How to transform Esanland in 10 Years
By – Saintmoses Eromosele.
The following names need no introduction in Nigeria. They all have one thing in common – they are Esan by birth or by matrimony.
Admiral Augustus Aikhomun (Formerly Vice President of Nigeria), Chief Anthony Eromosele Enahoro (Formerly Minister, FGN and mover of Independence Motion for Nigeria. Professor Ambrose Alli (Formerly Governor of Bendel (Edo and Delta) State, Mr. Jackson Edokpa (Formerly SSG to Ambrose Alli, Bendel State), Chief Tony Anenih (Formerly Minister, FGN, BOT Chairman of PDP and Chairman of MKO Abiola’s SDP), Chief Tom Ikimi (Formerly Minister, FGN and chairman of Alj Bashir Tofa’s NRC), Mrs Stella Obasanjo (Formerly wife of President and First Lady FGN), Arch. Mike Onolenmenmen (Formerly Minister, FGN), Senator Odion Ugbesia (Formerly Minister/Senator FGN), Professor Oserheimen Osunbor (Formerly Governor, Edo State), Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan (Formerly Governor, Delta State), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole (Formerly Governor, Edo State), Anthony Cardinal Okogie, (Cardinal of the Vatican City), Pastor Chris Oyakhilomen, (Christ Embassy), Professor Friday Okonofua (Ford Foundation/WHO consultant, Obstetrics and Gynaecologist), Professor Aigbokhan (Economist extraordinary), Professor Aigbomian (Administration extraordinary) Professor Mike Isokun (Sociologist), the list is too long.
With such a long list of eminent persons all from or connected directly to Esan, one would imagine that Esanland should be something of the rating of Benin City, Ibadan or even Minna. But what does Esanland have today? A far cry. Sad.
Does Esanland, politically termed Edo Central Senatorial District, actually reflect its status as a senatorial district in Edo State with legally equal status as Edo South and Edo North senatorial districts? Why then is there a near absence of economic development across the land? This sordid situation should be changed by deliberate design. Enough of politics of ‘Osemeighe’. It is time for ‘Osemaighe’!
We do not need to wait for the state or federal governments before we start to develop Esanland. This article is NOT intended to be an indictment of anyone or any institution – although hitherto they have mostly failed woefully to articulate for Esan transformation – but it is a suggestion of steps to be taken henceforth for the transforming of Esanland from its current rural nature into a thriving network of commercial cities, economic nerve centres as well as well planned real estates and touristic centres to attract greater economic activities and of course attendant population explosion too to help enact sustainable investments for the district and also as improve her political bargaining stakes.
How could Esanland be blessed with such array of dignitaries and yet, like Nigeria which is blessed but bound with oil, our land lies in abjection, squalor and monumental waste. Our people wallow in deprivation and inexplicable poverty. Our resources remain largely untapped and it appears that governance is totally absent in the daily lives of the good people of Esanland.
Why is Esanland underdeveloped? It is time to build the Esan Nation by all Esan women and men of goodwill, whether you wear the albeit temporary uniforms of APC, PDP, Labour, ANPP, or what have you on your permanent bodies which are Esan. This is the time to set an Esan Agenda for transformation within every political platforms we may find ourselves.
Again, why is Esanland so underdeveloped?
The answer could be summed up in one sentence: Lack of a clear Vision for Esanland by selfish Esan politicians and hitherto political leaders.
My relationship with my fellow Esan people within the last sixteen years have opened my eyes to this grotesque problem.
First, I noticed quite sadly that Esan politicians are mostly myopic and small minded – provincial. An Uromi man cannot see himself asking for General Hospital for Ekpoma even though he lives and works in Ekpoma simply because he is not from Ekpoma. This applies both ways. An Ekpoma man will find it awkward and even wrong for him to advocate for the revitalization of BFFM Ltd (Ewu Flour Mill) in Ewu even though he worked at that factory simply because he is not from Ewu. An Ubiaja man considers Ilushi and Ewohimi as places of least interest for development. The Igueben man will say an Ekpon man is not qualified to be their chairman simply because his tongue is slightly different. This is not the case in Edo South or Edo North. They act for “anywhere in our district” not the “my village or Gboligi”.
Esan people prefer to talk in terms of Uromi, Irrua, Ekpoma, Igueben, Ubiaja, Ewu, Ewatto, etc and hardly ever Esanland. This is the beginning of the big problem. How can you be taken seriously by outsiders when you don’t even know your own geography?
The time is ripe for Esan people from the five local government areas of Esanland to collectively agitate for the interest of Esanland and make the other districts to realise that Esanland is a bloc that should not be sidelined or marginalized as much as law and common sense permit.
Strength lies in the unity. This is effectively captured in the trite Esan saying ”Akugbe Ahu!”
But how could we reverse this ugly trend of disunity and its attendant underdevelopment for Esanland? What are the steps to be taken to begin the reorientation and transformation process beyond periodic political abracadabra of politicians who do not see beyond elections and party loyalty?
The writer of this article recommends six steps to be taken to begin what he terms a “Decade of Transformation for Esanland – 2018 – 2028 and make Esanland the envy of the other equally beloved Nations in Edo, Nigeria and Africa. It is possible. Odijialu, only if we are willing.
Esanland is strategically located and sufficiently endowed with abundant resources and a youthful, skilled, highly educated and self motivated population that could cause the biggest transformation story that could ever come out of Edo State with or without the contribution of the state or federal governments.
Below are the six steps to be taken to kick start this process:
1. Prioritization of Development over politics.
Each LGA in Esanland, either government or opposition, must set priorities of development of the councils in targeted strategic economic areas. Agriculture, education, skills acquisitions and vocational training, job creation, business support initiatives, sports, entertainment, transportation and real estates, among others.
2. A quality based selection process for leadership positions.
Only visionary and competent people should be nominated for elective or appointive positions by parties and public servants. Councillorship and Chairmanship positions are not for “Settlement” or “turn by turn” but avenues for economic and social transformation hence only the very best – and younger persons mostly – should be elected henceforth.
3.The five local government areas of Esanland should constitute what I call a District Advisory Board which should comprise non-politician technocrats and academics who are to regularly advise on integrated and comprehensive development strategy for Esanland in order to generate sufficient economic activities to make the District a commercially attractive district in Edo State.
The proposed District Advisory Board should be statutorily funded by Bye law passed in each of the Parliaments of the five LGAs for a certain percentage of their allocation or revenue be deducted for the DAB to work with a legal framework of a Joint Stock Company jointly owned by the Five Councils with head office at the geographic centre of Esanland, in which case Ugbegun fits the description.
4. In addition to the District Advisory Board, an ”Esanland Integrated Development Commission (EIDC)” should be established by 2019 to be a sustainable public institution that will attract and execute projects for the development of Esanland both economically and socially. This commission shall be jointly funded by;
a. the five LGA councils
b. Relevant House of Assembly members
c. Relevant National Assembly members
d. NGOs committed to Esan development of Esanland.
e. Donations, Endowments, etc.
This Commission should function as an independent Commission or a Company administered by professionals who shall identify areas of viable and necessary investments in Esanland, or elsewhere in Nigeria or abroad, provided always that staff of all its ventures are mostly sourced from the best of Esanland. The Commission, like the Yoruba’s Odua Group, could establish companies, mega farms, factories, transport networks, scholarships, loans for artisans and traders, business centres, etc. The Commission could attract or establish a Nollywood Village in Esanland and establish a movie or music production and marketing company in Esanland, partnering with Enugu and Lagos. These would invariably create and multiply jobs, generate prestige, develop the communities and automatically end the cry of marginalisation.
A vocational training and ICT village could be established in Esanland and this will further empower the Esan people and create employment too. Lots could be done. We just need to have the right people in authority because Oneghéselé – the time for transformation has come!
5. Corruption and Godfathers.
One big issue in Esan politics is “Atalefoh” syndrome. In general parlance the “They have chosen him already!” But no one seems to know with certainty who that “they” really are. This situation which is not democratic leaves such selected leaders or representatives with the option of undermining the people who no longer matter and then indulge in wanton corruption.
Corruption should be eradicated or reduced steadily and godfatherism should be redefined in Esanland. Godfathers should provide for the people, not take from the people.
6. Esan political office holders from councillors to Senators should be encouraged to reside in Esanland with their families.
Specifically, by legislation that should be enacted if this writer were elected into the Edo State House of Assembly in 2019, Councillors and Chairmen will be forbidden to live outside their constituency for more than two weeks in a quarter, for the duration of their appointments. This will encourage quick solutions to the problems confronting the people, including security and bad roads . A situation where a Chairman of a council in Esanland lives in Benin city should never be tolerated in the new world order in Esanland because oneghéselé!
If Esanland does these and more, within ten years, the development disparity would be bridged, the Decade of Transformation would have been achieved and the cries of marginalization would forever cease. No one likes, or dares, to marginalise a success story. Perhaps only failures or ignorant people truly get marginalised. Success is a festival, failure is an orphan.
Esanland would truly become the pride of all. Let those who say ‘It cannot be done” give way for those who see that ”It can be done”. Let the Oijialus leave the scene for the Odijialus because Oneghé Oselé!
Saintmoses Eromosele (Ewu, Esan Central) is a lawyer, publisher, entrepreneur, community organizer, and leader of the Esan National Congress. He writes from Germany.
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