By SIMON EBEGBULEM
He is fondly called the “Oracle of Benin Kingdom” due to many of his predictions that have come to pass both in Edo State and the nation as a whole. The Esogban of Benin Kingdom, Chief David Edebiri, is the second in command in the hierarchy of chiefs in the palace of the Oba of Benin. In this interview, the Esogban, who also is one of the nationalists that fought for the nation’s independence as a journalists and politician, gives an insight into what Nigerians should expect from the new Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare 11. He uses the opportunity to dismiss the insinuation that human sacrifice may have been used during the coronation of the Oba, asserting that such practice is not tolerated in Benin Kingdom.
He also speaks on why Edo people are going to miss out-going governor, Adams Oshiomhole; and what is expected of the in-coming governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki, just as he describes as, a waste of energy, the move by the PDP to contest the result of the Edo governorship election at the tribunal.
We just concluded the coronation of the Oba of Benin. What do Nigerians expect from him?
We have got a brand new Oba and we are in a situation where such men are most needed in the country. Nigeria today is in dire need of people who understand what the issues are. I think the present Oba of Benin, the 40th Oba of the present dynasty in Benin, is among those people who understand what the people are thinking, and what the administration of this country, of the state, of the local government and the traditional institution should be. So we are expecting a peaceful reign, we are expecting another long reign, much more than the father. We are also expecting what one would call economic prosperity under the present kingship.
The coronation coincides with the emergence of a governor-in-waiting. How do you explain it?
Of course it is a very good coincidence. The coming of the new Oba at a time we are expecting a new governor in Edo portends prosperity, good leadership because of the backgrounds from which the two personalities involved are coming from. For the Oba, he is coming from a background of someone who has been an ambassador representing this country in several countries of the world and ‘ consequently’ has been exposed to see what happens in other lands. He will make sure that he brings his experience to bear on what happens at home. In the same way, a man who is coming in as governor of the state from November 12, he is a man, too, who has been an ambassador of some sort. He has been to several countries of the world, where he has successfully displayed his ingenuity in modern governance, especially when it comes to economic matters. According to him, he has helped governments, individuals, entrepreneurs to build up their businesses and he is going to use his experience to take Edo to the top of economic prosperity. We believe that, as somebody who is vast in finance, he is going to use his experience to handle the finances of the state with such prudence and maximize the monies coming to the state for the greater good and greater number of the people. So you can see that the coincidence is very comfortable for the state and it points to very positive changes for the state and the traditional level; the coming of the two personalities will definitely bring positive change for our state.
Were you, top palace chiefs, not surprised about the way the new Oba attended to all the rituals before ascending the throne?
In Benin, we have a saying that Oba is not made, he is born. The very day he is born as the senior son of a reigning Oba, if it was possible for him to talk, he will talk more maturely than his mates, he is from heaven. He has been endowed with all the things that make a king. Even at school, those who schooled with him will tell you that he exuded such leadership qualities that clearly distinguish him from others. We were not afraid at all; first, he was not going to be the first Oba of Benin to go to the white man’s land to acquire education, his father went and, when he came back, he used the education he got from abroad to advance our cultural heritage. We also expect that his son will do the same. We expected him to do all he has done, but I must tell you that some of us were a bit surprised at the dexterity with which he carried out the rates. Especially trekking at his age. His father came to the thrown younger than him, but the way he took the whole matter, trekking several kilometres, satisfying all the traditions necessary for becoming the Oba of Benin, we congratulate him, we admire him. That is a pointer that he will do well.
We always hear of human beings being used for sacrifice during coronations such as this. What is your take?
If it happened, I was not born then. I cannot tell you whether it happened or not. I was born when the white man had come. And once the white man came, there was no more human sacrifice. It is possible it happened those days, I don’t know but in this modern time, animals are used for sacrifice and not human beings. If they do it in some parts of the country, definitely not in Edo. I am the Odionwere of the kingdom. I can speak for the people, we don’t use humans for sacrifice.
You have since the coming of Oshiomhole predicted the extinction of PDP in Edo and the nation as whole. How do you describe the just concluded Edo governorship election and the decision to challenge the results by the PDP?
We are now in a democracy, everybody has a right to exercise his democratic right going to the court or the tribunal. But some of us knew before the election that the PDP had no chance of winning any gubernatorial election in the state. We based that on the fact that they had nothing to show to the people. And in the just concluded election, while the APC governorship candidate, Obaseki, presented his programme to the people, PDP presented nothing. They just printed something called ‘ Simple Agenda’ and some of us know that modern day governance is not simple. No one understood what they meant, they did not tell anybody what they will do or what they had done in the past. So I think they just want to try at the tribunal but the people who voted for Obaseki were human beings, they are not ghosts and we know that the election was free, fair and credible. I want to with all emphasis say that since 1951 when this modern voting started in Benin, I have taken part in every election. I want to say that of all those elections, no one can be compared to this last one in terms of being free and credible.
The only one that can be compared with this election is that of MKO Abiola but it was conducted under Option A4. Again the final result reflected the voting pattern of the state, so I don’t know what people are quarrelling about. Traditionally, Edo South people were not expected to vote for the PDP because of what they did to us here for ten years. And from the statistics of all the elections, they have not been winning here. Then you go to Edo Central, the PDP has been winning there for whatever reason I don’t know. They have consistently won there and they won there this time around.
They have not been winning Edo North and in this election the PDP did not win Edo North. So the election result was in tandem with what has been happening in the last few years. Yes in the last general election, that was the National Assembly election, we knew what happened, the role money played out and how the PDP tried to convince our people not to vote for a Muslim, but after that election, we had the House of Assembly election and APC won 21 seats out of 24. So I don’t know why they are going to the tribunal but the English law says those who alleged must prove before the law. So we are watching.
How do you think Oshiomhole will be missed?
Let us not deceive ourselves, our people will miss Oshiomhole for a long time to come. We will miss him for so many reasons. What I cannot predict now is whether or not Obaseki will perform more than Oshiomhole, we will leave that to time. But there are many areas in governance where no governor in very foreseeable future that will come and erase the record set by Oshiomhole. For example, Oshiomhole has a way of warming himself up to the people whether they are his political opponents or not. He goes to anywhere and the people like to talk to him, he is always free with the people and that is something people cannot learn in a hurry. But since Obaseki has been with him for the eight years, he can copy some of these qualities, he will not have problem. But he may not be as perfect like Oshiomhole. Secondly, Oshiomhole came and any promise he made to people or community, he tried by all means to fulfil it. That is another quality the new governor must try to emulate. Three, those who are saying Oshiomhole has not done anything, if you are saying that and riding on the road he has built, your children are attending the schools he has built, your wife and yourself go to the hospital the man has renovated and still you say you don’t know what he has done, then it is left for you and your God.
How do you access President Buhari’s fight against corruption?
So far, I score Buhari very high. Everything he has done since he came to power has been on the right side. After Buhari’s administration people will proclaim him the father of modern Nigeria. The man is doing his utmost best to bring a new Nigeria. People are complaining that food is expensive, things are hard, but we have not gone outside the country to find out if life is rosier there. There is a world economic problem that even touches the almighty America. So I don’t find any fault in what Buhari has done. I will only plead to Nigerians to give the man a chance to work for the benefit of the country.
Coming to the issue of corruption, corruption is the greatest battle to fight. To fight corruption is harder than fighting Boko Haram, because the people you would have used in the battle are all members of the corrupt society, so what do you do? I saw some lawyers protesting, they said they were preserving the integrity of the judiciary.
I think the next people that will protest now is the national association of kidnappers, why must you arrest a king pin of kidnapping. That is exactly what is happening, everybody is saving his own man who is caught red-handed?