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House of Commons Chamber – The Exiled King Of Benin
MR. CATHCART WASON (Orkney and Shetland) – I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies if the Government will now consider the case of Overiami [sic] , ex-King of Benin, who has been in banishment from his country and people for nearly ten years, with the view of permitting him to return home; and if he is aware that the British mission to Benin was the original aggressor, and also that there was no direct evidence inculpating the ex-King with the disastrous results to the said mission, for which he has suffered punishment.
COLONEL SEELY – The case has been considered, and I regret to say that I cannot hold out any hope of its being possible to agree to the return of Overiami. The Secretary of State is fully aware of the circumstances as described in the Papers presented to Parliament in August, 1897, but, as the mission was a pacific one and the officers taking part in it were unarmed, the term “aggressor” seems hardly appropriate. There can be no question as to the part played by Overiami in the matter.
MR. CATHCART WASON asked whether it was a fact that the officers and men were especially warned not to go there.
COLONEL SEELY replied that if his hon. friend would look back he would find in the Blue-book that it was quite a mistake to regard the mission as the aggressors. The state of affairs described in the Blue-book was very shocking and made it impossible for the Government to reconsider this matter.
* Photograph taken by Jonathan Adagogo Green on board the S. S. Ivy, a British Government vessel, as Oba Ovonramwen, King of Benin was exiled to Old Calabar in 1897. The soldiers are members of the Niger Coast Protectorate force © The Trustees of the British Museum
Credit Kehinde Thompson