Soon after Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu came back home to the APC, a party he helped midwife, in Benin, the Edo State capital late late year, the sitting governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki saw the handwriting on the wall and very clearly too, that his chances of ending up as the sole candidate in the Edo 2020 APC governorship primaries has dimmed.
As it were, 3-years after being sworn in as governor, Obaseki had gone to “work” with what many have termed the “most expensive MOUs, partnership agreements and contracts” in Nigerian history, as well as other “Indian and Chinese” projects, which left many in Edo wondering and are still waiting results which, for all intents and purposes, they expected of the elected governor.
However in contrast to his “technocratic” posture, Obaseki took to travelling a lot outside the country in search of the elusive foreign investors for a state that is crime-infested and flooded with a century old hospital still in place whereas his predecessor had spent huge funds erecting a befitting replacement and equipping same.
This search for foreign investors recently cost the state an International embarassment when media reports said the Governor appeared to have abandoned his Commissioner for Arts, Culture, tourism and diaspora affairs, son of a Benin High chief, Osemwengie-Ero with whom he travelled in Europe over an undisclosed sum of $2million found on him in Paris.
In any case, Edo State government under Obaseki had adopted the logo, ” Let’s go forward together”, midway into his tenure and according to his many image launderers in a move to galvanize popular support for him ahead of a second tenure which he eagerly dreamt of , buying publicity of the Nigerian media at will.
Many Edo people initially blamed Oshiomhole for Edo state not “working”, under Obaseki because he left a huge debt profile. It is common-knowledge that Edo State’s debt profile has gone up from the billions left by the immediate past regime, which was tied to verified projects, but the big question which even the Governor has till date failed to answer, is and will continue to be, ‘How much was Edo state debt when he assumed office and How much is the state owing now?”.
And considering the fact that Obaseki has only been signing MOUs and entering partnerships in billions and on paper to build the Benin Housing Estate, Benin Independent Power plant, Benin Industrial Park, Benin Innovation Hub, Benin seaport, and hosting the Alaghodaro summit, did he think that these uncompleted gargantuan projects will be his basis for asking for a second term mandate in 2020?
It was Obaseki who took an oath of office and said, “Our government would be meticulous and prudent with every kobo generated by the people of Edo State made to continue to work for the people”. But can it be said today that Obaseki has been prudent? Some school of thought refer to the Edo state government under him as ‘deceptive’ literally stating that Edo people are being deceived and shortchanged daily by the billions being spent on his fictitious feasibility and preliminary reports for projects.
A case in point is the Benin Industrial Park. For a man who reneged on his campaign promise to reactivate state industries like the Bendel Brewery, Cassavita Plant, Ceramics Factory, many have been wondering about his plot. Yet for an undisclosed sum he mooted the Benin Industrial Park, labelled it, Benin Enterprise and Industrial Park and commissioned an Indian firm to do a preliminary report, which he travelled to India to look at, in 2017.
For this same scam, Obaseki claimed late last year that an ‘Anchor Tenant’, had committed $250million to the Industrial Park. Imagine what such huge sum can do to an industrial landscape.
Another deceptive scheme of the Obaseki regime is the Benin Innovation Hub which often gets referred to as Edo Innovates Hub. He never made public the cost of the project but promised that 25 global IT companies would take up places at the hub. Add this to the Benin River port, for which he has also travelled regularly to China. Yet not a shovel of sand has been lifted off the banks of the Benin River!
How about the much publicized “200,000 jobs” he promised to create with a massive N2billion security trust fund, which his praise-singers claim has been a success? In all honesty, it is just a waste of his undesirable goodwill as well as public funds and an embarrassing mirage, in a State capital where roads collapse days after rehabilitation and fire destroy markets, public buildings and residences without a functional State fire service?
Convinced that his credentials will not sell him to get a second term, Obaseki decided to wage a war against himself. A party he was never a member of but on whose platform he ran for governor, suddenly became his first port of call. After winning a state assembly election will all 24 members from his party, the man wasted his goodwill by choosing 9 out of the lot to do his crooked bidding. How can 9 be more than 24?
Today Edo state is in the World Book of records with a minority state legislature made up of members of the ruling party who were forced to take oaths of office like cultists at night with the State apparatus supervising!
I am not doing this piece to denigrate Obaseki. I am only asking a simple question: Is this what Edo APC and the State voters bargained for when they supported Obaseki?The good news is that Edo APC stakeholders and leaders went back to the drawing board, but this begs the question: who is the real messiah? Will it be a new face altogether and from within the party, or should Edo APC give Obaseki a return ticket and risk chaos and crisis that has been its lot under his reign without respect or regard for constituted party leadership and authority?
I recall Ize-Iyamu committed political hara-kiri when he left the APC and went to the PDP, contested the governorship and lost to Obaseki. But that was because of anger. He himself has said, time heals wounds. He is human and has such rights. Now he is back to the very party that he helped to build. Not a few in Edo state believe that POI as his supporters call him, is a man of integrity, who is well loved by Edo people, and can save Edo from imminent collapse, given the opportunity.
He is the one man who may not deceive Edo people. Here is a man who gave up a detestable lifestyle as a youth to become a Minister, winning souls and preaching, converting many using the Gospel. Here is a man with a simple agenda of his plans for governance, if elected. A man who has never been accused of pocketing public funds whereas he served as Chief of Staff and later Secretary to the government.
Benin City is one of the oldest, most popular and very dirty state capitals in Nigeria, but with all the Obaseki promises of infrastructural renewal, abandoning a multimillion Naira drainage project by his predecessor ensures that the ancient city stays flooded for days after a little rain.
Edo state needs a governor that is passionate about the people. A governor that knows the state and its people. A “son of the soil”, who sees governance as the deployment of the resources of government to meet the developmental needs of the people in both the remote rural areas of the state and the capital. That governor must have integrity. Those who asked Ize-Iyamu to return home to the APC were right. The cap fits him.