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British invasion: ‘Beware of desperate politicians’

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There is a twist in the controversy surrounding the British invasion of Benin Kingdom in 1897.

A great, great-grandson of Oba Ovonramwen N’Ogbaisi, Prince Samwonyi Ovonramwen, has cautioned the Bini of Edo State to beware of desperate politicians who would not define the issues confronting them as a people.

Ovonramwen said: “some politicians only hide behind patronage or mercantilist politics of the wasted years to benefit their selfish ends. They are caught by cold, fear and trepidation at the sight of well-rounded contenders for the same office. For God’s sake, leave our great great-grandfather out of the murky waters of politics. Let politicians play politics.”

He added: “My family line is the only one still bearing the name Ovonramwen and this has ensured that his good name has not been erased from the consciousness of the people. That underscores how proud and honoured we are to be associated with our root.

“How easy it is to pursue selfish political interest under the pretext of public good! Apart from little known Ovonramwen Street, no other monument of importance immortalises Oba Ovonranmwen in Benin City. I wish deserving effort is directed at correcting this.

“In 1897, the British invaded Benin Empire, conquered it and carted away its most priced assets. The motive for the invasion was purely economic and political. As earlier correspondences have shown, the invasion and subjugation of the empire was inevitable and only a matter of time.

“The role of the key actors, including nobles, courtiers and ordinary citizens, were contingent upon the dynamics and exigencies of the time. It can only be understood and appreciated therefrom. And we know for a fact that the character, mood and temperament of 1897 were not captured by anyone and cannot be resurrected with accuracy more than a century after.

“Over the years, there have been speculations and tell-tales with regard to the role played by some key leaders and participants. The British conquerors wrote from their angle but nobody recorded the views of the Edo participants in the unfortunate episode.

“However, what can be reconstructed with the tools of research has been accomplished by the most celebrated historian on the subject – Prof. Phillips Igbafe. Let those who seek genuine knowledge submit themselves to the discipline of reading published works.

“It is barbaric, unjustifiable and pointless to hound anyone or scion of any of the families today on account of the purported role played by his great, great-grandfather. If all of us were to look back into remote history and the role played by our various great, great-grandfathers, Benin City and Edo land would be immersed with vile, hatred, bad blood and vindictiveness.

“Let us beware of desperate politicians who can hardly define the issues confronting us only to hide behind patronage or mercantilist politics of the wasted years.”

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