In a bold move to reinforce its new vanguard role in Esanland, the Esan Okpa Initiative, a leading socio-cultural and non-partisan organisation, plans to hold a crucial hybrid maiden assembly to discuss burning issues affecting the people of the Central Senatorial District of Edo State.
This was announced in a statement made available on Thursday by a son of Esanland and media guru, Tony Iyare.
According to Iyare, the Assembly is expected among other issues to strategise on how to create an enduring industrial base in Esanland and ensure that the largely agrarian community benefits from all the value chains in agriculture as a way of checking the massive drift of the bulk of its population to major urban cities like Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt.
The gathering is also meant to prepare the groundwork on how to ensure that the next Governor of Edo State is of Esan extraction.
The two-day gathering slated for Uromi, Esan North East Local Government Area from May 6 to 7, 2022, is with the theme: “Development of Esanland And Its People: Confronting the Challenges of Our Time.”
It is expected to be graced by a cross section of prominent Esan people, including traditional rulers (the Enijie), political actors, academia, civil society activists, public administrators, women, youth, business persons, security experts and Esan people in the Diaspora.
According to the Chairman, Esan Assembly Planning Committee, Engineer George Okoyo, matters to be discussed span from the economy to security, agriculture, politics, media, Esan language and culture, women and youth development, while the gathering will elicit virtual and physical attendance.
An array of distinguished scholars and notable public speakers will lead the discussions at the event, which will also feature a welcome address by the President, Esan Okpa Initiative, Rt. Hon. Mathew Egbadon, pioneer Speaker, Edo State House of Assembly; a goodwill message by the Chairman, Board of Trustees, Prof. Gabriel Oteze; and a fraternal message by the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki.
A Keynote Address will also be delivered by popular human rights activist, Prof. Sylvester Odion Akhaine of the Political Science Department, Lagos State University, while a former Deputy Vice Chancellor, University of Port Harcourt, Prof. Joseph Donatus Okoh, will be the chairman of the assembly.
Other speakers expected to grace the occasion include Economics Scholar, Prof. Mike Obadan, who will be speaking on the Esan economy.
Former President, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, Emmanuel Ijewere, will discuss a paper on agriculture.
Iyare, a Communication and Development Expert; a Sociology Scholar, Prof. Philomena Ibhade Ozo Eson; and Dr. Pascal Ebhohimen, a former Director at the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation, will also deliver separate papers on the media, women and youth development respectively.
A retired Army General, Cecil Esekhaigbe, will present a paper on security, while the former President, Association of Esan Professionals, Mike Osime, will also be speaking on language and culture.
Other highlights of the gathering projected to attract a physical attendance of 500 persons will be the exhibition of Esan cultural artefacts and the display of local cuisines.
“Participants will be treated to rich Esan works of arts and delicacies of its local cuisines. They’ll surely have a memorable time,” says Okoyo, also Vice President of Esan Okpa.
Floated jointly by three legacy organisations: Ikolo Esan, based in Benin City; Esan Club 30, which operates in Port Harcourt; and Association of Esan Professionals, with headquarters in Lagos, the objectives of Esan Okpa, whose vision is to defend and promote the interests of Esan people located in the five LGAs of Edo Central Senatorial District, include Overall development of Esanland; Ensure cohesion and unity among Esan people; Promote the welfare and general wellbeing of Esan people; Promote Esan language; and defend the culture and other positive values of Esan people by using ALL LAWFUL MEANS at its disposal to achieving the objectives.
“We need to add that, the formation of this body (EOI), has the blessings and support of the Traditional Institution in Esanland, the Religious Leaders, Youth bodies, Women organizations, the Academia, Politicians (across party lines), Students and Community leaders in Esanland,” said Egbadon, who is also a lawyer, at the organisation’s maiden press conference.