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[The Concourse] Edo choose Obaseki, but will Obaseki choose Edo people?

The Concourse

On Saturday, the 19th day of September, 2020, as we all know, history was made in Edo State. The incumbent Governor, Godwin Obaseki, amidst stiff oppositions was re-elected for a second term, in a keenly (neck-to-neck) contested election between the two main political parties – the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

In the heat of the campaigns, tension mounted among the people and apprehension hovered over that ancient city of Benin as Pastor Osagie Izeyamo and Obaseki representing the two parties respectively battled for the soul of the state, on who occupies the Osadebe House. The intricacies that shaped that day were scandalous in public domain.

Comrade Adams Oshiomole was controversially pivotal in the buildup to the eventual result of the polls.

Not a few Nigerians saw the exercise as a fight between Edo people and the anachronistic evil of godfatherism (which the former Comrade Governor represents), and which is novel in the state.

Edo was a modest state where godfatherism was not conceived, before Oshiomole came to the stage via a judicial goodwill in 2008. Considering his antecedents in labour activism, that gave birth to the Labour party, a platform from which he emerged governor, it would almost be impossible to think that he would end up deifying his political relevance in the state, to the tune of trying to wreck the welfare ship of the state.

He desecrated the length and breadth of the state’s political landscape, offending the sensibility of a typical Edo man with his unbridled pride to enthrone himself as Edo King-maker.

Ike Abonyi wrote some time in 2018, that Oshiomole may well be termed “APC undertaker,” gradually but steadily taking the party to political cemetery. Today, they have lost six new states to the opposition PDP, all thanks to the Comrade’s indiscretion.

Since his sudden ascension to the zenith of the ruling Party’s national administrative office in Abuja, by the machinations of party heavy weights like Bourdillon’s Jagaban, where he was ousted in shame, he had tried without success to suppress and bend Gov Obaseki to his bidding.

Somehow he failed to learn from the pages of history, before embarking on such mission to institutionalize himself as the godfather of Edo politics.

Else, he could have remembered the uncanny manner by which the former Gov Chimaroke Nnamani (who was the first graduate from Nigeria’s school of godfatherism in the 4th republic) handled Sen Jim Nwobodo in Enugu, when the stage was theirs. He almost retired Chief Jim prematurely from politics.

Oshiomole should have, as well, borrowed a leaf from the former Gov. Ngige vs Chris Uba face off in Anambra in 2004, that nearly sent the billionaire godfathers to political limbo. He was also too quick to forget the Sen Godswill Akpabio vs Gov Udom Emmanuel imbroglio, that ostracized the later to federal ministry where he is facing difficult times.

May be by having the support of Asiwaju oracle, Oshiomole felt so indomitable, that he forgot the uniqueness of Edo anthropological make-up.

He forgot that the Alis, the Igbinedions, the Oyeguns, the Ogbemudias, the Dokpesis, the Iredias etc held sway at one point or the other in the state, without attempting to enthrone any dynasty of any sort.

Such awkward desire stems from Elitist theory. A theory popularised by Vilfredo Pareto in 1935. The postulation of the theory is that elites are replaced by another group of elites, meaning that the majority are unavoidably governed by the minority.

Over the years, we have grown to find out that the politics of godfatherism has a negative impact on the socio-economic and political development of the nation by confining power in the hands of the few elites at the expense of the masses (electorates).

It has affected the socio-economic and political development of the nation, and by extension led to inter-party and intra-party defections, decampings and conflicts among the party members.

But to the chagrin of many Nigerians, I make bold to state that the defeat of Oshiomole may not be an end to “godfatherism” in Edo or anywhere else in Nigeria so soon.

To support this, a Journalist and Columnist, Fredrick Nwabufo wrote:

“To chance on political office, you must contort your principles and personal integrity to fit into the agenda of the keepers of the political platforms, notoriously regarded as the ‘godfathers’. The godfathers control these political platforms. They hold the reins of political progression. So, as long as the present political ecosystem subsists, godfatherism will remain in Nigeria. Really, I see Obaseki fleeing from one godfather drama to another.”

Nature abhors vacuum, so, possibly Gov Obaseki may need to fit into another mentorship mesh.

Godfathers hardly contests election themselves. Their aim is in sponsoring someone who will represent their interests in governance – a rookie who will do their bidding. A surrogate leader, who is sworn-in to exclusively obey the dictates of his sponsor.

By this definition, every politician has a godfather. The difference is the type of godfather and how the rookie handles his bidding; but until one’s loyalty is to the welfare of the electorate one is adjudged to be romancing a bad godfather.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen of Florida, once, said that no one is an atheist in the real sense of the word. One can only deny God and worship his own ego, intellect, fellow human being or delusionally worship something else. We all, including atheists, worship one thing or the other. Same fate applies to godfatherism in politics. We all have a mentor, a model – a godfather. The difference is in our loyalty.

Here, the examples of Gov. Zulum of Borno state comes handy. His predecessor, former Gov. Shettima, his supposed godfather has not interfered with his reign, and Prof. Zulum has been exemplary to his contemporaries.

Gov Obaseki may have coasted to victory, but how do he handle his new Bosses in PDP, and how will he parade himself when he leaves office?

We can always speculate, based on the realities on ground.

Gov. Wike, “the Lion” of Rivers state, (the words in parenthesis are mine) holds the reins in PDP nationale, and he doesn’t look like someone who will have an inordinate or overbearing influence over Obaseki.

Gov Obaseki, from his ambient temperature, is unpredictable. No one can vouch that he won’t be another Oshiomole when his tenure expires in 2024. He has the urgent need to manage this electoral goodwill which his people reposed in him, or nemesis will catch up with him.

He may have sent Oshiomole to the isolation camp of Edo politics (in Gov. Ganduje’s voice), but that was just one part of why he was elected. He has to do more, now that he is ‘free’ and ‘independent’ from his godfather and detractors.

Edo need neither PDP nor APC or any other party; they need good governance, a people-oriented leadership. They voted in hope that the poverty which laces the streets of Ekpoma will be alleviated, and the hardship that colours the skies of Auchi will be displaced by provision of basic social amenities by the Obaseki-led government.

The hinterlands of Benin need good driinking water, quality access roads, enhanced healthcare, quality and affordable education, subsidized agriculture loans, adequate security, etc.

Defeating Oshiomole and his new rookie Ize-Iyamo is not as important as delivering on these life-sustaining dividends of democracy. And the earlier the governor and his new spouse – the PDP appreciate this the better for all.

Summarily, what is in for him is to hit the ground running, marching his campaign promises with requisite actions and making the average Edo man on street feel the gains of supporting him.

My one cent.

God bless Edo people!

✍Eze Jude O.

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