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





Professor Iro Eweka
October 4, 2003






I want to begin my presentation with the following brief statement by Wendell Berry:

                      The approach of a man's life out of the past is History, and the approach of time out of the future is Mystery. Their meeting is the Present, and it is consciousness, the only time life is alive. The endless wonder of this meeting is what causes the mind, in its inward liberty to turn back and question and remember. The world is full of places. Why is it that I am here?


That, one hopes, is an appropriate introduction to a sketchy outline of what I have described as psycho-social considerations. For, "the mind, in its inward liberty" is, phenomenologically, a psychic operation. But, perhaps more importantly, it seems to me that the present Conference is the direct or indirect product of the meeting between the History of our ancient homeland and its Mysterious future. That meeting, it would appear, is turning our minds, not only to remember but also to ask questions of various sorts, including questions about our economic development.


Of course, only our parents and grand-parents may actually remember the Edo past. I, for example, in spite of my age, cannot even remember much of what pre-dates the year 1950- a mere forty years ago- when some of the remnants of the old totems and taboos were already flagging at the seams and my mother was increasingly bewildered by the scenes around her. Nevertheless, we all retain some remnants of what Carl Jung called the "Collective Unconsciousness" with its stone-horse of archetypes which, at subconscious level, affect our thinking and behaviour. It is largely the continuing existence of our "Collective Unconsciousness", I think, that guarantees our claim to being Edo men or women.


The questions we ask at a Conference of this kind however are rather remote from our memory of the Past. And one such question is why are we in Britain when the world is full of other places, including Benin?
The best
Edo brains, the most highly trained and highly skilled Edo men and women are abroad. And many more are itching and desperately struggling to join the Exodus. WHY? How many of us, gathered here today, are truly and honestly prepared to exchange the life they live in Britain for a life in Edo State? WHY? Let us try to examine some, at least, of the reasons.


But before entering the jungle, I must map out my path with the following compass which I have borrowed, not stolen from the poem, titled "Accidents of Birth" by William Meredith who wrote:
�..I've been brought�..again from the fine silt, the mud where our atoms lie down for long naps. And I've also been pardoned miraculously for years by the lava of chance which runs down the world's gullies, sitting us back. Here I am�. Set up, not yet happened away.
I shall return to that poem later. Meanwhile, I repeat my earlier question of why are we in
Britain and not in Edo State where our atoms have been lying down for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years- sleeping?
Firstly, I support that the "lava of chance which runs down the world's gullies" (to borrow Meredith's words) is nothing but that "Collective Unconsciousness" which exists in all cultures without exception. And although in
Britain we are 6000 miles from home, "set up" in our various attempts to become anglicised, we have still not "happened away": we are still Edo. Had we been "happened away", none of us would be here today to remember our homeland and ask questions about its prosperity.

But, I repeat, the best brains and the most highly trained intellects,
capable of establishing and sustaining a first-rate economic development in Edo State have deserted and are, as we speak, actually employing their skills and talents to fill Britain's already, full pots with labour and expertise. One of the reasons, I suggest, is that they left their homeland because of the object lack of physical and psychological stimulator, let alone fulfilment. And this is where the psycho-social considerations begin. For, in
Edo State today, hundreds- perhaps thousands- of the youths are unemployed even after graduating, from universities that can award them sub-standard Degrees as compared with the countries into which they yearn to migrate. Being destitute because unemployed, they lack social status and the self-respect normally associated with such status. "Igho-i-rho'bo, emwen-i-rhu'nu", according to an Edo adage. But even those who are classified as employed, are never paid regularly, if at all, and are only just one step above the unemployed in social status and self-esteem. But as we say in Edo, "ai mwen ekpo ero masee n'oliunvu" better to have no bag at all than one with a hole in its bottom. One wonders how the unemployed and the unpaid workers actually live- how they fees and clothe themselves and their families and send their children to school in the unevenly-matched competition with the elegantly wealthy elite within the undistributed economy. I call the economy "undistributed" because both the unemployed and unpaid worker pay the same price for gari and plantain as the State Governor, the Bank Manager and the Company Director. And the Market is such that there is no room for opportunity Cost. Thus the dog, as we say is driven to the wall, so far as the unemployed and the unpaid worker are concerned. Faced with starvation, who can resist the temptation to steal bread? Faced with thirst, who can refuse a cup of wine? Faced with despair, who can avoid hope? Faced with grief, who can afford the luxury of a smile?


Yet in the Edo society it is money, not the person that speaks ("igho-i-rho'bo, emwen-i-rhu'nu") and, more importantly, perhaps, "ebigho Edo re"
In the six years I spent at the University of Benin, I watched an alarming number of my academic colleagues disappear. Some escaped to
Britain, America, and Europe but most flew off to Saudi Arabia. In all cases the search was for more money and a "higher life-style"
Here, then, creeps in a psycho-social impediment to development in any of its facets: the search for personal security and a voice (POWER) in a society that places "influence" above humanness.
Let us look briefly, at the psychological determinants which may be said to underline the process.


The names which have dominated Western Psychology are those of Freud, Jung and Adler. Freud was pre-occupied with people as individuals caught in the sticky webs of the libido or sexual urge. Jung, on the other hand reached beyond Freud into the wider field of society, inventing what has since been described as "social psychology". And Adler extracted from Jung the concept of Power as the psychological motivation in human action. Taken individually, they all had tunnel-visions of human beings. But taken together they made useful contribution to the understanding of the human being as a psychological agent. The individual, far from being an isolated island, is enshrouded in a Society which, in turn is enshrouded in Culture (customs and traditions) which is maintained and sustained by power. Thus, psychologically, each of us instinctively desires a slice of the communal cake, one way or another, even if it is simply in the need to belong. Nobody really wants to remain an underling indefinitely if it can be helped. Every one wants, often secretly, to be deemed important, valuable and a person of power and influence. What guarantees this desire is MONEY.
However, in
Edo State, as elsewhere in Nigeria, the classical Economic law of demand-and-supply operates with some vengeance. The demand for Money is sky-high while the supply is Rock-Bottom low. In the attempt to close the gap one either packs up and seeks greener pastures or stays and resorts to thieving, cheating, fraud and even highway and armed robberies-and all of which have become normal and common practices in Edo State. Traditional morality now counts for nothing and while the affluent and powerful are desperate to retain their social status, the effluent and powerless are desperate to climb into social spotlight. This is part, at least, of the psycho-social condition which gave rise to the likes of Anini and unleashed the spiritual epidemic that now ravages Edo Land.


We are excused and pardoned, of course, by what Meredith has described as "the lava of chance which runs down the world's gullies, sitting us back." For what has happened to Edo culture has also happened to every culture in Nigeria and right around the world. It is nothing more or less sinister than the Jungian archetypes that remind all of mankind of where it has been and what it has done. The root of the accommodation of foreign imperialism, it is transformed, through imitation into the domestic imperialism of post-independence. Thus in terms of economic or other development, it would be grossly unrealistic to isolate Edo State from the rest of the Nigerian federation. Edo state is just one of the numerous states that make up the Federation and the Edo are Nigerians. In other words, the over-arching psycho-social determinants that govern all of Nigeria also govern Edo State; and therefore Edo cannot be exempt from the internationally acclaimed Nigerian invention known as "419", for example or from drug-smuggling or international prostitution or even the current people-smuggling. Like other people in other far-away cultures, the Edo are the victims of schizophrenic reflexivity which represses the human soul into the ruthless and determined pursuit of materialism. That has created the inner void which has led to the current epidemic of churchianity. The loss of the guidance of the old Osamobua and the trusted spirits of ancestors has created the vacuum which unsuccessful attempts are now being made to fill with muddies and heavily distorted Christianity.


At the core, all religions are one. That is religion with the capital "R". Christianity, Islam, and others are religions with the small "r". In the relentless pursuit of wealth, Christianity in Edo as elsewhere in Nigeria has been made into a highly profitable commercial commodity entirely for home consumption; and in the conflict between the individual self and the social milieu, the latter has triumphed simply by placing the ID where the soul once was.


The Edo "Christian", however, is yet to discover that there is no cheap, economy-class ticket to heaven. To get there, they are having to pay very dearly here on earth. Even the visa fee, to prolong the metaphor, is so high that only the rich can actually afford it. All of that only makes richer those pundits who pose as God's chosen earthly consuls. In Benin, any man can appoint himself an "Archbishop" and proceed, unchecked and unchallenged, to exploit his "flock" to his heart's desire. But the burning question is why the "flocks" are so desperate for spiritual solace offered them even in the face of clear and unequivocal evidence of religious charlatanism and fraud.


Part, at least, of the answer is hopelessness and despair in the face of overwhelming impotence. When people live a life of unreason, they will believe whatever they are told, especially when confronted with the crisis of survival. Such a crisis promotes the strongest possible desire for psychological cushion-a "comforter" shoved into the mouth of a distressed baby to keep it quiet while its mother mixes its next feed. Except, of course, that in the case of the Edo "Christian", the yearned-for feed is never forthcoming because "Mother-Church" simply does not possess the necessary ingredients. So Carl Marx made an important psychological point when he called the religion with the small "r" mere opium which deadens pain without removing its cause.


In the modern world, there is no room for moral or ethical absolution. All there is, is subjective morality. In psychological terms we are surviving only in a random life which throws its sensual astonishments upside down on the bloody membranes behind our eyeballs. Psychologically, the old weeder is still searching for someone or something to weed, because today's madness has been prepared by yesterday, and tomorrow's silence will be triumph in despair. Thus swallowed up in their social maelstrom of Nigeria's own making, the Edo no longer know, where they have came nor where and when they are going nor why.


It is only by staying far away from the scene that one is able to appreciate the enormity of the psychological defects of those left behind. A closer look must reveal that "survival" over there in Benin is one endless process of psychological cannibalism. That raises the issue of reform, economic or otherwise and the temptation to resort to the now largely discredited theory of "Environmental Engineering" which originated from the fringes of radical neo-Skinnerian "Behaviour Modification". Crudely stated, BM postulated that to change or modify the environment. To use crude example, which means that to change or modify the behaviour of a pig, one only has to transform the pig sty into a well ordered and furnished living room. That is utter rubbish really because it fails to take into account the psychological nature of pigness which distinguishes the pig from a dog or a cat. The issue here is that what distinguishes the Edo from the Yoruba or Igbo or Hausa or the British or the American is his or her Edo-ways. That now seems to have practically disappeared largely, perhaps as a consequence of sheepish imitation.


We are told that the world has become a "global village" and therefore and at least by implication, Nigerians must become British or Americans and in that way Nigeria may one day be admitted into the G8 club of nations. But we know that within the so called global village, the Chinese and the Japanese for example have succeeded in retaining their psychological infrastructures in spite of Coca-Cola and MacDonald's bread- and-butter belly-fillers. In any case, the "north-South Dialogue" that was supposed to bring the economy of the global village into equilibrium is yet to take place.


Imitation, we are told, is the best form of flattery. The Edo began flattering the British in 1897 and the Americans after 1960. The psychological consequences of such flattery are now the disguised desire to become what is flattered. Yet the Nigerian will never become British or American any more than a pampered pig become a dog or a cat. So, our psycho-social infrastructure is an unnatural as it is untenable. And that, for the time being brings me to the second half of William Meredith's poem, earlier cited. Meredith wrote, somewhat prophetically, �'s not this random life only, throwing its sensual astonishments upside down
on the bloody membranes behind my eyeballs.


But for the Nigerian, there is nothing else but a random life throwing its sensual astonishments, etc, etc, etc and bursting the bloody membranes behind the eyeballs; which is why the Nigerian is so blind that he or she can not see the tips of his or her own fingers let alone those of someone else. But Meredith wrote that
(It is) not just me being here again, old weeder, looking for someone to weed, but you, up from the clay Yourself�..and inching over the same little segment of earth-ball, in the same little eau to meet in a room, alive in our skins, and the whole galaxy, gaping there, and the centuries whining like gnats.
Ah! So, mankind's history, encapsulated in centuries of impudent, arrogant and inhuman political, economic and cultural domination is not dead but brings the dominant nations to meet together in the same room known as the United Nations to whine like gnats. But even at the UN, it is for the dominant nations
To teach (us) to see it, to see it with (The masters of this same little earth-ball)
and offer somebody uncomprehending, impudent thanks.


We may, of course, thank the British and the Americans for letting us live among them and for teaching us to see our physical defects and our psychological deformities. And they, in turn, may offer us their impudent thanks for being so blind and stupid as to permit them their unchecked exploitation of our human and other resources.


It is not British and American writers alone, like Meredith and the like, who offer searching insights into our psychology. You will find similar insights in, for example, Chinue Achebe ("Refugee Mother and Child"); J.P.Clark Bekederenio ("The Casualties"); Catherine Obianuju Acholouu ("Other Forms of Slaughter"); Wole Soyinka ("After the Deluge"); and quite a few others. They all know when the tail is wagging the dog. What they do not know, however, is what to do about it.


There is no organism in nature, unless it is dead, that does not know the nature of pain. The Edo Social organism is well and truly aware of the nature of pain. Hence it is desperate to empty itself of its human contents. But I am not sure that another Economic Development Plan or Strategy is an effective antidote to the psychological pain that torments the society.


My father used to say-so my mother told me-that emwine'orho'mwan obo, era sinmwin, which Winston Churchill later rendered into English as "What we have we hold". Edo state is unable to hold on to that asset. It drains away steadily, importing in its place, British footballer's T-shirts and American gun-culture. Why? Part at least, lies in the Edo mentality about which I hope to say more eventually.
Meanwhile, the Edo State of today is only a small fraction of the ancient Edo Kingdom, recognised and respected by the leading European Kings and Queens long before Britain required the label, "Great" Our kingdom was ruled and governed by one man- the God-King-the Oba. He was the custodian of the political, economic, social life of the
Edo because he was the nucleus of the Edo Culture. Under his guidance, the political, economic and social life was fused into one and indistinguishable unity. Then came 1897 and the kingdom began to shrink until the king was excluded from politics and the normal social order began to fragment and disintegrate. After 1960, Edo became a "Constitutional Monarchy" with the king stripped of practically all powers and confined to the cultural realm only in an advisory capacity. Even today, that advisory function has been usurped, leaving His Majesty almost totally marginalised. As to why and how it all happened, we seem to be preoccupied with our own separate individual survival struggles to pay any attention.


But who rules and governs Edo State today? It is an elected governor. And an Edo, born and bred. But what is his own psycho-social orientation? That is the forbidden question.


Absolute power, they say, corrupts absolutely. It is therefore not impossible that the corruption and moral decay for which we are now internationally notorious for, is nothing but a reflection of the psycho-social orientation of the individual who now rules the State. It is he and those whom he has chosen as accessories who are excessively flattered through imitation by the so called grass root.
The trend set by the Azikiwes, Awolowos and Sardaunas- trend palpably of self-centeredness, greed, nepotism and covert dishonesty- has only progressively become widened and refined. And the consequence is the current general lawlessness, culminating in highway and armed robberies and assassinations.
Who would aspire to live in a hell of that kind, except the devil himself who cherishes it to serve his own nefarious purposes?


"I sent my soul through the Invisible", wrote Omar Klayyam,

"Some letter of that afterlife to spell:

And by my soul returned to me,
And answered 'I myself am Heaven and Hell'"


Omar Klayyam searched-interrogated-his own psyche and discovered he alone is responsible for his own joys and sorrows.
So, let us ask these who rule and govern
Edo State to search their individual psyches. One wants to know whether they are psychological capable of accommodating and then implementing any reform, economic or otherwise. The extent to which the rulers and governors of the State can love their grass root neighbours as they seem to love themselves will determine their political will to implement any reform that does not exclusively prop up their own personal interests.


Governors and Rulers are human beings who, by nature, should be endowed with some measure, of charitableness. But charitableness is an attribute (also discernable in the world of beasts and insects a like) which springs from empathy which is a psychological attribute in its own right. Which lends value to the Edo adage, "ya ru'egbe ghe.." (The British render that saying as "do unto others�.") In a society in which that adage does not apply, everyone becomes a psychopath. Such a society is the Edo society of the present era. And the governors and rulers of it are leading member of it. Murders and assassinations are rife but not suicides. These who own guns point them only at others but never at their own heads. That the governors and rulers can sleep in their beds, surrounded by armed guards and sharp-shooting security men, without any consideration for the frightened and defenceless citizen, is a matter for concern.


Anyway, in other modern Federations, like America, Canada and Australia, for example, the constitution delimits the Federal Exclusive Legislative Powers which apply equally in all the states. But the constitution also specifies that the constituent States can make their own laws to regulate their relative domains. Thus in America, for example, although capital punishment is forbidden by Federal legislation, there are individual states that permit it. And guns are easier to obtain in some states than in others in disregard of the Federal Constitution. The point is this, that if the Nigerian Federal Constitution is a copy of the American one, why cannot Edo State, for one enact its own specific legislations to safeguard the lives and well-being of its citizens?


When we loose our History, we loose our Identity. And when we loose our identity we loose our claim to being truly human. But what makes us truly human is psyche. Nevertheless, Confucius proposed that "Man is not born with a dose of original sin; (but) it is the society in which man lives that makes him anti-social". That claim is valid when based upon causal symmetry. But in terms of a-symmetrical causality, it is false. In the latter case, the relationship between the individual and the society is one of creative reciprocity. Hence the accuracy of the assertion that people get the governments they deserve. In any attempt at reform, therefore, the major problem is one of where to begin.


Nevertheless, there is one more issue facing the psycho-social investigator of the Nigerian mentality- the issue, that is, of truth. It would be ten million times easier to persuade a fish to abandon its watery medium than to teach a Nigerian to stop lying. To the Nigerian, lying is instinctive, a matter of intuition and a reflex action similar to breathing.

In psycho-social status terms, lying (and deceiving) is a mechanism by which a paranoid schizophrenic copes with fears and deep-seated insecurity. It represents the self-defence mechanism of a social pervert who is incapable of trusting anyone. One lies (and deceives) in order to turn away others people attention from the realities of ones existence. A lie is fiction designed to conceal or disguise reality. Thus the liar lives in two worlds simultaneously. Such is the politician's life. And the president or Prime Minister or State Governor is a politician. But it is the politician who sets the tone of social behaviour, because the so called "common peoples" ultimate flattery of their so called political leaders sets the "common people" on the path of untruth. Compulsive lying is a psychological disability which afflicts the society as it does an individual.
Added to the foregoing is the fact that the Nigerian approaches every activity through the shortest possible route. He wants to secure his heart's desire before anyone else does. The route taken is invariably, fraudulent. To get rich at supersonic speed; to obtain a visa overnight with minimum or no questions answered; to climb the social ladder ahead of everyone else-these and many more demand the psychological mechanism employed by the paranoid schizophrenic. It is that mechanism that lies at the heart of Nigeria's work ethic. And in the final analysis, everything hinges on the simple concept of CONSCIENCE-personal or social-as a guide to moral judgement. Each of us acquires a conscience, one way or another, as a means of distinguishing between Right and WRONG. Conscience, however, grows or dies, depending on the strength or weakness of the prevailing moral and ethical absolutes. But, as we have seen, there are no such absolutes left in the Edo society.

Time to Summarise and Conclude.

This presentation has attempted to sketch a psycho-social mind -scope. The picture, however, can be completed only through the questions and comment by the captive audience. Meanwhile, this sketch had raised a few questions on the nature of the relationship between the Edo Society and the individuals who inhabit it. The hope has been that a clearer understanding of that relationship might help in finding solutions to some of the problems we face. Specifically highlighted are the phenomena self-centred and greedy materialism which may be accountable for the dehumanisation of the Edo individual; the misuse of power and influence in politics and social life; the effect of mindless imitation on personal behaviour; the probable consequence of the less of cultural values on the society; the causes of lying, deception and untrustworthiness; the unstable work ethic; the lack of personal or social conscience. The sketch has essentially been diagnostic without attempting to prescribe any cure. But it has, one hopes, offered some pointers as to where any prospective reformer may begin. The principal objective has been to stimulate thinking.


Now to Conclude

Given the sketchy outline of the presentation, anyone with imagination may wonder what rough beast, its hour come at last, now slouches towards
Edo's own Bethlehem to be born. That might be a natural reaction. However, there is no need to worry as long as it is understood that the evolution of the Edo Society is keeping pace with that of the Edo individual. Thus one must accept that, in the words of Omar Klayyam,


The Moving Finger writes and having writ
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a line,
Nor all your tears wash out a word of it.




Does that mean that the Edo Case is hopeless? No. It only means that none of us can escape what haunts the global village and none of us can call back yesterday. My earlier reference to Omar Klayyam may be recalled here. But I will repeat it:
Today's Madness was prepared by yesterday
and tomorrow's silence (is either) triumph or
despair, prepared for us by today.

One must hope that the intellectual evolution of the
Edo will keep pace, too. And to those who already possess intellectual strength and moral stamina, I humbly recommend the following declaration by Homer's Odysseus:


Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts.
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

"That which we are, we are!"
Indeed a firm and confident affirmation. But what are we really First and foremost, we are human beings, products and at the same time victims of every imaginable psychological condition. We are all human fossils, like everyone else in the world. But secondly we are Edo, which locates us where no one else can occupy. That makes us unique and guarantees us equality with all other human beings. And, finally and undeniably, we are Nigerians, a fact that may bring us some regret and shame. The accompanying APPENDIX shows that Nigerians have much to be ashamed of. We may strive and seek and find; but the bottom line is that we refuse to surrender!

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