Journalism of Courage

Deconstructing Obaseki’s “political rebellion”

By Tony Erha

Politicking in Edo is unpredictable. So troublesome it is such that the bombastic Patrick Obahiagbon (a.k.a. Igodomigodo) is wont to describe it as a state of ‘filaga filogo’ (an expression in his Benin language for a-free-for-all, in which broken bottles and other dangerous cudgels are used).

Interestingly, Edo has again gone haywire, hugging the news headlines as a result of a huge factional crisis in the ruling Edo state chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC). The situation could be likened to the earthen soup-pot which keeps boiling, even after removal from the fireplace.

Mr. Godwin Obaseki, the introverted governor of the state, has dominated the news for championing one of the two factions, thus challenging Comrade Adams Oshiomhole to a needless battle of wits and grits. And while Obaseki has presented as a factional gladiator in the duel, Oshiomhole, APC’s national chairman, has largely kept mute. But proxies are purportedly throwing punches on his behalf.

Regardless, Oshiomhole, Obaseki’s predecessor in office, has not owned up to the allegations that he promotes the other faction.  He has maintained sealed lips, contrary to his expressive nature. While the beleaguered Edo citizens were beginning to heave signs of relief that the crisis was at last getting over, for good, the sack of eight commissioners of the state ministries, a few days ago, by Obaseki, however, evaporated this relief.

Political pundits perceive the sack as a gambit devised by the governor to get rid of more supporters of his opposing faction in order to gain more control of the soul of the party and the apparatuses of the state government. His game plan is to win re-election in 2020. Many deft moves by the governor and his men have been activated.

The protracted crisis unsettling the Edo APC and the state’s polity snowballed into a frenzied contention when, a few weeks ago, the world was awoken by a barefaced Obaseki who purportedly masterminded the fraudulent inauguration of nine out of the original twenty four elected APC lawmakers that comprise the State House of Assembly.

The legitimacy of Obaseki’s action has since become a heated partisan debate between the supporters of the APC factions as well as the general public. The crux of the matter is the claim that the governor acted ultra vires his constitutionally-circumscribed responsibilities. Apart from fouling the constitutional procedure of proclaiming the convening of the House for the sole business of inauguration, he unduly interfered and altered the outcomes of the choices of a supposedly independent legislative organ.

Even though he also doubles as a leader of the Edo APC, Obaseki has continuously been nudged on to embark on a needless fight against Oshiomhole, his benefactor, who dismantled opposition to his emergence as his successor.  But, the puzzle is if Obaseki will fail to see the inherent dangers of pitching his tent against Oshiomhole.

Now that most of those who allegedly caused Oshiomhole to err are the same now vilifying him, isn’t that evident enough that today’s praise singers of Obaseki could turn round to condemn him in the future, especially when he commits breaches?   Also, a dangerous precedent is being laid where ethnic bias, diversionary tactics and brainwashing are being read to a simple mishandling of normal situations by the governor, to which lots of energy and scarce state resources are being dissipated in order to draft the majority Benin tribe into the ring of a murky interplay between a political party that is divided against itself and the man who cannot manage its success.

From the nuances of his experiences as a governor, Obaseki should be concerned about a Benin dictum of the bat who was saddened because it was not classified as having feathers, although it could fly like the birds.  He should know also that a solitary wasp does not sting hard, where it has no nest. Above all, the Benins do not assist anyone to bring into the household a log of wood infested by the soldier ants. 

For the asking, if most past leaders of the state had failed in setting the best examples and precepts, who says that a Godwin Obaseki that basks in the euphoria of the people’s mandate, should also bungle the same process? Obaseki, being an integral part of the government of Oshiomhole, which he and others now freely demonize, ought to reminisce that the stakes were then higher, especially as Edo was actually brought out from the doldrums of the non-performance of the immediate past governments. 

Now in the saddle, was it that he knew nothing about the progress of the government he chose to lead and for which he served as Economic Adviser? Admonishingly, I am not swayed by a school of thought that because Oshiomhole was said to have committed some errors, that successive Edo governors should do so. Wherefore does the honour lie if Obaseki cannot correct the situation?

It would amount to dashed expectations for someone in Edo State to consider that a blackmail of Oshiomhole in his Edo home would jeopardize his chances as APC’s national chairman, so as to precipitate the move for his immediate removal. A hunting dog, waiting to see the dangling testicles of a ram to fall down, would salivate for nothing! The lesson is truly that a state gets a governor that it deserves at the start of a new tenure while the national chairman of a ruling party is seldom. 

It thus should be noted that a paragraph of a poorly-worded press statement credited to the governor’s spokesman regarded Oshiomhole as ‘a father of the party that ought to bring the party’s warring factions together.’ But, Oshiomhole may be regarded as having not effectively played his said fatherly role, if he owned up to the accusation of him dictating to the governor, as a godfather.

Indeed, Oshiomhole may have his shortcomings, But, that is not to say that he does not mean well for the people. I am not his spokesman nor am I scared of saying it the way it is: Oshiomhole is an enduring personality; a marathoner who acts his inner belief with his establishment of the Okpekpe Marathon Race, a global event where he joins other on a difficult race on the hilly tuffs. He is also akin to the diminutive Wood Pecker birds, with the capacity of perforating the rock and the Iroko tree, with deafening noise that ricochet through the forest, without getting headache and broken beaks.

And for Obaseki and his supporters, a duel with Oshiomhole, who they acknowledge as a benefactor and leading light may not help their cause or that of APC. It will not advance the Edo people who voted them to power. They must eschew the indiscipline in their rank and rededicate themselves to the public cause, unless they are tired of ruling the state.

Comrade Erha is a journalist and environmental rights activist based in Benin.


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