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Which way, Edo State?

By Udeme Nana

It was one of the greatest Nigerian musicians, the late Sonny Okosun, who sang a song of despair with the title ‘Which Way Nigeria’ 34 years ago to bemoan the regression seen in Nigeria since after independence. If that musical icon were to be alive, he would have replaced the locale of his song, Nigeria, with his state of origin, Edo State. That is exactly what this writer has done with the title of this column.
Edo State, listed as Nigeria’s 22nd state, was created on 27th August 1991. It is peopled by five tribes: The Bini, Afemai, Esan, Owan and Akoko Edo dispersed across 18 local government areas.
That state has produced great men and women in almost every sphere of human endeavours and is home to such pioneers like the late Pa Michael Imoudu, the father of labour unionism in Nigeria; Solomon Arase, top cop and former inspector general of police in Nigeria. Edo is the homestead of the legendary Enahoro brothers, Anthony, who is reputed to have moved the motion for the independence of Nigeria and Peter, popularly known as Peter Pan, one of the greatest journalists to have plied that profession. The likes of the late Dele Giwa, Tony Momoh, Raymond Dokpesi, John Momoh of whom some contemporaries including Eric Osagie , Frank Aigbogun  and several others are worthy successors.
Still in the field of music, Edo gave Nigeria Majek Fashek, Sir Victor Uwaifo, and there are several others. Among very prominent Christian religious leaders from that state include Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie, the late Archbishop Benson Idahosa, Rev. Chris Oyakhilome and Apostle Johnson Suleiman of Omega Fire Ministry in Auchi .
In the business sector, the Esama of Benin, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion of the Okada fame leads the pack while it has also produced two former military ‘Vice Presidents’ – Admirals Augustus Aikhomu and Mike Akhigbe. Incidentally, one of their sons, still military red necks, Godwin Abbe, was the second military governor of Akwa Ibom State.
In the legal profession, Chief Mike Ozekhome SAN, stands tall, there are the Bello Osagies, the Ehanires, the Asemotas.  In the academia and other professions, Edo State has a sample that is representative of the best anywhere in Nigeria who could compete elsewhere in the world.
That state, in its glory days, could have provided all the players for the Super Eagles as it was an assembly line for great footballers like Stephen Keshi, Bright Omokaro, Sunday Egboigbe, Julius Agaghowa, Agbonlahor, Yakubu Ayegbeni, Wilfred Agbonibvare, Odion Ighalo etc.
Its ugly side with names like  Lawrence Anini, Monday Osunbor and their ilk; notorious underworld kingpins in addition to the state’s notoriety as the alleged ‘prostitution  headquarters’ in Nigeria cannot blight the rich profile of the Edo and its varied positive contributions to the development of Nigeria.
One of the beautiful things about Edo is the Bini traditional institution which has served to maintain the rich traditional culture of the people, particularly the Binis. Other shining lights in the resume of Edo are its ivory masks, bronze heads, coral beads and white attire which give their people a unique personality anywhere.
However, the story about Edo State this time which is on the front burner of national discourse is not about any breakthrough in education, science, technology, a new art-form, music from any of its numerous tertiary institutions, the news is not about a discovery of how the magical  traditional stool of the Oba has survived and  succeeded in maintaining the tradition and culture of the Binis for centuries. Yes, the story this time is not about how Chief David Edebiri, the Esogban of Bini Kingdom has been able to effectively administer and regulate the activities of witches and wizards in the ancient kingdom being their traditional head. It is not about the well-being of the average Edo indigene or how the state has grappled with the Covid-19 pandemic nor plans in the aftermath of the pandemic.
Rather, the running story is about the political disagreement between two erstwhile political allies, Adams Oshiomhole and Godwin Obaseki. The odyssey of Mr Oshiomhole,  former textile worker-turned labour unionist who rose to become the national president of the Nigerian Labour Congress, fought his way to emerge as a two-term governor of the state, and the national chairman of a ruling party in the country is the quintessential ‘from grass to grace profile’; a story that could inspire others. But his brash, brook-no-dissent attitude which led to his suspension by his Etsako Ward 10 of his party has not wrapped him in glory. The avoidable losses suffered by his party under his watch as the national chairman has not helped his profile as a great Leader and consensus builder.  Having led Edo State for a maximum two terms as provided by the Constitution, should he not have allowed his protégé some space to carry on as the governor?
Politics is designed to build societies, protect lives and property, provide an enabling environment for citizens to achieve their aspirations in life besides expanding the frontiers for development and progress but regrettably, back in Nigeria today, as exemplified by the rumblings in Edo State, politics seems to tear down people and the society.
Edo, a once pride of place, is now enmeshed in a theatre of the absurd.
Whenever the curtain falls on this raging political crisis, Nigerians, especially the younger generation, must take away some critical lessons, one of which is to take very seriously their education and documentation through the entire process. No student should leave gaps in any aspect. Ensure that names are correctly spelt and consistently so at every stop. Ensure that the T’s are crossed and the i’s properly dotted.
These are very little things that can shame and torpedo lifelong aspirations.
It is also critical to pay attention to formation of character in the Nigerian society because any society which recruits leaders with poorly seasoned backgrounds lays a foundation for needless crisis.

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