki greed for power brought pain, distress, anguish and calamity to the Benin Kingdom which saw the highly revered throne, palace and the land desecrated by the foreigners. When Oba Ovonramwen joined his ancestors in January 13, 1914, it was reported that the The Iyase overshadowed the new Oba (Oba Eweka II – Prince Aiguobasimwin) under the new British political dispensation and even according to the British who backed him, was ‘certainly most dictatorial and arrogant in his behaviour’.
History, they say has a way of repeating itself. It is now over a century that such tragic event took place and only recently a sad and despicable event reoccurred under the government whose Chief Agho Obaseki descendant is now the executive governor of the state . In 2016, we did warn Edo people of the maladministration that will befall the government of Obaseki/Philip as such combination doesn’t mean well for the people.
Few days ago, some thugs sponsored by the state government were caught on cameras shooting at the peaceful crowd of protesters in front of the royal palace. For many, it was an abomination to desecrate the palace and can only be likened to a similar scene that occurred in 1897 during the reign of Oba Ovonramwen with Chief Agho Obaseki as a major player in the ordeal. It is now obvious that history has replayed itself.