By Sufuyan Ojeifo
Intra-party crises in the Edo State Chapter of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) have festered beyond redemption. This was writ-large in the state government-sponsored rally by Edo groups in support of Obaseki’s re-election in Benin last Thursday.
The event, where Obaseki gave the other camp in the APC side swipes, came on the heels of the visit to President Muhammadu Buhari, penultimate week, by the Edo State Council of Traditional Rulers and Chiefs, led by Oba Ewuare 11. The royal fathers had appealed to Buhari to intervene in the intra-party crises that had affected governance.
Interestingly, Obaseki is acting as someone who is averse to reconciliation and peace. He appears power-inebriated; and, nudged on by a tribe of praise-singing associates and protégés. It is curious that the comeuppance of those who are not ready to be deployed in the promotion of his divisive and selfish political agenda is denunciation.
The governor is alleged to be imprudently destroying bridges of political relationship, dislodging incorrigible believers in the philosophy of political accommodation and the mantra of continuity of the policies and programmes of the administration of the former governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, which produced him as a successor.
Dancing to the lyrics by some loyalists to build his political structure if he must win re-election, a farcical suggestion, indeed, the unfolding scenario reminds me of the Yoruba legend of the Elephant who was led into a ditch of destruction by the Tortoise on the red herring that the Elephant was going to be crowned the King of the Animal Kingdom.
The Elephant was too naïve and, perhaps, too sure-footed that his size validated the proposition. It could therefore not fathom the inherent deception; neither could it discern the existence of a landmine on the pathway. For the humongous creature, imagination of its imminent status as a king had become the only contemplation.
Amid the song of “a o merin joba, ewekun ewele”, transliterated “we are going to install the Elephant as King, let us rejoice, let us dance”, the Elephant made to sit on the beautifully-decorated chair set up on a big ditch that was carefully covered by a rug and the next thing was that it fell into the ditch, died and became meat for lunch.
Except something dramatic happens, I shudder to surmise that the terminus of Obaseki’s governorship may likely be exemplified by the same fate. His sagacity to meander the ship of the APC through the plethora of icebergs in the tempestuous political sea that Edo state typifies is suspect. This mirrors gullibility and wrong advice. Regardless, with his unbridled but constitutionally-guaranteed interest in re-election, he wants to achieve it in spite of the political machine that made him governor in 2016.
Unfortunately, his burgeoning political designs would appear to be incrementally falling out of place. Having supposedly failed to appropriate the political strategy of his predecessor to restrain and refrain from talking about re-election a year to it, Obaseki has exposed his underbelly to the vagaries of dangerous politicking and has become largely distracted from governance issues.
The six-month period from now to January next year should have been deployed in raising the stakes of achievements in terms of inauguration of projects. But, the administration appears to focus more on expending state resources to procure support and legitimacy for a State House of Assembly that was unfairly inaugurated on Monday, June 17, by a confederate of willing and abducted nine of the 24 members of the APC caucus in the Legislature.
Whereas, a simple and, perhaps, a not-too-simple apology to the entire APC family for his missteps would have been a noble option requisite to damn the “shame” of self-importance; the governor, according to a grapevine, considers that option a sacrifice too much to contemplate. But, Obaseki should have known that APC is not his fiefdom. He should have known that the political leaders that he wanted to forcefully retire from politics so he could dominate the entire political sphere were not his creations. Having inherited them, he will, at the appropriate intersection, leave them behind.
Wisdom should have dictated the appropriation of both their electoral and nuisance values rather than vaingloriously approximating piety in his public exercise of dressing them down in provocative sanctimoniousness and verbal exhortations about morality and financial discipline. A series of Obaseki’s recent media statements and public utterances had portrayed APC leaders in the other camp in the state as only interested in having public funds shared to them.
Obaseki had also dismissed the old arrangement by which his predecessor accommodated some youth leaders in order to get their support to keep the peace and maintain security especially in Benin. How will Obaseki prosecute his political battles? Assuming he is going to outsource that task to outsiders, does he expect them to accomplish it pro bono?
But that would align with the claim that he is empowering associates from outside the state with contracts that should have been deployed in furtherance of local content policy. That idea has greatly discounted popular support for his administration. It would thus appear that the administration is pursuing a noxious agenda of pauperising political “associates”.
The administration’s profile is also not enhanced by the insecurity in the state despite the governor’s receipt of a whopping N500 million security vote per month. The story about how the decision to increase the monthly security vote from about N330 million in the 2017 budget to about N416 million in the 2018 budget and to N500 million in the 2019 is worth investigating.
It will also be interesting to know how Obaseki spends the huge vote that cumulatively amounts to N11 billion in two years (2018 and 2019); and, yet insecurity in the state remains the elephant in the room; while the governor becomes edgy and fussy about doing the needful amid the claim of limited resources.
In the subsisting theory and praxis of Social Darwinism, party leaders and their supporters are justifiably locked in a battle for supremacy and survival in the APC that envisages neither Godwin Obaseki nor Godwin Obaseki in 2020. The office of the governor has the capacity to galvanize political and economic empowerment. Someone who is catholic in governance and ecumenical in socio-economic and political accommodation of members of the opposition party is required to step in the saddle in 2020.
The task of healing Edo and emphasizing values that unite her is imperative. A unity government in Edo state is inevitable. But Obaseki does not have the gravitas to galvanize statewide consensus for it. He has seemingly blown his first chance. Even within his party, he has offered to members the poisoned chalice of a divisive administration. For APC to win Edo State in 2020, all stakeholders- both at the national and the state levels – must ensure the emergence of a consensus candidate that enjoys statewide appeal.
Indeed, such candidate must also enjoy validation by the entire political elite such that other parties could either seamlessly adopt him as their official candidate or merely sponsor pretenders as contenders in a predetermined one-horse race. It does not matter the senatorial zone where the candidate comes from as long as he is able to rouse a rare episodic acceptance of his essential persona as the poster boy of government of unity in the state.
In the circumstance of the escalating tension in the APC and to forestall a potential collateral damage, Obaseki must be prevailed upon to bury his second term aspiration for peace to prevail in the APC. The APC’s platform can then be lent to the promotion of the candidature of a carefully-selected person who enjoys statewide acceptance as well as approbation across party lines.
· Ojeifo, an Abuja-based journalist, contributed this piece via email@example.com