Each time I watch Edo State governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, dancing during a campaign rally in support of the gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Godwin Obaseki, it reminds me of the saying by the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, that: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” This, precisely, is the portrait of Oshiomhole in Edo State. But, can he succeed in pushing through this grand deception that has characterised, especially, his second term and the ongoing electioneering for the September 10 gubernatorial election?
Generally, in Nigeria and in most countries of the world, the collectivity of the electorate has always shown itself to be an ass, which is gullible. Instances are not difficult to name: the Brexit Referendum in which a majority of the British electorate voted before reflecting on the implications of their votes and the blind followership that made Donald Trump the candidate of the Republican Party in the United States of America are two recent examples. One could even add the last presidential election in Nigeria as a reflection of how unenlightened the electorate can behave.
But, I do not think that our people in Edo State are as gullible as the British or Americans. When, therefore, the other day, Oshiomhole introduced Obaseki as his agent committed to continuity, the people were puzzled as to what he meant. In politics, continuity implies positive improvement, desired change or progressive development mounted on something that is also positive and desirable. Any politician talking about continuity must be sure he has a legacy on ground, for, as conventional wisdom has it, you can’t give what you don’t have, nor can you build something on nothing.
What can Oshiomhole bequeath to Obaseki? First, in terms of conduct and moral character, I cannot think of any respectable Edo family that would send its child to Oshiomhole for moral upbringing. The Comrade Governor hardly finds the need to respect tradition or culture, except when it is materially or politically rewarding to do so. He is known for his caustic tongue and unsympathetic attitude. Oshiomhole once told a widowed Benin street trader who pleaded for leniency, when his Task Force was on rampage, to “go and die.” In Edo State, the Comrade Governor has insulted virtually all elder statesmen, politicians and private individuals, who have cause to disagree with him. He vowed openly to demystify those he described as “godfathers” in the state and, in fact, he once boasted that he had silenced them, referring to Edo elders such as Anenih, Igbinedion and so on. In recent times, every one of Oshiomhole’s campaign rallies has become an exercise in tongue-lashing of prominent Edo elders.
Ironically, Oshiomhole who started his political career with the sole mission of wiping out “godfatherism” in Edo State has now become the sole godfather in the state. Or what else is he to APC politicians in the state, especially Obaseki and his running mate, Phillip Shaibu, who do nothing at political rallies but listen to the rumblings of their Master’s voice? It is morally base, duplicitous and ignoble. But that is even less offensive than the wide contradiction between the Comrade Governor’s avowed posture against corruption and what he does in reality. Oshiomhole now has the habit of threatening his political opponents with Buhari’s anti-corruption trap while he is unable to account for the N1.4 trillion he has received from various sources in almost eight years, including the monthly receipt of N500 million on security and the huge amount of external borrowing in dollars. These are some of the legacies Oshiomhole wants Obaseki to continue with.
Just as Oshiomhole claims to have a record of acts of corruption and misappropriation perpetrated by his political opponents, some of them, too, surely have records of his own iniquities, both moral and financial. One obvious fact is that the Governor has not been fair to Edo people in the distribution of the resources of the state. In the few areas of infrastructure development, roads, water resources, educational facilities and so on, the bulk has gone to Oshiomhole’s own village and local government area of the state. Take, for instance, his village of Iyamho, which is being transformed with the construction of a new university at the neglect of other tertiary institutions such as those at Ekpoma, Ekiadolor and Benin City. To think that the people of Edo state are incapable of perceiving these acts of injustice and unfair distribution of their commonwealth is to insult the collective intelligence of the people.
Politically, the worst victim of Oshiomhole’s so-called agenda of continuity is Obaseki, the gubernatorial candidate of the APC. Although Obaseki lacks the leadership qualities of his rival in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, the participation by Oshiomhole in the APC campaign rallies is an avoidable deficit. Does Oshiomhole think, for instance, that Owan and Akoko-Edo people in his Edo North zone are happy that he single-handed picked and foisted his clan’s man, Phillip Shaibu, a current member of the House of Representatives, from Uzarue, on the APC as deputy governorship candidate? Is he saying that there are no deputy governorship materials in Owan and Akoko-Edo areas? He dared opposition from within his party to commit this political gaffe after he had dismissed Edo Central zone as unfit to produce a deputy governor. These actions have portrayed him as divisive, sectional and selfish. These are rubbing off negatively on his puppet candidates for the September 10 gubernatorial election. Oshiomhole carries a baggage that any decent politician should avoid. But it is already too late to genuinely correct those egregious mistakes; I believe that Obaseki would have been better off on his own speaking to issues, especially at campaign rallies.
Mr Ehigiator, a public affairs commentator, sent this piece from Benin City.