I really wonder why the Benin people have allowed the political configuration of Edo State to be so skewed against them. It is unbelievable. I am not easily given to tribalism and those who know me can attest to this. What is going on in Edo State is ugly. I am no doubt a Benin man but the views herein expressed are verifiable by any member of the public who cares.
Let us be real for once. Adams Oshiomhole was a formidable National Labour Leader in his own right. He had no significant political influence in Edo State, let alone Nigeria ,before becoming the Governor of Edo State by the pronouncement of a competent Tribunal. Who aided his journey to the Government House? The Benin people did. Lucky Igbinedion made the machinery of the State available for the mission. He pumped in plenty of private and public funds. Chief Gabriel Igbinedion did not spare any expense. He did everything within his power. Captain Hosa Okunbor spent hundreds of millions of naira to support the election and Court processes that led to his election as Governor. Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu practically laid out plan for this political success. These are all Benin men. Is there any of them who has not been a victim of Oshiomhole’s annihilation methods in one way of the other? I don’t know of any.
At the commencement of his tenure, the slogan was to do away with “god-fatherism” in Edo politics. That resonated well with the people given the neck breaking grip that certain god-fathers had over the political life of the State. As he went deep into his tenure, the slogan began to change its complexion. A new “god-father” had emerged on the political stage. That was not the end. A systematic composition and re-arrangement of the Benin political class was quietly effected. An insignificant number among those who offered future political promise was allowed into the new order. The majority of the new men on the block were practitioners of the Hobesian hypothetical state of nature. Without adequate education and useful skill, they were selected and empowered with enormous financial opportunities. They were so influential that they disrupted political meetings not authorized by their overlords at will. On one occasion, they stretched out an influential Benin politician on the floor in front of his ancestral home and thoroughly thrashed him for calling himself a leader. The man that they thrashed was over 60 years of age at the time. It was quite tough to operate politically without the endorsement of these enforcers. It was a strange development in Benin politics.
Even the famous Benin moat was totally disfigured by a certain Government Ministry on the pretext of preserving same. Not a question was asked by anyone. Today, the moat is near extinction. I believe that this was deliberate.
Given the support that Oshiomhole enjoyed from the Benin people, they deserved more than they got in terms of the political architecture of the Benin leadership. Some may quickly talk about the overall relative infrastructural development that Benin City enjoyed at the time and so on and so forth. That is merely because Benin City is the State capital and the home of the all powerful Oba of Benin. The point that is being made is that the type of people that made up the artificial political leadership foisted on the Benin people was to preclude them from wielding any level of political influence or competing for power with Oshiomhole within and outside the State.
The tactics was to weaken the Benin political leaders through hand outs on the one hand and physical intimidation on the other. It worked. In the end, he determined who got what amongst the Benin people. Besides the Minister of State for Health appointed by President Buhari, nearly all other appointments got Oshiomhole’s nod. So were elected officials, including the Governor of the State. I concede that Godwin Obaseki is a worthy technocrat who appears to understand development theories and methodology, but that does not detract from the fact that he was the product of Oshiomhole’s arbitrary selection process on behalf of Benin people.
For instance, when Oshiomhole was Governor of the State, he was the defacto head of ACN turned APC in the State. No one else had a say as far as Party matters were concerned. Ironically, the same Oshiomhole remains the Political leader of APC in Edo State till date despite the fact that there is a serving Governor from the same party. If the post of the Governor qualified Oshomhole to lead the party in the State, why does it not qualify Obaseki to do same? Why is he subjected to the dictates of Oshiomhole on Party matters? Is what is good for the goose not good for the gander?
It came to pass that another Benin man found himself as Chairman of the ruling APC. Since then, Odigie Oyegun has known no peace. Spurious allegations have been leveled against him. They include weakness, lack of massive followership, aloofness etc. Most of these complaints came from pro-Oshiomhole groups. Some of them may be correct and some are not. For God sake, this is a former super Federal Permanent Secretary and Governor of Edo State. He cannot be as weak as he has been portrayed. His real problem was that the man from Iyamoh wanted that seat desperately after completing his tenure as Governor. He could not stomach the fact that Oyegun being a Benin man enjoyed so much national relevance while he was searching for one. For him, the Benin people must not be allowed so much national or local political influence in order to prevent them from acquiring the impetus to invoke the power in their superior population in directing the political affairs of the State.
Oyegun’s continued stay as National Chairman would mean that the Benin people are gradually gaining political relevance at the Federal level. Having extinguished their influence locally within the State, why must they be allowed to flourish outside? I think this is the unspoken battle now going on between Oyegun and Oshiomhole and the non-edo public may need to know this. For the sake of argument, even if Oyegun is to be kicked out as the National Chairman of APC, why must Oshiomhole lead that assignment? Why must he take the office from him in a humiliating manner? Are they not both Edo men? Is edoism of any value to Oshiomhole? Is there no other capacity in which Oshomhole can serve? One man is in charge of three Ministries in Nigeria. Why not take one from him on behalf of the South-south Zone. Oyegun led the party to the historic victory of electorally rooting out an incumbent Government. A rare feat to achieve. If Buhari is re-contesting for the post of President, what is the crime of Oyegun? Why should Oyegun not be allowed to do a second tenure?
Many of us are left with no choice than to conclude that Oshiomhole does not want a Benin man to remain in a position of political influence which is more significant that his role in the political system at any given time.
Many in Oshiomhole’s shoes would show more respect for his Benin political benefactors. Inspite of their near 58% population in the State, they have been very generous to “Oshio Baba” and poured their love on him. Even if Oshiomhole does not respect Oyegun’s capacity, he should at least let him be as a Benin man. Our people say that “if you do not eat pounded yam because of the delicious soup, you would eat it because of the Lure in yam itself”. That is what I think should have happened on this occasion. I have my strong doubts. Knowing the way Oshiomhole operates, I pity Oyegun already . His job is probably gone. Politically, he comes from what now appears to be an extremely weak majority tribe in Edo State. A place where the tail wags the dog and not the other way round. In any case, Oyegun has had his date with history. What is left for the Benin political class is a reawakening of their self esteem and complete renewal of their bereft leadership. They now need to invoke the memories of Chief Humphrey Omo-Osagie, Pa Imafidon, Pa Amadasun, Pa Ben- Edo Osagie and their likes to guide them in the search for their modern equivalent. And it would come to pass by the grace of God and their ancestors.
Dr. Ehiogie West-Idahosa.