By Paul Asima
Somewhere in Edo State in Nigeria, Emperor Jean Bedel Bokassa has reincarnated. The Edo Bokassa unlike the real Bokassa was never a soldier and fought no previous war. He crept into the political space pretending to be a guru in public finance.
No one is sure how he met the ex-comrade Governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole. One common version is that he was introduced to Comrade by Aliko Dangote, the richest black man in the world. Another version is that he was recommended by his erstwhile friend Victor Ogiemwonyi, the stock trader who ran into stormy waters a few years ago.
Once, he got introduced he worked his way into Comrade’s heart by very queer methods. One of his tactics was to paint everyone around Comrade as a thief and gave the impression that he could help the State fund legacy projects. Adams believed him. He thought he would help his ambition to make a mark in Edo State’s infrastructural revolution which the Comrade had launched at the time.
Insiders remember how the new Bokassa would stand for hours in deceitful humility, while Comrade Oshiomhole and other Government officials are either having lunch or dinner. He would refuse to join out of respect for the esteemed Comrade. He continued with his strategy until the then Governor began to see him as the real deal. Months later, he helped to source questionable financial facilities for certain public projects and collected 10% commission on these projects.
For the sake of brevity, Obaseki finally curried Oshomhole’s favour and received the endorsement from nowhere to become Oshomhole’s successor as APC candidate for the 2016 governorship race in Edo State ahead of solid political figures like Pius Odubu, Chris Ogiemwonyi , Ken Imansuangbon and a host of others.The public was shocked. This man was an unknown political quantity who barely had any knowledge of the sociology, political economy or topography of Edo State. Other than being a descendant of Agho Obaseki, a one time Iyase of Benin who after the Benin Massacre of 1897 unsuccessfully schemed to become the Oba of Benin against the tradition and custom of the Benin people of over 1,000 years.
His genetic lineage was a source of worry in certain quarters and words were passed to Oshomhole about this. Not only that, some who had personal knowledge of his real lifestyle were quick to warn about it. He was said to have been at war with his father for years and had a dislike for children. Despite having the privilege of these pieces of information, Comrade Oshomhole went ahead to support Obaseki with every energy, resources and oratory that he could muster and the new political sheriff entered Government House at Osadebey Avenue.
Suddenly, he brought his instrument of magic as Fela would sing in those days. He practically barred members of APC from entering Government House. He described them as thieves who were only interested in stealing public funds. He appointed rookies and no hopers as political leaders in many local Government Areas and by fiat he fired several political leaders, claiming that he had retired them.
One of such leaders is Charles Idahosa who was demoted to nothingness and had to run to Oshomhole for political succor and safety. There were many in his category that the new Bokassa pushed into oblivion. He didn’t stop with the leaders, he descended on the youths who helped him to power. One of them known as OSAKPAMWAN NO MOLEST was jailed for months. He was told that the only condition for his freedom would be to quit politics and go on exile from Benin.
After about six months in Oko Medium Security Prison, he was released and he relocated to Abuja. Ironically, No Molest used horse whip to beat helpless members of APC in a bid to compel them to nominate Obaseki as the Governorship candidate of the party for the 2016 Governorship election in the State.
He destroyed several ballot boxes and ballot papers in units where Pastor Ize-Iyamu was leading in the 2016 governorship election in Edo State. Another youth Leader sent to jail was SHABA. This young man fought with everything he had to support Obaseki in his journey to Government House. After a couple of months in jail, he was released on the condition that he must relocate from Benin. Enter TONY KABAKA.
Kabaka like nomoreloss spend every kobo he had to back Obaseki to become Governor. He was lucky not to go to jail, but he was kept far away from Government House with no reckoning whatsoever. As these events continued, APC leaders began to blame Oshomhole for bringing a cruel stranger into their mix and threatened never to honour his political preferences in future endeavors.
The popular leader was worried and decided to intervene to restore harmony and party cohesion. He arranged series of meetings with Obaseki to persuade him not to alienate those who worked for him from his government for the sake of the party and his own future. Unknown to Oshomhole, he did not know Obaseki enough before helping him to power. While Oshomhole was thinking of peace, Obaseki was thinking of wiping out the name of Oshomhole and his legacies from the memory of Edo public. So the game started.
Stories were told of how Oshomhole wanted Obaseki to open the public vault to political leaders of APC and bleed the State to death. The storyline was very attractive to the public and the new Sheriff was hailed by all as WAKE AND SEE. This was a reference to a few roads and Government buildings that Obaseki was renovating at the time. As time went on the roads became a source of embarrassment to both the Governor and people of the State. The roads were washed away like quick sand by the slightest of rains. The cookie began to crumble.
Obaseki gradually intensified his plot to exterminate Oshiomhole and anyone who had the gut to call that name. Enter Philip Shuaibu, the Deputy Governor of Edo State. He had been sidelined in the Government of Edo State like everyone else and cried to the high heavens. He suddenly became relevant for his terror inclination. A very experienced organizer of political violence, he was commissioned to set up a militia to deal with any dissident in the party. Many party leaders became completely locked out from the party and government activities and they began to complain aloud. The situation did not improve and a formidable section of the party decided to fight for their right to govern their party. They broke into a faction and openly criticized Obaseki’s political and governance style.
This came to a halt when the House of Assembly elections of June 2019 were conducted in the State and APC won the 24 seats of the House. The struggle for who would be Speaker led to a nocturnal inauguration of the House with 9 members to the exclusion of the vast majority. The APC kicked against this. National Assembly did same, but to no avail.
The situation escalated the crisis in Edo and the Bokossa in Obaseki emerged.He opened the purse of Edo State in a series of court actions to ensure that he worked with a nine-man Assembly instead of 24. Before then, his militia led by the notorious Muntari and Gbovo with a group of thugs and policemen attached to the Governor’s Office attacked the elected Assembly Members who had been locked out of the inauguration of the House for protesting loudly at a well known hotel in Benin City.
They were chased out of Benin after partly stripping Saeed Oshomhole and beating up Victor Edoror, a former Speaker of that House to pulp. Public funds were deployed to intimidate party members. Many succumbed. Those who refused to do so were removed from office. Even elected council chairmen and councilors were not spared. They were arbitrarily removed from office. Obaseki himself gave an open directive that no group of party members, other than those loyal to him, should be allowed to hold any meeting in Edo State. Those who defied him got the beating of their lives on his instructions. Heads of defiant party members were broken in Several local Government Areas. So were properties of such dissidents destroyed. Many ran out of the State for safety sake.
The Government began to issue demolition Notices for properties belonging to members of APC opposed to him. No Molest, Kabaka , Idahagbon and others got such Notices. They were all APC members opposed to Obaseki’s style of leadership. They were told to surrender or suffer.In the midst of this, Pastor Ize-Iyamu returned to APC with thousands of his supporters.
Obaseki went into a frenzy. He refused to allow a political rally to receive him to hold at Garrick Memorial School. Edo State Police Command took side with the Governor on the instruction of the Inspector General of Police who appears to be neck deep in the political crisis in Edo State. Comrade Oshomhole was warned not to come to Benin city for the said rally. Thugs were sent to the Airport and the road leading to the Airport to stop Oshomhole from entering Benin City. As part of the plot Tyres were burnt on the said road and barricades mounted in broad daylight under Police watch. It was indeed a descent into the abyss of political intolerance characteristic of very repressive leaders.
Frightened by the arrival of Ize-Iyamu, Edo Bokassa banned all forms of political rallies despite the provisions of the Constitution of Nigeria which allows for freedom of association by citizens in the country. When many political rallies held in Benin City and other towns within the State inspite of his ban, he threatened to revoke the Statutory Right of Occupancy over the land of anyone who allowed a rally to hold in his private or commercial premises. Not done, a reign of terror began.
Gun men attacked the law office of Henry Idahagbon. They attacked the private residence of Lawrence Okah, the State Secretary of APC and Hon. Chris Okaeben, one of the vocal elected lawmakers locked outside the State House of Assembly since the inauguration of that House like a thief at night. Dynamite was used to blow up part of the private residence of Chief Francis Inegbeneki, a staunch opponent of Obaseki from Edo Central Senatorial District.
In all these, Obaseki’s scanty supporters are celebrating the new reign of terror never before witnessed in the State within the same political party. The 4 + 4 TORGBA Movement had quickly metamorphosed into a terror organization with assorted weapons at their disposal to maim or kill any antagonist.
The crux of the repression occurred with the well publicized destruction of Tony Kabaka’s hotel without legal justification as a way of punishing Kabaka for his refusal to support Edo Bokassa and to remind other opponents of what awaits them in the State. Billions of state funds have been expended on this mindless, but state sponsored terrorism against opposing members of APC in Edo State whose leadership by Col. Imuse is recognized by the National Working Committee of the Party.
The prayer of many is that Obaseki’s opponents should continue to conduct their political activities with candor and civility in order not to turn the whole State into a killing minefield just because one man wants to get a second tenure as Governor of the State by deploying violence and intimidation as he preferred method of achieving same.
PAUL ASIMA from Benin City.