Esan Okpa Decries Marginalisation in Edo State, Demands Fairness, Equity, Justice

President, Esan Okpa Initiative, Rt Hon Mathew Egbadon with the Vice President, Engineer George Okoyo at the press conference.

…Wants Concerted Efforts to Tackle Frightening Insecurity

…Asks Government to Reintroduce Teaching of Esan Language
…Laments Absence of Industrialization in Esanland
A newly floated socio-cultural group, Esan Okpa Initiative (EOI), has strongly decried the spate of marginalization of Esan people in federal and state appointments, demanding that Edo State which was founded on a tripod 30 years ago, should be run on the basis of equity, fairness and justice to all its component parts.
The group which is irked by the frightening spate of insecurity in Edo State particularly along the busy Auchi-Benin road, dogged by kidnapping and other criminal activities, wants government and security agencies to brace up to tackle the menace which it says impede the movement of Esan people to Benin City and other parts of the country.
Addressing a maiden press conference in Benin City to announce its birth, the group’s President, Rt Hon Mathew Egbadon, wants armed herdsmen ravaging Edo forests and farmlands to be given a timeline to exit or be forced out.
The group also calls on the State Government to as a matter of exigency, enact the State Anti-Open Grazing Law, in line with the decision of the Governors of the Southern States of Nigeria that such laws should be in place by the Southern States by September 2021.
Lamenting the waning of Esan language, which he says it’s almost becoming extinct, Egbadon, a former Speaker, Edo State House of Assembly, also called on the Edo State Government to reintroduce the teaching of Esan language in primary and secondary schools in Esanland as a way of promoting the speaking and writing of the language. While revealing plans to set up mini Esan language clinics in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and in the Diaspora, it also called on the authorities of Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma to include Esan and other Edo languages amongst courses in its Department of Languages.
Also slamming the absence of industrialization in Esanland, leading to massive urban drift of its people, the group implored government to revive some of the now moribund industrial plants started by the administration of Mr Lucky Igbinedion, who was Governor between 1999 – 2007 and also considers establishing new ones.
On the State government’s recent direct intervention in the running of the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, the group appeals to the stakeholders of the University, that they must not, by acts of commissions or omissions, fritter away the solid achievements which the University has made since its inception, and which have brought glory and honour to Edo state.
The press statement reads in parts:
Marginalization of Esan People
“It is by an act of providence that Edo State (a near-homogenous State) was created about 30 years ago. It was created on a tripod: namely Edo South, Edo North, and Edo Central senatorial districts respectively. The Esan ethnic nationality occupies the Edo Central district.
“We are of the firm view that Edo Central senatorial district has been relegated to the background by successive governments, both at the State and Federal levels, since 2008 when Mr. Adams Oshiomhole became governor of Edo State and is yet to fair better under the Government of Mr. Godwin Obaseki.
“Many major political appointments to key State and Federal positions and establishments have been made by political leaders across the party lines, without taking the interest of Esan people into consideration.
“Under the current political dispensation, only two Senatorial Districts, Edo South, and Edo North, have effectively occupied the following positions:
* Governor of the State – Edo South
* Deputy Governor of the State – Edo North.
* Ambassadorial Position – Edo South & Edo North.
* Hon. Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria: Two from Edo
State – One from Edo South and One from Edo North.
* Secretary to the State Government- Edo South.
* Chief of Staff to the Governor – Rotates between Edo North &
South, to mention just a few.
* Head of the State Civil Service.
* Many appointees in Key Federal and State Government Agencies.
“While we rejoice with our brothers and sisters of these senatorial Districts for these appointments, we implore all political leaders not to forget Edo Central Senatorial District made up of Esan people.
“It is on record that the only office ceded to the Esan people – the office of the Hon. Speaker of the House of Assembly – was until recently, a subject of musical chairs, intense political manipulations, and proxy war by the political leaders of the other two districts.
“As it stands, Edo State political structure is standing essentially, on a bipod, instead of the tripod, which God, and even political expediency, originally designed it to be. Can anyone change the will or plan of God?
“God himself told us in Malachi 3:6 :”For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, the sons of Jacob, have not come to an end.”
Esan Okpa Initiative says, it “is deeply concerned and worried about the marginalization of Esan people in political appointments at both State and Federal levels. We often say “Edo Okpa Maa Khin” meaning Edo people are one.
Our political leaders of the moment must truly reflect this reality in their actions and decisions.
“We state as a matter of fact that the current Edo State government enjoys a large following in Edo Central. We therefore appeal to the Governor of the State, to use his good offices, to ensure that Esan people in his party are not only given important positions in his government, but also encourage and support them to vie for higher political offices in the State.
“In addition, we appeal to the Governor, that deserving Esan sons and daughters should be accorded recognition by appointment into the upper echelons of the public and civil services of the State.
“We plead for an Edo State that is run on the basis of equity, fairness and justice to all its constituent parts.
We are optimistic that the current imbalance in the political and other strategic appointments in the state will be addressed by His Excellency, Mr. Godwin Obaseki.
Esan Language Endangered
The group is particularly worried that Esan language is almost going extinct.
“An Esan adage says “You are lost if you cannot speak the language of your place or people.” Needless to state that language is an integral part of the culture of a people.
“EOI is concerned that the Esan language is fast going into extinction, as many of our people, particularly the young ones, including those who live in Esanland, cannot speak the language, let alone write in it.
“The situation is so worrisome, to the extent that many of our people cannot string a simple sentence together in Esan language without mixing it up with mostly English language.
As a body, we have identified and outlined programmes and events we shall be embarking on soon, to sensitize and rekindle our people’s interest in speaking and writing in Esan language.
“We have plans to promote Esan language and culture among the Esan people, including those living outside the State, by setting up mini Esan language clinics in places like Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja and in the diaspora.
“We wish to call on the Edo State government to reintroduce the study of Esan language in its school curriculum, at the primary and secondary school levels in Esanland.
“In the past, Esan language was taught in schools and was even part of the West African School Certificate Examination syllabus. We have adequate texts and books in Esan Language to support its teaching and teachers in schools in Esan Land.
“We will make a similar request to the State-owned University, Ambrose Alli University (AAU), Ekpoma, to, as a matter of urgency, introduce the study of Esan and other Edo languages and culture as part of the programme at its Department of Language Studies.
“It is anomalous that AAU’s Department of Languages does not teach Esan or any of the Edo languages, but teaches French, Russian and Spanish.
“It is on record that the University is probably the only one with a language department that does not have a programme on the study of the language of its catchment area.
“As a body, EOI shall be ready to make its contributions in whatever way it can, to support the State government and the University in the study of Esan language and culture.
Frightening Insecurity in Esanland
“EOI is concerned about insecurity on the highway between Benin City and Ekpoma; and particularly within Esanland. Our people can no longer travel to Benin City, the state capital, to transact business without the risk of falling into the hands of kidnappers and bandits.
“We wonder whether the security forces have given up and allow these criminal gangs to operate freely without inhibitions day and night, on this road .
“In addition, the entire Esanland has been seized by the jugular by these marauders and kidnappers, who have killed scores, maimed, raped our women, destroyed farmlands and property, and induced payment of ransoms by their hapless victims.
“No day has passed in recent times, without reports of these bandits wreaking havoc on innocent and law-abiding Esan people, many of whom have been forced to abandon their farmlands and trades for fear of being raped, maimed, killed or kidnapped and made an object of ransom negotiations and payments.
“The situation has become dire, as our people, who are subsistent farmers, are now faced with scarcity of farm produce and high prices of the few available goods.
“Famine is imminent, as farmers have abandoned their farms, as the bandits have laid siege to all farmlands and major roads in Esanland.
“While we, in EOI, appreciate that the issue of insecurity is a nationwide challenge, the seemingly helpless situation of our people in Esanland, in the face of coordinated attacks and abductions, is of grave concern to us.
“A major issue that should be addressed, as a matter of priority, by the security agencies, is the allegation making the rounds, that when some of these marauders and kidnappers are caught and handed over to them, they are not made to face the wrath of the law by taking them to court, but instead are released together with their weapons.
“While we commend the efforts of the State government, Security Agencies and Vigilante groups in trying to combat the menacing wave of banditry, kidnapping and other activities in the State, we implore the authorities to regard the Benin-Ekpoma road and Esanland in particular, as areas of “special interest or flash points” because these two areas are major gateways to the Northern and Eastern parts of Nigeria, with streams of regular heavy human and vehicular traffic on the roads.
“We believe the primary responsibility of any government, is the security and welfare of its people, and therefore implore the Edo State Governor to re-jig the security architecture of the State and ensure the following, as a matter of importance:
* The bushes, on both sides of the road between Benin City and Ekpoma, should be cleared, to ensure that the bandits and kidnappers do not have a ready hiding abode from where they launch their ambush and attack unsuspecting road users;
* Local Government Councils in the State must be made more accountable for the security lapses within their area of jurisdiction;
* More responsibilities and support should be given to Traditional Rulers on security issues within their domain;
* The State Government should also, as a matter of exigency, enact the State Anti- open grazing Law, in line with the decision of the Governors of the Southern States of Nigeria that such laws should be in place by the Southern States by September 2021; and,
* The armed herdsmen should be given a timeline within which they must exit the forests and farmlands in Edo State or else be forced out.
Industrialization of Esanland
“On the 27th of August 2021 (a few days from now), Edo State will be 30 years old since its creation as a State. It is on records that since the State was created, not a single government owned industry has been established in Esan land.
“We would like to commend the Edo State Governor on his efforts and desire to make the State one of the Africa’s top 20 economies by 2050, as he stated recently when he met the United Nations Team in Abuja.
“We appeal to the Governor to set up agro-based industries in Esanland, which has a comparative advantage in various agricultural resources that would feed such enterprises.
“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 is our view that if rehabilitated, the factory, which is a potential goldmine, that has been allowed to rot by successive governments, would provide both direct and indirect employment for our people. EOI is ready to partner with the State government to reactivate this factory or any other agro based industry in Esanland.
State of Affairs in AAU Ekpoma
“EOI has followed, with bated breath, the unfolding developments at the State-owned Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma. While the jury is still out about the full implications of the State government’s recent direct intervention in the running of the Institution, we would like to appeal to the stakeholders of the University, that they must not, by acts of commissions or omissions, fritter away the solid achievements which the University has made since its inception, and which have brought glory and honour to Edo State.
“We are, however, in support of any efforts to bring transparency and accountability into the University’s administration.
“EOI hereby requests the State Government to issue and make public the White Paper on the Visitation Panel report submitted to government in March 2021.
“All those functionaries of the University and others, whose activities have adversely affected the University, must be brought to book, to serve as a deterrent to others.
The Objectives of forming EOI, as stated in its Constitution, include, “to have a one-stop shop, pan-Esan Organization, which will act as a Think Tank, and serve as a platform to address issues affecting Esan, including in the following areas:
* 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.
“EOI is not a partisan body. It has as its members, politicians of the various political parties and persuasions, as well as non-politicians under its fold. It is an umbrella body for every Esan person.
“The Constitution of EOI specifies its decision-making organs to include: the Board of Trustees, National Executive Council, Consultative Councils of Traditional Rulers and Religious Leaders, General Assembly, and a Permanent Secretariat.
Conceived by three Esan Associations, namely, Ikolo Esan, based in Benin City, Esan Club 30 based in Port Harcourt and Association of Esan Professionals worldwide, with headquarters, it has since been joined by other groups, associations and individuals since its formation.
“Esan Okpa” connotes “Esan is one”. It means the “Esan People Are One,” Egbadon, also a lawyer explains.
The Esan ethnic nationality occupies five local government areas in Edo State.