Initially I had wanted to caption this piece “The Comrade’s Last Wish” but changed my mind and went for the one above. As a writer one wrestles, sometimes, with titles for articles but in the end one arrives at settling for a better one that would convey a message. Governor Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole’s last wish may not be, after all, what his detractors and critics would want us believe. That is, aspiring to become a glorified godfather of Edo state politics in the mould of expired Anthony Anenih. Or destabilising the politics of the state like a bull in a China shop before bowing out in the near future. Or worse still, wanting desperately to install someone, a lackey who would not live up to expectation or measure up to the landmark achievements of the present occupant of Dennis Osadebay government house in Benin city. The comrade-governor is leaving behind a big shoe — one difficult to fill but good candidates abound in Edo State.
Comrade Oshiomhole came to power in Edo state as an action governor, a no-nonsense seasoned unionist who was not afraid of reforms in the system or politics of godfatherism that nearly ‘killed’ the ‘heartbeat of the nation’ before his celebrated ascendancy. Prior to his arrival onto the scene Benin City remained a “developing village” where witches and wizards congregated at wee hours of the night to hatch evil bloody plots. The two PDP Governors that preceded his emergence (Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor and Lucky Igbinedion) performed below average and made the people of the state poorer infrastructurally and economically. Igbinedion was the worst governor ever! He seemed to be content on being called the son of Igbinedion (a wealthy family in Benin city and Okada wonderland) and he had fun frolicking with beautiful Uniben undergraduates (to satisfy his libido problem) as governance suffered.
By the time the ‘Prince’ left office billions of Naira and millions of Dollars had been looted from the state coffers! The lucky Lucky had fought a bitter political battle with the ex-governor (now APC National Chairman) John Odigie-Oyegun for the governorship of the state decades ago with the latter trouncing him at the polls. As a student in Benin City then we witnessed the ‘guber war’ play out on state radio and TV and on campaign grounds across the state. It was reminiscent of the nostalgic Ogbemudia/Ambrose Ali gubernatorial crossfire. Lucky was desperate to become Governor after the scandal that trailed his Chairmanship of Oredo Local Government Area. But when, eventually, he got power he made a whole mess of it. Before his rise to the top controversy had manifested itself over the gruesome murder of George Idah in his office as Chairman of Oredo Local Govt. Needless to say here that fingers were pointed at his direction as the culprit.
Few years ago I went back home for the burial of my late mother and after the burial I had spent memorable time in Benin City for few weeks having some fun and good times with old friends and relations. One fateful day on Mission Road while driving to Aerodrome Close to see a student friend I saw a gathering of people at James Watt junction and decided to stop briefly as I sighted a man wearing khaki uniform looking much like the Comrade Governor. I got closer to the scene and behold the diminutive Governor inspecting some road rehabilitation project under the sun! People were hailing him as he walked around making sure the contractor was using quality materials for the road. I left with a good impression of an action governor who suffers no fool gladly.
Again, one year later I visited home briefly for the one-year post-burial rite of my mother. As I came back to Benin City from the village I had another encounter with the Comrade but this time he was inside his official car. I was driving towards the Immigration office in Ikpoba Hill near the Ramat Park to obtain a new passport (since the one I came back with had just expired). Before Ramat Park at Ikpoba Slope/Ikpoba River axis an executive car with the number plate of the number one Edo citizen just passed by without blaring of sirens or line of convoy of cars or even elaborate security escort! When you are a popular governor who enjoys the goodwill of the people you lead then your security is guaranteed even alone on the streets.
It is however surprising that an effective government led by the academically accomplished man like Oshiomhole could be associated with the “iconoclastic” conundrum involving the Governor’s tribute to the departed great monarch, Oba Erediuwa. You have got great minds in the government including one Louis Odion (a friend on facebook who had lost his job as Commissioner), Chief Press Secretary Peter Okhiria and the notorious ‘Babangidaist’ Prince Kazeem Afegbua, the new Commissioner for Information and Orientation. Or does the exit of Odion have an intellectual impact on the state government leading to grammatical challenge? The reverred Oba cannot be an “iconoclast” for all we care! Where, by the way, is Hon. Patrick Obahiagbon?
Oshiomhole brought hope and aspiration to a people subjugated for years and treated as glorified slaves in their own land and country. He somewhat ‘freed’ them from this ‘slavery’ emancipating them and empowering them economically. He promised to bring change and change he brought! Benin City was given an infrrastructural facelift that the ancient city deserved. Old roads were rehabilitated and new ones constructed. Public schools were built and delapidated old ones rehabilitated. The hinterland was not left out as the towns and villages saw the ‘Oshio’ magic at work. Edo state in general witnessed a man of vision at work, serving the people and making their interest count in policy formulation and implementation. In Nigeria few governors can be compared to the Comrade’s stature and achievements. When a good leader comes onto the scene to liberate a long-suffering people they rejoice and thank providence for good tidings.
Now Comrade Adams’ tenure is nearing the end and the politics of Edo state is being heated up for a successor. The impression we are getting, sadly, is that Oshiomhole is not favourably disposed to his deputy (Dr. Pius Odubu) succeeding him. A failed attempt on the life of the embattled loyal Deputy Governor had been reportedly executed and rumours of fetish connections and recriminations fly around town. The state house of assembly has seen battles recently for control with the impeachment of the Speaker, Victor Edoror, who was described by those behind the impeachment as an authoritarian who “eats money as the red squirrels eat the palm nut”! The newly-elected Speaker, Mrs Elizabeth Ativie, led an entourage that visited the Governor recently and was apologising to the local strongman for not being ‘informed’ in advance about the impeachment. That ‘confession’ is not only laughable but portrayed Madam Ativie as a stooge. Pray, when did the normal change in the leadership of an assembly become something a governor must know about and decide for or against?
From every indication it appears the Comrade-Governor has made up his mind over who to hand over to as the anointed one. And no opposition to this choice is being tolerated from any quarters. But we hasten to remind the Comrade of the scenario that played out in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, during the last gubernatorial poll in the state. The out-going incumbent, Martins Elechi, had ‘vowed’ that his deputy (and now Governor) would never succeed him but he failed woefully in his imposition plot as the man he had despised became governor against his wish and against all odds! Sometimes power works that way and nothing is impossible before God! The Comrade must play the game according to the rules if he wants his legacy of greatness to endure.
In Umuahia Abia State, the former imperial Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu, had done everything within his power to get elected as Governor his then detained Chief of Staff, Theodore Orji. Today they are not on speaking terms and when Orji was the governor he did everything to undermine Kalu politically even going to the extreme of ‘killing’ his godfather politically in the state. In Makurdi, Benue state, the former Governor George Akume had anointed his successor Gabriel Suswam who won the election and assumed office as governor but today they are at loggerheads ‘warring’ over whose stewardship or legacy in Benue is greater than the other’s. Just few examples of how a godson could rise in ‘rebellion’ against the overbearing godfather whose thought of political entitlement is made to look ordinary.
We say a resounding No to Governor Oshiomhole’s attempt at hubristic self-demystification. We say no to his politics of exclusion, division and discord in the twilight of his second tenure as Governor. We say no to the Comrade’s spirited efforts at imposition of a candidate in the coming Edo guber polls. We say no to Oshiomhole’s anti-democratic tendencies and fancies. We reject his overbearing meddlesomeness in the guber battle for his succession. We say no to the comrade’s ‘godfatheric’ dispositions. He must allow for a free and fair contest where the best would emerge and surpass his legendary achievements in Edo State. He must not allow himself to be deceived by any ‘demon’ within by believing that he is a god and therefore perfect in his decisions or actions. He cannot claim to be the only person who solely determines what happens politically in the state as Anenih did. We say no to the atmosphere of intimidation and dictatorship pervading the entire political landscape in Edo State.
The Heartbeat of the nation deserves much better! The land of the great Idahosa, Giwa, Ogbemudia, ‘Robin Hood’ Anini, Ali and Dokpesi deserves no less! Long live democracy in Edo State!