Edo Artefact Repatriation: The Battle Between Greed and Duty

War has been declared between the Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki and Monarch Ewuare II Eheneden Erediauwa.

The war is not unconnected to the more than 1000 artefacts the state is expected from Germany.

On 8 July, Godwin Obaseki, the Nigeria Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, met with German Minister of state for culture Prof Monika Grutters and Foreign Minister, Mr Heiko Maas.

One of the main topics of the meeting was a demand for the repatriation of 1,130 Benin artefacts that were looted from the country in the 19th century.

Godwin Obaseki, Lai Mohammed and others
Godwin Obaseki, Lai Mohammed and Oba of Benin’s son in red clothes behind

Others at the meeting were Director-General of the National Commission for Museums and Monument (NCMM), Prof. Abba Tijani, and Crown Prince Ezelekhae (Oba of Benin’s son)

Since the successful meeting, the Monarch is demanding the artefact must be returned to him with a plan to build a museum inside the palace.

The Edo State governor has a different idea of building a Museum outside the palace where the public can easily access the artefacts, like in most advanced countries, including England.

On Thursday, in what seems like a desperate move, Oba of Benin called an emergency meeting of all stakeholders in Edo State.

According to a statement signed by Frank Irabor, secretary, Benin Traditional Council, “This is to invite all Benin Chiefs, Enigie, Edionwere, Okao Igiohen, Ohen Ovia, Ohen Ake, Ohen N’Ikhuo, Okaighele, Igbama, Market Women, and all well-meaning people of Benin Kingdom to an emergency meeting at Oba Palace on Friday 9 July 2020 at 10 am. prompt.”

The meeting, targeting most native doctors, might be a tool the palace needs to show “who is boss”.

The governor and the Oba haven’t really been on the same page. During the last governorship election in the state, the King supported a former governor, Adams Oshiomhole, the arch-rival of Godwin Obaseki.

The twist of the battle is that none of the fighters has an already made museum waiting to be filled with the artefacts.

Secondly, the Crown Prince, the Oba’s son, was one of the delegates in Germany that successfully demanded the return of the artefacts and It is established that he is on the side of the governor.

How it usually works:

In a country like the United Kingdom, no artefact is kept in the palace but a public place to attract tourists.

Besides, having a museum in the palace could endanger the life of the King as people, troops in from different parts of the world to have a glimpse.

As the King calls a meeting of all the feared native doctors in the state, the next move would be from the governor, who seems to be fearless in taking on bigwigs.

What might be discussed?
The King is likely to raise the sin of Obaseki’s forefather during the colonial invasion, even though it is hardly proven.

Obaseki, from the onset, had been tagged as the son of the traitor who worked with the colonial master that led to the capture and death of Oba Ovoramwen.

Benin would throw their weights behind the palace if the King toll this path, a tool for a divide and rule. Meanwhile, there is a planned protest in Germany on Saturday.

Benin would call for Obaseki’s head while the few with divergent’s views would hide for fear of being tagged anti-Oba.

This fight is between modern-day and tradition, progress and greed, power and duty.

Whose side are you on?

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