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Ovonramwen reigned 18881914 When Oba Adolor passed on, his son Prince Idugbowa was crowned as Oba Ovonramwen in 1888, but not without a fight from his brother, Prince Orokhoro. Otto Von Bismarck Prince Orokhoro whose mother was also of Esan extraction lost. At first, he ran to Evbohimwin and then to Orhodua in Esanland. Though he was conferred with the Enogie of Urumwon title by Oba Ovonramwen, Prince Orokhoro was still trying to raise an army in Esan when the British Punitive Expedition of 1897 occurred. The succession dispute between Oba Ovonramwen his brother, Prince Orokhoro led to the summary execution of a string of Chief's namely: Obaraye, Obazelu, Osia, Eribo, Obaduagbon and Esasoyen. This execution sowed the seed of distrust and sycophancy within the palace. Furthermore, the marriage of Princess Evbakhavbokun to Erhabor the Ologbose was intended to court the loyalty of the chief in the prevailing distrust occasioned by summary executions of the dissenting chiefs. Both the Itsekiris and the Agban (Agbor) people had begun to withdraw their veneration of the might of the kingdom during the reign of Ovonramwen.In the same 1890s, Agbor and some of the western Ibo chiefdoms were in revolt. Some continued to pay tribute, but it was more difficult to enforce and the revolts were more difficult to put down. The events of the nineteenth century leads to a reconsideration of the issues connected with the future of Benin as a military power, as well as the changing perspective on warfare. The chain of events seems to demonstrate that the pressures of military necessity due to the threats posed by the rebellious vassals were infinitely greater than the motives of politics in understanding the new perspective on warfare. The task for the Oba and his principal chiefs was the search for a military strategy capable of maintaining the territorial integrity of Benin. The economic resources in form of tribute, taxes, and tolls were important elements in the conception of Benin Empire, but more than military power was required if the empire was to be held together. In spite of the fact that Benin was confronted with difficult domestic political constraints, the ruling aristocracy could not foresee all the dimensions of what was essential to the pursuit of the imperial power of Benin. What seems to have occupied them was perhaps, the military strength of the state and the preparedness of the army in readiness to suppress revolts.

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The Empowerment Post

Oba Ovonramwen and the British British and other European traders were making inroads into the complex network of Niger delta waterways, anchoring trading hulks in the rivers to satisfy the lust for ivory and "red gold," the palm oil that flowed from the interior. This was a hellish occupation in an area where the chant was "The Bight of Benin! The Bight of Benin! One comes out where three goes in." The White Man's Graveyard was a malarial miasma where only the toughest agents flourished, and a lucky few had the verbal contracts to do business directly with the Oba, who ruled the Kingdom of Edo controlling the river trade. Two of the six Consular districts under the Niger Coast Protectorate Government were established on the Benin, and the Forcados Rivers, the latter being shortly removed to Warri trading station, now the Warri Township. The two districts formed the bases from which the Consular Officers penetrated into the interior. In order to be assured of an adequate and effective force readily available, it was necessary to have a constabulary post somewhere in the districts. Calabar, where the main force for the Protectorate was to be stationed, was too far away. Therefore, one of the first assignments to Captain Gallwey was the survey in October, 1891, of the Urhobo oil-markets along the Ethiope River, with a view, among other things, to selecting suitable sites for a Vice(24) Consulate, barracks and constabulary posts. Sapele, a small Urhobo village, on the left bank of the Ethiope River, about 55 miles from the Benin Vice-Consulate, appealed to Captain Gallwey. In his report to Major Macdonald, Gallwey said, "The anchorage here is deep and roomy, and the ground high, though one mass of forest. A most suitable spot to establish factories, especially as all the produce from the Sobo markets passes here on the way to the towns near the mouth of the river." He, therefore, recommended Sapele, which he called the first Sobo market, to be a very good place to establish a Vice-Consulate and constabulary barracks. Macdonald visited Sapele in the following month and approved it as being eminently suitable for the purpose for which Gallwey recommended it. The Urhobo people there assured him that, if he would come and build there, they would clear as much ground as he wanted. That was the origin of the present Sapele Township. In March 1892, Captain Gallway, the British viceConsul of Oil Rivers Protectorate that later became the Niger Coast Protectorate, visited Benin City hoping to annex Benin kingdom and make it a British Protectorate. Although the king of Benin, Omo N'Oba Ovonramwen, was skeptical of the British motives, he was willing to endorse what he believed was a friendship and trade agreement. Oba Ovonramwen refrained from endorsing the Gallwey's treaty when it became apparent that the document was a deceptive ploy intended to make Benin

June 2013

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