In recent times, the governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, seems to realise that he needs a second term to continue as governor of Edo State. For a governor as powerful as Obaseki, who talks about the suspension of the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole, with the aim of removing him from office, he seems to think his second term qualification does not need anybody’s approval. He has clearly stated that he is most qualified for a second term.
Obaseki had addressed a press conference where he affirmed his qualification. However, it appeared he realised his mistake and made a U-turn by telling members of his party that he was contesting for a merited second term and desired their patronage, since he was eminently qualified for their endorsement. In that meeting, the governor made it clear to those in attendance that it was conventional for him to have endorsement for a second term ticket without primaries within the party. He referred to the second term of Oshiomhole to justify his assertion.
For a governor, Obaseki’s endorsement is a given. This is irrespective of the objection raised by some members of the party who attended the session. The issue, however, is: what options did the people who were gathered there have against a governor with all the powers and resources? A governor who could boasts of suspending the national chairman of his party without recourse to the NEC of the party is definitely powerful.
Governor Obaseki definitely possesses the credentials to earn a second term as governor of Edo State. However, the only thing that could question his chances is his performance in office. Without being drawn into the Obaseki-Oshiomhole quarrel, it must be said that the governor has invested more time in fighting Oshiomhole than he has indulged in creative response to the developmental needs of Edo State. In recent times, he has spent more time and resources on anti-Oshiomhole mobilisation, including a proposed demonstration in Abuja, than addressing the development needs of Edo. It costs money to organise a demonstration of thousands of people.
Obaseki has not shown much capacity to manage the facilities bequeathed to him or improve on them. The roads in Benin City have not had any improvement beyond what Oshiomhole achieved. The Benin Storm Water project has been virtually abandoned. The roads constructed by Oshiomhole are being gradually destroyed by erosion. The Gelegele seaport project has been reduced to the level of rhetoric. The state of electric power supply in Edo State is perhaps the worst in the entire country. The schools are run without the appropriate student-teacher ratio. The school buildings that were upgraded by Oshiomhole are witnessing deterioration. The debt profile of the state is at its highest level, with the additional loans collected by Obaseki in the last three years. At present, Edo State has the highest level of external debt ($276 million as at December 2018), second only to Lagos State and highest among all the South-South states, yet we cannot juxtapose this against real dividends. This is with the fact that, at the inauguration of his government, the external debt of the state stood at $168 million. The domestic debt burden has increased from about N45 billion pre-inauguration to N84 billion as at June 2019.
Obaseki argues that Oshiomhole tried to act the godfather by advising that he should accommodate the welfare of party loyalists. It is not unexpected that Obaseki could not see reasons for the advice. He only moved into a party that was already built. Therefore, he does not know that, in every social system, sacrifices are made to retain loyalty and compensate commitment. Obaseki is definitely a stranger in the APC of Edo State. He could not have understood what Oshiomhole was saying.
The depth of his limitations is expressive in his classification of Oshiomhole’s advice as playing the godfather role. Let it be known that the former governor built the APC in Edo State, in collaboration with Pastor Osagie Ize Iyamu, among others. He emerged as the national chairman of the party. Therefore, Oshiomhole could not have been spared the complaint of the founding members of the party when they felt alienated by the governor. In that regard, his advising the governor is in the line of duty and moral responsibility. That the governor saw it otherwise reflects the parochialism that underpins the compass of his perception.
The reality is that Obaseki has not been able to tell Nigerians that Oshiomhole asked him for any personal financial gratification. All these encapsulate the absurdity of his vituperations against his predecessor. It is unfortunate that Obaseki has chosen the path of brazen antagonism in his undertaking to undo the man that made him. It is being reported in the press that he is supporting the removal of Oshiomhole as the national chairman of the APC.
Obaseki ought to know that the major plank of governance is delivery on the developmental needs of the people. He ought to know that this requires putting all hands on deck. He ought to be guided by the higher wisdom of exploiting the genius of his predecessor who is held high in governance delivery by the people of Edo State. But he chooses to fight all who could help him achieve the optimum. His solid social media performance is in contrast with reality, as the people of Edo State have nothing to point to.
Taking the report sheet of Obaseki in perspective, he has not escaped the limiting definition of development programmes as captured and traded by the Brenton Woods institutions. He does not understand that concrete development is defined in human resources development. He is unable to understand that the only solution to poverty eradication is full employment. He is unable to understand the concept of development within the context of the Group Mind matrix. He sloganeers without any ideological definition.
When the larger population of a social system are unable to access education because they cannot pay fees, when Obaseki is unable to fund the schools opened by past governments, when he abandoned the state university, Ambrose Alli University, to a self-funded development policy, one wonders whether Obaseki understands what should be classified as development programmes. Development is anchored on human resources and its underpinning capacity. This requires broadening access to education for the citizenry by opening more schools that must be necessarily qualitative. It is about ensuring that economic incapacity does not hinder access to education for the citizenry. It is about an enabling environment for economic activity for all.
Also, access to healthcare is critical among other factors that deliver psychological balance to the citizenry. Having commercialised the specialist hospital built by Oshiomhole, he has deprived the poor in Edo State of a health facility that was built from their taxes. To have built 150 roads covering 200 kilometres indicates road length of 1.3 kilometres each. Clearly, these lengths of roads are not related to concrete development in Edo State. When the governor’s achievement on roads infrastructure does not benefit the supply chain of the industrial and agricultural delivery of the state, its developmental implication becomes peripheral. The truth is that Obaseki has not been able to construct any major road in Edo State after almost four years of governance. His achievements are street roads that are at best in the purview of local government council delivery.
It will help Obaseki to refrain from subterfuge and appreciate that Nigeria has reasonably improved on the percentage of the population that are educated. Therefore, the old game of deceiving the people has been reasonably curtailed.
•Igaga Jr. wrote from Ikoyi, Lagos