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Jonathan, Erediauwa and 2015: matters arising

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By Tamuno West-Greene
In the history of kingdoms within what is today known as West Africa, only a select few can lay claim to a significant status rivalling that of the Benin Kingdom.  For this reason, Omo N' Oba N' Edo Uku Akpolokpolo Erediauwa, the 38th Oba of Benin, is one of the most respected traditional rulers in Nigeria today.

Educated at Kings College, Cambridge, England, Oba Erediauwa ascended the Benin throne in 1979.  In the over 35 years of his reign, he has always conducted himself in a manner befitting his royal status. Typically, the monarch keeps a low regal profile and does not make pronouncements on public matters except on rare instances.

One of those rare instances occurred during the electioneering season of Edo State's last governorship elections in April 2012 when Oba Erediauwa endorsed the present governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole of the All Progressives Congress (APC). The Oba followed that up by granting only a private audience to President Goodluck Jonathan when the latter led a team of senior Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members to Benin on a campaign mission to support the party's governorship candidate.  Oba Erediauwa in effect rebuffed the rest of the PDP campaign team.  That is why the monarch's recent endorsement of President Jonathan for a second term of office beginning from May 29, 2015 has set tongues wagging.

Even though royal fathers often lace their words with proverbs that convey more meanings than the obvious, in this instance the Oba of Benin instructed his representative to deliver his message in direct terms.

To be clear, the Oba's message did not come in royal idioms that would have required some head-scratching for ordinary folks to decipher.  The Oba's eldest son and crown prince, Ambassador Eheneden Erediauwa, who visited the Presidential Villa with the Chairman of Ocean Marine Tankers Limited, Capt. Hosa Okunbo, to deliver the Oba's endorsement, spoke plainly when he said: “I am here on a special mission and having been an ambassador to many countries, I can say I am a special envoy who is carrying a special message on behalf of my father who sent me here to convey this message to Mr. President that we have been following the things that have been happening in the country.”

In order that no one would be left in doubt of what the Oba intended by sending his son to the President, the prince went on to add, “My father is praying for Mr. President in the Benin Kingdom.  He is praying fervently for him to be able to withstand the pressure.  He sent me to let Mr. President know that the spirits of the ancestors of the kingdom are with him and they will see him through. He also prays that the opportunity will come for him to continue the good work he is doing in Benin and other parts of South-South for at least another term.”

The question that naturally follows this interesting turn of events is: why did Oba Erediauwa find it necessary to send a royal imprimatur to President Jonathan? And what are those “things that have been happening in the country,” which the Oba has been following, and which the monarch has assured the President that the spirits of the ancestors of the Benin kingdom would see him through?

An obvious answer that readily presents itself is the security challenges facing some parts of the country on account of the deadly activities of Boko Haram.  It is also possible that the Oba was diplomatically referring to the unpatriotic utterances of some individuals who seem determined to lay the blame for all the challenges in the country at Jonathan's doorstep.

By sending his royal blessings to the President, Oba Erediauwa is clearly saying that in spite of the trying times, Jonathan does not need to worry unduly as he would eventually triumph against the challenges facing the country.  Moreover, the importance of the Oba's blessings cannot be overstated because, as a highly revered royal father, Oba Erediauwa's words convey a signal beyond their surface meaning.  One clear signal is that those who may assume that Jonathan can be insulted and harassed at will under the mistaken impression that he has no support base should think again.  As the most prominent monarch in the South-South, the Oba is, in effect, telling Jonathan to stand firm, that his home region will never forsake him.

As Ambassador Eheneden Erediauwa said, “That is the commitment we have in this kind of special prayer coming from the Oba of Benin.  He sent me as his eldest son; so you can imagine the importance that my father attaches to such a message.”

With such strong support from Oba Erediauwa, it is now left to President Jonathan to show that he rightfully deserves the royal blessings by continuing to tackle Nigeria's security challenges, building a unified nation, and creating the enabling environment for more Nigerians to achieve prosperity through their own genuine efforts.

Tamuno West-Greene sent this piece from Port-Harcourt, Rivers State.