Senator Rowland Stephen Owie is the former Chief Whip of the Senate, and a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State. But for this piece, that is an aside. In this interview with Sunday Vanguard, he discloses that as the only surviving son of his mother, he belonged to different secret cults in order to survive. He possessed...
Senator Rowland Stephen Owie is the former Chief Whip of the Senate, and a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State. But for this piece, that is an aside. In this interview with Sunday Vanguard, he discloses that as the only surviving son of his mother, he belonged to different secret cults in order to survive. He possessed powers capable of destroying his opponents and as a result nobody dared him. He discloses his encounter with the Blessed Virgin Mary, who, according to him, exposed his last voodoo. He also bares his mind on the forthcoming July 14, 2012 governorship election in Edo State on which he predicted victory for his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
A back ground
I was born into Ihogbe royal family of Benin Kingdom over 66 years ago in my village,Uhumnwonde. Incidentally, I am my mother’s ninth child, eight died before me and two died after me same day. One died at home when my mother went to the farm. The child was convulsing and they put fire in the open harem warming the leg. You know those days when one is convulsing they will put fire but we didn’t know that it was even increasing the temperature. But after about twenty minutes she died. The male, my mother took that one to the farm. When my mother came back from the farm, she noticed that we were all looking pensive but I just came to welcome her and said, ‘Iye (mother), Ivie is sleeping’. I was about six years old then. Because all these people were dying, before my mum had me, she moved to Ewaen about four kilometers from my village, the same Isi South. She moved there to stay with her people.
So when I was delivered, they sent a message to my father’s village that I was a female because the first eight children that died were all male. They all died when they were seven years or ten. So I wore female clothes for the first three years. It was after three years that I was brought to my own village and even when I got to the village, my mother was still dressing me up in female clothes.
And I was kept from relating with my peers and that is one of the reasons you will find out that I am very very careful with women because of what my mother went through to keep me alive. If she was going to the farm, it was either I followed her or she will lock me inside her room until she was back. She did that so that people will not understand whether I was male or female just to protect me.
My mother told me that after the death of her seventh child, she went to marry another woman for my father so that the man could have male children. And after the death of the eight-one she encouraged my father to marry a third wife. And as I was growing, she always told me to be careful. She said: ‘If you are going to travel tomorrow, don’t let any mother know. Don’t eat outside’. Would you believe that until I entered the university I never ate outside no matter how close I was to the person?
‘Don’t tell anybody where you’re traveling to; don’t talk to any friend about your life or about anybody so that they will not invite you anywhere’, she would tell me.
My early life was highly secretive. But people got to know that I was a male when I entered Iluobi Primary School and it took me time to over come that. Then after the last two died, my mother became more protective of me.
It now became an every day pilgrimage to a native doctor. I pitied her because she was taking me to all sorts of native doctors, even the ones for psychiatric ailments. There was this particular native doctor, some times she will be there for about a month with other mothers, and they will be working at the farm for the man with their children. It was very sad, at a point I would tell her, ‘ Mama, I am okay’. She would laugh and tell me: ‘You never know. We kept on until 1954, when my late uncle, Lawrence Agho, who was secretary of the NCNC scholarship board, visited our village and asked me a few questions on mathematics after which he told my mother that I must leave the village. We came to Benin to stay with my other uncle G.Edokpaiyi and I started primary school at First East Circular and finished in 1957.
How I joined secret societies
Because of this terrible back ground, my father and my mother were founding members of the Ewegbe society. My father was NCNC Etuode and before you could be in Etuode at that time you must be a member of the Ewegbe society.
That same society was instrumental to Osadebey’s victory to become governor in the old Midwest. He tried to destroy the society that put him in power and that administration started destroying shrines. But my father’s shrine was not located and destroyed because my community people did not disclose its location to any stranger. My people are like that, that was even the community that protected the Igbo during the war so that they will not be harmed. Any attempt to fight people in my village then, bees will attack the intruders.
So, after Osadebey’s regime was toppled, it was that shrine that they used in reviving the Ewegbe society which they now call Osokpinka today. I was born into it. When I was in teachers’ training college, we used to dance on broken bottles and nails and none ever pierced our feet. My mother also served the Olokun and Sango gods and we served them together and even when she died I inherited them in my house here. By the time I came out of the university, I entered the Ogboni society and grew to the position of the Ojomu of Iledi-English Benin. From then I went into all the societies that were available in the Benin speaking area, Asigidi, every thing.
Battle with my wife
But one thing happened because my wife, Helen, kept telling me when we got married that this way of the traditional religion was not the right way. At a point I told her: ‘If you’re not ready for this marriage you better pack it up’. There used to be a cashew tree in my parlour, there was a pot of juju and I had two snakes inside, one red, another green. If I was going out on campaign, I will put alligator pepper in my mouth and speak into that pot, so if the red snake showed its head, I immediately knew that the road was not going to be good. But if the green one showed up, I knew that the coast was clear for my movement that day. For instance, anytime I was when I am traveling at night, I will repeat an incantation and if I was going to Asaba, until I get to there,no vehicle would over take me. Any one trying to over take me will crash into the bush or their engines would become (discombobulate).
That time I could set a house on fire only with some incantations. But, I tell you the truth, when you do that, certain negative things will happen to you and you will be battling with it for the next weeks. I realized that when the devil gives you power from the right, he takes it from the left. For instance, when I was in these societies, I will bath with various pots of medicines before moving out for campaigns. In the 1982 governorship primaries when I ran against Ambrose Ali, I bought seven vehicles for seven Ohomila native doctors.
I also went to the Congo to get a native doctor who came to prepare some things for me to defeat Ali. All of them told me no problem but the very day we finished the primaries and Ali won I came back to the house and drove all of them away. My wife reminded me of her advice. But I shouted at her, that she should mind her business.
For the primaries alone, I quartered about 900 delegates in hotels in Benin and another seven hundred within my area. Out of the nearly one thousand nine hundred delegates, those that were my own that belonged to the various societies that I belonged to – Osokpika, Asigidi, Hot Fellow, Cemetary Group – the delegates that I had in the primaries with Ali were about a thousand three hundred. When we did the exercise, I got about seven hundred and some thing votes, we were about nine aspirants. Tai Solarin came to conduct it but I knew Awolowo asked him to rig it in favour of Ali.
However, when I got home, I asked myself, ‘if all these people that I quartered, about nine hundred were members of the secret societies that I belonged to yet I got seven hundred and some thing, which means not every body that was supposed to keep this oath by voting for me kept it, then something must be wrong. So something started telling me to listen to my wife. One good thing about the Catholic, when they are evangelizing to people, they don’t use force, they leave you with love.
I say today, God finding me was through my wife, Helen, and Rev. Father Uwaifo. Father Uwaifo became close to me in 1979 when I won election in the UPN. When visiting me, he will see me dancing in the shrine in my red clothes and he will sit and wait for me at the veranda. When I finished he will say: my brother this your way is not good’.
But I will not listen to him, yet he will relax. I kept on with every thing. But, suddenly, one of my daughters, Eki, became paralyzed. We did everything, went everywhere to find solution, no way. We always carried her to ease herself; she was paralyzed for over two years. But my wife kept praying while I was still practising what I knew best. When passing through any church I didn’t like looking at them because I didn’t want to see them. Rev Father Uwaifo would visit us and pray for the child, and use anointing oil on her.
One day he left the oil after anointing the child. After he was gone I told my wife to come and carry the oil, ‘I don’t need it’. Surprisingly, one night, I was in the sitting room taking my usual root (Kai kai), and I heard the child call out to me saying, Daddy I can walk, I can walk’. I became shocked and I told my wife, ‘I think this una God get name-o’. I now went to Father Uwaifo and told him that I wanted to serve God. We went to church, father prayed for us and my wife became very happy. I said this thing that God had done that my own gods had failed to do in the past three years it means that God was powerful.
Two days later I told my wife to call Father to come and carry the juju away from my house. Four pick ups were used to carry the juju from my house. And they left for the village to collect the ones there to the church. In my father’s shrine called Ukhure, I called siblings from my father’s other wives and told them I wanted to give my life to God, that I was no longer interested in serving the shrine. But my brother said he, too, wanted to go and serve that God.
My encounter with the Blessed Virgin Mary
But there was one juju that I’d kept under the ground in front of the gate, I did not tell Father about that one. That one was to protect the house from thieves so I refused to tell anybody about that one. But I never knew that there is nothing God does not see.
I kept going to church. But one day my wife reminded me that there is this particular juju that I was yet to remove and I told her it had been removed when they went to the village. Inside my mind I knew I was lying but the poor woman said okay. So, one night, I saw a nurse with the Rosary, in my dream, she said to me, ‘my son you are doing very well, but that thing you dug at the gate of your house is obstructing my angels from visiting you, go and remove it’. I woke up and said these people have started again. She came three times like that. After the third time, something told me this is Blessed Mary. I now called my wife and told her: ‘Please oh, that juju is still there but I didn’t want to tell you’. So we went and dug it out and took it to the church. That was how the juju part of it ended.
Dumping the Secret societies
Getting out of secret societies is not easy because they were after my life but I thank God almighty for his protection in my life and my family.
That was how I parted, three days, three months, three years, ten years and God is keeping me today. It was great. I can assure you that there is nothing as good as serving God. Finally, when I became a Catholic, I found some thing unique in Mary because in all the African traditional societies, the symbol is always that of a woman. Even the Reformed Ogboni Fraternity, the symbol is a woman. Because of our Blessed Virgin Mary, I respect women and that is why I have been celebrating her and will do that all my life.
The 2012 governorship election in Edo State and chances of the PDP!
I can tell you that in the PDP, we are relying on the word of God because when God says ‘yes’, nobody can say ‘no’. When you get home, check Chronicle 14 vs 10 &11, the prayer of Alpha, it says: “Yaweh numbers and strength make no difference to you when you give your help.
Help us. Yaweh our God, for relying on you we are confronting this hound in your name. Yaweh you are God human strength cannot prevail against you”. Yes, you may be a sitting government, but history is just repeating it self. In 1979, the UPN was led by Barr Eddy Osifo, and we had young men in the party like Dr Tony Omoaghe, Edo Osagie, Patrick Aigbogun and others, we came together and formed the UPN from the committee of friends under Awolowo.
Ali became our governorship candidate, Akpore deputy. The NPN took Okumagaba and picked his deputy from Odubu’s place, the present deputy governor to Oshiomhole. We went into that race and NPN was defeated. Then all the big men, Chief Igbinedion, Ogbemudia, Orikeze, Ibru, all of them were in the NPN but we got victory for the UPN.
As soon as victory was achieved, because we agreed that governor should go to Esan, deputy to Urhobos, and we agreed that the Secretary to Government will go to the Binis. And we the Binis nominated late Dr Ada Omorogiwa, he was Perm Secretary Ministry of Finance. After Ali was sworn in we presented Ada Omorogiwa, but in the night I now left for Lagos to be sworn in as a member of the House of Reps, we learnt that late Ali appointed Uduobe as Secretary to Government. When I rushed back to Benin the following Monday, Ali told me ‘Rowland I am sorry, my Esan people met me and told me that that position was too sensitive to be given to non native so I appointed Uduobe’. He said he will add the Commissionership of the Finance Ministry to the Binis lot. That was how it ended, that was the beginning of the Secretary to Government coming from the same ethnic group of the senatorial district of the governor. When Ogbemudia came, the SSG was his in-law, when Oyegun came he appointed his in-law Dr Alile, when Igbinedion came he first appointed his in-law Prof Irabor, the second Math Akhiobare and the third Pastor Ize-Iyamu.
There was no non Benin for the eight years that Igbinedion was governor. Then when Prof Osunbor came he appointed Dr Akhigbe his cousin as SSG and when Oshiomhole came, some Binis were insisting that they should be given the SSG but I said no it can’t be, what is good for the goose is good for the gander. I told them that everybody has been picking SSG from their own senatorial district how can you now ask Oshiomhole not to do the same. That was how Pally Iriase became SSG and now Imuekheme.
As for Ali, he alienated those who assisted him become governor. That was how I was instructed to run against Ali in the governorship primary. Though I lost the primaries to Ali but after that we now took a decision to support the NPN candidate in the person of Dr Ogbemudia. So the defeat of the UPN in 1983, 50 per cent of it came from the UPN members. The Bini people have a parable that when those that destroyed the foundation of a home are within the home that home cannot last. Because when a man at the helm of affairs decides to be ungrateful to those that made him, what happens is that the people will crash land. So Ali crash landed and Ogbemudia won that election.
So here we are, what is today called the ACN in Edo State started in my sitting room. As I am talking to you the oldest members of the ACN today in Edo state are Barr Amegor, followed by Charles Idahosa, followed by Rev. Egharevba and Benson Edosanwan. These are people that we started this party together.
When the PDP members were de-registered a very respectable clergy man came to me to say there was need for us to go together. At night Lucky Igbinedion, Capt.Osa, Sam Iredia, Pastor Ize-Iyamu, will come here to meet in this house. So their people came and joined us in the then AC.
They became AC at night and PDP in the morning and they provided funds. Everyday the state government kept saying PDP killed the state but who was PDP in eight years? It was Lucky Igbinedion. Ize-Iyamu SSG, Dan Owegie who is now Publicity Secretary of ACN was chairman of chairmen of PDP. Idah the secretary of ACN today was General Manager of Bendel Brewery.
So everybody there in the ACN are all PDP and they paved way for this present ACN government. However, at the end of the day we shared the political position after Comrade won. The chairman of the party went to the old PDP taken by Omoaghe, secretary came to the old ANPP, because today the grass root of ACN in Edo state is the ANPP not PDP. More of it is ANPP which was a carry over from my 2003 election but now they will disengage. Because when you serve a master and there is no appreciation, it is better not served than to serve those who will not appreciate. As a matter of fact the deputy chairmanship that Shagadi holds today was zoned to ANPP and we gave it to Mabinu the present chairman of UBE. On my way to Abuja to submit the list, Senator Legogie phoned me that I should drop Mabinu’s name that they have decided to remain in ANPP. Then that was how we put Shagadi who came from the same place with Mabinu. Mabinu joined ACN after Oshiomhole was nominated.
Suddenly, all the foundation members were dropped and were not even allowed to contest and those they used to replace them were people we begged for one and half years to join us and they refused. If you read the book of Hipolutus, you will discover that ingratitude is the greatest sin against God and man. It is like oppression, God always take position with the oppressed.
So I want to tell you clearly that the seed of ingratitude planted in ACN Edo State will be the one that will defeat ACN in the July 14 election. The PDP will be victorious because ingratitude has been shown within the party. Let me tell you, over 70 per cent of ACN members are not comfortable in that party, but because of stomach some have no choice. The problem is that we have sycophants in ACN who claim to be leaders so they will always tell Oshiomhole that what he’s doing is right. Even when they wanted him to appoint some Binis into appointments because of their selfish interest I kicked against it because I know that from history some of those key appointments were reserved for people from the senatorial district of the governor.
Why the Binis must support their son
So I can assure you that the election of July 14, the PDP will win. There are three reasons why I say that: One, the ingratitude of the government in power. The government is dealing with people that have two colors. I warned Ali in 1983 in the church and I told him he will not win because the people around him know that if he comes back he will starve them to death. Within the ACN ingratitude has been planted and at this stage you cannot cure it. Secondly, the Binis – they will be the master stroke in this election.
The Binis have realised that the only two things we have now is the royalty which we all can find to protect and population, no other thing. And if because according to them, Igbinedion did not do well and they decided to vote against a Bini man, that is a crime against generations yet unborn.
Because if a Bini man sits down and looks at it, the seed of what happened to Igbinedion’s administration was sown in the palace of the Iyasere of Benin, where they give the ticket to Igbinedion after a mini primary which I contested with him. But that not with standing, Lucky kept the fees of the Ambrose Ali University at N18,000 through out his tenure. He established the Institute of Technology in Usen, College of Education in Abudu and one is in Igueben.
But today I am not sure those institutions are surviving. Besides, if the Binis say they will not vote for a Bini man as governor, why did the Binis vote for Oshiomhole in 2007 when the former governor of this state George Innih, came in here as military governor and stopped the Benin Urban Water Works and that was why today no Benin man drinks from any public tap. He stopped the Ikpoba Dam Motel, he stopped the Central Library, he stopped the Secretariat Ogbemudia was building, he stopped the Benin drainage, above all he removed the Benin campus of the Auchi Polytechnic to Auchi.
Ogbemudia who elevated the Midwest Technical Collage Auchi to a polytechnic had the option of leaving Auchi as Midwest Technical College and establish Midwest Polytechnic in Benin but he did not. Innih took 130 Benins to Kirikiri prison, one of them was my late maternal uncle Hon.Oronsanye – he was a member of the House of Representatives in the First Republic 1959.
A notable Benin man was asking me at a rally when we were campaigning for Oshiomhole, whether Oshiomhole will not behave like Innih, I pleaded with them that he will not behave that way. So if the Benins could vote for Oshiomhole that time, they have no reason not to vote for their son now. Any vote against PDP in July 14 by a Benin man is a vote into slavery. Because Edo Central that is now supporting us, if we lose this opportunity they will join the North and keep Benins perpetually in opposition. Even this talk that after Oshiomhole, a Benin man will emerge the ACN governorship candidate is just sweet talk.
We have no power of our own; whatever we do we rely on Christ and our Blessed Virgin Mary. We know that Mary who insisted that her son should do the first miracle by turning water into wine will turn the lives of Edo people to good and touch their hearts so that the Binis will know the danger of voting against a Benin candidate on July 14. And pray that God will touch their hearts to vote for Charles Airhiavbere in the forthcoming governorship election in Edo State.
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