Obaseki’s Final Race to Oblivion By Gideon Obhakhan
On June 25, 2020 Mr Godwin Obaseki, the incumbent governor of Edo State became the gubernatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the September 19, 2020 gubernatorial election.
Coincidentally, this was the same day that the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) ratified the candidacy of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. With this unequal match between a political neophyte and an experienced politician, the ticket given to Obaseki may well be his ticket for a final race to Oblivion. This is not brain surgery; it is simple fact.
Mr Godwin Obaseki was brought from political oblivion in 2016 and sold to Edo people who had no clue who he was or what he represented. Governorship was handed to him on a silver platter, riding on the popularity and goodwill of the then governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
As soon as he was sworn in as governor, Obaseki rolled out his script which contained his own idea of governance with a lot of theory. The script appeared like one that was tailored towards continuing the good works of the previous government of which he was a part.
He was quick to create the impression of a performer in the minds of Edo people, with the signing of several Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) and the filling of a few potholes within the Benin metropolis. He also quickly got some cyber urchins on his payroll to sing his praises on the internet and social media platforms.
They came up with an unearned sobriquet, “Wake and See Governor”, which created a misleading impression of a performer that was dangerously sustained until very recently when the governor’s desperation for a second term ticket exposed his can of worms.
Within the first two years of Obaseki’s administration, he did a good job of hiding under the shield created by his predecessor, and people generally assumed that he needed time to settle down before taking charge and becoming his own man.
Rather than focusing on the important business of creating a foundation for himself, he spent a lot of time travelling to China, Singapore and some other countries signing MoUs and starting an unsolicited battle with the political class for the wrong reasons. He called politicians and those who helped him to power unprintable names and sold a dummy to the unsuspecting public.
He created yet another impression of a decent man who was being pressured to share Edo State money. This obviously helped him to whip up sentiments and got people asking questions about the names of those asking him to share State funds.
Obaseki’s lid was however broken in 2019 by a group of concerned APC members who felt that if Obaseki continued along that trajectory, it may well be the end of the party in Edo State. Their agitations focused on a two-point agenda to reorganize the party and shop for a replacement for Obaseki. The political battle which started with a few determined and committed APC members soon became a project for all right-thinking Edo citizens, who believed that Obaseki’s deception must be exposed. Although Obaseki exposed himself in some instances by his own actions, people decided to speak out on issues that they would ordinarily ignore in the overall interest of the party.
As events unfolded, it turned out that the self-acclaimed technocrat had more skeletons in his cupboard than could ever be imagined by the average Edolite. The first shocker was when one of his commissioners was arrested with a total of two million dollars, which was allegedly part of the loot being syphoned overseas on behalf of the governor. As at today, the commissioner is still not back in Edo State and his whereabout is unknown.
He has simply become the fall guy who has been comfortably forgotten. Other revelations of the desperation for second term and the exposure of the dark side of the governor came with the demolition of buildings, bombing of houses of perceived opponents, violent attacks on gatherings of people with dissenting views, etc.
The climax was the drama that played out during the screening of aspirants by the APC screening committee. It was revealed that the “superstar governor” mysteriously gained admission into the University of Ibadan with three O’ Level credits and graduated with two certificates issued to him by the same institution. One of the certificates was dated 1979 and the other had no date.
He also had an affidavit he swore to where he declared that he graduated in 1976. All these coupled with his presentation of Higher School Certificate, which is unknown to law, and an NYSC certificate which had someone else’s name led to his disqualification by the screening committee.
Having been rightly disqualified for presenting forged documents to the screening committee, Obaseki decided to heed my advice to walk away. I had in an article titled “Edo 2020: Why Obaseki Should Walk Away”, advised that the best thing for Obaseki will be to simply walk away.
However, instead of walking away to Lagos where he may still be able to mix up with those who may have bought into his social media propaganda and hide his face, he decided to take a trip into oblivion by picking up a ticket on a sinking ship, the PDP.
The nomination did not come cheap as information available in public domain has put the total taxpayers’ money spent so far at circa twenty-two (22) billion Naira. This includes the initial amount allegedly paid to PDP’s National Working Committee members that governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State referred to as “Tax Collectors”.
Others were the millions of dollars shared amongst PDP leaders and the aspirants who were forced to step down. The ticket became so expensive for him because the other PDP aspirants who eventually chickened out were merely blowing hot air to up their price tags for a man desperately seeking a second term in office.
I am personally excited that Obaseki and Philip Shaibu have been given the ticket to run in PDP. My joy comes from the fact that for the first time, they will no longer be able to present the wrong information to the public and blame everybody but themselves.
The narrative must now be set right that the battle has never been between Obaseki and Oshiomhole, but between Obaseki and the people of Edo State. The stage is now set between Mr Godwin Obaseki and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. The time to count the MoUs is now.
We are waiting to see the projects Obaseki will count to his favour just like we were able to count the likes of the Five Star Central Hospital, Storm Water Project, Red Roof Revolution, thousands of kilometers of high quality roads, etc. in 2016.
Can Obaseki get victory with MoUs and his lacklustre performance? Can the University of Ibadan explain his admission into the university with three credits, as well as all the inconsistencies in dates and signatures on the multiple certificates and affidavit? Can Obaseki survive the labyrinth of legal battles? Is it not obvious that head or tail, Obaseki loses? It will soon be time to get answers to these questions and more. For now, I wish him safe trip to oblivion!
Gideon Obhakhan, former Edo State Commissioner for Education, wrote from Benin City.