Third Invasion Of Benin

Aerial View Of Benin City 

By: Osaze Obaseki-Osemwegie    May 5, 2019   6:15pm

Benin City is the capital of Edo State in southern Nigeria. It is situated approximately 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of the Benin River and 320 kilometers (200 miles) by road east of Lagos. Benin City is the centre of Nigeria's rubber industry, and oil production is also a significant industry. It is also well known for its arts and culture, you can find its arts in museums all over the world. The indigenous people of Benin City are Edo and they speak the Edo language. The people of Benin City are known as Edo or Bini. The people of the city have one of the richest dress cultures on the African continent and are known for their beads, body marks, bangles, anklets and raffia work.

While care must be taken when describing the geographical area called Benin, we must always have it at the back of our mind that Edo State as it stands today is made up of various ethnic groups of the Edoid stock. However our area of emphasis is on the Binis and the kingdom.

The British invasion of Benin in 1897 was one done with intent to annex the kingdom and pave way for the unhindered amalgamation of the Southern and the Northern protectorates. Though the Binis put up a brilliant and decent opposition to the invading British force, lack of application of modern fighting skills, weapons and technology worked against the kingdom.

It should be noted that The Portuguese who arrived in an expedition led by João Afonso de Aveiro in 1485 would refer to it as Benin and the centre would become known as Benin City. The kingdom had close ties with the Portuguese over 400 years before the arrival of the British. However the kingdom did not take advantage of its closeness to the Portuguese kingdom and monarchy to arm its army and modernize it, if Benin had taken advantage of such relationship, it would not have been overrun by the marauding and plundering British army. 400 years was such a long time to have done a lot of strategizing, reorganization and modernization of the then Benin army.

70 years later, history will repeat itself when Benin was invaded in 1967 by the then Biafran army. It will be noted that Benin was invaded against the will of its people and without their consent. Odumegu Ojukwu the Biafran warlord described the invasion as "Liberation Of Benin". This simply means the Biafrans had always seen Benin as part of their territory hence it was considered a liberated place from the federal forces. Such was the humiliation that Benin, the great kingdom which once annexed most parts of Ibo land became a pun in the hands of both the Federal and rag tagged Biafran forces.


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Between 1897 and 1967, one would have thought that Binis would have put together an intelligentsia saddled with the responsibility of securing Benin and its people should the central authority fail to do so. Luckily the Biafrans led by Major Banjo met stiff resistance from the federal forces in Ore which signalled a change of fortune in the war for the Biafrans, this defeat for the Biafrans won back to some extent the independence and opportunity for Benin to re-strategise.

52 years after, Benin is witnessing an invasion worst than the other two previous ones. It is so damaging, cantankerous and nihilistic in nature that it may be almost impossible to reverse with sheer verbal rhetoric.
Unfortunately the current invasion is clothed in commercial economy, relationship, one Nigeria and religion. This is evident in the number of non natives that have taken up landed properties even in sacred areas, they have built churches, mosques, businesses, homes and now have moved to the next level of constituting themselves into local authorities with powers to sell lands appropriated from natives.

The Binis themselves have not helped matters as their actions and inaction has tacitly given a green light to this invasion. A Nation where the younger generations sell up priced and ancestral landed properties to foreigners and leave same foreigners to administer these estates while they are away. This is heading towards a catastrophe that will roll back with an avalanche effect:for they will return to be strangers in their land.

As an interim solution, authorities should reawaken the Odionweres system and further empower them to carry out a census of able bodied Binis and owners of properties on each street. A rallying center should be be created by all village heads. The necessary authorities should create enabling laws that ensure lands sold to foreigners pass a thorough process with measures to check unnecessary use of such lands by the foreigners and also insert a clause that ensures reversal of ownership of these lands if conditions are not met.

A Benin without land will become a non existent Benin consigned to the dustbin of history. Let it not be that while others are securing their inheritance for future generations, we are busy selling ours. Finally only a deliberate attempt at reversing this current invasion can stop it.

Written by Osaze Obaseki-Osemwegie

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