WELCOME TO OVARENWEN SQUARE & THE CORRECT ACCOUNT OF 1897 BENIN PUNITIVE WAR:
The British and Oba Ovonramwen:
Captain James Philip, sent a local boy to inform the King of Benin that he, Philip and his party were on their way to the City to pay the King a visit. The messenger was told to go and tell Philip that he could not see the King because the King does not receive visitors during the IGUE FESTIVAL.
Philip was advised to visit Benin when the Igue ceremony was over, but he ignored the advice, as soon as the messenger left for Benin, Philip and his party followed.
They had barely covered 17 kilometers when Benin courtiers came face-to-face with the white men. They told them to turn back as the King would not receive them because of the taboo, but the men turned deaf ear and pressed forward. An interaction ensued during which the Benin Chiefs opened fire to stop them. Seven white men fell. Two escaped and took the news home.
On February 10, 1897 , the British attacked and vandalized the kingdom. Benin was attacked simultaneously from three flanks – Ughoton, Ologbo and Sokponba.
Benin troops were dazed by the flying missiles. They had fought many battles but they had never seen these strange weapons of war. They flew like birds, hit targets and burst into flames. In the face of the insurmountable odds, Benin troops capitulated. They had lost their first battle. It was a great loss.
The palace was reduced to a ruble of ashes and charred wall. More than 2,500 bronze and ivory religious artifacts were looted by the British soldiers.
They dethroned the King and sent him into exile in Calabar where he lived for 17 years until he died, in suspicious circumstances in 1914.
Observation: The war was predicated purely on economic reasons in order to open free trade route in the protectorate