SENATOR Edobor Ehigie Uzamere, representing Edo South Senatorial District, struck the right note as he paid tribute to the ex-Biafran warlord, Chief Chukwuemeka Ojukwu.  The issues of marginalisation which Ojukwu fought for 40 years ago, he said, are still very much with us.

Uzamere, in his tribute, equally said that Ojukwu’s fear of marginalisation is still the same fear that is seen today by many brave and well-meaning sons and daughters of Edo South Senatorial District (the Binis).

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debt posited that this is the fear that has placed some of Bini sons and daughters “in the vanguard of emancipating our majority tribe from the claws of an overbearing and domineering minority tribe in Edo political landscape”.

Good talk, particularly in an election year in the state when the world’s attention is expected to be shifted to the crystallisation and consummation of what I can conveniently call Edo dialogue with the future.

Most of the ethnic groups in Edo today sprang from Bini and the Binis constitute about half of the population of the state which, therefore, is a determinant of our collective future. And all stakeholders must define the shape of that future.  That definition, if it is not to be too late, must be done now.

In a situation when the Bini political elite seem to be complacent and an Adams Oshiomhole from a minority tribe in the North Senatorial district now determines who becomes their councillor, their chairman, members of the House of Assembly, House of Representatives, Senate and the Deputy governor among the Binis, a renewal of faith in some basic moral virtues is necessary.

“Edo or Odion” is good if it does not end up with the exchange of carrots for a pot of porridge or breaking of kola-nuts; if it does not end up with Oshiomhole deciding who and who should represent the Bini in every elected position; if it goes beyond the inclination to receive cash and car gifts by some traditional rulers of Bini scion, to sell the opportunities of the people at the corridors of power.

If it goes further to awaken the youths’ sensibilities to civic responsibilities and to inculcate in them a new sense of values, vastly different from those of the past generation of adults who see nothing wrong in receiving Greek gifts of Prado SUVs bought with Edo tax payers’ money in order to manipulate votes against the Bini interest or convert public funds to their own, then it is good.

Today most Binis are not too comfortable with the belittlement of their hitherto revered traditional institutions as a result of how they have denigrated their values.  But even these values are better inculcated in a traditional setting; for enlightened traditional setting is the key to protect the interest of the Binis and a sure safeguard to marginalisation.

With it, the Bini future is assured. Without it, the future is mortgaged.  Right now, the Bini traditional institution is in a crisis of survival, even at the most rudimentary level.  There is no way anyone can talk meaningfully about Bini marginalisation without putting the position of its traditional institutions on the front burner.  At present, it is on the back burner. There lies the danger and, in fact, the contradiction.

In recent times, there have been acts of denigration and belittling of the Bini traditional council orchestrated by some highly placed Bini chiefs who, piqued by the display of acute benefaction and laced with beggarly disposition, have drummed support for Governor Oshiomhole at the expense of the overall Bini interest.

Not too long ago, Prince Edun Akenzua the younger brother of Oba Erediauwa and leader of the Bini Council of Enigies (Dukes) dragged others to proclaim Oshiomhole’s endorsement for 2012 elections. This was shortly after Oshiomhole reportedly sent gratifications of Prado SUVs to all the said Enigies.  Ironically, this is coming at a time when the entire Edo Central and a chunk of Edo North have declared support for the retired General Charles Ehigie Airhiavbere for the exalted position.

In 1983, the Edo people joined hands with Chief Tony Anenih and others to elect Samuel Ogbemudia, a Bini scion as the governor. Chief Anenih repeated this feat in 1991 and 1999 governorship election to elect Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and Chief Lucky Igbinedion, respectively, both from the Bini stock as governors. Intermittently, Anenih also influenced the appointment of prominent Bini sons as chairmen of INEC, Federal boards, and other ambassadorial positions.

If Senator Uzamere was not displaying a diabolical sense of humor, he should have acknowledged the roles of these minority tribes he referred to in ensuring that the Binis are not marginalised.  The question now is: Who is marginalising the Binis? For some time now, I have watched some resilient Bini youths as they go through pains and cruel indignation over the way Bini interests are being treated with disdain. They have also vowed to resist the insensitivity of their elders.  Prominent in this struggle is the Edo Youth Vanguard.

This view is also being canvassed by the new political voice of the Binis- “Enunuedo” -who have vowed to support only the Bini interest in the coming governorship election in July 14, 2012 in the State.

Interestingly, the election is principally going to be between Oshiomhole from a minority Etsako tribe and the retired General Airhiavbere, a Bini from Ogbe.  Already the Etsakos have flown the ethnic card, challenging the Binis that they would support Oshiomhole to actualise the Etsako agenda but the Binis are yet to express their reactions even as their Chiefs are falling over one another in the scramble for carrots that fall from Oshiomhole’s table.

I have often heard some Binis complain that since Lucky Igbinedion, a Bini did not perform to expectation, that they are skeptical of the PDP, but my argument is, if they(the Binis) could forgive General Agbazika Innih of the Etsako extraction and support Oshiomhole in spite of all the misdeeds Innih meted to them when he was a military governor of the state which includes the removal of Auchi Polytechnic from Benin to Auchi, why should they not forgive their son, Lucky Igbinedion and continue to vote the PDP, more so now that the same Igbinedion has become Oshiomhole’s hit-man.

The PDP is presenting a prominent Bini son and one of the highest Generals to have emerged from this part of the world. He should be fully supported.  I am reliably told that the people of Edo Central, the Owan and Akoko-Edo have vowed to elect a Bini son in the July 14 governorship election in the state.  They have also vowed that if “Edo or Odion” must continue to exist in the manner of calling, the most senior Bini son to break kola on various occasions, it will depend on how the Bini people exercise their franchise by electing their son in the July 14, 2012 election.

For the significant role and the position the Binis occupy, nobody can marginalise the Binis except the Binis themselves.  This is  food for thought.

Mr. CALLISTUS  OMOREGIE, a political analyst, wrote from Benin City, Edo State.

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