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Obaseki and the dialectics of oppositional politics

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Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State

The political developments in Edo state, presently, are akin to a game of football in which two teams are determined to run away with victory.  The match has been intense and energy-sapping.  Controversial goals have been scored.  And just now, due to massive pressure, an attempt to deflect a goal-bound shot has resulted in an own goal by one of the teams. I will return to the specifics of this happenstance shortly.

As it is, there is an existential threat to the top niche of one of the teams.  This is the parody of the reality of the face-off between the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the heartbeat of the nation. The PDP team under the captainship of its state chair, Chief Dan Osi Orbih, has put the ruling APC team, led by the new captain, Governor Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki, under intense pressure, forcing it to commit a rash of defensive blunders. Team PDP is on rampage, seeking for goals. Captain Obaseki is reworking the architecture of the wall of defence in ways that are different from the former APC’s team captain and former governor, Comrade Adams Aliu Oshiomhole’s line of defence. The review in attack and defence strategies is what has put APC’s team in disarray. The essential synergy between the frontline and the rearguard is missing.

Captain Obaseki’s idealism about governance does not resonate well with APC’s leaders who traversed the nooks and crannies of the state in a rare electioneering blitzkrieg to sell his governorship candidature to the peopl.  Leading the train of salesmen, Oshiomhole had pragmatically carried little-known Obaseki on his back in disdain of critics who approximated the succession race to a master-prot enterprise. Oshiomhole was single-minded to deliver Obaseki as his successor at all cost. And, the truth is that Oshiomhole was a veritable cannon fodder while in the saddle. He absorbed the onslaughts by the opposition PDP much more than Obaseki is doing.  Oshiomhole understood the proactive steps to take and the counter moves to make either to match the PDP’s onslaught or neutralize it altogether. The labour generalissimo could not be beaten to the game of the public space because he belongs in that realm.

Oshiomhole is also a compulsive verbal pugilist.  He effectively deployed that gift to rattle and bamboozle the Edo public.  He used it to befuddle issues in which his chicanery would have become evident. By that nimbleness, he had always escaped essential indictment. Obaseki is not so gifted. Sadly, the Obaseki-led Change Team has unraveled as tentative in the tricky and dialectical game of accountability and stewardship to which the opposition has audaciously engaged it.

It is obvious that Obaseki did not learn all the tricks in the art and science of political shenanigans and administrative obfuscation from his boss and predecessor, although he could still tap his predecessor for guidance.  But, it does appear that he wants to run his government without interference.  There is nothing wrong in that.  It is also good to adopt a new model or method in governance especially in the management of human and financial resources in a democratic rule.  Obaseki, for instance, has decided not to load his government with experienced and grassroots politicians who worked for his election, in the first four years, in subtle rejection of Oshiomhole’s advice that he should reward them now. The dearth of experienced politicians in his government is obvious in his political and strategic missteps. Obaseki is more technocrat-biased.  He is said to be working hard on infrastructure and other deliverables that will make the people to be happy. Sidestepping or de-emphasising the political class in governance maybe a good approach for the first term, but politically, strategically, it is a double-edged sword.

The opposition is capitalizing on Obaseki’s perceived shortcomings to savage his government. Obaseki has also unwisely jumped into the arena of conflict with the opposition.

Sending petitions to the police to interrogate the opposition over claims of fraud was not a strategic option to Oshimohole, despite being the chief security officer of the state. This is where Obaseki has missed it.  He should not have encouraged a petition to the State Commissioner of Police, Babatunde Kokumo, over allegations by the PDP that the state government diverted bags of rice meant for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the state. It was embarrassing that the state government would react to obvious inanity. That episode has exposed the quality of advice that the governor gets from his advisers.  The Secretary to the State Government, Barrister Osarodion Ogie, who signed the petition on behalf of the government, must have done so with the haste of a lawyer rather than otherwise with the equanimity of a strategic politician.  Orbih’s offence was that, during a radio interview, he falsely and maliciously stated that the Edo State Government was involved in a criminal conspiracy to divert 4,721 bags of rice released by the Federal Government for distribution to IDPs in the state.

According to the state government, The purpose of this complaint is to formally bring these weighty and unsubstantiated allegations to your attention and to request a thorough investigation with a view to establishing the veracity or otherwise of the same.  It is the contention of the Edo State Government that Chief Dan Orbih should be called upon to provide evidence of the serious crimes he has alleged to have been committed by the Edo State Government and to furnish your command with facts, details and proofs of the allegations he has made in the public domain.

Orbih had honoured the police invitation and returned to the trenches. For me, that petition was an own goal by the state government. The PDP was quick to mock the APC government by also sending a petition to the Police, alleging criminal incitement of the public against the leadership and membership of the opposition party by the state government. The PDP claimed that the state government’s publicists have consistently, in their various press releases, referred to its members and leaders as bandits, rogues, liars and fraudsters who stole the resources of the people.

It is obvious that there is no let up in tension being piled by the PDP on the APC government.  Latching on the rice allegation should not have been the real McCoy for proving that PDP might have been bandying false claims all along, except the state government had been guilty as alleged with the other previous claims. The state government should have taken the PDP to task on other weightier claims of fraud.

The building and non-equipment of the Central Hospital, Benin; the planned move to privatise it; and, the withdrawal of N500 million monthly for eight years by one Mr. A.A. Kadiri under the guise of urgent security challenges by the Oshiomhole administration are some weightier claims that should have been interrogated.  It is, thus, lugubrious that it is the allegation of diversion of donated bags of rice by the federal government that the state government would dissipate energy on.

Assuming arguendo that the allegation of rice diversion was not even true, would it have been enough to mitigate the damage caused by other serious allegations previously leveled against the government to which it has failed to forcefully respond as it has done in this instant case? The petition to the police has, at best, reinforced the impression that there is truth in the other allegations. If the petition to the police is, therefore, not an own goal by the Obaseki government, I wonder what is.


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