By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South
FOR anybody up-to-date with Government House, Benin-City, Edo State, the Heart Beat of the Nation, in the last 30 years and more, the sight, last Friday, February 18, was captivating.
A team of Editors from Vanguard Newspaper led by Deputy Editor, Adekunle Adekoya; Saturday Editor, Onochie Anibeze; Sunday Editor, Wale Akinola; News Editor, Ken Ehigiator; and Regional Editor, South-South/NDV Editor, Emma Amaize were at Government House, Benin City, to officially inform Governor Godwin Obaseki of his selection by the paper’s Board of Editors as Governor of the Year, 2021.
New creations with Emwanta, Osagie as dual host
As somebody who visited Government House, Benin City and interrelated with former governors of the state, Chief John Odigie- Oyegun and Chief Lucky Igbinedion in particular, the first thing I observed as we drove in were commanding new constructions that were not there up till August 2019, when I stopped at the place before my last Friday visit.
I was later to learn that one of the edifices, where the governor hosted Vanguard editors is the New Exco chamber rebuilt by him.
Knowing how bunged up things were in the place until this time, it is undoubted that the additions have created an amiable ambiance for visitors to Government House. It is custom-made with Information Communication Technology, ICT- propelled services that make any stopover electrifying.
And just behind it is the new Festival Hall where events or ceremonies that entail crowd can comfortably hold. It was used as Peoples Democratic Party, PDP situation room during the 2020 governorship re-election, played host to visiting PDP governors and also used for press conferences on situation reports regarding the election.
Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Mr. Andrew Emwanta and Special Adviser, Media Projects, Crusoe Osagie, kept the editors company as if they knew the governor would make inquiries later, which he did.
Lion of Edo politics
Governor Obaseki, who came straight from a program in Benin City where he flagged-off a 10-day ICT training for Junior Secondary School, JSS, teachers to equip them with requisite skills, competence and tools to improving learning and grow a new generation of students that can compete with their peers globally, was full of apology for keeping the editors waiting.
He was his typical self, pointblank and looked every inch the fighter he is, as he pinned his ears back to team leader, Adekoya, on Vanguard mission to Government House. I know that former National Chairman of defunct National Republican Convention, veteran politician and his close buddy, Chief Tom Ikimi, is the lion of Igueben politics, but Obaseki would have graduated to the lion of Edo politics after his last year’s re-election combat and victory.
Why Vanguard picked Obaseki—Adekoya
Simply, Adekoya, who presented a letter informing the governor of his award as the Governor of the Year 2021, for his sterling leadership clear-sightedness and government’s developmental gaits across all sectors of the state.
“We are here on behalf of the management of Vanguard Newspaper to present you a letter notifying you of your award as Governor of the Year 2021 after a selection process embarked on by the board of editors of Vanguard Newspaper.”
“We looked at uptake in investment promotion initiatives in your first term; Edo Basic Education Sector Transformation; EdoBest initiative; MEGA agenda for his second term; Make Edo Great Again (MEGA) Agenda for his second term; and other achievements and have been on the ground to take a tour of developmental projects in the state.
Leopard never changes its stripes
Blunt as ever, Obaseki retorted, “This selection came to me as a shock because I never saw Vanguard Newspapers as a friendly newspaper to my administration. We have evidence of this fact.
“The stories that were put out in the run-off to my reelection were not fair and didn’t reflect the true happenings, particularly the political stories.
“For the newspaper that I did not see as one of my friendly newspapers giving me an award, they obviously have done their work to select me.”
“For us, we are not an award-seeking administration as the greatest award we have ever gotten is from God and the people during the reelection in 2020. If you are reading newspapers across the country, we never had the opportunity for reelection but God made it possible.
“We are doing all to develop the state and make life better for Edo people using education which is one of our cardinal focus.
“Vanguard is our paper in the South-South but cannot be the newspaper in the newsstands alone as we are revamping the state-owned Nigerian Observer to compete with other newspapers in the newsstands,” he asserted.
The governor was also good-humored with the editors, especially during the introduction when he commented that this writer was among the hostile friends to his government.
It was the editors’ first meeting with him after his re-election, but certainly not my first bump into him.
My first encounter
As regional editor, I met Governor Obaseki, who assumed office as governor of Edo state, November 12, 2016, either late 2017 or early 2018. I am not very certain of date, but our former correspondent in the state, Simon Ebegbulem, now Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Imo state, smoothed the meeting.
I saw him as a focused administrator practically in a hurry to prove his mettle, just as he was also disassembling some programmes of his former boss and governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, which he did not find expedient to his administration and people of the state.
Duty call took me back to Edo state about August 2019, more than a year to the September 2020 election that saw Obaseki win his second term ticket. Second encounter did not take place within this period because of the fierce time-consuming battle.
By this time, things had falling apart between him and Oshiomhole, who God used as an instrument to bring him to power.
Indeed, Obaseki was not given a second chance given the perceived power and influence of Oshiomhole, who as then National Chairman of All Progressives Congress, APC, dispossessed him of the party’s governorship ticket, making him (Obaseki) to leave the party for rival PDP, which offered him its gubernatorial ticket.
Available information at the time was that Obaseki would be trounced, but with his dogged spirit, he kept fighting and spellbinding Oshimohole and his men. Many known heavyweight politicians in the state skewed to Oshiomhole, but Obaseki kept saying he had covenant with the masses, who were behind him.
In a report, “How Obaseki shocked opponents, battled NASS, to a standstill”, August 10, 2019, Saturday Vanguard detailed how Obaseki fought Oshiomhole to submission.
Part of the report read: “When Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, last month, stated that he was demonstrating what his predecessor and unquestionably, political mentor, National Chairman of All Progressives Congress, APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, taught his followers, including him, many accused him of impertinence, but cautiously looking at events in the past few months, he seemed to have spoken the unpleasant truth.
“Since the crisis in Edo APC broke out, especially after the controversial inauguration of the House on June 17, the governor has left no one in doubt that he is a fighter and a hard nut to crack with his nimble moves.”
He taught us how to fight godfathers
When in July 2019, some politicians were blackmailing the governor for purportedly fighting Oshiomhole during the House of Assembly crisis, he said it was Oshimohole that taught him how to fight godfathers.
The governor, who spoke through his deputy, Comrade Philip Shaibu, asserted: “What we have here is somebody trying to use the house to control the executive. We feel that we have fought godfather. Oshiomhole led us to a strong fight to rescue the state from the hands of godfathers in 2006.
“We have joined the crusade Oshiomhole started in 2007. We will not go back on the crusade because it is helping Edo people. We can now galvanize the people because they can see roads, they can see schools and infrastructure. This is because the money that used to go to the godfathers now goes to the people.
“Oshiomhole has taught us to follow the path of the people. He told us to do the needful and make sure we fight the godfathers and take the money back to the people. That is what he taught us and we will not depart from it,” he said.
For now, no bond with ex-NLC leader
Findings by Saturday Vanguard indicate that after the September 19 governorship election, there is no relationship between former Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC President, Oshimohole and Obaseki, apart from throwing jabs at each other. The All Progressives Congress (APC) has gone back to play the role of opposition party, but criticisms have not stopped the governor from going ahead with his programs.
His leadership team
The hard-fighting governor has moved on with politicians that drift with him. The fulcrum of his administration has been people like the former Speaker of the House of Assembly, who has been handling the e-registration of members into the PDP; his Deputy, Comrade Philip Shaibu; Secretary to State Government (SSG), Osarodion Ogie; Chief of Staff, Osaigbovo Iyoha; Speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon Marcus Onobun and other lawmakers.
Good relationship with Esama, Idahosa, others
The Esama of Benin and one-time part of the three musketeers of Edo politics, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, the other two being the late Samuel Ogbemudia and Tony Anenih; as well as top politician, Charles Idahosa and other politicians, who stood behind the governor during his trying times remain with him until date.
Pro Oshiomhole lawmakers
For the 14 House of Assembly members that were on Oshiomhole’s side during the battle period, their matter may have been closed to a possible political solution, as the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, had since ruled that the governor cannot issue a letter of proclamation twice and the House of Representatives, which said the governor should re-issue a fresh letter of proclamation did not appeal the ruling.
The suit instituted by the 14 in the state high court is yet to commence, while the deputy governor, Shaibu ruled out a political solution to the issue, last Saturday, at an event organized by a newly formed Edo State House of Assembly Former Members Forum held at the El-Classico Hotels, Exeter, GRA, Benin City, where he said that it was rather too late for the Forum to seek political solution to the legislative impasse.
His contention was that the case rests with the judiciary as the governor is not empowered by law to issue proclamation twice.