Chief David U Edebiri was many things to many people. For those interested in the struggles for independence from the colonial Britain, he was a militant nationalist; a frontline member of the tempestuous Zikist Movement. It was a movement of hothead youth who in their militant fervour demanded immediate end to British rule.
They were ready to go to the trenches to fight for it. With his death, and that of Chief Mbazulike Amaechi, a minister in the first republic in November 2022, the membership of the Zikist Movement is thinning out except perhaps Alhaji Tanko Yakasai of Kano.
For the politicians, he was simply touch as they come! Those in opposite camps to his, since 1952, dreaded the power of his pen and force of his logic. He was in his elements in the heady years of the second republic:1979-1983.
As the Publicity Secretary of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), which was in opposition in then Bendel State, he was a stormy petrel and a torment to the ruling Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). Governor Ambrose Alli was reported to have brought the media blitz of the Mr Edebiri as he was then known, to the attention of former President Shehu Shagari. Whether this was true or not, none was in doubt of the abrasive nature of the press release from the NPN Secretariat.
As years went by, age and other traditional obligations mellowed the irrepressible Chief to a discerning political Oracle consulted by all across political divides.
For those who sought after Edo cultural renaissance, he was the go-to icon. It was perhaps not because he held the preeminent traditional title of the Esogban of Benin Kingdom, which also gave him the sobriquet of Odionwere, but for his passion for the culture and traditions of Edo land.
He earnestly desired to preserve as many as possible. His immense insights into traditions and events of the distance past were as amazing as the intellectual depth and quality of his publications. He was prolific; Chief Edebiri had to his credit over twelve publications in which he explored the various aspects of Edo customs, traditions and national pollical development.
Through his books, one who can re-live those years of agitation for national independence and the dramatis persona- men and women of intense nationalism. Chief Anthony Enahoro stood out as Chief Edebiri’s star of the period, and the great nationalist remains his hero till his transition few days ago.
He never rated Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe as high, perhaps due to the alleged Zik’s abandonment of the Zikists. As if he had an inkling of the impeding glorious sunset, he gave two copies each of all his publications to me few months ago; a gesture I will cherish for long.
His was 93 years of passion, actions and legacies.
Dr Godwin Ehigiamusoe is the founder of LAPO