A SHRINKING SLICE

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The mass resignation of Obaseki’s aides bodes ill for the Edo government, argues Ben Ewan

He boasted that Edo is not Lagos, a veiled reference to how former Lagos governor Akinwunmi Ambode lost the confidence of party men and his second term bid scuttled. The Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki believed he had been weaned politically and his predecessor, Adams Oshiomhole who is also is benefactor had no say in his government.

Obaseki declared war against the man who brought him from corporate sector and paved way for him in the murky waters of Edo politics to become the governor of the oil-producing state. He forcefully seized the House of Assembly and enthroned his stooges and acolytes as key officers of the House.

The governor was not ready to take chance with his bid to retain power. He deployed the full components of power to control power structures in the state and his former party, All Progressives Party (APC). He blasted Oshiomhole and warned him to steer clear of the nomination process that will produce the standard bearer of the party. He rejected the party’s preference for direct primary and dictated indirect primaries. Strange!

As the intrigues and scheming hot up, the governor failed the assessment of the screening committee and rather than wasting time, pronto he defected to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) where the leaders of the party arm-twisted other frontline candidates for Obaseki to fly its flag.

The governor who thought he had learnt enough to be a man of his own in politics is getting more than he bargained for. To his chagrin, many of his core supporters and members of his cabinet are deserting him and returning back to their first love, APC in droves. Councillors , who are representatives of the people at the grassroot ditched him for Ize-Iyamu.

Pathetically, the Obaseki family rejected him and pledged support for the APC candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. Victor Obaseki, a cousin of Governor Godwin Obaseki, who spoke on behalf of the family said although Godwin Obaseki is a kin, he won’t be getting the support of the family. ”I am here today in company of my cousins to support Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.”

This is a major setback to the governor’s second term bid. If the respected Obaseki family could publicly pledged their support to another person, it speaks volumes. You can’t know a man more than members of his clan.

Other major pillars of support are also crumbling so fast. Patrick Iyoha, a director of a support group, Obaseki/Shaibu Movement also left the governor’s camp for the APC. Iyoha, despite being a member of State Waste Management Board, he was not comfortable with the political moves of the governor. Likewise, Mr Gabriel Oiboh, who until his resignation was Chairman State Post Primary Education Board.

Earlier, three commissioners of the Edo State Oil and Gas Producing Area Development Commission had on Monday resigned their appointments. The commissioners are: Osamwonyi Atu, Emmanuel Odigie and Rilwanu Oshiomhole — represented Edo South, Edo Central and Edo North senatorial districts respectively. Paul Ohonbamu, the Commissioner for Communication and Orientation had also resigned. On Wednesday, Senior Special Assistant to the governor on Gender, Agatha Onos also quit the Obaseki government. In a letter of resignation, Onos reaffirmed her loyalty to the APC.

These developments are strong indicators to what might be the fate of the governor on September 19. Elections are about numbers and as the support base of Obaseki continues to sag, danger looms. It will be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle for Obaseki to retain the plum job.

Obaseki can’t soar on the strength of performance. Many residents of Edo State are not impressed by his mediocre performance in office. He failed to consolidate on the gains of the former governor, Oshiomhole which would have boosted his rating among the people.

In his bid to cling to power at all costs, the governor had abandoned governance for electioneering. It is also alleged that the finances of the state are in bad shape.

More than once, the governor had threatened to use the instruments of power to crush political opposition. He warned the former governor who piggybacked him to power to stay away from the state. In his state of confusion and jittery, he recently declared that he will respond to violence with violence.

It is worrisome that a governor who claims to be popular among the people of Edo will be threatened to bring down the state just to remain in power. Every man’s work will speak for him. If truly he has touched the lives of the common folks in Edo, he should not be jittery. But alas, the realities are here.

Obaseki’s desperation is also wrecking the legislative arm of government in Edo. He literally forced members to be in bed with him against their will. In few cases, when financial inducements failed, the governor deplored intimidations and harassment.

Hon Yekini Idaiye, deputy speaker was also impeached in a controversial manner and a supporter of the governor, Roland Asoro was chosen to replace him. Idaiye alongside Hon Emmanuel Agbaje and Nosayaba Okunbor representing Orhionmwon North constituency had recently declared for Ize-Iyamu. On Thursday morning, to forestall breakdown of law and order, Police took over the state Assembly complex.

Despite orchestrating violence and fanning ember of discord among the lawmakers, the governor had consistently failed to have total grip on the parliamentarians. Agbaje who addressed supporters in Igarra over the weekend, revealed the highhandedness tactics of Governor Obaseki. He said: “The only time I can remember that I was a true house of assembly member was the first one year and five months and that was when Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was governor.

“During the period, Adams Oshiomhole approved our constituency projects: I cited one in Ward One, I cited a second one in ward 8 Enwan Mixed Grammar school, I cited one in Ososo Secondary school, they are all there, uncompleted.

“Oshiomhole mobilised the contractors with 50 per cent of the value of the contracts and that is where the job has stopped till today. Since then, for the past four years we have been begging for those jobs to be completed even when we have not got new ones, is that fair?

“Today, I am pained because I have wasted years in the house of assembly without being able to deliver on my campaign promises to my constituents, without being able to meet the slightest of the projections we promised our people because we have a system that doesn’t care about anybody. Here we have an opportunity and this opportunity is very simple, it is either we want to continue like this but me I don’t want to end my eight years like this.

“The opportunity is that we get a change, a new system that will now bring out better governance that will benefit all of us so the choice is for our people and I know that we are not foolish.

“They say they did roads in Akoko-Edo, the World Bank did roads for us. We are happy even though the standard of those roads is nothing to write home about because they are almost all being washed away.”

The die is cast in Edo.

Ewan wrote from Benin