INSTITUTE FOR BENIN STUDIES
WELCOME ADDRESS BY
UYILAWA USUANLELE, THE CO-ORDINATOR OF INSTITUTE FOR BENIN STUDIES ON THE OCCASION OF THE THIRD CHIEF (DR) JACOB U. EGHAREVBA MEMORIAL LECTURE HELD ON FRIDAY 8TH DECEMBER, 2000 IN BENIN CITY.
On behalf of the entire members of the institute for Benin Studies, I welcome you to the third Chief (Dr) Jacob U. Egharevba (MBE) memorial lecture. This is also the fifth anniversary of the Benin Studies Newsletter as well as the sixth anniversary of the establishment of the Institute.
We are supposed to be celebrating this rare feat of publishing unceasingly for five years, in Africa where Journal causality rate is the highest in the world. However, we are not celebrating because of the deepening cultural crisis facing Edo society. The continued debasement and criminal neglect of our cultural heritage especially by Government is a major cause for serious concern.
It is this problem of governmental neglect that prompted the establishment of the institute. In these past years, especially in the year 2000, we have made modest progress especially in the area of capacity building viz opening of a functional office and establishment of a small reference library manned by paid staff. In addition, we organised a symposium on �Benin in contemporary Nigeria: An Agenda for the 21st Century� by Prof. Eghosa Osagie and publish Benin Studies
Newsletter on schedule as well as this 3rd Edition of Chief Dr. Jacob U. Egharevba Memorial Lecture.
These modest achievements have been made possible by the support and sacrifice in form of donations in cash and kind by well meaning and patriotic young Edo people, who feel disgusted enough by the neglect of our culture. Incontrovertible evidence of neglect of cultural development abound and manifest in the absence of councillors in charge of culture and programmes on cultural development at the Local Government Council levels. The State Government is not better off as
its Ministry and Council for Arts and Culture are at best co-ordinator and entertainment outfits for public and private functions. Our Cultural development needs today should go far beyond this laughable cultural vision of government . For instance, the National Museum Benin founded in 1947 and the Benin Arts and Craft School founded 1926 were established by the then Benin Divisional Council, which is the equivalent of a Local Government Council today. These institutions
helped to inspire and mould our numerous Cultural giants like Late Chief Jacob Egharevba, late Chief Ovia Idah, late Erhabor Emokpae, late Felix Idubor, Ikponmwosa Osemwegie, Emwinma Ogieriakhi and so on. Benin was then a cultural Mecca, which attracted the establishment of British Council and United State Cultural Centres and Libraries. But today these institutions and cultural personalities are no more and the people of Benin hardly even speak their native Edo language,
which is fast facing extinction.
The urgent need to redress this uninspiring situation in which Benin as a civilisation languishes, has compelled us to continously appeal to well meaning individuals and organisations for assistance and support. Permit us to single out for commendation our brothers and sisters in the Edo National Association (U.S.A) especially some of their members like Dr. Nowamagbe Omoigui and Mr. Dan Harper who assisted with the capacity building efforts of the institute ,our Guest
lecturer Dr Iro Eweka whose visit was facilitated by his son Prince Kingsley Eghe Eweka. We give special salute to the big masquerade, Mr. Vicotor Ogiemwonyi, MD/CEO, Partnership Investment Co. Ltd, and initiator Edo State Micro Credit Scheme. His role as the major sponsor made it largely possible for us to be gathered here today. We also salute the numerous other individuals and organisations for their assistance and unflinching support.
Like in past lectures, we have also chosen some individuals for our distinguished Merit Award. This is to show recognition and appreciation for their rewarding contribution to our society and showcase them as worthy of mulation. We thank you all for honouring our invitation and say a big welcome.