Godwin Obaseki vs Adams Oshiomole: Politics of Aggrandizement With Bitterness

Felix Akpan

It is unconscionable that 28 years after Ngozi Ayeagbunam’s Book Politics Without Bitterness based on the life and times, in my opinion, of Nigeria’s Donald Trump, Waziri Ibrahim, who traversed our political landscape like a colossus was published, our politicians still haven’t learnt anything from our past political history.

The Book chronicles how Waziri Ibrahim tried to use his enormous wealth and political wit to navigate the muddy and murky waters of our national politics by trying to institute a political culture that was driven by politics for the sake of what one can do for the people, rather than politics for what one can get out of it. The latter resonates with the kind of politics the French writer Jean François Bayart describes in his famous Book Politics of the Belly. The Book not without its limitations, illuminates a distinctively African trajectory of political power: patron-client relationship, which characterizes its democratic space.

By the way, Waziri Ibrahim was the founder and Presidential Flag bearer of the Great Nigeria People’s Party, (GNPP) during the 1979 presidential election. That was after he had invested heavily in the Nigerian People’s Party, ( NPP), the party he co-founded that denied him the presidential ticket. Despite his tremendous investment in politics that dates back to the First Republic, Waziri Ibrahim was often considered an outsider by the Hausa-Fulani oligarchy simply because he was a Kanuri man, a micro-minority in the supposedly homogeneous Northern Nigeria. However, he was compensated with ministerial appointments and juicy wartime contracts. As a member of the Northern People’s Congress, (NPC), that was in power, he was appointed Minister of Health and much later, Minister of Economic Development.

As the GNPP Presidential Candidate, Waziri Ibrahim preached politics without bitterness, which was, to say the least, strange at that time. He considered election as a sport. If you win fine, but if you lose, congratulate the winner and move on. That explains why he never challenged the outcome of all the elections he ever contested and lost.

The political crises that have bedeviled this country since the First Republic to date, from my readings, have been driven by the squabbles between the political elites in their struggles for personal aggrandizement rather than for the development of the entire country-for the benefit of the citizenry. This is partly what truncated our second, third and fourth democratic experiments. Doubtlessly, if not that the military has turned over a new leaf, the same fate would have befallen the current political dispensation based on the shenanigans our political leaders have displayed so far, at all levels of governance.

Between 1999 and now, the plot to aggrandize our commonwealth by our political leaders irrespective of party affiliation have manifested in political violence, assassination, kidnapping and electoral malpractices. Contextually, that is the realm we should situate the imbroglio between Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State and Adams Oshiomole, the National Chairman of APC. From my observation, it would seem that from the information their cheerleaders and supporters have inundated the public space, the stand-off has nothing to do with the development of Edo State, but undeniably, a lot to do with the duos over bloated egos and how to appropriate the resources of the state for personal gains.

The history of political succession in this country is replete with tales of betrayal. The most recent ones are former President Olusegun Obasanjo vs. late President Umaru Yar’dua; Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State vs. Godswill Akpabio, former Governor of the State and Akinwunmi Ambode, former Governor of Lagos State vs. Ahmed Bola Tinubu also a former Governor of the State. For those who are taken aback by my revelation about former President Obassnjo, you can glean the details of his regrets about how late President Yar’du he foisted on us as his worthy successor treated him as soon as he settled in as President in his book, My Watch.

The obvious lesson from the above examples is that no one should entrust anyone with political power. As an incumbent president or governor do your best within your tenure and ensure that you put in place a level playing field for all those who aspire to succeed you. Do not attempt to skew the succession process in favour of anyone because that amounts to playing god. As a form of government, democracy is about the will of the electorate expressed through the ballot and not the will of an individual. Thus, to foist your will on the people amounts to political sacrilege. And karma doesn’t forgive those who violate what is considered scared.

To gauge the gravity of Oshiomole’s violation of democratic creed, let us imagine for once how he now goes to his State like a fugitive. And while there he remains incommunicado with his constituents. What a shame! Who says democracy doesn’t have a soul? If we look around the country, so many former governors who foisted their preferred successors on their respective states are living in regrets. Many of them now take sanctuary in Abuja and a few others in Lagos. They have abandoned their country homes and state capitals for the emperors they installed as governors who have checkmated their meddlesomeness in the affairs of their states.

In the light of the above, trying to get even with Governor Obaseki isn’t the path Adams Oshiomole should trade, rather he should channel his energy towards putting in place a system of selection that ensures the people’s preferred candidate emerges as the Party’s Flag bearer in the forthcoming Edo State Governorship Election without undue interference from any quarters. With hindsight, doing that might restore his lost glory, but trying to replace Governor Godwin Obaseki by all means might spell doom for him and the Party. The time for him to sheath the sword is now.

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