Obaseki, archetypal new-breed politician

The Nigerian Army of “anything is possible” (apology to General Saliu Ibrahim) is the curse of Nigeria. They destroyed virtually everything they touched from the nation’s vibrant economy through ill-advised commercialization and mismanaged privatization process, the educational system by trading away meritocracy for quota system of admission and our political socialisation process through proscription of disciplined modernisation parties and decreeing of two parties without founders but ‘equal joiners’.

The emergence of PDP, “a club of elites for sharing of oil rents and political spoils” and its APC twin brother, formed not on the basis of shared ideas, shared values, shared commitment, have left the nation with only military-baked ‘new-breed’ politicians that lack character and breed only greed and sometimes corruption.

Neither Oshiomhole nor Obaseki has told Nigerians the cause of their war of attrition, viciously fought without consideration for the health of their APC already riven between the party oligarchy made up of founders, former office holders including ex-governors Simon Lalong, Ibikunle Amosun, Abubakar Yari and Rochas Okorochas who wanted their own pound of flesh following Oshiomhole’s uncompromising stand on the 2019 APC primaries, and the young Turks who have their own ambitions.

But Nigerian remember Oshiomhole’s vigorous campaign for Obaseki. It was as if his life depended on the victory of his godson.

Since most outgoing Nigerian governors always try to influence their successors, the speculation then was that Oshiomhole was trying to cover up his tracks.

Even as the vicious fight takes its toll on god father and godson, instead of the bomb-shell as to what Oshiomhole was trying to hide, all Obaseki has said even after his resignation from APC was that he was out to protect the resources of Edo State.

Sympathisers of the godfather seem to be angry at Obaseki for biting the fingers that fed him. On the other hand, many who swore on Obaseki’s name including Emeka Nwachukwu who wrote a piece for The Guardian recently believes Obaseki “is being fought by enemies of the state because he refused to share the patrimony and resources of Edo State amongst a predatory group of godfathers and political thugs”.

But we must not lose track of what sparked off the war between Obaseki and his estranged godfather. At the centre of the struggle was the control of Edo State House of Assembly. All the 24 state legislators in the state are members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

To prevent Oshiomhole’s loyalists from taking control of the state legislature, nine out of the 24 lawmakers met at night to inaugurate the assembly and elected Okiye as speaker. Osifo and the 13 others went to court to file a case against the speaker and the eight others.

While the case was in court, the seats of the 14 Oshiomhole loyalists were declared vacant by the factional speaker and was about to conduct election to fill the positions before he was stopped by the court.

All efforts to find amicable settlement by the party, the National Assembly and the president was frustrated by Obaseki’s minority bent on holding on to what it illegally seized.

But beyond playing the victim, I think Nigerians would want Obaseki to answer some questions. His supporters say he was trying to prevent Oshiomhole who persuaded Edo people to vote for him in 2016 from breathing down his throat.

Was it before or after the midnight coup by his nine supporters and his inauguration of the assembly? Why was he desperate to take control of the house when there was no indication of conflict between him and his godfather that has just helped him to victory? How did he fall out with 14 elected members of the house even before its inauguration? If all Obaseki was trying to do with the midnight coup against his own government was to protect the scarce resources of Edo from his godfather, why is he trading a godfather that has no history of treasury looting for professional PDP looters that had been indicted by the courts for leaving Edo State like a war-ravaged city before Oshiomhole took over?

In a participatory democracy, the party is supreme. How come Obaseki who was faithful to the rules of the party on whose back he rode to power suddenly found the same rule so objectionable that he was prepared to destroy the instrument which brought him to power?

With all Oshiomhole’s shortcomings, what no one can take away from him is that he has tried to bring sanity and discipline to a party that had no direction under John Oyegun, his predecessor.

Why is Obaseki colluding with “empire builders and fiefdom owners” who were caged by Oshiomhole for trying to use the party to serve self and their families? Why did Obaseki believe he will not be haunted by his certificate issue if fielded by PDP, his new party which first raised the issue in 2016 when he only escaped by the whiskers through court technicalities?

But let me say that Obaseki is not under inquisition. He has not broken any rule of engagement of new-breed politicians that have come to define the fourth republic. In fact, he is in good company. In his Edo home state, we still remember Tony Anenih who as chairman of Babangida’s decreed Social Democratic Party (SDP) sold off the victory of his party.

Tom Ikimi, his NRC counterpart rather than accept his party’s defeat gracefully buried Abiola’s victory by accepting to serve Abacha’s dictatorship as foreign minister. We also have in the same Edo State, John Oyegun, the immediate past chairman of APC who has been fueling the crisis within APC in his Edo State to spite Oshiomhole, his successor.

But it must also be admitted that military-baked new-breed politicians are not the exclusive preserve of Edo State which is but a microcosm of Nigeria.

Over 50% of governors elected on PDP platform in 1998 and 2003 were declared men without character by the courts that found them guilty of tampering with the resources of their various states.

The first set of senators after the 1998 elections spoke openly about their desire to recoup their expenses on the election.

Within three months they had come out with Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) through which fuel import licenses were allocated to over 100 companies fronting for them. A house probe was to later confirm the theft of about N1.7trillion through the fuel subsidy regime.

And of course, long before Obaseki was a Bukola Saraki who damaged the fortune of his party by moving from PDP to APC. In APC, he admitted trading off the victory of his party to secure the senate presidency and when he fell out with APC, he again moved back to PDP.

Other high-profile members of new-breed politicians include Aminu Tambuwal and Rotimi Amaechi. Both seem to be more loyal to themselves.

It is not therefore a surprise that our new breed politicians in the National Assembly whether PDP or APC are adjudged the highest paid lawmakers in the world.

But blame not Obaseki, Saraki, Tambuwal and all other military baked “new-breed” politicians. The fault is not with them but in their stars.

The military, having destroyed our political socialization process and imposed their own values ‘new-breed’ politicians even when equipped with certificate from Babangida’s School of Democracy cannot give what they don’t have.

Agents of political socialization such as the family, school, peers, the media, are under assault. Parents that are expected to influence the development of their children’s political orientations only know the military, PDP and APC.

The school environment is toxic with cult member’s wars. Our children don’t read newspapers and you switch on the television our musicians are singing about making money without working.

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