By his actions, Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State set up a war against his perceived enemies and yet, continues to cry foul the loudest. Since the supremacy battle between him and his predecessor and former National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiohmole, there had been series of assumptions, presumptions and conclusions, most of which were not even verifiable.
One very common belief is that Oshiohmole wanted to play the godfather role and apparently understanding the negative implications of such portrayal, Governor Obaseki played to the gallery, alleging that the friction between him and his benefactor was because he denied him the opportunity becoming a godfather. He mentioned it again during his campaign in Etsako.
In one of his press statements released by his special adviser on media and communication strategy, Crusoe Osagie, the governor categorically said: “In 2016 when Oshiomhole nominated and supported Obaseki, his hidden motive was to use Governor Obaseki, whom he thought would be a pawn in his game to defraud Edo people and enthrone himself as the ultimate godfather of Edo politics at the expense of the will and wishes of Edo people,” he said.
According to him, “However, Obaseki’s refusal to mortgage the interest of the majority of Edo people for the satisfaction of Oshiomhole and his handful of greedy followers is the cause of Oshiomhole’s bitterness, which has led him to bury himself in pursuit of an innocent governor, who is trying to do the right thing for his people.”
Not only has Oshiohmole repeatedly denied the insinuation, reliable sources close to the duo do not agree with Obaseki. For those who understood how it all started, the governor does not understand the game of politics, lacks the skills of give and take and does not listen to good advices, irrespective of where it is coming from.
The horse-trading, give-and-take and promises that gave birth to his emergence as a governor were contracted by those who backed his first term in office but after attaining the reins of power, it was easy for the governor to dump all those, who shelved their ambitions for his and worked for his success at the election.
As soon as he began governance, he quickly commenced a well-planned war against the political class, specifically against Oshiohmole and his loyalists while at the same time, claimed he was a technocrat and does not have room for politicking.
Obaseki, in his bid to take total control of the system and the political structure, started out by engaging in a fierce underneath battle over who produced candidates into the state House of Assembly. Recall that the first primary election organised by the national body of the APC was cancelled and a new one ordered.
He did not eventually get as many seats as he wanted among the 24 members-elect in the assembly. Some 19 members-elect were loyal to Oshiomhole, while he had only six and among them Oshiomole wanted Victor Edoro as Speaker, but Obaseki preferred Frank Okiye, and in an aggressive manner, perfected the plan to not inaugurate 14 lawmakers loyal to Oshiohmole. Presently, 17 lawmakers have been shut out of the 24-member house.
Though Oshiohmole might be the reason politicians are protesting the ill treatment meted to them by Obaseki, the governor surely has a lot of other people to contend with for his abrasive nature in the political terrain.
Not only did he ban the political class from the Osadebe Government House, when he came into power, in a calculated move, he got rid of Oshiohmole’s supporters from the political system. The former Youth Leaders and an ally of Oshiohmole, Osakpamwan Eriyo was remanded in prison for about 12 weeks, and Tony Kabaka, a youth leader in the state was relieved of his business as a revenue collector for the state and his hotel maliciously demolished.
Osakpamwan was also a revenue collector and the state chairman, Road Transport Employee Association of Nigerian (RTEAN). He lost the two positions on the altar of Governor Obaseki’s quest for power and political supremacy.
There is nearly an endless list of persons grumbling over the governor’s inconsiderate manner of misusing powers and more than Oshiohmole, a lot of them are quietly waiting to express their disapproval of his leadership during the September 19 polls.
Buttressing the view that Obaseki has been the aggressor, revered Edo businessman and philanthropist, Captain Hosa Okunbo, in his letter titled: “An Open Letter to President Muhammadu Buhari and the Good People of Edo State: Please, Urge Governor Godwin Obaseki to Leave Me Alone,” did not only recall how he has been a victim of unprovoked attacks by the governor and his men, he also noted that efforts by him to get the governor to toe the path of peace was arrogantly rebuffed.
Talking about how he intervened between Obaseki and Oshiomhole, Okunbo wrote: “In the course of time, I heard he started having issues with former Governor, Comrade Adams Aliu Oshiomhole and, I was quite worried and vehemently pleaded with him to settle whatever the issues were and embrace the path of peace in the interest of the good people of Edo State.
“As a stakeholder in the state, I advised on the need to allow wisdom drive his decision-making processes. I emphasised the critical position of leadership he occupies. I further espoused the virtues of patience and sacrifice in public service as I considered these as sine qua non to achieving one’s vision.
“Following a series of complaints of abandonment by his friends and associates from the political class, who knew my relationship with the Governor, I recommended to the Governor to bifurcate between politics and Governance.
“I recommended the need to appoint a trusted and experienced politician to bridge the gap and manage his relationship with the political wing of his administration so as to avoid distraction as he faces the onerous task of steering the business of moving the State towards economic and developmental prosperity.
“He, however, rejected my proposal and insisted politicians were rogues and would not patronize them or see them in Government House. Governor Obaseki told me without mincing words. He emphasised he would not be moved an inch about their responses or feelings on this particular issue, reiterating he did not need their support either. He told me clearly that he was not interested in pursuing any SECOND TERM agenda.”
Lamenting his personal torturous experiences when the governor attacked him, he said if he could suffer “all this injustice for no just cause, so you can imagine how many innocent citizens of Edo State that Godwin Obaseki and his agents would have been standing on their necks that can’t breathe.”
It was not only Captain Hosa, who attempted to lure the governor to embrace peace, quite a number of other well-meaning Edo citizens made efforts but it was soon clear that Governor Obaseki meant to fight to the finish. He told everybody close to him that it would be fight to finish between him and Oshiohmole.
Obaseki only showed that he is not a good student of history. Just about eight years ago, similar scenario played out in Lagos. Former Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola is a technocrat. If left by himself, he would not have much to do with the politician, but after a little friction with the political class he came to realise their importance in the scheme of things and played party politics. That was what earned him a second term,
Governor Obaseki’s undoing in Edo State is that while he claimed to be a technocrat, he is playing deeply into the political terrain and trying to edge out all the political forces that facilitated his emergence nearly four years ago. If he succeeds at doing that, he would actually become ‘the godfather’ himself.
Though no one knows for certain where the pendulum would eventually swing, however, away from the allegation that his agenda is to be a godfather, Oshiomhole has maintained that he is on mission to ensure Obaseki’s defeat in the September 19 governorship election, because he made a wrong choice in 2016.
He has been apologetic to the people of the state for supporting him to emerge as the governor in 2016 saying, “I have made a mistake by supporting a man, who has no vision for my people. So, I want to correct my mistakes by making sure a servant of God, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, is elected as governor and kick the snake out of the government house.
“From now till September 19, I am here in Edo State, because a political lion that I am, I am not scared of anything. Now the snake that enters our family home, God has driven the snake to where he belongs.
“I have come home to join you and start the process of reclaiming the house back to the family of APC. So, now I have only one mission and I know it is our common mission: to bring Edo back to the part of sustainable development,” he said.
But the governor insists that the former APC national chairman’s plan was to use him to defraud the people of the state. However, he has not been specific about any issue of such nature.
Though the Oba of Benin, the Ewuare N’Ogidgan II, recently stated that the palace does not meddle in partisan politics and that he has no preference among the candidates, reliable sources within the governor’s fold have hinted that the governor does not really feel he enjoys any support whatsoever of the traditional institution, going into the election.
According to inside sources, “Governor Obaseki’s adamant nature and refusal to give peace a chance won him many enemies and he himself knows it. He fears he might not be having the support of the kingdom, because many of those he attacked had reported him to the kingdom.”
*Agbabiaka wrote from Osogbo, Osun State