In the nineteenth century, Benin held important sway in the Western Niger
Delta. By mid-1890s, British agents had undermined much of Benin's influence
in the region. Benin's most important connection in the Western Niger Delta
was in Urhobo country, in large part because Urhobo and Benin had abiding
cultural ties, which helped to maintain the influence of the King of Benin
in Urhoboland. By 1896 all of southern Nigeria, including Urhobo country,
had fallen into British colonizing hands, with the single exception of
Benin. In February 1897, the British attacked Benin, capturing its mighty
King, who was revered in Urhoboland. Chief
Daniel Obiomah who supplied the English lyrics of the following version
of a folk song (originally rendered in Urhobo) said of the King of Benin's
capture: "So shocking was the capture of the Oba that the Urhobos sang:"
Shall I run, Shall I walk, Will I yet catch up with the Oba? Shall I run, or shall I walk? The tale is all abroad that the Whiteman's taken captive Even the Oba of Benin; And they are deporting him. Shall I run, shall I walk? Can I catch a glimpse, O! What a tale!