By Tony Erha
“ _A man who claims to be immune against tuberculosis doesn’t have to lick the saliva of its patient” – An Edo parable.
Returnee governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, is at it again! The reason is not always for the good of it than for a penchant for rebellion. Making reckless public statements which often polarize the political class and put the state to boil! One would have thought that the tempestuous governor had finally abstained from his inclination to “filaga filogo”, a Bini euphemism for public disorderliness, as coined by the very wordy persona, Patrick Obahiagbon, a.k.a Igodomigodo.
Once more, the Edo populace is about being reengaged to an advanced version of the titanic duels of the “Torgbas” against the “Torkpas”. The former, is the governor’s posse of foot soldiers (Men Friday), who gleefully do the ‘fire and fury’ street and social-media brawls with the Torkpas, a composite political group; to heat up the Edo polity, to no end.
Lately, the governor, in his usual sarcastic blurts, somewhat, improperly lashed out at Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, his predecessor in the office of the governor and Clem Ikanade Agba, the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, who was a two-time commissioner in the state. But, a preponderant of the Edo people and public watchers, who dislike renegade politics, which pervaded the Obaseki’s first tenure of four years, are becoming fed up with the governor’s style of unprogressive politicking. This is at the backdrop of months after his reelection, where the governor failed woefully to appoint his cabinet and ensure the desired statecraft actions.
Whilst at a construction site of the Benin City Storm Water project, the governor’s spat was that the scheme was ill-designed and constituted a scam, vowing to retrieve the ₦30 billion fund he allegedly said was defrauded (through the project) by the immediate-past government before his. And he impliedly alluded to ex-governor Oshiomhole and Agba as the conceivers and executors of the project.
But this isn’t the first time, neither the last that Obaseki would incite such convicting innuendoes, which is widely regarded as intent to malign and crucify Oshiomhole and Agba. For over two years, the governor frequently cried the blue murder and threatens the brimstones that the duo must be probed and made to cough out the allegedly embezzled ₦30 billion, without making true his threats?
Downrightly, the governor could have endeared himself to the Edo taxpayers if he summarily instituted an ideal probe panel to its logical conclusion, unlike a similar investigation of the Specialist Hospital’s project once set up by him whose finding, because it failed to attain the governor’s witch-hunt intention, was swept under the carpet. Recently, a bemused Dan Osi Orbih, a leader of the governor’s People Democratic Party (PDP), showed his frustration in a press statement, by similarly urging the governor not to kill the said Hospital’s report and make good his threats to investigate the water storm project.
Ordinarily, most Edo public, including Clement Agba are upended that even though the governor grandstands about a just-probe, which they readily welcome, his underbelly is one voided where the governor is altogether the accuser, persecutor and a judge over a project he was alleged to be a partaker and beneficiary, with his personally owned Afrinvest company collecting ahead a whopping ₦1.5 billion as consultant fee. The question begging for answer is whether Obaseki will like to probe himself?
Agba narratively took the veils off the project in an open letter to the governor, which he also copied notable stakeholders. He readily agreed with the public-spirited interests, who felt concerned that Obasek’s was on an orchestrated and well-oiled campaign of calumny only calculated to embarrass him and impugn his unblemished public service to Edo State and the Nigerian nation. Otherwise, where is the veracity impetus of the governor’s accusation which Agba called ‘unnecessary controversy…that is outlandishly erroneous, misleading and patently mischievous’. Thereupon, Agba revealed that the ₦30 billion the governor peddled as expenditure on the project was actually ₦22 billion paid to the contractor, with ₦8 billion balanced payment left for the next government to pay, in view of the additional work and periodic maintenance to be carried out.
How come the governor turned around to indict and feign ignorance about the project, in which he was a useful part as (then) a Chairman of the Edo State Economic Team, who was privy to the conception, planning, execution and expenditure on the project?
Pertinently, is the governor also unaware about Mr. Agba’s further claim that a first part payment of ₦22 billion was made to the contractor, as ordered by a resolution of the then State Executive Council, where Obaseki once belonged, thus mandating the then Commissioner for Finance to make the said storm water payment and of all other projects directly to contractors of the state government? As protocol demands, is Obaseki, being the succeeding governor and an insider of the same project not also aware of the facts of the project in his possession, but only to misinform the public that a total ₦30 had been paid to the contractor by his predecessor?
Why should Obaseki accuse Agba of defrauding the state, whereas the fund was not paid from the coffer of the state’s Environment Ministry as he served as its Commissioner? Obviously, the Ministry of Works, with Osarodion Ogie as Commissioner only served as joint supervisors of the project. Did Obaseki similarly indict Osarodion Ogie, who incidentally is the current Secretary to the State Government of the Obaseki’s Edo State? Did he also accuse Anselm Ojezua, a former Chairman of Obaseki’s political party and Frank Evbuomwan, the current Managing Director of Edo State Geographic Information Service, who also served as Commissioner of Works cum supervisors at different times?
The public was also informed that Obaseki’s government failed to meet the other commitments of this project of a long gestation period, despite that he had adequate financial resources to sustain its momentum, with the balance of ₦8 billion. Is it not now evident that the current sorry state of the project, owing to its neglect by the governor, raises concerns about its negative impact on the wellbeing of the people?
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By and large, these are the jigsaws begging for the answers, even as the _public awaits Mr. Obaseki’s responses to the illuminated responses by Agba and those of the discerning public. Governor Obaseki; over to you!
Tony Erha, a journalist and development oriented activist writes from Benin City, Edo State