Edo and the season of big shoes
By John Mayaki
In October, the ancient city of Benin roared with festivities. The cynosure was the week-long coronation of His Royal Majesty, Oba Ewuare II as the 40th Oba of Benin Kingdom. After a medley of colourful rites and ceremonies, the prince formally assumed his position as Oba of Benin on Thursday, October 20.
Oba Ewuare II will follow the tradition of his father, Oba Erediauwa, who joined his ancestors a while ago. But before his royal call, Oba Erediauwa worked in public service as a District Officer (D.O) in 1957 in the Eastern Nigeria Civil Service before he was transferred to the Federal Civil Service.
There, he rose through the ranks, to retire as Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health in 1972. He became the Regional Representative of Gulf Oil Company after and he was appointed Commissioner for finance in Midwest State by former Military Governor George Innih in 1975. Thereafter, he retired to his traditional role as the Ediaken of Uselu. And when his father joined his ancestors, the prince who would later become Oba Erediauwa, began the ceremonial royal march to the Oba’s palace to ascend the throne of his forebears. He was aged 56.
While on the throne, Oba Erediauwa was a beacon of truth, peace, equity and justice. And Benin in particular, under his leadership, witnessed tremendous peace. The Oba was also a great promoter of the Edo cultural heritage, values, customary laws and tradition. In fact, Oba Erediauwa’s reign stands out as pivotal to the building of modern-day Benin Kingdom. He ruled with candour and had the courage to say things the way he saw it, no matter whose ox was gored. Well-revered and adored, the Oba’s statesmanship earned him many endearments and awards, including the national honour – Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR). Having to succeed such an accomplished father, Oba Ewuare II has big shoes to fill.
Also, not too long ago, Benin, the Edo State capital, welcomed a new leader. The leader, the Edo State Governor-elect, is Mr Godwin Obaseki, who takes over from Comrade Adams Oshiomhole on November 12, 2016.
For Oshiomhole, bringing development to Edo as governor has not been a tea party. But during the coronation ceremony of Oba Ewuare II, Oshiomhole said part of the reason he succeeded was because he respected tradition. He disclosed that support and fatherly advice from Oba Erediauwa helped him to succeed as governor.
“The formal coronation of your royal majesty today affords us the opportunity to celebrate the rich cultural tradition of Benin kingdom,” said Oshiomhole.
“To recall the very fond memories of the outstanding contribution that Oba Erediauwa displayed while on the throne, I recall it with fond memories of my very privileged relationship – which was like that of a father and a son.
“If you come from my kind of background you will appreciate what that means to me. He was there for me as an applicant seeking for job, he was there for me as the governor of this great State, he really counselled me on a number of issues without which I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish the much that I believe we were able to contribute to the development of not only the kingdom, but of our great state.
“For some of us who have interacted with your royal majesty, we believe you have what it takes to step into the shoes of your father Oba Erediauwa. As your steward, I shall give my all and I do believe that I speak the mind of the governor-elect.”
Recognizing the synergy between political leaders and traditional leaders, Oshiomhole said his administration laid ‘a foundation and a standard’ for such relationship.
“We’ve demonstrated practically that Nigerian democracy requires that we bond effectively with the traditional institutions, and that the relationship between the elected government and the traditional institution be more formalised and structured in such a way that makes it functional,” Oshiomhole said, “It has worked in the past eight years.”
Oshiomhole also appealed for sustenance of the same relationship between the new Oba and Governor-elect Mr. Godwin Obaseki, whom he described as a very humble and loyal subject who also respects traditional institutions.
“He (Obaseki) has assured me,” Oshiomhole said, “he understands tradition even more than myself. So, whatever I was able to do, he will do even better.”
That Oshiomhole is making this plea should not be strange. As a new era begins in Benin kingship, the Edo State governorship is also set for another era. And as outgoing Edo State governor, it turns out that Oshiomhole is the man at the centre between the leaders wearing new shoes this season. He needs to ensure that state institutions will continue to work harmoniously with traditional institutions.
Thankfully, the new monarch appreciates his concern. Addressing Oshiomhole as “The indefatigable Governor of Edo state,” in his response, Oba Ewuare II, said, “in a few days, it will be very sad to have you go because you have done very well for Edo State. No doubt you have said it all that your successor will strive and fill your own big shoes that you will be leaving behind.
“Thank you for letting the world know that I am already filling my father’s big shoes; I hope the governor-elect will do his best to fill your own shoe.”
Surely, this is a season for stepping into big shoes. Just like Oba Ewuare II, Obaseki is also stepping into big shoes. And Obaseki would need all the support he can muster as a new governor. After a brutal campaign, Edo people voted for Obaseki to continue. But with Oshiomhole’s quantum achievements spread across the state, Obaseki has a lot to do.
For now, he is beginning by paying obeisance to tradition. At Oba Ewuare’s coronation, in addition to Oshiomhole vouching for his allegiance to tradition, Obaseki said, “my loyalty to the Royal family, the Benin tradition, and the entire traditional institutions in the state is unalloyed.” He also said, “for guidance and advice, I would be counting on the Oba Ewuare to succeed as governor.”
Counting himself fortunate to be elected governor as coronation activities were taking place, Obaseki sees an Edo State with a famous culture, and traditions that will be reinvigorated in terms of being the country’s tourism hotspot, and become part of the state’s economic growth harnessed to the greater benefit of the people.
“I see an Edo state where our people will live in peace, equanimity, and where social justice, equity, and fairness shall prevail at all times,” said Obaseki, who founded Afrinvest West Africa Limited and has over 30 years’ experience in banking. He also served as Chairman Edo State Government’s Economic and Strategy Team (EST) pro bono public since March 2009.
And with a track record of success in his private and public life, Edo people can expect more success.
“I am committed to building a better, prosperous and economically sustainable Edo State based on cultural cohesion and ethical values,” said the first banker that will become Edo State governor.