Three Itsekiri Chiefs - Fregonon, Dud and Dore. Dore is on the right with raised hand.
Build - up
Yesterday evening, three high ranking chiefs arrived from Benin to establish from Mr. Phillips what his intentions are. They were able to deduce that he and the other whitemen men are coming on a peaceful mission to have talks with the king. This differed from intelligence that they had received and for which they can see the evidence – many white men with hundreds of carriers – notwithstanding they give Mr. Phillips the benefit of doubt and accept that he is coming on a peaceful visit and is unarmed.
As the chiefs, had already declared a state of war with the White Queen and Mr. Phillips, they needed to be instructed by the king to cancel this plan. To do so would take at least two days from hence. First a message will need to be sent to the king that this is a peaceful visit. The message will arrive the next day. Then the king will need to send a message to his chiefs and soldiers at Gwatto to call off the war. This message will get to the chiefs and soldiers the following day. In all urgency, at least two days is required to settle the matter with the chiefs and soldiers. It is these two days allowance that the king requested, “They were all three rather elderly, grave, and most respectable - looking men. They informed Phillips that the King had sent them down to escort us up to Benin City, but hoped that we would wait at Gwatto for two days, so that they could send up and let the King know in time for him to make his preparations for receiving us.” (Boisragon, 1897, pages 83 -84). As Mr. Phillips is not privy to all the intelligence, he refuses to listen to the chiefs and agree to this.
The young chief at Gwatto and his people have managed to put Mr. Phillips and all the other white men at ease and they relax and enjoy themselves before retiring for the night (Boisragon, 1897, page 89). During the night, Benin spies check through all that the white men have brought with them, they are aided in this by the carriers and interpreters (Omaregboma’s evidence). They do not find any war weapons apart from pistols. This information is shared with the three mediation chiefs and they instruct Idiaie to tell the king so when he takes the white man’s stick to him in the morning.
Also Mr. Phillips had expected Idiaie to set off with the white man’s stick last night travelling through the forest alone all night to tell the king that they were coming on a peaceful visit to talk. Perhaps he was not aware that this was an impossible task to request, for what man would take on the jungle at night alone? Sensibly, Idiaie does not leave Gwatto till the following morning and after hearing from the mediation chiefs that no weapons have been found in the white men’s luggage.
1) Boisragon A, The Benin Massacre, 1897, pages 76 – 89
THE BENIN MASSACRE ITS PROBABLE CAUSE. Hobart Newspaper (3rd March 1897), page 3. Retrieved from http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/9392982
2) THE BENIN MASSACRE - WHY THE EXPEDITION WENT TO BENIN;
Publication: Guardian 1821 - 2000; Date: Jan 18, 1897, Section: None; Page 5.
3) Roth, H. L, Great Benin, 1903, app xiv – xv
4) Roth H.L.,Transcript of the Trial of the king, (appendix 11); 1903
5) Roth H. L Transcript of the Trial of Ologbosheri; 27 June 1899, (appendix xviii); 1903