Edo govt dethrones minister’s uncle, Oliola Of Uneme Uzanu
By Gabriel Omonhinmin
Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki has approved the removal of the Clan Head of South East Uneme in Estako East Local Government Area.
A three-paragraph press statement entitled “Governor Obaseki dissolves Uzanu clan, dethrones clan head,” signed by the Secretary to the Edo State Government, Mr. Osarodion Ogie (Esq), stated in part: “the Edo State Government has withdrawn the appointment of His Royal Highness Benjamin Ikani as the Oliola of Uzanu
clan of South East Uneme with immediate effect.
“The State Government action is predicated on the incessant and flagrant disregard to peace agreement and government directive to maintain peace in Uzanu community and its environs by the Oliola.”
Palace Watch immediately contacted Ikani who was dethroned on April 23, 2021 and he told us that his dethronement was politically motivated and appealed to the government to reconsider its action in the interest of his people who, he said, are depressed by the decision.
He explained that the border dispute between Igiode, a clan in Estako East with the Uneme Uzanu people, which resulted in the government wielding the big stick, has been a long standing feud, which sadly became protracted.
Ikani said what the Uneme Uzanu people wanted done was for the government to dispassionately look at all the issues on the table before it, and act without sentiments. But, unfortunately, this was never the case, he lamented.
The Uneme Uzanu people alleged that the government deliberately took the action based on the Obaseki administration’s political disagreement with one of their (clan’s) sons, Prince Clement Agba, the current Minister of State for Finance, Budget and National Planning, who is a strong ally of Mr. Adams Oshiomole, a former governor of Edo State.
This action is therefore, not only directed at one person, but the entire Uneme Uzanu clan at large, which is not supposed to be, they claim.
Ikani continued: “As a traditional ruler, I’m apolitical, my first allegiance is to my people and the Edo State government on whose behest I am presently holding my title as the Oliola of Uneme Uzanu clan, and as such, I can’t do anything to frustrate the decision of the Edo State Government on any matter.
All we wanted was for us as a people, who had a genuine case to be heard and the right thing done. These are our legitimate demands.”
He stressed that this particular disagreement has been on for well over 50 years with a series of litigations over these disputed areas between Uneme Uzanu and the Igiode clan.
He stated that, for example, on the 10th August, 1973 in a Suit No.HAU/13/72, Honourable Justice J. Omo Eboh delivered her judgement on this matter and the Uneme Uzanu people won the case.
“In another Suit No.HAU/28/78, Honourable Justice J.B. Amissah of the Auchi High Court on 20th November, 1979, gave his ruling on this matter and we again won.
The Igiode and Weppa Wanno on their part filed an appeal on this matter to the Supreme Court in a Suit No. SC/111/74, on the 26th of January 1976. The Honourable Justice G.S. Sowemimo as he then was, struck out the Igiode case for want of diligent prosecution.”
Ikani added: “It is wrong for anyone to allege or insinuate that the decision to remove me from my ancestral throne, is based on the incessant and flagrant disregard of peace agreement and government directive to maintain peace in Uzanu community and its environs.
This is not true, my people and I have never done anything to breach the peace in our communities over this matter.
“As we speak, four of my chiefs have since March 29, 2021 been taken into detention for no justifiable reasons, over allegations that they were behind the death of some persons from Igiode over the disputed areas of land.
This is not true. We are not violent people and we have never been violent no matter the provocation.
As civilized people, at the heat of this particular crisis when the Edo State government sent its officials to look at the areas in dispute, we cooperated fully with the people sent.
And when the border demarcation was finally done, and we were not satisfied with what was done, we went to court as it has always been our habit, to contest the decision of the Edo State government on the matter.
We never took the laws into our hands. Moreover, as I remain the Oliola of Uneme Uzanu, I will never encourage violence.
It, therefore, still beats my imagination why my people should be accused or held responsible for the death of some people, which we knew nothing about.
“The point we are making is that, we have long settled in our present home, before the coming of the Igiode people, who are now dragging the land with us.
For example, the Okumagbe of Weppa Wanno, HRM George O. Egabor, OON, JP, is using his closeness to the present administration in the state to ride roughshod over the Uneme Uzanu people.
Instead of the Edo State Government to discourage him from this type of acts, the state government via all the actions it has so far taken in this matter, further emboldened him and his people in Igiode clan. Which is sad!
To further buttress my point, that the Igiode people met us here, it is on records that it was the then Oliola of Anegbete, Ugbodaga, who was then the Chairman of the Uneme Traditional Rulers Council, that crowned the first Okumagbe of Weppa Wanno in the year 1940, in accordance with Uneme customs and traditions.
This was long before the Igiode people, by implication the Weppa Wanno people, developed their present customs and tradition. It is therefore, ironical for him and his people to be claiming part of our lands as they are presently doing today.
“As a traditional ruler there is no way I can fight any government for that matter, talkless the one in power and win. This is never our intentions.
I therefore appeal to the Edo State Governor Mr. Godwin Obaseki once again, to kindly review and rescind his action, which has no doubt brought awful tears to us as a people. We are a people who are committed to peaceful co-existence in Edo state.”
Palace Watch on the same day, reached out to the Okumagbe of Weppa Wano, His Royal Majesty, Dr. George O. Egabor OON, JP, a former Pro-Chancellor of Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto and the present first Chancellor of Anan University in Jos over the allegations of the dethroned Oliola of Uneme Uzanu.
The Okumagbe expressed shock that the Oliola will continually accuse him of so many “unfounded allegations.” The Okumagbe added: I married a wife from Uneme Uzanu who gave birth to two beautiful children for me.
I can’t do anything deliberate that will hurt the Uneme Uzanu people. But one point that must not be ignored, is that the Oliola does not know how to carry himself as a king.
The Oliola’s intransigent and belligerent nature is what forced the Edo State government to take its present action against him and his clan, as no responsible government will fold its hands and allow its citizens to be killed wantonly.”
The Okumagbe stressed that before the government arrived at the decision to demarcate the areas in dispute between Igiode and Uneme Uzanu, lots of efforts were made to settle this matter amicably between the two clans.
He added: “The Oliola in his characteristic behavior refused to take part in any of these meetings. And whenever he chooses to attend any of the meetings, he ends up creating crisis, which is shameful.
It was he the Oliola who insisted and pushed vehemently for the demarcation of the place, before the Edo State government decided to do so.
Surprisingly, when the state government after due diligence decided to erect beacons in the places demarcated, the Oliola and his Minister of State went and removed all the beacons which is criminal.
This was the extent of provocation of the Edo State government and other persons involved in this matter.
“In the process of getting to the root of this particular matter, the officials of the Edo State government took their time to hear from both sides, after which they travelled to Ibadan, to dig out a white paper from the archives, which stated clearly, that the Uneme Uzanu people were strangers in the place they are presently occupying.
The colonial masters’ white paper expressly stated that the Igiode people are the original settlers in the place in dispute.
As a matter of fact, the founder of Uneme Uzanu according to the records available, committed a case of murder in wherever they were living before, and ran to meet an Igiode farmer who accommodated him in the process in their present place.
This is sadly, the place the Oliola and his people are making trouble over. The Uneme Uzanu people need to read a little more about their history, this might make them come to their senses.
“In a calculated attempt to resolve this matter once and for all, the office of the Edo State Deputy Governor whose responsibility it is to settle matters like this, thrice invited the Oliola for a meeting in Benin City.
In those meeting the Deputy Governor, Comrade Philips Shaibu, the Senator representing Estako Francis Alimikhena, myself the Okumagbe and other top functionaries of the Edo State government were all in attendance, but the Oliola will not attend any of these meetings.
“The root cause of this matter is simple: a serving Minister of State for whatever reasons, decided to take over a very large expanse of land of the Uneme Uzanu people, where he is presently farming. He planted Palm Oil trees among other crops in the place.
This singular act has deprived a majority of the Uneme Uzanu people from the land they were given by the Igiode people, which they were hitherto using for farming.
Sadly, nobody in Uneme Uzanu clan has been man enough to challenge the Minister of State over what he has done wrong and thus asked him to give up part of the land for other people’s use, especially the peasant farmers.
Hence, the Uneme Uzanu people’s decision to encroach on the Igiode people’s farmland, which they resisted.
“Even when the Edo State government official charged with the responsibility of demarcating the disputed areas, went ahead and did their job without fear or favour, the Oliola will not allow peace to reign.
It was therefore, not a surprise when the state government decided to wield the big stick. Instead of the Oliola and his backers to blame themselves for their indiscretion, he is busy blaming me and the state government.”
A senior Edo State government official whom Palace Watch contacted for comments pleaded anonymity and said: “The Edo State government like every other responsible government’s primary responsibly is to protect lives and properties.
The Oliola in this particular matter over reached himself, and almost turned himself into an outlaw, a behavior, not at all expected of any traditional ruler of his status. The Oliola in spite of all persuasions, will not listen to any sense of reason.
He wanted everything done, according to his wish and desire. Governance is not like that, as other people must be heard.
The state government called a meeting three times where this matter would have been amicably resolved but the Oliola of Uzanu will not attend.
The Oliola knew that the creation of his clan was controversial in the first instance.
The clan was created by the immediate past government of Mr. Adams Oshiomole as a mark of favour to one of the Uneme Uzanu indigenes who worked with him.
There were protests then over the creation of Uneme Uzanu clan, but the former government will not listen. This was how the clan came to stay.
Instead of the Oliola lying low and maintaining peace knowing the circumstances under which he was made the Oliola of Uneme Uzanu clan, he went about without restraint fomenting trouble all over the place. All attempts to prevail on him to see reasons he will not take.
Hence, the Edo State government action.
“Since he the Oliola will not listen to any sense of reasoning, he is free to approach the court, for whatever remedy he wants.”