'From victim of a bully to a domineering jerk' - Obaseki's transition is complete

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The road to Obaseki's position has been harsh. The political framework in Edo State hated Obaseki, a monetary master whose instructive qualifications caused those with missing grade school certificates to feel like simpletons.

As an economic adviser to the previous governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, Obaseki was unwanted to the All-Progressives Congress (APC).

It's the political system in Nigeria to be bittered, to feel undermined and attacked "the little man" whose political accomplishment could prompt the acknowledgment that the people who had sat in that position were fraudsters.

Godwin Obaseki
Godwin Obaseki

Edo individuals turned out in mass to put the record straight; decided in favour of Obaseki, a non-political money manager whose sharpness could bring monetary development and improvement to the state.

After crossing many of his supporters in his first term, his subsequent coming was unimaginable. His previous chief, Oshiomhole, needed him out by all means. He was pushed out of the APC and received by the People's Democratic Party (PDP) headed by Chief Dan Orbih.

Obaseki was tormented. He was offended, reviled, and pushed out. However, those near Obaseki accepted that he was a green snake whose toxin was not visible to normal eyes.

The battle between Obaseki and Oshiomhole was about control. Obaseki disdains political combatants, despots who think they represent the Edo public, who misuse their powers to the burden of the Edo public.

Steadily, Obaseki pushed Oshiomhole to the corner. However, Oshiomhole actually barks; his voice is heard uninvolved, practically immaterial.

Adams Oshiomhole
Adams Oshiomhole

Nonetheless, Obaseki's defense had been that the name-callers were the hooligans he had denied appropriating the resources of Edo State.

Since Obaseki got back to the office, a few individuals from his new political party, PDP, have been singing similar tunes of the same aggrieved individuals from the APC.

In October 2022, the Opposition alarmed the state that Godwin Obaseki had warned billboard owners in Edo State not to accept campaign adverts from the Opposition, APC, and others.

A member of the billboards Association, Birahim Momoh, confirmed the warning that Obaseki threatened anyone who violated the order would lose their business.

State Director of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), Abdul Hakeem Tiamiyu, also confirmed hearing the threat but promised to investigate.

"I have heard the same complaints from billboard owners that Edo State Government has warned them not to erect any billboard from APC. I will carry out more investigation into this because should this be true, it is quite unfortunate.

"Ours (APCON) is to regulate the content of every advert to ensure it does not fall foul of the law. We don't erect billboards", Tiamiyu stated.

But Obaseki denied the allegation, saying he was proactive in buying all the billboards in Edo State ahead of the election.

Obaseki, through the Deputy Director of Media and Publicity for the Edo Chapter of Edo Campaign Management Council and Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Chris Nehikhare, described the allegation as "laughable and embarrassing," the handiwork of "mischief makers."

Nehikhare said, "The Edo State Government is not unreasonable in its approach to governance by withholding opportunities for a proper democratic process. In Edo, freedom is given to the Opposition to express themselves."

Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium
Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium

Nehikhare noted, "It's not a coincidence that the elections are around the corner. As far back as a few months ago, Edo State Government discussed with all billboard owners to make payments for quite a number of billboards in the Benin metropolis.

"We did not take possession because we were waiting for the campaign to kick off, and if anybody has gone to a billboard agent to pay for a billboard, the person who pays first and is given a date for when his account will start to run is actually the legal owner of that billboard.

"We, as a party, raised the money for these billboards, so they are a property of the Edo PDP. We were more strategic in planning and took advantage of the time to make payments for most of the billboards. If a billboard agent has taken money from you and cannot post your advert, you should go back and get your money because we paid for them. We have no apologies for anyone who didn't have the foresight to do it.

"It is very embarrassing when people carry sensational headlines like Edo State bans other parties from using billboards."

Defending the governor new found "gangsterism," Nehikhare said, "Obaseki is not a gangster and does not act like the APC."

The defense is contrary to those political leaders in the state who believed Obaseki disrespected, snubbed, and kicked them out after paving the way for his emergence.

As the presidential election comes nearer in February, politicians align with their favorite candidates, and Obaseki, who had pledged his support to the PDP candidate, Atiku Abubakar, plus his disdain for the people who disregarded him in the state, is progressively turning the victim of a bully to a domineering jerk.

Obaseki's tit-for-tat political game is similar to the Nigerian political system, where angry political leaders undo projects completed by the Opposition, irrespective of their benefits to the people, to demonstrate "who's the boss."

On 11 November 2022, the candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, visited Edo State. The state government declined the party's request to utilize the state arena, Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium.

Peter Obi
Governor Obi

The government claimed the request was made 24 hours before the convention; they required additional time to set up the arena.

Obaseki made sense of why his party used the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium yet denied Peter Obi, LP presidential candidate, to use the arena.

The governor said the PDP used the Stadium in October because it coincided with the commissioning of the newly renovated stadium, but the LP request was short notice.

Obi in Benin City
Peter Obi in Benin City

He said on Friday 11 November, 2022 during his appearance on Channels TV "Politics Today."

"The only reason we allowed the PDP rally was because it was also used as an opportunity to commission that facility. Otherwise, most other rallies are held in other large grounds around the city," he said.

"I heard they applied on Wednesday night to hold a rally at Samuel Ogbemudia stadium on Friday morning, giving us one day's notice.

"The pitch has to be maintained in a certain mould; it is not just another facility you can go in without preparing. If they knew they had a rally on Friday, why can't they give proper notice, the same thing we gave to PDP when they wanted to use the pitch," he said.

Being in power does not give one the authority to abuse it. This is why laws are in place to regulate and check abuse of power.

What Obaseki's Action Means

Obaseki's power outrage may have violated the Electoral Act of 2022.

Section 91 (4) of the Act states that "no registered political party in Nigeria, its aspirants or candidate shall be prevented from holding rallies, processions or meetings at any time for their constitutional political purposes, and the Police shall in a consultative manner, resolve any conflict of time and venue between and amongst parties where such arises."

Section 95(2) also states that state apparatus must not be used to the disadvantage of any aspirant, candidate, or party.

Many Nigerians took to Twitter to express anger over Obaseki's action. A member of the All Progressives Congress in Edo State, Dr Billy Osawaru described the governor's action as "an abuse of power and trampling on the fundamental rights of Edo People."

He said Ogbemudia Stadium is supposed to be the property of all tax-paying Edo people and urged the government action to be condemned.

A former President of Trade Union Congress (TUC) Mr. Peter Esele also condemned the action of the governor. "It is against democratic ethos," Esele said in a comment sent to Standard Gazette. "Everyone has a right to choose whatever political party he or she decies to align with and it is the responsibility of various state institutions to support it."

Esele described Obaseki's refusal to allow Obi used the arena as "a sad commentary on how we have personalized state institutions," while urging other political parties to condemn the action.

But Anselm Ojezua, a former factional chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) defended Obaseki's action. According to him, "The State Government had announced long ago that the Stadium will not be approved for any political activities."

When reminded that the PDP used the Stadium in October, the former chairman has yet to respond.

Meanwhile, Peter Obi has urged his followers not to call or derogate anyone, urging them to focus on relevant issues.

Obi tweeted, "I called on the Labour Party Faithfuls, especially candidates at all levels, including my supporters, to desist from name calling or derogating anyone, groups of persons or religions.

"Nigeria has very huge problems and is currently at risk of implosion from economic hardship and insecurity. The focus, therefore, should be on how to deal with the deleterious consequences of a tanking economy, and pervasive insecurity."

Obaseki's actions and continuous defense are obvious; he gradually transited to the dark side. He has become everything he hated and has learned the "act of Nigerian politics."

A very educated businessman and financial guru have stooped to the floor of the school leavers. It's obviously a sickness to be a Nigerian politician, not to do it differently, not to be exceptional, and completely disregard the law for personal and political gain.

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