An ominous political debacle in Edo, By Sufuyan Ojeifo

#TrackNigeria – I had already penned my article, titled: “A case for unity government in Edo state”, before the reports that did the round in the media in which the Oba of Benin, Ewuare II, was quoted to have said that he tried to resolve the Edo Assembly crisis but that it kept escalating.

For instance, Saturday Sun of July 13, 2019 at page 10 specifically quoted the Oba thus: “Like I told (President) Buhari, I have on my own been talking to both parties concerned; Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and the incumbent governor, Godwin Obaseki on separate occasions, but things have kept on escalating very fast.”

I had therefore tweaked the article very minimally to establish a nexus of leitmotifs between two mutually exclusive issues of unity government and sacrilegious response to the intervention by the influential and revered Oba Ewuare II by vested interests in the festering Edo political flash-point, as consolidating them in an article would have rendered the piece of writing longish and prosaic.

The Oba said the issue of resolution of the Edo APC crisis was raised with President Buhari recently when he led the Edo State Council of Traditional Rulers on a visit to the Presidential Villa in Abuja.  Media reports said the Oba of Benin had appealed to the president, among other things, to intervene in the crisis as it was affecting governance in the state.

The royal fathers had yet to round off their visit in Abuja when Governor Obaseki, an interested party in the crisis, dissolved his cabinet and weeded out, according to media reports, loyalists of the former governor and national chair of the APC, Comrade Oshiomhole, who is said to be his opposite number in the factional crisis.

It does not matter who it was that caused the irritation; it amounted to gratuitous disrespect for the royal fathers by the rampaging factions in the APC, for which a public apology should be tendered to them.  In any case, the disrespect speaks to certain political proclivities that nurture private interest at the expense of collective interest of the state.

That would, perhaps, explain the reason the behind-the-scene interventions by the highly revered and influential Oba of Benin could not rein in the political warlord(s).  But, indeed, because of the position that the Oba of Benin occupies in the socio-cultural configuration of the ancient Kingdom, and the facts of which are well-known to and respectfully approbated by every son and daughter of the Kingdom, Obaseki, being a Benin man, should have placed established culture above transient political gains by considering the ramifications of discountenancing the Oba’s interventions in resolving the crisis.

He would have been appreciated thereby as a loyal subject and cultural ambassador in statecraft. But by failing to exercise self-restraint against dissolving his cabinet at the point he did when the royal fathers were still in Abuja on their trouble-shooting visit to Buhari, Governor Obaseki had lost an episodic and historic chance to earn the recognition that would have defined his persona and philosophy in the intercourse of politics and culture.  

But, the rain of infamy, which began to fall with the governor’s first political gambit of sponsoring the iniquitous inauguration of the State House of Assembly, using nine of the 24-member APC-dominated House to enthrone his anointed Speaker, Frank Okiye, remains a Gordian knot.  The cabinet dissolution that came on the heels of that contraption was a further aggravation that was deliberately introduced into the mix to heighten political tension in the State.

Knowing it could spark off a rash of speculations, innuendos and quirky conclusions as to the intents and purposes behind the political and strategic indiscretions of stoking the fire by a series of actions that has now portrayed him as the “real” problem, Obaseki did not care a hoot in the lingering fit of desperation to secure a second term in office.

While the governor’s disposition of power inebriation could, therefore, not encourage more pacific interventions by the royal fathers, the concomitant scenario that has been thrown up is captured by a Yoruba proverb that one cannot clap with one, apparently explicating the dilemma of the Oba of Benin whose effort at reconciliation had been rendered futile by politicians’ obduracy.

It is agreed that it takes two to tango. Therefore, in order to achieve reconciliation and peace, there must be obligatory inclination by the feuding parties to sheathe their sword. The recalcitrance of one of the parties to accept reconciliation on some terms other than his entire terms is counter-productive to the achievement of amity.

As long as a party is committed to frustrating peace and order in furtherance of a predetermined end and investing bad faith and disingenuousness in attempts at reconciliation, every well-intentioned intervention by the royal fathers, especially the Oba of Benin, and APC’s national leadership, particularly the purported directive by Buhari that Obaseki should reconcile with Oshiomhole, his political mentor, would amount to futile exertions.

Permit me, once more, to call on and deploy the richness of the Yoruba proverbs in capturing the burden that the Oba of Benin, being not a politician, had placed on himself to help resolve a crisis that is already having far-reaching implications for governance in the State: “the elders cannot be in the market place and the head of a baby that is backed by his or her mother would be improperly positioned without the elders helping to place the head in the proper position.” The royal father has discharged that duty creditably. 

And, to capture the tension of Obaseki’s political voyage with his higher and bigger stake in the crisis that has the trappings of the Battle of Waterloo with his second term bid as the prize to win or to lose, the Yoruba say: “A dog on its way to perdition ignores the hot whistle of the hunter.” Who will save Obaseki from his self-afflicted egotism? What is ailing the APC in Edo state is much of Obaseki’s peculiar politics of ostracism. Many critical stakeholders have been excluded from government for being Oshiomhole’s loyalists.     

There is, understandably, the supremacy of pieces of wrong advice that are feeding egos in the crisis that has been allowed to fester and become intractable. The political crisis in Edo state is a battle of egos- big ego versus small ego. And to be sure, victory is not about how big or small the egos are; it is about time and chance; it is about providence; it is, above all, about access to and support by constituted authorities that confer both political and electoral advantages within the confines of the APC and the more expansive electoral playfield.

More significantly, time will tell how both parties in the Edo APC crisis will end up-whether as victor or vanquished.  But as it is, the critical interventions by the Oba of Benin, which would have been much more salutary to the resolution of crisis and, perhaps, the beginning of necessary compromises, had already been discounted and disrespected, thus raising the specter of ominousness in the APC and the political terrain of Edo state.    

And to further underscore the deliberateness of the gratuitous disrespect, Governor Obaseki had sponsored Edo groups’ rally for his re-election in Benin on Thursday, July 11, where he dared those who wanted to take over the Edo House of Assembly.  Indeed, for failing to consider the series of interventions by the Oba of Benin, the governor has put himself in a bind of rebellion of sorts.

The colour of rebellion is as uncomplicated as it comes. This is political rebellion that defies the force of royal intervention. It thus quite succinctly approximates to royal rebellion; and, this is quite ominous. The majesty of the Benin royalty has not in recent history been treated with such indiscretion by any incumbent executive in Edo State in the manner Obaseki has done. Some have indicated that Oshiomhole’s antecedents as governor do indicate his contempt for the Benin royal stool.

·       Ojeifo contributed this piece via [email protected]

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