By Sufuyan Ojeifo
The legislative cum political absurdity that is going on in Edo state in which the Speaker of the House of Assembly from Edo central, Justin Okonoboh, has just been impeached and replaced with Kabiru Adjoto from Edo north, should worry well-meaning stakeholders, political actors and those who crave the unity and stability of the state. Although, Okonoboh is fighting back to regain his position or to assert himself as the de jure and/or de facto speaker, it is clear that there is no fidelity to the power sharing arrangement in the state.
The development has, also, forcefully brought to the fore the issue of lack of equity and the whimsical accommodation of the minority Esan tribe (Edo central) in the fluidity of power sharing by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state. The strategic offices of deputy governor and speaker of the House of Assembly are, by implication, now ceded to Edo north with the governor domiciled in Edo south, leaving Edo central out of the tripodal arrangement for balancing the sharing of the three topmost offices among the three zones. Even if this resonated with previous administrations, Governor Godwin Obaseki should not allow it to continue.
As a stakeholder in the affairs of my state, I am worried that this is the kind of misguided development and political injustice that have made agitations to rise to boiling points in different parts of the country. We do not need to tread the unenviable path of the political mistake made by President Muhammadu Buhari, when he unadvisedly created the infamous “97 percent versus the 5 percent” of those who should benefit from appointments and the national cake. Already, commentators on the internet and the social media space are already counting Edo central as part of Buhari’s five percent who did not vote for him.
I believe it is high time genuine effort was made to work on and birth a charter of equity that will, henceforth, irrevocably underpin political interactions and power sharing among the three senatorial zones that make up the state sans the factor of voting population. Edo state does not need distractions caused by agitation from political marginalisation. It is common knowledge that peace cannot be guaranteed in the absence of justice. Overtime, the marginalised people of Edo central are bound to react. We can really avoid this insensitive action by ensuring fair arrangement for all.
The charter should benefit from the buy-in of political leadership and the people as it will go a long way to assure the minority and the majority tribes of their fair shares and positions, at every intersection, in government in the state, as well as ensure that there is a seamless ceding of power as and when due. This is necessary to give every side a sense of belonging. A whole senatorial district, regardless of its minority status, is too big to be politically denied and enslaved in a state where everyone should be equal.
Government and governance will derive traction from political leadership once there is elite consensus on equitable zoning and power transfer. Edo people, on their part, will exercise the imperative constitutional power by voting in accordance with the consensus to accommodate the minority concern. In the interest of peace and in order to foster a deep sense of oneness for a greater Edo state, there should, indeed, be an end to the tendency by the majority tribes to always use their voting populations and strength to wrest the position of governor at the expense of the minority tribe.
This happened in the 2016 governorship election when some political forces in the APC and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), that should have insisted on power shift to Edo central, considered other desperate and egregious self-serving reasons by not giving any governorship candidate from the central their support; whereas the central had and still has competent and qualified persons for the position of governor.
It is a fact of our fourth republic history that Edo south produced the governor of the state in the person of Lucky Igbinedion from 1999 to 2007. The victory of Professor Oserhiemen Osunbor from the central in the 2007 governorship election was short-lived, following the legal victory of Adams Oshiomhole in 2008 as the authentic winner of the 2007 poll. Oshiomhole was in the saddle from 2008 to 2016. Should Edo central not have been given the opportunity to produce the governor from 2016 to 2024 in the spirit of political equity? But what we witnessed was a collective pandering to the majority Edo south in the desperate bid to grab gubernatorial power. Edo south clinched it on the platter without opposition because the APC and the PDP selected their candidates from there.
To dismantle the tyranny of the majority tribes in their self-realisation of, and self-perpetuation in the power to govern the state, we must dispassionately contemplate and interrogate the basis of our communality; and, necessarily redefine the terms of our association with one another such that there will be a deliberate shift from the dogma of entrenched political forces and majority tribes forcing their will on us to the pragmatism of the entire Edo people now having their way. Entrenched political forces and majority tribes can have their say in the dictum of democracy, such enduring statewide pragmatism that detracts from primordial support or consideration for tribes with the highest voting populations, which have consistently short-changed the minority Edo central, will now place greater importance on political equity.
Of course, Edo central, when it gets to its turn, will become a sea from which Edo south and Edo north will fish for the “best” candidate that satisfies considerations and meets requirements of vertical and horizontal equity in the election of a governor from among Edo central people. This is an issue that should, without any sentimental inclinations, engage very reasonably the interest and attention of political leadership in the state. If political leadership in the state has been introspective about the marginalisation and exclusion of Edo central from the governorship deal, the impeachment of Speaker Okonoboh by some members of the state assembly without picking his replacement from Edo central provides an opportunity to verbalise and ventilate innermost concerns about the shambolic application of power sharing arrangement that is observed more in the breach by the state chapter of the APC.
The early lesson to learn from the “grudge fight” in the Edo House of Assembly is the attention that it has adverted to the chicanery and weakness in the power sharing arrangement that has rendered Edo central easily subjugated and subservient to the majority Edo south and Edo north; and, the trigger to have a charter of equity that will assuage fears and feelings of marginalization, if conscientiously implemented. This is surely a good starting point for political renaissance in Edo. We must avoid needless political agitations that could unsettle the heartbeat of the state.
Ojeifo, a journalist, contributed this piece from Abuja via firstname.lastname@example.org