The annual Ague festival has been interrupted by messengers from chief of the whitemen to say they are on their way to visit Benin City. This is strictly forbidden by custom.
However, the messengers also told that they saw with their own eyes many soldiers about 250 of them, the whiteman’s war drummers and many white men and their carriers making preparation for war.
Oba Overami has said this message is conflicting because you do not inform people you are coming to attack them and as such he has asked for further intelligence to confirm the message and for his chiefs to treat it with caution. ¹ He also reminds his chiefs that Benin people do not harm foreigners and therefore no whiteman must be killed and if possible invite them peacefully into Benin for talks and negotiations.
On the other hand, Benin Council of Chiefs and elders believe that there is no smoke without fire and have instructed Benin army commanders to tighten security around the borders and to take any necessary action to stop invasion of the country.
Benin Prime Minister Chief Iyasheri has put Senior Benin Army Commanders Chief Ologbosheri, Chief Obahawaie, Chief Obaiuwana, Chief Usu, Chief Ugiagbe and Chief Obadesagbo in charge of the mission.
They are to be supported by Chief Arabato, Chief Osague, Chief Obamoye, and Chief Obajuhomua.
The following chiefs who are not able to go on the mission must provide manpower and resources to support those going. These chiefs are Chief lyaja, Chief Aiyeboha, Chief Osagwe, Chief Obaseki, Chief Ine, Chief Ihanre, Chief Obajnaie, Chief Ahando, Chief Isayeri and Chief Ochudi (Oshodi).
Senior Benin Army Commander Chief Ologbosheri as the most senior army commander is tasked with ensuring its success. He is instructed by Benin Prime Minister Chief Iyasheri to take the whitemen down should the information of invasion be found to be substantiated. Failure on this point will be met with his execution.
Benin Border stations: Egbini and Gwato
Heads of Benin border guards: Ugiagbe stationed at Egbini² and Omaregboma, stationed at Gwato receive message from Benin Council of Chiefs that they have intelligence that many whitemen are on their way to Benin and are ‘bringing war’. The council ask that they must be very vigilant and prompt in sending back intelligence on what the Whitemen has with them.
¹ ‘Omaregboma, who was stationed at Gwato to take white men to the king, said: " Ohebo came and met me at Gwato, and told me that the chiefs sent him to say that they had heard that plenty white men were coming, and I must send to tell the king what they brought.
² Ugiagbe told the court he was stationed at Egbini, in order that when a white man came from the Jekries he could take him to the king and bring him back. (Roth, H. L, Great Benin, 1903, app XV)
1) Roth, H. L, Great Benin, 1903, app xiv – xv
2) Roth H.L.,Transcript of the Trial of the king, (appendix 11); 1903
3) Roth H. L Transcript of the Trial of Ologbosheri; 27 June 1899, (appendix xviii); 1903