By Tony Erha
In a cascading Edo worldview, diseases or pestilences are not some things to pray for. The usual supplication is that the Almighty Being instantly takes sicknesses afar from us all. But, when a people are sickly, it therefore calls for one and all to guard the loins. “When a neighbourhood is afflicted by the whooping cough the thunderclaps coughing and the agony of the victim would keep everybody awake all night long”, says an Edo idiom. At that, the overwhelming concern is that more persons are not infested and should curtail invading viruses.
These are expressions for a kaleidoscopic to imagining the acrimonious crisis that has besieged the political space of Edo, the Nigeria heartbeat state, so much so that the already hapless residents are now much more confused and left to wonder when the crisis would end.
Unequivocally, most followers of the simmering and unresolved political crisis in the state would willingly testify that its main cause is Mr. Godwin Obaseki, incumbent governor of the state. And from mere observation of the initial crisis, which snowballed into alarming proportions, it could be likened to a burning cauldron. The governor had turned entire Edo into a sharp political divide, starting with his balkanization of the supporters of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the ruling party that brought him to power, which he had discarded to an opposition party that he had been at loggerhead with. The crisis has now graduated to an awkward situation where ordinary citizens have joined the fray, fighting opponents dirty.
For his had been a clear demonstration of brawns and a strange brand of politicking only similar to the Coronavirus ‘weaponized’ at his political enemies, real or imagined. It is akin to setting up dangerous democratic culture in Edo, where raw dealings and antagonism may yet be exercised as means to ascending and retaining political power. A sitting governor, who become a student of the worst behave governors in the country like Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, Malam El Rufai, Rotimi Amaechi and some other unruly politicians could not be a people-friendly governor.
The crisis in APC has reached bewildered consequences, where the governor, had taken on well-meaning Edo citizens like Idahosa Wells Okunbo, a business mogul and caregiver extraordinaire, who is well respected within and outside the state for his public-spirited activities. Obaseki, like the Benin parable would have it, has turned every portions of the bush as snake-infested simply because he sighted a snake in one. His spiteful attacks on Okunbo, who is more publicly known as Captain Hosa, for no other reason than he is bankrolling the election of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, against his, in the forthcoming governorship election in the state, tended to show an unstable character, who does not treasure the right of choice of others.
The attacks on Captain Hosa, who was generous enough as longtime benefactor, coupling with the fact that he once assisted him to his present governorship seat, bespeaks of an Obaseki, who could hardly manage and retain genuine friends. Of course, the governor’s brand of backwater politics, oiled by fisticuffs, outright lies, false propaganda and hatred is a thing unimaginable. It speaks volumes about fielding the wrong people to power as the Obaseki’s leadership example is the one that encourages corporate investment in inanity and feasting or celebration on the bad news.
All along, Governor Obaseki and his hirelings had had pleasurable pastimes feasting and running away with alarming headline news, opinions and analysis, whilst spewing invectives on Captain Hosa, who had always managed to turn the other cheek. But the business mogul, by his nature, did not break his cool, through a recent three page newspaper advertorial to explain himself out but with the intention to place the facts as there were, pertaining the governor’s twaddle. With this done for the public to be duly informed, the governor and his handlers had done a negativity to mopped up copies of the newspapers from circulation, thus depriving the public a chance to hear out Captain Hosa. A man who had been grossly maligned before the public, certainly deserves to be heard by the same public, beside that the seizure of the newspapers tantamount an infringement public’s right to access classical information.
The Captain Hosa’s advertorial, which was an opened letter to President Muhammadu Buhari and the Edo public narrated how in the past he was helpful to Mr. Obaseki, his accuser, particularly in his election as the state governor. Through the advertorial, its readers could easily perceive great pains of regrets and betrayals in the free-flow and urbane narrative of Hosa, a trailblazing former commercial flight captain. The kernel of the piece was that the governor and his media handlers begrudge and malign him for nothing, even though he continued to ignore their tantrums. He accused the governor of spreading false propaganda over his name through name-spoiling, thus tarnishing the good reputation he had built in the business world, within and outside the shores of the country. He also cited glaring instances, where the governor moved to destroy his business interests, which has brought lots of succor to millions of Edos and Nigerians as well. An easy going and peaceful Hosa had appealed to President Buhari and the Nigerian public to appeal to Governor Obaseki to leave him and his business alone.
Even though the Captain Hosa’s write up of the advertorial was simple and non-abusive, an aggressive Governor Obaseki had replied to the advertorial, through the same mediums Captain Hosa had expressed himself. But, this time around, his advertorials were not thwarted as the newspapers’ bearing them were not similarly mopped up. In his rejoinder where he addressed Hosa as a friend and a brother an ever un-repenting Obaseki, in his characteristic manner, was abusive and defiant.
The matter was further aggravated an unfolding news, where Captain Hosa raised the public alarm that the Obaseki’s government and his supporters were planning to burn down his sprawling green farm, which during inauguration some years ago, which the governor stopped President Buhari from attending, was regarded as the largest in West Africa. Hosa’s expressed fears is that since his farms and businesses in Edo State have become the targets of political anarchists, the state and the people would have been worst off, as that would chase subsequent investors away there-from. In the said news item, fears were also communicated over the safety of the billionaire in his Edo home state.
Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the immediate past governor of the state and former APC National Chairman, in the same instance was declared personal non-grata by the governor, thus also raising the fears for his safety. Senator Matthew Urhoghide, a serving Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, was once beaten up in the Benin City airport, whilst visiting his state, on the same directive by the governor.
Captain Hosa, no doubt, has a large heart and is a man who loves his Edo people so dearly. Oftentimes, when rich indigenes of the state were scared away from establishing businesses in the state, partly because of the hostility displaced by the governor, Captain Hosa had always encouraged his fellow Edo men and women and other outsiders to come and invest, hence showing the very good example by his investments therein. But, a sitting governor ought to know best and appreciate a good-intentioned Captain Hosa, especially as he (the governor) had traversed the globe, on the state’s scarce resources in search for the same investors and the attendant procurement of frivolous Memorandum of Understandings (IOUs).
Even though he may try, he wouldn’t succeed in the venture to pull down an innocent man. Mr. Obaseki, as a Bini, may have been told that; “A hunting dog in a wild chase of the daggling testicles of a ram, hoping that it would fall down, would chase forever. Perhaps, he may also be aware that Idahosa Wells Okunbo is the fabled anthill that is destined to continue to wear the cap no matter how many times the rampaging elephant may bump on it.
Tony Erha, a journalist and pro-democracy activist writes from Benin City, Edo State