By Simon Ebegbulem
The Esogban of Benin Kingdom, Chief David Edebiri is the third inÂ command to theÂ Â Benin monarch, Oba Erediuwa. He is alsoÂ Â the Chairman of a socio_cultural organization, the Benin Forum, which is an umbrella body of all Benin organizations as well as the being the chief priest of the Benin Kingdom.
In this interview with Saturday Vanguard, EsogbanÂ Â Â Â Â described how the witches and wizards are assisting Oshiomhole in the governance of the state. He also commentedÂ on the recent appointment of a Bini Vice_Chancellor for the University of Benin.
The Bini agitation for the Vice_Chancellorship of the University of Benin (UNIBEN) was realizedÂ Â when a Bini son, Professor Osayukin Oshodin was appointed as VC of the university. As Chairman of the Benin socio_cultural organization, the Benin Forum, what is your reaction?
I feel great, I feel fulfilled that at last our cries, our yearnings to the powers that be haveÂ been answered.Â Not that we were given the position for free, it was becauseÂ Â Â transparent procedure were put in place which enabled our son to emerge as the authentic Vice_Chancellor of the UNIBEN.
I thank the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I thank our father the Oba of Benin. I thank the Governor of Edo state, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole for his principled stand on the matter. We are very grateful. We have always maintained that we do not want any body to show us sympathy but that the proper procedure should be followed so that the proper person should emerge and that is exactly what the present council has done. More especially we are grateful to the immediate past Chancellor Professor Jibo for the work he did in putting proper structures in place for the election.
But one of the candidates, Professor Obaseki an Esan man who emerged first in the interview is protesting the decision of the Council?
Well, I am not in the academia, they know what they do there, I do not know the procedure. All that we have heard is that Oshodin is the man appointed by the Council. So if any body feels that he ought to be, he was not the person who interviewed himself. If the panel that interviewed them says this is the proper person to be the VC, I do not see what the protest is all about.
I also heard it my self but we are not bothered about it now. Our concern is that the new VC should be given the opportunity to start work in earnest. I know that the Bini candidates were not inferior in any way to other tribes that participated in the interview. But any body has the right to protest. I know that in all the qualifications that was required for this position, Professor Oshodin was eminently qualified for this position.
The truth is that in this quest for VC, we just came out not because we wanted it by all means, but because it is only fair that when all the senatorial districts in both Edo and Delta haveÂ taken their turns, in getting their person appointed, it is only Edo South that has not benefitted and thisÂ Â Â university is situated in our place. So it is only fair that we too should take it. so it is not a matter of desperation.
What is your assessment of Comrade Adams Oshiomholeâ€™s administration so far
In the last one year, the Comrade Governor has made monumental achievements in all sectors. In the first place the very day he was sworn in, he made a pronouncement stopping the illegal tax collection in the state and that was the first blow that brought sanity among the populace.
The fact that he has embarked on so many developmental project, he has given employment to unprecedented number of applicants. But what interest me most is that some people who do not understand, is that in the past one year not a kobo of our Edo state allocation has gone out of this country to South Africa to Europe, the United States , Middle East .
That should give joy to every Edo man.Â Â What ever that was sent here, has been utilized or being utilized for the development of the state. We areÂ very happy about that. The second point is that the Comrade Governor to a very large extent has set the pace in demystifying theÂ Â office of the Governor.
By that I mean, in the past, when a Governor was coming you will find more than fifty motor cycle riders in his front and back as if there is going to be a war. That makes some of us ashamed of ourselves, why do people like making so much noise. Even Speakers of the House of Assembly, when they are coming it is as if there is going to be a war. But since the Comrade Governor came, all those noise harmful to the ears has seized. So he has so far demystifiedÂ Governance.
People now know that to be a governor is not a big deal. He has not changed his dress, he has not changed his life style. The man is a very simple man. We have seen that a government that is rooted in the people is capable of generating internal revenue for the execution of projects in the state. The people love him and they like him and they have alleged that they should pay their taxes so that the state can meet up after many years of decadence. We are below every other state because of bad leadership in the past. The Governor is the only one that is likely to break the record set by Dr Ogbemudia years ago. I am very clear in my mind that he will perform.
But the opposition peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said he has not done any thing and that contracts are being inflated every day?
Well, if such criticism comes from other quarters, people may listen but they were here in the last ten years when their two administrations wasted billions of naira, as has been established in the court and in the tribunal.Â Â They used our money to go and develop countries and that are already developed. So the PDP has no right to say what ever they are saying.
And besides, what ever allegation they are making against the Governor they should prove it. What proof do they have to say contracts have been inflated? As a matter of fact how many contracts have been awarded? They should wait to see whether these contracts will be like the ones awarded by the immediate past PDP government when no body knows how they were paid for.
They were awarded to fictitious companies that have no registration. But to those of us in the state we are happy with what the young man is doing so far. We are happy that the psychological tension brought by the collection of illegal revenues, harassing of innocent people along the road, all those things haveÂ stopped. Look at Benin City today, every where has changed.
And by time he finishes with Benin he will move to other areas. So the PDP is not serious at all. Like the one they are saying that he is only concentrating jobs in Benin City , since Benin City is the gate way to other states, it is only right and proper that what ever he wants to do should start from Benin City . So there is nothing bad about that. And if he finishes in Benin City he will move to other places, so the PDP criticism is out of frustration.
We are entering the new yearÂ what do you think the government can do to ensure that people enjoy the dividends of democracy?
Well, from what the Governor told every body, we expect massive road construction, we expect drainages to come along.
According to the Governor, he said the master plan of the city has been completed. We expect development to spring up in all aspects, in all facets of life, like water, road, electricity and even in agriculture. He told us that fertilizer has been sent to the communities and in public he asked the traditional rulers if they knew about the fertilizers that came to their areas and no one denied it.
But more especially, the physical discipline is what matters those who collects money should not be putting them into their private accounts like what they revealed in the Water Board some time ago. If you collect public money pay it into public funds and when you want to use it let people know what you are using it for.Â Solve the problem of flooding in some of the big cities, make road passable.
Those that requires asphalt, put solid asphalt. Like he said himself, the roads that were constructed by Boroni Prono in those days before independence they are still there.
They remain intact. But the ones they are now doing with emergency contractors before three months they are washed out. So we are expecting quality job from the Comrade Governor. We are expecting beautiful city, well lite city in the night not dark city as Benin City is now.
There is this worry about what the public describes as Bini agenda, that the Binis wants to take over form Oshiomhole after his first tenure, as Chairman of the Benin Forum, an umbrella body of all Binis what is you view on that issue?
Thank you very much. I have not heard about this in recent times but it is not impossible that such things are going on.
But before the present regime came in, people form themselves into what they call Benin Consultative Group, that is must be a Bini man who must be a Governor.
I think I was the first person to come out to say no that what we required today is no longer a Bini speaking person to occupy that seat, that we wanted a Bini candidate. A Bini candidate I define as some one who is interested in making Benin City rob shoulders with other state headquarters. A man who will see what is good and bring it to Benin City .
That is the candidate we call a Bini candidate and not necessarily a Benin origin. The present Governor has eight years to spend, we pray for his life. Except in a case of unforeseen circumstance, or he himself wants to go up, no body can come between him and this office in the next eight years. He has more support now than when he entered.
Those people talking now are day dreaming, it is only when the man there is not performing that you talk of some one coming in to replace him. We have tried a Bini son, we did not make big progress with them. So let us try a Bini candidate and not a Bini citizen.
So we are not thinking about that now, we are thinking of helping Oshiomholeâ€™s government to make Benin what it should be. Apart from the fact that I am the Odiowere of Benin, I head the Benin Forum which is the umbrella organization of all the associations and some thing like that has not crossed our minds. I can speak for the Forum and the Forum advises the Oba on such issues.
Traditionally, you are the head of witches and wizards, how are you coordinating these people to uplift the life of the people and ensuring the success of this administration?
Strickly speaking I am not the head of witches and wizards. I am a supervisory officer in the Ministry, not that I head them.
One thing people do not know is that these witches and wizards we talk about, they have their own class. They are not all of the same category. The small witches, those who go to destroy things and cause trouble, mortality, those are small small witches. Those people hardly think of any thing good. But there are the Babas. These smaller ones do not go their meetings.
The Babas are the rulers of the place, they are the rulers, and ones they take a decision there it cannot be changed in the afternoon. And those people do bad, they help to shape the affairs of any community. So what we do is to pray that through our ancestors, these people should continue to wish good for the administration and the entire state. That is the only way, but we do not talk to the smaller ones.