The Esogban of Benin kingdom, Chief David Edebiri, has come under severe criticism over a statement that the Benins will not vote President Goodluck Jonathan in the 28 March, 2015 Presidential election, but will vote en-masse for candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd).
The statement has caused divisions among the people of the Kingdom.
Edebiri, a retired journalist, politician and Chairman of Benin Forum had accused President Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, of removing former Minister of State (Works), Engr. Chris Ogiemwonyi, from his ministerial appointment and replacing him with his enstranged wife from Anambra state, Princess Stella Oduah.
He lamented that the action of the President broke the home of their son, as well as depriving the Benins of ministerial slot, for which reason Benin people will not vote for him.
The declaration by the Benin High Chief has however generated rift among members of the forum who on Tuesday gave him a 12-hour ultimatum to resign as chairman of the forum.
The forum at an emergency meeting attended by Prince S. Ebuwa, Prince (Dr) Francis Omo-Osunde Iyasere, Col. Edward Igbinidu (rtd) representing retired Benin Military Officers, Lawrence Igbinosun and Lucky Osahon (Patriot) members in the Diaspora, United Kingdom, asked Chief Edebiri to resign as chairman within 12 hours.
A statement by the Media Director of the forum, Mr. Osamwonyi Osagiede for the concerned members, said that Chief Esogban’s resignation was necessary to pave way for the proper management of the forum in accordance with its Constitution.
“Chief D.U. Edebiri should be reminded that some months ago, our revered Benin monarch, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba of Benin, who appointed him and twenty three other prominent Benin sons and daughters, who are members of different political parties to oversee the affairs of the forum, sent the Crown Prince to President Jonathan to express his support for the re-election of Mr. President and his constant prayers for his victory at the polls; therefore, it is odiously mischievous and rude for anyone for that matter to assume another position.”
They accused Chief Edebiri of dragging the Benin Forum to the political arena as well as using the organization to enrich himself to the detriment of the Benin people.
Members of the Forum described Chief Edebiri’s statement that the Benins would not vote for President Jonathan as “unacceptable” because it amounted to undermining the sanctity and authority of the Benin Monarch, adding that, as far as every Benin man was concerned, the pronouncement and direction of the Benin Monarch was sacrosanct.
Also reacting to the statement credited to the Benin high chief, President of One Love Foundation, a non-government organization, Chief Patrick Eholor, warned Chief Edebiri to desist from using his traditional palace as the Esogban to speak on behalf of the people of Benin Kingdom on who to, and who not to vote for in any election conducted in the state or in the country at large.
Eholor noted that as a chieftain of the APC, Chief Edeibiri lacks the moral right to speak to the Benins when it comes to who to vote for. He noted that as an enlightened people, the Benins have the right to decide who they would vote for during the presidential election.
Chief Eholor, who is also the Enobore of Ute, said “Chief Edebiri has no moral justification to speak for the Benins on who to vote for during next month’s presidential election because he is a member of the APC.”
“This is a rat race and so he should remove politics from his traditional functions as Esogban of Benin Kingdom. He must remain neutral and should not use the Benin Forum to conclude that the palace has taken a stand on who the Benins should vote for and he should desist from such utterances or we will resist him.
“Benin has its proud culture which must be separated from politics and if we are to maintain our cultural heritage, the Palace should not be dragged into politics. That is why we are worried by what he said,” he said.
Eholor insisted that the Benins never held any meeting where they agreed that they will not support Jonathan, adding that, as a civilised people, the Benins were capable of taking any decision for themselves, just as he urged the people to come en-masse on 28 March, 2015 and vote for candidate of their choice.
But in his defence, Edo Youths Organization (EYO), an umbrella body of youths in the state, has warned that those criticizing the Esogban of Benin Kingdom, Chief Edebiri, over his declaration, face the risk of being banished from Benin Kingdom.
President of the EYO, Derick Uhunmwagho, in a press statement made available to journalists in Benin, described the criticisms as unconstructive. They challenged the critics of Chief Edebiri to dispute whether the issues raised were true or false.
“Chief Edebiri is one of our respected Royal Fathers in Benin Kingdom and that is why we pity those criticising his comments because they don’t know the consequences of being banished.
“How can they say Jonathan will get votes in Edo land when even recently, the wife of one of our brothers, Prof. Omorogbe who was Permanent Secretary/Legal Adviser to NNPC was sacked.
“After we voted for him in 2011, he has done nothing for us. The President has failed to create jobs for our youths, rather the once who went for Immigration interview were killed. There is so much corruption in this administration and he has not been able to tell Nigerians what he is doing to ameliorate the economic hardship being faced by Nigerians.
“So we stand by our Father Chief Edebiri and whoever is criticising him is doing so at his or her own risk. And it is even sad that rather than address the issues raised by Edebiri, the PDP are hiring people to castigate the Royal father,making their matter worst in Benin land,” the statement said.