This is an unsolicited endorsement of Osagie Ize-Iyamu for the 10 September 2016 gubernatorial election in Edo State by one who has followed the politics of Edo state with studious interest over the past close to 40 years and charted the path of the resilient politician. For this reason, Mr. Iyamu has no inkling of either the facts presented or the sentiments expressed herein.
The context of a contest
The impending gubernatorial election in Edo State is, in one respect, a contest between one man who has always been in the tick of the politics of the state and the other, a neophyte who found favour with the out-going governor.
Osagie Ize-Iyamu has been around since the late 1980s when his friend Lucky Igbinedion burst on to the scene as the most effective local government chairman (of Oredo LGA) in the country. He was around when Mr. Igbinedion, under the umbrella of the National Republican Convention (NRC), unsuccessfully contested the governorship of the state. Of course, the man was in full bloom in the politics and governance of Edo state during all of Igbinedion’s two terms as governor from 1999 to 2007. He was also a notable figure in Oshiomhole’s emergence in the politics of Edo state.
That is why, on the surface, Godwin Obaseki, the green horn that he is, even in terms of party affiliation, is a mismatch. However, he is being propelled by Oshiomhole, whose penchant for arbitrariness in his handling of the state’s treasury makes this propulsion weighty.
The deciding issues
The Oshiomhole phenomenon needs to be examined. No one can say that Oshiomhole hasn’t achieved enough to be passed as successful. But there is glaring evidence that diminishing returns have set in. indeed, some of the man’s actions have verged on the ludicrous. The idea of surreptitiously establishing a university right in front of his country home is criminal. Let him not be deceived by the applause he’s getting from his townsfolk. We are talking about the close to 4 million people of Edo Estate spread across 19 LGAs, at home and in the Diaspora. What do Owan and Akoko-Edo people feel about it? What do the people of Ekpoma, hosts to the under-resourced Ambrose Alli University, indeed the Esan people, feel about it? What is the feeling of Orhionmwon people, whose long history of neglect continued, despite Pius Odubu being his deputy for eight years; indeed, what do they feel when they see the revolutionary transformation that has been witnessed in the Uzairue axis that Oshiomhole hails from?
When he was on the campaign trail in 2007 and 2012, did he promise to cite a university “in my home-town” on any soap-box anywhere outside Iyamho? What he has done is the height of immorality and insincerity. No one can defend him by pointing at those who have similarly used their governorship positions to cite universities in their home towns. Their actions are just as immoral and insincere. Neither is any Edo person fooled by the pronouncement on the upgrading of Ekiadolor College of Education to Tayo Akpata University. The establishment of the two new universities is the worst case of misplaced priority, both in the face of limited resources and their geographical locations of new institutions – if, indeed, they were needed. Why not turn to Owan and turn the College of Physical Education, Afuze, into a university; or reward Akoko-Edo with a university in Igarra to reassure the area that they are a part of Edo state? If there was a commitment to continuity in governance, the Oshiomhole administration would not have allowed the agro-processing centre at Ehor, the headquarters of Uhunmwode, to go into irretrievable abandonment. For all of eight years, Oshiomhole has deliberately ignored the project to serve the morbid purpose of advertising the “failure” of the Igbinedion administration.
Oshiomhole is acting as if he’s the one contesting the 10 September 2016 election. In a way, he’s really the one contesting the election. He naturally wants someone to cover his tracks. But the people of Edo state are saying to him: “Comrade, thank you for the work you have done, but your time is up.”
Edo people have nothing against Godwin Obaseki, who comes from a respectable family background, although he has his own daunting baggage to do with a serious allegation of treachery against his grandfather, in addition to his inability to account successfully for his academic qualifications. But he is being used by a politician who has a track record of hurting people with his insincerity and ruthless sense of betrayal. Tony Anenih had a taste of these traits, as did Chris Ogiemwonyi, Chief Tom Ikimi, Charles Airiavbere, Julius Ihonvbere, etc. Oshiomhole has no regard even for APC chairman John Odigie-Oyegun!
It has been suggested that, rather than boost his chances of getting the votes of Edo people, his ties to Igbinedion, on account of the overall poor assessment of the government’s performance during the period, will work against Ize-Iyamu. However, there is also immense validity in the argument that since Osagie Ize-Iyamu was one of those who enlisted Oshiomhole into the Edo project in 2007 and was in the good books of the Oshiomhole administration for the greater part of the tenure, including being the director of the Oshiomhole campaign machinery in 2012 – until the parting of ways before the 2015 elections – the son of Chief Imagbe Ize-Iyamu, a former Esogban of Benin, whose father Osawe Iyamu built the first storey building (“Egedege N’Okaro”) in Benin City, has more than compensated for the “sin” of association with Igbinedion’s “failure.”
Yet, even the whole notion of dismissing Igbinedion as wholesome failure is contestable. During his tenure, Edo was not at a standstill. Roads were constructed, even if without the obscene fanfare that Oshiomhole has made an art. You only need to do an objective assessment of the period to appreciate that Lucky was certainly not the most under-performing governor of his era. The feats recorded by the state in the sporting arena during this period are unparalleled in the annals of the state. Recall the exploits of Bendel Insurance FC in WAFU and CAF competitions. Ogbe Stadium, its capacity increased and rejuvenated during the Igbinedion administration, remains a pride to Edo people. Who doesn’t yearn for the days of sporting glories in Edo state!
The truth of the matter, therefore, is that both his “association” with Igbinedion and his “flirtation” with the successful portion of the “progressive” Oshiomhole administration have only added up to make him the best proposition for the people of Edo state in the impending election. Osagie may have been a rascally young man in his days of student unionism; but today he is an ordained Christian. He may have “failed” with Igbinedion; but he succeeded with Oshiomhole. And then he left the Oshiomhole boat when the boat was capsizing under the weight of the Comrade’s one-man dictatorship and maximum rule characterized by betrayal, treachery, disrespect for elders, opportunism, unilateral decisions, manipulation and vain glory.
What are the correct priorities of Edo people? Capacity building and the capacity to retain the human capacity built to explore the abundant potential of the state in agriculture (arable farming and forestry), the creative industry, sports, petroleum resources and mining. These are priorities that the Oshiomhole-Obaseki ticket lacks the competence and orientation to address and successfully deliver on, evidenced by the poor records of the Oshiomhole administration in these areas over the past eight years.
It’s bye-bye to god-fatherism and playing to the gallery at the expense of development that addresses the felt needs of the majority of Edo people who dwell in the rural areas. Edo needs re-birth. Edo LGAs need independence to become the veritable agents of people-led, people-centred and people-steered development.
A leader is not one without a smeared past, but one who doesn’t allow the smear of his past prevent him from making his good essence available to humanity. This is particularly true of leaders in Edo folklore – Arhuanran N’Udo, Asoro, Akpanigiakon, etc. Indeed, some of the most accomplished Obas in Edo history are not necessarily the most revered – Oguola and Ewuare, for example, despite their role in the construction of the Benin moat, one of the most profound landmarks in world history.
·Osadiaye is an international development expert and political analyst based in Benin City.