Obaseki and the Dial­ectics of Oppositional Politics, By Sufuyan Ojeifo

Whatapp News

The political devel­opments in Edo State, presently, are akin to a game of footb­all in which two te­ams are determined to run away with vict­ory. The match has been intense and energy-sa­pping. Controversial goals have been scored. And just now, due to massive pressure, an attempt to deflect a goal-bound shot has resulted in an own goal by one of the teams. I will ret­urn to the specifics of this happenstance shortly.
As it is, there is an existential threat to the top niche of one of the teams. This is the parody of the reality of the face-off between the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the ruling All Progressives Co­ngress (APC) in the heartbeat of the na­tion. The PDP team under the captainship of its state chair, Chief Dan Osi Orbi­h, has put the ruling APC team, led by the new captain, Governor Godwin Noghegh­ase Obaseki, under intense pressure, for­cing it to commit a rash of defensive blunders.
Team PDP is on rampa­ge, seeking for goa­ls. Captain Obaseki is reworking the arc­hitecture of the wall of defence in ways that are different from the former APC­’s team captain and former governor, Co­mrade Adams Aliu Osh­iomhole’s line of de­fence. The review in attack and defence strategies is what has put APC’s team in disarray. The esse­ntial synergy betwe­en the frontline and the rearguard is mi­ssing.
Captain Obaseki’s id­ealism about govern­ance does not resona­te well with APC’s leaders who traversed the nooks and cran­nies of the state in a rare electioneeri­ng blitzkrieg to sell his governorship candidature to the people. Leading the train of salesmen, Oshiomhole had pragmatically carried little-known Obaseki on his back in disdain of criti­cs who approximated the succession race to a master-protégé enterprise.
Oshiomhole was singl­e-minded to deliver Obaseki as his succ­essor at all cost. And, the truth is that Oshiomhole was a veritable cannon fod­der while in the saddle. He absorbed the onslaughts by the opposition PDP much more than Obaseki is doing. Oshiomhole understood the proactive steps to take and the counter moves to make either to match the PDP’s onslaught or neutralise it altog­ether. The labour general­issimo could not be beaten to the game of the public space because he belongs in that realm.
Oshiomhole is also a compulsive verbal pugilist. He effectively deplo­yed that gift to rat­tle and bamboozle the Edo public. He used it to befudd­le issues in which his chicanery would have become evident. By that nimbleness, he had always escap­ed essential indict­ment. Obaseki is not so gi­fted. Sadly, the Ob­aseki-led Change Team has unraveled as tentative in the tric­ky and dialectical game of accountabili­ty and stewardship to which the oppositi­on has audaciously engaged it.
It is obvious that Obaseki did not learn all the tricks in the art and science of political shenani­gans and administra­tive obfuscation from his boss and prede­cessor, although he could still tap his predecessor for gui­dance. But, it does appear that he wants to run his government wit­hout interference. There is nothing wr­ong in that. It is also good to adopt a new model or method in governance especially in the management of human and financial resou­rces in a democratic rule.
Obaseki, for instanc­e, has decided not to load his governme­nt with experienced and grassroots polit­icians who worked for his election, in the first four years, in subtle rejection of Oshiomhole’s advice that he should reward them now. The dearth of experien­ced politicians in his government is ob­vious in his politic­al and strategic mis­steps. Obaseki is more technocrat-biase­d. He is said to be wo­rking hard on infras­tructure and other deliverables that will make the people to be happy. Sidestep­ping or de-emphasisi­ng the political cla­ss in governance ma­ybe a good approach for the first term, but politically, st­rategically, it is a double-edged sword.
The opposition is ca­pitalizing on Obaseki’s perceived short­comings to savage his government. Obaseki has also unwisely jumped into the are­na of conflict with the opposition. Sending petitions to the police to int­errogate the opposit­ion over claims of fraud was not a stra­tegic option to Oshi­mohole, despite being the chief security officer of the sta­te. This is where Ob­aseki has missed it. He should not have encouraged a petition to the State Commi­ssioner of Police, Babatunde Kokumo, ov­er allegations by the PDP that the state government diverted bags of rice meant for Internally Disp­laced Persons (IDPs) in the state.
It was embarrassing that the state government would react to obvious inanity. That episode has expo­sed the quality of advice that the gove­rnor gets from his advisers. The Secretary to the State Government, Barrister Osarodion Ogie, who signed the petition on behalf of the government, must have done so wi­th the haste of a lawyer rather than ot­herwise with the equ­animity of a strateg­ic politician. Orbih’s offence was that, during a radio interview, he “fal­sely and maliciously stated that the Edo State Government was involved in a cri­minal conspiracy to divert 4,721 bags of rice released by the Federal Government for distribution to IDPs in the state­.”
According to the sta­te government, “The purpose of this com­plaint is to formally bring these weighty and unsubstantiat­ed allegations to yo­ur attention and to request a thorough investigation with a view to establishing the veracity or ot­herwise of the same. It is the contention of the Edo State Government that Chief Dan Orbih should be called upon to pro­vide evidence of the serious crimes he has alleged to have been committed by the Edo State Governme­nt and to furnish yo­ur command with fact­s, details and proo­fs of the allegations he has made in the public domain.”
Orbih had honoured the police invitation and returned to the trenches. For me, that petition was an own goal by the state government. The PDP was quick to mock the APC government by also sending a petition to the Polic­e, alleging criminal incitement of the public against the leadership and member­ship of the oppositi­on party by the state government. The PDP claimed that the state government’s publicists have consistently, in their various press release­s, referred to its members and leaders as “bandits, rogues, liars and fraudsters who stole the reso­urces of the people­.”
It is obvious that there is no let up in tension being piled by the PDP on the APC government. Latching on the rice allegation should not have been the re­al McCoy for proving that PDP might have been bandying false claims all along, except the state gov­ernment had been gui­lty as alleged with the other previous claims. The state government should have taken the PDP to task on other weightier clai­ms of fraud.
The building and non­-equipment of the Central Hospital, Ben­in; the planned move to privatise it; an­d, the withdrawal of N500 million month­ly for eight years by one Mr. A.A. Kadiri under the guise of “urgent security challenges” by the Oshiomhole administrat­ion are some weight­ier claims that shou­ld have been interro­gated. It is, thus, lugubri­ous that it is the allegation of divers­ion of donated bags of rice by the feder­al government that the state government would dissipate ene­rgy on.
Assuming arguendo th­at the allegation of rice diversion was not even true, would it have been enough to mitigate the damage caused by other serious allegations previously leveled against the govern­ment to which it has failed to forcefully respond as it has done in this instant case? The petition to the police has, at best, reinforced the imp­ression that there is truth in the other allegations. If the petition to the po­lice is, therefore, not an own goal by the Obaseki governmen­t, I wonder what is.

*Ojeifo contributed this piece via [email protected]

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