The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, said the President of Benin Republic, Patrice Talon, had expressed readiness for his country to be part of Nigeria.
Onyeama, who stated this shortly after a close door meeting with Beninoise Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Aurélien Agbenonci, said the Beninoise president gave the offer when he visited President Muhammadu Buhari, a few weeks back.
“The President of Benin said as far as they are concerned, they want (not just saying it like that) but in reality, Benin should be the 37th state of Nigeria,” he said.
“We should really be one. They charged us to come together at ministerial level, to work out a framework for a sustainable relationship.”
Onyeama said, at the visit, both presidents discussed agreements between the two countries on how to put the issue of smuggling to an end, once and for all, as a follow up to the presidents’ meeting.
The Republic of Benin was an ephemeral unrecognized secessionist state in West Africa which existed for one day in 1967. It was established on 19 September 1967 during the Nigerian Civil War as a puppet state of Biafra, following its occupation of Nigeria’s Mid-Western Region, and named after its capital, Benin City, with Albert Nwazu Okonkwo as its head of government.
The new state was an attempt by Biafra to prevent non-Igbo residents of the neighbouring Mid-Western Region from siding with Nigeria following regional ethnic tensions early in the war.
Prior to colonial rule, part of the territory that is now Benin consisted of powerful, independent kingdoms, including various Bariba kingdoms in the north and in the south the kingdoms of Porto-Novo and Dahomey (Dan-ho-me, “on the belly of Dan;” Dan was a rival king on whose grave Dahomey’s royal compound was built).
In the late 19th century, French colonisers making inroads from the coastal region into the interior borrowed the name of the defeated Dahomey kingdom for the entire territory that is now Benin; the current name derives from the Bight of Benin.