THE MASSIVE POPULATION DRIFT IN ESANLAND AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF GHOST COMMUNITIES – IMPLICATIONS AND REMEDIES.
_Gabriel Akhabue Iruobe_
_March 27th, 2022_
Every society is programmed to replenish itself through, births and in-migrations from other communities, sometimes accentuated by epidemics and pandemics, wars and natural disasters or accidents.
Every community experiencing a rapid population growth experiences reaps the divided of city development and its accouterments.
Whilst communities must guide against over population, the need to keep a community at equilibrium population statistics cannot be overemphasized. It is necessary for economic development as well as for relevance in a representative democracy.
When population drifts occur of the active and working population, so much that would have been ploughed into the community as productive labour inputs drains out leaving the community with less than the proximate labour inputs sufficient to bring about a transformative development.
With a population drift, community experience a repressed economy and a ‘de-economy’, ‘de-develooment’ desolation and devastation.
At the outset of economic development in Esanland, several forces were responsible for the kind of development and the intensities.
Partly, self-sufficient agro-based production was a primary force in the economic development. Later, with surpluses, exchange began leading to the development of Merchant Capital. The difference it created in the economy meant that division of labour and specializations could occur. In the process men were tempted to use their fellow men to increase production through exploitation and servitude (slave labour), until persons could be hired by Government and by economically buoyant individuals and groups (wage labour).
Policy directive first created the difference between communities in terms of volume of trade as well as of attendant infrastructure. The duo created a new spirit of commitment to economic issues and made the youths flock around government establishments the earliest of which were the schools and colleges which was more like the “Village Headmaster’s Economy”.
The enlightenment about health issues led to agitations for hospitals. So, Government hospitals were beginning to be established through Government policies. Security was beefed up and more persons gained appointment in other to protect government installations and officials. The ordinary citizens were often at the receiving end and had only God and angels to defend their rights. However, instead of growing up socially, current reality reminiscent precolonial archaic practices. The experience was the beginning of increased economic activities and diversification or the city life creation as an offshoot.
This means that government interventions midwifed the development of cities in sharp contrast with the opinion that development was autonomous within communities. It was not natural but a conscripted development. Government had since dictated the direction of development as the interest of those who occupy public office often used their access to power to force infrastructural development along their thought-paths.
The second major distributors of development was the planting of secondary schools and colleges. Teachers were being recruited into these institutions, and thus, forces economy to be altered along those lines. It also led to emigrations to such centres where those opportunities for paid employments exited. Thus, it is not the real efforts of the communities that brought in the level of development to communities but the government policy giving vent to it. So, beyond individual and communal efforts, development was conscripted by government.
Governor S.O Ogbemundia of the defunct MidWest Nigeria, had hands in what Benin city became as a takeover from the ancient city of Benin Kingdom. Thus, Benin city began to urbanize rapidly after the massive infrastructural developments, especially the construction of roads, provision of portable water and electricity. As a model city, every community around Benin city started to “copy and paste” what they could do in their capacities. In fact, the drift of youths who needed modern amenities for enjoyment to Benin city produced a different economy from those of the past as a mix of indigenous people and migrants. This situation also precipitated a new economic reality amid multiple social problems.
When Professor Ambrose Alli became governor, in order to conscript development to Ekpoma, the University came on board. Today, around the university, several economic activities are brought to bear which has expanded the primary economy of Ekpoma.
Very recently, Edo University had been established at Iyamo. So, development process has been jump-started there and has taken a new turn from what it used to be. In fact, a section, alleged that since its creation, the Ambrose Alli University is in infrastructural decay. Therefore, government interventions, and sometimes incursions, produces a defined development roadmap for a community. In other words, government actions are inevitable precursors to the nature of development experienced by any community. Thus, development occurs, not because the people therein are smart but because a superpower intervention had occurred at one time or the other. Needles for any community to boast against the other that they had achieved their development all by themselves. It is a matter of accidents of history.
It is expedient to note too that industries which is being used to propel commerce often respond to government policies itself.
When government policy was favourable Leventis, Michelin and other multinational corporations were active in Nigeria. But they also need a substantial populous community to established their industries. Thus the reason they didn’t come to Uromi or Ebelle was not because the people didn’t want them but because the target popular was too scanty for their business. But at any moment government could “gather crowd” for them through investment in “infrastructured-economy”, they ran there quickly. No capitalist invests in social welfare business. The objective is always gain, gain and gain. If they give, it is because they want to buy your heart with their gift or deceive you that they are hospitable and caring.
Thus, the industrialists are not interested in self-sufficient or self sustaining economy like you had of traditional Esan communities. They preferred a heterogenous society where there was massive interdependence as against the homogeneous society of an agrarian type. You must lack to attract them. If you don’t, you can’t get the attention of these capitalists who are only motivated by greed. At least, pat yourself at the back that your lack of industries may be a fallout of internal sufficiency your economy enjoyed after all. But this doesn’t say we can’t “borrow” technology to increase quality and the volume of production. Let’s not just be “marketeers of Oyinbo’s products”.
The Esan model of development had occurred along these paths described above as some communities benefitted ” accidentally ” while others were not so lucky to receive government attention at the outset of communities development. However, for this development to be sustained over time, the attention of policy makers must not shift from Esanland as politic has been bedeviled by greed unlike the ones played by the late sage, Chief Anthony Enahoro who had enough influence to have brought a Federal University to Uromi but was overwhelmed with a pious and humanistic spirit of fairness.
To make this happen, the Esan people must take politics seriously, this time around, not the type played in the past where Esans support aliens against their brothers and are being used by mediocres to expand their tentacles at Abuja and the like. Politics is a dirty game but it should nit get as dirty as the one played by those who romanced the military then unwitting labelling Esan South-South as Igueben LGA thereby increasing conflict between erstwhile brother communities, a formula that de-Esanize some communities of Esanland and brazenly whitewashed them as Igueben. Even if they think of the mistake now, they know how difficult it is to change or correct anything under a civilian government. Politics should not play us against our brothers anymore. Moreover, there should be a fair distribution of resources as well as representation. One part should not lord it over another. This is the spirit of brotherhood. Pursuant to fundamentally tinkering with the development roadmap of a people, governance has a great role to play. Esan people must be aware of this. This is the bedrock of any meaning development in Nigeria of today. It is government’s policy that will cripple any economy or help it.
Now, in a representative democracy, numbers make huge impact.
For any community to receive government’s attention it must be judged by a substantial positive population index or substantial persons from the community that romances with it. This is a double barrel approach towards securing government’s attention.
Therefore, a community that cannot boast of a high population density as well as a quantum of influential persons from the community, cannot engender any public sympathy or respect for recognition.
In Nigeria, the northern hegemony recognize this fact and are working ascediously to ensure they are either in power or at the corridor of it. They will also do all that is possible within their reach to ensure that their men marry several wives and concubines. They know that the educational advantage they don’t have would have been neutralized by a headcount vote of our funny democracy where they or their stooges emerge as rulers of principalities and parastatals. With the nation’s resources in their pockets, they are able to determine how much of the nation’s resources is lavished on their communities while leaving the grammarians to debate their woes at the National Assembly.
Thus, the depletion of any community by virtue of emigrations is the direct introduction of underdevelopment to that community.
Esanland has witnessed various types of migration. The earlier one was that which exchanged the Esan people within itself and neighboring communities. On the side line, most of the youths were engaged in farming; their children schooling within the system. Esan population wasn’t depleted until those children of intellectuals as well as of peasant farmers graduated from the higher institutions only to find out that there are no job made ready for them in the land. Needless to say that they had no choice but go out for greener pastures. Ever since, the Esanland which had no industrial backups became victim of intellectual advancement. Today, the Esan people are scattered across the globe seeking greener pastures. But the homestead have so depleted that in some communities only the aged and children of the few “what to do” famers reside therein. In fact, sessions of Esanland (those without public institutions) exist nearly as ghost cities. It is easier to hear the sound of singing birds than the howling of machines and automobiles. It has become meditation grounds.
The drift itself has some consequences which are:
1. Brain Drain. The best of us have left the only for it to be managed by the worst of us.
2. Strength Drain: The healthier Esan people are busy in the cities while the sickly and unproductive ones are left to savage the land.
3. Pressure Group weakness. Esan people no longer form a formidable group to put any significant pressure on the government about anything, whether it be of the need to inject infrastructure or need for fair representation at the centre or an advocacy for power rotation at some point.
4. Security Weakness. Until very recently through the formation of the Atanakpa Security Group, jump-started from the diasporas, the Esan people were powerless in confronting bandits and kidnappers.
5. Cultural ‘de-develooment’. With the mass exit of the Esan youth population, a cultural adulteration is sure to happen since most had been ungrounded before the frustration to exit a fatherland.
Until the Esan people make a deliberate effort to return to land by direct impact or by proxy, we are doomed for irreparable marginalization in the committee of communities. Esan people must stop the lamentations hence forth and take destiny in their hands to do things that matter for posterity. I think one of the approaches should be to first transfer our voter registration to Esanland as Esan activists have been propagating lately.
Esan Oyeeh? O yeeh!