In this travelogue to Edo State, Faruk Ahmed was terrified and amused at the same time by what he noticed in the state. It is a must-read!
“You shall never see good!” “Your children shall all be barren!” “You will die a mysterious death!” “Your house will know no good!” were the early morning chants that woke me up one day in Jattu, Etsako West LGA of Edo state. I checked my time and it was around 4:30am. Initially, I thought it was mentally deranged person talking out of terms. But when I went undercover, I realized it was a neighbour raining curses on another neighbour, most likely, a close relative of hers.
When this writer visited Edo state recently, he didn’t know what awaits him of surprises, amusements, fear and sadness. It was an experience filled with the good, the bad and the ugly.
Edo state, the Heartbeat of the Nation, is a blossoming state rich in greenery, splendour, beauties, delicacies, natural resources, happiness and love. But it has its fair share of gloom and sadness.
Edo state was created on August 27, 1991 by the military administration of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, with its capital as Benin City from the old Bendel State. It is bordered in the north and east by Kogi state, in the south by Delta state and in the west by Ondo state.
So far, Edo state had had nine governors, including military and civilian administrators. From Colonel John Ekwerekumoh Yeri (1990), John E. K. Odigie Oyegun (1992); Col. Mohammed Abdul-Salam Onuka (1993); Col. Bassey Asuguo (1994); Group Captain Baba Adamu Iyam (1996) to Navy Captain Anthony Onyearugbulem (1998). The remaining are Chief Lucky Igbinedion (1999); Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor (2007) and the incumbent Comrade Adams Oshiomhole (2008).
Security. The first aspect that defines the growth or otherwise of a society is the security of lives and property of the area. In Jattu where I stayed, security is a bit at premium. You could park your car outside the house and wake up to find it hasn’t moved an inch. “But move south to Benin City”, a resident told me, “it is a different ball game entirely”.
Banks are very prone to robbery and thus require high level security measures. With repeated robbery cases, many banks have wound up from fringe towns like Agenebode and Okpella to situate themselves in populated areas like Auchi, Ekpoma and the state capital. As a result of this, queues in the banks are beyond one’s imagination.
Cultism is fast becoming an eyesore to the state. Fraternities that operate mainly in campuses before have now spread into their surrounding communities. It is no longer a shame or crime for young boys and girls below 17 years of age to boast that they belong to Aiye or Vikki cults. And bloody clashes are frequent.
Parents and the society fear to tackle or talk about them because they could wake up to find axes on their backs. Cultism is now a scourge. And if you fear your ward joining them, you have to move him or her out of the society at a very tender age.
Sexual Promiscuity. Whenever you read news of arrested young boys and girls who are being trafficked to Europe, three out of four of them are from Edo state. There is a high import of the promiscuous life of the western world in the state.
It is now the norm for girls below the age of 15 to give birth to two to three children while still in their parents’ homes. When she delivers, you will find friends and relatives coming to felicitate with her.
Sex already is no longer something to wait for after marriage. And it is FREE. Just get a girlfriend and you are there rocking your world. At the tail end, rent a room or if your family house is large enough, bring her in and your family and friends welcome her as your bride.
Poverty is contagious. The ills of Edo state’s societies can be traced to poverty. A girl who has nothing to fall back to will definitely open her legs for any man who will buy her phone, recharge cards, food or give her tokens. And the male counterparts will try every trick in the world to become rich.
There are few to none existing industries or companies to employ the exuberant hands of the state. Most of the youth resort to commercial motorcycle/car driving, masonry, water vending and few to farming. The idle minds join the underworlds of cultists, armed robbers, prostitutes, ritual killers and others seek greener pastures overseas.
Owambe. The Yorubas of western Nigeria are known to throwing parties for even the tiniest achievement. But theirs are matured where anybody can attend. Partying is a second nature of Edo state youths. Here, you see young boys groveling ladies anyhow. And liquor; it is in free supply. And don’t ever free such gatherings from clashes of rival cult groups with varying degrees of injuries and in some cases deaths.
When parties are over, the injured are treated and the dead deposited in mortuaries; while the survivors hurdle themselves home to continue the rocking from where it stopped.
Witchcraft. Tales abound of how witches and wizards fly at night in Edo state. And others tell of how captured witches confess killing loved ones, destroying farmlands, causing accidents and wrecking havocs in other people’s lives. How true these stories are needs some empirical experiments to prove. But the body languages of the society point to the fact that witchcraft is a reality.
Children are barred from taking foods from strangers and at times from certain relatives; people speak in hush tones or change topic of discussion when they see a particular person approaching; labelling of certain individuals as witches and the subsequent boycott of them; and the confessions of alleged witches and wizards all point to the fact that to witchcraft is taken seriously in the state.
Politics. The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) snatched power from the jaws of hitherto behemoth People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in 2008 when incumbent governor Comrade Oshiomhole won a court case against his predecessor Prof. Osunbor of the PDP.
Hitherto, politics in the state used to be taken as a do-or-die affair where parties leave no stone unturned to ensure they secure elective positions. The elections were characterized with ballot snatching, shooting and maiming of oppositions, scaring away of voters and results falsifications.
But with the coming of Oshiomhole, he championed the “One Man, One Vote” cause which has resulted in the sanity of polls in the state. Nowadays, elections are held peacefully but not still devoid of the usual mudslingings, tempered feelings, isolated skirmishes and little malpractices here and there.
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Fear and Pride are the seismic twins ruling the state. The people of the state are too proud of themselves. Nobody wants to be a subordinate to the next person. Everybody believes he/she is a king/queen. And that is why there is the mad rush for riches and fame which leads some to the unsociable acts of armed robbery, cultism, ritual killings, prostitution, witchcraft and even pen robbery. The rule there is: everybody must be rich, by crook or by hook.
And the repercussions of this are the fear that encircled most of the citizens. Everybody is afraid of his/her next neighbour. You can’t even trust your relative because you don’t know when he/she is going to sacrifice you or your wards as stepping stones to riches.
Even those that are rich are not safe too. They fear they could be robbed or knocked out at any time. If they don’t fear armed robbers or kidnappers, they fear witches. And if you are middle-class civil servant, you fear that the state or local government authorities might keep hold to your salaries for over five months. Fears upon fears!
Most People of Edo state are hospitable, charitable, industrious and sociable. Apart from the prides that send waves of fears down the spines of many, the community is quite welcoming and beaming with joy and prosperity.
The good people who are in the majority are not idle. They engage in one enterprise or the other to feed themselves and build their worlds. But the evil of the few bad eggs tends to rub black paints on the prosperity of the good ones and in turn the latter maintain low key impressions.
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Women of Edo state don’t wait for their men. They sell foods, provisions, commodities, farm produce, and so on. And they use the money they gather to build mansions and shops for themselves and their loved ones.
Agriculture is the mainstay of Edo state communities. The state is greenery all year round, being a rainforest climate. Cassavas, groundnuts, oranges, mangoes, melons, yams, coconuts, cocoyam, palm kernels are some of the cash crops grown in the state.
Different leaves abound aplenty for savouring and health. Move into the numerous springs, you can get crayfishes, crabs, fishes and even crocodiles. Bush meats are still delicacies gotten from the forests as other animals hunted for meats are fast becoming extinct.
The farmlands are most cultivated during rainy seasons as there are no forms of irrigations. But there are crops such as yams and cassavas that are cultivated annually. The state is another food basket of the nation after Benue, Taraba and Niger states.
Environment. The weather of the state is moderate, not too hot like Kano state and not too cold like Plateau state; while rainfall is experienced for about eight months. The soil is clayey in nature and former Lagos state governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu once described the state as “the red earth state”.
The state is one of the southern states of Nigeria like Abia and Akwa Ibom states that are prone to soil erosions. Most roads if not tarred with good drainages are washed away by mighty torrents of water which leave in their wakes huge gullies. And hitherto access roads will be turned into im-motorable jungles.
But most citizens of the state, if not for the recent non-payment of workers’ salaries, see the incumbent governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, as a messiah of their age. They say he overhauled most deplorable roads in the states and connected non-accessible communities like Okpekpe to the larger community.
But there are still more to do and the LGAs complain of no money. The citizens hope the coming elections will usher in another era of developments in the state.
Religion. The two major religions in the state are Christianity and Islam. But there are still remnants of traditional adherents. The southern and central part of the state are predominantly Christians; while the north has a of 50:50 percent Muslim-Christian population.
So far, the various adherents of the respective religions live peacefully among themselves with some families having mix Christian and Islamic adherents in their bloodlines.
Economy. The economy of the state is majorly agrarian. Most markets, except those in the Benin City, operate on an 8-day rotational basis to allow buyers and sellers tend to their farms. And the commodities of the markets are mostly agricultural produces.
The state government collects taxes from the few industries and companies that sprout around the capital, while local authorities do same from commercial motorcycle operators.
The present government has pushed forth with some economic programmes like the Edo Youth Empowerment Scheme and the Okpekpe Marathon Race in order to create alternative sources of revenues to the government and citizens. Experts say such programmes need to be identified and intensified so that the economy of the state will move from an agrarian one to an integrated one which will engage the numerous idle hands in the state.
Back to Neighbour’s Curses
When I heard the curses, I ducked quickly to dodge the curses, the way former US president George Bush did when a journalist stoned him with shoes in Iraq. And I said to myself, “I must know why Edo state is christened the heartbeat of the nation.”
Seeing, they say, is believing! Hmmmm. I went, saw and conquered the good, the bad and the ugly sides of Edo state. Thank you for reading!
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