Echoes of the words of Oba Ewuare II
The Words Of Oba Ewuare Ii Are Likened To A Royal Healing Spear: What Are The People’s Expectations?
For anyone at home with the history of Benin and it’s illustrious yesterday, and is willing to spare some time to examine what the people had managed to sustain despite some reversal of fortune lately, then the speech by the new Oba, Ewuare II at his coronation last year (when the great concourse happened in Benin City) can be likened to a lifebelt thrown to “despondent” ones in a “sinking ship”.
Correctly interpreted, the words enveloping the sagacity of the modern Ewuare is intended to resonate in such a way as to reawaken the missing strings in the collective enterprise of the people who should remember that primordially, the words and deeds associated with the name (Ewuare), are indelible.
Given the expectations, which heightened in the months and days preceding the coronation and the unfolding events in his domain since his ascension, his people standing on the threshold, need to engage his maiden pronouncements because they practically define what the new time entails!
And the soil was quite fertile for the royal sower, who touched on what the people must do to reinvent themselves and become 21st century greats in a surefooted manner.It is understandable that this lovable Oba who does not forget people he met on the way, would naturally want to correct the many things that had gone wrong!
Between him and his people, he defined what royalty should represent: Justice, Peace and Unity. He then promised that under his watch, the finer grains of these three concepts, would be reawakened and sustained.
Thus for him in the new disposition, guiding and protecting the kingdom means faithfully discharging this sacred responsibility by “paying due attention to all matters of customs and traditions, focusing on real issues of security of our communities and the welfare and development of our people”
He said in this regard: We shall carry out reforms in palace administration in order to be adequately responsive to our people’s sincere and deep longing for justice, equity and stability. We shall strive to ensure that conflicts are resolved between individuals, families and communities along the principles of social justice.
What the Oba wants is peace, cooperation and understanding from within and without. Being an accomplished diplomat, he restated his commitment to using cultural diplomacy as a veritable tool for the promotion of harmonious relationship with our neighbours far and near.
The advice given to his people to maintain their culture, especially the language cannot be any timelier. Everyone knows that whatever is not frequently used in creation is atrophied. And his imploring of the government of Edo state to include Edo language and Benin history in schools’ curricula resonates here. From higher spiritual knowledge, mankind now knows that it is actually the language that forms the people.
The realization that no great people thrive in isolation brought up the promise of forging links with other traditional institutions here in Nigeria, in Africa and beyond. Alongside with this is the great need for networking, also a need to tap into the social capital and into the import for instance, of the decision by the queen of England to pay a visit to Benin in 1956, when Nigeria was yet a dependent. What should this act inspire?
Just as if most of western Ibo including Onitsha, and down side of the delta-the Urhobos, Itsekiri, Isoko, Ogba land in Rivers state, the contiguous Esan and the kukuruku lands-Etsako, owan, Ondo-Akure, Lagos and even farther to the former Dahomey, could trace ancestral roosts and ties to ancient Benin, then this linkage must be carefully managed (not for any self-indulgence) but that Benin could well be a centre of diplomacy and understanding, a place projected as a progenitor of peaceful coexistence in a modern Nigeria.
Further, the Oba himself, also said: We shall uphold and maintain the principle of neutrality and nonpartisanship in political party activities, while our people remain free to play politics by subscribing to any political party of their choice. We shall however continue to pray for and always support the right kind of political leaders who will safeguard the welfare of our people, provide for their basic needs and who will accord due recognition to the traditional institutions.
What is important in the foregoing is that even without being partisan, the traditional institution can ill afford to be aloof in the desire to entrench good governance. Bad leadership rubs off on everyone and the people suffer fools in the end.
The bounties accruable from the cultural renaissance (that will focus on tourism promotion, through Arts and Crafts, using two Special Purpose Vehicles – The Benin Royal Dynasty Trust and the Benin Royal Academy for Performing Arts) especially with the birth of foundries cannot be overemphasized.
The Oba knows that history books are awash with resonances of his ancient African civilization. Museums the world over are adorned with famous bronze and ivory works of her skillful craftsmen. Genuine scholars are still engrossed in the unending research into the uniqueness of her art and court forms as well as survival and flourish strategies.
A caring father, Oba Ewuare II has never hidden his concern for the plight of the ordinary. In the new dispensation, there would now be partnership between the traditional institution and Government in the desire to create jobs and get the youth productively engaged. The words rang out clearly in this regard: “…The solution would require a well-articulated and structured youth development and empowerment programmes with active support of Government at all levels. We shall partner with Government to attract domestic and international resources for the establishment of clusters of Agro-based industries in each of our seven Local Government Areas (LGAs)… the transformation of Gelegele into an export processing zone for Agro-allied industries shall remain one of our major projects in the State”
As it is now, the Oba has challenged the intelligentsia amongst his people by establishing the Oba Erediauwa Annual Lecture Series. This group should in fact be drumming home to the people that it is still better to live with the uncertainty of success than the inevitability of failure. Obayuwana, former Foreign Affairs Editor of The Guardian and a member of Oba Ewuare’s coronation planning Committee, works at the ECOWAS Commission in Abuja.
If the men with hard biceps together with mechanically inspired citizens of the time could build the great moats and walls around the capital city of the empire; then hard work, resilience and engineering in its varied forms should be second nature to the people complementing their artistic accomplishment of today as a gift to Nigeria. It is understandable then that the new Oba chose Amamienson, Aimuiwa (No work, no wealth) as his moto. It is to re-emphasize this sour point in the new time.
And if Oba Eresoyen built a banking house (Owigho) in about 1835 AD, it is proof that the people were already at the time thinking along the lines of financial management and investments. Investments (whether foreign or local) have to be recognised and piloted today as one of the nearer ways of driving development.
By the same magnitude, if a people once had sailor kings and controlled business from the Bight of Benin- so named after it, then it means the people cannot afford to cede their riverine territories solely to their neighbours. It means they must necessarily still have in their bowels, nationals with bold ideas in this and other spheres so that the great door opened by their forbears to the rest of the world, together with commerce and knowledge must not be closed against the present descendants.
Knowing that culture is gratifying especially in the eye of sociologists, a people must therefore, never lose the beautiful side of its essence. It is when the culture is kept beautiful, intelligible and continuously “purified” that its enduring pearls are preserved in a sustainable manner and in a way that is agreeable to most of its practitioners or inheritors no matter their background, education and exposure.
But in the new time, the people cannot afford just to luxuriate and bask in the old glory. They must rediscover, reinvent, and recreate the old sense of accomplishment using it as a spur to swing unto a higher ground that is consistent with the dictates of the cosmic turning point and the demands of our time.
Oba Ewuare’s pronouncements hinge on the fact that when the linkages of the great past is well discovered, is allowed to induce the right kind of reflection and is located at the heart of today’s actions, a great future beckons!
He wants his people to remember that Benin, is the land of the brave, land of creative minds, land of royal splendor. He wants to build new enduring social capital right on the emblematic moments that ushered in his reign.Usually there are to be murmurings when a principled stand takes away glorified farthings from the table of the unjust, but let no one force a dawn on the king’s sleep on account of that. The Oba is merely living his promises. The time for old, bent ways are over. It is now time for straight ways.
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