By Idede Oseyande
It is the holy book that clearly predicted in the pages of wisdom called Proverbs that “Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall”. Taking a bird’s eye view of the travails of Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo state, one would be tempted to postulate that the writer of that verse of the Bible was referring to him or had him in mind.
Before analyzing his current travails, let’s be fair to him by taking a retrospective look at his emergence in 2016. When the odds were clearly in his favour in 2016, with a predecessor who was not only endorsing him, but was prepared to go all out to ensure he succeeds, Godwin had nothing to do but to simply present himself at the campaign grounds. He smiled sheepishly each time the outgoing Governor; Com. Adams Oshiomhole introduced him as the brain behind the successes recorded in that administration. Why savouring the accolades, Godwin Obaseki did nothing but smile. Though he was the party’s candidate, he was the one who often said the fewest of words at the campaign rallies.
To those in the opposition and some apolitical observers, it was an attribute of a potential stooge, while those within his political party and the other half of the apolitical observers saw his action as a reflection of a taciturn technocrat and a loyal political godson. It did not take long before the opposition party tried to score political points by describing his emergence as the unofficial third term agenda of the outgoing Governor, Com. Adams Oshiomhole.
How the taciturn and reserved technocrat soon became garrulous and an uncouth political cannon, is a potential research project for students of political science and public administration.
In less than a year after he was sworn-in as governor, the subdued or covered megalomaniac attributes of the governor were activated. He started to show that his perceived humility and taciturn nature were actually calculated façade and the kind possessed by a man ridden with poverty and has nothing to be proud of. Did they not say, “You can never call a man humble who has not tasted wealth and power and had prevailed?
His arrogance started when he openly declared all those in his political campaign train as robbers, who must never be found a kilometer close to the state government house. He subtly declared that political issues should be taken to the party secretariat and not brought to the governor’s office. Though this did not go down well with the political class, considering the enormous task they had embarked on in selling a political neophyte and an unknown candidate to the electorates, they however swallowed the humble pie, hoping that the good governance of continuity on which he rode to power, will be their consolation
As if keeping them at arm’s length was not enough, he went further to drive out those in the official hotels they had been lodged in during the campaigns, without engaging them via employment, appointments wise or any alternative, not minding that a good number of them were those he personally invited from outside the country, who actively contributed to the success of his election. The ingratitude of Governor Godwin Obaseki is of a different kind and profound.
Governance is what he was voted to do, and that he must do, at least that was what he made them to believe. Then he started a clandestine war by cleansing the administration of every known or perceived political associates of his predecessor; the same predecessor who had pulled all the stops not sparing any expenses under the logical continuity agenda. With the appointees out of the way to remind him of the continuity mantra, he launched an orchestrated attack to demystify his benefactor in a move that has presented a study in the act and class of political ingratitude. Yea, he hides naked behind a finger by alluding to the argument of only forging the project of riding the state of ‘godfatherism’.Not a few persons are angry, sad and bewildered why the governor will not only bit the fingers that fed him but gone ahead to deprive the people and the state the enjoyment of the facilities and initiatives put in place by his predecessor just because he wants to score cheap political points that has hitherto become suicidal.
The first step was the discontinuance of the ‘Red Roof Revolution’ which was initiated by his predecessor to turn public primary and secondary schools across the states to modern buildings befitting for humans as compared to what was obtainable in private schools. He then went further to stop the Storm water project, which was designed to eradicate the menace of flooding in the state. When the people cried to him for succour, he quickly reminded them that the problem was created by his predecessor- Reckless irresponsibility.
As if that was not enough, he also refused to put to public use the renovated and upgraded state specialist hospital which was the last major project of his predecessor. The hospital which was hundred per cent completed in terms of building and seventy-five per cent completed in terms of installation of medical equipment was not only abandoned but was also vandalized by the government of Godwin Obaseki, all in a bid to paint his predecessor in bad light. Childish! The same governor that had signed and issued a commendation letter to the contractor was the same one that went to town attempting with utter failure to try to poo-pooh the project as a failed one.
Ironically, while trying in vain to demystify his predecessor, he was also pulling down anyone from the state that appears to be on the path of sharing the spotlight with him. He became an emperor! This led to his strong resistance to the appointment of two Benin sons ( Dr. Pius Odubu and Mr. Victor Ekhator) who were nominated for (NDDC) presidential appointments; an appointment that would have added in no small measure to the state. This he did with clear disregard for the palace, despite the fact that our highly respected Royal father, Oba Ewuare, (II), the Ogidigan, had written a letter of appreciation to President Muhammadu Buhari, which was also well publicised in both print and audio-visual media. Without recourse to the embarrassment and sign of disrespect for the Royal stool, and a pointer to the disunity amongst the Benins’, Governor Godwin Obaseki, went ahead to ensure that appointment was rescinded. This is the same man, who saw the respect his immediate predecessor accorded the Palace; and how the coronation of the Oba was a worldwide event courtesy of the publicity and priority it got from the state government, under Com Adams Oshiomhole.
He did not stop at that, his megalomaniac nature made him launch an attack also on the business interest of a prominent Edo son, Captain Hosa Wells Okunbo, a man whose philanthropic deeds have put the state in good light within and outside the state, yet for ego and uncontrolled pride, Governor Obaseki wanted to see him fall. Not to talk of the likes of Com Tony Kabaka, whose businesses was also attacked in the state, and another party Chieftain had his borrow pit closed and his hotels shut down on trumped up charges of tax records discrepancies.
In all of these, the most disturbing was his sworn battle to pull down his predecessor. On more than one occasion, the governor publicly declared war against his predecessor. At a press briefing, he openly called the name of his predecessor without any panegyric or courtesy of his office, saying that he had warned the ex-governor to steer clear off the state, else he would be dealt with.
To quote him verbatim on another occasion while addressing party members he said: “I am warning the suspended national chairman, if he continues his activities in Edo state, I will show him that I am the governor of the state”.
It might interest the general public to know that while the governor kept crying out that his predecessor was fighting him, he would secretly go to those who attempted to broker peace between them to tell them that he was not ready for any of such peace talks. This position was corroborated in the recent open letter written by Captain Hosa Okunbo, where he stated unequivocally that Governor Godwin Obaseki personally warned him to stop his attempt to broker peace between him and Com. Adams Oshiomhole, as he was ready for a full blown and possibly prolonged war. He even went further to warn the business mogul to take cover else he may suffer from stray bullets in the shootout that was to follow the battle.
Today however, he is trying very hard to portray himself as a martyr being persecuted for standing on the side of the masses while working very hard to shield his failure in both governance and seasoned utterances expected from the occupier of such an office.
Was he not warned? He obviously cannot say he was not warned. Well, he is basking in the fading illusion that the Deputy Governor, who is seen as dangerous prodigal son, learnt well from the ”Comrade Governor” sufficiently to continue in this loose and reckless arrogance.
Within a couple of weeks, Governor Godwin Obaseki would learn in a very hard and sad way the danger of pride and untamed ego!
Oseyande is public affairs analyst. He writes from Benin City.