The Western Looters of Benin
Written by Morenike Adebayo on April 25, 2018
My people, some invaluable property has been stolen from us. This is aside from the billions of naira embezzled by our power elite. We are dealing with international thieves who plundered our people during colonial times and continue to benefit from those crimes.
In the British Museum lies a pretentious display of colonially acquired artefacts from Benin. This includes one of the Benin ivory masks of Queen Idia, three of which were plundered by a British in 1897 during a so-called “punitive expedition”.
The other two were sold to museums in New York and Stuttgart. These cities display with pride the relics of centuries -worth of oppression and subjugation. This is how the West continues to exploit our culture to date. And, by remaining silent on the issue, we allow the West to assume they have our tacit consent to continue profiteering from the spoils of imperialism. What wrongly lies in European and North American hands is the intellectual and physical property of our ancestors.
The West has shown us time and time again that it has neither respect nor regard for our resources. During the punitive expedition during which the casts of Queen Idia were stolen, the British also destroyed the largest man-made structure in the world at the time – the Walls of Benin. This is the same way Shell and Mobil continue to pollute the land, air, and water with their extraction activities; damages they are unlikely to attempt in their countries.
To add insult to injury, the very same nations that profit from stolen Nigerian goods are the same ones which classify Nigeria as “fantastically corrupt”, to use the words of ex-British Prime Minister David Cameron. It is time to end the hypocrisy.
In light of Nigeria’s recent economic crises, the government must not neglect to call for its cultural capital back from those who stole it. Not only would this recovery be matter of national pride, it would also boost the Nigerian economy by encouraging tourism. This was the case with Ethiopia, when in 2005 a one thousand, seven hundred-year old granite obelisk was recovered sixty-eight years after being stolen by Italian expansionists. We can and should follow suit.
The revenue that we so badly need from these artefacts is being appropriated every day by those who do not even need it. We must follow Ethiopia’s example and demand – not ask – for our stolen artefacts back. May God Bless our beloved Country, Nigeria.
Funmilayo Adetokunbo A-A, a political and International Affairs Analyst, writes from Somerset, England, United Kingdom.