For some time now, there has been tension in Ijaw/Bini communities in Ovia North East Local Government Council of Edo state as a result of land dispute. The Ijaws in the area are claiming ownership of the land which had pitched them against the palace of the Benin monarch. The Enogie (Duke) of Obazuwa, His Royal Highness, Prince Edun Akenzua who also is the younger brother to the Benin monarch, Oba Erediauwa oversees this disputed area. In this interview with Saturday Vanguard, he describes the Ijaws in the area as settlers asserting as unthinkable the claim being made by the Ijaws. He also speaks on the curse placed on kidnappers by the Oba of Benin, Governor Adams Oshiomhole’s administration and other national issues. Excerpts: The Ijaws and the Binis have been living harmoniously all these years. What went wrong? Well, there is no problem between the Benins and Ijaws over land. What we have is that the Ijaws are claiming land which we know belongs to the Benins. And we are telling them that that part of the area is Benin land. We accept the Ijaws, we know they live here for a very long time but they are living on Benin land. They have lived here over a 100 years. Nobody is going to ask them to leave because they are not Benin people but they cannot attempt to claim that the land on which they live here belongs to the Ijaw country. I describe them like the black Africans who are now referred to as African Americans, who were taken away to America. They have lived there for hundreds of years. They cannot claim that where they live in America belongs to any African country. Or that the only laws they will listen to are the laws made in Africa. So it is here. The Ijaws who live here are entitled to whatever goodies are available in Benin but the land belongs to us. How ijaws came to Benin soil Oba Orogbua brought them from Benin River to Iko. Oba Orogbua was the Oba that founded Lagos, Dahomey and all that. He went on expedition and of course he needed canoes to carry him and his troops across, and the Benin people are not sea faring people. So he decided to go and bring the Ijaws who were at that time at the Benin River where they were fishing. He brought a large number of them to Iko to paddle his boat for that expedition. After that they remained here. They have no business with land. They are not farmers. They stayed at the river banks where they built their houses. They caused no problem to the Benin people. In fact, in the late 80s, the Ijaw people in Gelegele were coming to pay homage to Oba Akenzua 11, that’s my father, by bringing fish. In 1988, I was installed the Enogie of Obazuwa. They was an Ijaw man, he was the Amakushiwe at that time, of the Ijaws in Iko. He told me that he used to be one of those who would put basket of fish on their heads. There were no cars then, and they would walk all the way from Iko to come and pay homage to my father. And he told me that when they got to Benin, there was a Chief called Legema who was at that time the Ogua who would now announce them. So we had very cordial relation. In 1988-89, the Ijaws in Iko would bring fish to Igo market and barter the fish for plantain and yam. We have been living peacefully with them but only now that their sons are becoming educated and they began to dangle before them the possibility of having a local government, the possibility of having a state, that they suddenly realized that they needed land. If you want a state, you cannot build a state on water, so you must have land. So this is why they are now fighting everywhere claiming that the whole of the water front should be constituted into a state for them. I don’t see any nation that will make one state to have all the water front contained in five or more states. Was it why they attacked your palace? What happened was that there was a time the state government was going to establish a model school and we had offered land because the government was looking for a suitable place for it, and we said we have a place. Government now sent a delegation to go and inspect the area we said was available. And when they came, they saw the flat land and they said they required about 12 hectares. So when they left, I called some boys in Obazuwa to physically measure the land to ensure that we had what was required. So the next morning which was a Friday, as the boys were doing that, almost opposite my palace there, the militants came and descended on them, cutting them with cutlasses and all that. In the process, they abducted three of the boys and took them to Iko. So I called the governor and the Commissioner of Police. We had to keep policemen on the land for over one month to protect the work the boys were doing. The opposition PDP is saying that Governor Adams Oshiomhole is not doing enough to check the activities of kidnappers in the state. What is your assessment of the ACN led government in the state? I will rather talk about Oshiomhole’s government because what he has done for Edo state, his work has turned him into a reference point. I personally appreciate more what he has done to the psyche of Edo people than building of roads. What he has done, perhaps not as visible, is what he has done to the psyche of the people because before Oshiomhole, governors in Edo state said physical development could be done because there was no money. Because people will now ask where did Oshiomhole get the money? We discovered now that Oshiomhole has in fact done what in two years the PDP government did not do in eight years. I was reading criticism of Oshiomhole the other day by the chairman of the PDP in the state, saying that the contractors being used by Oshiomhole are not Edo people. I just thought it was very unnecessary to say that. I don’t care who the contractor is provided the road is well built. And I hardly see any difference between ACN, PDP or ANPP. Because there is no difference between them. That is why it is so easy for any member to cross to the other party and feel comfortable in that new one. And those he is meeting feels happy to receive him because they are all the same. Before the last election…am the convener of a group known as the Bini Leaders of Thought. At that time, our focus was to have a Bini man to succeed Lucky Igbinedion. The reason for that was because one–we wanted to use our population to produce a governor because our thinking was that if we have a Bini man succeeding Lucky Igbinedion, the things we did not do during the administration Lucky Igbinedion we would have opportunity of doing them. And that was to develop the state. That was what we had in mind. Then Oshiomhole came, people reacted in the polls. And because the PDP government did nothing at that time, people supported Oshiomhole. He came and proved himself, he has proved he is capable of doing things. So this time around that they are going back to the polls, I will be surprised really if he does not get the support of the people. What if the PDP decides to throw up a Bini son as their candidate to challenge Oshiomhole? Where do you think the Binis will go? We the Benin people really believe in what people always say- that you don’t change a winning team. Oshiomhole has come to do what he is expected to do. Why must you change him? The Benins don’t just push for a position for the sake of it. Benin is one of the few places where we send non Benins to positions. Years back, we sent one Ekuyasi from Ogwasi Ukwu area to represent us in the Western House of Assembly. We look at competence not tribe really.