EGIARU SYNDROME: A DESTRUCTIVE DRAWBACK ON THE SOCIO-POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OF THE BENIN NATION: DECONSTRUCTING THE CANKERWORM – BEING A POSITION PAPER DELIVERED BY ESEOSA EWERE AT THE NATIONAL UNION OF BENIN STUDENTS (NUBS) UNIBEN/UBTH UGIE EDO SEMIMAR, FRIDAY 17TH AUGUST, 2018, BANQUET HALL, UNIVERSITY OF BENIN, BENIN CITY
I am honoured and humbled by the uncommon confidence reposed in me by the organisers of this year’s UGIE EDO; when first I was consulted by the Royal Heritage Executive Council 2018/2019 session to do justice to this all-important subject that continue to occupy the frontburner in the Benin national discourse, I asked myself what do I know? As all efforts to redirect the responsibility to a supposedly more qualified person in the Benin socio-cultural construct proved abortive, I had to take up the challenge but not without a very passionate appeal to the Almighty God and our ancestors to guide me through this daunting task; there is no gainsaying the fact that the Benin nation has suffered huge setback in the socio-political, economic and infrastructural milieu of our dear Country; it appears there has been a conscious and deliberate attempt to reduce the influence of the Benin man in the scheme of things; while this can rightly be attributed to the absence of a unified and formidable Benin socio-cultural, political and economic movement or forum, viable political and economic leadership, dearth in iruemwin Edo, inability to identify critical Benin elements within the various sectors viz: political, economic and socio-cultural, there has also been a systemic marginalization meted on the Benins either by internal or external forces but all geared towards incapacitating the Benin ethnic nationality, silencing her voice and reducing her influence and this has in no small measure affected the average Benin man
Today, we are gathered with the approval of Almighty God and our ancestors not to merry over our modest achievements neither is it to eat and drink, we have not gathered to socialise in a convivial setting, we have peregrinated from far and near to ventilate the burden we carry on our shoulders over the loss of voice and force of the Benins; it will only be justiceable if at the end of this discourse we are able to come out with a well-publicised communique to properly articulate the egiaru syndrome amongst the Benins, its effects and the possible panacea; while some of us may be wondering what is egiaru? Well, in a layman understanding, is a Benin epistemic phraseology which means “it can’t be done”; this particular phraseology has been borrowed on several occasions to explain why a Benin man with a 2nd Class or 3rd Class degree in Petroleum Engineering cannot get a top job in the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) whereas his counterpart in the North who is probably a Diploma holder gets the same job in Abuja, he is transfered to Benin, Lagos or Port-Harcourt and lives a larger-than-life lifestyle via proceeds from his job; the egiaru phraseology has been borrowed on several occasions to disqualify and vilify a competent Benin Professor from been the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Benin simply because he has not been a professor for ten (10) years, whereas in the North, South-West (Yoruba land) or even in Delta, it is almost impossible to vie for such positions against indigenes irrespective of your qualifications, but on Benin soil, we are so enmeshed with how qualified a person is to determine what he gets; and this is against building and sustaining institutional frameworks via ethnic understanding as it typically applies in other regions of our Country; this particular egiaru syndrome is the social disease that tend to justify why a Benin man who probably through individual effort climbed up the social ladder and chose consciously or unconsciously to maintain indifference over the hardship ravaging his people so much so that when you greet him “epa domo” perhabs in search of mentorship, he replies “how are you”?
On September 2014, I was the Chief Correspondence Officer of the Benin National Congress, a Benin based socio-cultural group poised with the responsibility to protect, preserve and promote the rich cultural values of the Benin nation, going by the several antagonistic tendencies that surrounded the Prof. Godwin Oshodin, the immediate past Vice-Chancellor of the Great University of Benin and the obvious attempt to ridicule the administration of the first Benin Professor Vice-Chancellor after over Thirty Nine (39) years of the existence of the ivory tower on Benin soil, we made a passionate appeal calling for the arrest of the notorious ‘pull him down syndrome’ amongst Benin intelligentsias; and the protection of Prof. Oshodin, and his legacies in the University of Benin, from enemies within; those who witnessed the Oshodin era from when he became VC, UNIBEN in November 2009 to his handing over in December 2014 can testify of these legacies; which include but not limited to mass recruitment, infrastructure revampment, personnel development, increased staff/students welfarism, local and international collaborations, creation of new departments/programmes, prompt payment of salaries/arears and workers’ promotions, Prof. Oshodin against all odds of egiaru, returned the University to her glory days; we are not also unaware how the egiaru syndrome almost crippled Prof. Oshodin’s ambition, yet during his 5-year VCship, he made a mark that will last forever on the sand of times; while we continue to eulogize Oshodin and those internal and external forces that selflessly pushed for his emergence, we must appreciate the current Vice-Chancellor, Prof. FFO Orumwense for sustaining the humanistic landmarks, maintaining the path of knowlegde, service and excellence, while we yet call on him to further power the dynamo irrespective of the challenges equally bewildering his administration
Over the years, there has been a radical deviation from productive politicking and discourse by the Benin ethnic nationals in particular and other groups in general to politics of supremacy and regime change; we have been greatly obsessed with how to take over power instead of how to dispense good governance, institutions have been destroyed for personal gains, unemployment has taken over the youth body, corruption and what to eat remains an everyday discourse over and above policy formulation and implementation; attempts to unravel the immediate and extended gains of this seemingly brutish politicking to the life of the average Benin man in particular and Nigerians in general has been like trying to pass a camel’s head through a needle’s eye; our use-to-be industries of pride Bendel Brewery, Odin Biscuit, Bendel Insurance, Edo Printing Press, Ethiope Publishing Company, Bata, Iyayi Rubber Factory, etc have all been killed by the same people who ought to preserve and protect their sanctity; while nearly every Benin youth has taken to politicking, activism and the get-rich-quick venture, there has been a wreckless abandon of the values and creed that binds us together; this is due largely to the absence of a Benin united front whereas the Benin pro-people institutions that ought to promote her own has been largely inactive
The Palace of the Oba of Benin remains one of the greatest traditional institutions that has sustained our unity as a people; we continue to draw inspiration from the excellent cross-cultural initiatives exhibited by Benin Obas; while Oba Akenzua sued for education for the Benins, Oba Erediauwa was known for peace, tolerance and cultural development, the ascension of our highly revered Omo n’Oba n’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II N’Ogidigan to the throne of his forebears has no doubt corrected some minormals that hitherto vexed our morals and questioned our Beninness; the outright ban of CDA in the seven (7) Benin-speaking Local Government Areas that brought severe pains and loss to land owners and property developers and the subsequent creation of the Private Property Protection (PPP) Committee in conjunction with the Edo State Government, the traditional declaration against human trafficking, cultism, child abuse, training and payment of stipends to Libya returnees and the creation of institute of Benin Studies, etc forms part of efforts by the Oba Ewuare-led traditional institution to rescue the Benins from the claws of the egiaru syndrome; it is our prayers that the Almighty God and our ancestors will continue to direct the Oba of Benin through the paths of wisdom and prosperity, Oba gha t’okpere
The dearth of political and economic leadership which continue to overwhelm the Benin nation remains a major challenge to our unity and strength; for too long, there has been no definite political and economic rallying point to unite a vast majority of Benins towards a common political or economic goal; the situation has been that of every man for himself which of course is not sufficient enough to rescue an entire ethnic nationality as the Benin from her current political and economic underrepresentation; this has been the bane upon which the egiaru syndrome has succeeded; to undo this mishap, there must be a co-ordinated pro-Benin institutional framework managed by seasoned experts to eradicate such political and economic inadequacies and set the Benin nation on the path of political and economic prosperity
There is also the need to now consider the Benin national convention which may assemble Benins from all walks of life worldwide to discuss and implement action points that will pressure governments at the national and international levels to support the revival of our ailing socio-political, economic and infrastructural masterplan; our voice and actions must be heard or be seen to be heard otherwise the Benin ethnic nationality may
continue to occupy the passenger seat in the scheme of things while smaller groups are now drivers of their own destinies
In the South-West, there is a culture of all for one and one for all; during his time as the Executive Governor of Lagos State, His Excellency, Gov. Bola Tinubu appointed Rauf Aregbesola as Commissioner for Works, today, Aregbesola is Governor of the State of Osun; the same Tinubu appointed Babatunde Raji Fashola as Chief of Staff, Fashola eventually became Lagos State Governor after Tinubu and today, he is Minister for Works, Power and Housing; Gov. Tinubu also appointed Prof. Yemi Osinbajo as his Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, today the erudite Professor is Nigeria’s Vice President, these and more are the political and economic selflessness that Governor Tinubu, who is the undisputed National Leader of the APC in concert with Afenifere Yoruba Movement was able to pull; in Benin or Edo South ie, Egor, Oredo, Ikpoba-Okha, Orhionmwon, Uhunmwode, Ovia North East and Ovia South West, who is our leader and what is our movement?
At the Benin Forum, what do they discuss; who attends the meetings; what are the resolutions; and apart from some Palace Chiefs and may be other senior Benin elites, who are the members of the Benin Forum and whose interests does this Forum actually represent? The time has come for the Benin monarchical system to look beyond the four (4) walls of traditionalism, land matters and community conflicts and rally the Benin nation to get fully engaged in the political and economic revolution of our ethnic nationality; a situation where not one Benin, not two and not three can be identified in national and international politics cannot be said to be a good narrative; we must fashion out mechanisms to identify our people in key positions; political, academic, economic and otherwise, bring them home and charge them to be their brothers keepers otherwise the egiaru syndrome will continue to delimit our influence and set the Benin nation on a reverse gear
To conclude my august position and to reiterate the influence of the Afenifere in the South-West, Arewa in the North and Ndigbo in the South-East, the South-South wherein the Benin ethnic nationality falls in, is now left with no option than to continue to kowtow to the political tunes of these groups be it beneficial to us or not; I want to call on our Benin brothers and sisters, our fathers and leaders especially those who have been fortunate in their various callings not to feel satisfied with the me, myself and I situation because “aruon kpa gha fe vbevbo emwen oye”; a community that parades only one wealthy man, that man is in trouble; to this end, we must continue to propagate the spirit of love, unity, strength and progress; we must stand to prosper our own irrespective of the overriding limitations, we must lead our own towards the doors of opportunity for those that are less-opportunued but determined to succeed to walk through; eten nikpia kevbe, eten n’ikhuo, let us stand for ourselves and demystify this egiaru cankerworm; afterall, oyayasivbievbuomwan
Oba gha t’okpere, ise