At least, the puzzle has been solved by the Comrade Governor himself. The Edo state helmsman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has finally ‘identified’ his successor when his tenure expires next year November 12, 2016; this is a major relief by all standards, especially for those experiencing sleepless nights.
He sighted the man who will take Edo state to the next level at Imaguero College, during a colloquium titled; The Edo Project: Defining the issues, addressing the challenges post 2016.
The Governor whose eagle-eye located his successor calmly seated in the hall, however did not let the cat out of the bag since the big masquerade would have to emerge through a democratic process; party primaries.
There are two sets of aspirants at the colloquium; those who participated as discussants and others who sat among the dignitaries. Giants such as Chris Ogiemwonyi and Charles Airhiavbere were among the aspirants who sat among the dignitaries. Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor and Kenneth Imansuagbon were unavoidably absent but showed support with banners dotting the venue, and congratulating the Comrade Governor for a job well-done on his seventh year anniversary.
Among the aspirant-discussants were Pius Odubu, the Deputy Governor, Osarodion Ogie, the Commissioner for Works and former Chief of Staff, and Godwin Obaseki, Chairman, Edo state Economic Team. They all performed excellently well and proved to their Boss that, if given the opportunity, they would not disappoint in offering leadership in continuity.
Intermittently, they were cheered with loud ovations and standing endorsements, the type that convinced the Comrade on the acceptability and can-do spirits and firing power of these competitors. The Governor, of course, could not hide his feelings. He, however, did not fall into the trap of naming his preferred person but said, there is no doubt that the man who can do the job is seated in this Hall.
For Oshiomhole, there was no need sacking any of his aide who is interested in contesting his seat as obtainable in other states and government. He sees them as partners in progress who should be encouraged to contribute their best in the development of the state and not to be persecuted on the account of ambition.
Therefore, the Comrade has promised to lay a good and solid foundation for his successor in the similitude of former Lagos state Governor, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who laid the foundation upon which ‘Captain’ Raji Fashola built upon. Fashola was Tinubu’s Chief of Staff when he was Governor.
However, what is not certain is the model of political structure in governance for which Oshiomhole will adopt. Several models have evolved in recent times since 1999 in terms of succession, though these models are not static or cast-in-stone, neither are they classical institutional rules for the exchange of batons.
From benefit of hindsight, the Comrade seems looking at the Lagos-Tinubu model in terms of sustainable economic foundation for his successor through alternative revenue generation; whether he wants to toe his step in terms of the model of succession, this is not quite clear, though indications abound.
The man in the heart of this whole intrigues is quite unpredictable; history has shown. There is nothing stopping him from evolving his own model of succession. If he goes the Jagaban’s model, Oshiomhole’s successor would no longer be a dark-horse. He is known. But there are other options.
In Kano, the present Governor is Abdullai Umar Ganduje, a former Deputy Governor to Musa Rabiu Kwankwaso. And this is so in a couple of other states. This cannot be said to be an enduring model since 1999 and there are reasons for these. In other states, we have had political neophytes from the banking (private) sector such as Anambra state Governor, Willie Obiano, clinching the number one seat in the state, just as former Senators such as Senator Ifeanyi Okowa have also been favoured in Delta State owing to the gang-up against the ex-while Governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan who was allegedly arm-twisted by a number of factors and forces.
A most recent twist to this whole models is the present situation in Lagos state; a former Accountant-General or simply put, a civil servant becoming the Governor of the state. It is not surprising because the very ‘actor’ whose economic foundation the Comrade wants to toe, endorsed Akinwunmi Ambode’s candidature as against the wish of the then sitting Governor. So, in all of these, Lagos can be said to be an enduring and shining example in terms of political structure in the succession of governance.
Indications, flowing from the Lagos example, shows that we are likely going to have a structured model; this is more so, since the forces that laid the sustainable economic foundation for the prosperity of the state and who have been part of the system from inception cannot abandon work half-way for others to experiment.
Least I delve into the realms of gesticulation, permit me to retrace a step backward to the colloquium where Governor Oshiomhole discovered the potentials of his successor. Here, there are two key elements represented in three personalities who are also aspirants. While not foreclosing other aspirants, I must quickly remind us that the focus of this discourse is the colloquium and the aspirants who participated as discussants.
The key elements here are in terms of the political class and the second is the economic drivers as represented in the aspirants namely; Pius Odubu and Osarodion Ogie on one hand and Godwin Obaseki, on the other hand. Between these two classes, which one comes first? Some put it differently thus; between the chicken and the egg, which one comes first? In answering this, we must know where we are coming from and where we are presently while putting into cognizance that both sets were foundation members of the Adams Oshiomhole led administration and that they can continue where the Governor stops.
Odubu is a political generalissimo, a grassroots politician and a dogged fighter; no doubts. Ogie is in this category too. He was the first to take the stage that was moderated by Mr Femi Falana, SAN. He combined native intelligence with political oratory during stocktaking and thereafter, went into appeals for a continuum in government when he addressed his audience. Infact, he was appealing. And, as a lawyer, just like Ogie, it was short of campaign elements. They know the rules and would not flout them.
Specifically, Odubu spoke about local government administration in the state over the past seven years; as deputy governor, that was his schedule and he still oversees that department. He spoke eloquently and passionately while possessing the microphone. The issues were on his finger-tips and he had no difficulty delivering them but he was boxed to the corner for time, just like others were constraint.
First, Odubu expressed profuse appreciation to the Comrade Governor for deeming him fit for the assignment of a deputy governor. He went on to thank the people of Edo state for their profound support and love for the Comrade Governor and the entire cabinet members. Trust the politician in Odubu, he warmed himself into the hearts of his watchers who consequently gave him a standing ovation.
He said his party, the All Progressive Congress (APC) practices what it preaches; change. In his words, “And change we are getting”. “This colloquium is the difference between our party and others”, he opened his speech after observing a long list of protocols for which others adopted in their addresses.
“An atmosphere best described as hostile take-over” was his description of the period he came into government with the Comrade Governor. “But it took the dexterity and doggedness of the Comrade Governor to take-off”, he admitted.
For Odubu, the race is for those who endured and not for the swift. In summary, he explained the situation he met the council administration, what has changed, where it is presently and the way forward, these were the categorization of his articulate discourse.
Ogie’s turn came before the Chief Economist’s. Ogie like Odubu unlike Obaseki. The lawyer and politician is seen as the ‘Rasputin of the Oshiomhole administration’ in many quarters. He was there with Oshiomhole, just like Odubu, during the gloomy and uncertain period of little beginnings.
Ogie opened up his discourse with a self-propounded theory of the essence of time and it was his selling point. It was legendary. And it earned him tumultuous ovations that almost chopped-out his 15 minutes address. Infact, the Governor could not hide his thoughts for Ogie, when he said, “I never knew Ogie can speak the manner he spoke. I always see him as a shy person”.
This strategist played a major role during the 2007 election that was rigged. He assembled and led the legal giants that aggregated and canvassed the ‘Oshiomhole’s case’ at the court and was won. After this major victory, Ogie plotted the map for the complete take-over of the political atmosphere for the then Action Congress (AC) and later ACD before its transmogrification to APC.
He, with others, fought battles and kept this government in place. Take for instance, the two bye-elections in Akoko-Edo Edo local government area; it was a fierce battle between Anselm Agbabi formerly of the PDP and Kabiru Adjoto, formerly of the AC and latter, Bamidele Oloruntoba of the then AC and Segun Saiki of the PDP. Subsequently, the re-run battle shifted to Fugar where Johnson Oguma was ‘delivered’ in the stronghold of Dan Orbih’s PDP and Chris Umogbai was shown the way home. Ogie, and his political machinery and structure can be credited as the forte of these victories.
“If you want to know the value of one year, ask the law student who failed and had to repeat later, knowing fully well that throughout his life, his classmate would remain his senior in the bar. The law student can never be the same again”, Ogie propounded his philosophies on the essence of time, just like the Sermon on the Mount.
He took a short but deep breath and commenced again; “If you want to know the value of one month, ask the woman who had miscarriage. She would need another 9 months again for a child. If you want to know the value of one week, ask a Nigerian who had spent one week in the Nigerian Police cell. If you want to know the value of one day, ask two lovers who had a date and if you want to know the essence of one hour, ask a Senior Advocate of Nigeria who had just missed his flight to Abuja, to appear before the Supreme Court on a Monday morning”, with these words, Ogie opened the floodgate for the marshalling his points.
“Seven years down the Road”, Ogie asked, “what have we gained and lost”? Continuing, he said, “We know where we are coming from and when we came in, it’s been work, work and work. Our roads have a minimum life span of 30 years. We have opened up forgotten communities, broken rocks in Okpekpe and rescued the forgotten people of Amedokhai through our good roads.
“We tarred a road in Orhiomwon linking over 30 communities and villages and banished mammy water in teachers House and tarred Airport Road and additional linking roads. We have designed 25 roads and ready for construction.
“2016; what are the issues and challenges post 2016. How do we consolidate the foundation built by this administration; this is not about persons. There are challenges such as funding but, I won’t lament like others but find the resources to address them. I will put on my thinking cap to get the resources to consolidate on what the Governor has started”, Ogie assured.
In the second category of those people I enumerate above is the economist unlike Odubu and Ogie; Obaseki. These three musketeers, if you like, have been, among others who are not aspirants, but foundation members of the Adams Oshiomhole led administration and are fully abreast with its policy initiation, formulation, and implementation.
Significantly, this is where Obaseki hold the ace, as the Chairman of the State Economic Team. He is the engine room for all those retreats organized for government officials and which culminated into the economic direction of the government.
It is on this plank that Obaseki sees himself as the viable alternative who has the magic wand to the socio-economic challenges pervading the entire spectrum in the country and the state in particular. Though, not the itinerant Nigerian politician, Obaseki was born into a most politically conscious and sagacious family upon which he would leverage on. I am told his father had carved for himself, a large dose of political capital and being a foremost family in the Benin Kingdom, he would not be a hard-sell or neophyte.
This man, according to Oshiomhole provided the courage and seamless financial providence for which he was able to address the critical monetary challenges that was his lot in government. This quiet, politically unsung and soft spoken gentleman formed the Information and Communication Unit, now agency of government and the Public Private Partnership Unit, now a Ministry.
For him, the challenge of taking Edo state to next level is the provision of massive works and employments for the people with his contacts home and abroad in the private sector. We are told that the ability of the state government to increase her internally generated revenue and get support from World Bank and other donor agencies is the instrumentality and ingenuity of Obaseki.
According to the Programme Leader, Equitable Growth, Finance and Institution, World Bank, Nigeria, Dr Khwima Nthara, “reforms have to be institutionalized. Edo is very lucky today to have a very reform minded Governor, next year, he leaves office. We pray that a like-minded Governor takes over from him but circumstances change, you don’t know who else is going to come with the Governor and that is why it is important to institutionalize reforms so that they should transcend individual personality.
“Even when Comrade Adams Oshiomhole is not here, his legacy should remain, not just what he has achieved, but the building blocks of the reform programs must remain so that even when the regime changes, the reforms might stay. That is why institutionalizing those reforms are important.
“Each time we came to Edo, we were quite impressed that we were taken around to see the results of these reforms and that is why it was easy for us at the World Bank to sell the reforms programmes in Edo to our Board in Washington”.
Obaseki has his fears and he expressed it this way, “what do we do about uplifting and upgrading our people? The future is about the economy and job creation or else, we would not be able to cope with the time bomb to come”.
“We have transformed governance but we need a strong civil service and hire more professionals. We must be realistic and bring the right personnel into the civil service. We must focus on science and technology or else, our children would not be able to cope with the world ahead.
“We have to continue to invest more into infrastructure and lastly, jobs, jobs, jobs. We must include our people in the economy and provide support for them and for their businesses”, he advised.
Other speakers at the colloquium were Prince Clem Agba, Commissioner for Environment and Public Utilities, Mr. Frank Evbuomwan, Commissioner for Lands and Urban Development, Dr Aihanuwa Eregie, Commissioner for Health, Dr Osagie Obayuwana, former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Edo State and Mr. Austin Osakwe, human rights activist.
This is eschatology; shape of things to come and not an end to 2016 and the politics of succession. Other factors and dynamics are bound to be expected especially so, since the party preaches and believes in the politics of inclusion and participatory democracy and this is more so in a multi-party system of democracy.