Opinion: Season of Transition in Edo: Bye Oshiomhole, Welcome Obaseki, By Dr John I Abhuere

On Saturday 12 November 2016, Edo state witnessed the end of one administration and commencement of another. It was a change of administrative baton from Comrade Oshiomhole to Godwin Obaseki.
Both men worked closely: one as Governor and the other as Special Adviser. So the take off of the new administration is expected to be easy. I have an appeal to make here. On the eve of the new administration came the news of the dethronement of the Onojie of Uromi His Royal Higness Anslem Eidonojie11. Thus this article is also meant to appeal for pardon of the dethroned king of Uromi.
After a very bitter and most divisive election ever, Edo state needs all hands on deck to move forward smoothly in peace and harmony. She needs harmonious coexistence and the cooperation of all its sub ethnic groups for accelerated meaningful development .Except we are making mockery of our claims to common ancestry, the state is too closely knitted in terms of ancestral origin to be living the kind of cat and mouse relationship which politics of bitterness and vengeance had unfortunately imposed on its people today.
So forgive the king. Bring all together for the collective effort in development bearing in mind that what affects and hurts the king equally affects and hurts members of his community.
For sure the dethronement of the king is not one man affair. The punishment, misfortune and pains are felt by the the entire community. It is the embarrassment and humiliation of the entire Uromi kingdom. Truly, what hurts the king equally hurts his people.
As the saying goes ‘what has a beginning must have an end’. So it is with the fruitful tenure of Governor Oshiomhole of Edo State which came to an end on November 12, 2016 thereby paving way for the commencement of another administration under Obaseki.
The evaluation of Oshiomhole’s administration is conducted from two angles: contribution to physical development and attitude to cultural values of the people
Though both are intertwined, more attention has often been placed on the former by many a leaders especially in Africa since the decolonization era. At that time, the goal of almost every leader of new independent country was modernization .
The trouble was that such policy was pursued at the expense of some African cultural values such as respect for the elderly, traditional rulership, religion, marriage , burial rights. Low premium was placed on them. Real development failed to occur as modernization was starved of the nurturing support of culture and cultural values inherent in society.
While to some writers such as Davidson the erosion of African values has constituted the greatest bane to the accelerated development of Africa, the trend of focussing more on the modernization drive at the expense of culture has however continued till date. We saw it in Edo State throughout Oshiomhole era which was tall on physical development and short on the promotion of cultural values.
In other words, the administration scored high mark on physical development and low on the cultural aspect of life..
In a special way Oshiomhole was a trail blazer in the governance history Edo state .On his assumption of office I wrote an article to welcome him to government house. I likened him to President Obama on the stage of world history who broke the jinx of racism to become the first black American to become President of the USA. For me it was God’s granting my little prayers for someone from Edo North senatorial district to have the political opportunity to rule the state as Governor .Oshiomhole was the man of destiny to remove what ever road block.
This was so because for too long before that time, the zone had been left in the cold as though it was not part of Edo state. Take the roll call of elected Overnors: Amrose Ali, Sam Ogbemudia, John Odigie- Oyegun, Lucky Igbinedion- none of them from Edo North. Little wonder that some of them began to explore the possibility of of teaming up some parts of Kogi state to form a new state. Such a move was normal. One of the easiest ways to alienate a group is to deny them opportunity for effective political participation.
Democracy is often generally believed to be good but in plural society such as ours with extremely big ethnic groups and very small ethnic groups co- existing, it could serve as a legitimate means of keeping the minority groups excluded from power perpetually. By 1999 this has become very clear to me.
Thus I hold the belief that for harmony, progress, peaceful coexistence, unity and development of the state, democracy must be moderated to accommodate every member or group of a society. It should not be played as a game of number per se in a plural state such as ours. Rather,in a state such Edo , the political elites must work out a process through which the governor’s position is rotated from one zone to the other in order to ensure fair participation of each of the three senatorial districts in the political development process of the state.
I have not changed my view as could seen from my writing early this year urging all the political parties Edo state to choose their governorship candidates from Edo Central to succeed Adams Oshiomhole. There is the need to nurture democracy to suit our purpose and reduce inter-tribal tensions over political power. This requires a policy of inclusiveness, tolerance and accommodation of other people’s view informed by a collective sense of justice and fair play. Fact of history is that we need both the high and low, the poor and rich to develop a society.
Oshomhole’s eventual emergence as Governor of Edo State met my idea of political inclusiveness . Contrary to expectation, he brought Edo north to Government House, Benin City.
I had predicted that he would be an effective governor given his labour background.To a large extent he did not disappoint expectations. He came to office with the zeal and other sterling attributes of an activist and labour union’s venomous hatred for the leviathan and the establishment.
In the course, Oshiomhole gave his best to the physical development of the state and bettered almost all others before him in Government House.
His contributions to education, health care delivery, rural roads and the promotion of political consciousness were spectacular.
I do not think that Edolites would easily forget those hither- to dilapidated school buildings renovated across the state by the Comrade Oshiomhole’s government -characteristically capped with red long span roofing sheets , the transformation of the Ring Road and Airport road, the building of ultra modern hospital in Benin, the erection of brand new university to mention a few.
Through his development policy which he pursued with much vigour and commitment, he made citizens to appreciate the truism that government was created in the first place to serve man and improve society. He made government to work the people and have positive impact on the lives of citizens- far more than ever before.
Still, I have some reservations. Societal development is not only about the physical improvement. It includes the cultural. Unfortunately Oshiomhole though a man of robust energy, paid only scanty attention to cultural aspect of the society and he failed to address minority fear of perpetual exclusion from government house or support the call for power rotation to ensure minority inclusiveness. More serious and retarding was the neglect of culture or disregard for shared values of society.
The king is the outward symbol of the power authority of his community and his palace is believed to harbour the ancient knowledge and wisdom of the kingdom. A respect for them depicts love for authority, orderliness and care for the system. The disrespect for them and violation of the values guiding public conduct have been known to be a recipe for crisis and chaos.
As they say, ‘One man’s meat is another man’s poison’. For good measures Oshiomhole resented and fought those he calls God fathers with an uncommon passion. No problem except that there better ways to do it than creating unnecessary shocks, generational friction and even conflict in the state. In the name of politics, power, and modernity, cherished values such as respect for the aged, traditional institutions, royalty were violated, desecrated and ridiculed in the state – the honored home of high culture and traditions in the country.
Let it be emphasised that Oshiomhole had the right to decry the role of God fathers in Nigerian politics but his approach violates the cultural values of the state. As it has become evident, it is easier to decry than to resist the temptation of power.
The denouncement and fall of one God father was the beginning and rise of another God father and installer of successor. This is true to type. As one writer once observed those who decry a particular ideology often end up establishing another one.
There is generational interest in one’s successor in office and Oshiomhole demonstrated this by ensuring that his selected candidates won the governorship election in Edo state.
The phenomenon of God fathers in politics is however not peculiar to Nigeria. In different parts of the world, office seekers go everywhere for assistance and there are people out there to ensure the victory of their favorite candidate based on certain understanding. As a leader, he ought to have shown greater sensitivity to the cultural values of the people as a basis of safeguarding and strengthening his achievement in physical development.
The danger of neglecting the cultural factor is that it could boomeranged to even destroy whatever physical development available.
For instance, without the value to care for the aged, the youth may lack the temperament to maintain old infrastructure being built today. Without strong cultural base as embedded say in the respect for elders, longevity and related values, he may just find his efforts crumbling for lack of respect for maintenance and sustenance culture for anything old.
In a recent interview with a national newspaper, Oshiomhole provides an insight to his action when he listed strong or powerful mouth as part of his strength. Good. The only problem is that he used it to hurt and create disaffection for others in the state – perhaps unintentionally. In similar vein, one of his friends had described him as a man with a ‘caustic tongue’ which in my view he used to create a toxic culture of disrespect for elders and even royal fathers.
He went about business of public governance with a soldier- like mentality of war, conquest and humiliation. He was quick to use the big stick by suspending some local government chairmen from office. Some towns felt a sense of persecution for political reasons. Edo Central was particularly unlucky here. A morbid hatred for one man’s style of politics was extended to almost all in the community. By the last count, on the eve of his departure from office, he deposed their king perhaps as final act of conquest and humiliation and hatred-some say for the sins of some God father. It was the unkindest departing gift ever.This coupled with the politics of bitterness left Edo State far more divided -politically and culturally today than he met it.
The challenge before the new Governor is daunting and it goes beyond the physical to the spiritual, cultural and psychological. He must strengthen the cultural base for without it efforts in physical development will crumble sooner than latter. It is like building a house on clay soil. In a pre-election analysis, I observed that either Obaseki or Ize Italy, PDP candidate would be next Governor of Edo State and admitted that I knew little about each of them to be able to make informed comment.
I have since read some statements by Governor Obaseki and his promise to create about 2000 jobs and build infrastructure, suggests that he is already on the right path.
He must work to promote both the physical and cultural/ mental development of man and society. In particular, he must discard the hitherto culture of pugnacity, conquest, humiliation and hate preaching. The elections are over and he must work to bring all communities in the state to a common platform for meaningful development .
He should adopt a peaceful and friendly approach based on mutual respect for equity, fair- play and related cherished shared values of our society. He must work hard to multiply the physical development laid by his predecessor manifold. He must break the ice and relax the tension between government and the governed and reconcile tradition and modernity. He must mobilize all Edolites and their communities for maximum participation in the development.
The days of war- war situation and hate speeches should be over. Success requires the cooperation of everyone from all corners of the state including ordinary folks, God fathers-old and new ones, traditional rulers etc. Shared cultural values must be upheld as solid foundation for building healthy society. While this leads me to the other aspect of this article -appeal for forgiveness and restoration of the Onojie of Uromi to his throne which I intend to discuss next time. I wish the Governor a successful tenure. Bye Oshiomhole and welcome Obaseki to Governance of Edo State.

Author: News Editor

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