The title of my presention The Esan land people could sound ominously to some people,Follow my analysis below carefully and you may end up doing one of two things-provided you are also honest and open-minded. If you are, you will most likely concur with me or, you may see my title and its accompanying prose an understatement in relation to the realities on the ground in Nigeria of today. Still though, you may choose a third route by playing the proverbial ostrich that pretends it is safe and secure in the midst of an overwhelming danger. Those who may take this third route are the minority found in the Nigerian establishment who combine their current selfish advantages that their statues provide with abundant ignorance and profound perfidy. For if they have any measure of intellect they would have known that such advantages as they enjoy can never be sustainable when majority of citizens remain massively pauperised and when the government remains illegitimate. I have come to agree with the consensus that Nigerians are loyal citizens. They are committed to the notion and practice of citizenship in all its ramifications. You only need to look at how Nigerians translated their commitment to citizenship in the way they greeted and extended goodwill to Obasanjo’s democratic second coming in 1999. Engage Nigerians in those days at home or abroad about the future of the country, its economy, its politics, its social services, its football etc. What you will often get is an eloquent rendition of the bright future of Nigeria, typical state of mind of an optimistic citizen. The Afrobarometer survey, a polling mechanism that measures public attitude in Africa puts the satisfaction and optimism of Nigerians in democracy at 85% when Obasanjo came into office. By 2005 public opinion and confidence in democracy has fallen to 25%. Between 2005 and now, the country has earned more money from petroleum (courtesy of the rise in the commodity’s global market price) than what previous regimes together earned from the same source. Ironically however, social condition of Nigerians has become worse as evidenced by collapsed infrastructure, non-existent health care, fallen standard of education, rise in insecurity as shown by number of murders at home and on the roads etc. Conversations in public spaces - markets, offices, schools and stadia blame democracy for the downturn and express pathetic nostalgia about military regimes. In the current scenario, the Afrobarometer survey if conducted today will offer few lessons to the scientists about despondency in the era of failed democratic project. For the survey will see how shockingly the 25% trust in democracy will drop to negative because most Nigerians today see the current government and leaders as fake version of military dictatorship. For on the one hand Obasanjo’s government claim to be a democracy while on the other it is a typical dictatorship. Nigerians today believe that most of the leaders rigged their way to offices in 2003 and, once there, have stolen the nation’s wealth and refused to be accountable by undermining all institutions that would have made them accountable i.e. media, the political party judiciary and legislature. In his tenure between 1999 and today Obasanjo has sacked four Senate Presidents, three national party chairmen and attempted to sack the Vice-President. The latter was only saved by the judiciary. It is now open secret that Obasanjo believed so much in his invincibility and omnipotent power that he attempted to do the undoable - going for a third term in office.Last month election reminds me of the over 250 innocent patriotic citizens died for believing that democracy grants them rights that they should exercise.
Today, education is in a shambles, health sector is lying prostrate, agriculture is comatose, the solid mineral sector is in a parlous state, social security is non-existent, and NEPA is a national disgrace and disaster. The National Poverty Alleviation Programme (NAPEP) and Universal Basic Education (UBE) are a drain on government purse. Corruption and fraud writ large. There is general insecurity as lives and property are insecure. Political tension and carnage are ubiquitous. In Nigeria today, the federal roads are highways of death, the prices of food and other basic necessities of life are beyond the reach of the ordinary man.Pensions are unpaid, workers are owed salaries for several months, most Nigerians are unemployed and under-employed, while many wallow in abject poverty. There is apparent institutional and infrastructural decay. Undoubtedly, there is over concentration of power and resources at the centre. Power, money, and influence are circulating amongst a clique at the corridors of power. Most Nigerians today are worse-off than they were seven and the half years ago, and they are thoroughly disenchanted, frustrated, and disillusioned with the situation of things in the country.
It is for the same reasons highlighted above that, the second republic was dislodged by the military in 1983. In addition, the military’s reign of terror was foisted on Nigeria for 15 uninterrupted years. Moreover, it is very well established fact that, good governance is the only antidote to military intervention in politics. Nevertheless, from all indications, it is so apparent that, the politicians have not learnt any lesson. They have heated up the polity un-necessary and political confusion as well as bloodletting are now the fad. Access to safe water is a fundamental human need and ,therefore, a basic human right.Contaminated water jeopardizes both the physical and social health of all people.It is an afront to human dignity.' Kofi Annan, Former United Nations Secretary -General. Access to basic clean and drinkable water for good health, sanitation and a dignified sustenance of life is a fundamental human right.In November 2002,the United Nations ,Economic and Social Council voted to approve General Comment No. 15, which declared the 'human right to water as indispensable for leading a life in human dignity and a prerequisite for the realisation of other human rights.' States have a duty to protect, respect, fulfill and promote the rights of man that derive from international laws ,national constitutions ,declarations,conventions or customary laws.The obligation to respect requires states to refrain from interfering directly or indirectly with the enjoyment of the right to water.The obligation to protect requires that state parties prevent third parties such as corporations from interfering in any way with the enjoyment of the right to water.The obligation to fulfil requires that state parties adopt the necessary measures to achieve the full realisation of the right to water.The importance of the right to water is demonstrated by the fact that the following fundamental human rights can not be fully realised without water.- Right to life;Right to food;Right to self determination;Right to adequate standard of living;Right to housing;Right to education;Right to health;Right to take part in cultural life;Right to sustainable working conditions.
Water is more precious than diamond and gold and it is the most important resource on earth necessary for survival of the life of man.Clean water is the main ingredient for good sanitation.Bad and contaminated water habours bacteria that causes pneumonia,diarrhea, and other respiratory and infectious diseases.While access to clean water is an important part of proper sanitation,proper personal hygiene and clean evacuation of human refuse is also facilitated by water.When clean water is lacking ,activities like washing of hands, cleaning of food,brushing of teeth often taken for granted in more organised societies may be disregarded because people are forced to make a choice to ration the little water,if any, that they are able to scoup up.Many Nigerians do not have access to safe,clean,hygienic and drinkable water.This unfortunate,unhealthy and unacceptable scenario is exceptionally the situation in Esan land Nigeria.In the five Esan speaking local government areas in Edo state Nigeria,the rusty and corroded water pipes that were laid in the era of the Chief Anthony Enahoro and Chief Obafemi Awolowo led Action Group have not carried water for about 35 years.Majority of the younger members of the Esan-Nigerian community do not know how pipe borne water look like.
The word Esan is bini meaning 'To Jump'.That is, those who jumped or actually crossed the moats dug around bini during the reign of several Benin kingdom tyrannical Kings. Most Notably Oba Ewuare who later came down to Uromi to fight King [Onojie] Agbanojie where both died in the historical battle ground known as Ahuojie [meaning where we looked for the king ]in Uromi.Agba was the son of the first Onojie of Uromi,Ijiesan [meaning King of the Esan people.] According to Wkipedia 'Esan (pronounced /aysan/) is one of the major ethnic groups in Edo State, Nigeria. The name 'Esan' owes its origin to Bini and was once corrupted to 'Ishan' by colonial Britain. Esan land is bordered to the south by Benin, to the south-east by Agbor, to the north and east by Etsako, to the west by River Niger. From Ewu to Benin City, the State capital, is 100kms long. The people populate areas such as Uromi, Ewatto, Igueben, Irrua, Ubiaja, Ebele, Ehor, Ekpoma, Ewu, etc in central Edo State, South-South Nigeria. It has flat landscape, one lacking in rocks and mountains, and good for agricultural purpose. Rubber tree (used for the production of plastic products) and palm tree rank highest among Esan trees. The land's variety of fruits range from mango, orange, grape, pineapple, guava, cashew, banana, plantain, black pear, avocado pear, lime to walnut and even more. Cassava, yam, cocoa yam, sweet potato, pepper, okra and rice are some of its farm produce. It has numerous streams that are too small to afford fishing.
Esan are proud of their ancestry and heritage.The people are said to be positive in outlook, creative, industrious and highly educated. History has it that they hailed from ancient Bini.' Esan Nigerians do not have access to drinkable water because they have been ignored and betrayed by the Nigerian state.Esan Nigerians are hard working strong-willed, determined-to-succeed-against-all-odds nigerian citizens.Oral history says that the Esan warriors regiment of the old Benin kingdom founded Lagos as the names Eko [little settlement],Idumota [settlement for verbal exchange e.g. story telling in the days before the advent of t.v now turned market and Idumagbo [settlement for medicine producers and healers] and even Oloto chieftaincy family [land inheritor or acquirer] among others too numerous to mention are all terms found in Lagos that have no Yoruba nor Bini meaning but are all accurately meaningful in Esan language.There are still Eko's, Idumu's and Olotors in Esanland till this day. The Esan people are dutiful law abiding tax paying nigerian citizens.The issue is whether country Nigeria recognise these exceptionally gifted and creative people as her citizens.Governments have come and gone,both at the federal and state levels,both military and civillian yet the Esan extraction of the nigerian citizenry have been treated like a pariah nation.There is absolutely no federal ,state nor local government attempt to provide Esan Nigerians drinkable water.
Despite the fact that Esan persons have been prominent in various nigerian administrations, the problem of lack of water has seen no respite. According to Wikipedia, during the era of the military,the Esan had between five to six high ranking military, police and Naval officers as governors of various states around the country at different occasions, a feat that owed much to their learning,sociability and especially their loyalty. Chief Ikimi and Chief Anenih— have been known to occupy the position of chairman of two national parties —NRC and SDP respectively.Esan Day is celebrated at the Tafawa Balewa square, Lagos every December; there, names of all prominent Esan people are read to loud ovation. Esans believe in self help, thus assisting to reach villages and towns to achieve development. Prominent Esan are Chief Anthony Enahoro, who raised the motion for the independence of Nigeria; Peter Enahoro, who wrote How to be a Nigerian, Tony Anenih, a top Nigerian politician and former minister of Works and Housing. Other names include the late Ambrose Alli, Governor of Bendel State; Bishop Ekpu, Anthony Cardinal Okogie; late first lady Stella Obasanjo(late); musician Sonny Okosun and writer Aba Aburime I. Also included are Chief Tom Ikimi, former foreign minister (during the period of Gen. Sani Abacha); former Lagos state police commissioner, Oyakhilomen; former vice president of Nigeria, Augustus Aikhonmu (retired Real Admiral); former deputy commissioner of Lagos state Vincent Airebamen Many innocent Esan men,women and children live in the over crowded urban settlements among them, Uromi,Ubiaja and Ekpoma in desperate circumstances that reminds one of refugee camps with completely no access to drinkable pipe borne water.Countless number of Esan Nigerians live in numerous towns and villages where the only source of drinkable water are the village ponds,construction companies abandoned burrowed pits and untreated rural stream water. 100% of the population in Esan land have no access to clean water.This is authoritative and simply the truth.These humble and good people have no water to grow and harvest their crops,no water to protect themselves and their families against the torturing and humiliating pangs of hunger and thirst.They have no water to defend theselves against the degradation,inhumanity and odium that assaults one's dignity and mental stability when assaulted by the viccissitudes and travails that bedevils one and his family in the absence of water for the preservation of life.
According to Global Water 'Even if there is enough food to eat,families may still be slowly dying from another invisible hunger and it comes from drinking unsafe water. Waterborne parasites contaminated water,multiply continuously in already weakened bodies....robbing energy the body need to grow and develop normally.A full 80% of fatal childhood diseases that destroy families world wide are caused...not by shortages of food and medicine but water.When you think of fighting hunger,you may think only of emergency relief and food.When you think of healing disease,you may think only of doctors and nurses.Water actually stop hunger,heal disease and save many thousands of precious lives even long after a humanitarian relief effort has ended and temporary medical teams have gone ,water continues to heal.It is truly a life saving solution.' Global Water further had this to say ' Sick children lack the energy to learn and weak young men lack the drive to work hard- and so poverty continues.In many rural communities,it is the women and children who are responsible for locating and transporting water.Fulfilling this daily responsibility often leaves little or no time for women to pursue developmental opportunities and for the young to get an education- and so poverty continues.Nothing can change a community like providing a source of clean water for the first time.It creates a complete transformation.It has the power to actually stop the cycle of poverty.The entire community becomes healthier. For the first time,children become eager to learn while young men and women are able to work harder to produce an income and more food.
Giving clean water to a poverty stricken community is like giving transfusion to a dying man.Water means new potential,new hope,for a better tommorrow.' There are several solutions to the problem of lack of water in Esan land.Among the viable solutions is privatisation-This term is used to refer to the practise of changing ownership or control of a company or corporation from government to private institutions. According to the Backgrounder 'Advocates of privatisation argue that they are seeking private-public partnerships and give assurances that governments will still be able to establish regulations.Since the provision of water services itself does not provide sufficient return,water corporations are actively pursuing exclusive control over water service provision through acquisitions of infrastructure and water licenses.' This should not be a problem in Esan land Nigeria.
As there are no options at this time.The federal government and the state governments have abandoned the people.The local governments claim the provision of water in Esan is outside their league.The only viable solution now would be the attraction of serious long term investors who would be willing to bring in their capital,technical know how and managerial expertise to help Esanland Nigeria permanently check the perennial problem of lack of drinkable water.As long as the governmet can introduce regulations and laws to help protect the interst of the people and also protect the interest of investors,this option is certainly the best option on the table. In the interim and as suggested by the group known as - Water Is A Human Right- Government should 'allocate sufficient resources to provide safe and affordable water to all...Aggressive public programs aimed at developing systems for sustainable... water sanitation and increased water-treatment systems must be established. Develope participatory decision-making mechanisms...that ensure that citizens have the opportunity to publicly discuss,debate and vote upon water management 0ptions, especially when governments are addressing proposals and decisions regarding the privatisation of public water utilities. Nigeria's federal government ,Edo state government and all the local governments in Esan land must aggressively focus on finding a lasting solution to the lack - of - water crisis in Esan land.No responsible government will tolerate the plight of her citizens suffering in the midst of great wealth.A rope is as strong as it's weakest point.Nigeria will be making herself the clown idiot of the world if the country is talking loudly of sending men to the moon when her citizens have not a drop of clean water to drink.Who is impressed with the talk of huge sums of billions of dollars in Nigeria's foreign accounts when the citizens have been ignored and they have not a drop of water to cool their scorched tongues.
Comrade Ojeremen Stephen
Esan Youth Rebirth Movement
VOICES OF CHANGE,VOICES OF FREEDOM,VOICES OF HOPE