Oshiomhole in Edo history By Louis Odion, FNGE

Adams Oshiomhole….Leaving a Great Legacy of Development in Edo State after 8 Years in Power

Though continents apart, there are a
surfeit of parallels between outgoing US President Barak Obama and retiring
Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State. Both are not only southpaw and gifted
orators, but also united on account of timing and circumstances of their
ascension of office.
Eight years ago, the world was
confounded by the fairy tale of the son of an African immigrant, raised by
the maternal grandparents, who clambered through all the odds to lead the most
powerful white-dominated nation on earth. The same way the Nigerian nation was
enchanted by the legend of a lithe lowly factory worker who wrestled down
boardroom giants, survived countless incarcerations, roused the labour movement
from docility, and would come from the outside to seize power in Edo from
ruthlessly entrenched godfathers.

President Barrack Obama…The Kenyan boy who became America’s President
The tidings of Obama’s historic win
in November 2008 were still ricocheting across the universe when the news
of Oshiomhole’s victory filtered in from a Benin courtroom on November 11,
drawing the curtains on a titanic legal duel to retrieve the mandate earlier
stolen in April 2007 by the Peoples Democratic Party.
Just as Obama had to nurse America
back from deep financial stupor, Oshiomhole met a state that had technically
failed on account of sustained gang rape by a succession of military
predators and marauding political godfathers. With despondency spreading like
cancer across the communities, Edo, once the envy of Portuguese explorers in
the fifteenth century, more or less became the new synonym for the
exportation of human flesh to western red-light districts.
Now approaching the exit point,
though narrowly missing on Tuesday the chance of having his own anointed
(Hillary Clinton) succeed him, Obama is still credited with high approval
rating – an uncommon phenomenon in American politics. Ditto Oshiomhole who,
however, bows out of office tomorrow (Yesterday October 12) not only in a blaze
of glory but also with the distinction of being able to anoint his own successor.
New Governor Godwin Obaseki….Adams Oshiomhole’s Preferred Successor
Looking back, opinions will
certainly be divided on Oshiomhole’s style. While his often abrasive rhetoric
would grate the ears of those weaned on the diet of diplomatese, what is
however undeniable is his deep passion to improve the human condition in Edo.
For instance, with the once
voracious flood-water now effectively tamed at the iconic 5-Junction, Uselu
axis, Uwelu quarters, Siloko, Teachers’ House, Upper Lawani in Benin City
today, the first-time visitor will probably take things for granted.
Ex-Edo State Commissioner for Information & Strategy, Mr. Louis Odion (L) Once a victim of Uselu flood under the reign of Gov. Lucky Igbinedion
But years back, precisely in 2002,
this writer had a rather sour experience. One had attended the burial ceremony
of Kayode Komolafe’s (Thisday DMD’s) father in Igbara-Oke, Ondo State, and then
attempted to connect Benin by road.
It was raining and already evening
when we arrived Uselu. Expectedly, the resultant flood had made a bedlam of
vehicular traffic along that corridor. Before long, not only did the raging
flood submerge my car up to the bonnet level, I soon found myself and
driver gasping in muddy water inside! My immaculate white agbada suddenly
transformed to brown.

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That the perennial flood has now
receded in that part of Benin City is partly the benefit of the gargantuan N30b
storm-water project undertaken in the past six years. It is indeed a monument
to Oshiomhole’s daring of a ruthless history, financial courage in the face of
sparse resources.
Professor Adebayo Williams (R) describes Adams Oshiomhole as a ‘Rare Political Leader’
In the times ahead, the
comrade-governor’s legacy will easily be defined not just by the massive
transformation of Edo’s physical landscape but also the regicide of the old
guard. While seeking to unravel possible battle stratagem that enabled
Oshiomhole’s triumph over the hitherto fearsome godfathers at a valedictory
colloquium in his honour in Benin last Sunday, erudite scholar, Professor
Adebayo Williams, alluded to the adaptation of military tactics of
reconnaissance and surprise attack.
Well, what should be added is
subversive diplomacy. Only that could explain Oshiomhole’s uncanny ability to
charm the Abuja power-mongers for six harrowing years against yielding to the
suffocating pressures from then almighty godfather, Chief Tony Anenih, to
deploy federal might to over-run the plucky irritant at the Dennis Osadebey
General Muhammadu Buhari….Before he was sacked in 1984 and thrown into jail in Benin City
The Oshiomhole administration was
conceived in war in 2008 and had to stay vigilant, day and night, till PDP was
displaced from Abuja in 2015.
As his Information Commissioner at
some point, this writer had the privilege of a ringside seat during some of
those dark moments. Federal instruments were mindlessly deployed to intimidate
the ACN (now APC) government in Edo. At the godfather’ instance, agencies like
EFCC were used to harass and torment government officials ceaselessly. By
2014, it is on record that one of Oshiomhole’s commissioners had clocked about
100 trips to EFFC to answer anonymous petitions making fictitious claims!
High Chief Tony Anenih….The Man who lost his political Might to Adams Oshiomhole
During Oshiomhole’s first year in
office, PDP completely dominated the state assembly, thus rendering the
governor a lame target for Anenih’s snipers. Not until the stolen seats at the
Anthony Enahoro House were recovered one after the other through a painstaking
legal cockfight lasting another year did the former labour leader eventually
find his caustic tongue and begin to spread his wings.
To neutralize the conclave of
godfathers including Anenih and the Igbinedions, Oshiomhole knew he had no
choice than to toil tirelessly. To remind the people of the sordid past when
public fund was privatized, a giant bill board screaming “No more for the
godfather!” was often hoisted by each school, road or hospital project.
Not even federal establishments like police and army barracks were left out of
the projects bonanza. So much that when a retired General was fielded by PDP in
the 2012 polls, results from the barracks showed that soldiers and their wives
voted massively for Oshiomhole.
President Muhammadu Buhari….once a Prisoner in Edo State
The latest person to attest
Oshiomhole’s indelible infrastructural footprints is President Muhammadu
Buhari. After inspecting and commissioning two of such legacy projects (a
200-bed five-star hospital in Benin and a brand-new university in Iyamo), PMB,
ordinarily austere with words, was full of adulations for the outgoing
By Buhari’s own account, today’s
Benin has almost become unrecognizable compared to the picture of the rustic
city he was forced to reside three decades ago. Since he became president,
outside his native Katsina, Edo should rank as one of Buhari’s most preferred
destinations for official visit. Between May 2015 and now, he has visited the
state thrice. This, said he, is “only because Oshiomhole has done well. Each
time, I always have good projects to commission.”
Ex-President Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, the man who locked President Buhari on No 8 Commercial Road, Benin City
The weight those words carry is
better appreciated given Buhari’s own involvement in the narrative of the old
Bendel State on account of an accident of history. Precisely 30 years ago, a
nondescript bungalow at No 8 Commercial Street in Benin GRA became his new
detention camp after a stint in Akure following the August 27, 1985 palace coup
led by General Ibrahim Babangida.
Though he would spend the next two
years in solitary confinement, Buhari, from the “secrets”
declassified these past few days, still found ingenious means to feel the pulse
of his immediate surrounding, if not the nation at large.
His cook then has since grown
through the ranks to become the present chief matron at the Benin Government House.
It was, therefore, quite an emotional moment between the former political
prisoner and the care-giver after Oshiomhole introduced Mrs. Grace Ilechukwu to
the president during the luncheon Monday afternoon.
Two, while Buhari’s detention
lasted, the then military administrator, Brigadier John Inienger, creatively
devised a means of getting newspapers to him, at a huge risk with his then
commander-in-chief (IBB) in Lagos. The unwitting “smuggler” was no
other than Senator Ehigie Uzamere, then a senior architect with the Bendel
Development and Property Authority.
Ex-Gov. Lucky Igbinedion…Under his 8 Years rule, Edolites were not that lucky
Inienger, recalled Uzamere to this
writer with an impish smile, tersely stated he wanted newspapers supplied daily
to “my close relation staying at No 8”. That was how the then
starry-eyed civil servant began to drop off newspapers at the gate of the said
house each morning for close to two years, without ever having the faintest
clue the recipient was actually the nation’s biggest political prisoner and the
immediate past No. 1 citizen.
On arrival in Benin last Monday, the
president, forever a man of simple taste, preferred to stay in a very modest
apartment in the Goldmine, the Guest House inside the Government House complex.
The governor and wife had already evacuated their own apartment on the eve of
Buhari’s visit but were soon told the august visitor would just be fine with
the “small place”.
Pastor Ize Iyamu of PDP, his association with the Godfathers cost him a great deal of electoral sympathy
But beyond the issue of brick and
mortal lauded these past few days, more far-reaching is Oshiomhole’s
dismantling of the pillars of Tuketuke politics as embodied by the old barons
of the PDP. That had meant the disempowerment of the people over the
years by a small fraternity of profiteering godfathers. While the
primaries that produced the flag-bearers for both APC and PDP in the September
28 polls were undoubtedly rancorous, at least there was a consensus among the
local political class that intra-party democracy was growing, unlike in the
past when the godfather would arrogantly foreclose any contest and unilaterally
dictate who got what.
Chief Tom Ikimi….Another Godfather of Edo Politics
In the final analysis, it would be
intellectually dishonest not to acknowledge a new concern. Even as the ashes at
the funeral pyre of the old order begin to wax cold, some are beginning to
express apprehension at the prospects of godfatherism resurrecting
in another form elsewhere. While such fear is indeed legitimate, let it however
be said that such reading abysmally fails to be cognizant of the logic of
Once the people had already tasted
the honey of “one man, one vote”, they are unlikely to easily cower before
the forces of imposition next time without a fight. If nothing at all,
Oshiomhole already deserves praise for the new culture.
So, will the furiously adamant
Adams, master of withering wit, the Nemesis of PDP, the conqueror of Anenih and
other little political gods and the scourge of Tuketuke politics now step
forward and take a bow.


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