By Francis Ehigiator
When William Shakespeare, the great English playwright, talked about the evil that men do, he was referring to the nature of evil and the principle of retribution, as universally applicable to all human societies and across history. One of the key components of retributive justice is confession, the practice of which varies, depending on the peculiarities of a given culture. Among Christians, for instance, confession is done generally in private and accepted as an affair between a man and his God. But in traditional African culture, the evil doer, seeking redemption, must publicly confess sometimes in a public square or market place. Without realising it, it was that open confession that the former Governor of Edo State, Professor Oserheimen Osunbor, did recently in a statement at a political rally (Vanguard of August 24, 2016, page 16, with different online versions.)
For the benefit of those who may have forgotten, Professor Osunbor was a foundation member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He enjoyed the privilege of being senator for two terms on the platform of the party, from May 29, 1999 to May 29, 2007 and served as governor of Edo State from May 29 2007 to November 11, 2008, when the Governorship Election Petitions Appeal Court nullified his election as governor. Since then, the professor’s several desperate efforts to return to power through the PDP have failed woefully, leaving him a frustrated man.
Frustration leads to aggressive and irrational conduct. It was, therefore, not surprising that Osunbor’s failure to secure the candidacy of PDP for the Edo governorship election of July 14, 2012, became a problem for the state’s chapter of the party. His defeat at the primaries, where he scored the lowest votes, made him a bitter man who could not bring himself to accept the candidacy of the man chosen as the party’s candidate. That was the beginning of his grudge against the party and determination to work against its interests. For instance, when Governor Adams Oshiomhole visited Osunbor at his Iruekpen home on March 9th, 2012, the professor openly urged his people to “support Oshiomhole for his re-election bid”. (Verdant Chronicles, Online Media News, October 9, 2011).
Osunbor’s frustration mounted, forcing him to defect to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015. But defection did not solve his problems; instead, his situation deteriorated. Osunbor, in his usual desperation for power, sought to be the candidate of the APC in the gubernatorial election to be held on September 10, 2016. As to be expected, he was roundly rejected by the APC. Poor Osunbor! For the PDP, his departure was taken as good riddance to bad rubbish while the APC, to which he sought refuge, saw him as bringing problems rather than political value. So pathetic is Osunbor’s current situation that he does not seem to know where to go or what to do. For a politician, that is hell!
Now, what can Osunbor possibly mean by “PDP is evil, I am a witness”, as credited to him in the Vanguard and other publications? Is he claiming to be “a witness” of evil? Some of the online versions of the statement tried to provide a clarification by quoting Osunbor as saying that he was labeled disloyal by the PDP for “refusing to share money”. Since he did not specify the exact occasions of his allegations, it can be interpreted to mean that it happened throughout the 15 years of Osunbor’s membership of the party. That makes him a lone ranging saint amongst millions of corrupt men and women in the PDP. Not exactly! Osunbor’s table is now fashionable and not different from the claims of many defectors seeking favours in the ruling APC. They all claim to have been angels in the midst of rogues. Is it conceivable that Osunbor participated in the founding of an evil party as far back as 1998? Could he have served as senator for two terms on the platform of this evil, and made a governor by the same evil? Did Osunbor consider himself a loyal member of an evil organization and yet remained pure and without being infested? These questions call attention to the serious issues of integrity and moral character. A politician’s public utterances say a lot about his or her character. Anybody reading Osunbor’s statement is bound to conclude that somewhere, somehow, something has gone wrong with him or that his mind has wobbled. It raises questions about his credibility as a person and his capacity to continue as a politician. Nigerians are known to be generous people in the assessment of their leaders. So, Osunbor’s short tenure as Governor of Edo State has never been critically scrutinized. Maybe that critical appraisal has become necessary now that the professor claims to be the singular angel in the midst of devils. Curiously, is it not the same Professor Osunbor that was recently listed by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) as one of those Nigerians responsible for corrupting the nation’s electoral system? The professor has rushed to court to institute legal action against the Commission, but he should be reminded of the conventional wisdom which says that it is not the man who first approaches the court that secures legal victory.
Before we forget the past, Osunbor’s presumption of integrity in the statement in question insults the collective memories of Edo people. Has he forgotten so soon the various allegations of wrongdoings against him for the short period that he was in power in the state? Some of us still recall the editorial of the Daily Champion of November 27th 2008, titled “Osunbor as a Metaphor” which described the former governor as a self-serving politician and accused him of “corruption, kleptomania, sleaze and sensory incontinence that plague our society”. Among the specific allegations against him were that he hurriedly withdrew N500 million on his way out of Government House; spent as much as N1 billion on security in one month, extorted money from chairmen of local government councils while his aides looted Government House in Benin and Liaison office in Abuja, etc.
Does anybody still need an explanation of what Shakespeare meant by the evil that men do, what retribution means or why Osunbor is in his current political mess?
The Professor knows better than any of us, he knows that he came into politics from nowhere and that with neither a name nor resources, he scored unexpected successes to become senator and then governor. Yet, he is determined to destroy the political leaders and party that made him what he is today. He knows that faith, sincerity and loyalty are the greatest assets in politics, yet he chose betrayal, disloyalty and political prostitution.
Mr Ehigiator, sent this price from Benin City.