THE BURDEN OF COMPLACENCE AND MUTENESS OF BENIN PEOPLE IN THE FACE OF STIGMATIZATION:
Comrade Osazee Edigin AICMC
I have painstakingly studied a certain behavioural pattern of the Benin people vis-a-vis the various negative allusion to the race by external peoples.
What has informed this write up is not unconnected to the latest news wave that was brought to the fore by the Nigeria Police, Edo state command by its spokesperson. He raised an alarm of the discovery of a ritualists’ den in Benin City, the state capital. The videos that flooded the social media space had gory images of mummified corpses and shrines in different locations within the open premises which shares boundaries with other commercial buildings carrying out the businesses of mortuary.
A civil society group, the Edo Civil Society Organisations, launched investigation into what the police had put out. In their report, they debunked the alarm raised by the police of a ritualists’ den in Benin and also derided the state government for also spreading same falsehood without doing own investigation. However, the news had gone far and wide painting the city and the state in a dangerous light which is capable of driving away visitors and investors owing to the gory videos that emanated from the scene in the present modern day and time.
While it lasted, majority of the Benins helped in sharing the videos, some others launched attacks on the report put out by the civil society group while a larger part of them were indifferent and silent. It was as if they preferred the negative narrative of their homeland than the debunked version with facts. Can this be passed for ignorance, complacency or sheer stupidity. It was a sort of disappointment when Benin opinion leaders, political bigwigs and socio-cultural groups didn’t speak on it even though majority of the so called socio-cultural groups are mere political vehicles for negotiation for personal interest.
Let’s retrospect, before the Lawrence Anini and his gang made news in Nigeria, there have been stories of more dangerous criminals that emerged in different parts of the country. How come it was Anini episode that is now used to describe his people and place? When others started to liken the Benin man to Anini, what did the Benins do then? Probably, they looked the other way or possibly kept mute about the description and accepted the tag seemly helplessly.
It amuses me when I hear others describe Edo as the capital of prostitution or as the Italian prostitution cartel. The truth of the matter is, the number of non Benins involved in one of this oldest trade outnumbered the Benins. For it not to look like the profiling of ethnicity, I will resist the temptation of mentioning names and places. Before the ban on open prostitution in some red light districts in Benin, findings showed that, those engaged in prostitution are not Benins yet, it is the Benins that bears the stigma at the end of the day. Visit African countries and see the people that are engaged in the trade, the Benins are not there. No thanks to Mrs. Eki Igbinedion, a former first lady of the state who helped in projecting the state in such negative light in the guise of fighting prostitution and raking in funds thereby putting the state on a negative spotlight for the world to see.
I have personally taken time to look through the names of those paraded in Edo state by the EFCC on Internet fraud related offences, the numbers of Benins noticed are less than 10% in total. I was shocked to read a post by one Dr. Kemi Olunloyo that Benin City is flooded with Internet fraudsters and prostitutes. A visit to EFCC website will give you an idea of where it is prevalent.
The impression outside Benin is that witches fly in the noon and it is a place littered with voodoo and wickedness. Meanwhile, in the contrary, the Benins are the most humane and hospitable crop of beings that can be found on earth. Mischievous fellows are propagating negatives and the Benins do nothing about it.
Not long ago, a police DPO serving in Akwa Ibom state by the name Francis Erhabor was adjudged not to have ever collected bribe since he joined the force. How many individual Benins or the so called socio-cultural groups celebrated him? If he had been accused of criminality, a lot of our people will be glad to share the story and be ready to wear the stigma toga afterwards. We have had great men and women who have exhibited rare character and disposition from Benin kingdom, how much have we celebrated them as a people.
When are we going to be smart to begin to undo all the various negative things that have been said about us as a people. Why do we derive joy in spreading the negativity rather the positivity of our fatherland. How much have we projected our good sides for the world to see?
The time to speak up is now. Don’t keep mute when you hear about untrue description of your person or place.