Reviving the Fortunes of Edo State
A PAPER PRESENTED AT THE:
EDO GLOBAL ORGANIZATION
ANNUAL CONFERENCE 2009
Turin, Italy 19TH TO 21ST JUNE 2009
Philip Orumwense (MCIPS)
Reviving the Fortun es of Edo State is as topical today as it was some 6 years ago when Professor Iro Eweka whilst presenting a paper at a conference on ‘THE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OF EDO STATE’ (October 4, 2003) said that “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? ...” Whilst the premise of my conversation with you today is not primarily centred on this theme i.e. the mass exodus of Edo People to foreign lands, I do howe ver acknowledge that we too have a role to play in reviving the fortunes of our state.
This paper begins with the exploration of the uniqueness of Edo State, its people, religion, geography, industries, agriculture, mineral resources and tourism as contextual background and to set the scene for the postulation of some developmental strategies with an attempt to develop some practical engagement and delivery strategies on how best to revive our fortunes. It will explore some of the major themes that continues to prevent us as a people from dynamic progression within the leagues of progressive states, draw on our very rich history in other to understand how best to cope with the present, what can be suitably learnt from the past in order to plan and build for a brighter future collectively. The paper will also seek to map out some socio-economic derivatives, provide some extrapolations on how best to restructure and transform the Edo State public policy agenda. It will conclude with an attempt at developing an engagement advocacy for the revival of the fortunes of Edo State .
Edo State is located in the South – South geo political zone of Nigeria. It is believed to cover a geographical area of some 17,450 sq km with an average population size of some 4 million people and an annual growth rate of some 2-8%. The state is largely made up of the Binis, Ishans, Estakos, Owans, Akoko Edos and several other minority ethnic groups. The Edos are a highly religious people where several religious faiths abound including – The African Traditional Religions, Christianity and the Islamic faiths.
Edo State like many other Nigerian States is rich in natural resources and other minerals yet there is a huge dependency on the allocations from the federation account which in turn has a great dependency on the fluctuating and volatile oil exploration. It is useful therefore within this context to explore some other alternatives for revenue generation within Edo State as opposed to the significant dependency on revenue derivations from the federated accounts.
Edo State has natural vegetation which consists of rain forest and savannah. Human interference has however, led to the presence of plantations for rubber and oil palms as well as forest reserves. Extensive exploitation of forest resources, cattle grazing and persistent bush fires have combined to reduce areas of forest vegetation to derived degraded savannah. The exploitation of these resources must be controlled through deliberate state interventions to ensure that our forestry reserves remains sustainable over time.
Agro Based Resources
Edo State has extensive agricultural resources which consist of food crops, tree crops, forestry products and livestock. The main food crops cultivated include yam, cassava, maize and rice. Additionally there is high yield of Agricultural food crops such as Cocoa, Rubber, Palm trees, Vegetables, Cotton, Pineapple, Mango, Cashew, Cassava, Bushmeat, Poultry Fowls, Snails, Goats, and Fish. There is also significant rice cultivation in the flood plains of the River Niger at Agenebode, Illushi and Ekpoma.
Consequently, rice milling in Ekpoma, Illushi and Agenebode and cassava processing all over the state, are viable industrial activities for investment in the state. This should be encouraged and propagated through public and private sector investments on a large scale to increase the quality and productivity of the yield and consequently reduce the nation’s dependency on imported rice and other food crops.
There is a high dependency in foreign countries on tropical fruit crops such as pineapples, oranges, tangerines, bananas, plantains, avocado pears, green leafy vegetables etc. These produce which lends themselves to mass cultivation in Edo State can be mass cultivated on a large scale and packaged for both domestic consumption and exportation to foreign countries where there are huge demands.
The worldwide demand for produce from timber/wood based products, cocoa, oil palm and rubber which can be produced on large industrial scales from Edo State creates a readymade market for further exploitation of this domesticated vegetation which naturally lends itself to the establishment of some agro based industries. Exploiting these abundant natural resources would consequently lead to the regeneration of the local economies, create more employment opportunities, and lead to the industrialisation of an otherwise agro based industry e.g. chipboard manufacture, paper conversion and packaging, and prefabricated housing ventures.
Parts of Edo State’s natural ecology can support large hoards of cows, goats, sheep and birds. Similarly =E 2 fish farms can also be cultivated on a large scale. All of these opportunities can be expanded and industrialised to ensure both self reliance on home produce but more importantly to boost the export potentials that can be readily created.
Mineral Based Resources
Within Edo State several deposits of mineral based resources such as quartz for metal products; marble and clay for cement and for making domestic pots, porcelain etc; fertiliser/pesticid es; plaster; limestone for cement production; chalk for the production of firebricks and furnace; sand/gravel for construction of concrete; gypsum a significant raw materials used in cement factories; gold; lignite and coal used in agro allied industries are found in several parts of the state. Whilst some of these natural resources are being exploited on a small scale, mass exploitation and industrialisation is bound to reduce the dependency on allocations from the federated accounts whilst increasing the socio-economic status of both investors and other stakeholders including those of our people who will ultimately be employed in these ventures.
Edo State boasts a number of medium and small-scale industries in major centres like Benin City . Some of these industries includes Carving, Saw-milling, Rubber processing, Cement and Textile, Brewing and Flour milling etc. Some of the popular brand names includes Bendel Cement Factory Okpella, Bendel Brewery Benin City, Guinness Nigeria Benin-City, Nigeria Bottling Company (Coca-Cola) Benin City, Ewu Flour Mill Ewu and Bendel Pharmaceutical Benin-City, Okomu oil Plc, Presco Plc etc. Other Small-Scale industries are also on the increase with many Banks and Fast Food restaurants opening up their outlets in the capital and other emerging cities and towns across the state.
Edo state boasts several tourism assets including cultural tourism, eco- tourism, historical tourism, sports tourism to economic tourism with the capabilities of becoming an investors' haven in the tourism sub-sector. Edo people were recently described as “enlightened, warm and friendly -ever willing to help”.
Edo State has an Airport in Benin where the private air line Okada Airline operates from. The River Niger at Agenebode and Illushi is used for water transportation. There are severa l Tourism, Recreation and Places of interest located in Benin City , Okada, Okomu, AkokoEdo and elsewhere in the state. The Benin Moat, Oba’s Palace, Emotan, Arousa, Ogba Zoo all remains places of interests in Benin City.
Ughoton village close to Benin City is particularly significant and a historical landmark for early western expeditions into the shores of Africa , it was connected with Captain Philip's expedition of 1897. The village also served as a depot for the Trans Atlantic slave trade, as well as the departure point of the Portuguese bound emissaries from Benin during the 16th century.
‘In Akoko Edo, the Somorika Hills and Ososo Tourist Centre present beautiful scenery; from the top of the hills, parts of Kogi State and the Rivers Niger and Benue confluence can be viewed. In Etsako, the Edegbake and Oghodagho Caves can accommodate over 200 people for purposes of relaxation. The stream that flows from Edegbake cave is beautiful scenery’.
Edo Arts have become a global brand, ‘which represents the earliest civilisation among blacks, specifically Africans. The Benin Kingdom is also believed to be the fourth earliest k nown civilisation recorded by historians, archaeologists and anthropologists’.
The state boasts of some newly discovered heritage sites, which include the 'giant foot-prints' printed on stones in Uhen, Ovia North East Local Government Area, when the world was still in a molten stage.
There are countries, States, Cities and Towns that have built the core of their foreign export earnings on tourism, Edo State should encourage both inward and foreign investments in developing and promoting tourism within the state.
Leadership in Edo State
Leaders must have followers; a lot of the leaders’ activity must get the backing of the people i.e. the followers, therefore any leader who wants to achieve anything must enrol others in their cause. Drawing from the work of James O’Toole, Leading Change: The argument for Values-Based leadership, He identified four characteristics of Values-Based Leaders as follows:
Integrity: You never lose sight of your goals or compromise your principles. You are simultaneously principled=2 0and pragmatic.
Trust: You reflect the values and aspirations of your followers. You accept leadership as a responsibility, not a privilege. You serve.
Listening: You listen to the people you serve, but you are not a prisoner of public opinion. You encourage dissenting opinions among your advisors. You test ideas, explore all sides of issues, and air the full range of opinion.
Respect for followers: You are a leader of leaders. You are pragmatic to your core but believe passionately in what you say or do.
In the main, Leadership and the provision of public services in any society should be premised in egalitarian and altruistic principles - this way practitioners can give of their best in pursuit of the common good for all. It should be a selfless service geared towards making huge and significant improvements for those to whom public services and20leadership are being provided or directed. Edo State surely needs leaders that possess and are capable of displaying these attributes.
Let's share what we know in the way that we know best and in the process let's learn to listen more by which means we can make much more improved contributions to social and political transformation. Teachers and professors who teaches one thing in academia and when made Commissioners, Special Advisers and Heads of other Government bodies, people who were schooled in the West and have seen democracy, egalitarianism, fairness and equality at play becomes custodians of nepotism, corruption and damn right and absolute disregard for the rule of law and then display absolute contempt in the way they represent the views of those people they seek to act on behalf – the Edo Indigene. We must therefore as a society commence a process for the deliberate development of a core group of flawless political and public office leadership corps, one that exhibits some of the finest virtues espoused above but more importantly – one that have the yearnings of Edo people at heart. Early socialisation and expositi on to these leadership qualities must be a critical contributory factor to achieving this key objective for the leaders in making but also for those to whom they seek to lead.
This aspiration can be realised overtime through the appropriate socialisation and the political participation of our leaders and those to whom they seek to lead.
Socialization when defined as a process that enables the acquisition of social learning allows the individual to acquire the requisite knowledge, skills and dispositions that enables them to participate as more or less effective members of groups and ultimately the society within which their social being is defined.
By implication therefore, political socialization becomes a process which is mediated through various agencies of society by which an individual learns politically relevant attitudinal dispositions, skills and behaviour patterns which enable them to participate as more or less effective members of groups and ultimately the political structure (society) within which their political identity is or becomes ably defined.
Participation in such polity becomes activated through those voluntary or state enabled activities by which members of a society share in the selection of rulers and directly or indirectly in the formulation of public policy. This m akes the scope of political participation very wide ranging from mere talking about politics, having access to power in order to make enforceable decisions (the legislature, Judiciary, Executive arm of Government, Civil Service or membership of significant pressure groups) to protest behaviour - a process although largely ignored in budding democracies but none the less affords protest activists a dynamic instrument for bringing about a degree of political change in specific matters of interests.
Political participation therefore becomes a civic duty, a sign of political health and the best method of ensuring that one's private interests political or otherwise are not neglected. To enable this process one must become politically influential and this is where I believe the mass of Edo State people are largely disenfranchised but before I address this disenfranchised group, let's have a look at who the political ‘influential’ really are.
= They are those who are in a position to influence and can inform public policy decisions and decision making, they include those that attend a political meeting or rally, make a monetary contribution to the political party, contact a public or political official and much more contemporary and akin to our domestic partisan politics - membership and or leadership of religious groups - these are at best described as transitional activities. There is then the other group who may hold public and or political party office, is a candidate for office, solicit for party funds, attends a caucus or public policy strategy meeting - these groups are gladiatorial in the way they influence partisan politics. We must therefore seek to use these people to effect changes in Edo State .
For those of us who are in the Diaspora and belongs to one or more Edo Groups or List Serves please forgive me for daring to speculate here, it is my belief that we in the main fall into the transitional political influential role but very often degenerates into a tal king shop with no real but a perceived impact on influencing political or public policy decisions. This thus makes us a politically alienated and disenfranchised group from participation in our home land public policy formulation. We must therefore become active lobbyists seeking to influence changes in Edo State Public Service provision through engagements with the media, political actors and public officials, through intellectual pronouncements by way of communiqués, through inward investments and the repatriation of foreign capital into Edo State and for those of us who are able to provide the human capital/resources – the use of our professional and entrepreneurial expertise for the benefit Edo State.
On the largely disenfranchised group, there is a presumption that the mass of our people albeit largely illiterate (literacy being the act of westernised forms of learning - the abilities to read and write) has not been systematically targeted with an understanding of public and political affairs, neither have they been inculcated with the relevant access including of course the promotion of the desire to participate actively through direct involvement or devolved repr esentation. We must therefore actively encourage our kinsmen to become much more involved and engaged with those who are responsible for making those decisions that determines how they are governed – a simple of act of voting, contacting your local representatives or attending a political party caucus meeting would suffice just as much as being a candidate for elective political office, being a civil servant or by simply setting up a focus group or by becoming an active lobbyist.
If we are to believe that political wisdom and the mastery of the techniques of government are acquired through the practice of politics itself, there must therefore be a process for the deliberate indoctrination, mass mobilisation, political education, social and political interaction amongst all and not just limited to the educated, militarised, ‘god-fathered’ and wealthy ruling classes. We must begin to influence the way in which our people becomes oriented towards their political values, beliefs, knowledge and opinions within the Edo State political culture.
This will overtime create a rapid, spontaneous and continuous response to the political stimulus in such a way that the mass of our people can begin to appreciate all activities that are politically relevant to them and equally participates in these activities, are informed and aware of public policies - whether they affect them or not and tries as much as possible to influence such public policy development and formulation.
To do nothing could potentially engender the current climate of political passivity - a situation where the mass of our people remains politically inactive, makes no effort to become informed, does not show any resistance to public or political policies whether or not such policies are in good or bad faith, they remain always acted upon and never acting and stays permanently insensitive to political stimulus.
We can all individually or collectively play our part in ensuring the political socialization of those with whom we have interactions towards becoming political activists and by extrapolation influencing those decisions that affects us all, this way our societal (social) and political transformation may well become enabled towards the mass participation of our people in their/our political system which presently alienates the majority of us.
The investments both past, present and future in creating young scientists, medics, teachers, thinkers, scholars and many mor e by the Edo State wealth is by all means misplaced and oftentimes misdirected. Misplaced in the sense that the mass economic migration of this resource pool is becoming unstoppable and the only beneficiary is the host country where these migrants have taken refuge, it’s like a conundrum – one that will remain unsolvable until such time that our leaders are able to restore the much needed pride that our ancestors bequeathed to them. We must find a way to prevent past and current leaders of Edo State from mortgaging the future of our state for a few pennies but also to establish a process for the restoration of the pride that our forebears once enjoyed in future generations of leaders for the transformation Edo State .
To embark on this transformation journey we must begin to articulate a clear roadmap and develop a blueprint that addresses some of the following issues:
1) The Provision of Social Amenities including pipe borne water, electricity generation, waste disposal, network and telephony infrastructure including broadband connectivity etc. as basic infrastructural requirements primarily to ease the lives of our people but also to attract and retain potential foreign investors
2) Access to relevant and appropriate Education and Training including the teaching of Edo History, Language and Culture in all primary and tertiary institutions in Edo State
3) The development of a Housing Strategy that addresses both publicly and privately owne d and regulated affordable housing including the protection of our listed buildings and heritage sites
4) A strategic focus on developing the State’s Health Care provisioning to include both preventative and palliative care including community health care provisions and health education
5) The developments of an Employment policy including appropriate internships, job creation, mechanisation/ industrialisatio n and a shift away from public sector employment to the private sector with the development of state sponsored incentives to attract and retain foreign investments
6) The provision, support and maintenance of Social Infrastructure especially access facilities for inward investments i.e. security, road, transportation, social networks, credit facilities etc
7) A strategic focus on Socio-economic planning to enable the evaluation and implementation of planned development programmes within and beyond Edo State
8) Taxation – a fair and equitable local/community taxation system for the provision of local amenities and services
9) A localised Judicial System that is predicated on Edo customary practices, totems and taboos to help bind our people and their cultures together with the Court of the Oba of Benin and His Palace Chiefs and Enogies being the penultimate arbiter
10) The restoration of the Edo Language amongst the families of Global Languages and preferably taught in all Edo schools and colleges
Edo State Public Policy must be restructured and transformed to focus on the following:
i) Public and Private sector participation in poverty alleviation programmes and initiatives, building on some of the opportunities for mass industrialisation that is available within the state
ii) Capacity building for service providers of various categories to enhance and improve their service delivery skills and also provide increased capacity for investors and employment opportunities for Edo State people
iii) Provision of appropriate equipments, infrastructural services, support services, tools and capabilities that may be required to sustain existing investments but more importantly to act as a catalyst for attracting new inward investments
iv) Increased availability of proactive and preventative measures including public funds in sustaining public health, maintaining existing public infrastructure such as roads, hospitals, transportation, pipe borne water, electricity provision, telephony networks, schools. security solutions etc
v) Improved capacity for Edo State people to advocate for citizen involvement in development activities, public policy formulation and the delivery of front line services
vi) Mobilisation of resources and creation of access from the organised private sector development corporations – locally and internationally including organisations such as Shell, BP, NNPC, Chevron, NDDC, Niger Delta River Basin Development Authorities, Edo Development Board, Private Foundations, Regional and Local Development Banks etc.
vii) Mobilisation of resources and creation of access from multinational, Government Agencies and NGOs such as WHO, UNICEF, UNDP, CIDA, IOM , FCO, The British Council, DFID and others.
Conclusion and Advocacy
I recall with great admiration the times I spent in Edo State when we were greeted with structurally branded delivery strategies such as Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) an initiative that galvanised all and sundry into some form of farming and agricultural ventures.
I recall also albeit with a great sense of nostalgia the times in Edo State when we were greeted with Sanitation Day – a day which was traditionally the first Saturday in the Month that was set aside for cleaning the home, the streets and its environs.
We did all of these with a great sense of pride, dedication and devotion, as a proud but disciplined people and very possibly the cradle of black civilisation, a civilisation that dates back centuries of years, a civilisation that is comparable to the Great Egyptian Empire, we must surely be able to undergo some of the transformational journeys touched on during this conversation.
1) A communiqué to be issued to the Edo State Governor and the Edo House of Assembly based on the output from a roundtable at the conclusion of the conference.
2) A communiqué to be issued to the mass media through established media such as Radio, Television and the Printed Press based on the output from a roundtable at the conclusion of the conference.
3) The institutionalisatio n of a commemorative award for contributions made by Edo State Indigenes and non-indigenes alike to the development of Edo State
4) The setting up of an Advocacy Advisory Committee for reviving the fortunes of Edo State . The committee should be made up of all the Special Interest Groups that represents all the Edo Nationals both at home and in the Diaspora
5) A delegation to visit the Oba of Benin, the Edo House of Assembly and the Governor of Edo State for endorsement and a formal invitation to support the delivery and implementation of all the stated intentions.
6) The setting up of a political/economic lobby group to sponsor executive and legislative bills and to review judicial pronouncements with a view to ensuring that effective public policies are developed and implemented/ SPAN>
Oba Ghator Okpere – Ise June 2009