By Tonnie Iredia
In Nigeria, any claim whatsoever can easily be made to look correct; all that is required is to repeatedly make the same claim overtime and after a while it sticks in the sub consciousness of people. The claim in Benin, the home city of this writer that there is an oracle which has capacity to determine the political direction of the people falls into this theory.
The way it works is for a ranking palace chief to aggressively make a political declaration which the gullible assimilates as if authorisd by the Benin Monarch. During the 1991 Edo governorship election, a chief, through the Edo Broadcasting Service, announced that the Oba had directed the Benins to vote for a particular candidate.
But for the wisdom of the Court of Appeal which found as of fact that the chief was on his own, the election would have been nullified on account of undue influence. Again just before the 2012 governorship election, another chief, used the same style to make personal gains with his famous “the oracle has spoken” in favour of the incumbent governor. Incidentally, the prediction that the governor would be re-elected came to pass. The chief actually restated that the loser of the election “wrestled with invincible forces” thereby giving some credibility to the oracle.
It would appear that the belief has emboldened the oracle-man to continue to delude the people into accepting that he has the authority of the “ancestors” to make immutable pronouncements on political issues. The latest statement credited to the same oracle-man is that the Benin people would not vote for President Goodluck Jonathan because he allegedly removed their son, Chris Ogiemwonyi as Minister of State for Works only to turn around and appoint his former wife, Stella Oduah into the Federal Executive Council.
In order not to validate the subsisting fake theory, it is expedient to make the point that the Benins are free-minded people who are known for making their independent political decisions notwithstanding the reverence with which they hold their Oba. It is only those who are unfamiliar with Benin history that may not appreciate the fine, long-standing distinction between traditional power and political partisanship in the Benin kingdom. Where, if we may ask, was the oracle-man during the golden era of Chief Humphrey Omo-Osagie, the leader of the Out-Edo political party whose members and followers overwhelmingly voted against the candidates of every authority including those of the government party-the Action Group?
Of course, the Benin people have always been politically free against the backdrop of the liberal political posture of the palace. For example, during one of President Jonathan’s visits to Benin City, the Oba was reported to have introduced one of his princes who had on his own volition decamped from the ruling party in the state to the opposition. Another good example comes from the1991 governorship election in the state in which Chief John Oyegun defeated Chief Lucky Igbinedion.
Although Oyegun was generally rumoured to be the Oba’s favourite, the polling booth in the palace was won by his opponent- Igbinedion. What these two stories suggest is that the Oba does not influence his house-hold politically, let alone the larger community. In earnest, even if the Oba has a preferred candidate he does not as the father of all coerce anyone to affiliate with or to vote for any particular party or candidate. Rather, he prays for all aspirants who seek his blessings. Accordingly, anyone including palace chiefs in pursuit of political patronage must leave his Royal Majesty out of his self-seeking scheme
In the instant case of purporting to direct the voting pattern of the Benins, the oracle-man is not persuasive. He does not even appear familiar with how those he named got into or left the federal executive council. For instance, was Stella Oduah ever appointed as Minister to represent Edo State? It is laughable that the oracle-man could not use his invincible oracle to stop the replacement of Ogiemwonyi just as he was unable to influence the appointment of a Benin Minister.
History indeed records him to be a non-helper of Benin candidates hence he fought assiduously against the leading Benin candidate in the governorship election of 2012 until his preferred candidate, a non-Benin, won the election. Interestingly, the same President Jonathan he praised to high heavens then for allegedly creating an enabling environment for the election is the one he is now castigating only because of personal interest. Whereas he is free to do so for and on behalf of himself, laying claim to being the spokesman of the Benins on the subject is unfounded
In heterogeneous societies like ours where competitive ethnicity is inevitable; each ethnic group requires leaders who can stand for them. The Benins in particular are in dire need of such broad-minded leaders who can take them out of their present political dilemma in which they play a second fiddle in a state where they constitute the majority.
It is no doubt worrisome that neither the state governor nor the minister representing the state in the federal executive is from the ethnic group. Other substantive issues of concern to the group earlier articulated by the Edo Unity League (EUL) include “the non-redress of appropriated Edo oil wells in favour of Ondo and Delta states which greatly dwindles the oil and gas revenue potentials of Edo state”. In addition, the people are painfully aware that apart from the state capital, every other Benin area passes for a mere village
Thus, those in pursuit of material gains for themselves and their immediate families cannot speak for the Benins whether or not such opportunists dine with invincible forces. Accordingly, it is risky for any political party to rely on the assurances of such opportunists on how the Benins will vote in the forthcoming general elections. While PDP members and their admirers are likely to vote for President Jonathan, those dissatisfied with governance in the nation in the last 6 years would probably not. No oracle can hypnotize them to act undecidedly.