Obaseki, Shaibu and the failure of violence – By Gideon Obhakhan

Gov. Gowin Obaseki
 As the countdown to Governor Godwin Obaseki’s last day in office takes center stage in the scheme of things, the political violence in Edo State has continued unabated with no visible effort on the part of security agencies to stop the trend. Fingers are being pointed at the governor and his deputy Phillip Shaibu, who is now being referred to as the Thug-in-Chief of Edo State. There is no record of any public statement from either the governor or his deputy condemning in strong terms, the series of politically motivated violence. This silence therefore leaves no one in doubt about their culpability. The recent boastful statements and threats issued by the governor are also clear pointers to the approval given to the thugs to crush any form of opposition. The last of these threats came when Obaseki hosted Edo State APC chairmen and threatened to prove to the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC that he is the governor of Edo State. He said they will deal with Comrade Oshiomhole the way they know how to. 

 From the time Obaseki and Shaibu adopted the strategy of violence, words like crush, burn, destroy are now commonplace in Edo State lexicon. The sole intention is to scare those with little faith so that the second term ticket that they crave so desperately will come to them cheaply. However, the act of violence which was intended to scare people and push them into their shells, has ironically emboldened them and by extension, made the job easier for those who have vowed to deny the governor and his deputy a second term ticket. 

 When the anti-Obaseki struggle began with a few people early in 2019, the narrative that quickly emerged from government house was that some disgruntled leaders who wanted the governor to share Edo State money, were doing their best to distract the governor and prevent him from continuing his developmental strides which earned him the now outdated sobriquet “Wake and See Governor”. The governor himself simply waved off the activities of the leaders who were then agitating under the now defunct Edo People’s Movement (EPM), a pressure group that exposed the failures of his administration. He said on several occasions that just a handful of some greedy politicians were busy crying over government money, which he vowed never to share with them.

 As events unfolded and the so-called greedy politicians started to swell in their numbers, the countenance of Obaseki’s team members changed and so did their strategy. They progressed from simply ignoring the ‘handful of politicians’, to proscribing EPM and then to threats of violence and finally, outright violence. The trend has been that of frustration and desperation from a man who hitherto enjoyed applause from innocent Edo citizens, and who had confidently taken his second term ticket as another item in his shopping bag. Little did he know that the people who made him governor were waiting to strike at the appropriate time. 

 With the shock, came the sudden decision to crush every form of opposition. The list of the violent acts is endless. They include, but not limited to the attack on the Benin residence of the APC national chairman, the attack on 15 members-elect of Edo State House of Assembly, the attack on APC members in political meetings held at Owan East and Ovia North-East Local Government Areas, the threat to life, property and businesses of perceived opponents, the attack and burning of cars at the venue of the rally in Edo North, where new APC members were received by the national chairman of APC and just recently, on the 30th of January 2020, an assassination attempt on the life of former Edo State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Henry Idahagbon Esq. Eye witnesses have since confirmed that the Toyota HiLux vehicle that led other vehicles to Idahagbon’s Benin law office, had a government plate number.

 When we take stock of the politically motivated violence in Edo State and weigh them against the resolve of the people to continue to demand for their right to freedom of choice, what easily comes to mind is the failure of violence to achieve its aim. It shows that violence only attacks the body, but it is only non-violence and persuasion that has the power to influence the soul and reshape it towards a successful and peaceful future. The successful rally that was held in Edo North despite the violent attack and needless destruction of property, is a testament to the failure of violence. The failure dawned on Obaseki and his cohorts when the huge turnout completely enveloped the ugly remnants of the havoc that had been committed in the wee hours of the previous night. It was a clear attempt to create an atmosphere of fear, but it turned out that the people knew better and decided to come out en masse to welcome new members who were joining the APC. 

 There is a need to continue to encourage all well-meaning people of Edo State to embrace peace and shun all forms of violence. According to Martin Luther King Jr.,  “darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that”. It is also important to draw the attention of Mr. President, the Inspector General of Police and other relevant security agencies to the plight of Edo people, and urge them to do the needful by nipping this dangerous trend in the bud. The current acts of violence if left unchecked at this stage, may degenerate into a free-for-all fight that may be difficult to curtail as we move closer to election day. It is very necessary to highlight this risk because nobody has monopoly of violence, and when the people currently being attacked decide to retaliate, Edo State could easily become a sea of dead bodies.  

 My words of advice for Obaseki, Shaibu and all those who are in the same sinking ship with them, is that life is a journey and everyone’s daily steps have already been defined by the almighty creator. No amount of violence or intimidation can change what is destined to happen. As some of us continue to insist that the governor can only serve one term and go back to Lagos, what is expected of him is to carry out an objective evaluation of the current situation to find out whether he can survive the battle ahead of him or not. If he feels he has what it takes to win re-election for a second tenure, he should carefully map out a non-violent strategy and get smart people to help him execute it. If on the other hand, he can see the obvious reality that the game is up, the most honourable thing to do is to bow out. This shouldn’t be difficult for a man who has struggled so hard, albeit unsuccessfully, to paint a decent picture of himself. After all, he will not be the first governor to serve a single term and I doubt if he will be the last in Nigeria. 

 If Obaseki and Shaibu are sincere that the reason for seeking a second term in office is to serve the people, they must not only shun violence, but must be seen and heard condemning the current spate of violence against the people they intend to serve. A word is enough for the wise!

Gideon Obhakhan, former Edo State Commissioner for Education, wrote from Benin City.

OPINIONS EXPRESSED IN THIS PIECE ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR AND NOT OF PROCYON NEWS’ EDITORS OR PUBLISHERS.

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