The greatest African force and the most important, most scintillating civilization to endure in the last two thousand years in the West African sub-region was the Benin civilization. It began its uninterrupted aggressive ascendance from the era of Oba Ewuare the Great (1440 -1473 CE), until it was sacked by British Imperialists in 1897, to steal and usurp Edo artifacts and civilization to advance.
The arts, particularly brass casting in Benin Kingdom, flourished during Oba Ewuare's reign 1440 - 1473. He set up a war machine that extended Edo notion of kingship, objects, aesthetic, ideas and power, across the West Coast of Africa, and through dominance lent their name to the Bight of Benin. It was towards the tail end of Emperor Ewuare's reign that the Portuguese first made their visit to West Africa in 1472. Oba Ewuare the Great died in 1473.


At the actuaries on the bank of what is today known as the Bight of Benin, the local people the Portuguese met there, when asked about the Kingdom in the interior, told the Portuguese it was called Ubini.


The Portuguese abbreviated this to Benin/Beninbecause they could not properly pronounce Ubini. When the Portuguese arrived in the kingdom of Benin, they were stunned by what they found on the ground in terms of level of administrative sophistication, social engineering and military activities.
They found a monarchy dating back many centuries, with complex structures of chiefs and palace officials presiding over a kingdom expanding in all directions, and a highly developed kingdom with unique and very sophisticated political, artistic, linguistic, economic, cultural and military traditions, in the process of territorial conquests.


Edo kingdom was in the throes of great conquests and had healthy, disciplined citizens; well planned and laid out streets, a palace extending over kilometres of territory and a king and his nobles, civilized to their bones. The Portuguese felt honoured to be accepted by the Beninand quickly entered into treaties of cooperation with Oba Ewuare, (the first such between any European and West African countries), deepening political and trade obligations.

There is a hint that they tried to preach Christianity to the monarch but were not rewarded with favourable response. It was taboo to talk about alien Gods in a civilization ruled by vibrant African Gods.
It was during Oba Ewuare's reign, however, that an Aruosa delegation visited Portugal in 1472. A British adventurer called Ling Roth, was the first to refer to Benin as great, a tribute not only to the extent of the Benin Empire but also to the elaborate, detailed and efficient administrative machinery the people had evolved.


The Portuguese made strong efforts to convert Oba Ozolua (1481 -1495), to Christianity with preachments. The Portuguese King exchanged several friendly correspondences with the King of Benin between 1481-1495. The Oba of Benin had no respect for White gods and deities
and even for the Portuguese items of trade, which were being offered to build close links between the kingdom and Portugal.

He was, however, impressed with their guns, a weapon strange to warfare in the West African region at that time. Oba Ozolua introduced bronze casting to Benin.
He did it through Iguehae, a great bronze caster, whose descendants have continued the tradition through the guild of bronze casters at the present day Igun Street in Benin City.
A seventeenth century Dutch engraving from Olfert Dapper's Nauwkeurige Beschrijvinge der Afrikaansche Gewesten, published in Amsterdam in 1668, described the palace thus: “The king's palace or court is a square, and is as large as the town of Haarlem and entirely surrounded by a special wall, like that which encircles the town.


It is divided into many magnificent palaces, houses, and apartments of the courtiers, and comprises beautiful and long square galleries, about as large as the Exchange at Amsterdam, but one larger than another, resting on wooden pillars, from top to bottom covered with cast copper, on which are engraved the pictures of their war exploits and battles, and are kept very clean.
Most palaces and houses of the king are covered with palm leaves instead of square pieces of wood, and every roof is decorated with a small turret ending in a point, on which birds are standing, birds cast in copper with outspread wings, cleverly made after living models.”


Oba Esigie (1504-1550 CE). The Portuguese, a major European power at Oba Esigie's time, finally happily succeeded in negotiating and establishing strong diplomatic and trade relations with Oba Esigie and his kingdom, Benin, the first such relationship between a West African country and a European country.

Oba Esigie's son was also accredited African envoy to the Portuguese court. The King of Portugal receiving the ambassador from the King of Benin in 1505 CE, described him as "a man of good speech and natural wisdom" Today, White historians lie that we were savages on our first encounter with Whites.


One of the numerous Oba of Benin elite palace associations was assigned the responsibility of conducting affairs with the Portuguese. Until this day, a secret language, which some claim is derived from a mixture of Portuguese and Edo languages, is spoken by members of the association. Portuguese mercenaries fought along-side the Beninin many territorial wars after the treaty.
Trade between the Portuguese and Benin was mainly in coral beads, cloths for ceremonial attire, and great quantities of brass manilas, which Benincraftsmen melted for casting. In exchange for Portuguese goods, the Beninoffered tobacco, spices, cola nuts, ivory, earthenware, jewelry, artifacts, woven cotton materials, etc.


Benin City is where Christianity was first preached in Nigeria. A Catholic church was opened in Benin in 1505. The Portuguese failed to persuade Oba Ewuare and Oba Ozolua to convert to Christianity but made their first break through with Oba Esigie, to the shock and disbelief of the Uzama nobles. Oba Esigie's conversion to Christianity was considered an unforgivable act, a betrayal, and a slap on the face of the traditional faith and the king's Idu ancestary that confers legitimacy on the throne. This sacrilegious act, eventually led to the Igalla war in Edo history.


European slave trade in West Africa started with the acquisition of domestic servants in 1522 CE, and warrior kingdoms like Benin had plenty of them captured as war booties, but would not sell them. The slave trade was very unpopular with the Edo people.
They thought it was silly to sell fellow human beings. Their Obas and nobles were vehemently opposed to the business of slave trade and to the export of the productive fighting male.
The Edo, of course, could not control the day to day happenings of the slave merchants, who apparently largely acted under cover at first in the vast territories under Edo hegemony. However, it was forbidden to sell or take a native Benininto slavery and so elaborate identification marks on faces and chests were eventually contrived.


The Benin therefore were hardly ever captured by Arabs or Europeans into slavery. Alan Ryder, writing on this in his book, Benin and the European, narrated the experience of the Portuguese merchant, Machin Fernandes in Benin as early as 1522 CE: That was during the reign of Oba Esigie.
“Of the whole cargo of 83 slaves bought by Machin Fernandes, only two were males – and it is quite possible that these were acquired outside the Oba's territory –despite a whole month (at Ughoton) spent in vain attempts to have a market opened for male slaves. The 81 females, mostly between ten and twenty years of age, were purchased in Benin City between 25 June and 8 August at the rate of one, two or three a day.”


None of the 83 slaves was an Edo person, according to Ryder, and no Edo person could have been involved in the sales. It was taboo in Edo culture. Edo Empire was vast, with a great concentration of people from different ethnic backgrounds, Yoruba, Ibo, Itsekiri, Ijaw, Urhobo, Igalla, etc., making a living in the lucrative Ughoton route that was the main centre of commercial activities in the southern area at the time, of what later became Nigeria.
Alan Ryder, recording the experiences of yet another European merchant, the French trader and Captain called Landolphe, in Benin in February 1778, said, “The Ezomo was the richest man in Benin, owning more than 10,000 slaves, none of whom was ever sold.” The author then commented: “His (the Ezomo's).


Refusal to sell any of his slaves is also noteworthy for the light it sheds upon the attitude of powerful Edo chiefs towards the slave trade: however numerous they might be, a great man did not sell his slaves.” Says Edo people: “vbo ghi da Oba no na mu ovionren khien?” Meaning, “What need does the Oba want to satisfy by putting out his
slave for sale?”

The first British ship reached Benin River in 1553. British trade with the Kingdom of Benin was mainly in cloths, palm oil, cowries, beads and Ivory. Benin currency (igho), the cowrie, was popularly accepted in North, West, East Africa, and it greatly facilitated Edo's economic buoyancy as a portable medium of exchange.
Oba Ohuan (1604 1641 CE), was Oba Ehengbuda's son. He ended the Eweka dynastic lineage. After him, powerful rebel chiefs established private power bases and selected Obas from among themselves. The selection process took the format of the Ihogbe (king makers), picking an Oba from among their ranks and presenting him to the Uzama for crowning.
This process produced a series of Obas, seven of them, with doubtful claims to legitimacy, thus seriously weakening the Edo monarchy. Lourenco Pinto, captain of a Portuguese ship that brought missionaries to the ancient Benin port of Warri in 1619, sent the following deposition about Benin to the Sacra Congregazione at the instance of Father Montelcone. “Great Benin were the king resides is larger than Lisbon, all the streets run straight and as far as the eyes can see.

The houses are large, especially that of the king which is richly decorated and has fine columns. The city is wealthy and industrious. It is so well governed that theft is unknown and the people live in such security that they have no door to their houses. All the cities of this African Empire are organized, large and harmonious.”
By the mid 17th century and extending well over the period of confusion about who reigns in Benin, the Portuguese, Dutch, English, French and other Europeans, had expanded the slave trade in the area so much that they were calling it the Slave Coast.
The slave trade remained high in the area until 1840. The slaves were mainly war
captives and were drawn from the entire area controlled by Benin all the way to the communities near the coast and to northern peoples such as the Bariba. The Atlantic slave trade had a destructive impact in Benin area, causing devastating depopulation around Benin and greatly
militarizing the area.

Oba Eresoyen (1735 – 1750 CE), had only just ascended to his father's throne when trouble came calling. Commandant Willem Hogg, the resident Manager of the Dutch Trading Station in Ughoton, had for nearly a year been pleading with Eresoyen's father, Oba Akenzua I, to prevail on the Benin Chiefs owing the Ughoton Dutch Trading Station, unsupplied goods on which they had received credit lines. Also, Holland wanted to be allowed to participate in the Ivory trade and break the monopoly the monarch had granted the British and Portuguese ships calling at Ughoton.
Traders of the two countries were offering better prices for the commodity. The palace had seemed to Willem Hogg, unwilling to help the Dutch company recapture slaves who had escaped from the Dutch company's dungeons at Ughoton while awaiting their evacuation ship from Elmina Castle on the Gold Coast, to arrive.
Half-hearted promises had been extracted from the palace over the issue of the runaway slaves, against the overriding feeling at the palace that it was the responsibility of the Dutch to secure their purchases after taking delivery.
These were the problems weighing on Willem Hogg's mind when he decided to visit the palace to once more seek the help of Oba Eresoyen. In the presence of the Oba and chiefs, while discussing the issues that brought him to the palace, argument developed, leading to
the loss of temper.

The Dutchman got up from his seat, pulled out his pistol and shot at the monarch who was quickly shielded by his omada (sword bearer). The omada took the bullet intended for the monarch and died on the spot.
Regicide had been attempted and murder committed, and in the confusion that ensured, Willem Hogg sneaked out of the palace. This incidence explains the reluctance of the Obas of Benin to be exposed to European visitors from that time on, and why the British Capt. Henry L. Gallwey, Vice Consul for the Benin River District of the Niger Coast Protectorate and his delegation, suffered frustration and delays in March 1892, when they requested to meet with Oba Ovonramwen, to conclude a 'Treaty of Protection' with Benin kingdom.
It was the responsibility of the Ezomo to take remedial action against the Dutchman because security matters for Ughoton gateway were under his portfolio. Ezomo Odia was not at the meeting. He had sequestered on his farm for a little while because of misunderstanding with the
palace over the issue of the runaway slaves who had mostly taken refuge at his farm.
Most of the other runaway slaves were with other chiefs. This was why progress was not possible on the matter. Since the chiefs do not sell slaves, they did not feel it was their business rallying runaway slaves for the Dutch? That summed up the popular refrain on all lips at the time.
To get Ezomo Odia to return to town, the oracle prescribed that all the princesses of the realm should pay a courtesy visit to Ezomo Odia.
The princesses, on being told that Ezomo Odia was at his farm, when they arrived at Okhokhugbo village, braced up for the long journey through shrubs and narrow bush paths.
At the farm, they met Ezomo Odia tending his yam crops. Before the Ezomo could ask, to what he owed the honour, all the princesses were down on their knees, between the yam heaps, to greet him and respectfully invite him back to the city.
The Edo Empire before it was vanquished by British Imperialists was the greatest African force, and the most important, most scintillating civilization, to endure in the last two thousand years in the West African sub-region.

It began its uninterrupted aggressive ascendance from the era of Oba Ewuare the Great 1440 -1473 CE until the British incorporated Edo Kingdom in 1897, into the Niger Coast Protectorate, later known as the Southern Protectorate, which included their newly annexed Arochukwu (Igboland) in 1902. Their Northern Protectorate of Hausa Fulani emirates in 1903, was merged with the Southern Protectorate in 1914 to form what in now Nigeria.
Before the satanic British invasion, Edo Kingdom controlled vast Yoruba land with populations several times larger than that of Edo, and exerted considerable influence on eastern Yoruba land, maintaining trading boarder connection with Oyo.
Towns such as Owo (called Ogho in Edo), Ekiti, Akure, Ondo (or Udo in Edo), were all set up by Edo native migrants. The kingdom established Lagos, where it set up military camp of occupation which it called Eko (camp), and extended its dominance, power and influence from there all over the West African region, taking in modern countries like the Republic of Benin, Togo, Ghana and Sierra Leone and all the way to the mouth of the River Volta, to lend its name to the Bight of Benin, as a result of its influence and authority in the region.
Its authority and influence extended eastward to the delta of the River Niger, Benin River, and to
the new Benin (Warri), to Benin district, comprising of Sapele and Warri, to towns like Asaba, Agbor, Isele-Uku, Ika (Agbor), Aniocha, which all owe their corporate existence to Benin, to beyond the Gulf of Benin to Ahoada and Onitsha across the River Niger, the later which was established by Edo migrants led by Ogbogidi, an Edo military generalissimo. Edo's dominance cut through to Idah (Igalla) in the north to the fringes of Kogi state and to the present day Congo.
The Edo spread their culture and traditions, particularly their Obaship ideology and system, all over their empire, by sending royal brothers to rule over tributaries, or holding hostage, sons of conquered chiefs to be trained in Edo, or by sponsoring candidates for thrones of conquered territories. Objects such as Ada and brass masks, were introduced to vassal lords as emblems of their authority, and these symbols have endured in virtually all the territories that experienced Edo control.

The Isekiris, Urobos, Ijaws and the Yoruba of Owo, Ekiti, Akure, Ondo, just to mention a few, all proudly trace their venerated royal lineages to the ancient Benin kingdom. Even in places outside direct Edo influence, the reputation of the Oba of Edo was such that leadership disputes were brought to him for arbitration, and the winners took back home, Edo regalia to form part of their leadership traditions.
The fame of the Great Benin Empire was such that several European states sought to establish diplomatic relationship with her and trade with her through the Ughoton corridor. In 1897, the British, an uncouth tribe of callous, shameless barbarians, in the name of their monarch, and out of envy and greed, called the Edo people savages to destroy a brilliant African civilization that was far ahead of theirs, because they had big guns.
The rogue Imperialists thus viciously set back Edo's advancement by stealing Edo's sacred artifacts and things for profit and growth and burning what they could not take away, to turn a once accomplished people into common beggars for measly foreign aids.
Edo people must begin preparation now to sue Britain and her monarch for 50 billion pounds reparations. Oba Ovonramwen (1888 – 1914 CE). Oba Ovonramwen Nogbaisi was on the throne during the British invasion of Benin City in 1897.

To prepare the grounds before the invasion, the British first sneaked military spies into Benin, to infiltrate the nation's security system during the Igue festival, a period of acute spiritual sensitivity for Edo people, when their monarch goes into seclusion for two weeks for spiritual cleansing and cannot receive visitors.
The spies were eliminated for their hostile acts. The British then sent a delegation to Benin in March 1892. The delegation was led by Capt. Henry L. Gallwey, the Vice Consul for the Benin River District of the Niger Coast Protectorate, supposedly to conclude a Treaty of Protection with Oba Ovonramwen of Benin.
The British had deceived King Dosumu of Lagos to sign a similar treaty that ceded Lagos to the British in 1861. They forced the same kind of treaty on the Jaja of Opopo in 1887 to gain access and economic control of the eastern coast of Nigeria.
Quoting Capt. Henry Gallwey, who after retirement became Sir Henry Gallwey, in a report on the 1892 visit to Benin, for the Journal of the African Society of April 1930, under the title: Nigeria in the (Eighteen) Nineties, he wrote in part: “Any idea I may have had of being received by the king the day I arrived was very soon dispelled.
After being kept waiting for three days, I sent word to say that I could wait no longer. “To support my threat, every half-hour, I sent a carrier away with a load I did not require, telling them where to wait for me.
This artifice rather worried the king, and he sent word to me asking me “not to be vexed,” as my interpreters put it. However, that afternoon, it was arranged for me to have audience with
the king. I accordingly donned my uniform and sallied out with my companions into the burning heat of the afternoon, a most unreasonable time of day at which to hold a palaver.
I am afraid, however, that the kings of Benin were never renowned for their reasonable natures.
In spite of these pinpricks, it was all very interesting and amusing, and I never gave a thought to the discomfort of being encased in a dress intended to be won at levees and such functions in temperate climes…….”
After attempting to compromise the nation's security earlier on, the British delegation could not be received by the Oba of Benin immediately on arrival because the king's security agencies needed to check out their mission this time. When the Oba signaled readiness to receive the delegates, they were in “encased dress intended to be worn at levees.” In other words, they were in military uniform to the palace of an Oba who was weary of visits of Europeans.
After the incidence of the Dutchman, Commandant Willem Hogg, who pulled a pistol and shot at Oba Eresoyen in 1735, while on a courtesy visit to the palace to discuss business matters with the Oba and his chiefs, Benin Obas became a little more careful about granting direct audience to European visitors.

This is the genesis of the difficulties experienced by Capt. Gallwey while trying to have audience with the Oba in 1892. At the palace, the disposition and mannerisms of the visitors had to be carefully studied before the Oba could receive them, since they were in military
uniform.

Capt. Gallwey said the Oba was “unreasonable” and then generalized “… as all Benin Obas are wont to be.” He had made up his mind before the visit and was looking for excuses to set up Benin kingdom for British invasion. To emphasize that Benin was a special case to crack, the British rushed to force treaties on neighbouring territories.
They attacked the Nana of Itsekiri, in their 'palm oil war' in 1894 and exiled Nana to Ghana; attacked the Koko of Nembe in 1895, and the Ashanti Prempeh of Ashanti in 1896, to produce duress inspired spurious treaties to take control of the kings' respective areas of influence.
The British accused Oba Ovonramen of lack of cooperation, and to look good in the eyes of the rest of the world, added “human sacrifices,” as their reasons for launching their full-scale war on Benin in January 1897.
The real reason for the British Expedition was that the British viewed the Benin kingdom as the main obstacle in their expansion drive into the agricultural interior of the West African
coast from the River Niger.

The war lasted for eight days from January to early February 1897, and went in their favour because of their big guns and cannons, which the Edo army did not have. After capturing the ancient city of Benin and slaughtering thousands of the natives in cold blood, to grossly depopulate the city, and the few survivors had escaped to farms and villages, the British ransacked the palace of the Oba, homes of nobles and chiefs, artistes' workshops and Obo's shrines, to rescue “pagan art” and relieve Benin of the “evil.” Then the British burnt most the city down to ashes.
The palace of the Oba of Benin, according to Joshua Utzheimer, 1603, was about the size of the German City of Tubingen.” This was razed down by fire by the British invading force, claiming to be on a civilizing mission.
Is razing cities after the surviving few victims of their assault have surrendered, not the epitome of barbarism? Can anything be more callous than this? Oba Ovonramwen who could not be
captured but who surrendered to the British in August, 1897, was exiled to Calabar (in south-east Nigeria), where he died in January, 1914.
From accounts of members of the British army that invaded Benin City in 1897, we learn that the floors, lintels, and rafters of the council chambers and the king's residence in the palace were lined with sheets of repoussé, decorated brass covered with royal geometric designs and
figures of men and leopards. Ornamental ivory locks sealed the doors and carved ivory figurines surmounted anterior.
A brass snake, observed for the first time by a European in the early eighteenth century, was still to be seen on the roof of the council chamber house. All of these, along with other invaluables, including precious works of arts, the invading British stole in the name of their king and country. What they could not steal or burn, they destroyed, including invaluable records of the Beninscintillating civilization, to allow their historians to falsify human history and deny African
contributions.

According to an article entitled: '100 years after the invasion of Benin' by Richard Akinjide, a former attorney General and Federal Minister of Justice and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, “The response of the Kingdom of Benin against British Interference in the affairs of a sovereign and independent nation was a legitimate self-defense in accordance with the peremptory norms of customary international law otherwise known as "ju cogens".
If Britain could go to war just because of Jenkin´s ear, why should not the ancient kingdom of Benin protect her national interest against uninvited guests whose greed and grab in other parts of sub-Sahara Africa was already well known?
We must pass judgment in the light of prevailing circumstances at that time. We must therefore unhesitatingly reject the British interpretation as massacre the events of 1896 which led to
the British aggression of 1897.

The reputation of Major Edward Lugard preceded him in Africa, because of what Major Lugard did in India and Uganda, and what he and George Goldie did in Ilorin, Bida, Borgu and what other British soldiers perpetrated in Yorubaland which were then matters of public knowledge.
The King of Benin was right in his suspicion of British intentions which were definitely to lure the noble Kingdom of Benin into the so-called British protectorate and therefore loss of the sovereign rights which Benin had enjoyed for about 2,000 years.
At that time as it is now, the kernel of European policy in Africa was devious and
self-seeking. Independent African nations should be nothing but vassal states of Europe. The various European Navies were then the instruments of colonial policy. Hence the navigation Acts of 1649 and 1660, the staple Acts 1663 and the plantation Act 1673.
They now advocate for us, using the World Bank, the IMF, the devaluation of our currencies, the exact opposite of the economic and monetary policies that ensured and helped their own growth and good quality of life for their own people. The colonial policy in French speaking African countries is even more worrying. It is encapsulated in French; "plus ca change, plus ciest la meme chose." (The more things change, the more they remain the same). In short what makes the French decolonization special was that it was never decolonized.
I end this monograph with a quotation from Sir Alan Burns, a former Governor General of Nigeria, in his book: History of Nigeria (4th Ed at 277) "No European nation has the right to assume sovereignty over the inhabitants of any part of Africa, and claims put forward by the various governments at the Berlin Conference in 1885 took little account of the rights of the people who lived in the Territory.”
Akin Adeoya in the Sunday Guardian of March 29, 2009, wrote: “There was a great kingdom of Benin that lasted for centuries with a highly stable administration and a civilization that built great highways and produced works of such great significance that the British who invaded and ultimately defeated the Ovonramwen's gallant forces, nearly went mad with envy that not all their Christian piety or civility could help them resist the urge to steal these works of art, which their own civilization could not rival.
These works of art, till today, still grace the shrines of the British Empire and civilization, including the British Museum.”
Prof. Akin Ibidapo-Obe in: A Synthesis of African law, wrote: “The British stripped Benin of its pagan art treasure…..almost 2,500 of the famous Benin bronzes, valuable works of art such as the magnificent carved doors in the palace, were carried off to Europe for sale.
Today, almost every museum of the world possesses an art treasure from Benin. It is important to relate the account of British brigandage and deliberate and wanton stealing of Africa's invaluable art treasures to show that our culture was great and was envied.
The tradition and way of life that spawned such great achievement was deliberately destroyed and history was falsified to justify the introduction of their obnoxious laws, some of which purported to forbid our traditional religion.”
This is how Prof. Felix Van Luschan, a former official of the Berlin Museum for Volkerhunde, described what the British deviously called Pagan art of Benin; “These works from Benin are equal to the very finest examples of European casting technique.
Benvenuto Celini could not have cast them better, nor could anyone else before or after him.
Technically, these Bronzes represent the very highest possible achievement.” Only a highly civilized nation could have borne the expenditure and facilities of such marvelous works of art, which are among the best masterpieces in the history of mankind.
When the Nigerian government requested to loan a replica of the Idia Ivory mask for use during the 2nd World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) held in 1977 in Lagos, Nigeria, from the British Museum of Mankind, the British authorities insisted on the Nigerian government depositing a sum of three million dollars before collecting the loaned copy.
A 17th century Benin bronze head (nine inches high), stolen from the palace of Oba Ovonramwen by the British invaders in 1897, was auctioned by Sotheby, New York, for US$550,000 in July, 2007.
Despite the British abuse of Edo culture and the marginalization of Edo history, the splendour of Edo civilization continues to this day to astound and excite the world. Benin artifacts are among the most exquisite and coveted in world's history, and the kingdom of Benin remains famous for its sophistication in social engineering and organization.
The BeninObaship institution is still one of the world's most revered apart from being second only to Japan, as the most ancient. In fact, the influence of ancient Benin Empire is still so strong today that Dahomey, an independent neighbouring country to Nigeria, decided in 1975 to change its name to the Republic of Benin as a way of reconnecting with its glorious roots.
The Republic of Togo, on the other hand, named some of her landmark institutions such as Universite du Benin, Togo hotel du Benin e.t.c. after the great Benin Empire. President Gnassingbe Eyadema, during his 1974 visit to Benin City, publicly stated that the Togolese people originated from the ancient Benin Empire.
Oba Eweka II (1914 – 1933 CE), ascended his father's throne in 1914 and when he died, his son, Oba Akenzua II (1933 – 1979 CE) took over. Between them, they restored a great deal of the tradition and dignity of Benin Obaship, and rebuilt, although on a smaller scale than the Ewuare palace, the grandeur, triumph, and supremacy, of Benintraditions.
Large walled areas have now replaced the numerous compounds of former kings, with enclosed individual altars for each of the three immediate predecessors, and one general altar for the rest.
Decorated sheets of brass adorn the rafters and lintels, and terra-cotta plaques recount the exploits of former kings.
The current king of this great African kingdom and one of the most vibrant, colourful, and enlightened ancient civilizations in the history of the world, is Oba Ewuare II, Uku Akpolo Kpolo, the Omo N'Oba N'Edo (Dynasty dating back to 40BCE).
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NAIWU OSAHON, Hon. Khu Mkuu (Leader) World Pan-African Movement); Spiritual Prince of the African race; MSc. (Salford); Dip.M.S; G.I.P.M; Dip.I.A (Liv.); D. Inst. M; G. Inst. M; G.I.W.M; A.M.N.I.M.
Poet, Author of the magnum opus: 'The end of knowledge'. One of the world's leading authors of children's books; Awarded; key to the city of Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Honourary Councilmanship, Memphis City Council; Honourary Citizenship, County of Shelby; Honourary Commissionership, County of Shelby, Tennessee; and a silver shield trophy by Morehouse College, USA, for activities to unite and uplift the African race.***
Naiwu Osahon, renowned author, philosopher of science, mystique, leader of the world Pan-African Movement.
source: http://www.modernghana.com/news/442811/1/satanic-britain-in-1897-in...

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Kenneth Campbell

The expedition was arranged to start shortly after the New Year; and, to give notice of it, messengers were sent to the King of Benin a short time before that date, to carry him a small present (or, in West African phraseology, a "dash"), and to tell him that the Acting Consul-General (Phillips) was coming to visit the King, and would bring eight or nine other white men with him.

The answer received to this message, which arrived after we had actually started from Sapele for Gwatto, was to the effect that " the King was extremely pleased at receiving the present, which he did not expect ; but, at the same time, could not see any white men just then, as he was celebrating the 'custom' [West African for festival] of his father's death."

[This meant that he was engaged in sacrificing some hundreds of unfortunate slaves].
" But," the message went on, in one or two months time he would send down, and let the Consul-General know when he was ready to see him ; at which time he hoped that he [the Consul-General] would come, accompanied by one Jakri chief and by no other white men." However, more of this message later on.

All arrangements for the expedition had been made by the officials at Sapele; and most excellent arrangements they were, especially on the part of poor Kenneth Campbell, who was in charge of the carriers, and had worked like a slave at setting everything in perfect order.
In consequence of the number of white men going, — each of whom had three carriers ; two to carry baggage, and one for camp bed, and the extra food wanted for their maintenance, — the necessity of having to carry water for everyone, rations for carriers themselves, and for the drum and fife band of the Niger Coast Protectorate Force, which Phillips intended taking with him to make some sort of show, the number of carriers mounted up to some two hundred and forty.

One hundred and eighty of these were Jakris, supplied by the different chiefs in the Benin and Warri Districts, and about sixty Kroo boys, supplied, some from the Government Consulate at Sapele and Warri, and the rest kindly lent from the different factories at both places.
These Kroo boys are the labourers of nearly all West Africa, and leave their country in thousands yearly to go and work at different places, returning after twelve months with their year's wages in the shape of clothes, singlets, hats of many and wonderful shapes, and other such - like articles calculated to rouse the admiration of their fellow-countrymen, and so useful for trade, money being absolutely useless on the Kroo Coast.

They are a wonderfully cheery, hard-working race these Kroo boys, and very fairly honest, and the white men in West Africa would find it hard to do without them. The other natives of that part of the world have a very small relish for hard work.
All these two hundred and forty men we found that Campbell, with the help of Lyon (another Assistant District Commissioner of Sapele), had numbered and told off, each to the charge of his particular head man and load ; in fact, Campbell had made all his arrangements as nearly perfect as possible.
If it had been only on poor Kenneth Campbells account, the expedition deserved to have succeeded.
* photo from Benin : the surrounding country, inhabitants, customs, and trade by Pinnock, James (1897)

The Benin Massacre
by Captain Alan Maxwell Boisragon, Commandant of the Niger Coast Protectorate Force
One of the Two Survivors
Published 1897

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Oba Ovonramwen Nogbaisi was on the throne during the British invasion of Benin City in 1897. To prepare the grounds before the invasion, the British first sneaked military spies into Benin, to infiltrate the nation´s security system during the Igue festival, a period of acute spiritual sensitivity for Edo people, when their monarch goes into seclusion for two weeks for spiritual cleansing and cannot receive visitors. The spies were eliminated for their hostile acts. The British then sent a delegation to Benin in March 1892. The delegation was led by Capt. Henry L. Gallwey, the Vice Consul for the Benin River District of the Niger Coast Protectorate, supposedly to conclude a Treaty of Protection with Oba Ovonramwen of Benin. The British had deceived King Dosumu of Lagos to sign a similar treaty that ceded Lagos to the British in 1861.

They forced the same kind of treaty on the Jaja of Opopo in 1887 to gain access and economic control of the eastern coast of Nigeria. Quoting Capt. Henry Gallwey, who after retirement became Sir Henry Gallwey, in a report on the 1892 visit to Benin, for the Journal of the African Society of April 1930, under the title: Nigeria in the (Eighteen) Nineties, he wrote in part: Any idea I may have had of being received by the king the day I arrived was very soon dispelled. After being kept waiting for three days, I sent word to say that I could wait no longer. To support my threat, every half-hour, I sent a carrier away with a load I did not require, telling them where to wait for me. This artifice rather worried the king, and he sent word to me asking me not to be vexed, as my interpreters put it. However, that afternoon, it was arranged for me to have audience with the king. I accordingly donned my uniform and sallied out with my companions into the burning heat of the afternoon, a most unreasonable time of day at which to hold a palaver. I am afraid, however, that the kings of Benin were never renowned for their reasonable natures. In spite of these pinpricks, it was all very interesting and amusing, and I never gave a thought to the discomfort of being encased in a dress intended to be won at levees and such functions in temperate climes.

After attempting to compromise the nation´s security earlier on, the British delegation could not be received by the Oba of Benin immediately they arrived because of the need to check out their real mission. When the Oba signaled readiness to receive the delegates, they were in encased dress intended to be worn at levees, to the palace. In other words, they were in military uniform to the palace of an Oba who was weary of visits of Europeans. After the incidence of the Dutchman, Commandant Willem Hogg, who pulled a pistol and shot at Oba Oresoyen in 1735, while on a courtesy visit to the palace to discuss business matters with the Oba and his chiefs, Benin Obas became a little more careful about granting direct audience to European visitors

This is the genesis of the difficulties experienced by Capt. Gallwey while trying to have audience with the Oba in 1892. At the palace, the disposition and mannerisms of the visitors had to be carefully studied before the Oba could receive them, since they were in military uniform. Capt. Gallwey said the Oba was unreasonable and then generalized as all Benin Obas are wont to be. He had made up his mind before the visit and was looking for excuses to set up Benin kingdom for British invasion. To emphasize that Benin was a special case to crack, the British rushed to force treaties on neighbouring territories. They attacked the Nana of Itsekiri, in their ´palm oil war´ in 1894 and exiled Nana to Ghana; attacked the Koko of Nembe in 1895, and the Ashanti Prempeh of Ashanti in 1896, to produce duress inspired spurious treaties to take control of the kings´ respective areas of influence.

The British accused Oba Ovonramwen of lack of cooperation, and to look good in the eyes of the rest of the world, added human sacrifice, as their reasons for launching their full-scale war on Benin in January 1897. The real reason for the British Expedition was that the British viewed the Benin kingdom as the main obstacle in their expansion drive into the agricultural interior of the West African coast from the River Niger. The war lasted for eight days from January to early February 1897, and went in their favour because of their big guns and cannons, which the Edo army did not have. After capturing the ancient city of Benin and slaughtering thousands of the natives in cold blood, to grossly depopulate the city, and the few survivors had escaped to farms and villages, the British ransacked the palace of the Oba, homes of nobles and chiefs, artistes´ workshops, and shrines, to rescue pagan art and relieve Benin of the evil. Then the British burnt the entire city down to the last house.

Akin Adeoya in the Sunday Guardian of March 29, 2009, wrote: There was a great kingdom of Benin that lasted for centuries with a highly stable administration and a civilization that built great highways and produced works of such great significance that the British who invaded and ultimately defeated the Ovonramwen´s gallant forces, nearly went mad with envy that not all their Christian piety or civility could help them resist the urge to steal these works of art, which their own civilization could not rival. These works of art, till today, still grace the shrines of the British Empire and civilization, the British Museum.

The palace of the Oba of Benin, according to Joshua Utzheimer, 1603, was about the size of the German City of Tubingen. This was razed down by fire by the British invading force, claiming to be on a civilizing mission. Is razing cities after the surviving few victims of their assault have surrendered, not the epitome of barbarism Can any thing be more callous than this Oba Ovonramwen who could not be captured but who surrendered to the British in August, 1897, was exiled to Calabar (in south-east Nigeria), where he died in January, 1914.

From accounts of members of the British army that invaded Benin City in 1897, we learn that the floors, lintels, and rafters of the council chambers and the king´s residence in the palace were lined with sheets of repoussé, decorated brass covered with royal geometric designs and figures of men and leopards. Ornamental ivory locks sealed the doors and carved ivory figurines surmounted anterior. A brass snake, observed for the first time by a European in the early eighteenth century, was still to be seen on the roof of the council chamber house. All of these, along with other invaluables, including precious works of arts, the invading British stole in the name of their king and country. What they could not steal or burn, they destroyed, including invaluable records of the Beninscintillating civilization, to allow their historians to falsify human history and African contributions.

According to Prof. Akin Ibidapo-Obe in: A Synthesis of African law, the British stripped Benin of its pagan art treasure..almost 2,500 of the famous Benin bronzes, valuable works of art such as the magnificent carved doors in the palace, were carried off to Europe for sale. Today, almost every museum of the world possesses an art treasure from Benin. It is important to relate the account of British brigandage and deliberate and wanton stealing of Africa´s invaluable art treasures to show that our culture was great and was envied. The tradition and way of life that spawned such great achievement was deliberately destroyed and history was falsified to justify the introduction of their obnoxious laws, some of which purported to forbid our traditional religion.

This is how Prof. Felix Van Luschan, a former official of the Berlin Museum for Volkerhunde, described what the British deviously called Pagan art of Benin; these works from Benin are equal to the very finest examples of European casting technique. Benvenuto Celini could not have cast them better, nor could any one else before or after him. Technically, these Bronzes represent the very highest possible achievement. Only a highly civilized nation could have borne the expenditure and facilities of such marvelous works of art, some of the best masterpieces in the history of mankind.

When the Nigerian government requested to loan a replica of the Idia Ivory mask for use during the 2nd World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC), held in 1977 in Lagos, Nigeria, from the British Museum of Mankind, the British authorities insisted on the Nigerian government depositing a sum of three million dollars before collecting the loaned copy. A 17th century Benin bronze head (nine inches high) stolen from the palace of Oba Ovonramwen, by the British invaders in 1897, was auctioned by Sotheby, New York, for US$550,000 in July, 2007.

Despite the British abuse of Edo culture and marginalization of Edo history, the splendour of Edo civilization continues to this day to astound and excite the world. Benin artifacts are among the most exquisite and coveted in world´s history, and the kingdom of Benin remains famous for its sophistication in social engineering and organization. The BeninObaship institution is still one of the world´s most revered apart from being one of the most ancient. Edo was incorporated into what the British called the Niger Coast Protectorate, later known as the Southern Protectorate, and after annexing Arochukwu (Igboland) in 1902, and Hausa Fulani emirates in 1903, merged what they called Southern and Northern Protectorates in 1914 to form what in now Nigeria.

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The Sword of Oba Ovonramwen

By S. Okwunodu Ogbechie


It is now precisely four weeks since I went to the Musee du Quai Branly to see the exhibition of royal art from the Edo Kingdom of Benin (poster illustrated). I needed that much time to wind down from the complex emotions that resulted from my visit. My people, the Ezechime Clan of mid-Western Nigeria, claim origin from Benin through an ancestral progenitor named Chime. The nine towns that comprise my clan have been subjects of great curiosity but little scholarship because their hybrid ethnicity did not fit into early colonial ethnography's invention of ethnic identities in Nigeria. Ezechime peoples use a dialect of the Igbo language speckled with Edo words but their kingship system is completely based on Edo-Benin templates with all the major Benin royal titles and position represented. When I went to bury my father last November, we spent a long time deliberating on the orientation of his grave because the head of a dead chief must point West towards Idu, as the ancestral homeland of Benin is known among my people.

 The final rituals of any such funeral are conducted in a remnant form of the Edo language, as are the songs that accompany the dead to the afterlife, even though many no longer know the meanings of the songs. You will however hear Ezechime peoples insist vehemently (using the Igbo language) that they are NOT Igbo and until you learn that they use several non-Igbo languages of ritual and communication, this kind of claim tends to be dismissed as irrelevant. Such dismissal leads to the simplistic analysis often carried out about ethnic identities in Africa where the obvious use of a language is often enough to incorporate a people into an ethnic identity often contrary to their own histories of origin. In any case, ethnographers steered clear of Ezechime Igbo peoples and saw their hybridity as a mark of ethnic impurity. It is only in the past couple of decades that scholarship started to recognize that hybridity is the primary mode of cultural production and the idea of ethnic purity is in fact a blatantly bad idea. Ezechime peoples are the ultimate hybrids and are made up of combinant groups of Igbo, Edo-Benin, Niger Delta peoples with at least two known lines of descendants of Portuguese sailors who jumped ship at Ughoton and settled inland among the local peoples. Some of these Portuguese sailors were vassals of the Benin kings who were given titles, land and wives among the outlying towns under Edo rule. Traits of this Portuguese line pop up in from time to time in the form of very light skinned, grey-eyed and red-haired children.


It is not immediately apparent that the Benin exhibition considered the above issues. Instead it chose to focus tightly on an ideal of Edo-Benin ethnicity centered on the court of the Oba (kings). This might be because the exhibition uses artworks looted from Benin in the 1897 invasion of the kingdom by British soldiers. To shrink down the boundaries of an empire composed of multiethnic identities into this singular ideal of Benin ethnicity does incalculable injury to the history of Benin. It also produced the kind of problematic analysis that looks at modern Benin sculpture (for instance) solely in relation to ethnic Edo-Benin artists of the 20th Century without considering the impact of an artist like Ben Enwonwu, of the Onitsha-Ezechime, whose reinterpretation of classical Benin sculpture inaugurated a modernist reading of Benin art from 1950 onwards. Surely the use of various forms of Ozo title staffs (called Osisi and usually sourced from Benin artists) among the Ezechime classifies as parts of the wider Edo kingdom’s aesthetics. However, you don’t get this kind of nuance in scholarship that promotes an ethnic agenda in interpretations of indigenous African cultures.


As for the artworks shown in the Quai Branly exhibition, their history is by now very famous. In February 1897, an elite British force of about 1200 men (supported by several hundred African auxiliary troops and thousands of African porters) besieged Benin City, capital of the Edo Kingdom of Benin, whose ruler, the Oba Ovonramwen sat on a throne that was a thousand years old. The British Punitive Expedition used Maxim machine guns to mow down most of the Oba’s 130,000 soldiers and secure control of the capital city. They set fire to the city and looted the palace of 500 years worth of bronze objects that constituted the royal archive of Benin’s history, an irreplaceable national treasure. The king and his principal chiefs fled into the countryside, pursued by British forces who lay waste to the countryside as a strategy to force the people of Benin to give up their fugitive king. According to Richard Gott, for a further six months, a small British force harried the countryside in search of the Oba and his chiefs who had fled. Cattle was seized and villages destroyed. Not until August was the Oba cornered and brought back to his ruined city. An immense throng was assembled to witness the ritual humiliation that the British imposed on their subject peoples. The Oba was required to kneel down in front of the British military "resident" the town and to literally bite the dust. Supported by two chiefs, the king made obeisance three times, rubbing his forehead on the ground three times. He was told that he had been deposed. Oba Ovonramwen finally surrendered to stem the slaughter of his people. Many of his soldiers considered his surrender an unbearable catastrophe and committed suicide rather than see the king humiliated. A significant number, led by some chiefs, maintained guerilla warfare against the British for almost two years until their leaders were captured and executed.

The remaining arms of the resistance thereafter gave up their arms and merged back into the general population.
I need to do a systematic analysis of the Quai Branly’s Benin exhibition, not as an academic evaluation but as a way of examining how the tangled skeins of Benin history impacted my own life as an individual. In that regard, bear in mind the above brief account of Oba Ovonramwen’s ouster. My grandfather—James Anyasibuokwuenu Ogbechie, son of Ugbaja, grandson of Iyeyi the Dreaded, herself a daughter of an Edo-Benin father—was in the Benin of Oba Ovonramwen when the British invaded Benin in 1897. Families lost parents, wives and children in the invasion and until his death in 1986, when I asked him about what happened in Benin on that day, he said “Uwa Kpu Epku” (the world turned upside down). The order of things was surely inverted when a God-King is defeated in battle, his palace burnt and looted, over one hundred thousand of his people killed, he is forced to kiss the ground in submission before British troops and have the local British resident place his foot on the royal head before being sent into exile. The king’s ouster disrupted the entire region of Edo control and its local economy collapsed. My grandfather lost everything. However he worked hard, married another wife and was just getting back on his feet when simultaneous tragedies struck. The British colonial government amalgamated their protectorates to create Nigeria in 1914.


They subsequently did away with local money and introduced the British currency, thereby destroying the indigenous economy and wiping out local forms of wealth. My grandfather lost everything again and was reduced to penury. He fought against his fate and rebuilt but in 1918 but his new wife and son died in the Influenza epidemic. After a suitable period of mourning, he married my grandmother and they had nine sons many of whom died in various stages of childhood. Of the two surviving sons, one (Sylvester Okafor Ogbechie, whose name I bear) was conscripted into the British colonial auxiliaries during World War II and saw action in Burma. He was killed on his way back to Nigeria after the war. Left with only one son and despondent, my grandfather tried to kill himself. My father intervened and was able to save his life. Thereafter, as the only remaining son on his father, my father—Francis Osenweniwe Ogbechie-- spent the rest of his life working hard to raise the family out of poverty. He literally worked himself to death over the course of six decades but finally managed to rescue the family from penury and provide it with a modicum of the wealth and respect that was lost as a result of British colonization. My grandfather died in 1986 as the oldest man in the Nine Towns of the Ezechime clan. His son did not live nearly as long and passed away in 2006 finally exhausted after a lifetime of battling fate in this age our people call Enu Oyibo, the world brought about by the white incursion.


Ethnic identities are fluid among the Ezechime but this does not mean that individual identities are nebulous. I am Sylvester Okwunodu Uzugbodiuno Ogbechie the Second, Diviner Chieftain and Ozo of Onicha-Ugbo of the Ezechime Clan, son of Osenweniwe the Valiant--the king's cousin, grandson of Anyasibuokwuenu of great perseverance, grandson of Inyaji NwaAgamunye of the devotees of Nnem-Onicha the matriach goddess, descendant of a lineage dating back to the reign in Idu of Ogbuala the Giant (Oba Ozolua, 1483-1504) who laid waste to the riverine plains (Enuani). Last November, I buried my father on the front porch of his house in Onicha-Ugbo with his head pointing towards Idu, the ancestral homeland and watched his spirit cross the great river into the realm of the ancestors (his funeral is documented here: click to page 8). I sang the old songs, performed the ancient funeral rituals, and received emissaries from my cousins and uncles the kings of the Nine Towns who themselves are emissaries of the Idu/Edo kings. I say that UmuEzechime descend from Idu and that no amount of objective scholarship can undermine the strength of Ezechime claim to Benin ancestry.
I have written here at length to explain how British colonization ruined many things for my family and to point out that the kind of dry history of Africa that is common fare in scholarship is very problematic. The history of Benin is the history of its impact in the area of its empire, in the same way as the history of Britain is the history of its imperial ambitions and actions. This history is very complex. It was customary for representatives of the Benin kings to attend important royal functions in the Ezechime clan. It was also customary for all those chiefs in areas subject to the Oba’s rule to salute the royal sword of state at one time or another (pictured far right in this image).


The two swords taken from Oba Ovonramwen are now in Western museum collections. One is in the Pitt Rivers Museum and the other (the main bronze sword) was exhibited at the Quai Branly exhibition. After a lifetime of hearing about the Sword of Ovonramwen, I finally had a chance to see the sword and perform in front of it the traditional salute to Oba-Idu, the king. The sword of the King is the King and it is unlikely a chance to salute the sword would arise again soon. So I stood in front of the sword and gave the royal salute, dropping down on one knee with my hands crossed in front of my chest, palms flat out. With his sword in hand, the Oba dances the steps of the Ododuwa masquerade, a regal move that Don Pedro Obaseki has identified as owing in part to Portuguese dance moves performed in the 17th century court of Edo Kings. I’m sure the general audience witnessing my salute to the sword at the Museum was nonplussed by my action. However, it was important that I performed this obligation even at this distance, several thousand miles away from home.


In this regard, the sword of Ovonramwen does not belong to the Berlin Museum, the British Museum, or the Quai Branly, it belongs to his great grandson, Omo n’Oba n’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo Solomon Igbinoghodua Asiokuoba Akenzua, Erediauwa the First, 38th Oba of the Edo Kingdom of Benin who sits on the throne of his forefathers in a dynasty that dates back to the 12th Century. In time, even the most objective scholarship must confront the crime committed against the Edo Kingdom of Benin as a consequence of British colonization. In the meantime, Ezechime history shows that the story of Benin is very complex and full of nuances that are often overlooked in standard scholarship.


https://edonationsatelite.blogspot.com.es/2015/07/edo-root-of-some-...

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Great Benin Bronze

EDE N'ERHENA VBE EDO

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