Benin, Ijaw again on war path over Gelegele
- As security agents abort alleged coronation of ‘Pere of Olodiama Kingdom’
Abavo Kingsley, Benin
The cold war that has long existed between the Benin Kingdom and its neighbor; the Ijaw people over the sea side and oil rich Gelegele town has seemingly been reawakened.
This is as the two neighbours in recent days have engaged in the war of words even threatening to draw the sword.
On Wednesday, 15 November, 2017, the Benin Traditional Council in a media briefing at the Oba Palace said its attention has been drawn to a congratulatory advert of Tuesday, 14 November, 2017 purporting to congratulate one Godwin Ogunyenbo on his coronation as ‘Pere of Olodiama Kingdom’ in Ovia North East Local Government Area of Edo State.
Also that one Timothy Ofunama was quoted to have said in a publication by the Nigerian Observer that Gelegele is not under the Kingdom of Benin hence, the Oba, Ewuare II has no authority over Gelegele town.
The Council declared that Ovia North East Local Government is under the authority of the Oba of Benin, who is the only prescribed authority and he remains the only Monarch in the whole of Edo South Senatorial District. Adding that the title; ‘Pere of Olodiama Kingdom’ does not exist and Gelegele is under the over-lordship of the Oba of Benin and there cannot be two Monarchs in Benin.
“We would advise that anyone who recognizes, purports to install or present himself to be installed as a traditional ruler outside the provision of the Edo State Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Edict of 1979, is in violation of the law, 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.”
The Council therefore called on all law enforcement agencies to fully investigate and arrest those behind what it termed; “abominable and sacrilegious act”.
The Esogban of Benin Chief David Edebiri in reaction to a question by a journalists said the Supreme Court remains the highest court of law in Nigeria which had pronounced judgment over Gelegele in favour of the Benin Kingdom and that there was no reason therefore for her people to engage the Ijaws in what he called unnecessary confrontation.
But the Iyase, Chief Sam Igbe in reaction said the Benin Kingdom had been patient enough over the years and would not want to further tolerate the affront of the Ijaws.
“If they no longer want to stay where they are now, they are free to leave except they want to continue to dare the might of the Benin Kingdom.”
According to the Vanguard newspaper report, also reacting, the Benin National Congress (BNC) in a statement by its director of mobilization, Osaretin Igbinogun, Gelegele land belong to the Oba of Benin and that the Ijaw people are visitors who have over stayed their welcome.
The BNC stated: “The entire land mass referred to as Gelegele in the Supreme Court judgment bordering Ughoton and the Bight of Benin belong to the Bini, and customarily under the authority of the Oba of Benin is not in contest.
“We wish to alert the security apparatuses to swing into action by stopping this warring act by one ‘Pere’ who seeks to establish a fiefdom and declare himself as a fief in our land. This is because, if the Bini should resolve to militantly engage these war mongers, we will not take kindly to any clampdown on Benin youths for acting in self defence of our territory.”
The Edo Statement Government in a paid media advert has also condemned the act of the Ijaws wanting to crown a king in Olodiama which is under the Ovia North East Local Government Council Area; a part of the Kingdom.
Security agents had on Tuesday aborted the installation of Edwin Ogunyenbo as the Pere of Olodiama community after the state government declared the installation as unconstitutional and an attempt to create another monarchy in Benin Kingdom..
Meanwhile, President, Ijaw Youth Council,(IYC), Eric Omare in a statement has described the stand of the Edo State Government and BTC over ownership of the land as unacceptable.
Gelegele is an Ijaw enclave and they had the right to install a traditional ruler of their choice, the statement was quoted to have said.
“The statement by the Edo State Government and the Benin palace is a declaration of war against the Ijaw nation. The government of Edo State under Governor Godwin Obaseki, by the content of the press statement issued and signed by the Secretary to Edo State Government, Osarodin Ogie, has lost the moral and constitutional right to govern the Ijaw people and land of Edo State, namely, the Ijaw of Olodiama, Okomu, Gbarain, Egbema and Furupa Kingdoms.
“The IYC, in the strongest term, condemns the statement by the Edo State Government and the Benin Palace which purports to create the impression that Ijaw land and people of Edo State do not exist.
“This statement is not only provocative but an invitation to war by a state government and this is totally unacceptable. It is a deliberate and wicked attempt by Bini officials of the Edo State Government to rewrite history. The Ijaw nation would vehemently resist this attempt.
“For the records the Ijaw people of Olodiama, Gbarain, Okomu, Egbema and Furupa Kingdoms in Edo State are aborigines in the lands where they are living and were there for so many years even before the Binis came to their present land under the leadership of their own traditional institutions.
“The Ijaw of Edo State has never been under the traditional institution of any other ethnic nationality in Edo State or elsewhere in Nigeria. We call on Edo State Government to immediately withdraw its statement and render an unreserved apology to the Pere of Olodiama Kingdom, Ijaw people of Edo State and the Ijaw nation.”
In the same vein, factional President of IYC, Pereotubo Owielaemi, in a statement, on Thursday was quoted to have said; the State government’s statement “is clearly an invitation to anarchy, and it is not supposed to be coming from a state government whose duty is to secure lives and property.
The Edo State Government should not play partisan politics in the land disputes brewing between the Ijaws in the State and the Bini Kingdom. “The Ijaw nation will not fold its arm and allow the Edo State Government, led by Godwin Obaseki and the land-grabbing Bini Kingdom to wipe out the Ijaw in the state from planet earth,” he added.
Now, the BNC and IYC are seemingly prepared to go to war over the brewing disagreement.