Edo 2020: Obaseki’s Needless Virulent Attacks on Okunbo

Governor Godwin Obaseki

Kusamotu Osagie

As the Edo State governorship campaigns take prominence in the country’s political landscape, well-meaning citizens of the state have insisted that it should be devoid of rancour and virulent attacks on investors in the state economy

Since strong states are determined by their economic prowess, it is always advised that political office holders should be more interested in entrenching or building stable and vibrant economies than playing politics.

For political economists, promoting entrepreneurship, jobs creation, sustained growth, local and foreign direct investment and ensuring protection of investors in a state are considered key in guaranteeing economic growth in every state.

The difference in rates of growth is often attributed to two factors: government and entrepreneurship. As rightly noted by Britannica, the two are mutually exclusive.

In view of the foregoing, it is then apt to state the obvious – the role of the government is to provide favourable environment for entrepreneurship rather than making the state hostile to economic investors in the name of playing politics to grab power.

Those who understand these intricacies are aware that such actions of state actors are highly discouraging to potential investors; and even hinder development.

Edo State is one of the states with the least private-sector presence, a situation many say, should force Governor Godwin Obaseki to streamline the baselines between politics and business by embracing private sector investors in the state, led by a renowned business mogul, Captain Idahosa Wells Okunbo and other reputable investors.

But instead of towing that path, Obaseki is seen vilifying the entrepreneur and philanthropist of international repute to the dismay of many indigenes of Edo, both home and abroad.

Okunbo, a strong ally of the sitting governor is now perceived as enemy of the state because of his usual fraternity with all and sundry – both in public and private sector operators irrespective of party affiliations.

Associating with all and sundry, irrespective of party affiliations is in the best interest of every wise investor.

Many have insisted that the ongoing campaigns must not be allowed to impede the economic potentials of the state.

The ongoing onslaught against Okunbo and his businesses as well as other investors is largely seen as trying to paint his person with a brush of public odium.

The renowned businessman has demonstrated a sincere, robust and strong commitment to support the anticipated pace of infrastructure development, progress and other social investment initiatives in Edo State through the deployment of his modest goodwill and network of capital.

Recently, Okunbo was forced to issue a public notice, a “Save-my-soul appeal” to all well-meaning Edo indigenes and Nigerian citizens both at home and in the Diaspora.

In the notice, Okunbo practically begged governor Obaseki to stop “these continuous attacks on me, my family and my business.”

Osunbo said he had been told how the governor intends to burn his farm and revoke the Certificates of Occupancy of all his houses in Benin City. “But, what have I done to deserve this bellicose treatment?” he asked.

Pursuant to his personal convictions and without any fear of contradictions, Okunbo is known to have solidly supported the administration of Governor Obaseki without employing rhetoric but verifiable evidence of actuality in the last three years of his administration.

“I find it sickening and incomprehensible to understand or accept any justification for the series of sustained virulent attacks against my person in the social and print media by some agents of Edo State Government,” the business mogul reportedly said in a statewide media briefing.
Public affairs analyst, Niyi Efosa alleged that Governor Obaseki has unjustly decided to put the heat on the business mogul, using his connections within the Nigerian Governors’ Forum to attack Okunbo and his business interests.

The downside of the ongoing campaign against Captain and businesses establishments has the potentials of reducing state revenues – considering the human and economic contributions of his companies to the state economy.

Those who have been following the trend since Obaseki jumpsuit – from APC to PDP will confirm that the ultimate goal is to block him at every turn, whittle down his economic strength, thereby cutting down the potential threat his popularly poses for Obaseki and his desperate ambition to be re-elected.

Okunbo has large followership across the state and beyond. His businesses criss-cross major sectors of the economy. His large heart of philantropism and job creating capacity has endeared him into the hearts of most Edolites.

He has been around doing genuine businesses and making solid investments for more than three decades now. It is therefore not possible to neutralise or even waste him by one or two masterstrokes orchestrated by some persons in Edo State government.

Obviously, those who want to obliterate his economic clout and undermine his contribution to the state and national economy are indeed, aiming at his jugular.

For instance, it is believed that the recent move by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to issue a marine notice to mariners and ship owners in respect of the Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) where ships berth and are protected from pirates attacks in the Lagos port, which is jointly operated by the Nigerian Navy and Ocean Marine Solution (OMS), was instigated by Obaseki with the support of a North-west governor who has a lot of influence on the NPA.

“That was Obaseki trying to put his leg on Capt. Hosa’s neck, but the neck would appear too big for his ‘kwashiorkor’ leg,” a public affairs commentator, Sylvanus Isa, wrote in his opinion on the cold war between the current governor and his perceived political adversaries.

Obaseki was alleged to have written a damning report against Okunbo’s interest as chairman of the Ad-Hoc Committee on Oil Theft and Pipeline Vandalism set up by the National Economic Council (NEC).

The OMS provides security protection for the pipelines in parts of the oil-rich Delta region, specifically in Escravos and Forcados, among others.

Not even the robust defence presented to the Committee, as reported by Capt. Hosa himself, did anything to avert the damning report, even though the OMS chairman had complied with his threshold and responsibilities.

It would be recalled that on his resumption of office in 2016, Okunbo immediately sponsored the governor and his team of officials on an investment pathfinder’s trip to China. This was done pursuant to his firm conviction in private sector-led participation as being the key to economic and industrial development of the State.

Riding on his goodwill across board and the respect he enjoys among power brokers in the state, Okunbo personally appealed to the political class and other critical Edo stakeholders on the need to embrace the virtue of patience with Obaseki as he settled down for governance and infrastructure development remains legendary.

This he did with a lot of passion without the least expectation for reward in any form.
Okunbo confessed publicly that he was filled with ecstasy that Edo State had a new sheriff in town, an illustrious son, with a private sector background who had stepped in the saddle to pilot the tate in the direction of development and prosperity.

Mr. Taiwo Akerele who is the project director, Incentive Based programme, For North Eastern Nigeria, can confirm that Okunbo’s enterprenurship spirit is not only demonstrated in his capacity to turn Bretton Woods agreements into reality via actually establishing industries with attendant job opportunities created for young persons, but also in his demonstration of genuine love for his people is altruistic.

Akerele who was the last chief of staff to Governor Obaseki that mysteriously resigned from Obaseki’s Government, could have forseen this crisis and did not want to be of plot to strangulate the business development of the state.

Capt. Hosa was or is not a member of the APC but his influence simply cuts across all the parties.

He enjoys statewide approbation. Had he decided to accept overtures to him to offer himself for the ticket of the APC, he would have been the consensus candidate of not only the APC, but also of many if not all of the parties.

––Osagie, a public affairs commentator, writes from Benin.