Tribalism: Why Unity and Cooperation are our Only Hope in Edo State
By: Saintmoses Eromosele
There is no contention the fact that the people of Edo State are one related family and culturally inseparable; from the hills of Kukuruku, through the plateau of Esanland down to the red earth plains of Owan and Benin City.
We are culturally inseparable, forever.
Even if, perhaps in the future, ostensibly to benefit from the extant federal revenue and political sharing formula that gives more to more states, the Kukurukus, the Esan and the Benin decided to take advantage of the rather skewed revenue and opportunities allocation formula of the federation of Nigeria that allocates on the basis of LGAs and States with little consideration for landmass or economic contribution and – acting like the others have been doing since the military regime – we decided to create more political federal states carved out from our current one state, but our cultural bond will continue to bind us together towards cooperation and mutual promotion and defence, even in the federation of Nigeria. And it has to be so.
Edo, Esan, Etsako, Etuno, Owan, Akoko, others in Edo State, we are essentially one and the same; outside pointless politics played by those who are Lilliputians both in their stature, nature, nurture and culture.
Our unity or oneness was not forged by politicians, circumstances or contemporary sages like that of the Igbos, the Hausas, the Yoruba and others which happened in memorable history.
Ours has been from time immemorial. Only our real or apparent division that is contemporary, and fake. We should tear down the fake imported Tannenbaum tree and allow our real Iroko to stand tall.
To try to think or act like we are not one people is to be clever by half and be stupid by leaps and bounds.
I have had the privilege of staying or visiting at least 16 of the 36 states of Nigeria. Apart from Edo State which is my home state; Delta, Bayelsa, Cross River, Anambra, Enugu, Abia, Imo, Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo, Kogi, Kaduna, Nassarawa, Plateau, and of course the FCT are places I have visited.
I have visited many towns and villages of each of the 18 LGAs of Edo State, more than once. I have visited every one of the ten Wards in Esan Central LGA of Edo State, my origin LGA.
I take delight in travelling, in meeting new people, in growing my network of friends and acquaintances. Therein lies hands-on experience in interpersonal human and diplomatic relations, and of course traveling is a vital part of education. Ignorance breeds speculation and gives birth to ethnocentrism which is at the root of ethnoreligious conflict that is ravaging Nigeria today. Simply put, if we knew ourselves more, we would fight among ourselves less.
Flowing from the above, it is highly recommended that Edo state government should work out a programme, similar to the NYSC but aimed at all citizens who attained 18 years of age or completes secondary school – whichever is earlier – for them to be on government stipend for one year and posted to ‘work’ for the government in local communities or teach in public schools outside their senatorial districts. This will help to deepen their knowledge of the state, better understand and appreciate one another in the state and grow an enduring Pan-Edo movement in their hearts and souls. Of course it would serve as a model for the federation too to resolve the recurring ethnoreligious crises by people who are fed with hate and not understanding simply because of palpable ignorance both of the culture and religion of the ones they claim to hate.
Based on my extensive travels and close interaction with people of the different parts of Nigeria and in each of the 18 local government areas of Edo State, I can say that I have learned a lot – though not all there is to learn – to be able to rise above the petty trappings of tribalism, nepotism and intolerant ethnocentrism which are at the heart of our problems in Edo state and Nigeria, if we allowed the wrong seed to be fertilised among us.
From my travels across Nigeria, I see how truly different we are but not how divided. Difference isn’t and shouldn’t be division. I have come to realise that our division is mainly in politics, street or governmental – not in our culture, commerce and ordinary relations – even sexuality and relationship.
I observed that among the Igbos, the Hausas, and the Yorubas, there exists profound differences in their several hitherto mutually unintelligible languages, and even conflicting cultures. But they have managed to set aside pointless petty tribal pride to adopt one of their several different languages and cultures as “Central Igbo”, “General Yoruba”, “General Hausa,” etc.
Unfortunately in Edo State, rather than find a common language for us to band together stronger, we are busy doing “Bojuboju and I Touch You Last” of “Esan nor good”, “Benin nor good”, “Etsako, Owan, Akoko-Edo nor good”. Na only you good, abi?.
Let us wake up and check the time – we are losing much very fast and not much time is left to ‘midnight’.
It is time to wake up and smell the coffee.
I hold this truth to be valid and self evident that we are better off together, in spirit and in truth. We will all perish separately, if we continued to allow puerile pointless politics practiced by selfish and poorly educated accidental politicians to deepen division among us by their wicked propping up of rather non existent enmity amongst us just for them ride on the sentiment to ascend to a certainly cursed power.
The time has come to say ‘Caboodle Rejectamenta’ to those politicians and their plots and to vehemently remind them that ‘though our districts or areas may differ, in eternal brotherhood we stand in Edo’. This should be our slogan – ‘Kugbe’.
Tribalism, Nepotism, even Racism are learned, not genetic. They are products of nurture, not nature. The best therapy to learned problems like those is unlearning. Unlearning is a process, just like learning. It starts from the point of decision. Let us decide today to stop the hate learning by unlearning to discriminate against someone you know in your heart is innocent, competent and you really don’t dislike in the recess of your heart.
Decide today to unlearn tribalism. Replace it with charity.
Show love to everyone, starting with the neighbors you see around you. Don’t travel to Kafanchan to find someone to help. Help the ‘Samaritan’ you meet everyday along ‘your way’. Your neighbors, wherever they come come from. It is the main commandment of God.
Decide to unlearn Nepotism. Replace it with Mentorship.
Don’t give delicate appointments to incompetent people simply because he’s your village man. Apart from political appointments which the law recommends to be proportional, give all other tasks to those competent. The results will benefit all, including your ‘village’ man. Give the appointment to the wrong person because of Nepotism, everyone suffers.
Even if you must appoint from your ‘village’, ensure that you find the best person from that your village and not merely your incompetent ‘cousin’ who may end up disgracing your entire village.
When you find mostly incompetent people around you, it’s your fault if you don’t start to mentor then by training and equipping the next generation rather than pampering them by cheap nepotistic positions. It’s no crime to choose someone from your village or family tree, but please choose the best among them and help the society to get the best service delivery.
We must actively seek to unlearn those petty tribal hatred mostly learned after secondary school.
We in Edo State must realise that our being only one state is not at all because we lack size or population. It is mainly because we know we are too close to be separated.
Edo State is the size of Ekiti, Lagos and Ogun States combined. Edo State is larger than Enugu, Ebonyi and Imo states combined.
You can see by the above examples that our being only one state in Nigeria has absolutely nothing to do with our size, population or viability but mainly our brotherhood.
In other states like in the East, in the West and in the North, they make concerted efforts continually to bridge their hitherto cultural, linguistics and even political divides because they are smart enough to know that their strengths lie in their banding together, not division. The Bible said “One will chase a thousand but two will chase ten thousand”.
For example, in Enugu State, the Nsukka language is totally different from the Enugu language much more than Etsako language is to Benin language. But you never get to know this outside because you will not hear an Nsukka man cursing an Enugu man on W.W.W. or in the social media like some misguided elements in Edo State are wont to be doing these days especially on social media. Stop it.
Both the Nsukka and the Enugu, even the much more different Abakaliki, and somewhat moderate Imo people, have commendably all come to accept themselves as Igbo (a common political denomination, more or less a deliberate contemporary political creation).
No need to talk about the Yoruba people who hitherto the contemporary times were scattered tribes usually at petty war with each other and each having some mutually unintelligible languages.
For example, a man from Ijebu Ode will need an interpreter in Ado-Ekiti if they were to speak their native languages. The Yoruba spoken in Ibadan is not the same Yoruba spoken in Ondo or Ekiti. But they, the Yoruba, having realised that separated they are useless but together they are powerful, being also led by sages – not savages – who told them “Yoruba Ronu” and not the ‘Esan ima!’, ‘Edo imen!’, ‘Etsako nor good!’ etc that little minds are trending among Edo people ignorantly. Stop it. Learn from the others.
The time has come for Edo State people to ask themselves one fundamental question; ‘who would gain if we destroyed our ancient harmony?’. Let me hazard a guess – ‘others’.
Among the Easterners and the Westerners, their unity and common political denominations are less than a hundred years old but Edo state peoples have been a united nation under an Empire for over a thousand years, long before Britain became civilised nation.
Edo State’s solidarity is not a political creation. It’s organic. It’s genetic. It is ancient. It’s our breeding real or apparent division that is a rather a contemporary political creation. It is our duty to interrogate this trend and reverse it or be doomed in the end together, and inadvertently allow foreigners to come in-between to exploit and destroy us.
Historically, whenever ancient Benin needed to go to war of conquests or to defend itself against aggression, the Oba only needed to send a signal across. Esan and Afeimai would send in soldiers to join the Benin army to achieve glory together. This is fact, it’s well documented. Then why do you want to change it today?
Whenever any part of the empire was under siege or threatened, even as far as the Kukuruku hills, the Oba would send his princes to lead a defence around the borders and drive out the marauding enemies. Read about Idia N’Iye Esigie and Her battles. Read about Ewuare I, Ozolua, Orhogbua, etc. They saw every inch of present day Edo State state and hitherto beyond as far as today’s Bayelsa and Lagos Island as part and parcel of ‘family’. These were over 500 years ago. You see we are not trying to be one just yesterday morning.
Sadly today, rather than lovingly address our small small provocation head-on and then band together in deliberate unity to confront our common challenges, some disgruntled and poorly educated elements among us, propped up by selfish politicians bent on destroying our commonwealth for their private wealth, unfortunately decide to waste their precious time creating and combating imaginary enemies among ourselves.
Let us rather channel those energies towards working through our various shortcomings to produce a more perfect brotherhood; Edo, Esan, Afeimai, others.
Esan is not an enemy of Benin. Benin is not an enemy of Esan. Afeimai isn’t an enemy of either also, vice versa. We are all one great people. Let us band together and fight for our survival, together.
Who says we cannot adopt a common language, a common flag, a common anthem, etc to cement and spread our unity as part of the “unlearning” process against division. The government should look into this desirability, and act. Development isn’t only in brick and mortal infrastructures. Civilization is the hallmark of development, it is functioning social infrastructure.
My birth place and early life was in Benin City, my second home. My marriage was in Afeimai. My home town and where I have been quite active for about two decades is Esanland. I believe I encapsulate what the Edo State solidarity should entail. Having experienced all the sides of Edo state varied, variegated but related cultures deeply, I can convincingly declare that Edo State peoples, on all sides, are a great people – a powerful nation.
When I arrived Germany nearly a decade ago, it was a Benin man I didn’t know from Adam who offered me accomodation just because he realised I was ‘Edo’. Benin people, Esan people and Afeimai people have been kind to me over the years, why should I be otherwise to them now?
Of course some Benin men and Afeimai men over the years have been unfair to me too. So also my Esan brothers, Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Ijaw, other friends. So why should I take offence by one Benin man or Afeimai man to judge others, entire tribes, whereas I don’t judge my own tribe harshly for their offences against me? Same question to you who quickly judge others similarly.
Humans are mainly individuals. Show love and understanding and you will discover that love and understanding beget love and understanding.
In conclusion, I call on all Edo people everywhere, especially the political class, to seek enduring ways to promote unity, harmony and solidarity among Edo people.
Wherever injustice or unfairness have been perpetrated in the past or even the present time, like not having an Esan man as Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly which is totally wrong viewed from all prism, let us correct the errors – sacrificially and with mutual amnesty – and decide ‘Never Again’!
For the politicians, pls find other pretexts for your political campaigns and politicking – everything else but our security, welfare and sociopolitical harmony.
I believe in Edo state and I want all of us to key into the Edo solidarity. Enough is enough for tribalism, nepotism and ethnocentrism. Edo Okpamakhin.
N’Edo Gha’ ama!
Saintmoses Eromosele aka SME is an author, businessman, lawyer & community organiser, who hails from Ewu in Esan Central LGA Edo State.
Tel: *+49 1521 081 5272*