Iyaro vbegbe ghe, ere aya bu ohien n’ Edo! (A man judges others, as he would want himself to be judged). This is a saying by people of Edo State. Also, it is similar to a commonplace maxim; ‘A man should do to others as he would cherish to be treated’
These narratives reflect to the situation of Mr. Godwin Obaseki, a taciturn but, stormy personality, who, instead of respecting those who genuinely intervened in a crisis he ignited in his All Progressives (APC) party, continued on the offensive, consequent upon which he has further aggravated the mess to frenzy infractions. Obaseki holds the sway as a governor and number one citizen of the Edo locale. In the state chapter of APC, Obaseki is the leader who declined to spearhead one of the two warring factions that have heated up its polity, to the detriment of the unfortunate people of the state.
Obaseki is said to be a university-trained in constructive dialoguing, which he flaunts at will. But, many are now bemused as to why he couldn’t bring that expertise to bear in his everyday relationship with those he governs and to overcome a ‘mere’ self-imposed in-house disagreement in his ruling party. Obaseki is nicknamed ‘Wake and See Governor’. That apparently goes to confirm to what is alleged that he comes with surprises and also takes one-sided decisions in critical state matters, in abandonment of joint or group decision-making and implementation, which is the hallmark of democracy and good governance. For a man who is hotheaded and takes delight in telling off party leaders and his aides in the public, one wouldn’t have to guess as to why he has fallen out of favour with the people.
Governor Obaseki is unruffled and disrespectful to all who tried to make a peaceful settlement of the crisis possible. A no-less revered personality of the monarch, the Oba of Benin, Ewuare II, is a case in point. The suave royalty and champion of the Edo people had been relentless in the fruitless moves for settlement, but admitted to having been frustrated. While the urbane monarch went the tedious journey to seek for amicable solutions before President Muhammadu in Abuja, with a retinue of Edo traditional rulers, Governor Obaseki at the same time did more collateral harm to the settlement moves. He immediately sacked all commissioners loyal to the other faction, replaced them and appointed more aides from his faction. Still, President Buhari earlier cautioned Obaseki to move for peace and to apologize to Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and reconcile the warring factions. It was to no avail.
Is Obaseki a true Benin native? If yes, does he know the Edo traditions and what it means to be an Oba of Benin and the respected Edo traditional rulers? Instead of ignoring Edo royal fathers, Obaseki should have counted himself lucky for getting their attention. Otherwise, these unique monarchs hold such intervention in circumspection! No, Obaseki had no excuses to have acted unwisely! He shouldn’t be wrongly counseled by a pitiless political leadership and its generation of self-seeking and fair-weather politicians! No, he has to stop playing ‘Nero the Fiddle’ in a self-propelled implosion, in which may turn out to be the worst victim!
Interestingly, Franz Fanon, by his deposition in the epic book, ‘Blackman White Mask’ cautions all about the futility of fervor or vehement engagement. Certainly, the factional fight in Edo APC had been fuelled by the no love lost between Obaseki and allegedly Adams Oshiomhole, the very man who went through ‘the thick and the thin’ to bring him to power. Until a week ago, both protégé and political mentor had always told the public that they have no axe to grind.
But, when the undying battle cry by the Obaseki’s factional supporters is the same accusation of Oshiomhole being the mastermind of the other faction, does it not behoove on Governor Obaseki to call his foot soldiers to order and give a modicum of respect to the man who he says is his benefactor? Wouldn’t he also summarily caution his supporters against confrontation with APC and other public institutions?
Yet, most onlookers of the lap-stick comedy playing out in Edo, could easily deduce that the most recent street protests, wild they were, hardly portrays Obaseki as a man of peaceful means. If a man could make a mockery of his own footsteps, his drummers would as well sleep off on the instruments! In the national debts profiling of all the 36 states of the country, by the Debts Management Office, Edo State is inappropriately the third highest debtor. Therefore, the state which Obaseki says must be economical didn’t need to waste taxpayers monies to organize meaningless protests.
Retrospectively, the Edo APC house of commotion got started about four years ago, when the choice of Obaseki, then an Economic Adviser to the former Governor Oshiomhole, as the successive governor generated a huge controversy. The choice did not go well with most of the party faithful. And after being made governor through the unflinching support of Comrade Oshiomhole, who is presently national chairman of the party, partisan interests and the scramble for excessive power soon crept in. Now, a political godson has turned against, not only his principal benefactor, but others who assisted him to power. Obaseki is scheming to be reelected governor in 2020. But, the makers of the Obaseki of yesterday have sworn that he can’t be reelected, because of the already stated.
Edo, a hitherto peaceful state, is now like the concrete jungle of lawless conducts by its animals. The Curb no longer heeds to the father Lion, because it possesses the same deadly claws that makes his father the most dreaded of terrestrial animals. But the jungle has turned into a ruthless dual-territory, where siblings of the cat family now defend their prides.
Obviously, the seething and protracted crisis reached an apogee, when Governor Obaseki surreptitiously inaugurated nine out of all the originally elected twenty-four lawmakers of the house. Obaseki, the leader of the state’s executive arm, against a constitutional imperative of the separation of powers, where each of the legislature, executive and judicial arms, strictly each their assigned functions, saw nothing wrong with his undue interference. The nine were hurriedly and conceitedly sworn into the principal offices of the house in the impossible and unofficial hours of the night. The majority fifteen others were fenced out. Obaseki and his supporters are not swayed either that the swearing-in was an anathema. Of course they have a constitutional lapse which they say validates their unfortunate action, where a minor nine out of 24 can form a quorum!
Apart from being a legal impossibility it is also ethical that Governor Obaseki has grossly erred. What goes around comes around. In the contextual, what Obaseki infers by sidelining the majority fifteen lawmakers and their various constituencies, is that they are irrelevant in Edo scheme of things. Flowing from this, Obaseki should also ask himself the pertinent question, if a negligible nine constituencies are all he will require to win a reelection in 2020?
Wrong styles spoil virtues. And it is self-poisoning, when a man assumes that every bush is snake-infested, simply because he sighted a serpent in one portion. As Obaseki is at dagger-drawn with virtually all the formations of APC – the executives, party men and elected officers, just as he isn’t in the good book of traditional rulers and the national assembly, one wonders where he would turn to in realizing his reelection.
*Tony Erha is a journalist and activist based in Edo Stat