The premier web site of Edo speaking people.

Nation of people who are mostly located in the Midwestern part of Nigeria, Western  Africa.





















The Chairman,

Distinguished Leaders of the Edo Nation,

Highly Esteemed Ladies and Gentlemen.


I would like to start by commending Edokpamakhin for organizing this very important Symposium.  I appreciate the hard-working and patriotic members of this association of Edo people world-wide but principally in the Diaspora for demonstrating outstanding foresight regarding the future well-being and basic interests of the Edo nation.  It is my ardent expectation that the conclusions arising from deliberations today will enhance the sense of solidarity and unity among Edo people.


It would be stating the obvious to observe the timing of this symposium is most appropriate.  As we are all no doubt aware, Nigeria has once again arrived at a critical crossroads in its political history.  In the last year, Nigerian politicians have engaged themselves in lively and sometime abrasive debates on what they consider as aspects of the Constitution requiring amendment.  In a virtual one-party political dispensation of a highly centralized Nigerian Fourth Republic, it is clear that these debates and recommendations for constitutional amendment have not sufficiently elicited the views and preferences of the more than 400 ethnic nationalities that constitute Nigeria.


Forty years ago (1966), the Fourth Region then known as Midwest, played a historically decisive role in determining the political path chosen by the country since that year. 1966, as the year 2006 is turning out, was particularly traumatic and unstable.  The first military coup d'etat had taken place in January 1966, widespread social unrest resulting in the killing of Nigerians living outside their Regions of origin has shaken the confidence of the vast majority of Nigerians in the continued existence of Nigeria as a political entity.  To map out a route to some form of national cohesion and peaceful co-existence, the then Military Administration of General Gowon organized an ad hoc constitutional committee comprising representatives of the four Regions that constituted Nigeria at that time to design a new constitutional framework for the country.  At that committee, the Founding Father of Edokpamakhin, a great patriot and elder statesman, Chief Anthony Enahoro, led the Mid-West delegation.


A careful analysis of the positions taken by the four Regions at home before proceeding to the then Federal Capital City of Lagos indicated a remarkable consensus on the political structure of Nigeria.  Out of the three possible options of a Unitary System, a federal system, and confederation, all the four Regions opted for confederation.  But something dramatic happened to the position taken by the Mid-West as the delegates journeyed from Benin through Ibadan University to Lagos.  At Ibadan, the delegates met with Mid-Western intellectuals who were members of staff of that premier University and the decision was taken to change the brief agreed to by leaders of thought in Benin from confederation to federation.  This decision was taken under the assumption that a confederate Nigeria would be a weak participant in international affairs, and that continued federalism would treat all nationality groups fairly and with equality of esteem.  Chief Enahoro, his fellow delegates and the brilliant Mid-Western political strategists meant well, and indeed with the vantage of hind sight were more patriotic than their counterparts from other parts of the country who vociferously disagreed with Chief Enahoro when he stated the Mid-West's choice of continued federation.


I have gone to great length to review some of the events of 1966.  It is a historical fact that the position taken by the Mid-West on the preferred structure of Nigeria prevailed.  Again, in 2006, Edo State leaders of thought would at this Symposium arrive at some conclusions which would again determine the future political structure of Nigeria.




The political environment of Nigeria in 2006 is significantly different from that of the early post-independence period (1960 � 1965).  A federal system was bequeathed by the founding fathers after years of painstaking negotiations.  Each Region controlled education, health, infrastructure, and exports through the Marketing Boards. Each Region had its Constitution, Coat of Arms, and other emblems of self-government.  This system began to collapse when Regions that formed the coalition Federal Government (North and East) started interfering in the protracted political crisis in the Western Region.  Rigged elections and the incursion of the Army into Government in 1966 showed that sovereignty and legitimacy could be displaced by control of the instruments of violence.  A succession of military governments virtually killed federalism and replaced it with an extremely centralized system. A major cause of the current political and social tension in Nigeria today is the co-existence of an excessively powerful Central Government and a Constitutional civilian administration.  A strong Central Government has never, is not, and will never be the choice of the nationality groups of the country.  A major roadblock to a looser political structure is the control of former military politicians who have transformed themselves into civilian political leaders.  This constitutes a dilemma for the country.  It is clear from the current series of political problems that the country cannot settle down to enjoy peace and social cohesion unless we re-establish a looser political structure.


An Edo political agenda which should emerge from this symposium will constitute the contribution of the Edo nation to a probable constitutional conference at the end of the current crises.  We have for 2000 years organized our communities and cities with the aid of an unwritten constitution.  We should be forthcoming to help a young country in existence for only 46 years and has within that limited period discarded three well articulated constitutions like the prodigal son and is currently struggling to salvage a fourth constitution.  Our deliberations today will provide valuable inputs either for the improvement of the 1999 Constitution, or in the event of monumental mismanagement of the current political system by its operators (political class) or for the construction of a fifth national constitution.




The issues that are of paramount importance to the Edo nation are re-orientation of attitudes, relations with other nationality groups, role of the Edo in Diaspora, and constitutional matters.


a.    Re-Orientation of Attitudes


The theme of this symposium � Honour Our Past, Challenge the Future � makes us to reflect on time-tested values which governed relations between people in Edo societies.  Among these were the following:



            Communal living where each took care of the needs of others

            Respect for conventions of society such as  standing up for the truth at all times, sexual discipline, according deference to elders

            Recognition that Edo clans have the same ancestral origin, though local customs may vary from place to place.


It is necessary for the Edo nation to retreat from recent enchantment with new negative values that are alien to our way of life.  These attitudes are so negative that they have the potential of destroying the society.  These attitudes were developed in the recent past when politicians suddenly had easy access to unprecedented wealth, no matter how acquired.  The process of globalization, satellite television, the Internet and ability to travel to other parts of the world have created a social monster in Edo society.  People readily discard their cultural values in order to conform to the emerging dominant values on the global scene; respect for sexual discipline has been abandoned as women and girls encouraged by some shameless parents and husbands seek for financial security, and society no longer bothers to inquire about the source of wealth as people scramble to get part of the loot.  Money politics, rather than pursuit of societal good, now determines what is done.  A combination of money politics, clannishness and greed easily ensures that the interests of the people are easily compromised for personal financial gain.  Political leaders from other Nigerian political zones easily take control of the political fortunes of the people through local proxies that readily perform as errand boys.


A return to old Edo moral values is indispensable for the survival of the Edo nation.  We need to honour our past in this way if indeed we are to have a future.


The task of restoring some form of Edo political solidarity rests on the shoulders of the current political class.  The way some members of this class interact, one would think they come from different nations that have declared war on one another.  Failure in this matter renders the following sections of this address irrelevant.  A nation that is so myopic as to self-destruct does not have a future.


b.    Relationship with Other Nationality Groups


We are conscious of the diversity of nationality groups in Nigeria.  In spite of the existence of Nigeria as a country since 1914, many of these groups are proud to consider themselves as nations within an amorphous country.


In spite of historical and cultural affinities that link the Edo people with their neighbours, there is now observable a progressive tendency for each nation to maintain its distinct identity.  This desire is also noticeable among Edo clans.


Within the larger Nigerian context, two categories of ethnic groupings have emerged which can be traced to the organization of Nigeria during the colonial period into three Regions, namely Northern, Western and Eastern.  The dominant ethnic groups � Hausa � Fulani, Yoruba and Ibo � with time acquired the status of "major ethnic group".  All other nationality groups collectively acquired the status of "minority ethnic groups".  These nationality groups constitute the North-Central and South-South political zones.  Perceived "marginalization" of the Ndigbo tends to serve as a pull for a South-South and South-East political understanding.  In this rather intriguing web of possible convergence of political interest, the Edo nation, if it survives current difficulties, would act as a unifying factor because of its wide-ranging cultural affinities that extend to the Southern parts of the Middle Belt.


The agenda of the Edo people is to strive to build up a sustainable coalition of so-called ethnic minorities which on their own don't desire to be dominated by the so-called ethnic majorities.  This enterprise requires deft political skills.  This is an assignment we should leave to the Edo in the Diaspora.


c.    Role of the Diaspora


The Edo in the Diaspora is made up of our brothers and sisters who, dissatisfied with conditions at home, have moved abroad to more developed countries.  They have improved themselves and equipped their intellects with state-of-the-art technological skills and attitudes that should be exploited.  The fact that they organised this symposium is a clear signal that they have not forgotten their home, that they are concerned with the current poor state of affairs, and that they are ready to make their expertise and talents available for the development of the Edo nation.  They will be required to take an active interest in politics as we move from the era of money politics to one distinguished by civilized discourse of ideas, programmes and strategies.  They will also be required to make concrete contributions to the reconstruction of the Edo economy; particularly in the development of infrastructure, agriculture, industry and Information and Communication Technology required for generation of income, employment opportunities and rapid transformation of the economy.  Without these, meaningful political participation within the larger Nigerian political system is impossible.

d.    Constitutional Matters


The political stability of a country depends mainly on two factors, specifically the character/world view of the political class and the basic law of the land, which is the constitution.  So far, we have considered the attitude and roles of major stakeholders.  We now turn our attention to constitutional matters.


We are no doubt aware that the Independence Constitution was the painstaking product of Nigerian nationalists who consulted widely before the final constitutional document was approved.  The process took more than ten years of negotiations, compromises and confidence building among the founding fathers of Nigeria.  A solid national consensus supported a federal form of Government in which the federating units had responsibility over clearly spelt out functions of government.  This carefully crafted constitutional edifice was rudely disrupted by a series of military governments whose impact was the creation of a powerful centre at the expense of the federating units.  The centralizing impact of military regimes was further re-inforced by the adoption of an imperial presidentialism since 1979.  In 2006, we can correctly state without fear of contradiction that Nigeria operates a unitary system of government and that any claim of its being a federation is misleading.  This situation engenders feelings of marginalization and outright neglect in so-called minority ethnic groups.  Recent militancy among youths in some parts of the country and attendant official militarization of the areas concerned by the "Federal" Government raise the sceptre of another civil war.  Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, we all know from careful scrutiny of historical records that no country fights two civil wars and survives. 


At this point, I proceed to make definite suggestions which take into consideration our historical experience and seek to promote the continued existence of Nigeria as a single political system. This time, I avoid proposals that in the peculiar Nigerian context, could work against the interests of the Edo nation, and indeed other so-called minority groups.  We cannot be more popish than the Pope.


i.     Political Structure of Nigeria


The current unitary system (de jure federalism and de facto unitarism) should be completely rejected and replaced by a much looser form of association among the federating units which are now the States.


Groups of States with common historical and cultural affinities would constitute Regions.  We propose 8 Regions as follows:




                 Western North Central or Western Middle Belt

                 Eastern North Central or Eastern Middle Belt


                 Mid-West as constituted in 1963


                 East incorporating Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa-Ibom, and Cross River States


In effect, for administrative convenience and North/South balance, we suggest a split of the North Central zone into two, and the current South-South into two zones.  While each State remains the basic unit of a much loosely organised Nigeria, the Region, without putting in place a full paraphernalia of a definite tier of government, provides the platform for negotiating common interests of the constituent states at the national level, for facilitating economies of scale in infrastructural, industrial and international marketing matters.


Such functions as education, health, finance, infrastructure, industry, commerce, police and internal security, agriculture and pensions, among others, would be left to the States and Regions.  Organisation and functions of local governments would also be left to the states.  The Central Government would not be allowed to interfere.


The powers and responsibilities at the Centre would be drastically reduced, catering for foreign affairs, foreign trade, national currency, defence and international boundary matters.  In the matters of national currency, defence, and international boundaries, the special interests of the Regions would be considered through negotiations with the central government.  The taxing powers of each tier of government would be clearly spelt out to ensure that functions and responsibilities of each tier are well catered for.


ii.    Form of Government


We propose a parliamentary form of government.  It is relatively simple to operate; it is much less expensive than the presidential system.  Under it, local autonomy and self government are protected from ravenous appetite of political god-fathers and money bags.


iii.   Regional Parties


While there would be opportunity for national political parties to operate, Regional parties, organised to address and protect Regional and State interests, would be encouraged to operate.  Also, to ensure that citizens enjoy free choice among candidates during elections, private candidates would be allowed to contest elections at all tiers of government.  In situations where national parties fail to enjoy majority status at the National Assembly, Regional parties would be encouraged to form coalition governments as was the case in the First Republic.


iv.   Money politics would be discouraged


Nigerian experience in the Fourth Republic clearly shows that money politics and accountability in governance are incompatible.  We seek political practice of debate, defence of the interests of the people and the accomplishment of public purpose.




Chairman, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, let me thank Edokpamakhin for bringing us together to discuss issues of great significance to the development of the Edo nation.  I have highlighted the need for change in attitude and a return to traditional Edo values of honesty, love of truth, sexual discipline as foundation for meaningful participation in Nigerian politics.  Finally, I have called for the following:


v     Abandonment of the current "unitary" system being masqueraded as federalism

v     Restructuring of Nigeria into 8 Regions

v     Recognition of the States as the basic political unit in Nigeria

v     Drastic reduction in the powers and functions of the central government and corresponding increase in the powers and functions of the States and Regions

v     Encouragement of Regional political parties and private candidates for elections

v     Return to the parliamentary form of government

v     Encouragement of the politics of debate of ideas and competing programmes and discouragement of money politics


What has been proposed here is not a unitary system of government, neither is it a federal system.  It is a confederal system.  This is the system that will restore peace, stability and progress to Nigeria.



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