By Tonnie O. Iredia, PHD
For the better part of this year, Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo state, has been at loggerheads with his predecessor in office-Adams Oshiomhole – a disagreement that has let some of us into the true story of what brought both men together.
Contrary to public perception of Oshiomhole being the benefactor of Obaseki, we now know that both men have played the benefactor’s role to each other at one point or the other. The implication of this is that the accusation by some people of Obaseki biting the fingers that fed him is inaccurate.
From what we now know, Obaseki as revealed by Oshiomhole was a prime factor in his own coming into power. So, what could have sharply divided the two men to the extent of each of them adopting the ‘no comment’ strategy are different junctions surprised many.
It was, indeed, Oshiomhole, that first kept quiet, and for so long too. Many assumed that what may have successfully stopped an Oshiomhole – a man known for the garrulous trait of character from speaking, must be quite serious.
But by the time the former comrade governor spoke, it was full of surprising denials of notorious facts. The man said he never interfered in the administration of Obaseki adding that out of 20 commissioners, only one was nominated by him.
This position puts a lie to many issues canvassed much earlier. For example, it is an open secret that the positions of deputy governor and secretary to the state government were determined by the former governor before he handed over to Obaseki.
In fact, many people were aware that government house Benin was the advertised venue where the plot to replace Oyegun with Oshiomhole as national chairman of the APC was hatched and executed making the recent interview sound like the story of Alice in the wonderland.
Although some people are understandably upset by the recent inauguration of the edo state house of assembly, condemnation of the act makes sense only when it comes from other persons and not those from whom the actors learnt.
It is hypocritical for a leader to criticise his followers for doing what they learnt from him. During Oshiomhole’s time, he, among other things, removed the roof of the house of assembly to stop certain activities holding therein.
Was the alleged late-night inauguration worse than that? We ask again as this column did last week: Can those who say, two wrongs don’t make a right, tell us which of two wrongs is right?
The situation is more confusing when part of Oshiomhole’s anger is the alleged refusal by Obaseki, to maintain continuity-a slogan upon which their party campaigned for reelection. Is the assault on the legislature that we have just referred to not an aspect of continuity?
If not, it could mean two things; first, that the dictator forgot to dictate certain parts of the continuity plan that must not be followed and second; that wrong is good when done by a particular governor but not so; when it is continued by his successor.
Meanwhile the emergence of Frank Okiye as Speaker of the state assembly which was one of the grievances against Obaseki can no longer. This is because the vacation court for the South South holding in Port Harcourt has now ruled on the case of the alleged illegal inauguration of the edo assembly.
In the words of the court, the inauguration of the assembly on 17/6/19 is valid and subsisting in law and the directive of the National Assembly to the governor to issue another proclamation is unconstitutional, null and void.
With the verdict, Obaseki does not seem to have a case to answer there, making it necessary for his accusers to edit their Alice in the wonderland story.
In the case of the allegation that Obaseki retired old politicians, he can also not be condemned because that is an integral part of what the APC claimed it came to do in Edo and whose accomplishment, the originator of the policy gave himself copious credit.
Before Chief Anthony Anenih of blessed memory, popularly known in his lifetime as ‘Mr. Fix it’ passed on, he himself had been appropriately fixed by the man who came to retire godfathers. Dr. Osaigbovo Ogbemudia, perhaps the best governor edo ever had, was also disrespected.
At a point Ogbemudia and other former governors were publicly directed to return government vehicles earlier allocated to them. Even, the great Esama of Benin, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion was thoroughly abused severally as part of the plan to retire old politicians. Why should Obaseki, a trainee and successor of the originator of the retirement of old politicians not do same? If he didn’t, would he not have again been accused of distorting continuity?
Another thing Obaseki was accused of was his failure to open the fake 5star Central Hospital. When the hospital was commissioned in 2016, before Obaseki became governor, his predecessor announced that all the facilities were in place and that N1.5 billion was paid to a so-called world-renowned Austro-German Hospital Equipment provider.
Those blaming Obaseki for not opening the hospital need to answer the following questions: a) Is it the same hospital that was commissioned by no less a personality than the nation’s President that Obaseki didn’t open? b) Why does a commissioned hospital need to be opened by a successor governor? c) Who closed it after the commissioning? Interestingly, the recent interview now says 75% of the contract sum had been paid; suggesting that the building was not in reality ready when it was commissioned.
But then, if only 25% was all that was needed for proper opening, where did the facilities for the initial commissioning come from and to where, did they return? Answers to these questions would explain why Obaseki has directed his aides not to respond to Oshiomhole’s ‘hostile’ interview.
However, analysts must give the main fighters credits for their areas of strength. For instance, by upbringing and type of family life, where a person genuflects to greet anyone older than him by even one day, Obaseki cannot follow the aspect of continuity where a governor abuses his elders.
By training and experience too, people should appreciate Obaseki’s naivety in not knowing how to form a cabinet that would include all manner of people. While those who fought for his election, particularly in the physical sense, deserve patronage, Obaseki’s involvement in technology would make it hard for anyone to get revenue collection assignment as before.
So, the man must have offended many people. In our case, we are disappointed that Obaseki unlike his predecessor is yet to build a 6-star University in his village that would immediately benefit us – his kinsmen. This notwithstanding, we are obliged to join the revered Oni of Ife who has been kind enough to visit our governor with words of support and encouragement.