Simon Ebegbulem, Benin City
Prince Joe Okogie is a political activist from Uromi, Esan North East Local Government Council of Edo state. He has been at the fore front of those pushing for the infrastructural development of Uromi. And as the 2012 governorship election in the state approaches, he urges the people of his Edo Central senatorial district of the state to support the second term ambition of Governor Adams Oshiomhole so that the on going developmental projects in the area can be completed.

Excerpts:

We know you are   not a
politician but an activist, why have you been so passionate about the  July 14 election in Edo State?

I decided to participate in the process because I see an attempt to bring our people down. I see our people of Esanland and Uromi in particular trapped in poverty  and by so doing, ruining their good sense of thinking by demons of under development. They kept our people at a level where certain individuals can come back and take advantage of them by tricking them with bags of rice during Christmas and five hundred naira during elections. I felt it was wrong and we owe it as a duty to appeal to the collective conscience of the Esan people and Uromi in particular, that things must change.

But Uromi produced great men and women such as the late nationalist, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Chief Tony Anenih and others, so why is the area so under developed?

As a young man growing up, walking down from my school to my house, I could stop at different areas and drink water if I was tasty. Anthony Enahoro did that for us. If I was sick, I could go to the general hospital and receive treatment free of charge. But as I speak to you, those things are no longer in existence. Enahoro did a lot for us in Uromi. But after Enahoro, nothing has happened in Uromi. Today, those pipe born waters are no longer in existence. The hospitals are dead. For example, I went to Government school Uromi, and that is where Chief Enahoro and Anenih attended school. And when I came back in 2002 from the United States, I visited the same primary school. That school did not have a toilet, neither did it have a roof. And I wondered, these kids how are they managing. As if that was not bad enough, in 2003, when we opened the Cathedral in Uromi, my cousin Cardinal Anthony Okogie was also received as a Cardinal and we had a reception in St Anthony’s primary school. All the eminent men in Uromi were there, yet the school  did not have a roof or windows, but no body seems to bother.

I have to roof it and provide them with water. If there was something happening in Uromi, that would not have been necessary. And very sadly, we had previous governments in the state, local government and even at the national level, because it is still PDP but these children were subjected to go to school in such an unacceptable environment. And our leaders were blind to these facts.

If we cannot take care of the very many poor amongst us, how can we protect the few rich amongst us. I am not saying that  taking care of the very many poor among us will totally eliminate crime. What I am saying is that it will substantially reduce crime.

The only person that is giving hope to our people just now, is Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. The schools I am telling you about, if you go there now you will not believe it.  He has created an environment that is better than the homes where some of the children come from and because of that, children now prefer to stay in school and learn. That was not happening before now.

People believe Chief Anenih has assisted his Esan people in so many ways but that is contrary to what you’re saying?

I told you earlier that we need to appeal to the collective conscience of the entire Esan land and Uromi Uzuaire in particular so that we can make progress. Our people have never enjoyed the dividends of democracy and as a result, they don’t know what to expect from government. Their belief is what they are used to, that is, the peanuts they give them during elections. That is why I’m saying enough is enough.

 

You cannot continue to deceive our people with bags of rice during Christmas and N500 during elections. You steal their mandate and you turn around and abandon them. Until Oshiomhole came, there was nothing to speak about in Esan land. Our roads were in shambles; our schools were in dilapidated forms. Community health centers were dead. However, within the last few months, the Local Government has been able to provide about six boreholes for our community. We have built community health centers, we have been able to renovate quite a number of primary schools and that is just the beginning. We have seen a man who because of  his back ground has demonstrated that he has sympathy for the less privilege. Not only does he say it, he has demonstrated it. So we owe it a duty to support him in this election so that he will complete what he has started. For me, Oshiomhole is God sent to Edo state. Befoe him, nothing has happened in the region. Some in Esan land will argue that Oshiomhole is developing his area in Edo North more than Esan land but I honestly say that if he is not developing Edo North, I will question his kind of person. But I know that is not even the case. The man is even doing a lot in Edo South because of the problem of flooding and erosion being experienced in that area. I will even recall that I was already sensible when Ali came to power and I know what Ali did for Ekpoma people.

So even if Oshiomhole is fixing Edo North, it is his duty to develop his area too. There is nothing wrong in that. Look at what Ali did for his people in Ekpoma.  Besides, people from my area supported Lucky Igbinedion’s government, but did the PDP fix Edo South then?  If they had even fixed Edo South, may be Oshiomhole would have used all the money he is spending there now for some thing else.

It has also been argued that what Oshiomhole is doing is window dressing, but if they had dressed doors, will Oshiomhole  be dressing doors and windows today? When we see some thing that is right, let us support that and forget partisan politics. Oshiomhole has taken our people from darkness to light and it will be to our own interest to support him. If you go to Uromi now, Arhue-Uzenema road, when you pass that road, it will look as if you are in America.

He has completed at least three roads in Uromi-Uzaira Esa North East Local Government alone including Chief Anenih’s community; Our Lady of Lords Uromi and Uromi Girls Grammar school which was written off before. But go there and see what he is doing now. With the Governor’s directive, local government councils have renovated schools in each of the eleven wards in Uromi through the Transitional Chairman.

I am not running for any office and I am not looking for any appointment. I am ready to use my resources to support Oshiomhole because of what he is doing for our people. No government  will come to the state again and say he cannot work. That is why I totally disagree with those saying that Oshiomhole must be stopped today . Whether those people are from Uromi or Benin, I don’t care. I left this country 1986, I came back in 2002 and apart from the individual efforts, government presence was visibly absence in Uromi.

 

The truth is that Chief Anenih is our father, he is an elder statesman and we respect him for what he has accomplished in the nation’s political arena. However, I feel he has stayed too long on the political scene.  I believe that our people in Uromi have been short changed in the scheme of things.

But some politicians are brining in ethnic politics in this campaign, don’t you feel that may affect the chances of Oshiomhole?

This will not work at all. Are you saying that the Benins are not seeing what Oshiomhole is doing today. People cannot forget what happened few years ago when it will rain and people’s blood pressure will go up. Today people have seen a man that came to tackle this problem. Look that Ohsiomhole will win is not the issue because he will win but all I am appealing to my people in Uromi is that we must be part of the victory so that I will have the mandate to march to Oshiomhole’s office and say my people assisted you so assist us in any way. You can see that even the PDP candidate Airhiavbere is not on ground and PDP is not on ground in Edo state. Whoever is thinking that ethnicity will work in this case is making a mistake because Oshiomhole is even more Benin than Airhiavbere.

But your people in Edo Central always vote the PDP, how optimistic are you that you will be able to achieve victory for Oshiomhole in that area?

I told you that we are appealing to the collective conscience of our people to do the right thing. We need development and not people worshipping few persons who always empower their stooges while the majority suffers.I am very optimistic that this time around Esan people will do that which is necessary. Esan people are wiser now, an Esan man is not in the race now but a Benin man and Etsako man. So with what Oshiomhole has done for Esan people, with the sincerity he has exhibited in bringing genuine development to our people, Esan people will show appreciation by voting against the PDP this time around. I am not a politician but an activist, but I am glad that many of our people in Uromi have said that this time around we will not continue to be in opposition. We have decided to vote for Oshiomhole because he has taken us to the promise land. Esan people are not going to vote for sentiments this time around but for development which is what Oshiomhole represents.

 

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