By Dr. Ugoji Egbujo
A couple of months ago, I watched Gov Obaseki talk about his plans to balloon palm oil production in Edo and I saw a Fashola. He was methodical. He spoke with conviction. He seemed passionate about delivering good governance.
But some months before that, I had seen Gov Obaseki inaugurate Edo House of Assembly at night. I had seen him labour in vain to justify the literal ostracizing of a two-third majority of members of the house. I had seen him bullishly defy efforts by the National Assembly to make the house reconvene properly so that the majority can choose the leaders of the house. And I had wondered how such an urbane man could choose such an insane course of action.
Only a ‘me first’ survivalist brutish attitude can make an intelligent man foist a minority leadership on the major.
I had once watched Governor Obaseki talk about good governance. And he had made me remember Chimaroke Nnamani and his seminal lectures. Obaseki had spoken all the right things, had spoken like a man of great ideas. He had spoken like a man in a hurry to change his state and the country.
But many months later, I heard the same Obaseki do what only an agbero would have done to stop the reception organized for Ize Iyamu on his return to the APC.
Obaseki baffles me.
I have heard Obaseki attribute his disagreement with Oshiomhole to his refusal to use Edo state’s money to satisfy entrenched interests. And he sounded like a man grounded in moral principles, determined to free the state from the clutches of prebendalism.
But I had heard the same governor say that Oshiomhole had not made any personal financial demands on him and had not forced commissioners on him.
So it would appear that Obaseki is at war against the very grassroots structures he used as a ladder to climb to the top. In 2016, Obaseki wouldn’t have become governor without the support of Oshiomhole and his political structures. I watched those rallies, his voice could hardly be heard. He was a political featherweight then.
And that brings me to another point. Men who are grounded in moral principles are always careful not to be seen as traitors. If a principled candidate has no feathers and he borrows feathers from vultures to fly then when he has reached the top of the Iroko he cannot abandon the vultures without being a moral reprobate. He would not be expected to loot the treasury to feed the vultures. But he must let the vultures get crumbs. If he hated vultures and their baldness so much then he shouldn’t have borrowed feathers from vultures when he was practically wingless. Then you can imagine if he actually borrowed feathers from pigeons and conjured reasons he must abandon the pigeons after he achieved success. Then his ingratitude would be diabolical.
I must confess I have seen proteges break way from their god fathers. It’s now almost a rule in Nigeria that proteges must break away. But I have never seen a man brought out from political obscurity by another, and catapulted to the position of state governor,who has vilified his benefactor the way Obaseki has done to Oshiomhole.
I listened to Obaseki threaten to deal with Oshiomhole if he came to the sea to campaign and I shook my head. If Oshiomhole were just another godfather, the attitude of Obaseki would have been evil. But Oshiomhole is not just a godfather, he is the current national chair of the party to which Obaseki still belongs. And that makes Obaseki’s outburst sacrilegious.
I cannot fathom the sort of education that births enigmas like the Edo governor. One moment he is an erudite scholar espousing moral principles and democratic ideals. The next moment he is something else, literally forbidding two thirds of the members of state legislature from taking part in choosing their leadership. Having occupied high political offices in Edo, over the last 12 years, how has Obaseki not managed to learn tact or acquire the merest of emotional intelligence?
Obaseki could have genuine grievances. I agree. He could have been wronged in many ways. But no thoughtful person would threaten the national chairman of his party who has been the most important instrument in his political life the way he has done publicly. Whatever are his reasons, what the public sees of him is peevishness and belligerence. You can’t inaugurate a house of assembly clandestinely. You can’t lock out two third majority. That’s absolute nonsense!
Obaseki is not an Oba !
Edo governorship elections are months away. The governor can’t wake up and proscribe or suspend politics gatherings and rallies. He is not the police. He is a participant in that process. He can’t threaten to deal with other aspirants and their supporters.
I can’t end this without wondering what the president is doing. President Buhari is the leader of the party. He has been mute, at east publicly. He cannot sit astride and watch what is happening in Edo go on.
The National Assembly leadership had intervened . Obaseki spurned their efforts. It was reported that Dangote, El Rufai and Fayemi intervened, but their efforts proved futile. What’s the president waiting for? He cannot look away while a governor threatens the national chairman of his party in public.
This dispute and its unsightliness whittles the authority of the president. If the parties to the conflict cannot forge peace, then the rules must be spelt out and enforced by the president. The national chairman of the party runs the party partly on the president’s behalf. He must throw his weight behind the chairman or instruct him to change tack. If there are people in the corridors of power drumming the warlike rhythm Obaseki is dancing to, the president must stop them. The president’s legacy would be tarnished if he failed to keep the party intact by 2023.
The president must remember Bola Ige and what happened in 2001.
In 2001, President Obasanjo sat astride and allowed Omisore pour atrocious invective on Bola Ige who was his minister. That dispute created the atmosphere that enabled those who murdered Ige to carry out their heinous crime. I haven’t said Omisore murdered Ige. No. But such political disputes where threats are issued openly create the environment that can enable one or two supporters from any side to perpetrate real evil.
The president must act now!