June 15, 2024
News Nigeria

Oba of Benin address Catholic Congress

GOODWILL MESSAGE BY THE OMO NOBA NEDO UKU AKPOLOKPOLO, OBA EWUARE II, CFR, OBA OF BENIN TO THE NATIONAL PASTORAL CONGRESS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN NIGERIA ON NOVEMBER 9TH, 2022.

 

Oba’s Goodwill Message

PROTOCOL
His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, ably
represented by Hon. Minister of Hearth, Dr.Osagie Ehanire,
His Excellency, Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki, the Governor of Edo
State
His Excellency, Philip Shaibu, Deputy Governor of Edo State,
Your Eminences,
Your Grace, the Papal Nuncio to Nuncio to Nigeria,
Your Grace, Most Rev. Dr. Augustine Obiora Akubeze,
Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Benin City
My Lord Spiritual, My Lord Temporal,
Members of the Third Estate of the realm
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, 

 

In the name of the Almighty God, I welcome you to the Ancient City of Benin. Indeed I welcome you all to this auspicious occasion of the  NATIONAL PASTORAL  CONGRESS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN NIGERIA

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen when I received your invitation to speak on this auspicious event vide a goodwill message I was overwhelmed and flabbergasted. Someone once said in a certain situation that he was so “flabbergasted that he had no more flabber to be gasted”. This was even more so in my own case not being a
professed Christian. I asked why me? What can a non-Christian say to this very religious gathering of catholic faithful? Just like I once wondered why was a very non-professed Christian be posted to a very catholic country like Rome, Italy to serve my country as AMBASSADOR. Some inspirational feelings of certain conspiracy theories, started to chrysalize in my mind. I will come back to this later. For now let just say I simply felt like MOSES when he received revelation from God to proceed to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to free his people the Isrealites. He was so overwhelmed he rushed to MOUNT SANAI to pray ferverently to God for spiritual guidance knowing that  Pharaoh was so hard-hearted and wondered what he would say to convince him to comply with God’s Command. Well you all know the rest of the story.

Conscious that I was going to face this spectacular religious audience, but at least not pharaoh today, I also adopted approach of MOSES considering the highly religiously educated and spiritually advanced audience I am addressing today. The Lord God
Almighty, I believe, through my ancestors, gave me the inspiration to share the following thoughts and facts with you today.

I am informed that this is the third National Pastoral Congress of the Catholic Church in Nigeria and that the congress meeting will last from the 8th to 11th of November 2022. It is particularly important to us that this congress which comes up once in every ten (10) years is taking place in Benin City, Edo State.

Interestingly, you are to deliberate on effective ways of fulfilling in contemporary Nigeria, the mission entrusted by Christ to the church: to promote ecumenical and interfaith dialogue; and to foster the relationship between the church and the State. I am informed that you will have amongst you delegates from every Catholic Diocese in Nigeria including Bishops, Priests, the Religious and Laity.

This congress is very important to us, coming to Benin some six years after our coronation to the throne of our forefathers. Equally important to us, is that this is my first time in St Paul’s Catholic Church since my coronation in 2016. We are interested in the assignment of the congress; what you are supposed to achieve for Christendom and the Nigerian State. For some of you, this is your first time in Benin, although, virtually everyone here would have read or heard of the history of Benin. Once again, welcome to Great Benin.

Students of history amongst you will remember that it was the British adventurer, Ling Roth, who first referred to Benin as Great. This was a tribute to both the physical State in which they found Benin and the efficient administrative organization the people of Benin had put in place. The Europeans did not expect to see that in the far-flung area, in the belly of the rain forest.

Benin administrative system took over 1000 years to evolve. Historians and Anthropologists have recorded Benin administrative presence in the Gold Coast (now Ghana), Dahomey (now Republic of Benin), Lagos and the surrounding districts of Ondo, Ogun and most of Delta State within the old Midwest and people in the East of
Nigeria.

Benin reached the zenith of its power by the 13th century. This was when it created the Benin moat; a defensive wall which was created around its principal cities (1295) without using any mechanical earth moving equipment. The Benin moat is described by the Guinness Book of records as second only to the great China wall. Benín also
evolved its unique casting method which produced the thousands of priceless bronze artworks under the AUTHORITY AND COMMISSION OF THE OBA OF BENIN now in museums and art galleries all over the world which by the help of the Federal
government and other government institutions are now being returned to the Palace of the Oba of Benin recognized globally as the original place of abode with ownership residing in the Oba of Benin.  Our gratitude will always go to our able President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, COMMANDER IN CHIEF OF THE ARMED FORCES AND PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA.

Benin Kingdom had one of the earliest contacts with the Catholic mission in the West African. At its apogee, Benin Kingdom ruler, Omo N’Oba N’Edo, Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Esigie, my direct forefather, welcomed for the second time the visit of John
Affonsod’Aveiro to Benin. During the visit, Affonsod’Aveiro advised the Oba of Benin to become a Christian and added that Christianity would make his Kingdom better. Oba Esigie accepted the advice and thereafter sent Ohen Olokun, the Olokun priest of Ughoton to Lisbon, Portugal as Benin Kingdom Ambassador. 

Oba Esigie asked that the King of Portugal sent to him, a Priest who would be the Portuguese Ambassador in Benin and also teach him, the Oba, how to write and speak Portuguese. Portuguese Ambassador and a Roman Catholic Priest were sent by the King of Portugal with specific assignment to teach Oba Esigie Christian religion, also to teach the Oba how to read and write Portuguese. To underscore this, it is interesting to note, that, in the summer of 1981, Omo N’Oba N’Edo, Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Erediauwa, Oba of Benin, my beloved father of blessed memories, sent a delegation of four prominent Benin Citizens, namely, Chief Ojo Eguavoen, the Osuma of Benin, Chief A.Y. Eke who was then the Nigeria Ambassador to the United States and Mr. Daniel Inneh, who later became my father’s secretary and I to the USA MISSION? I would head the delegation to present an address and a gift from my father to the President of Temple University, Philadelphia, USA, a bronze gift of Oba Esigie sitting down and writing Portuguese. The Bronze was copied from the original one which was cast by Igun Eronmwon brass casters during the Portuguese years in Benin. I was undertaking my Masters degree in Public Administration in New Jersey at RUTGERS UNIVERSITY at that time.

Aruosa shrine now referred to as Holy Aruosa Cathedral at Akpakpava is one of the many relics still possessed by the old City of   Benin which tells the story of the first arrival of Christianity into Benin. Certainly, it has been argued that Benin City was the place where was first preached and accepted in the territorial Christianity expanse that is now the Nigerian nation. This assertion influenced the opinion where some persons very much advocated that the Holy Father, the Pope, John Paul II should have been encouraged to visit Benin during his visit to Nigeria.

There is some flimsy evidence that the idea of the Christian faith was mentioned to Oba Esigie’s grandfather, Oba Ewuare 1 who was the first Oba of Benin to have contact with the Europeans. When it seemed that Oba Esigie was going to push for Christianity to be a State religion, Chief Oliha and the Uzama nobles disagreed and resisted which they perceived as a new religion which would sideline the Benin ancient traditional belief.
Orhogbua, Oba Esigie’s son was the first Prince to be exposed to formal western education until Oba Akenzua II in later years. Orhogbua was western-educated outside Benin, perhaps at first, in the Bishopric of the off-shore Island of Sao Tome, then later, in the Metropolitan Capital of Lisbon. The Crown Prince was trained with an eye on his ultimately becoming a Catholic Priest. He was still in Lisbon when his father joined his ancestors. He had to return home.  It is said that there was a daily mass in the Palace during Oba  Esigie’s years. This seems to still hold up till day albeit in a different format and regularity.

The maintenance of the corporate health of the Edo people and the sustenance of the over-all good of the land are the responsibilities of the Oba of Benin. The Oba is the Head of the NATIONAL CHURCH OF EDO PEOPLE which is represented by the HOLY ARUOSA
CATHEDRAL and HEAD OF EDO TRADITIONAL RELIGION. Edo calendar consist of ceremonies and propitiations directed towards the assurance of these purposes. The Holy Mass that was celebrated in the Palace was intended to bring redemption to Edo people the way Christ saved humanity. The Portuguese built a mother Church or Cathedral at Akpakpava Road, manned probably by a visiting Bishop from the Cathedral of the Off-shore Island of Sao Tome. The Site of the Cathedral at Akpakpava road is now occupied by the Holy Cathedral. The Catholic Priest created three Parishes in Benin beside the Cathedral at Akpakpava. These Parishes were at Ogbelaka, Erie and Ugbague districts.

Having shared with you by way of history, Benin Royal Court’s association with the Church, I then wondered if my invitation here today is an ecumenical conspiracy to convert the Oba of Benin to CHRISTIANITY? As for me this may still be work in progress. I dare say that one of my senior chiefs once described me as a  HARDCORE TRADITIONALIST still very much rooted in the AFRICAN TRADITIONAL RELIGION (ATR). However the distinguished audience here today may take solace in the fact that I think I understand the principles and teachings of Jesus Christ better
than some professed Christians themselves.

May we now attempt to examine the church relationship with present day governance in Nigeria. It is universally known that the Church comes out helpful in unifying people of diverse backgrounds, ethnic origin and class statuses. It preaches unity, equity, social justice, generosity, fairness, youth and women empowerment, security, self-discipline, development and equal access to the goods of society. Jesus Christ while on Earth
was always moved by compassion and love to help the poor, down trodden, the despised, dejected and rejected, while at the same time not ignoring the rich and powerful. Hence, in the Oba of Benin Royal Crest, it is inscribed the need for the defense of the poor, downtrodden and the weak with the motto thus “OSA OKHUE
N’OKHUODIN” meaning the Lord God Almighty defends the defenceless.

The picture of the early Church is that of a people bound together in one spirit and one mind. This is the direction of contribution that the nation, look forward to, from the Church. In area of Education, the ordinary man looks forward to Christian schools where he would pay far less that those schools managed by profit seeking business men.  

The fear of God is expected to be the conscience of state in matters of good governance and extension of basic infrastructure to the rural areas, the so called “utmost part of the earth” that Jesus commanded you, “Go to and Preach the Gospel”.

It is the duty of the church to expose incidences of discrimination, exploitation, corruption, victimization, social indiscipline, ethnic hatred, jealousy, indignity and immorality towards persons and groups. The church is expected to speak out against these societal vices. There ought to be management rules against churches that
may accept financial support from persons with doubtful integrity. The Church should not be seen to hesitate to encourage citizens to take their duties to the State seriously with due regard to integrity, honesty, accountability and a sense of fairness to all.

Sadly, many Christians seem to have reconciled themselves to taking things as they are without raising a finger. Many keep only within big cities where congregation with fat incomes are available to pay fat tithes and give fat offerings. This cannot be adjudged to be the best representation by church leadership; a leadership that should be by example at all times. The church should be a moral guardian to everyone particularly those in power and authority. 

In the interest of the society and country, we want to hear messages from the pulpits on morality, ethics, holiness, righteousness and soul salvation. It is in the interest of the church to avoid denominational feuds and Pentecostal over-exuberance. The original role of the church as we know it is to promote morality, act as the conscience of the state and serve as an important engine for unity and development.

 

One cannot end this presentation without emphasizing the need for religious tolerance amongst the different religions in Nigeria More so that even the African Traditional Religion usually viewed as Pagan religion is no longer discriminated against in the VATICAN! I know this because I was the Nigerian Ambassador accredited in Italy and
had close interactions with the Vatican. You may wish to explore the possibility of the benefits of African Traditional Religion in the support of the state. For example, the intervention of the Palace of the Oba of Benin went a long way, they say, in assisting NAPTIP deal and arrest the trend of the infamous HUMAN TRAFFICKING In Edo State. A lot of commendations, encomiums and recognition poured in from National and international community and, still keep pouring in to the Palace. The Palace interventions vide our AFRICAN TRADITIONAL RELIGION made a major contribution to the development of moral uprightness of our society and the STATE. The ATR may also be more effective than the law in matters of   INSECURITY AND STEALING OF OUR COMMONWEATH.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen

It has been my pleasure to share these few thoughts with you. We wish you every success in your deliberations and, a happy stay in Benin City.

I thank you all for your attention and wish you God’s travelling mercies back to your individual Diocese and destination.

 

The Palace
Benin City 

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