By Ernest Omoarelojie
THERE is no doubt that the ongoing Russia-Ukraine standoff has diverted much of the world’s attention from most other issues. I mean, nothing else seems capable of explaining the near conspiratorial silence that has greeted the untoward manner Ukranian border security officials barred people of colour, particularly Africans, from having access to freedom trains to escape from the war-contused Kyiv to the safety of nearby Poland. For those that noticed, it was heart breaking watching the unfolding ill treatment from the same Ukranians deliberately, actively profile and dehumanise people of colour even as the entire world, including Africa, sympathises with them for being the victim of might.
Unfortunately, the bias racial treatment unleashed on people of colour by the Ukranians appears to have a correlation with the unconscious prejudices that are now such common place practice with most of us outside the colour bar. We indulge in them probably not realising that they are wrong and unGodly. That seems to be the case with a recent situation in Edo state where, as a norm, certain groups from certain sections freely can concoct false claims with a view to using them to have more and greater access to the commonwealth not minding that they already have a stranglehold over their other peers
Recently, social medial buffs had one more reason to exchange, with concern, a trending post, a voice message made by Dr Pedro Obaseki, in response to another material he claimed someone from a mutual socio-cultural WhatsApp group sent to him. It was to the effect that his own Bini-speaking people, Unu N’Oze Edo, domiciled in the state’s South Senatorial zone, are now being marginalised in the distribution of the state’s commonwealth.
As proof, Dr Obaseki posited that his people no longer get what they deserve in all spheres, citing as example, the situation in the education sector where he says the Binis now have to look on as none of the state’s institutions of higher are situated in other zones. Hear him;
“…all the institutions of higher learnings in Edo state, none is situated in Edo south. The ones that were situated in Edo south, apart from Iguoriakhi, have now been moved as satellite campuses or totally closed down, to others outside of Edo south…”
He is particularly angry given, as he puts it, that this is the case even as the zone is the economic nerve house of the state.
“…we contribute or we constitute more than 58% of its population and geo-political demography…”
Dr Obaseki went further to add that his Bini-speaking people, Unu Nor Z’Edo, as he called them, have become a collection of endangered species, one that has been systematically extracted from playing any positive, meaningful and deserved roles even in all available ministries that matter in the state.
In his words, they “…are being totally sidelined, totally ignored or where they are even in those positions already, they are being removed,’ so much so that ‘…persons of Edo extraction as well as our collective local government areas have become a race under siege…”
Dr Obaseki listed several examples including his submission that where eight Permanent Secretaries, PS, are being retired from the state’s civil service, five of them must be from among his people, the remaining three from both Central and North, combined.
Dr Obaseki volunteered an explanation as to why neither Central nor North should be in the way of the South in in its attempt to have unfettered access to the choicest part of the commonwealth, including all existing and available public office in the state. After all, the South, in his summation, produces the biggest chunk of the state’s internally generated revenue and votes, with Oredo, Ikpoba Okha and Egor heading the lot.
“…In terms of internally generated revenue, it is no rocket science, the most local government that bring those internally generated revenues are Oredo, Ikpoba Okha and Egor, all in Edo south…”
And he wondered why those in the region that made it possible for the state to be a member of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, are now practically ostracised from the sharing formula of accruable benefits in terms of human, capital and infrastructural development. As far he is concerned, the state must, without any delay, initiate a policy that seeks to give them more meaningful claims.
“…There must be a deliberate schematic to immediately engage government and engage those who dispense power…,” he argues, whatever that means.
Ordinarily, there is nothing wrong with anyone, any group, that is asking for more claims even if such individual or group already has too much as it is with the case under review. All that the individual or group must do is to produce convincing fact and figure-backed arguments that leave no one else in any confusion. Without any doubt however, Dr Obaseki’s treatise fell short of this all-important requirement.
Let us even imagine that indeed, the state actually retired eight Permanent Secretaries out of which five are from Dr Obaseki’s Edo South alone, with both Central and North sharing the rest three between them. That cannot be a lie. However, the real challenge is that he failed, perhaps deliberately, to add that among other criteria, the same population demographic he mentioned in his treatise is a key factor that comes to play in the process of employing people into the state’s civil service.
In other words, based on population, the state, usually out of necessity, employs more people from Edo South than Central and North, sometimes combined. Barring statutory impediments, including the fact that retirement could come either by way of the statutory 65-year age limitation or the mandatory 35 years of service, more people from Edo South will, all things being equal, be retired at any given moment just as more are employed from the same area at any given moment.
Hypothetically therefore, if the state employed 80 people at any point in time, with more coming from Edo South than Central and North combined, it stands to reason that balance will be reflected at the time of retirement. No more, no less. That is no rocket science. That Dr Obaseki has difficulty reflecting this in his claims leaves much to the imagination a reason why one can deduce that he is on a mischief mission, arguably acting the devil’s advocate on a matter that has not only gained a selfish traction among his zone but one that also seems to have the state government’s seal. That much is evident from a cursory analytical point of view.
If Dr Obaseki’s claim that none of the state’s institution of tertiary education is domiciled anywhere in Edo South or that the ones that were initially located in the zone have been relocated to either Edo Central or Edo North is true, that would be a grievous anomaly indeed that requires quick intervention, at least for the sake of fairness, equity and justice. But is it true?
The last time I checked, Edo state has about eight such institutions. They include the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo University, Uzairue, Edo State Polytechnic, Usen, Edo State College of Education, Igueben, Edo State College of Agriculture, Iguoriakhi, Edo State University, Basic Education, SUBEB, Benin City, Edo State School of Nursing, Benin City and Edo State School of Health Technology, Benin City.
Other institutions of higher learning, both public and private, within Edo South but not owned by the state include the University of Benin, Benin City, National Open University of Nigeria, NOUN, Benson Idahosa University, Benin City and among others, Igbinedion University, Okada. Ordinarily, any zone with the number above, whether state-owned or otherwise, would have no reason to ask for more. But asking is legitimate if premised on self evident facts. Unfortunately, Dr Obaseki’s claims are a slap on the face of truth.
From available records, no institution of higher learning was ever removed from Edo South. At best, the Oshiomhole administration made the College of Agriculture, Iguoriakhi, a multi campus institution with satellite campuses in Uromi and somewhere in Edo North. The College of Education, Igueben, joined the league as it was broken into three-Igueben as main campus, Abudu and Afuze as satellite outreaches.
Recently, the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma and Edo University, Uzairue, became inducted into the state’s multi-campus hall. Emphatically however, Edo South still has more of the number as it always did. None of them was ever removed or relocated completely as Dr Obaseki claimed.
When juxtaposed against available facts, Dr Obaseki’s claims are nothing but a cocktail of half truths and complete falsehood. For attempting to falsely rewrite history using as ingredient, one is compelled to take a second look at him as a person. That is, if one considers the import of an American axiom which holds that half truth is a whole lie. His claims are a recording setting bouquet of outright lies. That perhaps explains the reason there is a consensus to the effect that he appears commissioned, arguably, to play the devil’s advocate.