ADDRESS TO THE EDO HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY - APRIL 2OOO.
Oboma Asemota, MD
EDO HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY AND THE ENTIRE EDO PEOPLE.
The continually worsening atmosphere of uncertainty, instability and at times total chaos
in Nigeria, calls for a review of our past, a look at
the present and suggestion for the future. The Edo people lost their independence in 1897
when the British troops led by major Dawson took Benin City after several days of
heavy artillery bombardment. The marauding British troops ransacked the palace, stole
several artworks - the most prominent is the bronze work of Queen Idia. The
British demolished and dismantled the Edo commonwealth and empire. From then the Edo people
became subject of a foreign monarch. The British wasted no time in splitting the
Edo people into semi autonomous units. Their fear was the unity of the Edos as they
remained a threat to their West African branch of the British empire. The Edos were the only
Nation in Nigeria that had an empire that spread along the West African coast for
about one thousand miles.
Our identities, histories, language, religion culture and state of development were
relegated, we had to learn the ways of life of the
British. Since 1897, we have been partof the Niger River Protectorate than as part of the
protectorate of Southern Nigeria and then as part of Southern Provinces.
In 1914 for the convenience and benefit of the British colonialists, Edo people were
conscripted without consultation into an amalgamated
Nigeria. By this fell act, we were now grouped with 200 other Nationalities whose ways of
life, religions and culture were quite different from ours. Among these are the
Hausas-Fulani-Nupe Caliphate whose incursion into Edo Nation was just stopped at the
Ishan borders after they had overrun Auchi and Agbede. The Socio-Political implications of
this event are many. Our society is based on religious tolerance, whereas the
Northerners are Islamic fanatics bent on
spreading the message of Islam if necessary by force and intent on conquering the South
so as to enable them "dip the Koran into the Atlantic
Ocean." Our language became suppressed, public life and
commerce were conducted in elitist English thereby
alienating majority of our people. This is how we
found ourselves in Nigeria and became part of Western Nigeria and later Midwestern Nigeria
to Bendel State and now Edo State.
The founding fathers of Nigeria adopted a Federal System of Government with the
regions, fully in charge of her resources. Things were
running fairly well until the military came into the scene and then muddled the
water. The soldiers opted for a unitary government inspite of the Country being refereed to as
a Federal Republic. All resources were centralized and of course the army being
dominated by Northerners, all organs of government became dominated by Northerners. Inspite of
the fact that the North hardly contributed anything to the common purse. They
controlled disbursement of the Federal
fund. We are all aware of the gross abuses and crass
financial mismanagement and unbridled looting that took place. These have
nauseated terribly the nervous stomachs of the people of the Niger Delta who have resorted to
violence to stop further exploitation and abuse of funds they see coming solely from their
area and squandered by people whose economic insecurity seems to give them
insatiable appetite for money. Every other Nationality could not but watch the wholesale plunder
of the common National funds.
In the 103 years since we lost our independence, we have been allowed to govern
ourselves for only fifteen years by an Edo person (one
year with Gov. Innih, eight years by Gov. Ogbemudia, four years by Gov. Alli and two
years by Gov. Oyegun). Nearly all the economic gains, educational progress,
industrialization and social-cultural gains were
made during the reign of Edo sons. It is heart warming
to note that another Edo son, Gov. Igbinedion has just been elected as Governor of Edo
State. His impact will certainly be better than that of his immediate predecessors.
The impact of successive reigns of foreign military governors had been to erode and in
most cases wipe out all the gains made during the
Western, Midwestern and Bendel regions and especially during Gov. Ogbemudia's
glorious years and the years of Gov. Alli. The ruling military cabal turned our State into
a territory of improvised unhealthy, illiterate and beleaguered peoples. Unemployment
became rampart, street violence became the order of the day. Our girls had to take to
international prostitution to survive.
Young men had to flee to other lands to earn a living doing the most menial and
sometimes illegal things to make ends meet. What is
the future of a community if all her youth emigrate. With schools dilapidated and no
industries to employ the youth and the old industries closed down because of centralized
government and control of non-Edos. This has left the community disillusioned and angry.
In all these times, it has become apparent that our best times have been when an Edo
person was in charge of Edo affairs.
We are best custodians of our affairs. We should never allow a situation ever again that
foreigners will govern us. Outside or out of the
State, one is treated like a foreigner and is worse in certain States. The recurrent tribal and
religious conflicts makes an Edo person safer to live in Kumasi, Ghana than in Kano, Nigeria.
We should not be allowed to have the false sense of security of belonging to a County
and yet you cannot live freely anywhere outside your State in a Country supposedly
We therefore urge that we give serious thought to getting complete autonomy over our
future. This will enable us better plan the development of our nation. We need to reinvent
ourselves and take our destiny in our hands. It is
time to reestablish our National identity which we lost over one hundred years ago. Before this,
we were a Nation. Edo was the third Nation to recognize the independence of Brazil.
We had embassies in Portugal and Brazil. The integrity of our nationality should not be
sacrificed on the alter of Nigerian unity. Like the proverbial Lizard we have climbed the
heights of Nigeria unity and fallen several times. It is time to stand on our own. We can
have loose relationship with other will Nationalities on equal basis to form a loose
Federation of Nigeria. We have a population larger than many present members of the
United Nations - Cyprus, Malta, Botswana, Gambia, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland,
Jamaica, and Panama, to mention a few. Enough blood has been spilled and enough
suffering and deprivations have been suffered by our people in an attempt to pursue the
dream which is Nigeria Unitary Government. It is time to change course. Staying in
Nigeria as it is now does not guarantee our safety or progress. There is no hope
that an Edo person can be elected the President of Nigeria as we are still a minority in
The amalgamation was a badly set up experiment and there has been no surprise as to the
results - anarchy, chaos, religious intolerance and
open North-South marital incompatibility, if allowed to continue the way it has
been, it will only lead to stagnation and retrogression. We must now bring our people into
the twenty-first century. We must pursue massive industrialization to provide jobs to
the teeming unemployed youths. Before the coup of 1983, Benin City was about the
fifth in small scale industries in Nigeria behind Lagos, Ibadan, Port Harcourt and Aba.
Many of these small industries have folded up and virtually no new industry has been
established all because of the Unitary Government in Nigeria. Our education system
needs revamping and updating to
the standards of the 21st Century.
Majority of us in the Americas and Europe through telephone contact and e-mail chats
are in agreement that the best thing for Edo State is
to seek our own autonomy. When this is guaranteed, then we can negotiate our
relationship with other willing Nationalities if need be. We therefore urge all Edos to support the
demand for total autonomy. The Edo people of the present day are proud descendants of
brave and glorious ancestors who established an empire along the West coast of Africa.
They developed a well structured community whose members specialized in metallurgy,
arts and farming techniques comparable to other communities all over the world.
Edo State is rich in oil, Natural gas,
Bitumen and timber to name a few. The Nation is also
blessed with educated and technically qualified human resources. The ancestral
and spiritual home of Benin City has been regarded as the cradle of human civilization.
There is no doubt that our State
will be economically viable and that we shall achieve peace, unity, stability, and progress
which have eluded Nigeria. From the inception of
Nigeria, Edo sons and daughters have been on the forefront of fight for Nigeria unity. The
aspirations of our people at Nigeria union at independence and during the civil war have
been abysmally subverted by repetitive military and civilian governments who have
promoted an internal settler-colonialist and religious agenda. A
fundamental restructuring of the Nigeria union is now necessary in view of hegemonic tendency of the
majority ethnic groups which has
resulted in the underdevelopment and backwardness of our people. We quite agree with
Gen. Gowon's assertion that "there is no basis for
unity " of Nigeria.
The Conclusions are:
There is no foreseeable prospect of an Edo person being elected President of Nigeria.
We do not have faith in Nigeria as presently constituted.
The most acceptable mode of Association is a true Federal or (Co-federal) structure
with the right of the Federating Units to self-determination (as in the constitution of
Ethiopia and Switzerland)
The Nationalities Federate on equal basis irrespective of their size.
The Federating units to have a loose center.
The Nationalities will control and harness resources in their respective areas with
agreed minimal contribution of the center (such as in
These are some of the issues to be discussed at the Sovereign National Conference.
We believe that these will ensure our peoples progress, full gainful employment,
modern health services, security, stability necessary
to take our people into the twenty first century that we rightly belong.
Whereas the generations before us fought and died to give Edo people a respectable
name in the world they lived in, it is now left to
this generation to take us out of the over 100 years of loss of independence and reinstate
Edo Pride and Autonomy. To do otherwise is to betray the trust of our people.
Oboma Asemota, M.D.