Nigeria: Beware! Demolition Man, Obaseki On the Rampage

24 September 2021

Nseobong Okon-Ekong raises the alarm at the unchecked propensity of Governor Godwin Obaseki to wreak havoc.

Recently, Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State threatened to bar people who are yet to take COVID-19 vaccine from public places in the state, despite a court order against the plan. We are in September when the state government said it would make it compulsory for residents to show evidence of taking COVID-19 vaccine to gain access to public places. The governor later explained that the "directive is actually only a denial of access to public places of persons who chose not to be vaccinated." This is how his mind is probably working, 'if they do not want to take the vaccine, it is within their right, but they do not have a right to infect others.'

One may be tempted to ask if COVID-19 threat is the most urgent item on Obaseki's agenda. Edo is not even the epicentre of the epidemic, regardless of the teeming number of Diasporan indigenes from the state, cases of COVID-19 in Edo State averages 5462 with 196 deaths compared to 22,562 cases and 220 deaths in Lagos, the centrepoint of the epidemic.

This indeed, has shown that Edo no be Lagos. But Obaseki must deliberately exaggerate COVID-19 in Edo to deceive the people from looking at the myriad of pressing issues tasking the populace.

Obaseki was sworn-in on November 12 last year for a second tenure of four years, following a hard won victory snatched from the jaws of bitter rivalry. The Edo Governor was denied the second term ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC), which sponsored his first tenure. Convinced that he could win the election on his own steam, he switched political party loyalty to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Obaseki won the 2020 Edo gubernatorial election, defeating his closest rival, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the APC. The 2020 governorship election brawl in Edo is one of the dirtiest exchange of brickbats on the political space. Obaseki's godfather and former Governor of the state, Adams Oshiomhole sided with Ize-Iyamu to ensure Obaseki's ouster from the APC.

Every kind of dangerous weapon and device was deployed in the Edo election. The degree of brigandage unleashed on the citizens had never been witnessed.

Edo people were left with few choices. Oshiomhole was not on the ballot directly, but assumed the role of leading Ize-Iyamu's campaign from the front, because he sought an opportunity to grind the Edo governor's nose in dirt for daring to confront him. Between Oshiomhole and Obaseki, Edo people had a slim choice to chose the one with the ugliest face. They opted for Obaseki, the ugly duckling. At least, he was not clothed in khaki fatigue. Unlike Oshiomhole, Obaseki brightens his visage with a suit. The Edo Governor wears a suit, no matter what time of the day it is; morning , afternoon or night. That is how stockbrokers dress!

In the days leading to the election, Obaseki demonstrated a huge capacity to proceed in a gradual, subtle way, but with very harmful effects. He has no stomach for opposition. If Oshiomhole was callous enough to tell a hapless petty trader, "go and die," Obaseki, his student, at the time, in the school of thuggery, was not that lenient. He crushes opponents with ruthless force.

He brought down a hotel owned by Tony Kababa, a supporter of Oshiomhole belongs to the faction supporting APC National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole. He was the revenue collector during Oshiomhole's time as governor. Obaseki disbanded them as he assumed office, forcing Kabaka to become a thorn in the governor's flesh with frequent criticism. But there is no pattern to Obaseki's violent and uncontrollable manners. Lately, he reportedly destroyed a hotel owned by one of the die-hard supporters, Mr Victor Ighile, popularly known as Mojo. The Edo Governor has slammed a revocation order on Garrick Memorial School land, belonging to the family of Kehinde Garrick, who was one of the directors in the APC gubernatorial campaign of Ize-Iyamu. He is not bothered that the school was built 60 years ago by Pa Garrick and his wife. The poor old lady is reported to have suffered a shock and died from the news. His main opponent in the gubernatorial election, Ize-Iyamu is running from pillar to post, trying to figure out how to escape Obaseki's Sword of Damocles hanging over his head in the form of a revocation notice on the land his multi-billion Naira farm stands.

Obaseki did not just transform to a tyrant overnight, the traits were there all along that he will become a cruel and oppressive ruler. One creepy night, Mr. Obaseki masterminded the inauguration of only 12 out of the 24 members-elect of the Edo State House of Assembly. He sealed it with a proclamation. Till today, 14 state constituencies are without representation in the Edo State House of Assembly because Mr. Obaseki is set to harm them in return for a perceived injury. The 14 lawmakers-elect had their seats declared vacant in December 2019. When they attempted to stage a comeback, Obaseki removed the roof of the state legislative house and blocked its entrance with a towering pile of debris.

Having got away with shutting elected lawmakers out from representing their constituencies, the Edo Governor has assumed the toga of invincibility. With only two persons, his Deputy, Phillip Shaibu and Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Osarodion Ogie, to question him (but they are implicitly compromised), Obaseki has a free reign to sell Edo to retail and institutional clients. After all there is no legislature or executive council to vet and approve his proposals. While One-Man-Show is not unheard of in the Nigerian polity, Mr. Obaseki has chosen a very bad model, which is made more traumatic to the people of Edo by his wanton savagery.

Obaseki is not the first chief executive to govern for a long stretch of time without a properly constituted exco. Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, now Minister of the Interior, governed Osun State in his second tenure singlehandedly, until the 11th hour of his reign. President Muhammadu Buhari, on both occasions of his election, took his precious time in constituting his cabinet. However, these examples are markedly different from Obaseki because they had a functional legislature.

Not too long ago, Mr. Obaseki raised, what turned out to be, a false alarm suggesting that the Central Bank of Nigeria had printed and shared N60 billion. It may very well be that this colossal amount of cash is buried in the rubble of the Edo Governor's many demolition.

QUOTE

Between Oshiomhole and Obaseki, Edo people had a slim choice to chose the one with the ugliest face. They opted for Obaseki, the ugly duckling. At least, he was not clothed in khaki fatigue. Unlike Oshiomhole, Obaseki brightens his visage with a suit. The Edo Governor wears a suit, no matter what time of the day it is; morning , afternoon or night. That is how stockbrokers dress!

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