Opposition parties have launched fierce campaigns against the All Progressives Congress’ candidate at the forthcoming Edo governorship poll, Godwin Obaseki. They have pointed to the alleged role his grandfather, Agho Obaseki played at a critical moment in the history of Benin Kingdom.
“He is the son of a traitor. He also bears the name Philips, the British who betrayed the Benin and whose soldiers killed many of our people in 1897. We cannot trust him as the custodian of the modern Benin Empire,” Osase Kunu said on Thursday.
He said some traditional groups in Benin have launched a house-to-house campaign against Obaseki to ensure an overwhelming defeat for the APC candidate. He said that apart from the role allegedly linked to his grandfather, Obaseki also bears the name Philips, a grim reminder of one James Robert Philips who led the first British military attack on Benin Empire while Oba Ovonramwem was King.
Oba Ovonramwen Nogbaisi was the Oba of Benin in 1888. At the end of the 19th century, the Kingdom of Benin continued to flourish in commerce and culture. The Kingdom had ambassadors in some foreign nations and was without British intransigence.
However, during the Oba’s reign, the British were desperate to capture and dominate the Kingdom. One James Robert Phillips, the British Vice-Consul invaded Benin Kingdom under the reign of Oba Nogbaisi. The Oba’s infantry soldiers had ambushed the Phillips expedition killing all but two of the British soldiers. The British Empire reinforced from Britain and launched a second attack leading to the overthrow of Ovonramwen. The British soldiers burnt down the Benin palace and carted away art valuables. Several civilians including women and children were also killed. Ovonramwen was to be killed, but he escaped. He was captured and isolated in Calabar. During the intrigues that led to the invasion of the palace, Obaseki was said to have helped the British in the second attack which led to the defeat of the Benin soldiers. He was then the Head of Administration when Oba Ovonwarem was exiled.
The campaign is the conscious attempt to link the APC candidate with the ignoble role Obaseki and Phillips were said to have played at a critical moment in Benin history.
However, an APC official Samuel Iyare told Irohinoodua that the campaign was being orchestrated by the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP).
“Its an attempt to give a dog a bad name in order to hang it. His name is Godwin, not Phillips. It is now clear that Obaseki will defeat Mr Ize Iyamu.
“They have resorted to cheap propaganda to score political points” , he said.
“The name Obaseki in Benin is synonymous with honour and integrity. The Obaseki family is homourable. It is a princely name that no one can bastardise using political weapons.”
He said most Benin people are aware of the golden image of the Obaseki family and will not be troubled by PDP’s campaigns of calumny. He said the PDP is “desperate, fetish and dishonest” adding that the party “swims in the pool of cheap lies and deceit.” He said handing over Edo State to Ize Iyamu and the PDP is ‘equivalent to death sentence.”