THE KEYNOTE ADDRESS GIVEN AT THE EDO NATIONAL CONVENTION HELD ON SEPTEMBER 4-6TH 1998 AT NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA, USA.
By Prince ( Dr.) Ademola Iyi-Eweka
The President, guests and members of the Edo National Association of the Americas; for the second time on this august occasion, I say welcome and congratulation. Yesterday, I spoke briefly on some issues. Today I will expand on those issues. You have achieved a lot just for gathering here for this convention. There is a popular proverb or statement which runs like this: "Whoever expected the man suffering from hernia to be able to bring forth a child or even to talk about a child with a weak or strong skull". This statement captures the cynicism which people had about the survival of the Edo National Association and its first convention some years ago. Eight or nine years later, you are still marching strong. You have achieved a lot all through these years. But I believe you can do much more. Just a little more effort, you will see the difference it will make in the life of this organization.
It is good that your organization is going through normal structural procedures. You need a secretariat and officers to man them. You need a constitution or bye-laws which will guide the National Organization. And I thank God thank you are working on it. Soon, you will have a workable constitution or bye-laws which will guide the affairs of this organization. But there are some yawning gaps which must be closed. You can not do it in one day or even one year. But once you highlight the problems, you will be closer to solving them.
POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE [PAC].
I noticed you earmarked many committees that will be formed. But I can not but point out the absence of the Political Action Committee otherwise known as PAC. I understand that you do not want to get involved in partisan political squabbles. The organization can not be so apolitical as to pretend that it does not know what is happening politically to the Edo Nation. We are now a minority of a minority in the present political dispensation in Nigeria. We are now confined to a small geographical area known as Edo State. But we know that the Edo Nation covers the whole of Ondo, Delta, Lagos, Ekiti, half of Anambra and River States.
As I said yesterday, what is left is the "head and the heart" of Edo Nationalism. The arms and the legs have been carved out. But we should not be dismayed. We need to contribute in a united way to the political debate going on in Nigeria, one way or another. We need to get all the Edo-speaking clans-Isoko, Urhobo, Itsekhiri, Esan, Afemai, Owan(Ora), Bini and Eka to speak with one voice. We need to let all the Edo clans know that you exist. Woo them to join the Edo National Association. One clan can not do it alone. When a lizard falls down from the top of a tree, it shakes its head saying, "wow! My friend, I am here. I did it." There is nothing wrong in an Edo man becoming the President of Nigeria.. What the Edo National Convention can not do politically should be passed on to other organizations such as EDO OKPAMAKHIN organization. But that should not prevent this congress or committee from monitoring what is going on politically, in Nigeria.
The next issue is that of Education. Our primary concern should be how to help advance our own education and that of the people we left behind in Nigeria. I understand that you have done a few things in the past to help those at home. Keep on doing them. Buy books and send them to schools at home, if you can. Begin with the elementary or secondary schools. Start with one school and you will see the difference it will make in the life of the people.
Write books about your history, literature and culture if you can. Encourage others to write by buying what they wrote. Read them to your children especially those born here in the USA, who have never been home. Some of us can not even speak Edo language properly, be it Esan, Afemai,
Urhobo or what we now call the BINI version of Edo language. One who can not speak his or her language is lost. The Jews survived centuries of oppression because of their language and religion. We need a common Edo language for all Edo-speaking people. The Yorubas have a unified language because they had "RETURNEES/SLAVES" and missionaries ( supported by the colonial administrators) who worked on the Yoruba language. We had none of that. The British colonizers were happy that somehow the Edo Nation-clans looked mutually incomprehensible to each other. They loved it that way in a system of" Divide and Rule" and encouraged that BALKANISATION for as long as they could. During the height of Edo Empire, language was not seen as big problem. If you find yourself in Benin City in the traditional bureaucracy, you were expected to at least know the dialect and understand a little of what is today called BINI. They may laugh at you, if you speak it wrongly. But you try to speak anyway just as chief Okoro Otun, the Iyase of Benin under Oba Eweka ,the second and the early part of Oba Akenzua, the second did. He is fondly remembered today as OBA MU IYASE KOMI.
You may have to consider the need to award scholarship to deserving Edo children back home in Nigeria. Start with one or two kids and watch the difference it makes to your organization and the Edo-speaking world. Set up a committee to explore the possibility. In the Nigeria of today, such a program will be a great relief to the recipient. The mind is a terrible thing to waste. We can not wait for the government to do everything for us at home. You can also embark on projects in heath related areas. The hospitals are in bad shapes. Drugs are beyond the reach of the common man. People are dying off like flies. Some organizations within this fold have tackled some of the health related problems. You can expand on what they have started. But avoid duplications.
One of the questions people usually ask when invited to join an organization is, "What is in it for me or what do I get from it?" Therefore the need for a welfare committee can not be over emphasized. The committee's responsibilities among others will be, to handle on a national level, problems relating to a member whose problems the local branch could not handle. These are the things that entices people to join an organization. When asked for example, "What do I get from the Edo ,National Convention?" You should be a position to say, " Plenty." Let them know that they belong to a family-Edo Nation. Let them know that they have a lot to gain by asserting their right to be part and parcel of the Edo Nation. The Insurance scheme, whether it is for life or death is a step in the right direction. Help the jobless to look for jobs. If you can establish an industry at home at this point in time, please do.
Please expect new Edo-speaking organisation to spring up from time to time. That is the source of the strength of this convention. Therefore, as you draw up your guidelines or constitution, do not forget that the strength of Edo National Convention lies with the local chapters. They came into existence first. Therefore, the work of the convention should be ï¿½harnessing the energy bubbling in the local chapters for the up liftment of the Edo Nation. The same goes for new organizations of Edo people, springing up here and there. There is Okpamakhin for example, which is trying to fill the political void that is existing within the present frame work of Edo National Convention Support it and join it. Encourage others to join at least one Edo organization rather than let the men spend the time plaiting their hairs. The new constitution should not stiffle innovative ideas from local chapters or new organizations.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are now in an electronic media age. The Edo National convention can help make many of us "computer literate." There is no school where computer is not used in USA. It is fastest route for delivering messages. Local chapters and the national body should please, give us an EDONET. If other tribal groups could have theirs, we should be able to have ours.
CONVENTION-FOLLOW THROUGH/CARRY OVER:
Most conventions are sometimes the venues for establishing new programs for local chapters. Something concrete must come out of conventions. It could be a program for the local chapters to embark on. It could be recommendations on some issues sent to Benin to be looked into. When nothing comes out of conventions, they can degenerate to nothing but annual get-together parties. But above all, please be proud of your heritage and history. Sing it on the roof top. Love yourselves. You are all brothers and sisters. Stretch your hand of fellowship to the other clans not represented here. Go after them . Tell them we love them and we want them back in the family. Patronize businesses owned by your people. If that will make them billionaires, the better. That is why the Jews have America on their finger tips today. Quarrel if you must but be ready to reconcile after your outburst. I wish you all a happy and success full convention. May the good Lord, grant us his travelling mercy so that we can return back safely to our families