Barely three days after the installation of Prince Rich-Arisco Osemwengie as the Ogiamen of Benin Kingdom, there are indications that his palace has run into serious crisis, following a statement by Edo state government denouncing his installation and a possible criminal prosecution if the traditional ruler continues to parade himself as one.
Prince Osemwengie, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, was installed as Ogiamen replacing of Ogiamen Osarobo Okuonghae, who disappeared 17 ago. Following the inability of the family to locate the missing Ogiamen, who the family claimed left his palace since 1998, Prince Rich-Arisco Osemwengie was installed.
Spokesman for the Ogiamen family, Monday Wehere, had said that they installed a new Ogiamen because the family wanted to re-position itself to reclaim what belongs to them, adding that, this became necessary as the family has not heard from Ogiamen Osarobo since he left in 1998 and was not sure whether he was still alive.
He explained that the family decided to appoint the next in line as Ogiamen because Ogiamen Osarobo has no child known to the family, hence the reason why they deviated from the traditional ritual of appointing an Ogiamen by primogeniture.
“We need to put our house in order. The Ogiamen we have suddenly disappeared and we cannot trace him. If we do not put our house in order, who will renegotiate Ekiokpagha treaty,” he said.
“The whole of us have resolved that Osarobo cannot rule us again. He just disappeared. He has Master Degree in History. He left 1998. He has no child as at the time he left.
“Because of the embarrassment, Ogiamen title has been moved to another lineage. Prince [Osemwengie] is a direct scion of Ogiamen. Osarobo cannot come to this palace again. It took us five hours to install the new Ogiamen. The head of the family pronounced that he (Osarobo) is dead,” Wehere had said.
The rejoicing among family members Prince Osemwengie who took to the streets of Benin, drinking and dancing, now appears to have been cut short by its denial of recognition by the state government.
But Edo State Government, in a press statement issued on Friday and signed by the Secretary to the State Government, Prof. Julius Ihonvbere, threatened to invoke the relevant laws against anyone who proclaims himself a chief or traditional ruler in the state, saying that anyone who does so will face criminal charges.
The full text of the statement reads:
“The attention of Government has been drawn to a newspaper, OGIAMIEN TRUMPET, which came into circulation a few weeks ago. According to the publisher of the newspaper, it was established to be used as a medium for propagating the unity of the Ogiamien family members and to promote a renaissance of the family.
“Government recognizes the right of every citizen, to seek the advancement of his family members through legitimate and inoffensive manner. But Government cannot watch on as a person or family maligns or assaults other citizens under the pretext that he wants to promote himself or his family. Government will take steps to prevent any act which is capable to cause a breach of the peace.
“Government condemns in totality the abusive language used in the publication. The family says it has forwarded a petition on their grievances to the State Government. The family is therefore advised to await Government response to the petition.
“Government condemns in strong terms, the disrespect the Ogiamien family has shown to HRM Omo N’ Oba N’Edo, Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba of Benin. The publishers are therefore admonished to desist forthwith, from showing such rudeness to a personage, the whole nation holds in very high esteem, our most revered monarch.
“Government will invoke the relevant sections of the Traditional Rulers and Chieftaincy Law, 1979, which prohibit any person or group to proclaim self as a Chief or Traditional Ruler, a breach of which is a criminal offence.”
The press statement concluded that the “Government will not tolerate any act calculated to disturb the peace of the State or any part thereof.”
Ogiamen family is famous in Benin Kingdom and is located along Sokponba road. The palace of Ogiamen was the only building that stood after the British invasion of 1897 in which ancient Benin City was burnt down.
But age-long rivalry between the Benin Palace and the Ogiamen family has reportedly caused much tension in the Benin Kingdom, as the Benin Palace has always seen the installation of the Ogiamen dynasty as running a parallel monarchy in the Kingdom.