But for the fact that I have been reading Louis Odion’s articles for a long time and has in course earned my respect and admiration, I would have dismissed his piece entitled ‘Verily, Oyegun’s cry babies nose wipe’ in The Nation newspaper of May16 2018b/p as one of those stuffs done by some paid writers to please their pay masters. I may well be wrong but that was how I felt after reading the piece.
At times some people do not know when they are doing the lackey’s game. Odion case might have been an innocent coincidence – even most unintended consequence. But when it is recalled that he was once employed by Governor Oshiomhole as Commissioner of Information in Edo state government, and before and after that assignment, he was writing for The Nation news paper largely owned by Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu- a chieftain of the APC, you begin to see the ignoble link between the writer and the paymasters and the need for the columnist to beware of the bug of the “domino effect”.
As we know both Tinubu and Oshiomhole are on common pet project of getting Chief John Oyegun out of office as National Chairman APC. Thus even if unsolicited, a few words from a well known and highly respected columnist would add some pep to masters’ cause. And so when on the one hand, the columnist- a self confessed critic of Oyegun fires to shoot him down by pointing to alleged’ incapability to provide exemplary leadership …to weld the disparate forces’ in a party the writer agrees was made up of “strange bed fellows at its founding” we know the purpose. And so also when on the hand, he praises Oshiomhole to high heavens especially as one not given to “sectional, clannish…or parochial sentiments… a man who believes only in results” perhaps no matter how crude or indecent the end was achieved, you must have cause to be suspicious.
This is more so when one does not need to go beyond his piece to disprove his claims. His reference to 2016 election is a handy reminder of some sectionalism and nepotism taken too far. And in the list of some guys he employed from outside the state to help him could be seen the haunting spirit of cronyism.Louis knows that he was not being truthful when he said Oshiomhole was beyond clannishness. Can he deny clannishness and nepotism in the system that gave birth to the present faces of government in Edo state. Can he say there was no grumbling about the prevalent resort to cronyism in the government of comrade Oshiomhole?
Still, Oshiomhole is eminently fit and capable for the office of the National chairman of APC. He has the skills, knowledge, experience, intuition, drive and wide range of contacts for the job. Given what he did in Benin city in terms of infrastructural development and transformation Oshiomhole is certainly not anti-Bini, in fact, no political leader worth his salt would be anti Bini for that matter because of their numerical strength. But as we easily see from Odion’s eyes witness account how Ikimi was displaced in favor of Oyegun for the APC chairmanship thanks to Oshiomhole’s unholy intervention.
Oshiomhole is anti-Ishan, much more so anti-Uromi and he visits the alleged sins of one two persons on a whole community. He lacks respect for traditional values elders etc. Anyone in doubt should review the 2016 election to see the clannish dimension and value issue conveyed here. Yet Edo is supposed to have been made up of people of one same ancestral parentage. We need to say not because of hatred but for those following his path to learn useful lessons from both his strength and weakness.
For the avoidance of doubt, let it be known that Louis was actually commenting on Ehiogie Idahosa West’s observation that Oshiomhole orchestrated “Oyegun misfortune for his own self aggrandizement” as part of “emerging Bini humiliation” and a plan he believes was ‘conjured by enemies at home”. To West “Oshiomhole was anti-Bini”. But to show that he was not, Louis revealed the role “Oshio- Baba …played in tilting the scale in Oyegun’s favor in 2014 at the party level even after the state EXCO had openly endorsed a better grounded Chief Ikimi from Esanland as preferred APC National Chair”.
Of course this has been the kind of governance prevalent in Nigeria where the powerful robs the poor Peter to the favored Paul.
But such approach nation- building has not been helpful to the cause of unity both at the national and sub- national levels. Do I hear some one shout: jungle Justice!, undemocratic!!, one man show!!! Imposition of candidates on the electorate is symptomatic of the practice of democracy in Nigeria where one or two people decide the fate of others in a political party. No internal democracy. On the surface, we proclaim to be one in unity and brotherhood, but deep inside of us, we harbor hatred, treachery for others and divisions in society and a readiness to drive swords to stab our “brother at the back”.
I think this is the moral point West was trying to raise but which Louis prefers to ignore or gloss over. It stirs us in the face- the morality of a younger brother taking over the job of a senior brother and fellow Edolite when the latter was still interested in his job. Or the moral sense in Mr President running for a second term while the Chairman who helped him to win elections to become president was being discouraged from doing same. As West has asked: What is the crime of Oyegun? To some, morality is not relevant to politics. For this reasons we can violate rules, cherished values and tradition including respect for elders etc. No qualms except that a society with depraved morality will be doomed sooner than later.
This returns us to Odigie-Oyegun’s travails. For many reasons, I wish to observe that Louis was wrong and unfair in his assessment of the man in office. For instance, he points to Oyegun’s “weakness” that betrays the courage and firmness for which the Edo man was known or romanticized, an ‘epic failing on national stage’ or a ‘weakling’ who was only “after sitting order” and “privileges” of office, one who shows an “abject dereliction”in organising the party congresses that became a “theater of the absurd”, a leader who failed to use “his high office to benefit Bini people’… For him, Odigie-Oyegun’s travail was a ‘self-inflicted misfortune’ and so denied its encouragement “by enemies at home” as alleged by West.
Odion seems to forget that Oyegun’s major challenge as Chairman of the Opposition Party was to win political power from the ruling party. And he achieved this goal with great tact and wisdom , with well reasoned statements,measured steps and strategic moves. To this extent, Oyegun remains a huge success as Chairman APC. Towards this great feat, he was courageous and proved to be a studious man of culture and respecter of rule of law, a great achiever of set goal, a strategist of the first order and a fine tactician who knows what to do to avoid some deliberate land-mines.
While a less able leader would would have plunged the party with a very fragile foundation into deeper crisis, Odigie-Oyegun has managed the party to where it is today.He would leave office with a big challenge to the successor – continuity by winning a second term for Mr President. The many hiccups in the party’s congresses were not his fault but the making of those who rejected his proposal for the exercise. As a far sighted leader with wide field experience, he foresaw the crisis Louis referred to, and so proposed a way out which was however rejected. Those who decide to sleep under the tree where wizards hold their meeting must be ready for the consequences of invisible missile attack.
Backgrounds matter in understanding the action of leaders. Foremost Chief Oyegun-an Economist from our premier and best university- the University of Ibadan and a former Governor of Edo state, a NADECO activist against military is a well bred civil servant who became a permanent secretary at a time generally regarded as the golden period of public service in Nigeria characterized at the federal level by high standards of patriotism and nationalism and when public servants placed national interest far above self and tribal communities. All these have implications for practice today. He has come a long way, and certainly not a novice in leadership.
Odigie-Oyegun was not in office to benefit the Edo man per se but to help produce a president that would make Nigeria better and to be great and fulfill its potentiality in the world after many wasted years on the wrong road. He sought to achieve the latter by helping to bring on board a man many of us believed had the moral credentials to lead the country better than what was on ground.The idea that unless your man was in government nothing could get to you is wrong and alien to good governance.Through sound policy every citizen ought to be partaker of the benefits of good governance.
Unfortunately just when the party was settling, some people referred to in Nigeria as the Cabal or Mafia “seized control of power” and ran things the way they liked. They even appointed dead men to offices from which the APC party dissociated itself, And more importantly, the group ruthlessly cut to under-size some otherwise very influential members of the party there by leaving many impotent and dissatisfied.
As we write the nPDP is full of complaints of unfair deal within the party. In short, Oyegun has been a victim of forces which the First Lady of the country informed the world had hijacked power … They appear to have taken everything. Unfortunately, you do not give what you do not have. The party may have been founded on fragile grounds,but its real problem has been the unjust and in rewarding system of a cabal which holds the monopoly of source of power and influence and distribution of resources of wealth and survival including appointments to political offices to the exclusion of other parties to the Party. While the allure of power brought the disparate groups together, the seeming unfair sharing of the gains of power has been threatening to tear the party apart.
Odion probably expected Oyegun to become a magician to weld what was obviously a broken glass. His, is a gross under – estimation of the elite’s power game. The Party had since gone nearly burst as a result of the clandestine activities of a group that for all intents and purposes were untouchable and above the law. A less able, less courageous and impatient leader would have since jumped the boat to hit the rock without waiting for relief captain to takeover. Rather than vilification, Odigie-Oyegun should be praised and be decorated with garland of many gold medals for being so able to sail a leaking ship through a most stormy weather without sinking or rocking it.
Finally is the question of morality in public life which we must learn to uphold to avoid sinking below the sea level No one can say with certainty that Odigie-Oyegun’s problem was “self-inflicted” and there are no “enemies from home” or abroad. We have earlier referred to the existence of a faceless cabal or mafia that was ruthless and greedy with power and ready to undermine persons and institutions including the chairmanship of the party. We now want to add that for a long time the Nigerian rumor mills which are becoming a very reliable source of information these days were filled with the news that Oshiomhole upon retirement from Government House would take over from Odigie-Oyegun as Chairman APC. As he neared the end of his tenure as Governor, the rumor thickened the more that he would either take over as chairman APC or he would be offered a ministerial appointment or be made the SGF.
I dismissed the first and anticipated the second for a number of reasons including the fact that Mr President in one his visits to Benin City did say that Oshiomhole was ripe for a higher national responsibility given his impressive records as Governor of Edo state. However, before the end of his tenure, there were efforts at home to portray to the world that Odigie-Oyegun had no political base. He was even reported to have lost his ward during one of the elections. Still on moral grounds, I dismissed the option of Oshiomhole becoming the APC national chairman. First, I did not believe that Mr President would like to do away with a chairman who ensured his electoral victory, secondly, both of them – Odigie-Oyegun and President Buhari are age mates and may find it easier to communicate with him than a far younger person. Thirdly, both had travelled a long way to the present moment since their political association in the ANPP. Fourthly, I thought that Oshiomhole would not like to take over the job of a senior brother -at least from the same states…
0But I now know better. Morality makes little or no sense to the ruling elite and this is really the greatest stumbling block to national unity and development – the main reason the war against corruption, indiscipline and poverty has been so difficult to win in Nigeria.
Welcome Oshiomhole, and bye Odigie-Oyegun -two very good products from Edo states – the Heartbeat of the Nation.
Dr. Abhuere is the Director for Centre for Childcare and Youth Development (CCYD), Abuja.