Act 4: Scene I
Deities don’t read newspapers. Humans do. Orita Gbaemu is the crossroads in Osogbo where deities are appeased in August at the commencement rites of Osun Osogbo, the globally acclaimed riverine festival that uplifts culture and restores worshippers’ souls.
From time out of mind, the Ataoja, once in every August, sits in splendour under a royal canopy on Gbaemu Road to commune with the founding deities of Osogbo and herald the celebration of fecundity, purity, cleansing, protection and wellness in the land.
Orita Gbaemu isn’t only about annual deities, however. It’s also renowned as the newspaper distribution epicentre where people throng daily to read newspapers and aerate comments on topical issues. Ironically, at Orita Gbaemu, like in all newsstands nationwide, comments are free, facts are scanty.
Today, PhD students – Kiko, Beki and Solo – are doing their individual fieldwork in Osogbo, Kano and Umuahia respectively.
At Orita Gbaemu, Kiko examines how everyday people view governance and political leadership. He sits in the crowd with a rolling tape recorder concealed in his breast pocket, listening to the drift of conversations as readers factionally engage in political whataboutism.
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Now, whataboutism is the knee-jerk jagbajantis common among poor members of the public who respond to truthful allegations against their political leaders or parties by alleging that the greater sins lie with the accusers.
In Nigeria’s political whataboutism, very poor folks vigorously defend allegations against their political parties or leader(s) by bringing up counter allegations that don’t clear the air on the allegation levelled against their parties or leader(s). They’ll say, “Oh, you accuse Sai Baba of nepotism and incompetence, WHAT ABOUT the stealing-is-not-corruption mantra of the Badluck years and the holier-than-thou corruption of the Ebora era?”
For a once-in-four-years measly porridge, this is the whataboutism you’ll likely get upon raising questions on the disturbing funds found in the coffers of Mama Piss, which made her enter into plea bargaining: “Who’s a saint? Didn’t Mama Piss manage her matrimonial home more effectively than the beautiful hairdresser whose ceaseless domestic fights triggered guns on A-Sore-Rock. If you’re patient and have the stomach for political stupidity, you’ll hear: “The Bullion Vans of Bourdillon are not as sordid as the Article of Halliburton.” This is what you get when the masses, who should be grieving and protesting their futurelessness, hotly argue in defence of their candidates for the title of the Most Successful Thief after Saint Sanny Abutcher, Maradona and Ebora.
Act 5: Scene 1
In the Railway area of Umuahia popularly referred to as Isi Gate, hawkers run wildly after vehicles to sell their wares. At one of the newsstands, Solo is reading a copy of ‘Light’, a fearless newspaper that constructively criticises government policies. The cover headline reads, “Repeal ex-govs, speakers pension payment now – US advises.”
Reader 1: Wetin concern US with our country?
Reader 2: What rubbish are you saying? If you can collect millions of dollars in donations from the US, you must be ready to take advice on how the millions should be spent.
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Reader 3: The US should just leave our All-Pervasive-Congress-led government alone o. Did it advise the People-Dehumanising-Party when $2bn arms funds were being shared?
Solo continues to take notes.
At the Galadima Road newspaper distribution centre in the commercially-busy Sabon Gari area of Kano, Beki mingles well with the crowd. She watches poor members of the public, who are adversely affected by government’s corruption and inaction, defend to the death insane government policies. She buys a copy of ‘The Truth’ newspaper, and sits down on a wooden bench provided by a vendor, who orders a free reader to get up for her.
A cover-page headline, “Two presidential jets go missing,” screams at Beki.
Reader 1: Irresponsible journalism! The jets aren’t missing. Both are in Dubai. One flew Baba’s daughter to Dubai while the other flew her pinhole camera there for her graduation photoshoot.
Reader II: What nonsense! At whose expense? Even the American president and his family pay from their personal purse when they embark on private trips.
Reader III: We’re not in America, we’re in paraDIES.
The second lead story on the cover page catches Beki’s attention. It reads, “Anna-B bags degree in Wait-and-Get photography, paints Dubai red,”. From the illogical to the absurd, readers feast on the story, trading allegations for and against the vampires in government.
Soon, all hell broke loose with emotions boiling over and weapons and punches replacing speech. An hour later, the police, responding to a distress call, swoop on the scene, carting away edibles and arresting innocent traders.
Anna-B is having her graduation bash inside the $24,000 per-night Royal Suite of the 7-Star Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai. Unmindful of political, religious and ethnic affinities, children of Nigeria’s Who-is-Who grace the occasion in luxury automobiles. The MC introduces the super-rich children as Anna-B welcomes them amid booming music and perfect lighting effects.
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Anna-B: Oh, you made it here? I thought you said you can’t make it?
Moh Article: You know the airways are closed due to the pandemic. Dad had to tell one of his pilots to fly me down here.
(She leads him to the table where the scions of Ebora, Jona, Aibibi, Abutcher, Bourdillon, Hell Roof, ROtM, Weak-A, Oshy, Abbey, Ebory, Mack, etc are feasting)
MC: Make some noise for the son of 9ja’s articulate politician, Moh Article!
(The hall erupts in deafening noise)
MC: Hey y’all, listen to me real quick. I’ve the singular honour and pleasure to invite to the M-I-C, one of the land’s most gifted stand-up comedians, I-go-Faint!!!!
(The hall erupts in ecstasy)
I-go-Faint: Helloooooo sombory!!!!
Crowd: Hi, siiiiiir!!!!
I-go-Faint: 9ja no dey carry last! I’m so happy to be here tonight, I tell you. (He waits for the noise to abate)
I-go-Faint: Why una dey make noise like Magoo for custody? We funny die for 9ja: person wey dey detain people anyhow without bail dey cry for bail when dem detain am now.
(Audience bursts into laughter)
I-go-Faint: Where’s Hushpoopoo?
Audience: He dey jail!
I-go-Faint: I wish Hushpoopoo dey here make he come give una handouts to give to una fathers about how to electronically steal and transfer 9ja to white people so that dem go help develop our country quick-quick. Dis suffer too much.
(Audience screams in laughter)
I-go-Faint: This party shows the unity and love in our land. It’s the poor people on the streets, the uneducated and the unfortunate that are giving the country a bad name, portraying the country as terrorists and kidnappers’ enclave. 9ja na Turn-by-Turn Plc. You guys don dey take over from una parents. Una be the faces of Nigeria’s future presidents, governors, senators, ministers. Una fathers may quarrel occasionally, but dem dey settle their differences las-las. Why quarrel when resources plenty yanfu-yanfu to go round?
I-go-Faint: Una mothers no dey quarrel because enough time dey to gossip and enough funds dey to do manicure and pedicure abroad and also buy designers’ wears, pants, bras and bags.
I-go-Faint: Governor Pay-o-Lou do well in curbing COVID-19, but im state Assembly insist on physical sitting, a member don die now; what a great legislature led by a scandal-free Speaker!
Audience: Eko o ni baje!
I-go-Faint: Pandemic dey kill everyday but pastors and imams wan make dem open churches and mosques. Who go fight for the poor? Common man no fit think again because poverty don turn im head. Das why poor people still dey support una parents wey dey thief for government despite say na di stealing make dem life meaningless. I’ll be back after this musical interlude!
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Bob Marley’s ‘Redemption Song’ softly overrides the applause.
OPINION: The god that cut soap for Wizkid (2)
There’s no god-like mother, orisa bi iya kosi. A praying mother for that matter. Eyes shut wide in her bowed head, brow sweats as bosom heaves up and down while tongue speaks in supplication for her offspring to grow in wisdom, blossom in understanding, blow in success, live in health and enjoy the good life. The prayer of a mother.
Father is the mirror, baba ni digi. He’s also the unsung hero. The overworked engine. Father prays, too. But his prayers are short and practical, they are against real threats. His prayers are more physical than metaphysical.
May God hearken to the prayers of every parent on their children. The more bad the child does, the harder the parents pray. May the joy of every parent on their children not be cut short by destiny killers, like naira and kobo flogged the destiny of MohBad to death with the koboko of drugs.
It’s good. Nigerian youths are rising across the states, demanding a probe into the death of MohBad, the youngster and songster whose star dropped off the sky into the sea on noonday, a few days ago. Like many Nigerians, I know the nation’s music industry is a haven of hard drugs, but the fast-spreading #justiceformohbad movement, however, should curb the power of life and death wielded by barons, producers and record label owners. Though death has stopped Ilerioluwa Aloba aka MohBad and his promise, the awareness created by the #justiceformohbad movement will set many up-and-coming musicians enslaved to music labels free. Rest in peace, MohBad Ìmólè!
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Oak grows from acorn. Mighty grows from mite. A casual telephone call to a former colleague, Folasade, inspired this article. I was touched by the good-naturedness of Wizkid’s mother, who stayed connected to her humble beginnings. As Folasade recounted her moments with Iya Yetunde, I saw her influence in the musical works of her son.
If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it, goes a popular catchphrase. Nigeria, her youth and music industry are fast becoming broken like the rickety bicycle of the village drunk nicknamed Keke baje o seto. Nigeria needs to fix the menace of drugs. I wonder how Iya Yetunde would have felt at MohBad’s death. Like the caring mother she was, I guess she would have been shattered.
A testimony that her prayers on Wizkid were being answered manifested when her only son flew her to Dubai about three years ago for a medical checkup.
Folasade recalls, “Iya Yetunde wasn’t sick from COVID. She went to Dubai for a checkup in the heat of the COVID pandemic. Because she and her husband were very close, they went together. When she was through with her checkup, she flew back home with her husband. When they landed in Nigeria, Wizkid told their driver to bring them to his two-storey mansion in Lekki because he wanted his mother to have adequate rest. He knew friends and well-wishers would throng his father’s Surulere home if his parents went there from the airport.
“But Wizkid’s tactic failed because Iya Yetunde was a golden fish. Family and friends still thronged Wizkid’s Lekki home, and the privacy he sought for his parents became a mirage. After some days, Wizkid bought another house in Lekki, where he moved to, leaving the sprawling two-storey house for his parents. They never moved back to Surulere. She gave me a room on the middle floor where I slept when I visited while she and her husband stayed on the topmost floor. The house has a swimming pool.”
Recounting another act of kindness by Wizkid’s mother, Folasade said when Iya Yetunde visited her in Abuja, she (Folasade) cooked a pot of soup and told her to help give it to her (Folasade) son, Akinola, who was seconded by Accenture to MTN.
“My son was then working in Accenture but he was outsourced to MTN. So, when Iya Yetunde was going back to Lagos after a visit, I told her to help give my son the pot of soup I cooked. She asked me why would I want her to take a soup from Abuja to Lagos. She said she couldn’t take it. But she got the phone number of my son.
“A day later, my son called to ask if I told Iya Yetunde he was having a birthday party. I asked him why. He said she stormed his office with different kinds of dishes enough to host a wedding reception. My son said he had to share part of the various dishes with his colleagues. That was when I knew Iya Yetunde was also a caterer. In fact, she catered for MTN and other big multinationals. When I asked her why she was still into catering despite her son’s success, she said catering was her hobby, and that she didn’t want to be idle. After this, she regularly cooked for my son,” Folasade said.
Folasade, who disclosed that Iya Yetunde was quite older than her, also shared another display of humility by her. “One day, she came visiting in Abuja. She had an afternoon flight to catch and I had to go out in the morning. So, I took her to a friend’s house to stay till the afternoon because I didn’t want her to feel lonely. My friend, Aunty Funmilola, was an ex-caterer with the OSBC, she owned a school in Abuja. When we got to Aunty Funmilola’s house, I called her aside and told her to help me take adequate care of Iya Yetunde. I said she was Wizkid’s mom. She said Wizkid ko, Wizkad ni; she thought I was joking. I didn’t press it. I just left Iya Yetunde in her care and went away.
“Aunty Funmilola collected her number it was during their subsequent telephone discussions that she got to know I was saying the truth. Iya Yetunde never threw her weight around. She was honest, kind, sincere, humble and very down-to-earth.
If there are only two Nigerian Afrobeat stars who love their mothers and are proud to show it, Wizkid is one of them. The love he has for his mom shines through in the various songs and verses he dedicated to her. The song ‘Ayo’ is a special dedication to her. Also, he recorded ‘Jaiye Jaiye’ in her honour, featuring Afrobeats legend, Femi Kuti. Wizkid referenced her in ‘Pakuru Mo’ and some other songs.
Iya Yetunde never dissuaded Wizkid from doing music, she gave her blessing and support, praying, guiding and hoping he turns out well. And Wizkid didn’t disappoint her. Wherever she is now, I think she’s happy. Ayodeji omo Balogun showered his mother with love and affection as if he knew her time was petering out. My heart-felt sympathy goes to Wizkid’s dad, Alhaji Balogun, Wizkid’s elder sisters, family and relatives.
Adieu, Iya Yetunde, the god that cut soap for Wizkid.
Facebook: @Tunde Odesola
OPINION: ‘Alaafin’s Stool Is Not For Sale’
By Lasisi Olagunju
An oba is put on the throne to keep “the bush at bay.” Collectively and individually, the successful oba is praised as “so’gbó di’lé/sò’gbé dì’gboro/ oba a s’ààtàn d’ojà – the successful king is he who turns forest to home; the one who turns bush to town. Karin Barber’s ‘I Could Speak Until Tomorrow’ (published in 1991) is my book of reference here. An oba that would turn his town’s rubbish heap into a market would not be deficient in legitimacy; he would not owe his ascension to the throne solely to money and its filthy influence. A king whose reign would be well would come courtesy of the blessing of God and man. In the past, “nobody could be a good oba unless he had a very broad-based support in the town” (Ulli Beier). But royalty in Yorubaland today suffers the violence of money; money is the principal speaker that speaks and gets listened to. It is our parliament and our executive; it is the judiciary. It is true that a palace needs money to breathe; it is a necessity, but it should not be the reason for a king and his super elector.
At a project inauguration event in Iseyin, Oyo State, on Friday, the state governor, Mr Seyi Makinde, announced that the vacant throne of the Alaafin of Oyo would not be allowed sold to the highest bidder. “Those of you fighting over Alaafin of Oyo’s stool should stop. Those who have collected money from people should know that Alaafin’s stool is not for sale. The stool is very important to Yoruba land; we will not allow it sold to the highest bidder.” That was quite cool, pleasing and reassuring. The governor spoke as an authentic Yoruba patriot who understands the place of the oba as the ori (head) and what it does in the life of the Yoruba society.
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One of the most difficult moments for a governor in Yorubaland is when a prominent oba’s stool falls vacant. The skies, at that moment, wear an incandescent shroud of lightning, thunder claps and storms of intrigues. Dr Omololu Olunloyo was Western State’s commissioner in charge of chieftaincy affairs when the last Alaafin was chosen in 1970. He tells dusky stories of what went into that decision. When a first class king dies and the governor allows the lowering of his guard, his face will suffer the ugliness of pimples. Where the soil is fertile, kingmakers sell thrones for princely sums and princes of means buy stools. Shortly after the immediate past Timi of Ede, Oba Tijani Oyewusi Agbonran II, joined his ancestors in August 2007, the then Osun State governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, asked the most senior kingmaker in that town which royal house’s turn it was to present the next oba. “It is everyone’s turn” was the answer the governor got. It cannot be every prince’s turn, the governor countered the kingmaker, asking him if what he was saying was that the family of the one who just died could also present a candidate. And the kingmaker replied the governor: “Ṣebí oyè bàbá won ni” (Why not? It is their father’s chieftaincy). That final answer was a code (or a red flag) for rent seeking and rent collection – a recipe for interminable litigious crisis. The governor understood what was not said, and, I am aware, he quickly closed all roads to trouble.
Sometimes, it is the princes and their houses who run after kingmakers and assail them with irresistible cash. Throne purchasers pursue chiefs up the hill and down the valley. The same happens to key people around the approving authority, the governor. Even small me, as the governor’s spokesman, I received august visitors from the town of Ede who said they came to thank me. Thank me for what? They said I issued a statement in which I promised that government would “follow due process in filling the stool” and because of that they brought gifts. Where I come from, a child’s most precious possessions are his mother’s and father’s prayers. I got plenty of such prayers against missteps before I became an orphan, and I pray daily for those parental fortifications to dictate what I do, what I say, what I eat. My elderly guests said they brought kola nuts for me; I told them I inherited hectares of kola nut farms from my father but I don’t eat kola nuts. They fixed their gaze on me; I also looked at my ‘appreciative’ throne-seeking visitors and smiled. I showered them with rejective thanks. They left with their kola nuts in their pocket.
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Who or what should choose the next Alaafin? The answer is in tradition and religion, encased carefully in lore and anecdotes. Priest and professor of Ifa religion and a former vice chancellor of the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Ile Ife, Professor Wande Abimbola, offered an insight in November 2022 in an interview published by the newspaper I edit. He told this story: “In ancient times, there was a vacancy in the stool of the Alaafin. In those days, Ifá would choose from among the princes. So they had the list of all the princes; they presented all to Ifá and Ifá rejected all of them. After exhausting the names of all the princes, the kingmakers were worried about what to do next. One of them said: ‘there is one person who lives in a village far away. He carries his load of firewood to the town once a week. He goes to the bush, cuts firewood, takes it to the town every week to sell. After selling, he would go back to the village. His name is Otonporo. Why don’t we try him?’ So they consulted Ifá if Otonporo would be fit for the throne, and if the Oyo Empire would be prosperous under his reign. Ifá said yes. At that time if Ifá had chosen you as the new Alaafin, the kingmakers would meet you in the house wherever you were. Otonporo had just put his heavy load of firewood on his head, coming to the town. They met him as he was leaving his abode in the forest. They shouted: ‘Otonporo, da’gi nùn; ire ti dé’lé kokoko’ (meaning ‘Otonporo, throw away your firewood; great fortune is awaiting you in the city.’) Otonporo became Alaafin and ruled for a long time. He was a successful king….” None of the rich princes in the metropolis got the throne; it was one hewer of wood somewhere deep in the bush who got the crown – and brought peace and prosperity to Oyo and its people.
A good leader is to his people what a good child is to its parents. When a child takes the right steps, the mother sings delightsome tunes; when a child opens its arms, it delights its father (omo sí’sè o wù’yá/ omo sí’pá, omo wu baba). Every Yoruba person should be proud of Governor Makinde’s stance on the Alaafin stool. His vow that the stool won’t be sold to the highest bidder is good news. It means we won’t have an Alaafin that has no regard for etiquette and protocols; one who routinely violates values and would be beating up other obas in private and public places. When a government makes a vow to do good, the people would be assisting themselves by helping it to get the promise fulfilled. We should be interested in what is happening in Oyo town and what will happen to the stool there. We should particularly note the governor’s choice of words. What he said was not a guess-work; he was sure of what had happened and may still happen to the process. He hinted that some people had taken money to force an unworthy stuff into the vacant ààfin in Oyo. Who took money and who gave money?
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Things happen daily around us; only that we are too blind (or too drunk) to see them. But if the eyes are attentive enough, they should have no problem seeing through the dank alleys of nostrils. It is not as if the decay in our obaship system started today. Maggots and nestling peckers have, long before now, been gutting the Yoruba royalty. Pioneer arts, culture and tradition scholar, Ulli Beier, was here from 1950 through the ’70s. He observed the Yoruba society’s unique monarchy and its democratic mainframes. He noted that in the selection of an oba, every part of the community had a say in it. He added that the Yoruba held the belief that an oba that lacked broad-based support in the town could not be a good king. In exasperation, he lamented that “now, people more or less buy the office, or they are imposed by the government.” The German uttered those words decades ago. Ulli Beier said more about the journey with so much poignancy in this narration: “In the 1950s, I met a generation of oba like Timi Laoye of Ede, Oba Adenle of Osogbo, the Olokuku of Okuku (Oyinlola) and many more. They were Christians and they understood the changed political situation. They believed in education but they were also strongly committed to upholding the dignity of their office. They also understood the value and wisdom of ancient Yoruba traditions. They were an impressive group of men, of kings. They did not use their office to enrich themselves; and they were absolutely accessible to the people. Now, you have a generation of oba, many of them political appointees who have by-passed traditional election procedures in a shameless way. A surprisingly large number of these new oba have been accountants or big businessmen before ascending to the throne. Some see the office as a means of making money. Various governments keep them in tow by throwing a few contracts their way. You now have an oba who shamelessly asks: ‘where is my envelope?’ – a new euphemism for ‘haven’t you brought any money to give me?’ So, how is Yoruba society going to cope with such problems? Should this ancient institution be abolished? Can it be rejuvenated, and, in such a way that we can keep politics out of it? Can it still play a vital and positive part in contemporary and future Yoruba society? If not, can it be replaced by something else? And what will that ‘something else’ be? Who or what will give a sense of direction and cohesion to the Yoruba town?” (Ulli Beier in Conversations, 2012; page 84-85). Beier asked the right questions: in the face of this thing we called ‘democracy’, shouldn’t the institution of obaship be abolished? Or can it be saved with rejuvenation? How? Who will save it?
The kingmakers in the Otonporo case above had a choice: they could sell the Oyo throne and strut the metropolis in accursed beaded wealth. The priest too had a choice; he could collect money and pick a candidate his oracle did not command him to pick. But both sides did not take the route to personal and communal ruin. They knew that every bad behaviour had very bad consequences. A purchased throne, most times, results in having a bad oba. And, what is the effect of having a bad king? A bad king is exactly the public equivalent of a bad head. A town can survive lack of rains but no society survives the ravage of bad leadership. Leaders without legitimacy reverse gains no matter what riches they inherit – they make bush of their society and ruin their people’s good head. Look around you. It is real. I quote Karin Barber again: “…the ruins of abandoned houses overgrown with bush, the traces of whole ruined settlements, remain as a warning that at any time, the conquest of the bush can be reversed…” True. The quickest way to reverse “the conquest of the bush” is to invest the powers of the state in the wrong hands. Athens and Sparta were Ancient Greece’s powerhouses. They convulsed and lost their luster to bad choices. The frailty of the polis is a constant warning that we must never plant thorns and thistles where rose is desired. Oba Lamidi Adeyemi died in April 2022; he was a very successful king and a pride to the Yoruba, home and abroad. When he died, the question was: who steps into his shoes and when? That we are still asking that question in September 2023 is to our collective shame as a people.
Senator Adams Oshiomhole’s Grand Strategy For Edo’s Future
By Fortune Ehis
In the heart of Edo State’s political arena, a high-stakes chess game is unfolding, and former Governor Adams Oshiomhole is making his moves with precision. Oshiomhole, a key figure in Edo politics, has been drawing attention for his efforts to shape the state’s political landscape, particularly in the looming battle for the next governor.
At the center of this unfolding drama is the agitation by Edo Central for their shot at producing the next governor. Oshiomhole, known for his godfather role in Edo politics, previously played a hand in the election of Godwin Obaseki, a governor who he later had a falling out with. Now, he appears determined to renew his influence by imposing Dennis Idahosa, the member representing Ovia in the National Assembly, as the APC flag-bearer, and Victor Eboigbe, his in-law from Edo Central, as the running mate.
However, behind these apparent moves, Oshiomhole’s true intentions seem to lie in securing Edo North’s hold on the governorship once again. He is rumored to be favoring Clem Agba as the Edo North APC flag-bearer, with Valentine Imasuen as the running mate. This move puts him in direct contention with another key figure in Edo politics, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who is also favored to fly the party’s flag.
One notable aspect of Oshiomhole’s strategy is his nomination of ministers from the state, which, critics argue, predominantly comes from his ethnic group, Etsako, without giving due consideration to other regions like Owan and Akoko-Edo in Edo North. This has sparked debates about equitable representation within the party.
Adding an intriguing twist to this political narrative is the emergence of Mary Alile, a relatively unknown figure in Edo politics. It is speculated that her husband may be tapped as Clem Agba’s running mate if Valentine Imasuen declines the offer. Mary Alile has been nominated as the National Women Leader, a position that can significantly impact the party’s dynamics.
As Edo State gears up for what promises to be a closely watched political showdown, Senator Adams Oshiomhole’s maneuvers have set the stage for a high-stakes battle for control and influence. Whether his efforts will ultimately scuttle the agitation by Edo Central or pave the way for a new chapter in the state’s political landscape remains to be seen. One thing is certain, though – Edo’s political future hangs in the balance, and Oshiomhole’s role in this unfolding drama will be closely scrutinized by all.
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