Oba Ewuare’s Diplomatic Shuttles


Sufuyan Ojeifo

Historians recount the myth of the ancient Benin Kingdom in some awe-inspiring, superlative narratives. They talk about the power and influence of its kings who had traditionally ascended and continue to ascend the throne through primogeniture. The stool of the Oba of Benin is highly revered by the Benin people. The king appropriates the reverence and approximates the grandeur that defines the character or quality of the royal stool in the ancient kingdom.

Just like his forebears, especially the immediate past Omo N’Oba N’edo Uku Akpolokpolor, Oba Erediauwa, his biological father, the current Oba of Benin, Ewuare 11, has gravitas, intellectual profundity and cosmopolitan disposition to engage with all issues under the sun. His worth is measured by the totality, thus far, of his life and times, which he has lived decently, dictated by the virtues of royalty. There was no scandal while he was out there in the world, developing himself academically and while offering public service, particularly as Nigeria’s ambassador to Angola and Sweden at different times. It is therefore understandable why his subjects hold him in very high esteem.

Much more than mere symbolism, the awe-inspiring atmospherics and nuances of the palace that houses the stool and the reverential disposition of the people to everything that has to do with the palace bear testimony to the persona of successive Obas of the ancient Benin Kingdom. Oba Ewuare II is not an exception. The roles he plays in the ecology of traditional public administration in Benin, since stepping in the saddle a year ago, conduce to peace, orderliness and well-being of the Kingdom.

But above all is the commitment to ensure the development of the kingdom within the context of the provision of infrastructure by local and national governments. Besides, the Oba is committed to helping the state government develop a solid security architecture on which the pursuit of peace can be effortlessly driven and successfully executed. The realisation of the bigger picture of development of the Benin Kingdom through external interventions and potential direct foreign investments largely informed the unusual movement of the Oba out of his legally-circumscribed jurisdiction on Thursday, November 24 and Monday, November 27, 2017 to Abuja and Sokoto respectively to meet minds with President Muhammadu Buhari and His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar 111.

It is quite uncommon for any Oba of Benin to leave his kingdom on outside visitations or tours; rather he would always, in his majestic grandeur, play host to visitors with the generosity of the ancient Benin cultures and traditions always on display in their vast flourish. That Oba Ewuare 11 embarked on these diplomatic shuttles is reflective of his desire to build strategic links that will help accelerate rapid socio-economic development of the kingdom as well as promote national peace and stability at a time like this that divisiveness and deep-seated regional suspicions have crept into the nature, shape and texture of our national politics. Therefore, moderating voices of highly respected royal fathers like the Oba of Benin have become imperative.

At his meeting with Buhari, he demanded provision of infrastructure not only in his domain in the south senatorial zones but also in the whole of Edo state and urged him to help address security challenges including human trafficking in the state. He called on the federal government to assist Edo state in establishing small scale industries in rural areas to curb rural-urban drift. Specifically on infrastructure, he pleaded with the President to complete the dualisation of the Benin-Auchi road and also implored him to ensure that traditional rulers are assigned roles in the constitution in view of their laudable contribution to peace in their respective domains.

The Oba is relentless in his effort to eradicate the activities of community development associations in Edo state, which according to him, are crippling the state’s economy. He said the Benin traditional authority has been uncompromisingly tackling the menace of community development associations that earned themselves the disreputable description of community destructive associations.

Indeed, the royal father could not have been more apt in his advocacy for federal government increased support for the state governor and the people of Edo state in order to effectively and decisively tackle the security challenges in the state. He was able to get strong assurances from President Buhari concerning his plethora of requests, especially the appeal to assist Governor Obaseki in dealing with the security challenges in the state.

He capped the diplomatic shuttles with a visit to the Sultan of Sokoto, thirty-nine years after a similar visit by his father, Oba Erediauwa, to the Sultan. By this singular act of reciprocal gesture of visiting the Sultan to thank him for his support during his coronation last year as Oba of Benin, he has no doubt built on a worthy legacy of his father.

It is to his eternal credit and capacity for wise counsel that his mantra in Sokoto was that the traditional rulers should support the federal government to harness the benefits of cultural ethos to keep the nation as an indivisible entity. Oba Ewuare 11 posited that the role of traditional institutions in building a harmonious society cannot be over-emphasised as traditional rulers are the repositories and custodians of cultural and traditional values.

Not a few well-meaning Nigerians would concur with him that Nigeria has for some time now been bedeviled by unavoidable humanitarian crisis of unimaginable proportions; and, therefore, traditional rulers, must continue to play stabilising and developmental roles especially at the grassroots across the country. What this entails, according to him, is to constantly imbibe in our people the need to respect cultural values which teach tolerance and respect for one another.

Certainly, Oba Ewuare’s visit will further cement the warm relationship that has existed between the Caliphate and the Benin Kingdom over the years. His commendation of the Sultan over his tireless efforts in building bridges, promoting peace, unity and harmony in the country was in apple-pie order.

Remarkably, the Oba carried along a good number of his subjects from the business and political spheres on the diplomatic shuttles. His shuttles, understandably, got their buy-in. Business mogul, Captain (Dr) Hosa Wells Okunbo, a former member of the Nigerian Senate, Senator Ehigie Uzamere, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Matthew Uroghide, a current member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Ehiozuwa Johnson Agbonayinma and a US based Consultant Pediatrics Surgeon, Dr Tinyan Okunbo, among others, were on hand to give support to their royal father.

There is no doubt that the royal father is strategic, methodical and sharply focused. He has his eyes on the ball. He knows the destination that he is taking the Benin Kingdom. He has clearly decided to offer himself as an objective force of good over his kingdom, leveraging on the capacity and influence of the royal stool to attract infrastructure development from the state and federal governments, as well as good neighbourliness and brotherliness with other kingdoms both at home and in the Diaspora, which will eventually result in tangible results in terms of growth. I wish Oba Ewuare a string of great successes as he embarks on more diplomatic shuttles endorsed by his ancestors.

–Mr Ojeifo, an Abuja-based journalist, sent in this piece via ojwonderngr@yahoo.com