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How we Traced Stolen Benin Artefacts to Britain — Prince Akenzua

The problem with Edo APC defectors.

How we Traced Stolen Benin Artefacts to Britain — Prince Akenzua
Prince Edun Akenzua

Prince Edun Akenzua is the younger brother of the Oba of Benin and the Enogie of Obazuwa. In this interview with Vanguard, he bares his mind on the ongoing battle against Boko Haram, accusing President Goodluck Jonathan of being sluggish in taking decisive actions.

He faulted the recent resignation of some members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State from the party, insisting that no matter their allegations against Governor Adams Oshiomhole, he remains “ God sent to Edo State”.

He also spoke on the expected return of stolen Benin bronze works by the British in June. Excerpts:

As somebody from the traditional institution, how do you feel over the recent abduction of school children in Borno State by members of Boko Haram?

Kidnapping those children in that circumstance is bad enough. Unfortunately in our country, we don’t appear to care about human life. It is a pathetic situation that more than 200 students sleeping in their dormitory were abducted by terrorists. But what is worse is that after that our leaders began to talk rubbish. Some were even talking as if it did not happen and no body made any move to do anything until the Americans and others came.

I understand that the parents of those children even went to the forest in search of the children; so one is wondering, if those women could do that, why was it too much for our military to accompany them? The women were not even armed, they came back after they were advised that it was not safe. But what did our own leaders do to help them? Nothing. The Federal Government is supposed to be the chief security officer of Nigerians, so if they cannot protect 200 of our children in school, then what are we talking about?

The Boko Haram insurgency is an embarrassment to the country. It is nice that the Americans came to help but we also know that some of these people causing problems in the world like bin Laden, even the Taliban were trained by America even though the people later turned around to fight America. When Boko Haram came here, we all thought it was a joke.

They are killing people, saying they are against Western education but they are using western arms and western communication gadgets to wreak havoc. I heard some people saying Nigeria wants to negotiate with them, that is a new concept. We have not seen the end of Boko Haram yet, only God can help us.

Jonathan’s request for extension of emergency rule in three states

It seems to me that our President boxed himself to a corner; so he has no choice now than to accept the intervention of the international community. If he decides to extend the state of emergency in that area and the emergency has been there in the past six months, it will make no sense because we have not achieved anything. So why extend the emergency rule? Our military are the same people who have gone to ECOMOG and they performed well, you want to tell me they won’t be able to quell Boko Haram if they are allowed to? Those advising Jonathan, I don’t think they gave him professional advice on the matter.

Do you thing we can still go on with 2015 general elections amidst this insurgency?

If you take all the variables together, one will have that fear, there is reason for concern. But one needs a Nostradamus to say what will happen in 2015. A lot could happen in one year. I cannot say whether we can go on with the 2015 elections or not, but the way things are going, many believe they are a prelude to the prediction of Americans that we will have problem in 2015.

When that news came, our political class said the country won’t break up, but no one is doing anything to ensure that the country does not break up. Everything they are doing is wrong. They only came up with the confab idea recently. And the people of the Niger Delta are still suffering despite their oil and that is why I get angry when people quarrel with them anytime the issue of derivation is discussed. We still have a lot of problems in the system and only God can help us as a nation.

Some APC leaders in Edo have resigned from the party and set to join the PDP. How do you react to the political situation in the state?

It is all about personal interest and ambition which should not bother the governor. Up to this very moment, I give Governor Oshiomhole pass mark; I think he has done very well. Those who are moving from APC to PDP or PDP to APC the are typical Nigerians. I am not surprised. I don’t know how they will feel comfortable with such moves. And when you watch the group of people moving, they are the ones going forward and backward which shows that whatever they are looking for is their personal interest; so if they cannot get it there, may be they will get it here.

Now those moving from APC to PDP claimed there is no internal democracy in the party but that brings us to the question, what type of party members are they? Are they loyal? Your house is burning and you ran out of it to some body’s else house; if you believe in your house and you are quite comfortable with it initially, then you go to the fire brigade to stop the fire. For them to leave a party after they said some body was a tyrant, suppose they move to another party and they meet the same problem, what will they do?

Most of them have said that was what drove them away initially from the PDP; so what has changed in the PDP? Those who left APC for PDP now, I believe the welcome the PDP leaders are telling them is just to get them to come to destabilize the other party, but I don’t think they will be trusted in PDP. If you could leave the way you left and haven left you said so much bad things about them when you were away and suddenly you come now that they should accept you back, you are not coming like a prodigal son, no body knows how you are coming. If you now don’t get what you want in the PDP, how will you now feel.

Besides, they met people in PDP, if all those people had left the party the way you left, who will you be meeting now in that party? But my joy is that they are not leaving because Oshiomhole is not performing; what they are saying is the conduct of the congresses. If the congresses were not properly done, rather than issuing Oshiomhole seven day ultimatum, they should have taken the matter to the national leadership to hear the matter.

If there is anyone who wants to be governor and left APC thinking he will get it in PDP it is a tall dream because people have been in PDP and keeping the party going. It will be difficult for us to trust these people who decamp from one party to the other in Edo state. You need stability in every system. You would have thought that Mrs Clinton will leave the Democratic Party when she lost to Obama, but she stayed.

And at the end of the elections, she was appointed by Obama as the Secretary of State. The truth of the matter is that those who are leaving from one party to the other are not serving the interest of Edo State.
Oshiomhole has done his best for Edo people, he has built roads in Benin, done several other projects.

But the greatest thing Oshiomhole has done in Edo State is to improve our psyche. Never again will anybody come to this state who will say it can never be done because there is no money. People are going to ask how Oshiomhole did it. He has lifted our realization, our consciousness, Oshiomhole has now shown that we have a right to ask questions

Recovering missing Benin artefacts

Each time I travelled out, I interact with people and each opportunity I have, I always talked about these looted artefacts. But in October last year, I spoke on TV over there on the issue. Some weeks after my TV interview, our President announced that they were going to do the centenary of the amalgamation of the North and the South. So that one too was in the papers everywhere.

Then somebody in the UK, who was aware of the way we feel about these things, who also knew where some of these things were, now went on TV and gave an interview where he said they have some of those things; his great grandfather was a soldier who fought in Benin in 1897, and he has some of those things in his house. My daughter in London watched that TV interview and contacted me.

I told her to go and meet with the television house, and find out if they could get the contact of that person. Eventually they established contact and they invited the man who had spoken on TV to a meeting. We got a Benin group in London to meet with him, I also got the High Commissioner in London involved. And when they met, he told them that his great grandfather had those two images in his house.

Apparently the man told them that he wanted those two images returned to Benin Kingdom. So we did a letter to the Nigerian High Commission in London requesting that the British man be given visa to visit Nigeria. Our High Commissioner did better than that; apart from giving him visa, he offered to give him ticket to fly to Nigeria.

And he assured me that he knows some families in the UK, descendants of the troops who came to fight in Benin, that after the war the soldiers were allowed to take whatever they wanted. He said he knows families in the UK that have those artefacts in their homes; he said he will talk to them to assist in returning them. We are expecting the artefacts in June, initially I chose March so that it will coincide with the coronation anniversary but when we missed that date, I thought we should make it June to coincide with the Oba’s birthday.

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