Though the key issues that catalysed the precipitation of the current crisis came up long after the election of Godwin Obaseki and Philip, one critical factor that is unwittingly overlooked by watchers is the question: why did Oshiomhole choose Obaseki as his successor?

During those nocturnal encounters, I had with Comrade in his unending quest to dissuade me from continuing with Ogiemwonyi’s project, one day he invited me to his office to meet with Godwin Obaseki. That was my first time of meeting the man called Godwin Obaseki, who Oshiomhole was hell-bent on handing over to. I was seated with the governor having some preliminary talks before Godwin walked in to join us. And the governor opened the conversation:
“Godwin, this is Lukman, one of the very few dogged men who started struggles with me in NLC even before I thought of nursing a governorship ambition. Lukman, Philip, and the late Greg Haruna were the first 3 guys that staked out their necks for this governorship struggle, especially when the idea was seen as a laughing stock. He is passionate, intelligent, smart, very dogged and unwavering when he is convinced about a struggle. At times, he can even be rascally if that would help secure what he wants to be accomplished! It was unfortunate he left the country for further studies after our elections, Greg died in an accident, leaving only Philip. Lukman should have to be been a principal member of this government at inception”. And Godwin, with the aura of a humble gentleman, stood up and extended his hand for a shake. I stood up and we shook hands. Oshiomhole continued: “Lukman, here is Godwin. I’m not sure you have met him before but let me tell you that he has been part of the idea of my being a governor. He was operating from the Lagos axis and I can say he organized the first fundraising that made money available for our initial activities here in Benin. While in government, he is the head of our economic team and the brain behind the success of my government. It will shock you to know Godwin rendered this huge service to the state without being paid, either as allowances or as salaries”. Then with a sense of finality and, in the characteristic display of his usual authoritativeness, Oshiomhole concluded: “I’m going to handover to Godwin, so you people should work together”. To this, I protested: ” Oga, with due respect, don’t be too conclusive on who your successor would be. You know I’m still preaching the gospel of Ogienwonyi to you for which you and I are yet to reach any conclusion”. And he replied: “It’s ok Lukman, let’s continue that discussion later in the house. With that, I stood up, had a shake with comrade and Godwin, and departed for a birthday party for which I was already running late. It was the birthday of one of our dogged comrades, as oga used to call us, Comrade Mika Amanokha, which held in his house in Benin. While we were there dancing to some cool music, clicking cups of wines in solemn felicitation with the Mikas, my phone rang. Behold, it was Comrade governor calling! I excused Mika to a corner and apologized that I had to leave for a meeting with Oga. I met Oga in the house with Barrister Henry Idahagbon, the then-Attorney General of the state and Hon. Victor Enobakhare, the then Egor LG council chairman. They were discussing the issue of paying the accumulated unpaid salaries of Egor LG workers. I waited for them to finish after which Comrade went upstairs, perhaps to freshen up, and came down an hour later.
He beckoned me into the inner sitting room and we commenced the conversation. It was a discussion whose content set up our state for a crisis which has now cascaded down to protraction.

And Comrade began: “Lukman, I understand your principled stand on this issue of Chris, as he fondly calls Engr. Chris Ogiemwonyi, but the matter of my successor has gone beyond personal or emotional consideration. First and foremost, the present financial position of the state is not as strong as our people want to think or believe. Our finances are in a precarious situation but the good thing is that, even though we are in heavy debts, we used the borrowed funds for infrastructural development, especially the Benin water storm project. Only Godwin understands how the money was borrowed, the repayment plans and the conditions attached. The Benin water storm project has not to be completed but we have made appreciable progress, even though it is not easy for our people to understand how such humongous amount was spent. It was our plan to use the funds to undertake the stormwater project and open up the main roads: airport road, Akpakpava Road, Siloko road, etc, so that my successor would undertake the reconstruction of the link roads. This we have achieved appreciably well. In the educational sector, we agreed that we should always be up to date with our counterpart contribution to the UBE Funds to ensure we undertake the physical reconstruction of all the dilapidated schools so my successor would undertake the training of teachers and capacity building. So, my succession plan has always been there.
Then I interjected: does that mean you had Godwin in mind all this while as your successor and non of your people knew about it? No no, that is not what I meant, Comrade replied. But there are compelling reasons for settling for Godwin apart from the fact that he understands and can better manage the finances of the state, considering the downward swing in federal monthly allocations. “What are those reasons, which Ogiemwonyi cannot account for? I asked. You see, Lukman, the state cannot survive a new governor who is a politician, someone who has political structures and party leaders to service, someone who is generous with funds. I chose Godwin because he has no political network to carter for. By his very nature, he would be very heartless and brutal to politicians. Godwin has never come to terms with why I should be giving public monies to politicians, monies they never worked for, according to his perception of it. He believes every kobo must be earned. He takes serious exemption to give free monies without commensurate work or receipt. In several occasions, Godwin has quarreled with my frequent giving of those handbags containing monies. My friend, Chris, is also very generous with funds and that would pose a serious danger to the finances of the state. Ogie, who is the preferred candidate of your friend, Philip, will be too weak to withstand the pressure and demand for money by our politicians. Hope you’re getting my point now, Lukman?” And I nodded in affirmation and allowed him to continue. “The second compelling reason is that our state needs a completely detribalized person who has no historical and cultural attachment to his ethnic stock. Godwin is the perfect guy that fits that description because he has been a Lagos guy all his life. He has few or no friends in Benin where he comes from. Another interjection from me: “Comrade, I agree with you that we need this rare attribute but I can bet you that Ogiemwonyi better fits this description. Are you aware that I’m deeply involved in Ogiemwonyi’s project and he entrusts me with critical assignments irrespective of the fact that I’m not a Bini man? If being detribalized is a criterion, I can bet you that Ogiemwonyi is far better than Obaseki. This is when Comrade got angry and shouted “shut up, I say shut up. What do you know about politics? How well do you know this Chris that you won’t let me talk? What do you know that he represents? How well do you know the promoters of his project? How well do you know one of Chris’ key ally, Prince Eweka, an ethnic irredentist who I almost handed over to the EFCC? What do you know about Captain Ogbebor, one of his promoter? You that just returned from overseas, what do you know about Benin politics? I’m talking to you and you keep bringing up Chris matter over and over again. Do I even owe you an explanation? Who do you think you are, you rascal? Get up and leave my house, stupid rascal! I stood up and said “oga, I think this is supposed to be a conversation? You have turned this whole thing to a shouting orders. I couldn’t confirm if I had raised my voice that time, until he shouted, this time with a louder tone, “you’re shouting back at me, Lukman? I say get out!” I was trying to find my way out when he commanded, “where do you think you are going? Come back and sit down here. I’m not done with you yet, idiot! What option do I have than to obey the instructions of a sitting governor and a benefactor. The concluding part of our conversation went on a lighter note and I left with some useful takeaways.
My first takeaway is that Comrade has made up his mind about Obaseki and no one else could change that. The second takeaway is that Comrade was sure and deeply convinced about the personality of his preferred successor. It was evident that his resolve to handover to Obaseki was predicated on altruistic motive, being that Obaseki will be very stingy and frugal with public funds and brutal to politicians who would continue to demand free monies and insist on business as usual. The fourth takeaway and very very important to is that “comrade’s handbag” which our ever-generous oga usually gives to every visitor when departing. Walking towards my car with this fourth takeaway hanging on my firm grip, I concluded that if Obaseki emerges Oga’s successor, this would be the last time that me, or any other visitor for that matter, would ever leave government house with a handbag! But accompanying that conclusion is a feeling that if Obaseki wins and comes up with such ‘alien’ policy of politicians not leaving government house with handbags, hell will know no greater fury than an Obaseki Government Without Bags of Money. This I already envisaged but what is now of terrible shock and concern to me is that the same Oshiomhole, who deliberately set up an Obaseki Government that is designed to deal decisively with those share-the-money politicians, has now turned around to be unduly sympathetic to the same politicians who are hell-bent on bringing down the government. To me, this is the highest display of treachery and betrayal of trust by Oshiomhole. It is either that he deliberately sets up the government for failure or he is unwittingly sympathetic to the likes of Henry Idahagbon and Gani Audu & his Gang who are just cashing in on this loophole of politicians’ disaffection with “Obaseki’s stinginess” to wreck predetermined havoc on the collective psyche of Edo people.
The 2019 APC primaries was to set the tone for this final show of shame that has now lived with us as a protracted political crisis till this day.

(…continued in part 4)

The Rabbit, firing live from Abuja.

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