IVBIẸDO N’UZỌMỌN, UWA GI’MAN ROIRO
HRH PRINCE EDUN AKENZUA
The curtain dropped in 2015 on the dramatic scenarios that made Comrade Adams Oshiomhole popular. The honeymoon was over. It was the twilight of his Administration. In July that year, I had a meeting with my brother, the Oba of Benin, Omo n’Oba Erediauwa. He asked me if BLT had begun searching for a successor to the Governor. The Oba named one person he believed would be a suitable successor.
Few months after the meeting, BLT began the process of seeking for a suitable person to succeed the Governor. Oshiomhole had assured me on three different occasions that Benins would themselves nominate the person to succeed him and that he would give the person maximum support. The third occasion he gave me the assurance was on September 16, 2016in my house. He had come to introduce his beautiful spouse to me. He was accompanied by Rev. Micheal Egharevba and his Chief Security Officer (CSO).
We sat in my Study Room where my daughter, (Mrs. Yvonne Osunde) decorated her with coral bead necklace, bangles, and ear-rings. After the short ceremony, she and my daughters moved to the Living Room where Rev. Egharevba and others were sitting.
Alone with Oshiomhole, I raised the issue of his successor, the desire of Benins to choose their own candidate by themselves and his promise to support whoever they chose. He said: “Your Highness, I’ve told you before. I assure you again, Benins will name the man they want. I will give him maximum support. That’s the only way I will show gratitude to our Papa (the Oba) for the support he gave me which led us to this stage. There’s no other way I can show my appreciation of the fatherly support,” I believed him. He sounded earnest.
I disclosed to him the man the Oba believed would be a suitable successor to him and asked him if he would give the man his support. He said he would, if he was a member of his party. He added: “My only fear is the new law made by the party that a person who has not been registered for a given period, cannot run for any position in the party”.
In January 2016, BLT invited fourteen persons known to be interested in the governorship position to came and obtain expression of interest form, free of charge. The fourteen persons, drawn across party lines, were: Prof. Osayuki Oshodin, Prof. S.E. Orobator, Engr. Chris Ogiemwonyi, Dr. Pius Odubu, Barr. Osarodion Ogie, Prof. Ernest Izevbigie, Pharm Chris Iyare, Maj-Gen. Charles Airhiavbere, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Sen. Ehigie Uzamere, Chief Solomon Iyobosa Edebiri, Adviser Nowamagbe, Dr. Tonnie Iredia and Col. Wisdom Ogbewekon. Nine of them responded.
Towards the end of October, a rumour burst out that Oshiomhole was going to pick and sponsor a person to succeed him. I did not believe it. Did he not assure me only a month ago that Benins would choose their own man? BLT members who heard the rumour suggested that BLT should issue a statement and re-iterate its position against godfatherism but I did not think BLT should act on a rumour. I requested for time to enable me contact the Governor and find out from him if the rumour was true.
I wrote letters and sent text messages to him requesting for audience. I tried to speak with him on phone. He did not reply my letters and txt messages. I could not reach him on phone. In November, it dawned on me that he did not want to grant me audience. The rumour got stronger, so did the pressure on BLT to issue a press statement. Consequently, a press conference was called on January5, 2016.
After the Press conference, Oshiomhole announced the name of Godwin Obaseki as the person he had chosen to be his successor. Thus, he unilaterally foisted a candidate on Edo people! It was bewildering. What happened to the promise he made to His Majesty, the Omo n’Oba and to the people of Benin? For how long had he nursed the idea of sponsoring a successor? Did he demolish the godfather at Uromi in order to take his place?
In a press interview recently, his former Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General, Mr. Henry Idahagbon, inadvertently confirmed that Oshiomhole is a godfather and also undemocratic. He disclosed that Oshiomhole called him up at 10pm one day and told him he had decided on who would succeed him.
He said: “I have the singular honour of being the first politician the Governor then, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole conferred in on his choice of Godwin Obaseki as a successor… I asked his permission to call Obaseki and inform him. I called him. He was already asleep…Oshiomhole de-odorized him (Obaseki) to sell him to the public because he had made up his mind that Obaseki should be his successor…” (Reliance Newspaper, Number 258 – July 23)
Idahagbon also said: “I have been part of many gubernatorial campaigns. I know of leaders collecting N50million, N100 million, just one leader, to support the candidacy of a person. I am not aware of any leader in APC that collected N5 million from Godwin Obaseki. Everybody worked for him, not because of him, but because of the enormous goodwill which Comrade Adams Oshiomhole had. Nobody collected money from him….”
This disclosure shows that the cause of their quarrel with Obaseki is money. Obaseki does not “service” party leaders as Oshiomhole did. Money palaver. Another Oshiomhole’s associate says he is also temperamental and impulsive. They cite the cases of Major Oloye, the widow petty-trader, Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia and the Ojuromi of Uromi, to buttress this.
Oloye was said to have been overzealous while executing an official assignment. Oshiomhole was angry. He got him arrested and carried away to detention in the booth of a car. He was released though, after Oshiomhole cooled down. He compensated Oloye and appointed him as Permanent Secretary.
Ogbemudia was allocated a vehicle by Governor Oserhiemen Osunbor’s Administration. Osunbor was the man who defeated Oshiomhole in the gubernatorial election in 2007 though his victory was over-turned in Oshiomhole’s favour. Ogbemudia was Osunbor’s supporter and Anenih’s friend. Oshiomhole sensationally ordered him to return the vehicle. Ogbemudia complied and returned the vehicle. In his sober moment, Oshiomhole gave him two vehicles to replace the one he took from him.
The widow exhibited her wares in a wheel barrow on the foot-walk near Oba Market. Oshiomhole was angry that she flouted the rule against hawking or selling on the foot walk. He slapped her for breaking the rule. On being informed that she was a widow, he yelled at her: “Go and die”. Later, in his sober moment, he gave her Two million Naira and employed her as his Special Assistant.
Ojuromi, the traditional ruler of Uromi was said to have, gone to a polling station during an election. He saw a lady giving out money to entice people to vote for APC. The Onojie was said to have ordered her to stop doing so. There was an altercation. The Onojie was said to have slapped her and got her pushed away from the polling station. She reported the assault to Oshiomhole who gave the Onojie a query and slammed a week suspension on him.
The lady and her parents went to apologise to the Onojie for their daughter’s exchange of words with the monarch. Being indigenes of Uromi and his subjects, the Onojie forgave them. The atonement by the lady’s family and the pardon by the Onojie, were not good enough for the Governor. He converted the one-week suspension to out-right dethronement. He did not inform the State Council of Traditional Rulers, a body set up to advise government on traditional matters, of the Onojie’s action.
Oshiomhole left office without doing anything about the dethronement. The people of Uromi appealed to His Majesty Oba Ewuare II to intervene. Following the Oba’s intervention, Governor Obaseki lifted the order and restored the Onojie to his throne.
When the Proclamation Letter issue started, the Benin monarch and other traditional rulers in the State severally, intervened to resolve the matter between Oshiomhole and Obaseki. They did not succeed. The Oba then led the Traditional Rulers in the State to Abuja to appeal to President Buhari to reconcile Oshiomhole and Obaseki, both of whom are Edo sons and members of APC.
Before the President reacted to the request, Oshiomhole, the National Chairman of APC, looked the other way while Ihonvbere and Akpatason, both also Edos and APC members of the House of Representatives, raised a motion in the House calling the House to take over Edo State House of Assembly. That show of disrespect to our Traditional Fathers was reminiscent of Oshiomhole’s dethronement of the Ojuromi without the courtesy of informing the State Council of Traditional Rulers.
A group that calls itself Edo People’s Movement, EPM, does not want Obaseki to return for the second term. The group which says it is a group within the State APC, expressed concern that APC would lose the State if Obaseki was allowed to run in 2020. According to the group, Obaseki told the Party’s State Secretary, Mr. Lawrence Okah, to resign because of his “closeness” to the National Chairman, Comrade Oshiomhole (Vanguard, May 28 p. 16).
Why would the Governor of a state, who is a member of APC, be angry that the secretary of his party is close to the National Chairman of the party? Did the BMC, report the governor to the State APC? What did it say or do about it?
Idahagbon said they did not read Obaseki rightly before making him governor. “We saw him as a cool, quiet and urbane gentleman, soft spoken. In his own way likeable, a reluctant politician. He was never interested in politics. He got his APC card barely six months or a year before the elections. Any time you tell him about politics, his response was “no, no, no. I am not interested; Politicians and their wahala.” He was very dismissive of politicians and politics. Unfortunately looking back in retrospect we didn’t read him rightly. We read him so very wrongly…”
In order to put in its proper perspective this statement by Idahagbon should read what another of Oshiomhole’s close associate, Lukman, says. Lukman, said he known Oshiomhole in his trade unionist days. According to him, Oshiomhole used to call him and two others “dogged fighters.”
Lukman says: “Lukman here is Godwin. I’m not sure you have met him before but let me tell you that he has been part of my idea of my being a governor. He was operating from the Lagos axis and I can say he organized the first fund-raising that made money available for my initial activities here in Benin while in government, he is the head of our economic team and the brain behind the success of my government…..
“It will shock you to know that Godwin rendered this huge service to the State without being paid, either as allowances or as salaries”. Then with a sense of finality and, in characteristic display of his usual authoritative Oshiomhole concluded: “I’m going to hand-over to Godwin so you people should work together…..”
“….With that, I stood up, had a hand-shake with Comrade and Godwin, and departed for a birthday party for which I was already running late….My phone rang. Behold, it was Comrade Governor calling. I had to leave for a meeting with Oga. I met Oga in the house with Barrister Henry Idahagbon, the then Attorney. Idahagbon of the State and Hon. Victor Enobakhare, the then Egor LG Council Chairman. They were discussing the issue of paying the accumulated unpaid salaries of Egor LG workers.
“…the matter of my successor has gone beyond personal or emotional consideration. First and foremost, the present financial position of the state is not as strong as our people want to think or believe. The good thing is that even though we are in heavy debts, we used the borrowed funds for infrastructural development, especially the Benin Water Storm project. Only Godwin understands how the money was borrowed, the repayment plans and the conditions attached.
The Benin water storm project has not been concluded but we have made appreciable progress, even though it is not easy for our people to understand how such humongous amount was spent. It was our plan to use the funds to undertake the water storm project and open up the main roads; Airport Rod, Akpakpava Road, Siluko Road etc. so that my successor would undertake the reconstruction of the link roads…..
“You see, Lukman, the state cannot survive a new governor, who is a politician, someone who has political structures and party leaders to service someone who is generous with funds. I chose Godwin because he has no political network to cater for… he would be very heartless and brutal to politicians. Godwin has never come to terms with why I should be giving public monies to politicians, monies they never worked for, according to his perception of it…..”
One will see from the above excerpts that Oshiomhole brought Obaseki into politics as an instrument he wanted to use to execute his pre-conceived programme and policy.
Oshiomhole, like Idahagbon, knows that Obaseki does not like politics and politicians. He knows he is frugal and has “not come to terms” with the way he gives out public money.
In this triangle – Oshiomhole, Obaseki and Idhagbon who has misread each other? It seems Idahagbon has misread Oshiomhole.
Finally, all TRUE Benin should realize that the present battle is not between Oshiomhole and Obaseki but between Oshiomhole and corporate Benin. Ivbiedo, uwag’imanroiro