Wike and Political Asylum Seekers in Edo (1)
By Kassim Afegbua
“It is better to be hanged for loyalty than to be rewarded for betrayal”…Vladimir Putin.
In the last three weeks, political tempers in Edo State have risen to a crescendo, creating several fault-lines and crevices amongst the political players in their effort to grab the very soul of the PDP. Within the last two weeks, I can see Governor Obaseki somewhat upbeat, sweating profusely to make an impression by expression. He has been spending Edo taxpayers money that he hardly spends on media engagements. There were live coverages on AIT and Channels TV, to showcase his crowd of supporters, as the National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, visited the state last Thursday. Despite the crowd you saw out there, the real structure of the party was copiously absent. The Local Government Chairmen of the party were absent, the Wards Chairmen were absent, and also the State Working Committee. The State Chairman sat there like an orphan, tucked uncomfortably between visitors who have come for the showmanship. Iyorchia Ayu, had a romantic rehearsal. His marital affinity to Edo State as an inlaw came to the fore. He trivialised a serious issue by turning Obaseki’s rally to a second dowry payment sort of. While he was having his romance on stage, Osun state chapter of the PDP was in quandary. A court order had just recognised one faction against the one endorsed by the party hierarchy. An indication that political fireworks have just began, looms large.
Barely two days after the well choreographed rally that witnessed a couple of protocol faux pas, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers state took upbraid at the Edo Deputy Governor’s vitriolic and threats saying if nothing was done to “harmonise” the structure of the party, they (the new PDP and APC travellers) have an alternative. The idea of harmonisation has become a sing-song since 2020 after the re-election of Governor Obaseki. In order to make the objective of the rally sink, the Governor had to ensure there were live coverages. This is an uncommon charity by a frugal Governor Obaseki, who will rather devote more attention to Afri-Invest than what obtains in the state. Governor Wike’s position is predicated on the new arrogance of power that has become the second nature of the Edo first two citizens. What Governor Obaseki cannot say, he pushes his pliant Deputy to vomit, making him the fall-guy of a system that has been heavily compromised in terms of failed promises and empty rhetorics. Obaseki’s Deputy, Phillip Shuaibu, often wants to be seen as fearless, outspoken, and more political than his boss. At the rally, he vomited threats and literally short of giving the National Chairman a directive to act, else they exit. The harmonisation they sought went on holiday as the National Chairman declared that he would set up a committee to unite the party for the bigger 2023 challenge ahead.
In Governor Wike’s response to Phillip Shuaibu’s diatribe, he took serious exception to the latter’s noisy delivery. He reminded all that when the duo of Obaseki and Shuaibu were being chased out by APC’s power oligarchs, they were left under pummelling sunshine until the PDP offered its umbrella to shield them from further dehydration. That much Obaseki said when he visited Wike on the 23rd September after his victory, and talked so glowingly of how Wike bailed them out, clothed them when they were being “drenched in the storm” of APC. They were going forth and back Port Harcourt to prevail on Governor Wike to accede to their request of using the PDP platform to seek re-election. What confounds Wike is the arrogance that the duo now speak as if what the party did to further their aspiration under such situation of neglect, was no longer appreciated. It was a tale of biting the finger that fed you. A tale of saying to hell with your assistance. Having won their re-election, the first casualties of these Edo executives, were the same individuals who toiled night and day, to prosecute their aspiration; Dan Orbih and others. Obaseki purportedly suspended 11 executive officers of the party, trying to reinvent his APC’s crude methods. Unknown to Governor Obaseki that PDP is an organic party with a stickler for its constitution, he met a brickwall by such dictatorial verdict. The action itself was viewed as a sacrilege, a clear indication of ingratitude of the duo. While they came up with their terms of harmonisation, seeking to be integrated into a party that had settled its structure before they joined, the appointments that were announced showed Governor Obaseki tried to be clever by half.
He gave 99% of his appointments to his co-travellers from APC’s ostentatious dancers and supporters club. His major and minor appointees are all members of his APC. He wants to have his government as well as his party structure. He wants to eat his cake and have it. Tracing their trajectory, Governor Wike could possibly not able to reconcile their new fond directives with the circumstances that threw them up. The role Governor Wike played in the entire struggle to heal them of shame and disgrace was unquantifiable. Wike practically relocated to Edo State and had serious altercations with security agencies who tried to curtail his movement. He was the “main man” that was able to dare the powers that be to ensure a peaceful conduct. Aside from logistics, his presence in Edo State added bite and grit in the build up to the election. When Governor Wike entered Benin City, the atmosphere changed. Those who did not have confidence to raise a voice suddenly found their voices. The Governor who had become a political orphan suddenly found his voice. At campaigns, you could see the fear of losing the election written boldly on his face. Dan Orbih was permanently by his side, rendering well scripted musical lyrics, which he created into short songs to the listening audience as they campaigned from one Ward to another. They covered the entire 192 Wards of the state.
Yours sincerely campaigned on the opposite side because I had forseen these character indices of the duo as impregnable identities. A leopard cannot change its spots. And I knew from hindsight that once the duo were crowned as Victors, like crocodiles, they would want to eat their babies. It is already happening in a most bizarre manner, making us think that after all, Oshiomhole was not the problem ab initio. It is a trait that is difficult to hide. A trait that made Vladimir Putin to state that “it is better to be hanged for loyalty, than to be rewarded for betrayal”. When we breed leaders who are pathological ingrates, wherein lies the hope of the upcoming generations, when they are confronted with situations that require their choice between gratitude and ingratitude. After the 2020 elections, Governor Obaseki wasted 11 months without a cabinet. He took the shine off the victory. He kept the people guessing. After 11 months, he made announcement of his cabinet, and waited another three months before they were sworn-in. Meanwhile, contracts were still being awarded without a cabinet. He ran a troika kind of arrangement, like three unwise men, loitering on the corridor of power in Osadebe Avenue. It was Governor Obaseki, his Deputy and the Secretary to the Government. What he ought to use diplomacy, constructive engagement and collective bargaining to achieve, he deployed dictatorship to pursue. Rather than tact, he uses force, declaring with the seriousness of a man at prayer, that whoever does not want to acquiesce to his leadership, should locate the exit door. Would Obaseki have said such words when he was going to and fro Port Harcourt, begging to be considered as a candidate in 2020? This is why Governor Wike is livid with anger and rightly so.
Dan Orbih comes across as a subliminal personality who does more practical things than engaging in altercations with his perceived political adversaries. Aside from being entrenched in the rubrics of PDP Edo politics, he has cut his political teeth and has shown remarkable loyalty to a party he has sustained with other likeminds. Known for his suave delivery of political footnotes, his campaigns for Obaseki in 2020 still remained audible soundbites in the annals of political drudgery in the state. But what he gets in return is a fierce political battle that is akin to a tenant wanting to uproot his landlord from the power rostrum. He was initially suspended, which the court quashed, then being constantly held by the jugular by Obaseki and Shuaibu’s intemperate vibrations to alter the power equation of the Edo PDP. Having mastered the nuances of his late father’s maeiutic method of political introspection, and understanding the behavioural pattern of men of power, Dan Orbih knows exactly where to draw the line. He has come to the conclusion that he would have nothing to do with the government insofar his lieutenants are not cultivated, he is prepared to endure the remaining less than three years of an administration that is heavy on rhetorics and low on real time performance.
For being an insider to all processes that threw up Governor Obaseki and his Deputy, Governor Wike knows exactly what he was talking about. And the solution to all these is the 9-lettered word; gratitude. Just show appreciation and gratitude. Introduce a power sharing formula, take Governorship, concede Deputy to the old PDP, take Secretary to the State Government, concede Chief of Staff to old PDP, take Speaker, concede Deputy speaker to the old PDP, and in that order to the last position. It is only when that is done that the idea of harmonisation of the party’s structure could become a subject-matter for discussion. Otherwise, the present political impasse in the state will continue its macabre dance. Governor Obaseki and his co-travellers often behave like political asylum seekers. As migrants who were helped to cross the border, they got into the asylum camp, participated in the internal politics of the camp and got familiar with it. Having been given residency, they now want to undo the real citizens of the country. In fact, they are telling the real citizens that though they are migrants, but that the other integrative laws apply to them. And that if the host country refuses to accord them the leadership, they are ready to tear down the walls, flag, and other insignia that the country holds dear. I doubt if they will live to enjoy the spoil of their new agitation.