MARCHING TO THE WRONG TUNE

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Hosa Okunbor

Hosa Okunbor deserves better treatment in Edo, writes Idemudia Oviosun

While the Edo State government has done much less than it promised, it is interesting to note that the administration has taken on itself the bashful and unnecessary task of vilifying Captain Idahosa Wells Okunbor. Of all the governor’s eyebrow-raising acts, this is perhaps the most painful. Attacking the man who put in everything to ensure that the governor was elected into office as governor was bad enough. Publishing gazettes to prevent party primaries and then violating the contents himself was not good enough. But fighting a man who is humble, who will not hurt a fly, is something else.

Among other pedestrian things, he said the cancellation of a contract with Captain Okunbor’s company, Ocean Marine Solutions Limited (OMSL), was not a result of his machinations. His reference was to an interview granted by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi.

It was of no interest to the state government to recognise the accomplishments and philanthropy of a man who has done everything in his power to serve the best interest of Edo State. It did not occur to the governor or any of his aides to recall that on assuming office as governor, Captain Okunbor paid Mr Obaseki a visit and advised him on the importance of Public-Private Partnerships. Indeed, he singlehandedly sponsored the governor and a team of officials’ trip to China to seek for investors. The trip has birthed many MoUs. But in four years, there is little to show for it.

The governor’s camp has found it better to take up arms against a humble man, who, supported the government’s housing project in Benin City with five houses worth N50 million. Would it have hurt to appreciate the man, who, when almost everyone in the fowled political weather, drew swords while he was steadfast? The same man spent hours to advise the governor to tread wisely and reconcile with Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, but the governor reportedly said he was not interested.

If it irked the government to mention the donations of the captain to the governor’s COVID-19 relief fund alongside his many stellar peace-inclined policies, those outside the country took note. Last year, he received the Global Peace Award in Geneva, Switzerland, for his commitment to peace and nation-building. More, he received the Africa Titans Award in 2012, from the Congress of the United States in collaboration with the African Society Summit.

These strides on behalf of Africa have also been recognised by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP). As a son of Edo and a patriotic one at that, he had observed, with growing chagrin, how sons and daughters of Edo were trafficked through Edo’s territories, for slavery, prostitution and many other unspeakable things. His desire to help Edo had been birthed even much earlier than that. Under Governor Oshiomhole’s government, he successfully started a $750 million farm in Ovia North-East Local Government Area of Edo State. This has continued to provide jobs for the people of the state and has proved a better planned agro-centred initiative than the stillborn agripreneur scheme his chief persecutor conceived and implemented in part before giving up.

The government’s reluctance to provide good working conditions is legendary. Many reportedly complained loudly. Indeed, some staff of College of Education, Ekiadolor on August 4 blocked the state’s government house in protest over 12 months’ unpaid salaries. Yet the governor’s aides said that the government was not owing salaries.

Captain Idahosa is a humble and peace-loving man, who has tried to invest in the lives and security of Edo indigenes. The fear now is that if his efforts are repeatedly frustrated by those in government, he may altogether decide to take his hands off the state’s development. Where he has publicly spoken against the Nigerian Navy and Nigeria Ports Authority for their ill treatment, it would be a sad and painful that even his own state government has joined in persecuting him. Why has Nigeria lost the capacity to appreciate her worthy sons? And have the people of Edo forgotten, too quickly, their son whose love for the state precedes his own personal interests? But if no one will cheer him now, posterity certainly will appreciate Idahosa Wells Okunbor.