The Institute for Benin Studies is a non profit, research and documentation organization dedicated to the study of the history, culture and values of Edo people of Midwestern Nigerian and the Nigerian people in general. It was established in 1995 to represent the physical framework of the Edo people’s ‘talking-shop’ and self-criticism that had permeated all spheres of life. It seeks patronage from all quarters at home or abroad and, at its own discretion, affiliates with foreign organizations of its own type. The Institute accords parity of esteem and equality to all tribes within the designation (BENIN) in matters particularly relating to History (oral or written), custom, tradition, language/dialects.
It is no longer news that Benin and Benin studies; the most documented so far of all Edo communities, experienced a protracted period of decline especially in the second half of the 20th Century due largely to continued disinterestedness demonstrated by African Scholars leaving the field for the mostly Western scholars who unarguably constituted the bulk of scholars on Benin Studies which is inclusive of present day Edo, Delta, parts of Ondo, Ekiti and Bayelsa States. The Institute stands for the DISCIPLINE of process rather than for the PROCESS of discipline. Thus, it provides results and answers through settled and mature expertise by practical methods and means. Tried and tested theories are set within the framework of actual events and activities far from reductionist principles.
The Institute, out of absolute necessity has come to represent the institutional oasis in orientation, dynamism and empirical action that must spearhead and become the rallying point of genuine and committed renaissance pursuit of the Benin dream, idea and ideals. Consequently, championing the course of a ‘revival’, especially one of such a glorious past, can only be appreciated in the words of Nicollo Marchiavelli: ‘‘there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things”.
The foremost of the problem is the use of, or the attenuating use of, or better still, the emerging non-use of the Edo Language by the present generation. This situation would evidently leave nothing for the succeeding generations if we continue to pretend that all is well. It is often said that a language not used, dies. It’s going into extinction has many references in history, after all, Latin was once a widely spoken and written language, yet it virtually disappeared into thin air. Edo too can “disappear” (God forbids) if we continue to display apathy in its use and development.
This Institute has therefore, in the face of government’s negative attitude, concluded arrangements to immediately begin the teaching of Edo Language at three levels of, “Beginners”, “Intermediate” and “Advance” once the basic requirements are available.
The Language program shall comprehensively address issues on spoken and written forms, culture and tradition, ethical values and attitudes, religion, economy and territorial integrity.
There are a number of documents from the efforts of various scholars, researchers and chroniclers of Benin (Edo) Studies yearning for publication.
To assist documentation efforts of the Institute, she requires items like Tape Recorders, Video, CD and VCD/DVD players, Television Sets, Video Cameras and CD Re-writers. Also, a Presentation-Projector and Public Address Equipment (PAE) are required.
LIBRARY AND ARCHIVAL MATERIALS
To boost the library and enrich its stock, we are aware that some families have materials inherited, which may not seem useful to the family or are not being optimally utilized. Therefore, books, reports, photographs, relics or any material of historical importance is solicited as donation from individuals, families or groups, corporate bodies or organizations to the Institute.
The responsibility of redeeming and reclaiming our collective disappearing patrimony is one that cannot be abandoned, no matter the circumstance or consequence. To this effect, the Institute began the annual Chief Dr. Jacob U. Egharevba Memorial Lecture in 1997 and fifteen (15) of such lectures have been held.
This program compulsorily produces one historical document on Benin Studies each year and we publish them as individual monographs. Documentation on Benin is by this lecture series constantly kept in forward motion by this singular project. This however, cannot be said of other Edo State’s languages and communities’ history; efforts are being made to practically instigate further research on the other communities.
Periodically, we generate a seminar or conference theme that would prove worthy for scholars, historians and researchers both nationally and internationally to brainstorm, while the proceedings would be published. Again, this is aimed at empirically boosting books / materials stock, and development of Benin Studies, including also scholarship and career development as lecturers from all over have come to look forward toward it.
Definitely, no. Perhaps it is pertinent to reiterate at this juncture that the problem of Benin (Edo) people is common knowledge, which is freely and frequently discussed whenever and wherever two or more Benin people meet. If the problem is this real and potent why then is it seemingly impossible to achieve UNITY among Edo. I do apologize for using the word “impossible”, for in the words of Prof. Iro Eweka (of blessed memory), “it may be difficult but it is not impossible”. The difficulty arises, partly at least, from prevailing inability to trust and be trusted. A situation in which mutual distrust prevails, unity and co-operation would be difficult to secure.
EXPECTATION FROM STAKEHOLDERS
As a project where many individuals, groups and corporate organizations are expected to perform interrelated activities, the prudent use of available resources to achieve desired goals in an effective and timely manner is sine-qua-non to success and continuity.
In an environment where integrity is increasingly becoming a scarce commodity, we at this Institute make bold to present ourselves for scrutiny.
We must dispense with our lackadaisical attitude towards Benin Studies, documentation and propagation. The whole world is looking forward to Edo with great expectation in cultural and traditional leadership and we cannot afford to remain complacent. One Carl Walker, an African American living in Guatemala, stated this most succinctly:
“Indeed what I find and consider very perplexing is the availability of information on the Ifa divination, (literally hundreds of books), and even readily accessible information on the Afa divination of the Ewe, and Fa divination of the Fon (especially in French), but practically nothing in print of the Iha divination of the Edo which may very well be the source from which the others derived! Could someone explain why this has occurred?”
Sadly, the answer to this poser lies in our unwillingness to contribute meaningfully to the common good without the expectation of immediate recompense and the mindless exploitation of our political leaders and representatives over time.
However, like the proverbial shadow, Benin’s cultural and traditional preservation and resilience is legendary worldwide and we cannot run away from it. This became deservedly manifest in the 8th National Assembly wherein the Senator (Pharm. Matthew Urhoghide) and Oredo Federal Constituency Representative (Engr. Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama) were handed the CHAIRMANSHIP of the Culture and Tourism Committees in the respective chambers.
Registered members of the Board of Trustees include:
- Victor Ogiemwonyi – Chairman and CEO Partnership Investment Plc.
- Eghosa Osagie FIBS – Former Vice Chancellor, Benson Idahosa University, Benin City
- Eghosa Osaghae – Vice Chancellor – Igbinedion University, Okada, Edo State
- Uyilawa Usuanlele – Associate Prof & Coordinator – The Americas
- (Mrs.) Kokunre Eghafona – Prof of Sociology / Anthropology, University of Benin, Benin City.
- Chief Ogie Ogedegbe – Member & Publicity Coordinator
- Aiko Obobaifo – Member & Secretary
For further enquiries contact:
The Executive Secretary,
Mr. Aiko Obobaifo
18, Ezoti Street, Off Airport Road, Benin City.
Tel: 08033909089, 08052438001
e-mail: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Uyilawa Usuanlele