Governor Obaseki’s Boarding Pass (2) By Kassim Afegbua
There are those who are laughing at Adams Oshiomhole from the cocoons of their homes, for failing to heed their patriotic advice not to travel Godwin Obaseki’s route. You don’t have to blame them. They raised concerns and referenced his great grandfather and his less than altruistic relationship and conduct with the Great Benin Monarchy. People spoke in hushed tones conveying these fears, but Oshiomhole, thinking with a modern mindset, saw a friend and brother in Godwin Obaseki.
He told them not to visit the sins of his great grandfather on his great-grandson. He stood his ground thinking he was making a case for a genuine friend and a trusted brother, a trusted ally, a confidant, but alas, the rest, as they say, is now laughter for those advisers, and pain and regret the APC National Chairman. By June 2020, the final onslaught would come to full circle and the Governor will fully deploy his conquistadorial stamina and draconian style to tell Adams Oshiomhole the real meaning of ingratitude.
Power scavengers who know the obduracy of power and its rawness, are often brutal when deploying it. But like every human endeavour, there are limitations to power showmanship, this Governor Obaseki must take cognisance of. The drums may beat so loud for you in the day time, but at night, when the gods who earlier broke the palm kernel nuts now sit to take stock, mere whispers in the dark may just be the turning point for the drumbeat. The drums will be perforated to down the sound, and laughter will in the morn sconce for the gods.
It is alleged that the state government is training militia in the name of Public Works Volunteer (PUWOV), whatever that means, but the government ought to know that there is the expiry date for deceit and covert operations. Just last weekend, Honourable Professor Julius Ihonvbere, easily one of the cerebral intellectual heavyweights in Nigeria’s contemporary political discourse, was humiliated when his Local Government Chairman, Andy Osigwe, reportedly ordered his empowerment ceremony to be closed down unceremoniously for failing to obtain permission from all the “ghommids” and political witchcrafts that now dominate public space in Edo state.
The Local Government chairman, taking inspiration from his Osadebe Avenue landlord, boastfully said he ordered the closure because the Honourable member, Professor Ihonvbere did not obtain boarding pass from him.
When you reconcile the regime of bomb explosions and rally disruption with the atmosphere of uncertainty that hangs palpably in Edo’s political firmament, you would understand the important of those being presently assembled in Okada town in the name of Public Works Safety workers. They are recruits of Obaseki’s army of infamy, that will be deployed to unleash mayhem on any voice of dissent in the preparations for the APC primaries in June 2020. They will roam the street, looking for offenders at the slightest provocations, that will propel them to bare their fangs knowing full well they have the tacit support of Edo state police, that has maintained indecent aloofness in arresting known offenders on the side of government.
Governor Obaseki has become a gifted demagogue who consciously exploits the emotions and prejudices of the public and who must be reminded that power has a terminal date. We have seen gullible men of power of yesterday, who got caught up by their lethargic contradictions. We have seen how those who wielded power yesterday, have become mere pawns in their power calculations. We have seen those who have the power of life and death yesterday, becoming helpless in the face of life in retirement.
Power does not last forever, that is what democracy has taught us. The brutality and gullibility of men in power is often a derivative of their lack of exposure, indiscipline and inability to manage the addictive properties of power. Power-drunk leaders always live in a world of fantasy, a supernatural world which makes them live a false lifestyle.
In such metaphysical verbiage, there is often a prompting from unseen hands, urging the power holder to do the bizarre, no matter how bile, just to convey the impression that he is fully in charge. Those who are short of the piety of the holy spirit do not see anything wrong in oppression and suppression.
To them, power is in their hands and they can deploy it the way they like; demolish houses, revoke Certificates of Occupancy, insist on boarding pass and permission before indigenes can breath, declare anyone persona-non-grata, and the inherent abuses that are stereotypical of any emperor, but the defining edge is that life is in the hands of God, the repository of all powers. So, when men of power boast and threaten, spitting thunderous fire and brimstones, they often forget there is a terminal date for all the braggadocio when the litany of aides will all vanish, security escorts will vamoose, immunity will disappear, impunity will capitulate and all the protocols will take the back seat.
The way and manner Governor Obaseki has trudged on so far is like he never encountered Comrade Adams Oshiomhole all his life. One would think Oshiomhole has been an enemy in another political camp that must be brought down by the fire, by force just to create the impression that yes, a new Sherriff is in town.
By the time you realise that Godwin Obaseki served in Oshiomhole’s government for eight unbroken years, during which time there were never moments of disagreement and altercation, other than yes sir, yes sir, then one is compelled to see human dubiety, pretentiousness and depravity at play. When this political war of attrition had not gained traction, I had cautioned Governor Obaseki to apply his breaks and seek reconciliation. My point was anchored on the premise that he, and not Oshiomhole, would seek re-election. He would ask for votes.
He would go round to seek for support from every Edo mind. He was unsparing in his resolve to embark on this cantankerous journey, a needless one at that, just to convey the fact that he has unfettered powers. Now that the political fight has come full circle, I see the desperation to seek endorsement from every quarter, including awards that facts on the ground do not merit. Very soon, Chief Obasanjo would be lobbied to visit Edo in the name of speaking to the “performance” of the Governor. Goodluck Jonathan stopped by, General Gowon had stopped by, the intemperate Festus Keyamo has followed the queue, ditto for Sunday Dare, the Sports Minister. The point is, these persons are not Edo voters, no matter how powerful they are. Before the primary election, the pressure will mount on President Buhari to visit Edo to commission something and perhaps further prevailed upon to make a statement of endorsement.
Governor Obaseki’s Edo state has become eternally radicalised by jobless youths who are being recruited for the sole purpose of becoming political thugs-on-guard on the streets of Edo. They enjoy uncommon confidence because the state gives them a protective cover to commit a crime and go scot-free. The Police Command in Edo has become helpless by being co-conspirators.
They look the other way when this army of youths roam the streets to commit the crime. I have not heard of a single arrest since the barricade episode on Okorotun street, Benin City. I have not heard of any arrest after Professor Julius Ihonvbere’s event was terminated forcefully in Owan East. I have not heard of any arrest when thugs invaded the Benin airport before the very eyes of the Police, to harass, embarrass and heckle the APC National Chairman on arrival at Benin to attend a ceremony. All the bombings we have read about, all the disruptions, have not attracted any arrest. Edo Police Command has become an accomplice. They are visibly frightened to take the necessary action. Very soon, we will have a Frankenstein monster to deal with by the time those volunteers enter the streets.
Finally, for this episode, I have been seeing cliches of Oshiomhole’s position on political godfatherism when he was exiting from power. The Obaseki’s propagandists have feasted on them to make the point that they are indeed executing Oshiomhole’s script against godfatherism.
The only difference, in this case, is that the Edo political impasse is not essentially a contest of godfather and godson, but a contest between gratitude and ingratitude. The government’s social media traders have deliberately feasted on this perspective to gain public sympathy, such demagoguery, but when the contrary views are presented, the real reason for this needless tussle becomes tellingly instructive. Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was just caught in the web. The real protagonists are those who laboured hard to enthrone Obaseki as Governor and having been fully seated, the Governor now abandoned them, went out to seek for non-indigenes of Edo, to execute his campaign programmes.
While this was ongoing, those persons saw in Oshiomhole a veritable platform to ventilate their misgivings each time he visited the state. From Charles Idahosa to Henry Idahagbon, Samson Osagie, Patrick Obahiagbon and Razaq Bello-Osagie, it was a story of total abandonment. These were persons who spent their time, resources and energies to drive the Obaseki campaign train. It is a political sin to abandon those who left the comfort of their homes to campaign for anyone’s election. I am not aware of anyone who plays politics because he wants to make heaven. The reward for politics is here on earth by way of rendering services to those you represent. Governor Obaseki’s resolve to rewrite the normative principles of political engagement and collective bargaining was the turning point that led to the present impasse.
So each time I read about the idea of sharing money, I often chuckle in disbelief. It is pure blackmail that has been perpetually advertised to confuse the undiscerning. It is convenient to blackmail Adams Oshiomhole with the toga of godfatherism, but both the Governor and his deputy know in their heart of hearts what the real issue is. And it is about the call for all-inclusive, participatory government and not that of exclusion.
It is about carrying everyone along in a government that was birthed through hard labour. It is about recognising the roles people played in the process of birthing the government and ensuring that their needs are met by way of developing their communities. For example, I feel terribly ashamed each time I visited my community of Okpella and seeing the parlous state of the roads. Okpella roads project commenced during Oshiomhole’s second term, and one was expecting that the succeeding government would complete them.
Till date, the roads have become almost impassable safe for those portions that Oshiomhole constructed. Another dry season is almost ending, yet nothing has been done. The huge revenue that Edo state government attracts to its coffers from Okpella is enough reason why greater attention should be given to this limestone community. Despite repeated promises by Governor Obaseki, Okpella has been suffering untowardly. Or is this a function of godfatherism again or share the money mannerism that the government has found to be expressively convenient? Time is ticking away.