With the benefit of hindsight, the Benin leaders who in 2006 earnestly and dedicatedly made the case for Oshiomhole to be assisted and supported in his quest for the governorship of Edo State, must be steeped in painful reflection for the tragic error that Oshiomhole now represents; those noble-minded Benin leaders, out of a higher vision, rejected all informed suggestions that Oshiomhole harbored the traits of a congenitally dishonorable character. The opposing group of persons who in 2006 referenced Oshiomhole’s dubious antecedents and, therefore, warned that the discredited ex-labor leader would pay back the immense goodwill of Benin people with shocking ingratitude, are today revered as near prophetic for their foresighted counsel. Some other Benin leaders were also wary, that Oshiomhole had no tangible connection prior to 2006 with individuals or groups in Oredo, Orhionmwon Uhunmwonde, Ovia Northeast, Ovia Southwest, Egor, and Ikpoba-Okha local government areas making up Edo South Senatorial district today. The circumspect leaders sensed that Oshiomhole was then merely building an opportunistic alliance with political leaders of Edo South extraction for the sole purpose of furthering his own selfish interest.
It is equally pertinent to further recall the observation of some Benin political leaders who then remarked that Oshiomhole did not come to the negotiation table with Edo South people with any politician or traditional ruler of consequence from Edo North. The truth then was that Oshiomhole had no vital support of his own people and, therefore, desperately needed the legitimate backing of Edo South leaders to catalyze his quest for Edo State governorship.
A close study of Oshiomhole’s journey in labor and politics unquestionably reveal that opportunism has been the credo of the ex-governor in all major aspirations. Those who are intimately familiar with Oshiomhole’s supposed courageous stance against the military in support of the working class will testify that the narrative was more of a fable. The real radical activists who worked with him speak of shameful instances when, Oshiomhole, betrayed the pledges made to the Nigerian working class by the labor leadership. Such traitorous conduct was not only exhibited by Oshiomhole, in his days at the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC) but also at the Textile Industrial Union where the membership eventually sent him packing with a vote of No Confidence in his leadership. Betrayal could be described as his second intimate nature. Hence it was not a surprise that he left a mountain of pensions and other retirement benefits unpaid before exiting the governorship of Edo State.
The aggregate of the foregoing is that Oshiohmole, is a congenitally untrustworthy character, someone who is perpetually mercurial in friendship and odiously opportunistic in his political endeavors. Can it be that Oshiomhole’s beginning from cradle inextricably ties him to the path of dishonor and betrayal? It should not be so and Oshiomhole should restrain himself from trying to overcompensate for the deficits of his birth. There should be no eternal shame to the fact that ex-governor, Oshiomhole, is the son of a landless, migrant farmworker from Kogi State who was given hospitable refuge by Iyamho people in Etsako Local Government Area of Edo State. Should the fortuitous turn of life events for the lucky son of an out of state property-less farm worker not be enough for Oshiomhole to embrace noble values of life and reciprocate goodwill with gratitude?
The ex-labour leader who immediately in, 2006, abandoned and decimated the labor party on discovering that the party was not formidable enough to actualize his aspirations, ran to Benin political and business leaders genuflecting in search of funds to launch his governorship endeavor. In his characteristic magnanimity, the Governor, Godwin Obaseki, organized is business friends from across the country to raise funds and consequently solidify Oshiomhole’s financial war chest. Then the Esama of Benin Kingdom, Chief Igbinedion, his son, then-Governor Lucky Igbinedion and other Edo South families helped to put together, the millions of naira that, Oshiomhole, received to catalyze his governorship quest. Except the records are fictionalized, no substantial assistance of any sort came from any other senatorial district except Edo South.
But the characteristic Oshiomhole losses memory very easily as he perpetually travels on the path of ingratitude. Shortly after assuming office following a lengthy legal battle at the Election Tribunal, Oshiomhole suddenly turned to attack Igbinedion’s entire family. Apart from being a respectable Benin titleholder, Oshiomhole, seem to have completely forgotten how his penurious life and his 2006 cashless campaign was given an initial boost by the Esama of Benin. The ever dishonorable character that Oshiomhole is, held press conferences and other public forums, in which he unjustifiably demonized and humiliated the Igbinedions, particularly, accusing the Chief of having illegitimately benefitted from some favorable government deals. Oshiomhole did not stop his war against prominent Benin people with Chief Igbinedion. In his false attempt at recouping state property from ex-governors, Oshiomhole, threatened to arrest Benin iconic son, a former governor of the Midwest Region and Bendel State, late Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia, if he delayed in returning some property that was initially and legally assigned to him (Ogbemudia) as a former Governor.
It would seem that the traumatized Kogi son is determined to psychologically subjugate the age-long pride of Benin people. And so today, Oshiomhole is fixated on dividing and conquering the people of Benin. Oshiomhole is setting political leaders of Edo South extraction viciously against each other as he juggles the balls for 2020 gubernatorial tickets eliciting bitter hatred among Benin people. Oshiomhole is fracturing Benin society and tearing the sacred fabric that binds Benin people together.
All through his governorship tenure, Oshiomhole, paid more attention to elevating motor park touts and notorious thugs to positions of political prominence and did very much less to promote educated Benin people with better chances to continuously rise in the society, contrary to the empowerment of his Afamai clan.
Perhaps, Oshiomhole’s choice of thugs and touts as persons to make billionaires in Benin society speaks to how much respect he has for people of Edo South extraction.
The time is overdue for Benin political leaders to engage with seriousness to soberly review the intentions of the ex-governor. How much more political blood must our people spill from desecrating ourselves before the altar of a stranger amongst Benin people? It is urgent for those who have become soulless lackeys and pitiable surrogates of Oshiomhole to be reawakened to the pride of their heritage. Edo South political class must rise in unity against Oshiomhole’s antics and sinister agenda so that we can continue to navigate the path forward towards the manifest destiny of Benin people.
Edo yu ma, emwin okpa re edo eko
OTEGHE ADAMS, BENIN-CITY, EDO STATE, NIGERIA