The Oshiomhole-Obaseki conundrum

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By Yinka Olujimi

The Godwin Obaseki administration in Edo State on Wednesday reduced to ruble a hotel belonging to Citizen Tony Adun, a known ally of the national chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole.

According to the government, the edifice violated the building laws of the state, and lacked requisite permits. Unimpeachable justification, you would say. However, it is Herculean not to perceive political vendetta in the unfortunate destruction of such a money-guzzling investment.

It must be a high mental degeneration that will permit anyone to applaud callous destruction of a fellow citizen’s multi-million naira business. As the Yoruba would say, one must be a confirmed enemy of wealth – ota aje! – to willfully demolish the edifices that made up that hotel.

Ask former Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajimobi, the torrent of curses that were rained on him by ordinary citizens when his administration sent bulldozers to the radio house of physically-challenged but immensely successful musician Yinka Ayefele; or the tons of hisses that attended a similar action by the current Kwara State government on the property of the late Second Republic Senate leader Olusola Saraki.

Adun has consistently insisted that contrary to the government’s claims, he obtained due approvals for the hotel. He has displayed the Certificate of Occupancy (C-of-O) that he claims was duly obtained by him from the government as proof. More tellingly, he argues that the matter was already in court and that the demolition was done in brazen disregard of an ongoing court action.

“We are still in court. I have injunctions against the government. Judgment is on Friday,’’ he was reported as telling reporters. The demolition was carried out on Wednesday, two days ahead of court pronouncement.

Obaseki and Oshiomhole are currently in a slug-fest over the control of the soul of the ruling party in the state. The latter had, as outgoing Governor of Edo only four years ago, pulled all the stops to ensure that the former emerged the party’s candidate, and ultimately the winner of the general election. Today, a trailer has passed their middle, as the popular Nigerian lingo describes “irreconcilable differences.”

While acknowledging the role played by Oshiomhole in making him Governor, Obaseki is on tape as declaring that he could not be Governor and not be Governor, meaning that he would not be anybody’s mannequin in office.

In any case, Oshiomhole became so powerful only because he also dislodged entrenched political godfathers in the state when he occupied the seat, so why would he want to become one? What is sauce for the goose must be sauce for the gander, right?

Oshiomhole denies attempting to be Obaseki’s godfather, In a December 2019 interview, the former Governor and National Chairman of the APC was quoted as saying: ““My own embarrassment is when they say Oshiomhole wants to be like a godfather. If I wanted to be, I will be nominating commissioners. I only persuaded him to accept one commissioner from me, only one and I gave my reasons. He was a founding member of my campaign organisation in 2006, Mika. Other than Mika, I did not nominate any commissioner; I did not nominate any special adviser, special assistant because for me these are governance issues. So where is the godfather from?”

Impunity in whatever form must be condemned, so the demolition two days before a court’s pronouncement on the dispute, as claimed by Adun, must be condemned. Parties must obey the rule of law, however inconvenient the process may be; or however just a party perceives its cause to be. Besides, it is difficult not to see the indecent haste in the demolition. It is a well-worn legal principle that parties must at all times refrain from destroying the res – subject matter of a dispute before the court.

One cannot but ask: Why single out Adun’s hotel buildings in the area? If the hotel was built on government property, why not get a court order for forfeiture and, under the legal principle of quic quid plantatur solo solo cedit (meaning “whatever is affixed to the ground belongs to the ground”), take over the property for government use?

Governments in Nigeria must resist the temptation to demolish property on which huge funds were committed. As the inimitable Fela Anikulapo Kuti once sang:

“Government can sell to people cheapey cheapey (cheap);

Government can give to people wey no geti money (the poor)

But na di burn burn, na im dey sweet dem pass (they are only exhilarated by the prospect of destroying items)”

On that score, Obaseki deserves strong censure.

Disheartening as the governor’s action must be, however, it is difficult for bystanders not to understand the fears that may be driving his admittedly condemnable action.

Pray, how many Governors will want to meekly suffer the fate of the successors of one Lion that sits at a palace called Bourdillon, and whose name we all know but dare not mention, or can only whisper?

Some insignificant few – quire few, and insignificant, I repeat! – claim that even after leaving office, that Lion has continued to preside over informal state executive meetings at which contracts are approved; that his dutiful successors often run such errands in his house as opening the door for some political dignitaries and shutting same when they visit the palace.

Of course, those insignificant few – call them wailers, if you like – also claim that the successors often lead their Commissioners and Permanent Secretaries to meetings with the Lion in his den, contract files under their armpits.

Worse still, according to the wailers, some political bigwigs are fond of dragging Commissioners and Permanent Secretaries to meetings with the Governor-General without the knowledge of their appointers, the sitting Governors in each cycle!

Knowing that their real appointer is the Lion, the Commissioners and Permanent Secretaries are said to duly follow the political bigwigs to meetings with the Governor-General. When one, hot-headed successor thought he could resist remote-control governance, the lion roared and moved to devour him.

Hurricane party officials nearly denied that hot-headed former Governor second term. It took concerted efforts from entrenched interests to pacify the lion, after firm promises were made that the hot-head governor would no longer misbehave. The Lion-god was appeased but not until the deputy of that hot-headed Governor was yanked off her seat for another pliant party member.

Years later, when that hot-headed former Governor had an opportunity for higher service, he was drawn into a pig fight but, the Smart Alec prayed for his loyalty not to be tested!

The hot-headed Governor’s successor toed the same ruinous path, and was ruined, politically. Unluckily for him, that one could not be saved from the Lion’s whiplash. Today, that one has been consigned to political oblivion, suffering the rare fate of a sitting Governor who was denied second term by his very own party.

Is it any wonder, then, that Obaseki is fighting tooth and nail to root out god-fatherism, benign or not, through fair or foul means?

But, why has President Muhammadu Buhari failed to intervene in the Edo matter, at least to save the party of this national embarrassment and looming implosion in Edo State APC?

Well, Obaseki is acutely aware that Baba is, as usual, never aware of anything. He is aware of how feeble and perfunctory the president’s intervention in the matter of that Lion and his unfortunate former Governor turned out to be.

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