By Ehichioya Ezomon
For the second time in a fortnight, I’m treating this issue not for its festering, but because Governor Godwin Obaseki and former Governor Adams Oshiomhole have spurned the pleas of the Oba of Benin, Ewuare II, to bury their political differences.
Rather, they’ve chosen the path of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) that doesn’t bode well for their platform – the All Progressives Congress (APC), and least of all the interest and wellbeing of the people and development of Edo State.
So, on Wednesday, July 3, 2019, the Omo N’Oba Nedo, at the head of a delegation of Traditional Rulers and Chiefs, reported his “frustration” to President Muhammadu Buhari, for his intervention in the impasse.
He told the president: “We, as traditional rulers in Edo State, are concerned about the crisis between Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Chairman and his Excellency, Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, and Edo State House of Assembly.
“If this crisis is not resolved now, with immediate effect, it may jeopardize the progress of the state. On behalf of the good people of Edo State, we kindly appeal to Mr. President to use your good offices to intervene and stop this crisis.”
Even as he intimated the president that he doesn’t like to interfere in inter-party or intra-party matters, as “the Benin Crown is non-partisan,” he said it’s difficult to turn a blind eye “because, if this crisis is not brought under control, it is likely to jeopardize the welfare of the masses.”
“This is why I, in my capacity as Chairman of Edo State Council of Traditional Rulers and Chiefs, supported by members of the Council, will endeavour to broker peace between the warring parties,” he said.
The watching public isn’t in the know if the Obaseki-Oshiomhole spat was principally the reason Oba Ewuare led a delegation to the president, as he (Oba) raised additional issues concerning the state and the Buhari administration.
However, that the Oba took the matter to President Buhari indicates his disappointment, and ostensibly annoyance at the refusal of two of the most prominent personalities in Edo State to heed his appeals and mend fences.
For the duo to ignore the revered Royal Majesty is a travesty of the age-long submission of Edo people to the traditional intercessory authority of the Oba (and the Enigies) of the kingdom.
If, Oshiomhole, now at the federal level, no longer has use for the “cover” given by the Oba to those that govern Edo State, Governor Obaseki, who’s barely two and half years in the saddle, and craves for a second term, needs the palace blessings and backing.
Recall Oba Ewuare’s prayer, three months to his crowning on October 20, 2016, when outgoing Governor Oshiomhole and members of the Progressives Governors’ Forum (PGF), along with candidate Godwin Obaseki and his running mate, Phillip Shuaibu, visited his palace.
Oshiomhole’s strategy was to present Obaseki, as the “next governor,” to the then Crown Prince Eheneden Erediauwa (Oba Ewuare II), who eulogized his “miraculous” achievements, “almost along the same line as the Governor of Lagos State at the time, (Babatunde) Fashola,” and “his (Oshiomhole’s) respect for the traditional institution.”
A photograph of that parley shows that as Oshiomhole stood speaking, and former Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, as Chairman of the PGF, sat on the right, both Obaseki and Shuaibu stood in the foreground, facing the Oba.
Responding, Oba Ewuare wished “Mr. Godwin Obaseki well to be the next governor of Edo State,” adding: “So, we can only pray that may the Lord, God almighty, and our ancestors protect the gubernatorial candidates, and give them the wisdom to put food on the table of the masses. “Because for us, our first concern is the people, the masses.
“And, of course, he (Obaseki) will be a great respecter, like our Comrade Governor (Oshiomhole). I said he should do better than him, to be a great respecter of the traditional institution.”
It’s normal for Oba Ewuare to wish for another governor that would respect the traditional institution, as did Oshiomhole, whose veneration for the late Omo N’Oba Nedo, Uku Akpolokpolor, Oba Erediauwa, made him to be “adopted as a son,” and the palace became “his second home.”
Correspondingly, Oba Erediauwa endorsed the policies and programmes of Oshiomhole’s administration, including the infrastructural upgrade of Benin City, and particularly the expansion of the Airport Road that affected the palace wall.
It’s a taboo to touch such a monument, but Oba Erediauwa reportedly said that, “If the wall is going to prevent the expansion of the road, you (Oshiomhole) should remove it.”
That unprecedented gesture silenced the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which had used, as a campaign tool, the alleged “provocative” plan by Oshiomhole’s government to pull down the fence, for the road expansion.
Certainly, Omo N’Oba Erediauwa would have “handed over” Oshiomhole to his successor, Oba Ewuare II, to “take care of him.” Perhaps, to enjoy a similar protective shield, Oshiomhole went to the palace, to introduce candidate Obaseki to the Oba.
Against this background, why would both men, but particularly Governor Obaseki, defy the Oba’s advice and pleas to settle the political rift between them, to the extent that he had to externalize his frustration to President Buhari?
Where’s the “respect for the traditional institution” that the Oba desired from candidate Obaseki, if the governor couldn’t defer to the Royal Majesty as an arbiter in his quarrel with Oshiomhole? And did Oshiomhole’s respect for the Benin Throne end with the demise of Omo N’Oba Erediauwa?
The Obaseki camp may have won rounds one and two: Installation of (minority) presiding officers of the Edo House of Assembly, and the reported purging of Oshiomhole’s surrogates in the State Executive Council.
But how long can they sustain this “clapping with one hand” in the face of a very potent and formidable opposition PDP that stung like the bee the last time on February 23, 2019?
It’s time to reconcile, especially as Oba Ewuare II, who Obaseki and Oshiomhole couldn’t respect his mediatory role, has placed the case before the APC leader, President Buhari, to settle.
* Mr. Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.