Trojan News :: Real Time News


Transcending The Miasma Of Ethnic Chauvinism: Towards A People-Centered Development In Edo North

  • Being a Keynote Address Delivered At Own Summit On Saturday, The 9th Day of March, 2024 At Institute Of Physical Education, Afuze


I consider it a rare privilege to be invited to share my thoughts on this very important topic, “Transcending the Miasma of Ethnic Chauvinism: Towards a People-Centred Development in Edo North”. The theme of this summit is apt in view of renewed awareness and agitation for fairness and equity in the sharing of political power among three (3) sub-ethnic groups of Edo North/Senatorial District. Surely, the summit is germane against the backdrop of growing sense of ethnic dominance, marginalization, relegation and alienation in Edo North Senatorial district by one sub-ethnic group against others.

Politics in sane climes is the bedrock of transformation and development of society, either in economics, politics, morality, material, freedom, justice, equality or security. The foremost definition of politics by the American Political Scientist, Harold Lasswell (1902-1978) attests to politics as ‘Who Gets What, When and How’ in any given polity/society. As a result, the ruling political elites are engaged/involved in intense struggle for political power, especially to gain access to what has been called the “national cake.” This also provides the basis or context for class struggle where patterns of political domination/class alienation are constantly being transformed, producing the fear and anxieties that underlie increasing suspicion and agitation in the society. I must commend and congratulate Owan Conscience for blazing the trail in bringing quality sons and daughters of Owan together to engage and interrogate the all-important issue of ethnicity vis-à-vis collective progress and development in Edo North. I am aware that the context of today’s summit is Edo North composed of three (3) sub-ethnic groups, namely Etsako, Owan and Akoko-Edo. The issue in focus is fairness amongst the three sub-ethnic groups in “who gets what, when and how”. The problems associated with ethnicity are not Edo North specific. They are Nigerian problems as they are global, especially in view of the fact that Nigeria has more than three hundred (300) ethnic groups or nationalities. The desire of today’s summit is to chat a new roadmap for assured Owan’s identity and recognition in the socio-political matrix of Edo North, now and in the future. As a keynote speaker, my duty is to expound the central issue (ethnicity) of the summit to set the tone for a robust discussion. I wish to now carry out this assignment in the remaining part of this keynote.
The concept of ethnicity is, perhaps, one of the most critically discussed and debated issues in academic fields of political science, sociology, economics, history, peace and conflict studies, to mention a few. More than other issues, it tends to arouse strong emotional feelings in politicians and political actors who, most often, appeal to it to either affirm/justify or deny discrimination, marginalization, oppression, inequity, injustice, especially in the quest for political power and relevance. Because the concept of ethnicity is central to this summit, it requires some explanation. The focus is to offer a general understanding of what it means and not to get involved in its conceptual history and debate because to do that is not only academic, it will divert attention from the immediate concern of the summit, i.e. to discuss and raise awareness on the albatross of ethnicity as well as evolve workable strategies to redress it’s consequences, especially in Edo North. Permit me to excuse academic gymnastics and simply state that ethnicity refers to “selected cultural and sometimes physical characteristics used to classify people into groups or categories considered to be significantly different from others.” Specifically, it is shared cultural identity derived from a common language, nationality, religion or ancestry. As a result, ethnic groups or nationalities are largely cultural and historical constructs because they are distinguished by communal characteristics such as language or culture, or combination of both. It is


often characterized by nepotism and corruption, inter-ethnic discrimination in jobs, housing, admission into higher institutions, scholarships, distribution of welfare services, and sometimes marriage. In the society or human organization where ethnicity is at play, merit is quite often sacrificed on the altar of ethnicity and this creates resentment from persons who have a different identity from those in control of powers, thereby triggering ethnic crisis and social disorders as the resultant effects (Jarikre, 221).

Because of negative consequences of ethnicity, we often hear our political elites/leaders deplore ethnocentrism. They call it cancer that threatens to eat out the very fabric of the society. Yet, almost every politician or political leader practises it and most of them are more ethnic chiefs than national statesmen or leaders. Surely, in the Nigerian context, ethnicity remains perhaps the most potent force in day-to-day life as it is a factor in political struggles, sharing/appointment into political offices as well as distribution of resources of the state. In addition, it often determines who gets jobs, who gets promoted, who gets accepted to a university, because by its very nature or definition, ethnicity implies sharing among members of the extended family, making sure that your own are looked after first. In the context of ethnic consideration, to give a job to a fellow ethnic member is not nepotism, it is an obligation, and for a political leader to choose his closet advisers and bodyguards from the ranks of his own ethnic group is not patronage, but good common sense. It ensures security, continuity and authority.

Permit me to observe that in spite of its negative connotation and influence as a triggering factor in several forms of negative social outcomes, ethnicity has multifarious effects on social and political leadership behavior in the society. For instance, Donald Horowitz argues that ethnic affiliations provide a sense of trust, certainty, reciprocal help and protection. He further acknowledges that in all deeply divided societies, ethnic affiliations have naturally acquired greater salience and attraction because groups have increasingly found it necessary to move or mobilize against historic and contemporary inequities and injustices in a socio-

political process of heterogeneous states (Salami, Famakinwa and Fasiku, 512). Jarikre, citing Henry Okullu, extends the positive effects of ethnicity this way:
Ethnic affiliation as an extended family system is a great
asset in nation-building, especially when acting as a moral
retaining influence upon, and a means of security for, its
members. It can be argued that an ethnic group as a larger
family unit is an order of creation. In a nation, some people
will argue, is not an aggregate of individuals, it is rather
a unity of independent institutions, of which ethnic grouping
is one. If such is true then ethnic groups are a very strong
foundation upon which a strong nation can be built. To
do this effectively, it is necessary to know how to distinguish
between that which belongs to the ethnic group and that which
belongs to the nation (221).

Explicit from the above is that ethnicity is not intrinsically negative or bad. It however, acquires negative connotation when excessively expressed or deplored in practical actions, especially in less consideration to the principle of fairness and equity. This draws on Aristotle’s doctrine of the Mean As Virtue. The doctrine suggests moderation in behavior, conduct and practical actions. In his Nicomacheam Ethics, the Ancient Greek Philosopher, Aristotle says that the virtuous action is the Mean between two extremes of excess and detect. In other words, the doctrine suggests “always taking a decision that borders on the middle ground or course between the extreme of either over-reacting or not doing anything at all” (Aigbodioh, 33). As a result, Aristotle counsels that by taking a mean course between the extreme of excess and defect we become virtuous or excellent in our actions. As a result, ethnicity may not be considered a miasma except in extreme of excess. Aquiline rightly argues that “ethnic identities need not be destroyed, but rather, that attention should focus on the practices that allow people to manipulate them. Its manipulations by people and political actors are the ingredients that instigate social disorder and anomie.” I consider the phrase “transcending the miasma of ethnic chauvinism” in the theme of this summit as proceeding upon the concern that ethnicity is being taken too far in Edo North and has become a miasma, an unpleasant or unhealthy smell or vapour, an oppressive or unpleasant phenomenon threatening peaceful coexistence and development in Edo

Edo North of Edo State comprises three sub-ethnic groupings of the Etsako, Owan and Akoko-Edo. Administratively, this area is organized under six (6) Local Government Areas. Etsako has three (3) Local Government Areas (Etsako Central, Etsako East and Etsako West); Owan two (2) Owan East and Owan West); and one (1) for Akoko-Edo (Akoko-Edo). The miasma of ethnic chauvinism is reflected in unfair, inequitable and ethnic dominance in the politics of ‘who gets what, when and how’ in Edo North. It is true that many of our Etsako brothers and sisters are very reasonable and possess sense of fairness, equity and good conscience. However, the tiny ruling class among them is hell-bent on Edo North into the larger Nigerian story of complex and multiple processes of subjugation and marginalization by constant creation of majority groups who seek to dominate their minority neigbours in different parts of the country.

Certainly, the contemporary politics of Edo North smacks of inequity and unacceptable narrative of ethnic dominance, particularly in the allocation of political offices through election or appointment since the inauguration of the present democratic dispensation in May 1999. At the receiving end of this miasma of ethnic chauvinism are the Owan and Akoko-Edo sub-ethnic groups, evident in undisguised political repression and marginalization. The ingredients of political repression include the sheer insensitivity to the single shot of 4 years each by Owan and Akoko-Edo respectively at the Edo North Senatorial seat in the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria since 1999 while Etsako is running 16 years in the Senate without break.

Between 1999 and now, Edo North has had the privilege of producing a Governor and two Deputy Governors. These positions went to the Etsako sub-ethnic group. The same sub-ethnic group has, also, in two successions produced two Ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Other political positions being enjoyed by the same sub-ethnic group to the exclusion of others in Edo North include ambassadorial position and membership of boards. The list is endless.

There is a correlation between politics and development as earlier underscored in the Lasswellian definition of politics. Our Etsako brothers and sisters in the ruling class have actually deplored their political power and dominance to transform their landscape and their sub-ethnic people while others are in cool of political irrelevance and underdevelopment. The evidence is everywhere in the various communities of Etsako. While this is a matter of joy and happiness, there should be fairness and equity in the distribution of political opportunities and development to other parts of Edo North. This is the crux of the Edo North present predicament

The fear and complaint of political marginalization is palpable in Edo North and is of grave concern to many progressively-minded people across the three sub-ethnic groups in Edo North. This appears to justify the conclusion that ethnicity is indeed a threat to harmonious existence and development in Edo North. In an article titled, “2023 Edo North Senatorial Race: Resisting Ethnic Champion Called Oshiomhole” by Erasmus Ikhide, published by Thisday a year ago, the writer had this to say:
…every true political, intellectual, religious, businessmen,
women and youths of Afenmai Land must fight on the side
of equality, fairness and social justice and pitch for
progressive emancipatory politics.

The expressed fear of ethnic dominance which was the reason for this clarion call made last year is today more germane because the palpable fear has become a reality. The reality is that the Etsako sub-ethnic group with just three Local Government Areas is running (16) sixteen years in the Senate in a row, while the rest three Local Government Areas of Owan East and West and Akoko-Edo are not only marginalized but, also, in the words of my Comrade brother Erasmus, relegated “to the back waters of politics of stagnation in a multi-ethnic Senatorial District.”

If I may ask, what has become of the Biblical scripture or principle of “love for neigbour as yourself” in Edo North? If we continue to appropriate every available political opportunities to ourselves alone (only one sub-ethnic group) in sheer abandonment of others who have equal stake in the sub-entity called Edo North, where is the prospects for all-round development in Edo North? Your guess is as good as mine. This question is, how did we, as a people, get to this lowest pit of political irrelevance, where political decisions affecting Owan and its people are also externally derived from either from the powers that be in Etsako or the hegemonic Benin political overlords. In all, we are sinking deeper and deeper into political slavery and irrelevance.

It is instructive that political power is always in the hands of the tiny dominant class, which is multi-ethnic in character and bound together by their common vested interests. Historically, exploitative dominant class has a tendency of generating some myth based on some unscientific thoughts, which promotes the superiority and dominance of the ruling class. We have been deceived for too long by the dominant political class. Although, I am not in the position to hazard accurate answer(s) to question(s) to how we (Owan) got to the level of becoming a complete appendage to other ethnic and sub-ethnic groups in Edo North and the State in almost all political calculations and considerations, it should be a source of soul-searching for us all, especially Owan political elites/leaders. However, it is left to be said that the body language, conduct and action of some of our political elites/leaders suggest that their approach to Owan politics vis-à-vis others is that of “cooperation and unwavering loyalty” to external political warlords controlling political power in the state at every given time and space. As a result, the political behavior, action and reaction of our political leaders are dictated and overtly manipulated by external political forces such that political decisions of the state are, most often, not favorable to the interest of Owan and its people. Sadly, the external political warlords have now erected enduring political structures among our people who often expressed some political fanaticism and extremism at the expense of the ultimate interest of Owan and its people.

Certainly, the approach of “cooperation and unwavering loyalty” which is presently the political approach cannot bail out Owan from its political woods. Such approach encourages and promotes continual ethnic dominance of Owan in the politics of Edo North and the State. Cooperating with others is not a bad idea. Indeed, it is good to encourage political cooperation to navigate the murky waters of ethnic dominance and political irrelevance. If there must be cooperation, such necessity or exigency should be measured by the ultimate political interest of Owan and its people. Our situation has suggested otherwise. In the same vein, disagreements and conflicts in political engagements are healthy if we are to balance the varying political interest of (ethnic) groups on the political chessboard. To completely avoid or shy away from conflict, disagreement and controversy for fear of the unknown is fatal to the political independence and freedom of the compromising group or individual. Put differently, you can disagree to agree. There are lesson to be learnt from the just concluded party primaries in the State, especially that of the All Progressives Congress (APC). The specific lesson is the value in disagreement, conflict or resistance as the APC primaries turned out, according to some pundits, to engender fairness in the political landscape of the State. To bring about justice and fairness in Edo North against miasma of ethnic chauvinism is a call to return to the culture of resistance because ethnicity is in the extreme of excess in Edo North. Its toxicity and the urgent need to confront it justify this summit.

It is clear that miasma of ethnic chauvinism is a reality in Edo North as amply demonstrated in lopsidedness in political relations/appointments among the three sub-ethnic groups in the area. We have seen that the form of ethnicity playing out in the Northern part of Edo State is a cankerworm that requires urgent surgical attention to check its malignancy. Thus, the demand for fairness, equity and equality in the political space of Edo North has become more imperative in view of

the miasma.

As a serious-minded people, we should not leave this summit and go to sleep. It is imperative to return to the drawing board to encourage and cause the emergence of a new crop of political leaders that is fearless, firm, resilient, selfless, dependable, sound, dynamic and resourceful to reposition and return Owan back to the path of political relevance. The ravaging crisis of insecurity and infrastructural deficit presently facing our land and people can only be tackled by selfless and committed leadership. I suggest by way of conclusion that this summit should be sustained on annual basis as it will serve as a unique opportunity for Owan sons and daughters to reflect on their common ancestry, appraise development efforts toward Owan’s transformation, and interrogate the challenges of our collective existence, progress and development.

I thank you all for listening.
Monday Lewis Igbafen, Ph.D, LLB, BL
Professor of Philosophy,
Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, NIGERIA.

Afuze, March 9, 2024.

Works Cited
Aigbodioh, Jacob Ale. Practical Issues in Applied Ethics: The Facts,
Arguments and Options. Benin City: Teredia Technical Enterprises. 1999 Pg 134.

Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Reprinted in part in W.T Jones, F. Sontag and M.O.
Becker (eds), Approaches to Ethnics. New York: McGrew-Hill Book Co. 1969.

Badru, Ronald Olufemi. “The Problem of Ethnic Conflict and the Question of
National Integration in Nigeria: Considering the Moral Resource of Trust in the Group Mind of Anyiam Osigwe’s Political Thought” in Kolawole A. Olu-Owolabi and Adebola B. Ekanola (eds) Holistic Approach to Human Existence and Development. Ibadan: Hope Publication.2013. Pg 652.

Erasmus, Ikhide. Thisday of February 7, 2023 @

Jarikre, Mathias. “Ethnicity, Governance and Social Order in Africa” in
Olatunji A. Oyeshile and Francis Offor (eds) Ethics, Governance and Social Order in Africa Essays in Honour of Godwin S. Sogolo. Ibadan: Zenith BookHouse Ltd. 2016. Pg 310.

Omotosho, Mashood. “An Evaluation of Ethnic Hostility and the Survival
of Democracy in Nigeria” in Yenusa Kehinde Salami, J. O. Famakinwa and Gbenga Fasiku (eds) Nationalism and Economic Justice in Nigeria. Ile-Ife: Obafemi Awolowo University Press. 2015 Pg 796.

About The Author