By Simon Ebegbulem, Benin City
THE Onojie of Opoji and Vice Chairman, Edo State Council of Traditional Rulers and Chiefs, His Royal Highness (HRH), Ehidiamen Aidonojie 1, in this interview with Saturday Vanguard, gave reasons traditional rulers in Edo Central senatorial district of Edo state and Esan people are opposed to the former chairman Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Tony Anenih, who is urging the people of the area to reject the candidate of the APC, Mr Godwin Obaseki and vote the PDP candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
The Royal father who is at war with Chief Anenih over the latter’s position on the issue, alleged that Chief Anenih’s PDP marginalized Esan people particularly those from the old Okpebho throughout his reign in the PDP, adding however that Governor Adams Oshiomhole led APC came to change the situation by constructing roads, bore holes and schools which according to him were deprived Esan people during the 10- year reign of PDP in the state.
He said that Anenih rarely has passion people who are not from his Uromi kindred just as he alleged that the PDP leader masterminded the removal of late Prof.Ambrose Ali and Prof.Osarhiemen Osunbor from offices and promised that the people of Esanland will vote massively for Godwin Obaseki of the APC. Excerpts:
HRH, you were invited recently by the Police over your petition alleging that Chief Tony Anenih was after your life, has the matter been resolved now?
It has not been settled because the police invited me and I went to make statement. I am aware that Anenih was invited too but he has not gone to see them and I am asking the police why he has not shown up.
If a traditional ruler like me is not protected then who is safe in this country? Yes he threatened my life and I have given the police the details so they should investigate.
He has been going round to run me down forgetting I am a Royal father but he is just a chief. Just because we said no to his candidate Ize-Iyamu then he thinks that Esan land must fall. No way because we are not fools. Recently, he was going to homes of traditional rulers in Esan land campaigning for Ize-Iyamu. He went to Esan West at the palace of Onojie of Ekpoma and asked him why they were following Onojie of Opoji, why were they allowing me to lead them. They responded that I am the 1st Vice chairman and as such If I call a meeting they will attend.
Anenih is not a traditional ruler and as such he was advised not to dabble into matters concerning the traditional institution. My being the first Vice chairman is by the blessing of the traditional rulers in the state after Esan traditional rulers have nominated me. So it is not Anenih’s making. He should not drag us into politics and he should mind his business. The 29 traditional rulers that endorsed Godwin Obaseki of the APC in Esan land have already reaffirmed their decision and it is irrevocable. We did that because we have never had it so good in Edo state until Oshiomhole’s APC came.
Let me tell you why we are opposing anything PDP. During the administration of Lucky Igbinedion , under Anenih’s watch, the 5 per cent approved for traditional rulers from the allocation accrued to the state was never given to us, it was denied us. Rather they were giving us 2 or 3 per cent maximum and that was when this same Ize-Iyamu was Chief of Staff and SSG to Igbinedion. The records are there. We never knew they were cheating us until Oshiomhole came and we started receiving the full 5 per cent.
Chief Anenih has been going round begging traditional rulers to support Ize-Iyamu but many have told him it is not about sentiment but the future of our people. Besides, you cannot go to a Local Governments where you removed two of their sons as governors and Speaker and start asking for votes and support. There are some no- go- areas here. Anenih has forgotten what happened some years ago when Ugbesia was campaigning.
He said it was the last campaign for him but I am surprised now that he is saying that Ize-Iyamu’s campaign will be the last for him. So when will he retire from politics? He has used Esan people a lot but we are wiser now. Esan people will vote for progress and not for poverty and of course no man is God.
How can we support PDP when Chief Anenih masterminded the removal of Pro.Ambrose Ali as Governor of old Bendel state? He also went against Osunbor both of them from old Okpebho and at the same time he removed Thomas Okosun as Speaker and gave it to Mathew Egbadon from Uromi. He removed David Iyoha who was Speaker from old Okpebho and gave the Speakership to Friday Itulah from Uromi.
At the same time, after he removed Ambrose Ali, he took the floor Mill at Ewu to Uromi. It was General Useni that reverted the Floor Mill back to Ewu. All the appointments due to Edo state since 1999, Anenih assembled all in Uromi. Prof. Okojie Executive Secretary National University Commission, Austin Okojie INEC Commissioner, Prof. Ibadin CMD UBTH, this is his second tenure, Dr Okpere CMD UBTH.
For sixteen years he was in charge of UBTH. Mathew Egbadon Nigeria Maritime Authority and it was in Anenih’s time that Lucky Igbinedion closed down Ambrose Ali University for one year. That helped Igbinedion University to grow. So PDP spearheaded by Anenih himself marginalized Esan people. Some of us see Oshiomhole as the man God sent because prior to his coming, they ensured there were no primaries in the PDP. Councillors even from my village were picked. Esan people had no voice.
Oshiomhole has done well for Esan people and that is why majority of us traditional rulers endorsed Obaseki. APC government built schools, constructed boreholes and beautiful roads including the one leading to Chief Anenih’s house. The late Chief Anthony Enahoro who is from Uromi, gave water to the whole Esan people but the water Obasanjo promised Esan people when Stella his wife died, Anenih was asked to execute the project and when he brought the equipment, he went to the stream in Ugboha, the neighbouring town to Uromi, he took water there to Uromi but did not give to Ugboha people and that prompted Ugboha people to destroy the pipe.
You can see the marginalization, you are either an Uromi man or you get nothing. If you see any appointment gotten by anybody outside Uromi then you will know that that person got it through a powerful source in Abuja. It was Gen. Abbe who is from Benin that helped Dr Olifo to get appointment as a Vice Commissioner in the Board of Civil Defence and Immigration which he used to empower several Esan sons and daughters.
Olifon is from Okpebho and Anenih was not happy he got that job. When Osunbor was governor, he promised to build a model secondary school in Opoji because that was where he was born but Anenih quarrelled with Osunbor and told him to build that school in Uromi instead of Opoji. Ize-Iyamu is a product of Igbinedion and Anenih and we cannot support him. We are happy with the present APC government and we are going to support Godwin Obaseki.
But there was a time we heard some traditional rulers in Esan land endorsed Ize-Iyamu?
There was no time we endorsed Ize-Iyamu at Uromi. How can we do that when he was one of the kingpins that marginalized not only Edo people but Esan people in particular while he was SSG? If you remember, Ize-Iyamu was even more powerful than Igbinedion who was governor then. And it is just because I said the truth that the PDP does not deserve the votes of the Esans that Anenih is fighting me. The change is around the corner, on the 10th of September you will see what is going to happen.
Those that endorsed a Pastor with native chalk on his head and those that spoke with the Holy Bible, the war is between darkness and light. I see the native chalk as an affliction. During the last governorship election, some body received that same native chalk from some Onojies but Oshiomhole defeated the person. You do not compare darkness with light. God will decide on the 10th. I must tell you we have 29 traditional rulers who have endorsed Obaseki. Recently, few of the traditional rulers called a meeting at Ewatto.
They had only nine members and I called my own I had 19. The governor of Edo state is our son and he has done well. We cannot go back to Egypt. Obaseki has come with his programmes and Ize-Iyamu came also with his own. So for us to choose we compared the two parties what they have done in the past. We asked ourselves what did PDP do for us? which school did they build? Did they build roads? Did Benin have a new look? Oshiomhole even built the road leading to Anenih’s house. So Edo people will decide and Esan people cannot be foolish to vote for poverty. This election is not going to be on sentiment but people will vote for the reality on ground.