Leadership bytes from Edo

When Adams Oshiomole was jumping up and down campaigning for Godwin Obaseki in 2016 to succeed him as governor in Edo State, no one could have imagined that the relationship between him and his protégé would be headed south shortly thereafter. Obaseki was Chairman of the Edo State Economic and Strategy Team in Oshiomole’s government but was literally handpicked by Oshiomole to be his successor. Oshiomole traversed the whole of Edo State to sell his “product” since Obaseki was not a mainstream politician. Pitched against a seemingly more popular Pastor Ize Iyamu from the opposition PDP, it took all the goodwill and resources that Oshiomole could muster to get Obaseki a narrow win. After his candidate’s election, Oshiomole went ahead to become the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, a development that, properly managed, should have stood Obaseki and Edo State in vantage stead.

However, hardly was Obaseki sworn in that it became clear to everyone that all was not well between him and his former principal. To the chagrin of everyone, things got so awry with everything falling apart in a way that the centre could no longer hold.

The aftermath is that from all indications, Obaseki may not get the party’s ticket for a second term in office, having been disqualified on the technicality of certificate inconsistency in a screening process presided over by a team assembled by Oshiomole in his position as National Chairman. In an ironical twist of fate, Obaseki appears to have lost the ground to Ize Iyamu, his former rival in the opposition party who, shortly after losing the election, crossed over to the ruling party and has remained loyal to Oshiomole. He has been cleared by the screening committee for the gubernatorial contest! Information as at the time of writing this indicated that Obaseki was about to cross to the opposition People’s Democratic Party to try his luck.

Without going into the merits, demerits of, or further details about all the intrigues, I wish to draw certain basic leadership lessons that Obaseki did not learn, and which may prove to be his political nemesis.

Obaseki’s experience should serve as object lesson to all aspiring and incumbent leaders that those who do not learn from history will become history. Indeed, it is true that many of life’s lessons are learnt after the fact. Only few ever learn forward enough to avoid the pitfalls that buried others before them. With the benefit of hindsight, Obaseki should have learnt from the experiences of Rochas Okorocha of Imo State and Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State when they attempted to lock horns with the constitutional number one citizen of the party, the National Chairman. If Oshiomole had gone into oblivion after 2016, it would probably have been easy for Obaseki to have taken him on with ease. But Oshiomole is a cat with nine lives who has developed survival strategies from his labour union leadership experience. Besides, he seems to enjoy the support of the top echelon of the party at the national level. So, naïve as he appears, for him to have emerged  chairman of his party right after leaving office speaks volumes about the level of influence he wields in the party. To tackle a man with such strong antecedents, you don’t assume too many things.

Kicking so violently as Obaseki did against the same system and structure that provided the ladder for him to climb is foolhardiness considering the fact that he was a technocrat who did not understand the intricate labyrinths of the political terrain. Oshiomole was the face everyone saw during the campaigns and he put every instrument of state behind Obaseki’s election. Seeing someone like that as an impediment and going all out to attack him so openly and brazenly is like biting the fingers that fed you.

Far too many leaders tend to forget that people are the ladders that the universe sets in place to accelerate our progress. They are not there because they are perfect but because they are relevant. It is suicidal to cut off the ladder after you have got to the top. You will need one coming down and it may not be easy to construct yours from your new-found dizzying heights. In politics, the more significant and influential friends you have in your corner, the better.  If Obaseki was not planning to seek a second term, it would not have mattered. He could have got away with it.

As you advance in life, never be under the illusion that you can drown those who taught you how to swim. No matter how terrible you think a benefactor is, if his imprint is on your pathway to the top, never make him regret his investment of trust in you. Unless his name is Jesus Christ, nobody rewards open treachery with an embrace, especially if the perceived traitor has not openly sought reconciliation in the same overt way he carried out his hideous acts. Obaseki should have learnt from the Ambode versus Tinubu imbroglio in Lagos.

If you found anyone’s back good enough to climb on, even if for nothing else, honour them for the fact that they staked their bet on you out of the several options that they had at the time they chose you! Even if you have to disagree with them on principle, it is uncharitable to literally drag them through the streets in a dance of ridicule. From the time he publicly called Oshiomole a liar, threatened him with arrest, stopped him from holding party meetings in the state, got him suspended from the party at the state level, tried to use the courts to remove him as National Chairman, inaugurated a minority over the majority in the House of Assembly, it was clear that Obaseki was kicking against pricks. Even after his last visit to Aso Rock where he was advised to mend fences with his former boss, Obaseki was still grandstanding and implying that peace would only be possible on his own terms as Oshiomole’s ‘leader and governor’! I chuckled and said as I listened to him, “Why does this guy not for once stoop to conquer and win the second term ticket first?” Oshiomole, veteran of many battles that he is, kept his gunpowder dry even as he held the ace close to his chest!

The “my way or the highway” leader who grandstands before he has mastered the ropes, will end up cutting his nose to spite his own face because he often forgets that the path to the top is usually riddled with booby traps that only others who view things from another dimension can see. Sycophants usually block that alternative view. I see many of Obaseki’s current hailers backing out, leaving him high and dry, when they see the balance of power tilt against him. And what is the value of a general going to battle without his troops behind him?

Will PDP give Obaseki the ticket? And will he win the election?

In Edo State, the die is cast. The battle-line is drawn. It will not be about who blinks. It will be about who learns!

Remember, the sky is not your limit, God is!



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