“Of Obaseki – SLA Parallelism: The Chauvinistic Narrative of Convenience”

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I read with keen interest an article in the online version of “The Nation” newspaper by one Olakunle Abimbola titled: ‘SLA of Edo?’ in which he ingeniously attempted to give a dog a bad name in order to hang it. Olakunle in his article attempted a parallelism of the events that led to the falling out between Samuel Ladoke Akintola, the second Premier of the 1st Republic Western Region, from December 1959 to January 1966, and his predecessor in office and party leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the current crisis of interest between Gov. Obaseki and Oshiomhole.

Without doubt, it is obvious that he, Olakunle, only regurgitated what he had been fed with in a narration of convenience.

For as Napoleon Bonaparte rightly noted; “history is more often than not written by the victor and not the vanquished”. It is clear from his position, that he is an “Awoist” and had therefore chosen to see things from the infallible standpoint of Chief Awolowo. Of course, Chief Obafemi Awolowo is a revered son of the Yorubas; and rightly so too considering his contributions to the political development of Nigeria, Western Region and particularly, the Yoruba nation.

However, what the narrative failed to take into consideration is that, for there to be a discord, there has to be two sides to the story. Olakunle considered Chief Awolowo to have been without blight in the war that took place between him and SL Akintola; but ask Akintola’s loyalists like Dr. Omololu Olunloyo, a great nationalist, a two-time former Commissioner of Education of the old Western Region, a former Governor of Oyo state, one of our few remaining elder statesman and a man that played a prominent role in the politics of both the First and Second republics, his take on the Akintola – Awolowo war, and I am certain that he would readily disagree with Olakunle’s position with claims of the high ground.

Unfortunately, the jaundiced article being scrutinised by my humane rejoinder – is not about Olakunle Abimbola or Chief Akintola and Chief Awolowo; it is rather about the writer’s thinly veined contempt for who and what he thinks Gov. Obaseki represents historically in the politics of Edo State and Nigeria by implication; and there is no gainsaying that the author was solely inspired by mischief.

While it is without doubt that he must have written his article based on ‘factual’ information about the feud between Gov. Obaseki and his erstwhile predecessor, Adams Oshiomhole; I, however, failed to see any mention about the ‘et originem’ , the origin, of this feud that has led to this messy divorce between the governor and his predecessor.

A lesson Obaseki must have learned quickly in politics is that when in political positions, one must ensure a structure that would enable one to fulfill the goals and objectives of the position that one occupies.

Oshiomhole, himself played this card in an attempt to stifle the influence of the powers that be within the Edo political arena whom, without doubts, had loyalists planted within the governmental structure in order to maintain their political relevance and continue to milk the state of its lean resources for their personal empires.
Oshiomhole, having sung the praise of Obaseki’s loyalty and sacrifices made towards the success of his time in government house, and hailed him as the messianic technocrat to move Edo State forward; went ahead to plant his acolytes in Obaseki’s government and the legislature as a back-up plan in case he refused to play ball; deliberately stifling his government.

For a patient who has to battle cancer; sometimes, the cancerous part has to be cut off in order to ensure survival. Oshiomhole wrote the script on that himself.

Governor Godwin Obaseki has made politics in Edo State about the people and the development of the state; hence his belief and practice that politics should be bottom up and not the other way around. In addition, he introduced new rules and regulations on access to Government House.

The new rules banned politicians who have no business at the Osadebey Avenue, making a place that hitherto became a Mecca of sorts for politicians during Oshiomhole’s administration to suddenly turn to a no-go area.

Obaseki was said to have told the party chieftains and foot soldiers of Oshiomhole that he remained a technocrat who believed that the allocation to the state and its internally-generated revenue were meant for the development of the state, and not for sharing among politicians.

It is pertinent note that, a foremost pan- Edo group, the Edo Unity League (EUL) Worldwide, has declared that Governor Obaseki has shown that his one true mission in Edo government house, is the development of the state at the behest of the Edo people in general, and not at the dictates of individual interests like those of Tony Kabaka, Osakpamwan Eriyo (nomolles), and their irks, who had hoped for the continued expansion of their private kingdoms.

From his base in the USA, the Director of Editorial Board, Edo Unity League, Worldwide, Mr Eghe Aigbogun, stated that no one who has shown similar interest in the development of the state can accuse Governor Obaseki of strong arm tactics.

Again, Oshiomhole often vaunted himself of his ability to tame the political godfathers in Edo state, people he so readily referred to as his detractors – the likes of the Igbinedions, Anenihs, Ogbemudias, etc., people he sought to humiliate at every opportunity in the supposed interest of the state and basked in the accolades that was rained upon him at that time. It is this stand that Oshiomhole and his loyalists now choose to refer to as ‘anti-party activities’.

One thing is clear in the ongoing war of attrition between Oshiomhole and Obaseki: Edo people know who has their best interest at heart.

And that is where Olakunle’s parallel of SL Akintola and Obaseki fall short of the narrative. The writer asserted that Akintola joined forces with his former enemies in order to duel with Awolowo and consequently lost the war. Well, let me share with Olakunle, an excerpt of Dr Oluloyo’s position on Awolowo:

“Stubborn, aggressive, very hardworking, visionary leader that Awolowo was, he never understood real politics at any time. In real politics you have to look at the figures, you have to have allies- there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies.

You must have some allies.”
Perhaps, the above extract from Dr Oluloyo’s interview is a fitting description of Oshiomhole. Politics, particularly as practiced in Nigeria and Edo State, is too fragmented for you not to have allies. Herein lies Obaseki’s trump card. In the final analysis, it is going to come down to who has, not just the most, but the right allies.

Oshiomhole is relying on his federal influence as the [former] Chairman of the party and thus felt he could orchestrate the disqualification of a high-performing governor in favour of a man he avowed would never seat in the same government house he fought him for.

Yes, Obaseki was ousted in a coup in the belief that that would mean his political demise in Edo State politics. What he and his minions have failed to take into account is the fact that Edo people are politically sagacious enough to know when it is not about ‘the party’ but ‘the candidate‘.

Obaseki, has joined forces with the opposition, PDP, and it looked like the only choice he could possibly have. He could have joined up with any other lesser party and he would still have enjoyed the massive goodwill of the Edo people, at home and in diaspora, as he does now. Edo people are ready to vote for the sustenance of the gains of democratic governance in the state and loudly against any form of ‘godfatherism’ and cronyism.

Akintola – Awolowo war led to the demise of the AG and the arguably to the first and second coups. Edo people know enough to play politics for development, hence the undeniable peaceful manner in which elections have been worn and lost since in the state.

In conclusion, Olakunle can run back to his paymaster and tell them that politics is a game of numbers. And Obaseki has, not just the right numbers, but the right allies too. And there is therefore, nothing that Oshiomhole and his acolytes can do about it.
4 + 4 torgba!

Mr. Eghe Aigbogun is Director of Editorial Board, Edo Unity League worldwide, writes from Benin City

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