By Sunday Apah
The Egbema Youth Council in Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State, and Ovia South West and Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Areas of Edo state, have stated that they owe no allegiance to the Oba of Bini Kingdom, as they are people firmly held together by linguistic and cultural affinity with unalloyed allegiance and loyalty to their King, the Agadagba of Egbema Kingdom.
The Egbema Youth Council in a press statement in reply to the Coalition of Bini Socio-Cultural Group who addressed their revered king as ‘one Meshack Ubabiri’ in an online publication, described the group as disgruntled, misinformed and self-seeking persons under the name ‘Coalition of Benin Socio- Cultural Organization’ headed by one Osazee Amas Edobor.
According to the statement, “the group are more like young school leavers practicing the art of writing, and sacrilegiously referred to the Agadagba of Egbema Kingdom, Bini Pere IV, His Royal Majesty Amb. Meshack Eseighotiegha Ubabiri as “one Meshack Ubabiri.” This is to say the least the height of immaturity and unprovoked assault on the entire Egbema Kingdom and the Ijaws of Edo State.
“The architects of these derogatory statements and distortions are probably too young to know or have chosen not to listen to their fathers and the Bini traditional institution who know better on the existence of a distinct ethnic group known as the Ijaws in Edo State, and in particular, a kingdom known as Egbema Kingdom that have existed for as long as man has existed on the face of the earth.
“Whichever is the case, they are well advised to wake up from their slumber and come to the reality of the fact that we exist as a distinct people, who do not need any permission or approval from the Bini people to conduct our own affairs including the installation and the crowning of our king as we have done just now with the Installation and crowning of His Royal Majesty Meshack Eseighotiegha Ubabiri, Bini Pere lV, Agadagba of Egbema Kingdom, to reign over the throne of his forefathers, on 23rd November, 2022, as rightly published.
The statement reads: “the Kingdom of Egbema, under the leadership of the Agadagba, is gazetted by the government of the defunct Bendel State; reference Section 8 of the Bendel State Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Edict 1979.
“The gazette gave legal backing to the status of the Agadagba of Egbema Kingdom. Before the formal recognition of the government, we have had several kings spanning over a thousand years. We have lived in our present location for over 1000 years (since about 1170 AD) and no force on earth will change it or relocate us.
“We are a people firmly held together by linguistic and cultural affinity with unalloyed allegiance and loyalty to our King, the Agadagba of Egbema Kingdom. As Africans, we respect the Oba of Bini as the Head of the Bini Kingdom, but we owe him no allegiance.
“Before the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates of Nigeria in 1914, we were in this land and also, when the Midwestern region was recreated into Bendel State, till 1991 when Delta was created out of the defunct Bendel State. However, in order to subjugate and dominate our people, the neocolonialists balkanized us by using the river-line delineation in what they called political and administrative convenience to put us in two states.
“The press conference of the Coalition of the Bini group is the hand of Esau and the voice of Jacob. We are not surprised. When HRM Godwin Ogunoyibo, Alagbabunafa III, the Agadagba of Olodiama Kingdom was crowned, the Bini Traditional Council forced the Government of Edo State to issue a similar statement to take position against its own citizens who are of Ijaw ethnic nationality in Edo State. The Ijaws and Nigerians rightly condemned the government’s position on the matter. It was considered as outrageous that the government could take side and exhibit such unwholesome conduct in the 21st Century and in a democracy.
“Realizing the security implications of the incongruous statement, the government of Governor Godwin Obaseki opted for dialogue with Ijaw leaders. The meeting finally took place in the Edo State Government House on 19th December, 2017. When asked by the press what his thoughts were on the demands of the Ijaws for recognition of their five kingdoms, their kings and the creation of an homogeneous local government council, he acknowledged that Ijaws are Edo State people.
A kingdom is territorial and everyone is governed by their king except where it is not in practice and for the conquered. We have never been conquered, not even by the British, unlike the Binis. This imperialist attitude contributed to the downfall of the kingdom in 1897, a lesson they are yet to learn from. Having been profiled by their imperialist and domineering activities, they have been unable to realize their misconceived agenda to annex Ijaw territories, so far. This is not the age of imperialism and territorial expansion.
“For the purposes of further enlightenment of the self-acclaimed group, and for the undiscerning public not to be left with a false impression of the overlordship of the Oba of Benin and the status of the Edo State Ijaws, we wish to state that the Ijaws are Aborigines of Edo State. The great Bini historian, Chief Dr. Jacob Uwagboe Egharevba of blessed memory (1893-1981) in his book, A Short History of Benin Kingdom, made it crystal clear that the Binis met human inhabitants in the places now called Ijaw Ancestral Lands when they escaped from Oduduwa Kingdom in Ile-Ife.
“Chief Dr. Jacob U. Egharevba demonstratebly pontificated that the Binis came across several rivers and streams and met people whose daily livelihood was tied to these rivers and streams. These people are the Ijaws and, according to Chief Dr. Egharevba, these people helped the hordes of fleeing warriors from Ile-Ife to cross over the areas in the present Benin Kingdom.
“Egarevba of blessed memory was a Bini man, a member of the Iwebo society, a custodian of the Bini tradition, a highly celebrated historian of his time, the first and the best curator of the Benin Museum told the truth. It is possible that most of these Binis leaving Ile-Ife were coming in contact with streams and rivers for the first time in their lives. The Binis are a very aquaphobic people while the Ijaws live nearby or on rivers and streams where they conduct fishing and other activities connected to their livelihood.
“The Ijaws have a culture and tradition that is distinct from that of the Binis. There are five Ijaw kingdoms in Edo state; namely Egbema, Okomu, Furupagha, Gbarain and Olodiama. The Ijaws are the aborigines and original owners of the lands where they are domiciled in Edo state.
“The Ijaws are the indigenous owners of their ancestral land and rivers of Ofunama, Ajakurama, Gbeoba, Bolou-Jamagie, Jamagie, Abere, Ugboama, Safarogbo, Gelegele-gbene, Inikorogha, Ikoro, Inikorogha,Igbeleuba, Igaza, Okomu, Gbelebu, etc with a population of approximately one million five hundred thousand people.
“Unfortunately, they are balkanized into three local government areas of Ovia South-West, Ovia North-East and Ikpoba Okha Local Government Areas with a view to rendering them politically powerless. It needs to be placed on record that Hon G.O.E Tiemo who later became the Agadagba of Egbema, Bini Pere the 111 once represented ovia Local Government Area in the Bendel State House Assembly in 1983.
“At the core of the inordinate ambition of the Bini people is the desire to control the oil and gas resources in the form of rent, royalties and tributes, which heightens the oppression and marginalization and intimidation of the Ijaws of Edo State by the state government under the instigation of the Bini Traditional Council. The obsolete idea of subjugation and expansionist agenda is long gone with history. All over the world, regardless of social and cultural differences, small and big nations and ethnic nationalities co-exist side by side. But Bini imperialists are yet to come to terms with these realities.
“Peace is crucial to the success of every government and the prosperity of her people. Government both at the state and the Federal and indeed all security agencies are therefore enjoined to call these recalcitrant Bini group to order. We have endured the yoke of Bini imperialism that has denied us of our rightful place in EDOSOPADEC, representation in NDDC and in the state Executive Council.
“The Ijaws paid with their blood for the creation of NDDC and EDOSOPADEC, but today the Binis are the beneficiaries to the exclusion of the Ijaws in Edo State. Is Edo State a mono-ethnic state? We would conclude by alluding to the famous quote by J.F Kennedy, the former president of United States of America, ‘hose who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable’, a word is enough for the wise.”