HOSA AND THE PRICE OF NEUTRALITY

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Captain Hosa Okunbo is committed to a life of harmony and accommodation, writes Michael Veritas

Political regicide tends to degrade and sometimes disfigure the thrust and tenor of politics in Edo State. It’s severest expression might have been attained under the administration of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, when a new rejectionist mood gripped the land. Under its massive fervor, old icons, who had long controlled the resources of the space, were shown the door. In some instances, their decapitation from the plinth was accompanied by much opprobrium and nastiness.

That era is over, but the attack on godfatherism endures, sometimes as a mild variant but at other times, with increased insidiousness and continuing virulence. This perhaps explains, why in spite of the cultural mutualities, Edo politicians and supporters, tend to deploy alone and apart, rather like belligerent standing armies. Yet politics ought to unify and develop rather than divide and destroy. The political environment in Edo is consequently heaving with the cadaver of expired or humiliated leaders. In these ranks you will find Chief Anthony Anenih, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, Chief Odigie-Oyegun and others. Comrade Oshiomhole , the immediate past Governor, having mentored Godwin Obaseki, is now surprisingly involved in a political feud with his own successor.

These disagreements have fouled up Edo political life in a very pervasive fashion. But were politics to remain strictly within its given jurisdiction, it would have perhaps been a matter of less gravity. But the poison is spreading and corroding ordinary civic lives and relationships and some well-meaning watchers have called for restraint and a rethink. The case of Captain Hosa Okunbo is a fascinating example of how enduring civic friendships can be needlessly fouled up by the thrust and cut of partisan politics.

Captain Hosa was a licensed commercial pilot, having flown with reputable airlines around the world. But in one sudden flight of the imagination, Captain Hosa traded the joy stick for the boardroom in 1992, when he was aged only 30 years. His engagement in business was fruitful and quite soon he became a social and cultural referral in the Benin metropolis. His residence in the heart of the old Benin GRA became a favorite destination, frequented by the poor and the rich; by the famous and the anonymous and also by figures from politics, from government and from the private sector. He himself was a professed non- politician but he reveled in the company of those who plied the hazardous trade. The high point of Captain Hosa’s political engagement was in 2003 when he provided rather voluble support for Igbinedion’s governorship election campaign. The friendships formed during that era, pre-determined large measures of the political solidarities which prevail in Edo today. All of the leading lights; Oshiomhole, Ize-Iyamu, Captain Hosa and many of those who today back Godwin Obaseki, or Ize Iyamu, were all part of the mix.

Enlightened opinion therefore considers it odd that Captain Hosa’s inability to support Godwin Obaseki’s second term bid should be considered a piece of heresy. Government supporters have spoken with great vehemence and severity against the captain. Some have threatened extreme harm on his estate and business interests. Yet this same man, has customarily hugged the path of peace and political harmony. It was Captain Hosa who sought a reconciliation at all cost between Oshiomhole and Godwin Obaseki. The effort seemed doomed as unsubstantiated rumors maligned Captain Hosa with the allegation that he himself was eyeing the governorship prize. He was perceived unjustly as a rival rather than a genuine peace maker. The sabres have not ceased rattling.

One of the regrets in all this is the growing anti-hero convention that is beginning to trend in Edo State. Societies require to be lifted by heroism and heroes. When heroism dies the human spirit degrades. It is thus important that while we extol the quaint old values of humble labor, we also venerate those who reach the summit either through politics or through the boardroom and commercial exertion. Often it is the slothful ignoramus who sniffs at success and describes it as crime or voodoo.

However, in spite of attacks from the vendors of politics, Captain Hosa, rather than regressing into despair and recrimination has recommitted himself to a life of harmony and accommodation. In a recent press statement he said he was happy to break free from the pressures of local partisan politics and would look up to a greater sense of engagement at the federal level. This is not escapism. It is merely a different flight plan.

Thirty two years after jumping off the cockpit, Captain Hosa has achieved distinction in his new life of business, covering a wide agenda of interests; he has associated with an assortment of political figures and engaged in massive philanthropy. The attack trained at him sometimes gives the unjust impression that wealth creation is a crime and that political support for some platforms is adverse. We need more room for plurality in Edo politics; we must produce and sustain freedoms to associate; ultimately we must also avoid rancor, engage in more fraternal politics and see creators of wealth like Captain Hosa, as the new norm. That way, whatever result the governorship election produces, Edo State will be the winner.