EDO STATE GOVERNANCE (2016-2019) – A LESSON IN INGRATITUDE, BETRAYAL, BITTERNESS AND ANGER
By Hon. Samson Osagie
“The question then is who is your brother? The one who sent you to prison or the one who gave you freedom? The one that support you to excell or the one that seeks to bring you down?”
As 2019 draws to a close, it has become imperative to present an overview of the governance of Our State – Edo – particularly in the light of the ongoing internecine war between the government and a vast majority of the members of the ruling party- APC.
We all recall that, in 2016, the Governor was elected to take over from the National Chairman of the party whose tenure as Executive Governor of Edo State ended on November 12, same year. The events leading to that election including the bitter struggle for the party tickets among the contenders were characterised by prophesies from eminent Edo men and women including members of the Obaseki family worldwide.
But the then Governor convinced of his choice of a successor was not swayed by the avalanche of counsels against his support for the incumbent Governor. Indeed, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole literarily converted the day to night and man to woman to push through his candidate – then Mr. Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki. The campaign slogan was continuity!!
However, some of us were not swayed by his insistence on account of principles and convictions about the soon to be Governor after serious due diligence. Personally, for the period I interacted with the government of Edo State under Governor Adams Oshiomhole, my encounter with him (Governor Obaseki, who was then Adviser on Economic Matters) revealed only one thing- his disdain for the political class and his near state of unhappiness anytime one is with him. Although, he passes as a man with some hands on knowledge on financial matters for obvious reasons – having been in the banking and stock market sectors almost all his life- his disposition towards people didn’t quite endear him to a good number of persons within and around government circles including his current Deputy Governor and Secretary to Government.
Upon becoming Governor against all odds, he showed his first sign of intolerance and unforgiveness when he used his lackey in my local government area to cause a suspension notice to be sent to erstwhile Chairman of the party Anslem Ojezua for the suspension of over 30 members of the APC including myself in Uhunmwode Local Government Area. Why? because we dare to ask to be included in the discussions (not appointment per se as some of us were not interested in state appointments) leading to the appointment of Commissioners, Special Advisers and Assistants in the new Government. The only reason we were suspended was that, we supported the former Deputy Governor – Dr Pius Odubu – in the Governorship primaries.
In 2017, as Chairman and leader of the party former Governor Adams Oshiomhole had to intervene through the Senator Domingo Obende Committee to resolve the matter. We thought that was the end. But the rest is now history!
What was thought to be a joke manifested in greater proportion when he personally sent a text message to the then Oredo party Chairman Mr. OKORO to resign as Chairman of the party in the locality and subsequently all the ward Chairmen and Woman Leaders of the Local government area were dethroned without a Congress. The reason, they were loyal to Osakpanmwan Eriyo who was his staunch supporter, but at that time was cooling off his heels at the Oko prison over a quarrel he had in government house with a certain Chief who is serving as Special Adviser to the Governor.
In a space of six months his disdain for party members and leaders across the State grew in leaps and bounds. Comrade Adams Oshiomhole thought it was a joke, he kept intervening and settling matters with assurances that things were going to be alright.
Now, on the side of governance; Governor Obaseki appears to have commenced very well by his emergency repairs of feeder roads which earned the sobriquet “wake and see ”, his policy statements and meetings with supposed investors, holding of seminars, summits, conferences and so on which tended to give a new direction to governance in the State. He has renovated the entire Secretariat buildings which is commendable. He constructed the Iyekogba road up to Sapele road which is good and carried out road works in a few places across the State. He has revived the Benin Technical College for Technical Education but shut down College of Agriculture Iguorhiakhi and College of Education Ekiadolor. But he has treated with levity human capital development and failed to deploy emotional intelligence to carry along the people. The human element is key to successful leadership.
By the end of 2017, the restiveneness within the party has started gaining traction but patience was needed not to distract the Governor from Governance. However, the plan to decimate political heavyweights across the state was silently going on and it was just a matter of time those beaten will have to cry out.
Then came Oshiomhole Chairmanship of the party ahead of the Presidential and National Elections. I recall vividly, a certain leader from Edo South refusing to exchange pleasantries with the Governor at the Edo State stand in the Eagle square on the convention day that Oshiomhole and the new National Executive was elected. It was a mild drama. On becoming chairman the National Chairman resolved amicably the issues between them in Benin. Today, it is honeymoon for them. Ofcourse, that was what Oshiomhole wanted.
As the war of attrition continued to ravaged the APC with the Governor personally telling people that he doesn’t want them to be part of the politics of their areas and indeed the State (including yours truly), it dawned on many that his threat to retire the entire political class which he didn’t appoint anyway was real rather than imagined. Coincidentally, those who stood by him through tick and thin, rain and sun, were more on the list of the political retirees the Governor have penciled down. To them, why it seemed like a dream, the ingratitude was unacceptable and so found a platform to express themselves within the party. That gave birth to the Edo Peoples Movement which later became the nightmare of Obaseki and his government. Today he cries about EPM, a mere support group which gave way as soon as his man Friday Anslem Ojezua who supported the alienation of party leaders and members across the State from party meetings and activities, carry out indiscriminate suspension and expulsion of party members without regard to laid down procedures, submitting the party to the whims and caprices of government officials, creating factions in various local government areas in the state without efforts to reconcile aggrieved members, was removed by majority of the members of the State working Committee and appointed an Acting Chairman David Imuse. The removal was promptly ratified by the National Working Committee.
Fast forward, the Governor has gone ahead to make pronouncements on party matters as if he is the administrator of the party. So laughable is his recent over two days announcement on a major National television that he has suspended the National Chairman from the party. Does he or the State has such powers? People are asking! Unknown to him, his underbelly in the avoidable crisis has been exposed to very many people in and outside Edo State as a man rivelling in ingratitude to a man who threw you up to leadership. It is like what John 15:13 said “Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friend.”
Although, Oshiomhole didn’t have to lay down his life for the Governor, his love and actions towards achieving the Governorship of Edo State for him was enough sacrifice worthy of respect.
In all of this, Governor Obaseki on June 17th, 2019 clandestinely issued a proclamation for the inauguration of the State House of Assembly at 9:30 pm with a minority of the elected members under the erroneous belief that a vast majority of them would not do his bidding and may impeach him. That anomaly has made Edo State to be the only state in the Federation having less than the constitutionally required number of members as at today.
Rather than saying that he and his cronies have suspended the National Chairman, you often hear him say that Oshiomhole cancelled the primaries that was already conducted by the state. When has it become the responsibility of the State Chapter of the party to conduct primaries under the party’s constitution. Perhaps as Hon Chris Okaeben said “none if them has seen the party Constitution” to understand what it says about many of the issues they complain about. Perhaps again, that is why at the last NEC meeting the President admonished party leaders and members to adhere to the party Constitution in all that they do.
If the Governor had not assumed a larger than life posture, he could have done things differently and avoid the crisis which has further deepened his bitterness, angst and desperation against majority of those who stood by him in 2016 including his benefactor- Adams Oshiomhole. That is not leadership!
I have often maintained and I want to repeat it here, that the privilege of been in public office is not to be converted to an absolute right for which no one will be able to question your actions or challenge your authority. Freedom is what democracy is all about. Betrayal, bitterness, anger, intransigence, abuse of power and authority are not attributes of Leadership. Leadership can be defined as one’s ability to get others to follow and some of the leadership qualities generally identified includes integrity, magnanimity, creativity, openness, honesty, inclusiveness, a sense of humour, fairness and the like. A leader with the combination of these qualities cannot be autocratic. Yes, the leadership style we are having at the moment in Edo State is simply AUTOCRATIC, which is an extreme form of transactional leadership where leaders excercises absolute powers over workers or the team. That is it in a nutshell!
Many of the qualities identified above are lacking in the leadership Edo people have at the moment hence it is possible for bitterness, anger, intolerance and all negative vices are flowing from the very head (Governor) to the bottom. How can a leader succeed under this condition?
In the midst of this imbroglio, some ethnic irredentists, have attempted to introduce ethnic dimensions into the fray as if, our challenges are ethnic based. Evidence abound that in recent history, Adams Oshiomhole in and out of office has done so much for the Benin people than many who have had similar privileges including the incumbent. Yet, Governor Obaseki has sponsored protests and litigation against Dr Pius Odubu’ s nomination as NDDC Chairman. Is Odubu not a Benin man? The question then is who is your brother? The one who sent you to prison or the one who gave you freedom? The one that gave you food or the one that starved you to death? The one that destroyed your property or the one that help you acquire property? The one that support you to excell or the one that seeks to bring you down ? Ironically, many of those ethnic jingoists took refuge under Oshiomhole when it matters most to them.
As we march towards another election year, it is my humble view that never in the history of our state have we been so divided and traumatised by an internecine war within the ruling party. And I agree that the common people are those that suffer most under an unstable and tensed political environment. We must begin, am sorry to say, to look for that leader that can unite us again without been bitter even in victory, having a human face towards governance, be ready to accommodate other people’s views and ideas, having a sense of humour to lessen tension rather than being angry at almost all times, understand the challenges of the state with a commitment to fixing them rather than seeking for solutions that will never come, marching actions with promises, respect the young and old, men and women, boys and girls, acknowledge the contributions of others before him, exhibit utmost humility for there lies greatness and above all have the fear of God.
As Edo people, we cannot afford to get it wrong. In the midst of the cacophony of voices, we must unite to remove that which aches us at the moment.
I wish Edolites a Happy New Year.
Samson Osagie is former Minority Whip of the House of Representatives.