From 2007 up to the re-election of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole for a second term in 2012, the diminutive former icon of massive mobilisation and labour activist, respected the opinions of the leaders of his political party and the Benin “Leaders of Thought”. To some extent, he was a team player. To a very large extent he was not. To back the claim that he was not a team player, they made allusions to the fact he handpicked local government council chairmen whimsically across the state in 2013 without recourse to the will of the people.
Sometime ago, a purported conversation between Oshiomhole and the Oracle of Benin Kingdom, Chief David Edebiri, the Esogban of Benin Kingdom, went viral. The frenzy it generated, if it is anything to go by, further mirrors Oshiomhole’s inner antics and banal crave for political control, long after vacating office!
Chief Edebiri was said to have reported back to Oshiomhole on the assignment to search out the mind of the Benins(The Palace) on the Godwin Obaseki Candidacy. The Esogban allegedly said that he told the governor that the Benins are gravely against the Obaseki project. He told the governor that he would offer his support to whoever the governor wants but added that they both may sink together should they go on with Obaseki as APC candidate in the coming election.
The governor pointedly told the Esogban that he was eternally sold to the Mr. Godwin Obaseki project and that nothing could change his position. He has since stepped up moves to get delegates who will elect his successor across the three senatorial districts.
Such outright imposition, should we call it sweeping autocracy from a governor who owns his office to purported ‘One Man One Vote’ perfunctory and judicial democracy, open democratic process and the virtues of universal adult suffrage calls for equal deconstruction. If I may ask, how many times shall we repeat it that democracy, or democratic government, is a system of government in which all the people of a state or polity are involved in making decisions about its affairs, typically by voting to elect representatives? If the simple definition finds no meaning or seen as a mere rabble by those who should know then we are in for backwards movement.
Oshiomhole’s friends and foes
Oshiomhole, no doubts, has earned the qualification as the best performing governor in recent times, after Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia and Prof Ambrose Alli, who were both governors of the old Bendel State.
But he has derailed tremendously with his penchant crave for turning his back at his earliest allies, foot-soldiers and apostles. Now, he is patently sold to treating them more like conquered species; subdued folks and dispensable spent forces at the twilight of his government. He has since replaced them with the very reactionary forces that opposed, and denied him his mandate at every stage of his political life, from the very beginning.
With Oshiomhole’s new friends, he doesn’t need enemies. It’s a somewhat sense of impounding catastrophe which has to do with recurring patterns but with the inescapability of the unforeseeable. Now, the chicken has come home to roast.
From Chief Edebiri, who vowed to sink with the governor on his unpopular decision on the candidacy of Mr. Godwin Obaseki to avoid a traitor’s appellation to the Benin Leaders of Thoughts who were former ardent followers of the governor, now stridently disavowing themselves from the governor for allegedly assuming the role of the godfather and the all-powerful family of the Benin monarch who were the buffers and bulwarks through which Oshiomhole anchored and prosecuted his governorship successfully in the last seven years plus are badly disappointed.
In a rare show of public appearance, support and solidarity, the revered Benin monarch, Oba Erediauwa, on November 14th, 2012, paid a royal visit to Oshiomhole at Government House, Benin City. The Oba, who is rarely seen in public, arrived the Government House in the company of some senior palace chiefs and Enogies and urged the governor to keep up with his good work.
“I came to congratulate you on your swearing-in. I watched it on television and it was very impressive. You have done well. Keep the flag flying”. Aligning himself with prayers offered, His Royal Majesty noted: “My chief broke kola and said, may God continue to enrich the treasury with the wherewithal to do what you are doing. Please finish the projects. Thank you very much. My brother traditional rulers are waiting for you to continue work in their domains”, the Royal Father said.
On that occasion Governor Oshiomhole expressed deep gratitude to the Oba for his support and prayers. “I am deeply indebted to your Majesty. Your Majesty has been a father to me and to all of us in Edo State. “My own biological father would not have done better for me than what you have done.” Outlining his vision for the second term, the governor noted: “I am determined to do more than what I did in the first term. We have overcome our learning curve,” he said.
Oshiomhole listed the next phase of work to include aggressively reclaiming the moat and sustaining the work on the Benin Masterplan. He added that over the next two years, it would be completed: “Let me assure Your Majesty that the great Bini kingdom will receive accelerated development. I will devote huge resources to continue to address our urban renewal programme to restore the glory of this great kingdom, reclaim the moat, which I know is dear to your heart as one of the legacies, and, indeed, one of the unique features that distinguish Benin City from the rest of the cities in Nigeria; we will complete our agenda at Ovonramnwen Square as well as the Ramat Park. The Benins take me as their son and a brother. By their votes they spoke very loud and clear that without them I wouldn’t have been governor of Edo State,” Oshiomhole said.
Till date, Ramat Park and other historical sites which housed some of the falling heroes of Oshiomhole’s electoral victory remain dark spots.
Oshiomhole by now should accept the price of his administration in solitude; that of abandoning the Benin Palace; the Benin Leaders of Thoughts, Chief Esogban’s wise counsel and his earliest minders who bore him across the threshold and hoisted him to power.
As an addict of vision, he is also a casualty of power. In the last seven years, he has been trying to surpass the Angels. When the Angels didn’t have the vanity to speak of themselves as the only wise, Oshiomhole did.
It’s not easy to lose power when you have earned false horizon. It isn’t easy to go back into your box, into a narrow island, an entity of anticlimax, when you have tested undiluted power, such as Oshiomhole’s. A feeble successor is needed to keep the illusion of power. The succession power politics is here, and it’s Oshiomhole’s own to lose.
- Okojie writes from Ikeja, Lagos.