The Benin Kingdom has a new Monarch at its head. He is the Ọmọ n’Ọba n’Ẹdo, Uku Akpọlọkpọlọ, ẸWUARE The Second, Ọba of Benin. In his first Speech from the Throne, as he assumed his responsibilities as the Monarch of the kingdom, he talked about GELE GELE, which is adjacent to the UGHỌTỌN Beach.
Ughọtọn Village, with her Beach on the banks of the Ovia River, was the “Window on the World” for Old Benin for fully four hundred years. And much of what Old Benin was known for was propagated through Ughoton and her Beach. Then one hundred and twenty years ago, this Port, through which Benin interacted with the wider world, was destroyed, along with Benin City itself, during the Benin-British War. After the war the new victorious rulers of the land turned their backs on Ughọtọn and her Beach, and inadvertently converted Benin artificially into a landlocked kingdom, a kingdom without any access to the Sea.
The call by the Ọmọ n’Ọba Ewuare II for the actualization of the long-touted. Export Processing Zone in Gele Gele is a call for the Kingdom to return to its old habits, to re-open its well-worn, four hundred years old passage- way for trade, for wealth, and for enlightenment, a route which was closed to Benin one hundred and twenty years ago by the British Colonial Administration —- because of what happened along that road, in Ugbinẹ village, to the Head of a British Colonial Administration, Acting Consul-General James Phillips, and his companions. This British squeamishness about the Benin-Ughọtọn road should no longer deter the Benin kingdom from re-opening the road, and the Ughọtọn Beach, for Benin’s trade with the Outside World. For this is exactly what Old Benin did — through that same road, and through that same Beach — for fully four hundred years, before the British conquest a little more than a century ago.
The British left Nigeria more than half a Century ago. The Benin kingdom should now re-trace its steps along that ancient road, a road which had underpinned its precolonial prosperity and ascendancy, because the road exposed Benin to world trade and world recognition.
The Edos say:
Ugbo n’erha ọmwan ka gbe,
Ẹi bun ọmwan ughanmwan !
“A farm sited in secondary vegetation,
Is easy to cultivate. !”
The kingdom should listen to — and act —- on this call by her new Monarch. It is a call informed by four hundred years of the kingdom’s impressive history.