A Case for Edo Chart­er of Equity

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.

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