Godwin Obaseki

Edo 2016: A Vote For Obaseki

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Ordinarily, the choice before Edo voters on September 10 should not pose a burden heavier than the simple ceremony of sieving the grain from the chaff. The contention is between APC and PDP.

But given the ongoing legal cockfight in PDP, resulting in its iconic umbrella being literally torn in the court of law between Markafi and Sheriff, it is safe to assume that a fatal preliminary own goal is already scored against the Edo branch of the once “biggest party in Africa”.

Barely a week to the election, no one is able to answer with confidence yet a very simple question: whether PDP’s votes on the D-Day are for Markafi’s Osagie Ize-Iyamu or Sheriff’s Mathew Iduoriyekemwen?

If the foregoing observation is legal, the second test is material. From 1999, PDP ruled the acclaimed “heartbeat of the nation” for 114 months, while APC administered it for 94 months so far.

However, looking back, whereas the majority of Edo people will ascribe to APC under Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, plaudits for improving the human condition appreciably with a surfeit of monuments across the state as further proofs, PDP’s testimonial is hideously scanty besides the cultivation of a small oligarchy whose hierarchs have either successfully completed jail term for colossal looting or are today luxuriating in obscene wealth amassed solely through the grace of Tuketuke politics.

Based on these verifiable facts, it will not be out of place to submit therefore that PDP is already too morally fractured, facially disfigured to stand a chance in the coming election. But drawing the curtains on the debate, would summarily rob distant observers the opportunity to fully understand the shape and nature of the real forces now at play, ferociously angling for Edo’s political soul. It is actually a titanic battle between defenders of a movement that boasts of delivering something to the society regardless of its own imperfections and the barons of a discredited past, plotting a return to power.

The historic challenge before the intelligentsia today therefore, is to help bring some illumination so that the people can make informed choice in the leadership recruitment process. For clarity, yours sincerely does not only hail from that section of the country but is also privileged to have served as a commissioner in Edo until one’s resignation last November. During the period, one gained sufficient insight as well as had one-on-one interactions with the key players across the divides.

So, as a writer, one is not shy to admit one has a professional interest, and as a native, a civic responsibility to share one’s perspective for Edo’s advancement.

True, no one will say incumbent Adams Oshiomhole is perfect. All known angels will be found in heaven. To me, whatever personal inadequacies the comrade governor may have, would pale into insignificance considering the weight and value of his contributions in the past eight years. Really, it is impossible to change society without making some enemies. The tale of transformed physical landscape under his watch is now all too familiar to warrant a recap here.

This leads us to the next question: so who is better equipped among the gladiators on the field to extend the frontiers? From all the candidates have said, shown or promised in the last three months of campaigns, I make bold to say Godwin Obaseki represents the best hope for Edo tomorrow. For the four years I spent in government in Edo State, I happened to have interacted closely with him.

To be sure, he is not as gifted as Oshiomhole in terms of oratory. He is decidedly a man of short speech whose few words however carry deep intellection and almost evangelical zeal to follow through ideas from conception, incubation, implementation to evaluation in an otherwise treacherous environment where most people view tasks only from the naira and kobo that come back to their pockets.

In these economically perilous times, Edo State surely needs a conscientious steward who can think and act on his feet to chart a new course, irrevocably committed to working for the poor and not the coven of famished godfathers feverishly seeking to regain a paradise already lost.

Such sterling qualities are however in acute deficit in PDP, the bastion of Tuketuke politics. For non-speakers of Bini, Tuketuke is a generic name for any vehicle on the verge of falling apart, but still commercially exploited by the owner by being forced on the road.

Tuketuke therefore describes rent-seeking politics where the provincial godfather continues to milk a dysfunctional order in self-aggrandisement at the people’s expense. People famish for the godfather to flourish.

To sustain the hero-worship of the godfather, Tuketuke politics abhors men of ideas or intelligence or other evidence of demonstrable independence of the mind. In the new world otherwise driven by big ideas, the only skills required in Tuketuke politics are not more than rigging, seamlessly sharing of bribes and bottles of Schnapps gin on election’s eve and maybe suborning of the most pathetic species of the media running dogs, eager to plant articles, praising the godfather in the newspapers but too ashamed to affix their real names on such panegyric.

Only the Tuketuke magic could have explained the transmogrification overnight of Chief Tony Anenih. Between 1993 and 1998, it is public knowledge that he had fallen on hard times, only surviving on crumbs from the table of Chief Tom Ikimi (who was quite influential during the Abacha junta), and maybe the little return from his “short time” hotel Nova in Uromi. But after just a short career as PDP’s “Mr. Fix It”, Anenih had become so stupendously rich, that he could, by 2014, now afford to lend hundreds of millions to sitting President Goodluck Jonathan! (At least, that is his claim in a statement to EFCC earlier this year when asked to account for his N260m share from Dasuki’s $15b loot).

It is in this dim light that Anenih’s desperation to have PDP restored to power in Edo State today should be situated. Having had his political oxygen mask abruptly demobilised in Abuja, he now seeks rehabilitation at home. As for the other PDP campaigner, Ikimi, parables have been made about an old Chevrolet jalopy, which guzzles 10 litres of gas for a mere kilometre. That Tuketuke contraption is obviously in dire need of affiliation to a big depot for sustenance.

At corporate level, the Tuketuke spirit is what also manifests in PDP’s continued obsession with building new industries as key campaign promise (as if the chain of phony industries Igbinedion claimed he built ever functioned for a single day)!

In the market-driven economy of the 21th century, you allow the private sector to take the driver’s seat. On account of its structure and orientation, government no longer has business running businesses. Rather, its remit is to create the enabling environment – like durable social infrastructure and formulate coherent policies – to help businesses grow.

One can therefore relate with Obaseki’s promise to create 200,000 fresh jobs. The bouquet of durable social infrastructure – including more than 1,000 kilometres of roads – delivered by Oshiomhole in the past eight years already offers a solid foundation to build on. Vast opportunities surely abound in the agriculture sector where the state has comparative advantage. The big mechanised farms will accelerate urbanisation of our rural communities, particularly in Edo South, thereby helping to curb rural-urban drift.

Requiring sustenance, is the land reforms started by Oshiomhole which have removed swathes of land from the control of old political godfathers who only use same to secure personal bank loans or sublet to tenants. Genuine agro entrepreneurs who will certainly deliver more jobs.

Only last Monday, Pat Utomi, the renowned professor of Political Economy, flagged off a $136m farm project located at Ugbokun community in Ovia North East in Edo State. This will deliver thousands of fresh jobs. It is perhaps instructive that Utomi hails from neighbouring Delta State. In choosing Edo to locate such gigantic industry, the discerning intellectual must have noted Edo’s comparative advantage.

Apart from Utomi’s Integrated Produce City, there are no fewer than a dozen other mega agro-allied companies including the $750m farm promoted by Idahosa Okunbo that have either taken off or are nearing completion stage under an investment-friendly climate Oshiomhole has created in the last eight years.

Really, these are the terms under which Edo’s economy of the future should be discussed, not fantasising over the new “sharing formula” likely to be approved by the godfather for the state’s next monthly allocation from Abuja as suggested by the incoherent economic agenda so far touted by PDP – high on utopian promises but short on how-to.

Under PDP’s suzerainty in the past, the state’s land stock was only parlayed into primitive feudal racketeering. In the twilight of Lucky Igbinedion’s administration in 2007, more than 120,000 hectares, representing more than 70 percent of Edo’s reserved land stock, were released and not less than half of that were allocated to Esama directly or shell companies linked to the family alone under the guise of utilising same for agro-allied enterprises. “His Excellency, sir, chief, doctor of Okadaland” simply added his loot to the stock already sub-let to Yoruba farmers who, in turn, would pay him royalties running into hundreds of millions yearly!

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