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Obaseki, Oba Benin Lock Horns Again

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The strained relationship between the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, and the Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, may be worsened by a new dispute.

The dispute centres on the recent ban on Okaighele (community youth leaders) activities in seven local governments within the Edo South Senatorial district.

Despite opposition from the Oba of Benin Palace, the government insists that the ban is necessary to curb criminality and maintain security and stability.

The governor had announced the ban after a closed-door meeting with security chiefs in Edo State at the Government House in Benin City, a week ago.

The palace has countered that the Okaighele is an integral part of the age-old Benin traditional administrative structure.

Chief Osaro Idah, speaking on behalf of the monarch, emphasized the historical significance of Okaighele and its role in assisting village heads in daily administration.

In response, the Edo government, through Commissioner for Orientation and Communication, Chris Nehikhare, on Sunday, reiterated its stance on the ban, emphasizing the data from the State Security Council that identifies Okaighele and cultists as significant threats to public safety.

He said, “While we respect the tradition and customs of our communities, it is important to note that the safety and security of our citizens must always come first.

“Chief Osaro Idah, Obazalu of Benin’s contradictory statement does not change the gravity of the situation at hand, and we stand by our decision to enforce this ban on Okaigheles to protect the lives of our people.”

Nehikhare emphasized that while the government respects tradition, protecting citizens’ lives remains paramount.

He warned against any attempts to undermine the government’s efforts to maintain security, emphasizing that the ban on Okaighele and cult-related activities will be strictly enforced.

Before the commissioner’s remarks, the leaders of the youth group had made for the palace to protest their removal.

A statement by Osaigbovo Iguobaro, the Chief Press Secretary to the Oba of Benin, made available to newsmen in Benin City, said Idah, who was joined by Chief Oghafua Oyeoba, the Oyeoba of Benin and Chief Uyi Okungbowa, the Ogua of Benin, said the Palace would not shield any individual caught in nefarious activities.

He assured the palace would dialogue with the government over the contentious issue, and charged the Okaigheles to maintain peace and order in their domains.

According to him: “Okaighele is not a new thing in Benin. It didn’t start in this century. As you have age grades and senior sons, so do we have them?

“When Odionwere (village head) is appointed by the Oba, Okaighele assists Odionwere in the daily administration of the domain.

“It is not something that can be banned by fiat because Okaighele belongs to the Benin ancestors. We will inform the appropriate authorities about your concerns.

“You have not been banned. But, the palace will not support any form of violence or attack on anyone or group of persons in communities.”

Earlier, Rowland Ogbomo, who spoke on behalf of the aggrieved youths and Odionweres (village heads), stated that Okaighele is a creation of the palace.

Rowland Ogbomo, speaking for the aggrieved youths and village heads, appealed to the Oba of Benin to intervene, highlighting Okaighele’s role in upholding law and order according to Benin native laws and customs.

He said, “We are here in respect of the recent ban on Okaigheles by the Governor and we are appealing to our royal father to intervene and rescue us. We are not cultists.”

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