Depending on the divide any Edo man or woman finds himself or herself on November 12, 2016, the mood in the state will either be that of relief or mixed feeling. For those that brought Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole to power or if you like, those he rode on their back to Dennis Osadebey Avenue (Edo State Government House), they will heave a sigh of relief that they survived the torture given to them by their touted political son, who turned around to viciously hunt them. For others, including the traditional institution in Edo South and members of the royal family, they will inwardly carry out self-assessment to ascertain how much value-erosion the revered institution suffered under the dire reign of ‘once upon a comrade.’ And not to forget myself, I will still be rationalising my gullibility in accepting to work with a ruler, who is everything but what he preaches. November 12, will remind me for a long time, of how important ‘value evaluation’ is when taking strategic personal decisions.
The choice of Oshiomhole in 2007 was a contraction of like-minds, whose main objective was to seek political freedom from a man they thought acted like an over-bearing political godfather. They accused the older godfather of imposing candidates and not allowing for popular choice in the politics of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). So, they came together to form a nascent pressure group – ‘The Grace Group.’ The fate that befell everyone, years later, has exonerated the jolly old man of all his accusations and if you like, make him look like a far-better democrat than the captain of a ‘one-chance’ torture-chamber boat we all willingly boarded in 2007.
Grace Group got support from some political heavy weights, including Lucky Nosakhare Igbinedion, who was the incumbent governor, Capt. Hosa Okunbor, Chief Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion, Chief Tom Ikimi and a few others. Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, the current PDP governorship candidate, led the mesmeric Grace Group. I also played my role as the Vice Chairman of the Publicity and Media Committee.
The administration of Comrade Oshiomhole was less than two weeks old when protesters, organised by agents of government, went around town with placards, calling on Chief Igbinedion, Pastor Ize-Iyamu and Capt. Hosa to stay clear of Dennis Osadebey Avenue. That was the early sign of the strained relationship that eventually snowballed into unrestrained verbal attacks on Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, his son, Lucky, and later, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
In the same vein, other leaders, such as Senator Rowland Owie, Chief Tom Ikimi and Dr. Ebima Ogbeide, the Labour Party chairman, who was one of the midwives that delivered Oshiomhole in 2007/2008, have not been able to escape the hurricane that has swept through the polity of the state since November 12, 2008. All of these actors will have the opportunity to compare notes and count their losses.
Oshiomhole has treated Edo people to different circus shows at different times – some near tragic while in some instances, casualties were recorded. Perhaps, one particular group that will heave a sigh of relief, are members of the Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria. Unknown to the group, that they were dealing with a ‘once upon a time comrade,’ they embarked on industrial strike to demand the autonomy of the judiciary on the strength of a court judgment that has since divorced the marriage between the Bench and the Executive. Seven months dragged on, Oshiomhole remained defiant, despite daily protests by workers, who were sometimes dressed in black clothes.
Tired of staying at home, the judicial workers resumed work, but it was the turn of Oshiomhole to teach the protesting workers a bitter lesson in trade unionism. He slammed them with no work, no pay penalty rule. The workers went on without salary for over 10 months. About the same time, Oshiomhole was a guest at the annual rituals of Legal Week and he did not shy away from the pending palaver as he unapologetically informed members of the Bench and Bar that his decision to slam the judicial workers with the obnoxious no work, no pay rule was irreversible.
There was Mrs. Augusta Odemwingie, the innocent teacher, who, before her encounter with Governor Oshiomhole on August 13, 2013, had spent 20 years in service as teacher. In Oshiomhole’s attempt to ridicule members of the NUT in the state, after the certificate scandal that trailed his re-election in 2012, he embarked on primary certificate verification exercise. On that fateful day, Oshiomhole paid an unscheduled visit to the Staff Training Centre at Asolugun Primary School in Ikpoba Okha Local Government Area, where he harassed and subjected Mrs. Odemwingie to read the affidavit she presented for verification.
Obviously, out of fear, the poor teacher lost her nerves and composure, which made her stutter. Oshiomhole took immediate advantage of that situation to ridicule the entire teaching profession in Edo State. Surprisingly, the present government has failed to train any teacher since taking over the state. To make matters worse, the deceptive drama became primetime show in television networks.
Three years after, Edo State students still trail behind their counterparts in the West Africa School Certificate Exam every year. Public schools are without teachers, and in several cases, communities bear the cost of paying teachers. The above is a reflection of the cosmetic attention that the present administration gave to virtually all the sectors. Mrs. Odemwingie will certainly be happy that her tormentor finally left iron-cast seat that made him larger than his real size. But Oshiomhole’s ghost will forever hunt her ego.
Lest I forget, there is Mrs. Joy Ifijeh, the poor widow, who became instant celebrity after Governor Adams Oshiomhole unkindly ordered her to “Go and Die.” His security details thereafter threw her inside a waiting bus and also had her meagre goods confiscated. As he would always do, Oshiomhole turned around to splash N2 million on the widow after the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) took interest in her plight. Oshiomhole went ahead to employ her as a Senior Special Assistant without portfolio. A few months down the line, the widow lost her job the same way over 7, 000 youths got sacked without consideration in one day. Understandably, Mrs. Ifijeh’s expression will surely be mixed feelings.
Happily, there are signs already that the athletes and footballers that fled the state to neighbouring Delta and Lagos states because of the collapse in the sporting sector are preparing to return after the exit of Governor Oshiomhole. Edo State, which, hitherto, was the citadel of sport until November 12, 2008, lost her enviable position due to absence of measurable sporting programme. All sporting infrastructure that the present administration inherited from past administration have been destroyed due to poor maintenance culture. The boxing gymnasium at Etete Layout is now a church. The basketball indoor court at Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium has been converted to an event centre. Same goes for the swimming pool that is taking almost eight years to renovate. The only sporting action in the state is the annual multi-million dollar ritual, called ‘Okpekpe Race. Again, the exercise, which can best be described as public relations stunt, failed to develop local talents in the state and can, therefore, be described as monumental waste of state resources.
Maybe, and just maybe, our market men and women may have the chance to shout hosanna, hosanna when the present executives of the street urchins whom Governor Oshiomhole handed the state to will finally release members of the public from their stranglehold.
•Omo-Ojo, former commissioner in Edo State, wrote in from Benin City.