Benin monarch expresses reservation over reportage of palace activities
Benin monarch, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo Oba Ewuare II, has expressed reservation of coverage of his palace activities in some sections of the media and, therefore, urged media practitioners to crosscheck facts before going to press.
The Oba stated this when he recently held the first quarterly media parley, which was started by his father, Oba Erediauwa. He said there has been some misinformation concerning activities in the palace, which led to the recent suspension of an “erring chief.” And the media reporting that some palace chiefs were manipulating him to have their way was a slap on him, the chiefs he described as high profile and the Benin Kingdom, a development that resulted in the palace issuing a rejoinder recently. He advised that media practitioners should not allow themselves to be used.
“We believe in educating, we believe in being fair, we believe in being teachers, we don’t believe in quarrelling with anybody, we believe in teaching people and opening it up and let the public know what the situation is. If the person in question has reason to question what has been said, let him say so. This is where you find very high-level chiefs consulting with their Oba and seeking permission to publish, seeking permission to make their statement that they called a press conference to suspend the erring chief, which has been going on for a long time.
“And once I agree with them, then they go ahead, but if I don’t agree with them, they won’t go ahead. So, to say that they are manipulating…I am not a baby that can be manipulated. With all my experience and knowledge of culture, how could anybody make a statement like that? That distinguished chiefs like Esogban, Iyase and Oliha were manipulating the person of the monarch of Benin, when I have a lot more exposure than many of them in many things, and even knowledge of the history and culture of Benin under the tutelage of my father and grandfather?
“The matter in question was well defined. In fact, it was spelt out to enlighten the general public what the situation was on the position of that particular chief. He rubbished all the people that signed that document, as you read, and he didn’t repent. They called and advised him throughout the coronation period. If he were so important, as he made himself to be, that coronation would not have held without him. How could any human being say something like that? I believe the chiefs cannot be keeping quiet, because in Benin, we say when the shrine keeps quiet too much, it gets covered with overgrown grass.”
He said the Benin Traditional Council (BTC) is available to verify whatever enquiries journalists want to make about the palace and the kingdom. He said: “Some media houses just publish without verifying from the Benin Traditional Council, if it has to do with the palace. We can always speak about the palace, we can always speak about the culture of the Benin, we can always speak about what we have, we can always speak about the information we know and that we can control, that we know that is fact and not fiction.
“I want to strongly appeal that we should continue with the tradition of verifying facts and information from the palace. If anyone gives you information to publish, which touches on the palace, at least you have to hear from the other side, instead of turning the press into a sort of place, where everybody just dump any information. Sometimes, this is not too nice. I am not fond of calling press conferences, neither am I given to granting press interviews. We allow our activities to speak for us.
“But I would have thought that when you want to publish, you should also report the very positive side that you are seeing about the palace, and not going to look for what will just sell your newspapers. We thought we should keep quiet, as we don’t respond easily, we don’t talk easily and we don’t speak often about things like this. But from time to time, we are compelled to react to set the records straight.
“We could not believe how people that are not even knowledgeable about Benin culture will be speaking about it without research, without confirming what they are talking about. To me and many of us here, publishing articles written by people that don’t know anything about the culture, about the history of Benin is one of those easy ways to get attention. Newspapers, especially reputable ones, should do everything possible to eschew sensational reporting. You should report correctly.
“One of the chiefs that signed some of the documents, Esogban is here. So also are the Iyase of Benin and the Oliha of Benin. You cannot look at such chiefs and say they don’t know what they are saying or doing. We thought we should balance the picture and set the records straight and tell it as it is, so that nobody is in doubt of what the situation really is about the particular chief in question. Hence, there was an extensive rejoinder, which is avoidable. Mind you, we are not saying you should seek permission before publishing. All we are saying is that you should try to confirm what you have been given to make the atmosphere a little bit friendlier. We appeal that you do things differently, so that we will all be happy and the public, particularly is not misinformed. Please be professional to protect the integrity of your newspapers.”