Governor Godwin Obaseki is unrelenting in his silly war against the Oba of Benin, Ewuare II, over where to house the stolen Benin artifacts returned from Europe. This is the same Obaseki that supported the palace’s idea of setting up Benin Royal Museum as home for the artifacts in 2018.
Suddenly, Obaseki, evidently for selfish reasons, is now proposing the Edo Museum of West African Arts (EMOWAA), as home for the artifacts. Haba! What nonsense. This governor has been struggling to convince Edo people that the managers of the proposed EMOWAA (Restoration Trust) is not owned by him.
I agree that there is nothing wrong with the Edo State Government setting up a museum, if indeed, EMOWAA is the state’s government project. However, it cannot be home to the Benin artifacts returned from Europe. These artifacts rightly belong to the Oba of Benin and the entire Benin Kingdom. Or, has Obaseki forgotten that the artifacts were made for the palace by various royal guilds of Benin, and were looted from Oba Ovonranmwen in 1897? The current Oba of Benin, as the custodian of Benin culture, customs, and traditions, remains the owner of these artifacts. So, they should be returned to the palace and kept in the proposed Benin Royal Museum.
It was heartwarming seeing the leaders and stakeholders of Coalition of Benin Socio-cultural Organisations, challenging Obaseki’s plot to corner the returned artifacts. This coalition also accused the Edo State governor of disrespecting and undermining the Oba of Benin.
The coalition led by Osazee Amas-Edobor threw a number of posers to Obaseki, which I am challenging the governor to swiftly respond to. It states: “If EMOWAA belongs to your Private Venture, Legacy Restoration Trust Ltd with its Office in Lagos, then why are you as our Governor treating it as a Government project using state resources?”
I am happy that the coalition has vowed to collectively fight Obaseki’s move to hijack Oba of Benin’s artifacts.
My dear Obaseki, the most honourable thing to do is to allow the Benin Royal Museum take custody of these Benin artifacts. I urge you to follow this part of honour and stop your shenanigans over home for the returned artifacts. You must show utmost respect for the Oba and the Kingdom. This idea that you can bamboozle everybody because you are the governor is preposterous. Remember that you are only governor for a fixed period.
The good news is that all returned artifacts, including the legendary Okukor, from Jesus College, Cambridge are still with the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM). I urge the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed and the Director-General, NCMM, Professor Abba Isa Tijani, to ensure that returned artifacts are handed over to the Benin Royal Museum, once completed.