By Bobmanuel Umoru
It is no longer news that the good people of Edo State are full of expectations as the 2020 gubernatorial election draws closer and the Independent National Electoral Commission is also expected to be preparing the ground for a free fair and credible electioneering process.
The State just like others, has three senatorial districts, Edo South (Benin people) Edo Central (Esan People) and Edo North (Etsako, Owan and Igarra people respectively), Edo State since the inception of this Democracy in 1999 has been struggling with making things right in the equity distribution and zoning of political offices among the peoples of the state.
Let`s take a short trip in retrospect perhaps from 1999 till date.
In 1998 when the wind of the neo democracy blew across the Nation which gave birth to various political parties, we all zoned power to Edo South (Benin) and in 1999 when the electioneering process was fully activated Chief Lucky Igbinedion (Edo South) was the flag bearer for the PDP and Chief Mike Oghiadomhe (Edo North) was his running mate, while APP fielded Mr Lucky Imasuen (Edo South) Chief Dan Orbih (Edo North) was his running mate.
The mandate of the people was giving to the PDP and her candidate and his running mate, the Esan people were left out of this arrangement and as usual they gave their full support in ensuring for a free, fair and credible process, notable sons and daughters from Esanland gave support to the major contenders by contributing funds and materials as every Party member would always do.
What did we as a people deemed fit for the Esan people, zoned the speaker position to Esanland, while other principle positions like SSG, Deputy Speaker, Majority Leader etc still went to the zones that produced the Governor and his deputy. In 1999 Prof. Patrick Erhabor was the SSG (Edo South), he was replaced in 2001 by Mr Matt Aikhionbare (Edo South) when the governor reshuffled his cabinet.
In 2007 the political stage was opened again for contest, this time there were more aspirants and parties interested in succeeding Chief Lucky Igbinedion as governor, the PDP however zoned to Edo South which was normal as laid by the party just as others did too, but the whole arrangements change and trouble began in our polity when the group created by Chief Lucky Igbinedion bent on producing the next governor and kick against the leadership of the Party via the group called “GRACE GROUP” with the slogan “NO MAN IS GOD” this group later Metamorphosed into AC and they fielded Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole (Edo North) and his running mate Pius Odubu
The PDP on the other hand followed her laid down zoning formula by giving the Esan people the opportunity to present their best for the job, after the tussle both in the state and the National, Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor and his running mate Lucky Imasuen became the flag bearers of the PDP, the APP later changed to ANPP also fielded a candidate in person of Hon Emmanuel Arigbe Osula.
The contest was fierce and the PDP got the mandate, however the legal battle between the PDP and the AC was tough and the Court gave the mandate to Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole of the AC, that decision of the court altered the zoning arrangement, upon assuming office on November 12, 2008 Adams Oshiomhole a former labour leader, ensured that the Esan people face the worse political victimization during the days and time he held sway as the governor of our state.
As the tenure of Oshiomhole was drawing to a close all Parties began to make plans to field his would be successor, the PDP, APC, SDP, LP, etc. The battle within party structures started, Oshiomhole in a bid to keep power in his party refuse to allow the zoning arrangement to the Central, rather as the leader of his party he decided that Edo South should hold it for the second time, neglecting the Central.
We all shouldn’t forget that the tenure of Prof Osunbor (Edo Central) was aborted by the court not the people, we all knew that the court implore legal technicalities not the will for Justice to decide that case.
The PDP knowing the political permutation of Oshiomhole and his party in their place to give the ticket to the Benins because of their population which out weighs that of Edo North and Central put together, immediately halted their plan of zoning to Esanland and zoned it to Edo South too (Benin), the primaries held ahead the 2016 election has the major parties producing Dr Godwin Obaseki (Edo South) and Com. Phillip Shaibu (Edo North) as the flag bearers for the APC, while the PDP through her primaries gave Pastor Osagie Ize Iyamu (Edo South) and Mr John Yakubu (Edo Central), here the PDP try to compensate the people of Esan with DG position instead of staying with the zoning principle, yet the peace loving people of Esanland never fought anyone nor the party for the neglect or marginalization if you like.
However the election gave victory to Godwin Obaseki and his Deputy, both were products of a compromised electoral process, we all saw it and the court as usual backed the rigging as credible election.
Now the political wind is blowing again to usher in the 2020 electioneering process, again some people`s attention still rest on giving the Edo South the chance to remain in power, are the Esan people slaves in our state?
Is it that the South and North of Edo State are more important than the Central? are we saying that there is no son or daughter of Esan origin that can lead our state to prosperity? What really is the offense of the Esan people that we so much despise them politically but always wants their loyalty and votes?
For the records I am from Edo North, from Ugbekpe – Ekperi in Etsako Central LGA, so before you label me, just know I am not of Esan origin. But we as a people must not marginalize ourselves in our own land, we are brothers and we ought to share oportunities and our commonwealth evenly and not segregate other parts.
The political parties, particularly the main opposition party, the PDP, should consider the plight of the Esan people and one question we must ask ourselves is this, can we all bear this treatment melted on the Esan people if the pendulum swing to us?
Ever since we started this political imbalance trip, the state has never known peace, first it started with Oshiomhole and the Igbinedions, perceived as his sponsors and godfather and later his right hand man Pastor Ize Iyamu, it spread and spread till it got to Oshiomhole and his anointed successor, someone like me believe that the God of Justice and the God of the Esan people is at work, fighting for the people of Esanland.
Lets not enthrone political anomalies in our dear state, let give the Esan people a chance too.
ESAN HAS SONS AND DAUGHTERS TOO.
The Esan nation has notable sons and daughters who can steer the ship of our dear state to prosperity and international recognition in all sphere of human endeavor. Most recently among these sons, some have indicated interest to run for the governorship of the state among these are Engr Gideon Ikhine, Barr Kenneth Imansuangbon (Rice Man) and Arch. Mike Onolememen, just to mention a few. The state belongs to us all and its only wise we let justice, equity and fairness prevail amongst us all.
We have been opportune to send names of our sons to the Federal to serve us as ministers at various administration, it would interest you to know that the most performed of all came from the same people we are marginalizing now, Chief Anenih gave us all a level playing ground, he never marginalized us, most time when the opportunity to field people into position came, he would allow others have it first before Esan, we ought to look at the contribution of these people.
Even the speakership we always zone to them, was it not in our very eyes that an Esan man was illegally impeached and Kabiru Adjoto became speaker, this is too bad for us to allow it continuity, most of the assets and values we as a people are holding unto today, were laid and given to us by Prof. Ambrose Alli (Esan Man), the Vice Chancellor of AAU Ekpoma situated in Esanland is an Edo North man, and nobody in Esan is fighting him but rather men and women are working together to ensure his tenure is successful, we must think anew, the Esan people deserve our love and brotherhood not this hatred and marginalization we clothed them with, we as a people must decide to let love lead us, we must give our heart a chance, lets put aside this greed and tell our Benin and Estako brothers to go and relax in there homes, while we allow the Esan take the center stage in this build up to 2020 guber poll.
As God will have it, there is crisis everywhere, groups against groups, structure against structure, even within the opposition PDP, as some loyalists are lobbying Obaseki to come over to the PDP, but some stakeholders are kicking against such arrangement, all these events and others looming ahead are a clear pointer for the reign of justice, lets be bold enough to tell all those from Edo South (Benin) and Edo North (Afemai) to go back home and leave the stage for Esan people let all political party go back to their zoning arrangement, it is the turn of the Esan people by our calculation and we wickedly gave it to the South, we can correct it now by asking them all to go and sit down.
Lets take Barr Kenneth Imasuangbon on a trip of performance, can we single out any politician who is selfless like this man? Without holding a political office, year in year out his philanthropic act hasn’t cease, from the distribution of thousands bags of Rice yearly, which brought about his popular name “RICEMAN” to paying of school fee for indigent children, paying of rents for homeless people, giving of scholarship to students, amongst other notable great works done by this man, one would only wonder why Esan is still marginalized even when they have his likes.
Barr Kenneth not minding the ills melted on himself and his people, still deem it fit to service the three senatorial districts equally, then obviously with all sincerity such a man and his people deserve to be given a level playing ground to lead this state.
Remember that while Oshiomhole enthrone himself as a god that cannot be questioned only Barr Kenneth Imansuangbon, bold and truthful man, could publicly stand him and speak the truth to him, which our brothers and sisters from Edo North and South couldn’t do.
Despite his travails in politics his love to serve hasn’t diminish for a second, he and other sons of Esanland must be giving the chance to lead this state.
We must not hand over a warring state to our children, we must not hand over marginalization, hatred, thuggery and imbalance to our children, and we must ensure we don’t teach them this evil political ways we are constructing carelessly.
Comrade Bobmanuel Umoru is a socio-political commentator based in Lagos.