On Tuesday, November 6, 2018
As part of their eight-day West African tour, Prince Charles of Wales and his wife, Duchess Camilla of Cornwall, arrived in Abuja, Nigeria on November 6. This was following their visit to The Gambia and Ghana, where they had attended various engagements, together and individually.
To welcome them to the country, some of the most important and influential Nigerian kings, dressed in their full traditional regalia, also converged at the British High Commission in Abuja. The kings arrived with pomp and parade to excited press and guests.
However, not everyone welcomed the idea of their respected traditional rulers leaving their palaces to go dote on the British royalty. Nigerians took to Twitter and Facebook to express outrage over this visit.
"Oba no dey go transfer"
There were questions about the sitting arrangements of the monarchs at the British High Commission and why Prince Charles did not go to visit the kings at their palaces.
Ebidan Dan Kemmx (@kemmx) also took to Twitter to say: "...So first class traditional rulers — from the Ooni of Ife to the Sultan of Sokoto to Oba of Benin to Emir of Kano and the rest — had to rush to Abuja to welcome a 'White Prince'. "
The disparity was also very evident as just days before coming to Abuja, Prince Charles and his party had been in Ghana where they visited Osei Tutu II, the monarch of the Kingdom of Ashanti in Ghana and one of the richest kings in Africa. Prince Charles received a tour of the Manhiya Palace and met chiefs and religious leaders before he and Osei Tutu had a private meeting.
Where is this coming from?
One of the notable mentions in this outrage is the 40th Oba of the Benin Empire, Eheneden Erediauwa Omo N’Oba Ewuare II, who was also present in Abuja. Since his ascension, he has demanded that the British Empire return all the Benin Bronzes that were stolen in 1897, to which his demands fell to deaf ears. The artifacts along with hundreds of bronze pieces were stolen from Nigeria during the Benin Expedition of 1897. During this expedition, many natives of the Benin Kingdom were killed irrespective of gender, their king humiliated and exiled, and about 3,000-6,000 bronze pieces were carted away by British soldiers.
This painful part of history still haunts the Benin people till today, hence the complaints. Besides, this is not the first royal visit from Britain to Nigeria. When Prince Phillips and Queen Elizabeth visited Nigeria in 1956, they went to see then Oba of Benin to pay their respects.
It is therefore not hard to see where all the annoyance is coming from.
Was the outrage deserved?
First, monarchy and royalty in Nigeria is regarded to be just as important as in Britain. Nigeria has many powerful and influential kings, some of them notably absent at this gathering. If Prince Charles had to pay homage to all the Kings in Nigeria, that would not have made sense, logistically, as his is a two-day visit to Nigeria. Also, if he had picked just two kings to visit, there would have still been outrage about who was seen as more important than others.
All the Nigerian royals in welcome party were appropriately selected to represent the six geo-political zones in Nigeria — South East, South West, North Central, North East, North West, and South South.
What would have been interesting was if the Oba of Benin did not use the opportunity to bring up the return of the Benin bronzes, which he did, to Prince Charles.
The Oba was quoted to say: "Suffice to say that Nigerians in general and Benin people in particular, will be most delighted to have Your Royal Highness throw his royal weight behind our efforts to have some of our ancient artifacts that were taken in 1897 from the Royal Court of Benin returned to Benin to establish Oba Palace Museum for the promotion of tourism in Benin city, Edo state."
However admirable this was, it would have had more significance, though, if said at the actual Oba Palace Museum in Benin to show the Prince the actual efforts the king has made towards tourism.
It is also important to note that this gathering was one of respectable royalty and there was no bowing to anyone, neither by British nor Nigerian royals. However, it is unclear as to whether the sitting arrangement shown in the released images was intentional, to represent some kind of hierarchy or seniority.