TRAVELS With Maurice Archibong
3-time winner, travel & tourism reporter of the year firstname.lastname@example.org
…Nigerians and Beninese should feel at home in each other’s country – Alajase of Ilu-Ajase
A traditional ruler in Porto Novo, Alajase of Ilu-Ajase, Oba Sani Onikoyi, Abesan V, has advised Nigerians living in Benin Republic to refrain from seeing themselves as aliens. Speaking during the 10th anniversary celebration of Osogbo Progressive Union (OPU) in Benin Republic on, September 9; the monarch observed that the visiting paramount ruler of Osogbo, Ataoja, Oba Jimoh Olanipekun, was not in Benin Republic as a stranger, but should be seen as merely on an inspection tour of home.
While reminding that Porto Novo, capital of old Dahomey, is an aboriginal Yoruba settlement; Oba Onikoyi implored Nigerians in Benin to consider themselves at home and Beninese living in Nigeria to do likewise. The royal father, while enjoining Nigerians living in Benin Republic to be of good conduct at all times, added: “Gege bi mo ti ma nso fun yin, ihin ile, ohun ile: As I have often said; here (Benin Republic), is home; and there, (Nigeria) is also home”.
The Alajase again: Ki lo de, t’aafi nso be (Why do we hold this view)? The reason is that Benin Republic is not a foreign land to any Nigerian, he intoned; adding, in Yoruba: “You are at home and should feel free to live and prosper”. Oba Onikoyi nonetheless had another advice for his Nigerian audience, when he remarked: K’oye ki omo kan o gbagbe orisun re o… (I’m not saying that any of you should forget your roots…). I pray that it shall be well with you both here (in Benin) and also over there (in Nigeria).
Expectedly, this traditional ruler’s comment elicited a thunderous applause from his audience, and; truly, it was not the first time the Alajase would make such declaration. It could be recalled that, at the formal inauguration of the founding executives of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO), then known as Nigerian Community Union (NCU) at Hall des Art in 2002, Oba Onikoyi had expressed the same sentiment, much to the appreciation of Nigerians and Beninese nationals that graced the event with their presence.
Although the celebration, which held inside the Forme et Sante (Fitness and Heath) Gym Club located behind Stade Dedokpo in Akpakpa, Cotonou; was organised by Osogbo indigenes living in Benin Republic, Yoruba from all parts of Nigeria and Benin Republic took part in the festivities. Also speaking at the same forum, which was partly powered by Femi Ventures Promotion, the Nigerian Ambassador to Benin Republic, Ambassador Lawrence Olufemi Obisakin, said that the good conduct of Yoruba-born Nigerians living in former Dahomey has made life easier for members of our country’s diplomatic mission in that neighbouring country.
In his address, Ambassador Obisakin, who was accompanied to the event by his wife, Mrs. Cecilia Gbemisola Obisakin, observed that since he assumed office as envoy of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan in Republique du Benin; no Yoruba-born Nigerian has been involved in any trouble that called for his mission’s intervention. Ambassador Obisakin, who went on to implore every Nigerian living in Benin to be of good conduct because,
“God is behind you, when you’re doing good”; pointed out that “Nigerians are not criminals, we are a great people” and a very enterprising lot, whom God has richly blessed. He added that, Nigeria could be likened to an elephant; whose movement could not be impeded by mere flora. “The elephant does not need anybody to make a way for it. Whereever the elephant decides to tread becomes the way. The elephant chooses its path and the plants simply gives way”, he intoned. Concluding, Obisakin said: “God bless Nigeria” even as he implored every Yoruba and indeed all Nigerians resident in Benin Republic to remain of good conduct and live within the ambit of the laws of their host nation.
Aside the Nigerian Ambassador and the Alajase of Ajase, another very important personality at the well-attended event was the Ataoja of Osogbo, paramount ruler of the Osun State capital, Oba Jimoh Olanipekun. In his address, Oba Olanipekun amid prayers for all and sundry, observed that Osogbo indigenes living in Benin Republic were doing well; which informed his decision to travel to the neighbouring country for their event, even though it came hot on the heels of the 2012 Osun-Osogbo Festival, which was just-concluded at the time.
The Ataoja thanked the organisers of the event and everyone that turned up to felicitate with Osogbo community in Benin, even as he prayed for God to guide all the participants safely back to their destinations after the fiesta. The event featured performances by the Laredo Fuji Organisation led by Cardoso Fuji maestro, Sefiu Alao, who was decorated with a chieftaincy title, Dahh, on that day. In his address, Mr. Fatai Abimbola Oladimeji, Chairman of Yoruba Community in Cotonou thanked Ataoja and other royal fathers as well as the Nigerian Ambassador and other dignitaries for making out time to attend the event.
Speaking further, Oladimeji observed that Osogbo indigenes living in Benin Republic were not doing badly as could be seen from the fact that the local Yoruba community had picked him, an Osogbo son, as their Chairman. Other distinguished guests at the event included Amb Abudu Razaq Siyanbola, OPU National President; Hon. Iziak Faramade, Chairman of Osogbo Local Government Area; Dahh Eahou d’Agbanzihoun; Owe Oniketu of Ketu, Oba Alao Aladeife Agbolawolu; and, Chief Yemi Elebuibon; Pastor Julius Adebamibo Aderinto, President of NIDO,
Cotonou Chapter; Pa Ibrahim Adewunmi, Patron of Yoruba Community in Benin Republic; Mr. Ishola Bello, immediate-past Chairman, Yoruba Community in Cotonou; Mallam Saliou Karim, El-Hadj Adekounle Aremou alias Baba Soro soro of CAPP FM; and, MCs Dauda Oho as well as Arole.