The Ezomo of Benin Kingdom, Chief James Ezomo, is one of the ancient Benin kingmakers. In this interview with SOLA SHITTU, he talks about the political crisis in Edo State and how an alleged cabal in the state has been disturbing Governor Godwin Obaseki
What can you say about the current political situation in the state?
First of all, we are apolitical, we are not supposed to be involved in political matters but be that as it may, what is happening in the state now is heartbreaking. Why? It is because this is a governor (Godwin Obaseki) who did his best to ensure that the All Progressives Congress secured the 24 seats in the state House of Assembly during the 2019 governorship election. You know, the Peoples Democratic Party had won two seats in the Senate and four in the House of Representatives. So the governor came out to beg people. He told them he needed the House of Assembly to work. I didn’t vote in the presidential election but because he came out to plead with the people, I had to go out and vote. He made us see how important it would be for his party to be the majority in the House of Assembly. So he made it possible for the APC to win the 24 seats in the House of Assembly. There is a Benin proverb that says that it is not good to kill the native doctor that heals you, but they have killed Obaseki. He worked for them but now they are turning against him. He did a lot to make sure Edo people empathised with him and he won but now they are fighting him. It’s really disheartening.
In this crisis, who do you think is at the receiving end?
Obaseki is at the receiving end; he is the one in problem now because his feet are wobbling. He is having cold feet because the House he was fighting for is fighting him now. I don’t know why he is in problem now because like the Speaker (of the state House of Assembly) said, rules are governing the House and the constitution is also there, so I think they should go the books and get it straightened out.
But people are saying the House is really not the target of this crisis but the governor… (cuts in).
That is the ‘godfatherism’ that we are fighting against. We know there is an invisible hand somewhere controlling the whole thing.
The governor also alleged that politicians from Abuja are not allowing him to work, what do you think about that?
Every man has his own ideology and ways. Mine is different from yours. You don’t expect him to be like Adams Oshiomhole (immediate former Edo State Governor). Oshiomhole had a way of dealing with people which was entirely different. He has told you that there is no money, what would you do? He has said he can’t take orders from anybody. He wants to do his work the way he wants, he doesn’t want to waste money because, at the end of the day, he will be the one to be blamed for it. I believe the governor is not free; people are mounting pressure on him. He is not at peace with the legislators who he fought for, who are now working against him.
Why is it difficult for the governor to carry other people along… (cuts in).
Because he is saying no to godfathers. And when you say no to godfathers, you are going to have problems because they will not let go. This is unlike in those days when people would say yes to godfathers. So the cabal is working against him.
But the people against him are also saying they are not interested in being godfathers… (cuts in).
Are they the governor? Who is holding the sword? Who holds the knife? Who is sharing the meat? Are they the ones holding the knife? Are they the governor? They are at fault for disturbing Governor Obaseki. Obaseki should dictate what he wants and not the cabal dictating to him. I respect the National Assembly in Abuja and think it is superior to the Edo State House of Assembly; I think its findings should be the final. But sincerely, those disturbing Obaseki are the ones at fault.
What do you think is the way out of this crisis now?
If the cabal could vanish; I don’t know how they will vanish but it should vanish, we would have peace in Edo. We should pray that the cabal should vanish. I think we should fast and pray for it to vanish. If they should give way, the governor and Edo will be at peace. He has done well. Everybody can see what he is doing but the cabal won’t let him go forward. The legislators he worked for are now working against him.
Are you saying the governor has done well in the state?
Ask anybody on the streets of Benin City; he has (done well). Even in the entire state, we are feeling his impact on infrastructure, roads, and hospitals. Market places are being built, primary schools are taken care of and we have structures emerging everywhere. We had never seen that before. He has done well and we can see it.
What about the state of insecurity in the state?
That is a global problem. We cannot blame one man for that. Remember that we once had ‘area boys’ (urchins), then we had militants and today, it is herdsmen. Who knows what else we will have tomorrow. So insecurity is a global phenomenon. We will forge ahead if we stop pointing fingers at one another. Let’s tackle the security problems coercively. Let’s stop this North-South issue.
^The Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, has been silent on the matter, why?*
He has to be silent because he is the father of all. The Oba has spoken to the President (Muhammadu Buhari) and he shouldn’t even say more than that because he is a spiritual leader. Besides, there is a sitting government in the state. The Oba has done his best; the government should take over from there.
What do you think about the House of Representatives’ threat to take over the state House of Assembly?
We must respect them and adhere to anything they say. They are the superior House. There is always a way out of every crisis. The constitution is there, we must abide by it and adhere to the tenets of our laws and constitution.