Edo people are behind me, says Obaseki


GODWIN Obaseki, governor of Edo State, and Adams Oshiomhole, national chairman of the All Progeessives Congress (APC), may be walking through a tight rope.

Eyes are on them and the heterogeneous state, which is contending with the protracted intra-party crisis in the ruling party.

The camp of the governor appears confident as Obaseki faces next year’s poll. Personally, Obaseki is bubbling with hope, the elixir of life. The forces against him are formidable. But, he is determined to weather the storm. The governor is now crossing the bridge from the boardroom to practical politics and statecraft. There are thorns and landmines on the way. Will he survive and get a second term? He said he will overcome because he enjoys the support of the people.

A cloud of uncertainty is hovering over the once united party, amid the battle of supremacy. The die is cast between Obaseki and APC National Chairman Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. Both leaders are talking tough. Also, their followers are fueling the rift and deep seated hostility. The threat to Edo APC consists less in the plot of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP) to bounce back than the inexplicable predecessor-successor crisis.

Obaseki is complaining that he is being sidelined in matters relating to federal appointments. Edo indigenes are being considered by the Federal Government’s posts without his knowledge, consultation and input. He said the former governor was responsible.

But, the camp of Oshiomhole also complained that the governor has not carried them along, stressing that the opportunities they enjoyed under the comrade-governor have ceased.

Three years ago, nobody could come between Comrade Oshiomhole and Obaseki, who was highly critical to his succession agenda as two term governor. Oshiomhole, a veteran labour leader, nursed a populist agenda. Many believed that while in the saddle he was a politician with mass following. In contrast, Obaseki was s quiet achiever; a successful technocrat who added value to the Oshiomhole administration as Leader of the Economic Team.

The former governor called the shots. He was indomitable while in power. Following a hectic primary, his anointed candidate, Obaseki, emerged as the flag bearer. The flag bearer also defeated his rival, Pastor Osagie Eze-Iyamu, during the governorship poll.

However, two and half years after, a curious gulf developed between the predecessor and successor. According to observers, the bone of contention is style.

Oshiomhole alleged that Obaseki has not been carrying other party leaders along. He said the projects he left behind were being abandoned by his successor. Judging by his body language,  Obaseki may not be in his calculation as the APC warms up for next year’s primary.

But, to Obaseki, Oshiomhole is playing playing god. His priority is to maintain a break from the past by reducing political expenditure, or stomach expenditure for few party stalwarts, and focus more on people-oriented developmental projects for the benefit of the generality of the people.

Emphasising this paradigm shift, he told reporters in Benin City, the state capital, that the goal of certain politicians in Edo are at variance with the priorities of the common man.

Trouble had started, shortly after the House of Assembly elections. The ruling party cleared all the 24 seats. Yet, the Assembly was enveloped in crisis of inauguration. Obaseki and Oshiomhole had parted ways and the struggle for the control of the legislative arm begun. To safeguard his career, the governor put on his thinking cap. At the end of the struggle, his men emerged as principal officers. Lawmakers loyal to Oshiomhole kicked, saying that the proclamation by the governor was improperly done. The battle shifted to court, which ruled that Obaseki was right. Both parties have now returned to the Appeal Court.

Oshiomhole has been blaming Obaseki for the conflict. But, the governor objected, accusing the governor of high handedness. The governor said there would be no room for any form of godfatherism in Edo State. He also said he has the backing of the people for his transformational agenda in the Southsouth state. Obaseki said he would refuse to be intimidated by anybody, adding that the APC national chairman had outlawed godfatherism in the state.

The governor said Oshiomhole, who waged anti-godfatherism war against the late Chief Tony Anenih, cannot replace him as a godfather.

To observers, the crisis may divert the governor’s attention, if it continues to fester. Although some members of the Oshiomhole camp are dispute Obaseki’s achievements,  the governor has continued to be applauded by the masses.

Civil servants are praising Obaseki for the reforms in the civil service. Apart from regular payment of salaries, the governor is building a new secretariat for workers. The workers have been managing the old secretariat built by former Military Governor Samuel Ogbemudia almost 50 years ago. A new quarter is also being built for judges. “Reforms in Edo includes the provision of conducive environment for civil servants to work. We want to serve the people, instead of sharing money to politicians,” said Crusoe Osagie, the governor’s media and communications adviser.

Beneficiaries of services rendered by the Edo Geographic Information Service are also happy. The agency has curtailed the activities of land grabbers. Today, Certificates of Occupancy (C of O) can be processed and obtained between 30 and 45 days.

Edo public primary and secondary schools are being given a face lift. At Emotan Primary School, Benin, reporters witnessed improved learning environment, with computerised teaching. For youths outside school, there is free computer training.

Many roads are being constructed. Agriculture is receiving a boost. The recent Aroghodaro Summit further exposed the state’s potentials to investors. It has served as a platform for reengineering governance.

Obaseki said his desire is to make a mark, and not to satisfy certain chieftains to the detriment of the masses. Politicians are asking for money, unmindful of the needs of the ordinary people that should be met by government, he said.

“Politicians are being taken care of. But, when I give out contracts to them, I make sure they do the work,” Obaseki added.

The governor said there is much work to do in Edo. He lamented that, due to lack of succour and guidance, many youths indulge in vices. No fewer than 40, 000 youths of Edo origin are planning to migrate abroad for real or imagined greener pastures because home is boring. The governor said no responsible government will close its eyes to that reality.

In his view, Oshiomhole ought to support his push for good governance, instead of throwing obstacles on his path. Reflecting on the Assembly crisis, he lamented that the APC national chairman is not allowing the lawmakers-elect to show up for inauguration. He ruled out unimaginable tension in the state, saying: The guys making trouble in Edo are not more than two dozens.”

Firing salvos at Oshiomhole, Obaseki said: “Why should a father be fighting his own children? Why should APC in Edo create an opposition within its family? The man who is to protect the family is trying to scatter the family.”

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