By Bisi Olaniyi, Southsouth Bureau Chief
Edo Governor Godwin Obaseki has vowed he will never fight Oba of Benin, His Royal Majesty, Omo N’ Oba N’ Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, over the face-off on the return of stolen artefacts from Germany.
Rather, he said would continue to make efforts to secure a private audience with the Oba of Benin to discuss his concerns on the issue.
Obaseki spoke on Monday through the Secretary to Edo State Government (SSG), Osarodion Ogie, in a statement.
The first-class monarch last Friday raised the alarm over what he described as attempts to divert the return of artefacts looted from the Benin Kingdom in 1897.
The traditional ruler condemned activities of Obaseki-backed Legacy Restoration Trust Limited, which was incorporated in January 2020 and establishment of Edo Museum of West African Arts (EMOWAA) to take custody of the artefacts.
The Oba of Benin also called on the Federal Government to take custody of the artefacts on behalf of the palace of Benin kingdom until the Benin Royal Museum was ready for their collection.
The SSG said: “The Governor (of Edo State) has consequently ordered that on no account should anyone, whether in government or acting independently, engage in disrespectful exchanges and/or altercation with our revered Royal Majesty and the Benin Royal Palace.
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“The government of Edo State and the Governor have always acted transparently and in consonance with existing federal and state laws in all matters relating to the proposed return of the artifacts and monuments.
“The actions of the government thus far on this issue have been driven by selfless, patriotic considerations and in the best interest of Edo State and Edo people.
“The Governor of Edo State, His Excellency, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has displayed and will continue to display immense respect for our traditional institutions and therefore will continue to make efforts to secure a private audience with His Royal Majesty (Oba of Benin) to discuss his concerns.”
Reacting to the widely-publicised statement by the palace of the first-class monarch, he said: “It is concerning that the statement (by Oba of Benin) appears to have created the impression that there is a major conflict between the interests of the Edo government and His Royal Majesty, with regard to the laudable national milestone of having our highly-valued artifacts returned home to Nigeria.
“Governor Obaseki expresses his gratitude to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR); the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; and other officials of the Federal Government for their patriotic and tireless efforts that have brought us to the verge of this eagerly-anticipated achievement, which has remained elusive for over a century.”