BY Emameh Gabriel
The receipt and recognition of popular participation in governance, being elective or on the basis of appointment is the hallmark of true democracy and anything short of that could be best described as an attempt to dent the principle of natural justice in a democratic setting.
Almost four decades after we sent one of our own (Senator Franca Afegbua) to the Red Chamber to represent the old Bendel State of Nigeria (Bendel North Senatorial District) in the second republic (1979-1983), it was like soon after her service as the first Nigerian female Senator, an opportunity that would have catapulted Okpella to her political limelight, she went on break.
While this break lasted, we became the political tools to others and we remained contented in playing the second fiddle in the polity; they pull the strings and we dance. We pay the piper, they call the shots; our talents, our resources and our possibilities are now the means to an end for other Etsako communities and beyond in the last decades.
Franca Afegbua, being the first female Senator in Nigeria, is not only a symbol of the participation of the Nigerian woman in partisan politics but also a symbolic characteristic representation of the place of Okpella in the Nigerian political platform as it were. She displayed the typical of a true Okpellan going by how she set off her sojourn to the Senate while contesting under the opposition political party (NPN) against the ruling party (UPN) under the control of late Professor Ambrose Ali. She was, indeed, an archetypical and quintessential of the founding fathers of Okpella.
The end of the second republic and the emergence of the IBB’s SDP and NRC was the beginning of the sad political experience for Okpella in her political history. Things kept falling apart, and today lays in front of our very eyes things that cannot be denied by any informed and intelligent individual who is very apt with the polity in Nigeria and Edo- that Okpella had almost been totally sidelined both on the social and political stratum in the last decades.
The fate of the Okpella community is entangled with uncertainty at the moment. A supposedly economy hub of Edo North, a community that plays host to Edo Cement, same cement company that currently engaged hundreds of workers from Etsako and other communities in the state and beyond.
The same factory that serves as one of the largest sources of internally revenue generation for Edo State based on the percentage modules of the shares accrued to it.
It is sixteen years after the return of democracy, available records have shown that Okpella has been severely short changed in the distribution of elective position and other political appointments both from local government, state and at the federal level as well as the distribution of other democratic dividends. It is understood that the statistics from the last National Population Censor count which clearly placed Okpella as the third single largest community in Edo State has been snappishly ignored. The case of Okpella is a symbolic example of a people who pays the piper while others dictate the tune for them.
From records and statistics, we have observes with disappointment and unacceptability the fact that political leadership in the last 16 years has been advertently or inadvertently believed or claimed to be exclusive preserve for a few power blocks to the exclusion of the others whose political leaders are deemed or coerced into automatic followers and willing supporters ad-infinitum.
We appeal to all Okpellans and Edo communities who believe in equalitarianism and change to join hands to educating, mobilizing and consolidating the political activities of the people in fulfilment of God’s given doctrines of natural justice, equality and good conscience which are embedded in the change slogan Nigerians have recently adopted for national development.
And finally, we will simply ask the people of Okpella to be ready to engage in a positive process of re-engineering and re-orienting the dynamics of the polity in the state and then let our participation define our zeal to be part of the next executive in Edo State Government House.
The progress of Okpella simply lies in the decisions we take today and the future of the next generation of Okpella is defined in our awakening to time and there is no other time than the one available to us ahead of the 2016 governorship election in the state. It may not be our rights but we deserve more than this. It is not too much to ask for!
*Gabriel is an Abuja based journalist.