By D.A.N Osa-Ogbegie, Esq.
I have watched the desperate behavior of the duo of Godwin Obaseki, Governor of Edo State and Philip Shaibu, Deputy Governor of Edo State in the last few months with utmost consternation for their fascist dimension. This behavior is motivated by their desperate ambition to remain in office, despite the hand writing on the wall. For Philip Shaibu, one is not surprised because he has a history of violence and total disregard for law and order; but Godwin Obaseki’s resort to brigandage and authoritarianism is the real shock, given his self-laudatory label as a “technocrat” (whatever that means). It is now clear to Edo people that Godwin Obaseki values his remaining in office by hook or by crook, more than he values Edo State and the peaceful co-existence of its people.
The primary purpose of any government is the wellbeing of society. Laws are made to keep order. Rights are made to conserve freedom. This purpose is most eloquently expressed in the preamble to the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria thus:
“AND TO PROVIDE for a Constitution for the purpose of promoting the good government and welfare of all persons in our Country on the principle of freedom, equality and justice and for the purpose of consolidating the unity of our people”.
This preamble is given vent in the Fundamental Rights guarantees provided in Chapter IV of the Constitution, namely the Right to Freedom of Thought… ( section 38); the Right to Freedom of Expression and the Press (section 39); the Right to Peaceful Assembly and Association (section 40); the Right to Freedom from discrimination (section 42), among others.
Every Government in Nigeria derives its legitimacy from the Constitution. So a Governor that resorts to a knee jerk ban on political rally in an election year, has lost bearing and descended into a state of anomie, losing the legitimacy bestowed by the Constitution and should be impeached, if there was a proper legislature in place to offer oversight. Our Constitution guarantees and promotes a plurality of thoughts, opinion and political preference and association, and does not in any way give any room to the Governor and security operatives, including the Police, the power to determine who can and cannot hold political rallies. At this juncture, I call on the President, President Muhammadu Buhari, to call the Inspector General of Police and the Edo State Commissioner of Police to order, as they have looked the other way while Godwin Obaseki issues all sorts of threats against his political opponents, one of which I am.
Obaseki and his Deputy, (the latter who is on record for allegedly pulling a gun on an INEC returning officer in Etsako West Local Government in the 2016 gubernatorial election in Edo State) have both been threatening Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the APC National Chairman and other APC leaders in Edo State, with bodily harm, all because of the latter’s refusal to endorse their second term ambition, just as he did in 2016. Comrade Oshiomhole’s supporters in Edo State are now being targeted by the Edo Government, with their property destroyed or marked for destruction while others have barely escaped assassination. Two of such victims are Mr. Tony Kabaka Adun and Hon. Henry Idahagbon. Mr. Adun’s Hotel has been ruthlessly demolished while Henry Idahiagbon escaped assassination luckily, but his office was riddled with assassin’s bullets and vandalized. Another victim is Chief Francis Inegbeneki whose house was bombed.
Comrade Oshiomhole has been warned by Edo government officials not to come into Edo State. Just before the Osagie Ize-Iyamu’s reception rally, thugs believed to be loyal to Obaseki blocked the Benin Airport to prevent Oshiomhole from coming into Benin City through the Airport; vehicles were burnt and innocent Edo people were brutalized. It is a total reign of fascism never before known since restoration of democratic rule in Nigeria in 1999.
Their latest round of bizarre turn of event, in the desperate attempt to use the instrument of government to railroad support for their second term ambition is the grotesque petition to the Inspector General of Police for the arrest of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and prosecution for attending a political rally in purported violation of the ban on political rallies by Edo Government. The petition is said to have been submitted on behalf of Godwin Obaseki by his Deputy, Philip Shaibu, who himself organized a political rally in Egor local Government just a week earlier.
Before now, Obaseki had unlawfully sacked local government chairmen he believes are not supportive of his desperation for second term as governor. The Supreme Court has since held that by virtue of the constitutional provision which guarantees existence of democratically elected councils, a governor does not possess power to interfere in the affairs of duly elected council functionaries or to remove them, including council chairmen. The most laughable was the sack of the Egor Local Government Chairman for being seen exchanging greetings with some persons loyal to Oshiomhole. She was only reinstated, after pledging loyalty to Obaseki. Such is the manner in which Mr. Obaseki has turned the current government in Edo State into a fascist regime. Governance cannot be allowed to degenerate to this level in a country still reeling from the effect of military dictatorship. Something surely must be done to redress these anomalies.
Godwin Obaseki cannot be allowed to close the political space, already liberalized by the Constitution. It is shameful that a Governor and his deputy, who swore to defend the Constitution and uphold the rights guaranteed therein, have resorted to trumping all known democratic principles. Many of us have lived all our lives in this blessed Edo land. We have nowhere else to call home. We cannot stand by and allow unscrupulous persons who do not mean well to destroy the peace and tranquility of Edo State just to further their desperate ambition. Enough is enough!
God bless the good people of Edo State!!
Daniel A. Noah Osa-Ogbegie is a Benin based legal practitioner, political rights activist and member of the APC