The Esan Okpa Initiative, a leading socio-cultural and non partisan organisation, has strongly called for guidelines to regulate the recruitment and behaviour of Esan politicians.
This is with a view to ensuring that only leaders with genuine commitment to the interests of the people are thrusted to lead them.
Presenting a welcome address to the two-day hybrid Esan Assembly, holding in Uromi, Esan North Esan Local Government Area of Edo State, under the aegis of EOI with the theme: “Development of Esanland And Its People: Confronting the Challenges of Our Time,” the organization’s President, Rt. Hon. Matthew Egbadon, said this was important in order to stimulate the process of development and transformation of Esanland.
While hinging the political travails of Esanland to “the lack of unity, lack of effective, transparent and selfless political leadership in Esanland today, that has contributed largely to our current state of near political irrelevance,” he slammed most of the current “political leaders” in Esan land today for being too preoccupied with their quest to pick the “crumbs at their political masters’ table”, rather than think of the collective interest of Esan people.
Egbadon said: “They are concerned more about how to win the next election for themselves or their favourite candidates than the collective interest of the present and next generation of Esan people – which should be our common concern and priority.
“Esan leaders must provide guidelines to regulate the recruitment and behaviour of our Esan politicians.”
Also proposing that “violators of the guidelines should be visited with collective sanctions and opprobrium,” he expressed the readiness of EOI “to offer a template on this guidelines, if this assembly approve this proposal.”
Dismissing the pervading “disinformation or misinformation being bandied about the demography of Esan people vis-a-vis of those of our neighbors in the State, that is now being accepted as the truth,” the Esan Okpa president lamented: “This is with a view to holding Esan, a major constituent part of Edo State, down politically.
“EOI finds the manipulation of the demography of Edo State to the disadvantage of Esan people as distasteful, as I am sure you do. The authentic 1963 census figures do not support the current lies about our population.
“Whilst it is true that there has been a lot of rural-urban drift of our young and productive population to the major cities in the other Senatorial districts and beyond, in search of economic opportunities, that is not enough to make them less Esan people or deprive them of their birth right of identity to their native mother land in the true sense of it.
“We should not be wearied of reiterating, day in, day out, to our neighbors, that our people reside all over the state and beyond; and they perform their civic responsibilities, including their voting rights in their places of residences.”
“We must also take steps to encourage our people to participate in voters’ registration, and where possible, encourage those outside Esan land to transfer their voting centres to Esan land. This requires a lot of voters’ education. With the support of this Assembly, EOI is ready to offer leadership in the Voters’ Education exercise.”
Calling on political leaders in Edo South and Edo North to support the quest of Esan to clinch the governorship slot in 2024, Egbadon, pioneer Speaker, Edo State House of Assembly, argued: “Today, the mantra, we hear everywhere is, ‘Esan Agenda for 2024’. We must walk the talk, by engaging our brothers and sisters, as well as our neighbours in the other senatorial districts, across partisan borders, and negotiate with them with mutual respect and candour, on the need to support Esan candidates for the Osadebey Avenue in 2024. Perhaps, we should re-christened the mantra as, ‘Edo Agenda for 2024’.
“Edo Agenda, is more inclusive. We must convince them that equity and justice require that they should support an Esan candidate for the government house in 2024, which has been effectively occupied in turns, by the other senatorial districts since 2008.
“We must assure them that the Esan candidate that will be supported by Esan people would have a pan Edo agenda. We must assure them that we have eligible, reliable and electable Esan persons that will be presented when the time comes. We must assure them that if we work together, we will achieve a new all – inclusive Edo, State which will be run on the basis of fairness, equity and justice for all the constituent parts of the State.
“It is important to state that the Edo people are one, and have treasured their common ancestry for ages. The common saying is, “Edo Okpa Maa khin” (Edo people are one). After all, our aspirations as Edos are the same – to have bankable and impactful social/economic development projects spread evenly across the state. EOI supports the setting up of an Advocacy Group for this engagement and would be ready to offer leadership to the Group.”
Demanding the revival of the Cassava Processing Factory in Uromi, started under the administration of Governor Lucky Igbinedion, which has now gone comatose, Egbadon, also a lawyer, while lamenting the lack of concrete attempts to industrialise Esanland by subsequent administration, calls for the establishment of more agro based industries to generate massive jobs for the people.
He said: “Historically, our forefathers settled in present Esanland due to the fertility of the land for agricultural purposes. Even in agriculture where Esan has a comparative advantage in various agricultural resources, no efforts have been made to set up agro-based small industries.
“We will never be tired of talking about the abandoned Cassava Processing Factory at Uromi, which was started during the regime of Chief Lucky Igbinedion, but later abandoned. It has been allowed to rot in the bush by successive governments. No thanks to politics.
“EOI is ready to partner with the state government to revisit and reactivate that project which has the capacity of not only providing abundant food resources for the state but can also provide both direct and indirect employment for our people.”
Also addressing the gathering, Chairman, Board of Trustees, EOI, Prof. Gabriel Ebosele Oteze, asserted that Esan people who have distinguished themselves in different facets of the country’s life, have made significant contributions to its development.
Oteze said: “Esan people are known for being intelligent, industrious, self-confident, purposeful and goal oriented.
“These attributes are praise worthy and are effective on level playing grounds where excellence is the yardstick for recognition and progress in an enterprise.
“They explain why many Esan sons and daughters have risen to enviable heights in various arms of the Nigerian and international arena in such diverse fields in politics, civil service, armed forces including the Police Force, industry, commerce, academia etc.
“Our folks back home have equally shown much resilience in the field of agriculture and Esanland was for a long time was the food basket of the Mid-West region.
“For several decades, women came from Warri, Benin City, Agbor to cart away yams, garri, plantain, oranges and other agricultural products from our towns on the market days at Uromi, Irrua, Ekpoma, Illushi, Ewohimi, Ewatto and other towns in Esanland.
“Thus the agricultural productivity which resulted from the hard work of the majority of the population contributed immensely to the food sustenance of the region.”
Outlining the political exploits of prominent Esan sons, including Elder Statesman, Chief Anthony Enahoro, who moved the historic motion for Nigeria to be independent in 1956, and first civilian Governor of Bendel State, Prof. Ambrose Alli, amongst several others, Oteze insists that they have made epic contributions to the political evolution of Nigeria.
He said: “Chief Anthony Enahoro’s role in moving the motion for independence in the House of Representative in 1953 is a refrain in my talk about Esanland. Less is said about the net-work of roads, he extended from Benin City through Ekpoma, Irrua to Uromi and from there to Ubiaja and Ewohimi and even to Agbor. What about the installation of the biggest water tank in West Africa at Ivue, Uromi which is the highest elevation in Esanland? This was way back in 1957. Chief Anthony Enahoro holds a special position in the political evolution of Nigeria.
“The brilliant performance of Prof. Ambrose Alli as Governor of Bendel State from 1979-1983 is a source of pride to all Esan people. It is a pity that he was misunderstood by some of the people he tried to help, because he made plans ahead of his time. What some people vilified him for are what they clamored for after he had gone. Still the indelible marks he left behind will continue to accelerate the progress of the area for generations to come.”
An array of distinguished scholars and notable public speakers will present papers at the event with the Keynote Address slated to 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, is presiding over the event as chairperson.
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.
A Communication and Development Expert, Tony Iyare; 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 tackling insecurity in Esanland, while an Education Scholar and former Provost, College of Education, Igueben, Prof. Ogbeide Omo Ojugo, will also be speaking on language and culture.
The two-day Assembly, which also features exhibition of Esan cultural artefacts and cuisines, is being attended by prominent personalities, including traditional rulers, academia, women and youth groups, politicians, persons living with disabilities and Esan people living in the Diaspora.
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,” says Egbadon.