Questions Oshiomhole Must Answer on Benin Specialist Hospital

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By Julius Akhere

Former Governor of Edo State and National Chairman of the All Progressives (APC), Adam Oshiomhole has been called out concerning some financial infractions allegedly committed by his administration. At the moment, Oshiomhole is being battered on several sides by aggrieved members of the party whose toes he stepped in the aftermath of the internal elections of the party, which cost the APC dearly in the national elections. On another side, a fresh round of war has started between him and his predecessor in the office of the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun. As if that is not enough, the current governor of Edo, Mr. Godwin Obaseki has drawn a battle line against Oshiomhole.

It is not a surprise, therefore, that a string of supposed dirty deals involving the APC National Chairman has come to the public. Among many of his alleged sins is Benin Ultra-modern Hospital, particularly the supposed ‘Five-star World Standard’ Cancer Treatment Centre’ was playing games with the lives of cancer patients, what happened to the 5-billion-naira project budgeted for the hospital extension? Is Madam Golda, the caterer turned contractor and girlfriend of the ex-governor willing to emerge from hiding to tell Edo people what happened to the money for the project?

This is one of the charges brought against the ex-governor by the present generation of Edo people. This is a man who projects himself as a former labour leader and therefore a defender of the interest of the vulnerable population. We are talking about a former activist who supposedly embodies the ideals of progressive governance, the true story of the unconscionable criminal deception regarding the building of an ultra-modern extension at the Benin Specialist Hospital is indeed an instructive expose on his real character. It is may be believable that Oshiomhole could play games with many other aspects of our political affairs, but to tell a reckless lie before the world that he was commissioning an extension of the Benin Specialist Hospital for the treatment of cancer, which was not true, marks the absence of any compunction.

Oshiomhole had amassed a N5billion budget from the wealth of hard working people of Edo State under the guise that he was going to execute a project for the extension of the Specialist Hospital in Benin and that the extension will include a cancer treatment centre. Of course, a considerable segment of the population was justifiably excited that Edo land would have a near world class cancer detection and treatment centre to confront a very vicious medical condition. Unfortunately, the entire project was a conceived by a morally diminutive character. Let those who really care about a modicum of accountability in governance pass by the flimsy cartoon-like box structures next to Benin Specialist Hospital- that is the pitiful contraption that the ex-governor described as the proposed extension to house the world class cancer treatment center. Of course, the location will be so classed in the warped imagination of Oshiomhole. Far beyond the physical structure, the entire facility does not even have furniture like beds and much less any medical equipment. So, what happened to the money budgeted for this project as Edo State seem to have simply been dumped into huge debts? One must ask, how and why Oshiomhole’s successor should try to revive such a humungous financial liability without restarting the whole idea all over with transparent and sustainable fiscal strategy. It is in fact advisable that Governor Obaseki should steer clear of the alleged hospital project until the thick cloud of questions are cleared by Oshiomhole and Madam Golda.

Despite the obvious monumental fiscal disaster that the project represented, Oshiomhole had no qualms in inviting President Buhari and the distinguished Edo community to the commissioning shortly before he left office. Five months before the end of his tenure, Oshiomhole allegedly hijacked some beds from another hospital and commandeered furniture from a nearby secondary school to stage the launch of his lifeless Specialist Hospital extension. Right there without an iota of regret, Oshiomhole told President Buhari and the other guests that the hospital was ready for takeoff and that Edo people will not need to travel too far any longer for the treatment of cancer. The ex-Governor orchestrated the ceremonial cutting of the tape to the project only to ship the beds and the furniture back to their rightful locations immediately after the President’s departure.

How can someone entrusted with such sacred responsibility and the blessing of two terms by Edo people act so criminally and cruelly against his people? How can Oshiomhole be so heartlessly avaricious to deliver such a crucial life- saving project to the hands of a woman with no experience whatsoever in building since the woman in question has spent all her life in low level catering services in Abuja?

The truth must be laid out for the sake of accountability and transparency. Can it be true that Madam Golda and Oshiomhole simply walked away with huge fraction of the initial 75 percent that they collected as mobilization for the contract? The 75 percent would amount to N3.75 billion. I would expect the National Chairman of the APC and ex-governor not to stain the banner of integrity that President Buhari has so nobly flown. At the minimum, Oshiomhole should show his presumed boldness and encourage Madam Golda, to come out from hiding and publicly explain how far she went with the execution of the hospital project before Oshiomhole left office. This is not the time to immediately join the advocacy with those who think that an organized Edo citizenry should seek the assistance of the EFCC and the DSS to ensure the recovery of what they consider an executive heist.

So far, this special investigation project has failed to locate Golda in her supposed place of business in Abuja. Other addresses linked to Golda do not seem to show any credible association between her and building contracts. It behooves ex-governor Oshiomhole to boldly step out and tell the world where Golda is hiding. On his own, Oshiomhole must respond to inquiry for full accountability on the ill-fated extension of the Specialist Hospital project which he said was meant for cancer detection and treatment. Oshiomhole should be careful not to become a political cancer on the APC as President Buhari begins a historic second term.

*Akhere writes from Benin City, Edo State