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FURTHER TO THE LONDON ROUNDTABLE
Prof. Omo Omoruyi
t was resolved at the London Roundtable on November 23, 2002 under the auspices of the Edokpamakhin UK concluded at the end of the session that Edokpamakhin should be the Agenda Setting body for the Edo nation. This essay is to further elucidate on the decision.
EDO AGENDA SHOULD BE THE GOAL OF EDOKPAMAKHIN
What surprised me was that I never attended any meeting of Edokpamakhin in the US with Chief Enahoro that had an item on the agenda, the "Future for the Edo". Yet this to me is at the root of the crisis of relevance facing the Edo people. The closest to our discussion of an Agenda was when Chief Enahoro was planning to go to Nigeria. This was at Detroit when we charged Chief Enahoro to assume the position of a spokesman for Edokpmakhin in its search for the future for the Edo people. This was in March 2000 before Chief Enahoro went to Nigeria. Needless to say all that I thought we agreed on at that meeting on how our revered Chief was to sell the idea of Edokpamakhin throughout the length and breadth of Edo State failed. I never heard or read anywhere where Chief Enahoro as an individual leader of Edo people or under the auspices of Edokpamakhin devotes time and space to call attention to the need for a future for Edo in Nigerian body politic. This London Roundtable is a good beginning and the organizers of the Roundtable should be commended.
I find this Roundtable reassuring that some of us appreciate what others in the country are discussing. I congratulate Dr. Philip Idaewor and his group in the UK for doing what others in Edo at home and in Diaspora failed to do since 1993.
I responded enthusiastically to the invitation of the Edo National Convention to address the Convention as the 2002 Keynote Speaker on "The Future of Edos in Nigerian Body Politic". I thought I did my best. I was disappointed that the time allowed me to present the kernel of my paper was less than 1/3 of what I was told before I left Boston and even before I left for the Hall. The assurance that there would be time for question and answer and discussion on the issues raised in the paper was never realized. Why was the time devoted to the issue of the future of Edo not matched by the time I put into the production of the paper and the money the organization spent in bringing me to San Francisco? I was not even sure that the copies about 10 were ever distributed and read. In order to meet the demands of those who wanted copies at the end of the session and who never heard me, I quickly posted the paper on Edo-Nation website. The paper can still be accessed today from this website. I am glad I did. The Edo people who did not attend the San Francisco Meeting found the paper useful and thought-provoking and had since engaged me through email, letter and telephone.
If that is what the annual get together of Edo had been since I came to the US, then I did not miss anything for not attending since 1995. Such a large gathering of Edo people in the US should find space and time for serious discussion of, I repeat "serious discussion" of "The Future of Edo in Nigeria". When I saw what Edo National Convention does, it strengthens my view which I expressed to some of the delegates that there is a dire need for a Policy-oriented group like the Edokpamakhin to champion the design of a Vision for the Edo people in Nigeria.
EDOKPAMAKHIN SHOULD USE BELIEVER IN EDO NATION AS LEADERS
One cannot lead a people if one does not believe in the people. To those who tried to flog Chief Anthony Enahoro on the Edokpamakhin one should ask the preliminary question. Does Chief Enahoro believe in the Edo people as his primary constituency? I kept asking Professor Aisiku and Alhaji Ighile who I respect a great deal. Since they got me into the various meetings under the auspices of Edokpamakhin, I kept bombarding them whether what Chief Enahoro was doing or saying since he got back to Nigeria under the MNR was in furtherance of the lofty goals of Edokpamakhin or of Edo State as the Edokpamakhin had in mind? I discovered that they were uncomfortable with what they were reading and hearing.
Specifically I asked if Edokpamakhin is now part of MNR and indirectly part of the PDP. Of course, the national leaders in the US of Edokpamakhin, Dr. Asemota, Dr. Obaseki, Professor Oje Aisiku and Alhaji Muhammed Ighile assured me that there was nothing like that. On many occasions, I asked if they shared Chief Enahoro's position, which to me was in conflict with and not in consonant with and in furtherance of what they believed as in furtherance of Edo position in Nigeria. In fairness to these distinguished Edo sons short of issuing a disclaimer, they categorically told me that they did not share Chief Enahoro's views. My advice is that for Chief Enahoro or anybody for that matter to lead in development of an Edo Agenda, he must take the Edo issues as his primary concern. Chief Enahoro would need to make a public declaration for all Edo people at home and abroad to hear and digest just like the one he made in Boston in 2000 that his commitment to Edo shall remain his primary political concern.
SEARCH FOR AGENDA FOR EDO SHOULD BE NON-PARTISAN
Those who have the luxury like some of you should assemble and marshal out an agenda for our people. Be warned; I want to take strong exception to the position of Dr. Robson Momoh who came to the London Roundtable to argue the MNR Agenda through what he called the "Constitution for Edo Nation". He has right to do this. He was eloquent in his advocacy; but the presentation was out of context hence I did not take him up on the basis of the Constitution, which was a return to the Westminster System.
I have no objection to those who hold one political views or the other. This is what democracy allows and it should be encouraged. But decency demands that when we are speaking and selling a point of view we should preface the presentation with what we believe in. An Edo Agenda is not an MNR Agenda. However, the MNR like other political groups in the State could set out to advance the Agenda of Edo nation. We should not mistake the position of Edokpamakhin with that of the MNR. We should be careful and note that those who wear party labels, those who lead political parties; those who lead political movement should not lead the Edokpamakhin.
This would be in accord with the principle of the Edokpamakhin that it is a non-partisan body committed to setting an agenda for the Edo Nation.
The plan of Edokpamakhin should be to develop an Agenda for an Edo people from which Political Parties could and would then run for office. Those of us meeting under the forum of Edokpamakhin should not substitute ourselves for the partisan politicians. This also means that the MNR or any other parties should not be in the forefront of Edokpamakhin.
Dr. Philip Idaewor would recall my initial reaction when he told me of the plan of this conference. He knew my position when he told me that Chief Enahoro would be part of this search for an agenda for the Edo people. I exclaimed: "Does he believe in it?" I asked, "Can't you young men apply your intellect to help our people"? That still remains my position today. I raised the same question in August 2002 at San Francisco.
Dr. Idaewor assured me that Chief Enahoro was a changed person; he tried to convince me that Chief Enahoro was a believer in Edo State and people. This was when I then raised with him certain facts in Chief's political behavior sine he returned to Nigeria.
I was concerned about his flirting with the PDP under the guise that he was in some understanding with the party through the PDP-MNR accord. The PDP-MNR ACCORD is self-serving and to me it is anti-Edo. Dr. Idaewor tried to convince me to the contrary. This was when I called his attention to what Chief Lucky Igbinedion said about the PDP deal with him.
It should be noted that one of the achievements and legacies of Chief Lucky Igbinedion as Governor of Edo State was that he successfully delivered Chief Enahoro to the PDP. See Lucky Igbinedion, "How I brought Enahoro into PDP" in The Vanguard Saturday November 17, 2001. I then told Dr. Idaewor that I was not aware that Chief Enahoro ever issued a rejoinder to this caption. The content of the press interview in that paper was more telling than the heading.
I then called Dr. Idaewor's attention to all the activities of the revered Chief Enahoro are conclusive that he is more than a PDP member. He is a member of the leadership within the President's circle. Some cases would suffice such as
All these tend to confirm Lucky Igbinedion's position that Chief Enahoro's constituency in PDP is the President.
May I assure you, brothers and sisters that I do not mean to be discourteous to my revered Chief when I raise all these issues. Chief Enahoro knows that I hold him in the highest regard. What we should expect him to do today in the interest of Edo people is for him to lead the Edo sons and daughters as a non-partisan patriotic elder. This is the role that he should have been playing when it became impossible for him to lead a virile national party. I hope everyone can understand why I said: "if I want to join the PDP or any party for that matter, I would do it on my own".
I also called Dr. Obaseki and told him my misgivings about creating a forum in London or anywhere for Chief Enahoro and/or any other person to sell his MNR to me or take the Edo nation back. I was dismayed that it was the President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who had to literally tell off Chief Enahoro to stop criticizing the Presidential System because it is good for the Nigerian poly-ethnic society. Who would tell Chief Enahoro with the greatest respect ,that his campaign for a Westminster Model is "a one man campaign" shows that are not in the interest of the Edo people in particular and the minority groups in the country in general? This will be taken up in another essay.
EDOKPAMAKHIN SHOULD ENCOURAGE GRASSROOTS DEMOCRACY
One has to be blunt as I told another leader of Edokpamakhin, "if I want to seek membership of a party, I will seek membership of that party or of any party for that matter from my ward, WARD 8 of OREDO in Edo State". As one who contributed to the philosophy of "grassroots democracy" it is my plea that we should encourage political participation that is anchored on the ward as the commencement of political career. I would like to plead at this Roundtable that we should encourage those who want to serve and lead our people that they should renew faith in the people and carry our people wherever they go. It should be noted that whatever power Chief Tony Anenih, an Edo man wields today in Nigerian politics, it must be acknowledged that it is due to the fact that he is not "a floating national leader". This is the way one functionary in the PDP tried to separate him from Chief Enahoro from the same constituency in Uromi. The fellow told me that Chief Anenih would defeat Chief Enahoro in an election. Bt that he means that the candidate or party of Chief Anenih would defeat that of Chief Enahoro anytime and any day.
According to this key leader of the PDP, the Chief Enahoro's constituency in the PDP is not in Edo State or in the national Secretariat of the PDP and in fact not in Uromi but in President Obasanjo and Anenih. This is the way Chief Igbinedion described the role of Chief Enahoro in the PDP. According to Chief Igbinedion Chief Enahoro is to interact with President and that is the level he should operate. Those of us who have been observing the politics of Edo State are asking why Chief Enahoro is hardly noticed there. One also observes that when there is a political event involving the President, Chief Enahoro is always there. Let me make myself clear, I am not a member of the PDP or of any political party or of any body in accord with the PDP.
PDP OR OBASANJO DOES NOT NEED CHIEF ENAHORO
Recently Chief Enahoro still told Nigerians that his MNR is in accord with the PDP. As a non-registered association, that means that he is an INDIRECT member of the PDP. He cannot deny this fact. One is either directly a member of the party or indirectly a member. No matter the explanation that Chief Enahoro's assistants may say, the literature of party membership provides for these two types of membership.
PDP CONSITUTION ABHORS INDIRECT MEMBERSHIP
I had opportunity to look at the PDP Constitution. It only provides for DIRECT individual membership that must be secured from the ward level. It makes no room for an INDIRECT membership through an accord or an understanding with an unregistered political group. The MNR at best is a pressure group within the PDP. The MNR members in accord with the PDP are deemed to be PDP indirect members. They would still have to obtain their PDP membership cards from their wards, if they want to be direct members.
CHIEF ENAHORO SHOULD NOT MISLEAD EDO WITH HIS NOTION OF ACCORD
There is another myth that I would like to correct. I was surprised that someone was trying to compare "apple" and "orange" by likening the PDP-MNR accord with the NPN-NPP accord of 1979 or even of the NPC-NCNC Coalition of 1959. This is sad; I was very disappointed when I was told this in Boston as the explanation of Chief Enahoro. Chief Enahoro's partisan political life was in a party, the Action Group that strongly advocated direct membership except in such cases as its relation with virile organizations as the UMBC etc. that had grassroots base. MNR cannot compare with the UMBC.
Chief Enahoro's brief sojourn in the NPN was at the State level and that did not enable him to know the genesis of the NPN-NPP Accord of 1979. The memoir of Alhaji Shagari Beckoned to Serve confirmed this also that an accord or an alliance could only exist between two legal entities. I repeat legal entities. Can MNR consider itself with the NPP that had a certificate and membership all over the country and controlling three state governments and had members in the National Assembly?
ACCORD IN 1979 AND COALITION IN 1959 ON SOUND FOUNDATION
The NPN needed the NPP, another registered political party with members in the National Assembly to form a government in 1979 and survive thereafter. The PDP does not need any other party or groups to form its government.
The NPC needed the NCNC, another registered political party with members in the House of Representatives in order to form a government in 1959. This was what happened through what I called the "Independence Settlement" of 1960 that involved the NPC and the NCNC.
What the colonial regime did in 1959 can be compared with what the military did in 1979. This is the basis of comparing the military regime and the colonial ruler. Both had to put together a government that they would hand over to before vacating the political scene. Sir James Robertson the last Governor General did it in 1959 and General Obasanjo as the military Head of State did it in 1979.
THE 1979 AND 1959ARRANGEMENTS ARE PUBLISHED BOOKS
For the interest of those who would want to know more about the genesis and terms of the accord between the NPN and the NPP in 1979, I invite readers to read my book, Beyond the Tripod.
And for the interest of those who would want to know how Sir James did it in 1959, I will direct them to read Sir James's memoir, Transition in Africa.
APPLICATION OF 1959 AND 1979
For the interest of those who tried to equate the NPN/NPP Accord of 1979 or NPC/NCNC Coalition of 1959 with the PDP/MNR Accord of 2001, ono would revisit how the Accord of 1979 and the Coalition of 1959 in Nigerian history were implemented.
One would recall the sharing of offices that went with the 1979 and 1959 arrangements. One would recall that under the 1979 arrangement, the NPP produced the Speaker of the House of Representative and the Deputy President of the Senate and many Chairmen of the Committees of the National Assembly and some Ministers for key Ministries such as Education and Foreign Affairs. Our people of the old Midwestern Region can still recall that Chiefs Okotie-Eboh and Omo-Osagie were Ministers under the NPC/NCNC alliance.
PDP/MNR IS A PERSONAL POLITICAL AGENDA NOT FOR EDO NATION
Those who question Chief Enahoro's commitment to the Edo state will quickly remind him that under the Coalition or accord between the two parties in 1959 and 1979, the respective States of both parties were provided for. Edo State was not provided for in the PDP-MNR Accord.
PDP PROBLEM IS ONE OF BLENDING DISPARATE GROUPS.
What should be noted is that the PDP does not need more members as it is unable to manage the ones it has since 1999. The PDP has well over 60% of the membership of the National Assembly and could pick and choose who to bring into its administration, if the party knows what to do. The PDP problem is not with the number of members, because it has enough. The problem has to do with how to blend the number of disparate members around a vision for the country. If the PDP cannot manage their disparate memberships how do we expect it to relate to unregistered groups like the MNR?
One would have thought that Chief Enahoro would have openly come out to help the party achieve this goal. But the revered Chief has since I knew him been a manager of a political party. For anyone who did not know the origin of the party, Chief Enahoro is seen as an outsider. Maybe the President and those who organized the understanding between the PDP and the MNR would know the value of Chief Enahoro in the party. Because of this, the PDP caucus in the National Assembly knew that Chief Enahoro was acting in the interest of the President when he tried to mediate in the President-National Assembly crisis.
I was not surprised when the PDP caucus of the National Assembly would rather deal with General Yakubu Gowon and Alhaji Shehu Shagari rather than deal with Chief Enahoro in its standoff with President Obasanjo. I was not surprised that President Obasanjo would rather listen to the proposal of General Gowon rather than that of Chief Enahoro with respect to the issue of a National Conference.
ON THE IDEA OF A NATIONAL CONFERENCE
Chief Enahoro should not be surprised that when the National Conference should hold it would not be what he has in mind. National Conference would come about as and when President Obasanjo and the political class that sponsored him in 1999 come to a dead end. Chief Enahoro is alien to this class. Right now there is still oil money to buy up support and disorganize opponents with the hope that his original sponsors would have a second thought about their fears.
Chief Enahoro should appreciate that President Obasanjo is involved in the "Politics of 2003" As long as President Obasanjo has his support in his bid for self-succession from his original sponsors that exclude Chief Enahoro, there would be no National Conference of Chief Enahoro's dream. One hopes Chief Enahoro appreciates this. All Obasanjo's gimmicks center on 2003. Maybe that is what Chief Enahoro is working for as he was on the high table of six when Obasanjo announced his second term plan in April 2002. If he was not a PDP top shot, what qualified him to share a platform with Lar, Danjuma, Atiku, Obasanjo and Anenih in a setting where Akinjide and other important Yoruba Chiefs were floor members?
ADVENT OF OGBEMUDIA BECAUSE OF THE VACUUM
There is a development recently in the Edoland that we should be aware of and maybe consider. The search for an agenda for Edo should not ignore his activities.
My view is that because of the lacuna in terms of how to set an agenda for Edo State and Edo people, a new body called the Bendel Consultative Committee (BDCC) sprang up under the leadership of Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia. Dr. Ogbemudia had since realized that the Edo people must be united. I am aware that Dr. Ogbemudia wants to set up an office with handsome money that I would not mention here for the propagation of the Edo cause. According to my source, that office would be manned by one of the foremost social/political activists in Nigeria of Edo origin.
I want to say that Dr. Ogbemudia wrote me agreeing with many issues in my Keynote address to the Edo National Convention with a plea that he would want me to join him in fashioning an agenda for our people. But since Dr. Ogbemudia is still a PDP stalwart that has no agenda for dealing with the "ownership question" with respect to oil since its founding, it will be difficult for me to embrace his medium for meeting the agenda of Edo and the south-south. Dr. Ogbemudia, like Chief Enahoro is still under the impression that the PDP is the only vehicle for meeting the needs of Edo or of the old Bendel or Midwest. This was why when asked if the old Bendel State would be fielding a Presidential candidate, he relied that would depend on whether the PDP would revise its zoning arrangement under which the post was zoned to the southwest. Dr. Ogbemudia is downright disingenuous not to appreciate that there is nothing so called zoning arrangement that gave the Presidential slot to the Southwest for two terms. How would he respond to the quest for Igbo Presidency and the emergence of Dr. Alex Ekwueme?
DR. OGBEMUDIA AND CHIEF ENAHORO
These are two Edo leaders working for the Obasanjo 2003 and they are doing it in their own way without communicating with one another.
Incidentally Dr. Ogbemudia in his letter to me never said anything about Chief Enahoro and Chief Enahoro's plan to sell the Edokpamakhin to the leaders and people of Edo State. Was this an oversight?
Dr. Ogbemudia did not also say anything about what Chief Enahoro is trying to do through the MNR in accord with the PDP. Was this also an oversight?
Chief Enahoro on the other hand had not said anything about what others in the Edo State including Dr. Ogbemudia have been trying to do in the name of Edo people. The question is why?
EDOKPAMAKHIN SHOULD BRING ALL EDO LEADERS TO A ROUNDTABLE
The leadership of Edkpamakhin can guess what I am trying to say. What I am trying to say is that there are many leaders including those of us here who are thinking of an Edo Agenda. Are we not worried that we or all of them are not communicating? The question is why? The Edo Agenda should involve how to build a consensus around some issues. This would start with making sure our leaders are communicating.
For the purpose of discussion, there are also three other organizations in the South-South: the Union of Niger-Delta, the Christian Social Movement and the South-South Peoples Conference. They also involve our people. None of them ever said anything about Edokpamakhin or about Chief Enahoro. The question is why?
The leaders of these organizations have access to me. The questions that they are asking are critical to the evolution of an Agenda for the Edo. Are we saying that these organizations are not relevant to the formulation of an Edo Agenda? Who is coordinating all these? The best coordinating forum for all these organizations as they pertain to the setting of an Agenda for Edo People ought to and should be the Edokpamakhin. Would this Roundtable devise a modality for dealing with this function? This is what should be the mission of Edokpamakhin.
EDOKPAMAKHIN AS AN AGENDA-STTING BODY FOR EDO PEOPLE
Now that the Nigerian branch of Edokpamakhin was unable to take off owing to the disagreement between Chief Enahoro and the US promoters of Edokpamakhin, efforts should immediately been taken by the Steering Committee to prevent any hijack of the organization and its name. For the time being therefore, Edokpamakhin should be organized abroad before moving to Edo State.
The leadership of the three branches of Edokpamakhin in the US, UK and Austria should constitute the Steering Committee for the World Congress of Edo People that would be held in 2003 after the election.
The Steering Committee should jointly solicit for funds from our people at home.
All leaders of political parties, political leaders and public officials should be jointly invited by the Steering Committee to deliberate on the Edo Agenda.
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