Benin traditional council sends Isekhure packing from palace

Isekhure’s palace sealed up and painted red

The disagreement between the Isekhure of Benin Kingdom, Chief Nosakhare Isekhure and the Benin Traditional Council (BTC) has taken an unconventional dimension. On January 25, 2016, a group of chiefs from the Oba of Benin’s palace mobilised themselves and sealed off the residence of Isekhure, which also serves as his palace.

The chiefs, according to sources, took the action because Isekhure has not only been suspended, but has also been ostracised from the Benin Kingdom, for having the guts to say he would challenge the decision of the Benin Traditional Council in court.

The chiefs were Chief Joseph Ohanwan of Idumwivbioto, Chief Ogbemudia Letemah, Chief Ohengie of Ogbesun, Chief Johnbull Igbinosun-Iduhonre, Chief Eduwu Ekhator Obasogie, Chief Azemamwen Enoma, Chief Mathew Iguma-Ohensa of Ekae, Chief Gabriel Igbinakenzua Isekhure, an uncle to Chief Nosakhare Isekhure, Chief Iduwaye of Ihogbe, Chief Iguezigbon, Chief Ehenuan and Chief Ogiesughe.

They were said to have been accompanied by heavily armed men of the Nigeria Police to reclaim the Isekhure’s palace and residence, which they said traditionally belongs to the Oba’s palace. The Chiefs explained that Nosakhare Isekhure’s progenitors were given the place by the Benin Palace, because of the functions of the Chief Priest, and now that he is no longer to perform these functions, he has no reason(s) to reside in the place.

The Isekhure’s palace is where most of the Bini deities are kept.

The Chiefs brought with them sand, bags of cement and blocks, with which they sealed up three of the four entrances to the Isekhure’s palace, leaving the ostracised Chief Priest and his immediate family members with only the back entrance.

Within six hours, the entire palace was sealed and painted red, though Chief Nosakhare Isekhure and his entire household are still residents in the palace.

When Palace Watch called Frank Irabor, secretary to the Benin Traditional Council, to find out what was happening, he promised to get back on the matter. At the time of this publication, however, he was yet to get back.

When Palace Watch sent a text message to Mr. Mayaki John, Chief Press Secretary to the Edo State Governor, to find out the Edo State government’s position in the present face-off, the CPS replied via text message thus: “I appreciate your concern and reach to me. I will relay your message to Mr. Governor and get back to you, please.”

Another Senior Edo State government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said: “To be honest, I do not think the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, will ever intervene in this matter. The Isekhure’s case is a hopeless one. The aim of the current Oba is to drive Isekhure and his immediate family into exile. For example, under the present circumstances, Chief Isekhure knows what to do, but for the fear of being killed, he will dare not take the necessary action. If he feels strongly that his fundamental human right is being eroded, he should go to court.

“As far as I know, no Bini indigene will agree to take his brief, except he gets an Igbo or a Yoruba lawyer, who lives outside Edo State to handle the case for him. As a matter of fact, no Edo judge will agree to hear Isekhure’s petition. Here lies the crux of the matter. He will be so frustrated that in the final analysis, he will be left with no other option than to either commit suicide or go on exile. You would say I told you this.

“I must confess that I am not in support of the dictatorial tendencies of the current Oba. But the majority of Bini people are happy with what he is doing to the Isekhure. That is the situation we have here in Benin City. As a matter of fact, whosoever is bold enough to challenge the Bini Oba takes on the entire Edo people. That is the way they are and the way they see and regard their Oba.

“Now, to the matter at hand, whether we like it or not, tradition is tradition. The present Oba says the palace of the Isekhure of Benin is an extension of his palace, and that Isekhure was given that place by virtue of the fact that he was the Isekhure of Benin Kingdom. And now that he is no longer the Isekhure, you do not expect him to continue to live in that building. The reasons for this harsh actions being meted out on Isekhure and members of his immediate family are not far fetched.

“After the ascension of the Oba to the throne of his forefathers, the current Oba announced the removal of Chief Nosakhare as the Chief Priest (Isekhure) of Benin Kingdom. The man should have left it at that, but the Isekhure went ahead to address a press conference, giving the Oba an ultimatum. This is what infuriated the Oba. Every Benin man or woman knows it is a sacrilege to give an Oba an ultimatum. You know that the Benin people have the richest tradition in Nigeria and beyond. And they want to maintain this rich tradition, which is known to everybody.”

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