Politics and Legacies- Arch-Bishop John Enoyogiere Edokpolo and the verdict of history- a text presented at Edokpolo Grammar School Old Boys 50th Anniversary Ceremony- 4thDecember 2010 by Comrade Aiyamenkhue Edokpolo- SSA to the Gov of Edo State.
Protocols; I beg to stand on all existing protocols, however, the leadership of Edokpolo Old Boys Association deserves a thunderous applause for keeping the vision of its founding-fathers alive. More grace to your elbow.
This paper seek to evaluate the life and times of the founder of the foremost Midwest private Education centre, (Edokpolo Grammar School) from the context of politics; legacy; and attempt a comparative appreciation of contemporary Edo people, in terms of their contributions towards good Education for the masses.
Politics or political science like other social concepts has no generally acceptable definition, but scholars are of the opinion that definitions offered by a social scientist must be based on the unique features of the course of study. Dr. Appadorai- a foremost American political scientist (of Indian origin) defined politics as “the science of the State, and of the conditions necessary for its growth and development”. In appreciating this unique definition, we must rationalize that Politics is associated with 'growth' and 'development'. This perhaps influenced most Pre-Independence Nigerian politicians like- Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Nnamdi Azikiwe etc to propagate avenues for the rapid social, economic and political development of their areas or regions.
The Webster's encyclopedic dictionary of English Language defined Legacy as “something left by will; a bequest”. For me, a legacy is a deliberate or personal policy that reflects a characteristic resolve in relation to human society. The point I am trying to make is that to have a legacy, is to bequeath to friends or relations or the society at large those things that you dearly value and how they should be managed on your behalf. At death, a man's legacy is accessed by his relations, friends and the general society from the point of view of societal values. Some people have legacies that are antithetical to societal values; these people are referred to as deviants. Today, as we appreciate the Founder of EDOGRAMM, I urge you all to ponder on the question- WHAT WILL I BE REMEMBERED FOR?
In the same token, the Webster's defined History as “the branch of knowledge dealing with the records of past, especially those involving human affairs”. The unwritten attribute of history is that it comes with a verdict depending on the scope of knowledge of the historian or a person making the nostalgic recollection. At anytime that we reflect our minds back to some issues or characters, we are bound to conclude that the characters did well or bad; that is an expression of a verdict. If we reflect on past administrations in Edo State or Midwest region, we are bound to make certain pronouncements depending on the perspective that we are drawing our analogy.
By divine grace, my Late Father (Arch-Bishop Dr. J.E. Edokpolo) and my late Mum pedagogically engaged me through the public school system, I was not privileged to enjoy the luxury of Private school administration; however, at the West Africa School Certificate Examination, the academic traits in every potential school leaver will be espoused. Whether you went through private school or not, the examination is the same, and one body language is expected. I am glad that having gone through Ologbosere Primary School and Niger College respectively, I can raise my head high with my colleagues at my post graduate studies or in our daily live engagements. I recalled then that public schools were not doing badly too because during inter-schools debate, some public schools outshined their rival private schools. However, the commitments to knowledge in private schools by management cannot be compared with public schools; hence I envy those of you who are Old students of Edokpolo Grammar School, at least in the good old days before the Military Government's infamous and undemocratic take-over of Private and Mission schools, Private Education was a tall dream for the children of the less-privileged. Again, because of the 'strict' and religiously-inclined processes of admission in the missionary schools like Immaculate Conception College; Anglican and Catholic Missions etc, a lot of people were denied access to Education, save for the emergence of Edokpolo Grammar School, which provided a populist alternative to the downtrodden . It is instructive to state that in protest to the unpopular policy of Private Schools acquisition, the founder and proprietor of Edokpolo Grammar School refused to accept defeat, he stood his ground that the policy was a Governmental aberration which will not last for long. However, successive governments for one reason or the other have been adamant in reversing the seeming abnormally. He refused the carrot dangled at him at that time, hence Government endorsed the sustenance of the founding- name of the school; others who were initially at this same page with EDOGRAM, got their names changed.
Arch-Bishop J.E. Edokpolo believed that politics was an avenue for rapid growth and development of one's own area or region; hence his short-lived political activism was patriotic- driven. For him, Mid-westerners in the Western region were perceived as a conquered people who needed to triumph above glaring injustices and directionlessness of their collective destiny. Sensing the danger of perpetuating Mid-Westerners under the control of Western region, Apostle Edokpolo(as he was then called) worked closely with His Royal Majesty, Oba Akenzua II to ensure that agitation for Midwest creation had both cultural and political base. He founded the Midwest Democratic Front (MDF) shortly after Independence (1960) and continued to sensitize fellow Midwesterners on the exigency of a Midwest State. Mind you, Edokpolo Grammar School was founded in 1958. Eventually, after the Midwest State was declared via a referendum of 1963, my father accepted the offer of Minister for Trade Commerce and Industry as a political permutation for the declaration of Benin City as the region's capital headquarters, while Sir Denis Osadebey was made the Premiere of the region. From what I was told by Chief Nosakhare Isekhure JP, and Okhamwen D.U. Edebiri MON, the commitments of the Midwest region's leaders like my dad was that, Educational and infrastructural disadvantage of the area that was visited on them under the Western region must be urgently redressed. It is instructive to state that, most Binis where denied Education because they were not aborigines of Yoruba territory, some had to change their names to suit the “feeling of the time” and these were the injustices which the setting up of Edokpolo Grammar School in 1958-1960 was meant to challenge; so with Political privileges at the disposal Midwest patriots, the Midwest State administration under Edokpolo's influence set out to frontally-confront the issues of marginalization and general under development.
From a relatively obscured family background- where daily survival was a rat-race, Apostle John Enoyogiere Edokpolo AKA a rogguuee is a rogguuee struggled to direct his life to a vantage position of philanthropy and excellence. Like Prince Patrick Oronsaye will say “Edokpolo of Eyanugie –came, saw and conquered”. His unequivocal commitment to the plight of the poor was expressed in his gesture of the Edokpolo Grammar School as well as his low-cost-houses that he built in hundreds. His estate was mostly made-up of passage houses, and he had no regret about that. In fact, people will yab him for not residing in the G.R.A., he will say he enjoys leaving with the poor, for prayers in appreciation of his kind gestures to them. History is very fair to the Founder of this great institution, because he had more positive sides than negative sides. He was a rare germ.
Today, people unfortunately see political power as a weapon for oppression or vengeance; and sometimes for the perpetuation of mediocrity; these expresses themselves in the form of political violence or state-sponsored terrorism. In some states, a few illiterates or political buccaneers are empowered by top state or national politicians to undermine private enterprise or the public interests of the people; this is why I have always held the view that the electorates should not wait for election period before voicing out their ill-feelings because, with organized protests we can change unpopular policies or decisions. For instance, the Governor of Edo State was declared winner by the unflinching solidarity of Edo people. Majority of us risked our lives, businesses and Non Governmental Groups like the Benin National Congress which I and a few Comrades founded in 2001, to ensure that Comrade Adams Oshiomhole regained his stolen mandate. Again, at the enthronement of populist government, if the electorates are not vigilant, a desperate cabal could derail the state's administration and plunder its resources, we have seen neighboring states undergone this type of agony. So, some of us in political offices today, appreciate the legacies of Arch-Bishop Edokpolo to the extent that Political Power is meant for growth and development; hence whenever we find purposeful organizations like the EDOKPOLO GRAMMAR SCHOOL OLD BOYS ASSOCIATION, we attend your programs at the shortest notice. Again, Old Boys Association must compliment the programs of the Comrade Governor; because, one man cannot do everything for the citizenry without the reciprocation of goodwill.
This administration of Oshiomhole has placed no one in doubt of its resolve to add value to Public School system; however, the values of private Education cannot be dispossessed likewise. We must, make some tangible contributions to the infrastructure of this School from time to time, so that the memories of the founder will remain evergreen.
I thank you for this rare opportunity to address you all today, thanks and God bless you all.