If anyone was in doubt as to the vicious plots by Governor Godwin Obaseki to dismantle the political and power structure that produced him, against all odds, as governor in 2016 as well as destroy the individuals whose imprimaturs were evident in the crystallization of his governorship, his sponsorship of the leadership crisis that culminated in the removal of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as national chair of the All Progressives Congress (APC) should clear the doubt.
Were it not for Divinity that ensured the screening of the governorship aspirants jostling for the APC ticket in Edo was completed and Obaseki had been disqualified and was headed for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Court of Appeal judgment arising from a proxy suit he had engineered as far back as last year, which upheld Oshiomhole’s suspension after Obaseki’s disqualification by the Screening Committee, would perhaps have gifted him the last laugh in the homestretch of political affairs in the APC.
While Obaseki was on the rampage in the APC, an action that was akin to that of a bull in a China shop, the prayer in some quarters was that he would be quietly eased out. And, indeed, he was actually, quietly eased out before he could cause a collateral damage to the APC. For a man who had reportedly vowed to fight Oshiomhole to the finish, he got the prize, somewhat controversially, through the Appeal Court judgment.
Oshiomhole’s loss of the APC chair, for those opposed to Obaseki and who had been working round the clock to upend his governorship run, was, in fact, the most unpalatable feature in the entire saga: the end of a luminous epoch in political crusading by Comrade Oshiomhole, whose position was extinguished by the June 25, 2020 National Executive Committee of the APC presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Had Obaseki remained in the APC with the governorship ticket tucked in his kitty, it is not too difficult to guess what the situation or state of affairs in the APC would have been by now. The APC would have been in a state of topsy-turvy, with the governor arrogantly climbing his ambitious ladder and looking down to fan the base metal by which he did ascend. Perhaps, he would not have stopped at that. He would have put his leg unsympathetically on the neck of every APC member who dared to challenge him.
But he has since been denied that luxury. If he is interested in putting his leg on the necks of political opponents, he could very well do so in his new party-the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). It is not too early to do so. Afterall, he was quick in referring to himself as the new political leader of the PDP within 72 hours of moving into the party. Obaseki spent money on his PDP voyage. Certainly, money talks. Who can challenge him, nay it (money, Edo tax payers’ money)?
The PDP leaders, who clobbered Obaseki in their 2016 electioneering and had consistently negatively profiled him as uninspiring in governance and performance, are today saddled with the task of laundering and selling his candidature to the same electorate in the September 19, 2020 governorship election. It is without a doubt an onerous burden, which they must bear in their shamefacedness. But do politicians really have scruples? I do not think they give a hoot, in any case, as long as money, big money, is involved.
It thus becomes easier and more convenient for he who pays the piper to call the tunes. Obaseki, as the sole sponsor of the party and his governorship enterprise can, therefore, afford to put his leg on the neck of every one in the PDP, after losing the right and position to continue with that discriminatory treatment of party members and leaders in the APC on which platform he became governor in 2016.
In his bid to have his mandate renewed by Edo people, Obaseki has an old customer to contend with in APC’s standard bearer, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. But for Oshiomhole’s political legerdemain, Ize-Iyamu would have handed down a humiliating defeat to the APC and Obaseki in 2016.
But, approaching the 2020 bid to revalidate his mandate with the people, his initial nightmare was the billionaire business mogul and prominent son of Benin Kingdom, Captain Idahosa Wells Okunbo (Capt. Hosa, for short).
Capt. Hosa was widely touted as the battle axe of the political camp opposed to Obaseki in the APC. It is not that Capt. Hosa was or is a member of the APC. His influence simply cuts across all the parties. He enjoys statewide approbation. Had he decided to accept overtures to him to offer himself for the ticket of the APC, he would have been the consensus candidate of not only the APC, but also of many, if not all the parties.
The decision to work on him to accept to throw his hat in the ring was premised on his cult-like popularity, legendary philanthropy and massive humanitarian works. He had already built a brand name. I restate that had he accepted to join in the governorship foray, the governorship would have been a one-horse race. He would have enjoyed maximum support across all the political parties, translating into confetti of adoptions and endorsements.
But Capt. Hosa refused to accept the overtures made to him for good reasons. He was not ready to lose his business traction and focus, not ready to hand over the management of his multi-billion-dollar investments and business empire to proxies. Despite his resolve not to take a plunge into seeking public office, his speculated interest in the governorship position was taken as a significant threat by Obaseki who, as reported, tried to put his leg on Capt. Hosa’s neck.
Whereas, Governor Obaseki decided to turn the heat on the business mogul, using his connections within the governors’ forum to “attack” his business interests; whereas the logic behind this is simple: stymie the sources of his money and cut down the potential threat; he, perhaps, forgot to appreciate the reality that Capt. Hosa has been around doing genuine businesses and making solid investments for more than three decades now.
To be sure, it is, therefore, not possible to neutralize or, to even waste him by one or two masterstrokes orchestrated by some persons in Edo State government. It will take his traducers eternity to try the best they could and still would not succeed in bringing him down.
Recent reports, as confirmed by Capt. Hosa himself, have indicated the complicity of Obaseki in a series of such orchestrations. For instance, the move by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to issue a marine notice to mariners and ship owners in respect of the Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) where ship berth and are protected from pirates attacks in the Lagos port, which is jointly operated by the Nigerian Navy and Ocean Marine Solution (OMS), was said to have been instigated by Obaseki with the support of a minister who also had his personal interest with the Isrealis on coastal security. The governor was also alleged to be relying on the NPA MD’s influence with the powers-that-be to drive his plan.
The idea was to go after the jugular of Capt. Hosa’s interest in SAA. If it was not for the involvement of the Nigerian Senate (which hosted a public hearing on the matter and ordered that the SAA be preserved) and the intervention of the Nigerian Navy (the major security organisation protecting the waters/seas), would the SAA arrangement not have become history? That was Obaseki trying to put his leg on Capt. Hosa’s neck, but the businessman’s neck would appear too big for the governor’s “kwashiorkor” leg.
Not done, the governor, as chair of the Ad-Hoc Committee on Oil Theft and Pipeline Vandalism set up by the National Economic Council (NEC), reportedly wrote a damning report on the activities of the OMS in providing security protection for the pipelines in parts of the oil-rich Niger Delta region, specifically in Escravos and Forcados, among others. Not even the robust defence presented to the Committee, as reported by Capt. Hosa himself, did anything to avert the damning report. That was after the OMS chair had complied with his threshold and responsibilities.
It would appear that the gambit of trying to put his leg on Capt. Hosa’s neck started well before the George Floyd saga in the United States. The act had subtly manifested in the fracturing of the relationship between Capt. Hosa and Comrade Oshiomhole while the latter was governor of Edo State, resulting in their strained relationship, which was only rebuilt after he left office.
Obaseki had exercised some great influence in that government as Chair of the State Economy and Strategy Team. He had the eyes and ears of Oshiomhole. Now in the saddle as governor, he is in the driver’s seat charting the trajectory of anti-Capt. Hosa’s interests.
The businessman was also not spared of tirades on account of some political developments. Consider the return of Pastor Ize-Iyamu to the APC. The governor and his agents pointed the finger at him as the facilitator. He has defended himself with regard to that. I gleaned the claims by Capt. Hosa and the conclusion that can be drawn is simple: Obaseki did not want Capt. Hosa to run for the governorship because he knew the implications for his second term bid nor did he want him to support any other candidate against him, not to talk of Pastor Ize-Iyamu, who, on his own, can upstage his (Obaseki’s) applecart in a free and fair electoral contestation.
Therefore, it amounts to trying to put his leg on Capt. Hosa’s neck by blackmailing and intimidating him not to back any one against his second term bid. It is not only cowardly but also ungodly to try to censure and/or abridge the right of association and choice of any person as provided for and circumscribed in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
With the series of threats to deal with Capt. Hosa, it is clear that the actions (such as the alleged threat to burn his greenhouse farm and revoke the Certificates of Occupancy of his buildings all in Benin) if seen through, would have implications for the socio-economic conditions of Edo State and its people, many of whom the businessman had assisted and continue to assist through his philanthropy and economic empowerment ventures.
While putting in place necessary legal measures to avert the real and imagined threats, Capt. Hosa has threatened to distance himself from all his activities in Edo State as long as the wickedness directed against him persists; this act will have an unprecedented negative impact on the economy of the state, considering the lives that he has touched directly through his businesses and indirectly through his philanthropy.
The far-reaching implications of their vicious attacks on him show that these people are actually the ones the governor is really trying to kill by suffocation, something he, perhaps, takes delight in doing. It is a righteous thing to rescue these groups of people who need the man-caring support of Capt. Hosa as they would be unable to breathe because “a constituted authority” is indirectly standing on their necks.
There are other prominent Edo politicians and stakeholders opposed to Governor Obaseki, whose sources of livelihoods he had destroyed and on whose necks he had not only put his keg but also played his favourite game of golf. While his actions diminish the Edo socio-economic condition, Capt. Hosa’s actions and condition elevate it. May God help Edo people to have the way and will to follow a man-caring and God-fearing leader whose desire is to create opportunities for employment for Edo’s teeming youth population.
▪︎Sylvanus Isa, a public affairs commentator, contributed this piece from Auchi, Edo State.