Between Obaseki and Oshiomhole: Matters arising
There has been some disquiet in Edo State and indeed, in the country over the palpable lack of rapprochement between the former governor of Edo State and National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and the current governor of the State, also of the APC, His Excellency Godwin Obaseki. Incidentally, this is happening in the run-up to the gubernatorial election in 2020 in Edo State for which the stakes on who holds the flag of the party are high. As Mid-West region, later Bendel State, the military governor, the late Brigadier – General Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia, was an iconic administrator with considerable wit and grit in pragmatic governance, sign- posting several landmark infrastructures to his credit. He was education – friendly and established the Mid-West Institute of Science and Technology which metamorphosed to the University of Benin, Benin City. He provided bursary to university students of Bendel State origin and championed sporting activities in the State. Consequently, we were proud to be ‘Bendelites’ at the time. I had the privilege to meet him in Abuja at the latter part of his life and seized on the opportunity to express our appreciation for his remarkable achievement as governor of the State. Regrettably time did not permit me also to tell him that he failed to nurture for the State persons with similar virtues and commitment to development.
Thus, in the succeeding years after him, many of the military governors posted to the State were depressingly lackluster in matters of development with grave socio-economic consequences. However, for the record, governor Ambrose Alli, then of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), executing the programmes of the Party, made significant efforts at development and he established the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma. But after him not much happened. Indeed, under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and for most part, there was systemic underdevelopment of the State characterized by an overbearing influence of god-fathers, arrogance and impunity. The State then was always counted first from the rear judging by development indicators. It is perhaps for this reason that Senator Oserheimen Osunbor for the brief period he was governor attempted to show case practical development as an eye-opener for the people of the State. On the heels of a court judgement voiding Osunbor’s tenure, came Comrade Adams Oshiomole, then of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
Against the backdrop of pervading decrepit infrastructures and competing demands one must concede that Comrade Adams Oshiomole’s efforts at development of the State were in many ways, salutary, palpable and commendable. Faced with the stranglehold of entrenched godfathers in the State, it is on record that governor Oshiomhole did remarkably well to put them in check. Regrettably, in the process, he empowered new crop of dramatis personae who now seek to perpetuate what he tried to dislodge. Now in the saddle as governor, Godwin Obaseki is recognized, first as a technocrat and second as one who, behind the scene, contributed tremendously to the success of Comrade Oshiomhole. So far he has deployed his wealth of experience in corporate governance by a robust plan to lay an enduring foundation for sustainable socio –economic development of the State.
Specifically, he has given considerable attention to the education sector – basic and vocational with a blue print that has attracted national and international recognition. He has been working on road infrastructure across the state as well as opening up farm lands to assist farmers. In this regard, it is on record that he has cleared over 5000 hecters in land preparation across the State ostensibly to facilitate farming activities. He is working assiduously to develop an industrial park and a sea port given the strategic location of the State, underscored also by the potential multiplier effects of such projects in promotion of economic activities. Further, he has been working on improving primary health care services in the State as well as ensuring that worker welfare is taken care of by regular payment of their salaries and those of pensioners.
Indeed, he has brought finesse to governance by insisting on new rules of engagement in management of public affairs, sidelining political jobbers who live on the State without reciprocal contributions to the general good. Clearly, it needs be emphasized that governance is about service to the people and not to a coterie of privileged persons in society. Overall, there has been less of negative reports from Edo State in recent years which, in my opinion, is a reflection of good governance.
Then, what exactly is amiss between governor Obaseki and Comrade Oshiomhole? It is widely believed that Comrade Oshiomole played an important role for the emergence of Gowin Obaseki as governor of the State. Yes, in politics and indeed, in every human endeavour, that is what it is – someone, somewhere provides leverage for another person to succeed in a venture. But where such leverage is anchored on quid pro quo and overriding interest of benefactors detrimental to the general good, there is bound to be crisis.
Drawn to issues of loyalty to a benefactor while in office as governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, sometime in 2015 while being screened, prayed – ‘May your loyalty never be tested’- to which there was a resounding Amen by the Senators. Implicit in that prayer, in my humble opinion, is the recognition that conflicts ultimately arise between serving the general good and serving the interest(s) of benefactor(s) and the hard choice that must be made. In regard to the conflict in Edo State, governor Obaseki has demonstrated considerable candour by letting the cat out of the bag in saying he would not share money meant for development of the state to politicians, nay – political jobbers who add no value to uplifting the State. Given this undercurrent in the saga, governor Obaseki deserves support from all well-meaning Nigerians, particularly Edo indigenes who are desirous for development of the State. From the foregoing, the expectation, a priori, should be an automatic ticket for governor Obaseki on the platform of the APC for a second term in office. But from the Kogi State experience, and many others, such expectation is simplistic underscored by the reality that the ability to deliver on the general good is never a primal factor for selection of gubernatorial candidates in Nigeria. This has been demonstrated in Kogi State gubernatorial election by the apparent reward for non-performance, in landslide victory of the incumbent governor! Again, this is deja vu and a sad commentary on our governance system, over-centralized, retrogressive and disconnected from the people.
For the good people of Edo State desirous of continued development, the choice is clearly service delivery to them by persons elected to serve. The stranglehold of godfathers in the State, in their whims and caprices, evident in past governments with retrogressive outcome must be resisted and not allowed a foothold again. Therefore, the Governor, His Excellency Godwin Obaseki should remain focused on his development agenda, extirpate prebendalism and entrench the moral and ethical standards for sustainable governance of the State.
Prof. Eromosele, former deputy vice-chancellor (Academic), Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.