•Insists Jonathan’s administration marginalized the Binis
•Says the call for resignation of the Esogban nonsensical
By SIMON EBEGBULEM, Benin City
In the past three weeks, the internet has been dominated by the story of the alleged ill health of the Benin monarch, Omo N’Oba N’Edo, Oba Erediauwa. The story started making the rounds last December during the celebration of the Igue annual festival when the monarch didn’t appear before the crowd.
The story heightened after the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Gen.Muhammadu Buhari, and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) counterpart, President Goodluck Jonathan, visited the palace during their campaigns in Edo State but could not see the monarch. However, the Benin Palace came out to dismiss the story of Oba Erediawa’s alleged death, last week, asserting that it was the figment of the imagination of the authors.
But what many may not know is that the Oba of Benin never dies, he transits from mortality to immortality. And from all indications, the Home Leopard lives and still reigns over his kingdom. In this interview, his younger brother and the Enogie (Duke) of Obazuwa, Prince Edun Akenzua, clears the air on the issue. He equally reacts to the call for the resignation of the Chairman of the Benin Forum and the Esogban of Benin Kingdom, Chief David Edebiri, by some groups loyal to the PDP, just as he explains why it will be difficult for the Binis to cast their votes for President Goodluck Jonathan during the general elections. Excerpts:
People have been worried over the health of the Oba. Can we know the true state of the Oba’s health?
I think the Secretary of the Palace has reacted on this matter. This rumour has been on since last year. I don’t know the source. The first time the Oba did not grant audience to President Jonathan, the rumour was on. But after that one, Jonathan came again and the Oba granted him audience, people kept quiet. I think one will say it is alright to know that a number of people show much concern but they should not be listening to rumours. If there is anything to say, it will be said. I have received calls from America, UK, South Africa and I told them that it is not true. Omo N’Oba is hale and hearty.
Esogban of Benin Kingdom and Chairman of the Benin Forum, Chief David Edebiri, recently declared that Binis will not vote for Jonathan because he has not done anything for them. But he has been criticized by the PDP over his comments, while some of their sympathizers also called for his resignation as chairman of the Benin Forum. What is your take on the issue?
I am a member of the Benin Forum. All those calling for the Esogban’s resignation have no locus to make such call. If they felt he said something they do not agree with, they should write to the Oba who nominated the Esogban as the Chairman of the Benin Forum, not call from outside that he should resign. The Esogban has the right to say that Binis tallies should not vote for Jonathan. What the Esogban said in that report about the Binis, with what I myself have been saying over the years that the Benin people, when you look at the votes that the President got in Edo, he got more than 50 per cent from Edo South, because we have the population.
Having done that, I am surprised that there is no Edo South man or woman in the President’s cabinet. Like the Esogban said in his interview, it was actually Oshiomhole who pleaded with us to support Jonathan in 2011. Some of us asked him why? He said because he is our son from the South South. And we told him if he was sure it will not backfire, and he said no. And if you observed, apart from the presidential election, that’s Jonathan’s election in 2011, PDP lost completely in Edo.
They won the presidency in Edo because Oshiomhole, who we trust, asked us to vote for Jonathan and we did so. So our sons and daughters who are PDP members must ask President Jonathan why he neglected the Binis in his administration and stop crucifying the Esogban. All the ministerial appointments, prime board appointments, all of them are from Edo Central.
Now they talked about Benin-Ore Road, they have been doing it since the tenure of President Obasanjo. Now they have completed Benin Ofusu axis, so it will be insulting the intelligence of the Benin people if they say that is what we have benefited from the Jonathan’s administration. They call it priority road in the time of Okotie Eboh when they started it. And that road does not terminate in Benin, it links the South East, South South and the North. It is for everybody, you cannot now say that is what they have done for Benin.
Benin politicians who are PDP members have a duty to ask the President what the Binis have benefited from his administration. Not long ago, a member of the PDP came here to say they influenced the Federal Government to re-plan the railway route to come to Edo. Initially, it terminated somewhere in Edo Central. The man who was talking said that it had been redrawn and now it will pass through Edo South to Warri. He said it but I have not seen the diagram. The Esogban said what he has observed, many people who love Edo South will tell you that he has not misfired.
On the issue of Ogiemwonyi, the former Minister actually told me he was not happy the way Jonathan treated him. He was supposed to be given Minister of Petroleum because that was his area of specialty but they made him a junior Minister under somebody who I don’t think was even an engineer.
Postponement of elections
I won’t say I am surprised with the shifting of the elections because I don’t have the facts which Jega has and he has the right to fix elections dates. The only thing that surprised me was that he told the Council of State that he was ready for the elections. And then in his press conference, he talked about security problems which he did not mention initially.
As if that was not bad enough, in the President’s media chat, he said he knew nothing about the security issue, that Jega did not consult him before shifting the polls. That sounded very funny because how can the NSA and Jega have such information concerning security without passing it over to the Commander-in-Chief? However, Jega has assured that he can still conduct elections according to the Constitution to ensure that May 29 is possible, so let us wait.