Former Governor of Edo State, Professor Oserhiemen Osunbor, in a two-page interview published at pages 46 and 47 of Vanguard edition of Monday, June 8, 2015, revisited a political past that should have been better forgotten when he spoke on the so-called money quarrel between him and former Chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Anthony Anenih.
But since Osunbor had decided to dance naked by his unsavoury narrative, it is only proper to recall and put the event that happened in 2007 in context so that Edo people in particular and Nigerians in general who may be interested in the issue would not be deceived by the one-sided story told by a man who is still in pains over how he allowed power to slip through his fingers as governor. Contrary to the impression he may have created in some quarters that Anenih was instrumental to his loss of the governorship seat, his misfortune was deservedly self-inflicted.
The historical fact that Anenih mentored Osunbor in politics is an eloquent testimony to my assertion: while not maintaining that Anenih is not easily offended by the disloyalty of his followers and associates, I must state without any fear of contradictions that he has on so many occasions welcomed home some of his prodigal followers and associates who have shown penitence and promised to be of good behaviour in their political relationship with him.
I shuddered when I read Osunbor’s claim that he had gone to Anenih on countless number of times to beg for forgiveness. Osunbor was a Professor of Law at the Lagos State University (LASU) from where Anenih (who did not even know him from Adam nor did he know his first name), acting on a recommendation by some associates, got the powers-that-be to nominate him into the 1994/95 Constitutional Conference. Strengthened by his belief that Osunbor did well at the Conference, Anenih decided to procure the nomination form for him to contest election to represent Edo Central Senatorial District from 1999-2003. Anenih funded the entire electioneering. He also ensured that he was returned unopposed for a second term in the Senate from 2003 to 2007.
Strapped Osunbor was offered the gubernatorial ticket in 2007. It was Anenih, after the most popular aspirant-Odion Ugbesia-had been prevailed upon to withdraw from the race, who directed his delegates to cast their votes during the December 9, 2006 governorship primaries for Osunbor at the expense of Professor Julius Ihonvbere, who was next to Ugbesia and more popular than Osunbor. That was how with the solid support of Anenih, he emerged as the PDP gubernatorial candidate and went ahead to win the 2007 governorship election.
No sooner did he become governor than he began to challenge Anenih for control of the PDP structure in the State. He resorted to biting the finger that fed him. Perhaps, unknown to him, Anenih was not new to political treachery, confrontations, disloyalty and accusation of being high-handed by some of his followers. With God on Anenih’s side, the plot by Osunbor to use his office as governor to humiliate him did not succeed. Osunbor’s action was indeed shocking to many of us who were watching the development then. That Osunbor could allow some forces within the party to incite him against his mentor-a man who almost single-handed helped him into political prominence- was awfully painful.
This brings to the fore the so-called money quarrel which he said existed between him and Anenih. Some leaders who were privy to the funding of the election campaign that produced Osunbor as governor have clarified that Anenih had already spent over N500 million before he sought for a bank loan when the campaign ran out of funds. According to one of them, Anenih had in company with Osunbor met with the bank officials in his Uromi country home where he requested for N300 million-loan; but the bank could only give N200 million in addition to another N10 million which the bank donated to the campaign. Anenih provided the Certificate of Occupancy of one of his property as collateral, which the bank took possession of before granting the loan. The campaign at the end overdrew the loan by additional N6 million. Osunbor was said to have paid back the loan while in office.
Osunbor’s assertion that “I didn’t see any N200 million that Anenih contributed to finance my election; but I am aware that he contributed N100 million to the PDP in Edo State and, as governor, I ensured that money was paid to him,” is dubious and self-indicting if, indeed, Anenih facilitated and secured the N200 million-loan with his connection and property as collateral.
Is Osunbor claiming that he does not remember his meeting in Anenih’s Uromi country home with the bank officials where the deal was perfected?
In fact, Osunbor turned his back on his friends, followers and leaders while in office. He surrounded himself with a coterie of praise singers and hypocrites who did not have the capacity, influence or the wherewithal to intervene for him when he desperately needed assistance. It was therefore not surprising that he lost the legal battle he faced at the Election Tribunal in spite of the fact that he is a Professor of Law. He did not get his acts right and he apparently misplaced his priorities by concentrating on needless plots to bring down Anenih.
He understandably and explicably lost focus and with the loss of focus, it was not surprising that he was not able to fight with a single-minded purpose for the validation of his governorship election “mandate” both at the Election Petition Tribunal and at the Court of Appeal. I expect that Osunbor should have by now learnt his lesson and try to avoid the mistakes of the past rather than celebrating them and trying to blame Anenih for his gubernatorial misfortune.
- Dr Ulinfun, JP, KSC (B.sc, M.A, M.Ed, Ed.D) and the Odonebholo of Esanland, is the PDP Leader in Esan West Local Government Area of Edo State.