As has become their stock in trade, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State, has gone to town with their ill-informed reasoning, trying to tell the people what is not, with a flippant assessment of statement by the Attorney General of Edo State Government.
Ordinarily we wouldn’t have responded to the faulty assessment of issues raised in the said report, but we owe it as a duty to the people we are elected to serve to be forthright about prevailing realities and true to the task of advancing our state.
We will like to reiterate that the present administration in Edo State is run based on well-researched data and our assessment of issues are devoid of sentimentality and romanticising of issues.
Hence, when the Attorney General of the State, described the menace of human trafficking as “neither solely about economic issues nor underdevelopment, but has deep cultural roots that must be exposed, examined and pulled out,” she was speaking as someone with privileged knowledge, having overseen the resettlement of returnees these past months.
This process includes a data collection and analysis arm that has processed and synthesised testimonies and other variables to arrive at a reasoned diagnosis of the issues at stake. So when the Attorney General said that human trafficking and illegal migration have cultural underpinnings, she was frank about the menace and any honest Edo person would appreciate the fact that the trend had assumed the status of an ALTERNATE CULTURE, unfortunately, among our people.
The grim statistics are verifiable from the number of Edo people that were evacuated from Libya. In every batch of returnees, there were at least 60 percent Edo people. Does this mean that Edo people are the poorest in Nigeria? Is Edo State the least industrialised in Nigeria? Is Edo State the closest state to the Sahara Desert or Mediterranean? PDP can provide Edo people with the correct answers. The truth must be told, if we are ready to solve the seeming hydra-headed problem. The resulting hopelessness, dispiriting and disorienting government of the PDP set the stage for the unprecedented scale of illegal migration and human trafficking. Undergraduates abandoned their educational pursuit, those learning one trade or the other gave them up for the reigning alternate culture of migrating illegally abroad. There were no motorable roads in Benin City or elsewhere. Teachers’ House area in Ogida was a disaster, same for Queen Eden and St Maria Goretti junction on Upper Sokponba Road, which was christened Morocco and Spain. The situation was pathetic and disheartening.
The hallmark of the Obaseki-led government is that we call a spade a spade, unlike the Edo PDP that would prefer to call a spade an agricultural implement or worse still, its direct opposite.
We are sincere about this problem that affects all of us, directly or remotely and we are tackling it head-on. While the Edo PDP has constituted itself into the role of a serial fault-finder on issues that affect all of us, we appreciate the support of international governments, institutions, multilateral organisations, Nigerian groups and individuals, who have thrown their weight behind our commitment to solving the problem. We know that Edo PDP will never get involved in any venture that will not allow them the window to loot.
For emphasis, the Edo people’s culture is a ready reference across the world as very ennobling, but a sub-culture, popular among our people is illegal migration and human trafficking as statistics have shown.
That the Edo PDP resort to disparage the assessment shows that they live in denial and do not appreciate or fail to acknowledge prevailing realities. But, we will like to assure them that the present government, does not live in denial.
The custodian of our culture, His Royal Majesty, the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, has since given his blessings to the fight against human trafficking and illegal migration and we wonder which culture Chris Nehikhare and his co-travellers are talking about. To educate Chris further, the Attorney General said human trafficking “has deep cultural roots that must be exposed,” she meant that the trend was popular and has assumed the status of an alternate culture that must be exposed. She did not say that human trafficking and illegal migration are parts of Edo people’s culture.
The Edo PDP claimed that the incidence of human trafficking peaked during the APC administration, roughly about 10 years ago. But we want to use this medium to refresh their memories if they are so quick to forget.
Several sources have it that the trend of human trafficking started about three decades ago, but got to a head in the early 2000s. This, it will be recalled, led to the establishment of Idia Renaissance, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) run by Mrs. Eki Igbinedion to address the spike in the incidence of human trafficking during the Lucky Igbinedion administration. If things were so rosy and Edo State was an Eldorado at that time, one wonders why the then first lady of the state had to set up a pet project to address the challenge. Among other objectives, the charge of the project was to restore the dignity of womanhood.
So, why is the PDP now trying to rewrite history. They are playing the ostrich, seeking cheap political points. There is no denying that the problem of human trafficking exists and is endemic in Edo State and the State Governor has acknowledged this fact. He has also frontally attacked the issue by leading an integrated campaign on different fronts and at various fora to halt the menace. Religious bodies and traditional leaders have thrown their weight behind efforts of the state government to check the menace.
It is also laughable that the PDP would think that taxing cottage industries is a root cause of human trafficking. With this, they show that they are ignorant of the matrix of governance. That they gloss over the issues and want to pitch tent with the common man with these misguided inferences mark them out as mischief makers garbed in lies and falsehood.
But we assure Edo people that we are committed to the cause of restoring the dignity of our people and protecting our culture. The campaign against human trafficking is well on course and we are rejigging the strategies with insights from the data collected from the victims. We need no push by the waka-pass culture advocates.
Osagie is the Special Adviser to the Edo State Governor on Media and Communication Strategy