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THE GEO-POLITICAL SETTING OF EDO STATE IN NIGERIA
By: Air Iyare
A PAPER PRESENTED BY AIR IYARE AT THE ANNUAL CONVENTION OF THE EDO NATIONAL ASSOCIATION HOLDING IN SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, BETWEEN 30TH AUGUST AND 2ND SEPTEMBER, 2002.
Distinguished Audience, Fellow Countrymen and Women,
It is a rare honor to stand before you here today, in this sunny Mediterranean climate of San Francisco, whose coast is washed by the deep blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. As I peep with my geographical eyes, I see San Francisco resting on Latitude 370 N of the Equator and Longitude 1200W of the Meridian. In my University days, I dissected the geography of the United States with particular reference to the state of California and bagged my Honors Degree without setting my foot on America. Here I am today to give concreteness to my imagination and drink deep the stark realities of the United States, which almost in all its ramifications, is the most powerful nation on earth today. I salute the vision, courage, industry, ingenuity, resourcefulness and dynamism of past and present Americans of this great nation. May God save America.
2. To my brothers and sisters of Edo National Association, I say congratulations. Because you are the first body or association that could move me out of my native land across the Atlantic ocean to the New World. I have always regarded my small table at home as the centre of gravity of the world from where I can influence the destinies of my people, my nation and the world. Because as the saying goes "charity begins at home". But I have come to realize that for charity to be complete, it must be carried abroad. Hence 'am here with you today. To my brothers and sisters from Edo North Senatorial District I say "vba Moo-o!" To those from the Central Senatorial District, I say "Esan vbardo - o" To those from the South Senatorial District, I greet "wa-be-vbaru, wa ruese - o"! To my fellow Nigerians, , "Good day"! And to my American Audience, "Hi!
3. After sending my topic which you graciously enlisted in your programme, it dawned on me that I was coming to wake up a lion from its den in the U.S. Who am I to mount the same pondium that such an Intellectual giant as Prof. Omo Omoruyi, of world fame, would speak from. It is like trying to mimic the oratorical prowess of Late Martin Luther King in his eternal cosmic shaking speech of "I HAD A DREAM"! Prof. Omo Omoruyi is my elder brother and senior intellectual compatriot. To the Prof., I bow and tremble. "Domo"!.
4. I have been told to be brief in my speech because time is a scarce commodity in the U.S. I will. But before I delve to my topic, let me observe that I see amongst you all here, glowing diamonds that must shine even if hidden in the dark. I see amongst you, men and women who are future Nigerian leaders but who now are the unknown quantity of Nigeria's history. I see amongst you, pioneers, inventors and politicians that will change the course of our nation's destinies for good. I see conquerors of great plains and mountains, divers to the ocean beds, hunters of our equatorial and tropical forests, fertilizer of our barren deserts - men and women of unbending will, determination and focus, that will make Nigeria, the centre-piece in world's politics. In the words of Aja Nwachukwu, "Nigeria shall come under your feet, not to be trampled on, but for you to pick and build, nurture and sustain, live and make pleasurable and safe, for the habitation of mankind"
5. The night before Late President Gamel Abdel Nassar seized power in a military coup that forever abolished the Egyptian monarchy in 1947, he said to his fellow military boys - "A role has been wandering aimlessly about in this vast historic land of Egypt. This role has become tired, weary and beckoning me to assume it as nobody else could". Fellow country men and women, a role is wandering aimlessly about in Edo State and in Nigeria, beckoning you to accept it. Let me misquote Ulysses which I always read in your website - "And tho' you are not that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven; that which you are, you are, one equal temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time and fate, but strong in will, to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield". The future of Nigeria belongs to you. We the older generation must move out for you to move in. This is an absolute law of historical dialectics. You are in America to acquire educational laurels so that you can become a newNigerian, nay a new African. You are the voyagers of the Argonaut that went in search and conquered the Golden Fleece and became heroes in Greek Mythology. Your ancestors today beckon you home to build a new San Francisco from Benin City; a new California from Edo State and a new United States from Nigeria. So that the labour of our heroes past, shall not be in vain. Come home and make history and not let history
pass you by.
6. Now to my topic - THE GEO-POLITICAL SETTING OF EDO STATE IN NIGERIA.
Whenever I look at the map of Africa, I continue to wonder if Nature has no hands in the problems of the continent. From Cairo in Egypt, through Tunis in Tunisia, Rabat in Morocco, Dakar in Senegal, Accra in Ghana, Lagos in Nigeria, Libreville in Gabon, Luanda in Angola down to Cape town in South Africa, there is a huge question mark boldly written on the face of Africa. This question mark raises myriad of questions on the backwardness of the continent. Sit-tightism of African leaders who will be prepared to die in office than hand-over political power to their successors. Corruption, planlessness, extravagance, ethnicity, tribalism, nepotism, tribal and religious conflicts etc. Nigeria is an epitome of Africa in the sense that all the problems in Africa are replicated in Nigeria. All of you here from Edo state are brothers and sisters in the U.S. Come back home and you will discover that the Afenmais don't see eye to eye with the Ishans; the Ishans don't agree with the Oras; the Binis don't tolerate the Afenmais. And so it goes on in a vicious circle. Right now our traditional Obas and rulers are in a bitter fight on how to constitute the Edo Traditional Council. Which has seized to function for about a year now. 7 Nigeria today is in a self-inflicted trouble. The centrifugal forces pulling her apart outweighs the centripetal forces. There is a bold question mark written over the face of the nation. We all have the innate feeling of an impending great disaster and calamity hanging over the country. From East to West, North and South, the children of Nigeria, like their Biblical Israelites of Pharaoh's Egypt, are demanding to be set free from the artificial and imperialist contraception called Nigeria.
8. There is an open demand for secession by the three major tribes. Each wanting to form its sovereign nation state. The Ndigbos have completed composing their new national anthem, re-drawing their coat of Arms and redesigning their new currencies. Waiting on the wings for the rebirth of a new Biafran Republic. It may interest you to know that two Ndigbo defence organizations are based here in the United States. One in Houston, Texas and the other in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
9. The most organized and coordinated secessionisttribe in Nigeria are the Yorubas. They form the largest single ethnic group in Nigeria. And are the most vibrant, most sophisticated and educated tribe in Nigeria. To the Yorubas their time for secession is only five minutes to midnight. Chief Abraham Adesanya stated in 2000 at Mokola, Ibadan that the Yorubas would actualize their dream of a Republic of Oduduwa, whether anybody likes it or not. The Yorubas would have declared their Oduduwa Republic by now, but for the fact that their tribesman, Olusegun Obasanjo, isthe current President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. If President Olusegun Obasanjo is denied a 2nd term in office and the Hausas take over, the Yorubas would bid goodbye to Nigeria whilst the Ibos would follow suit. The Yorubas presently have well-armed two million force waiting to seize the current when it serves.
10. The Hausa-Fulani Oligarchy have before now pooh, poohed the threats of secession from the southern tribal groups. The Umaru Dikkos, the Wada Nas and other prominent northerners, have threatened brime stones and less than 48 hours to over-run any secessionist southern tribe with their military boys who held-sway in the Nigerian Army since 1966. With President Obasanjo retiring most of the northern military officers and the Christian dominated Middle Belt states opting out and rejecting continued Hausa-Fulani domination of the North, they have found themselves naked and with no military and political power to deal with any southern secessionist tribe. They have therefore changed their military threats to that of "we can survive as a nation of our own. Afterall before the advent of colonialism, the Hausa-Fulani empires had thrived in the Savannah and Sahel regions of West Africa down to Sudan in the east". This has led them to hurriedly form the Arewa Consultative Forum as a counter-balancing threat from the south. The Hausa-Fulanis are today busy arming their Arewa People's Congress, setting up their radio JIHAD, and invoking the name of Usman Dan Fodio for their new Republic. So much so today that there is a balance of threat, a balance of fear and a balance of terror amongst the three major tribes in Nigeria. The only unifying force today in Nigeria is the oil-wealth of the southern minority tribes which they fear to loose. And Edo state belongs to the oil-club
11. The major positive benefit of these tribal militia is that it has stopped the senseless killing of southern Christians resident in the north which has before now become an annual festival since 1967. When the Moslem north, slaughtered the southern Christians in Kano in the year 2000, the Governor of Abia State, Kalu Orji, set loose his Bakassi boys that slaughtered about 60% of the Hausa - Fulanis resident in the State. The Odua Peoples congress of the Yorubas let loose their boys that dealt a deadly blow on the Hausa-Fulanis especially in the Lagos axis and few other parts of the South-West. Ever since, the northerners have withdrawn to their shells fearing to continue with their human annual festivals.
12. The fall-out of all these senseless killings is that Edo State has become the receiving end of Moslem Hausa-Fulani migrants from South East and South West. Edo state is seen by them as the only safe-haven in the south. Hausa-Fulanis daily troop to Benin Cityand the fairly large Moslem populated Northern Senatorial District, with their children strapped to their backs and on foot. It is pertinent to state here that during the Moslem slaughtering of southern Christians in Kano in the year 2000, 27 Edo people were among those killed and some of them left Kano to settle at home.
13. I have never and will never be a tribalist. My God has told me that there are two tribes in the world - the tribe of the good people and the tribe of the bad people. But one thing that intrigues me is that when non-Moslems stay in the north, the Hausa-Fulanis are their masters and can kill them at will. When the same Hausa-Fulanis are tenants in your land, they also regard themselves as your masters and can kill you at will. I will illustrate. One. In September 2000, the Hausa-Fulani cattle rearers invaded Egor village where I have my house. And their cattle destroyed and ate up the farm crops of a Bini man. When the farmer challenged them, he was stabbed to death by the cattle rearers and they fled. As I stand before you here, the Police, the State Security Service and the Military Intelligence agency, have not been able to arrest the culprits. If an Edo man had stabbed an Hausa man in Kano, the whole Edo people in Kano would have paid with their lives. Two. In February this year, the Hausa-Fulani cattlerearers in Eyaen village, a suburb in Benin City, set a bush fire to the dried Elephant grasses that burnt down all the farmland of the natives within a radius of three kilometers. Their reasons are not far fetched. In February, which is the peak period of the dry season, all elephant grasses which are fodder for cattle become dried. When fire is set to it, the burnt grasses within two weeks bring forth fresh new succulent foliage for cattle to graze. In order to get this new foliage for cattle, the Hausa-Fulani cattle rearers set a vast expanse of farmland on fire. The Bini farmers affected demonstrated to the Oba's palace and to the government to air their loss and grievances. Till date nothing positive came out of their protest and no one to my knowledge has been arrested and charged to court for arson. It is true that Jesus Christ told us that if you are slapped on one face, you should turn the other face for yet another slap. But if an Hausa-Fulani slaps you on one face and you turn the other, he will chop off your head and not your face.
14. The aim of this paper is not to weep for a dying measures for its recovery. This does not remove from the fact that I am a nationalist. At the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 1964, Late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe delivered a lecture to us titled, "Tribalism as an instrument to National Integration". Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo stated categorically that "To be a good Nigerian, I must first be a good Yoruba". My aim here is to raise some fundamental questions and throw up a debate amongst you on the place of Edo State in a disintegrated Nigeria. I am not a pessimist but a realist. The three major tribes have so blackmailed and intimidated the minority tribes so much so that it is time we call off their bluff. And tell them to go ahead with their threats of secession. The facts on the political terrain of Nigeria today do not need a Nostradamus to tell us that the ship called Nigeria is gradually sinking. Which reminds me of a German political scientist who postulated in a political journal in 1971, the political disintegration of U.S.S.R., Nigeria and Sudan, in the fore-seeable future.
15. My brothers and sisters from Edo State. If you wake up tomorrow to hear through CNN and VOA that Nigeria is dead, what will you wish for Edo State? Can Edo state with a population of 2.2 million and hemmed within a small geographical landmass, survive as a nation? Can Edo state which produces 0.8% of the nation's crude oil be said to be rich? Is Edo State homogenous and cohesive enough to remain as an entity? How abundant are other abundant natural resources? Can Edo State be militarily safe-guarded by its people? These are some of the reasons 'am here with you today in San Francisco. Not to eat your food free of charge, but to give you food for thought.
16. As you ponder over these questions, let me remind you that history is replete with examples of explosive bitter animosities between component parts of disintegrated or balkanized nations. India and Pakistan are still at war since they parted ways in 1947. Late President Tito's Yugoslavia has disintegrated to different warring factions. The once great U.S.S.R has not known peace since it broke up a decade ago. Nor do we forget the ever recurring war hysteria between communist China and its sister Nationalist China between North and South Korea. I am drawing attention to the above examples to warn that it is not all that bed of roses for former nationals to part ways. The Scout Motto says
"Be Prepared"! How prepared are we?
17. During the Nigerian Civil War in 1967, Mid-Westerners woke up one morning on August 9, 1967, to see their state occupied by Biafran soldiers, led by Brigadier Victor Banjo. In retrospect, the Biafran occupation of Mid-West state on 9th August, 1967, was the Nigerian equivalent of General Lee's march north on Pennsylvania in the American Civil War or the German panzer thrust through France in 1939. The saying goes that "once bitten, twice shy." How prepared are we? Let me state that I am not calling for secession nor do I support those calling for secession from Nigeria. But when the three major tribes in Nigeria arrogate to themselves the right to decide when to quit Nigeria, we have the right to prepare against what will befall us when our big brothers suddenly abandon us mid-sea.
18. Every right thinking Nigerian knows that our geo-political tripod is in an unstable equilibrium. Every right thinking Nigerian knows that the unity and one Nigeria we proclaim is unattainable in Nigeria as presently constituted and governed. A one, united and vibrant Nigeria needs a surgical operation. And here lies the relevance of a National Conference of all ethnic nationalities in Nigeria. To shy away from the obvious is to prepare Nigeria to go the ways of former U.S.S.R, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. Those who warn of a possible break-up of Nigeria may be regarded as dreamers and trouble makers. But those who insist that Nigeria must retain its present unworkable, over-centralised and tele guided format, are people who prefer crime to peace, and injustice to unity.
19. The more I watch the manipulation of the destiny of Nigeria by few anti-nationalists, feudal Oligarchies and chauvinists; the more I watch political profiteers, swindlers, ministers and V.I.P's of waste; the more I watch the politics of "Akpu, Amala and Tuwo" in perpetual conflict for supremacy in Nigeria, the more certain I feel that a revolution will be the final solution to the ills of the nation. The ferocity and ignorance of the people will be proportioned to the oppression and degradation under which they have been subjected and accustomed to live. Revolution has always been the lava of civilization, and the blood of the tyrants, its fertilizer. Political convulsions, like geological upheavals,
usually usher in new epoch of world's progress. Time, occasions and further provocation and denial of the guaranteed rights of the Nigerian masses will ignite their dormant, kinetic instinct and convert it to dynamic energy for positive change. In the words of Franklin Roosevelt- "Rebellion to tyrants, is obedience to God".
20. Distinguished Audience! "From David, we learn to give thanks for everything - Every furrow in the Book of Psalms is sown with the seeds of thanksgiving" - Jeremy Taylor. You all have been wonderful and fantastic in your loving kindness to me.
Thank you and God bless. I draw the curtain.
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