Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki’s recent recourse to threats of retaliating violence against his perceived political opponents is rather unbecoming of someone occupying an exalted office as the governor and whose primary responsibility is to protect lives and property.
By many of his actions, outgoing Governor Obaseki has shown very poor temperaments that are not gentlemanly enough for his current job, the latest being his threat to resort to violence if his perceived political opponents perpetrated violence any.
Though some news media reported that the governor issued warning to perpetrators of violence, however, watching the governor’s statement on national television it was obvious that instead he threw caution to the wind while he vowed to unleash violence in retaliation for violence.
Governor Obaseki’s words were clear. “Nobody has monopoly of violence. If they want violence, we will show them violence. So, if you see anybody smashing any car because my poster is on the car, let us know and we will show that person that we are in government,” he said.
He did not stop at that, the governor indicated that his response would be lawless but even at that he would be protected by the immunity that exempts state executive and their deputies from facing the legal consequences of their actions while still in office.
“We will show that we are in government and I am governor and Philip is the deputy governor. We will show them we are the only two, who have immunity in this state. We are the only two today, who have immunity and I am sending a very clear warning,” Obaseki further explained.
The signal the governor sent was that he could use state apparatus to retaliate violence. But that is wrong! As a governor, he is the Chief Security Officer and as such, must not be seen to be perpetrating or encouraging violence for whatever reason. Rather, he is expected to take all necessary actions to move against anyone instigating violence.
By his statement, Governor Obaseki ran foul of Section 12(2b) of the Nigerian constitution, which provides that security and welfare of the citizenry is the basic purpose of government. So, referring to the president as Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces and governors as Chief Security Officer is not by choice. It is a constitutional responsibility to which they swore an oath to uphold.
The governor’s utterances have continued to elicit responses and increase tension. He has been at loggerheads with his predecessor, Comrade Adams Oshiohmole, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and a cross section of Nigerians, who had already taken to their social media accounts to castigate him for stooping so low in his desperation to return for a second term.
Speaking against the backdrop of the fracas between the governor’s supporters and his party supporters recently at the palace of the Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, the former APC national chairman said the governor should have selected better words to quell possibility for violence and not elect to stoke it by his uncouth statement.
“If they want violence, we will give them violence, a leader does not talk like that. All he should say is that those merchants of violence I am pleading with them whether they are in my party or in another party they should take it easy. When a leader on live television says we will give them violence, fire for fire…” Oshiomhole said, noting with disdain that the governor should have been a peacemaker.
The APC Campaign Organisation for the Edo State governorship election, which has maintained that the governor was up to no good and that he plans to unleash violence on it members, described Governor Obaseki as a confused man, who is only speaking out the criminal plans he and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are hoping to executive before, during and after the election.
The party said the governor and his party, the PDP are aware they had been rejected by the people of Edo State.
The APC explained that it was the only party campaigning on its documented manifesto, because its sole strategy to win the election is by winning the hearts and the goodwill of the people through well thought-out programmes and policies that will bring relief and erase the failures of the past four years.
Former media aide to the governor, who is presently the APC Campaign Organisation spokesperson, Prince John Mayaki, said: “Despite spending four years in office, Obaseki has neither achievements nor plans to show. He is campaigning largely on empty rhetoric, revisionism, and shameful blackmail and propaganda.
“Election may be weeks away, but the truth has finally dawned on Obaseki. He is on his way to a sound, comprehensive defeat so like all failures, he is already preparing the grounds for his defeat with false, ridiculous accusations.”
Meanwhile in the fallout of the violent exchanges outside the Oba’s palace, Vice Chairman, Media and Publicity Committee of the APC Campaign Council, Mr. Patrick Obahiagbon, raised the alarm, alleging that the governor has sinister motives towards Oshiomhole and a business mogul, Captain Idahosa Okunbo.
Obahiagbon claimed that after the palace incident, APC supporters were attacked on the streets of Benin, saying it was “unacceptable to us as a party. How long more can we persuade our teeming party loyalists to hold back?”
The former House of Representatives member, who said the opposition PDP unleashed terror on the citizenry by enlisting the support of renowned cultists in Benin, further alleged that Obaseki is working on plans to arrest the duo of Oshiomhole, Okunbo and other APC leaders on the eve of the election for not supporting him. He also claimed that there was a plan to set Okunbo’s farm on fire.
“The PDP and the governor were planning to arrest and detain the former National Chairman of the APC Comrade Adams Oshiomhole on the eve of the election and also set fire on the farm of billionaire businessman, Captain Hosa Okunbo for refusing to back the second-term agenda.
“Obaseki is planning to continue his persecution of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole with trumped-up and inconsequential charges at the eleventh hour of electoral politics. His plan is to arraign Oshiomhole for a probe that has been revealed as nothing but a targeted political witch-hunt and then deny him bail on eve of election to paralyse the APC.
“He is planning to use COVID-19 as a ruse to neutralise grassroots leaders of our party, the APC on the eve of the gubernatorial election by abducting and detaining them in isolation centers. This way, disenfranchising them and forestalling the political force they would deliver in pursuant of APC’s victory,” Obahiagbon alleged.
Everyone in the governor’s camp who is familiar with some of his major mistakes would agree that apart from setting out to wage a protracted war against his predecessor, his attack on Captain Okunbo is perhaps another major mistake he made in his quest to return to power in the September 19 election.
Though the governor is not without one or two of his supporters cheering him up on his violence agenda, his handlers should be smart to enough to evaluate the negative public opinion that trailed his unfortunate and irreversible commentary on the social media.
A France-based Nigerian scientist, Mr. Oshinubi Kayode wrote: “I just watched ObaGone (Obaseki) on Channels News saying, ‘if they want violence, we will give them violence’. This is coming from a sitting governor and number one leader of Edo State. His handlers should let him know it is a reckless statement. He will lose this election and heaven won’t fall!”
A public affairs analyst, Christopher Sunny was of the opinion that “Obaseki doesn’t know anything about politics and it’s late to start learning. From what is happening now, and for the real and verifiable fact that Oshiomhole alone has won over the voters to the APC candidate, Obaseki now speaks like a frustrated person. He’s lost already.”
For Tunde Olamide, who said he previously has some degree of sympathy for the governor, his position that he would match anybody violence for violence, deprived him of that support.
“I had sympathy for him going into this election, but that was a reckless and irresponsible statement coming from the Chief Security Officer of the state,” Olamide stated.
Kelechi Onyeaka was particularly appalled that rather than issuing threats, he should be convincing the electorate on his policy statements and realisable campaign promises.
“These are some of those issues. No policy informed debate. This has become a norm among those vying for elective offices. No plan for post COVID-19, economic recovery, security and education,” he said.
Soji Oladejo, who is an advocate for good governance said: “When I heard him say that, and the way he looked charged and aggravated, I knew he had lost it. Completely reckless and a grossly irresponsible thing to say by a sitting governor.”
Judging from the governor’s utterance, Kalita Aruku feared that Nigeria might not be ripe with state police yet despite the advocacy by many Nigerians, noting, “You can imagine! Those are the characters we want to give state police to?”
Whatever are the governor’s arguments he should not be carried away with so much rage as to throwing caution into the wind! His ambition is not worth anybody’s life. He could take a cue from a former president of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, who saw defeat and bowed out honourably rather attempting to force himself on the country thereby provoking violence and avoidable bloodshed.
*Amenaghawon wrote from Owerri in Imo State