Beyond the ongoing war of words between Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State and one of his predecessors, Chief Lucky Igbinedion, Iyobosa Uwugiaren, who just returned from Benin City, the state capital, writes that what is currently playing out is a spiteful and vicious contest for power by two political parties – the APC and PDPGabriel-Igbinedion

Those who work with Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State say he had every reason to be all-out against those he perceived to have punctured his good mood few hours to the commencement of the celebration of his seven years in office.

With two national network television stations booked to cover the events live, the media-savvy and full of life governor had invited many editors and other media executives to Benin City, the Edo State capital, to witness his usual explanatory speeches on “why Edo is working” and the reasons he had “failed to fully deliver on his promises to the people.”

What more? Many traditional rulers and religious leaders across the three senatorial districts in the state had been “encouraged” to grace the events marking the anniversary. It was planned to be a colourful and entertaining event all through.

However, the governor’s celebratory mood changed when less than 24 hours to the commencement of the anniversary, a coalition of civil society organisations in the state, on the platform of Joint Action Force, along with landlords, market men and women, students of higher institutions in the state, and disengaged staff of the Edo Youth Empowerment Scheme (Edo Yes), took to the streets of Benin City, to protest what they tagged “intolerable, harsh policies and programmes” of Oshiomhole.

In the protest that lasted over seven hours, the aggrieved people wondered why a former labour leader, who promised welfare for the people during electioneering, had suddenly decided to punish them by consistently increasing tuition fees at the state-owned Ambrose Alli University; non-resuscitation of Edo Line Transport Company; the disengagement of Edo Yes staff without due process; the introduction of the prickly land use charge, and multiple taxes imposed on market men and women.

Above and beyond these policies, Oshiomhole had also reintroduced the property tax signed into law in 2012 and vowed to go ahead to collect the Land Use Charge – tenement rate, property tax, ground rent and consumption tax.

For the embattled comrade governor, the demonstration was an unscrupulous publicity for his celebration. And he was certain it was paid for by his enemies. To be sure, the outgoing Commissioner for Information, Louis Odion, who suddenly tendered his resignation recently, fingered an “opposition politician” as the alleged sponsor of the protest, while the governor’s spokesman, Kassim Afegbua, accused the civil society groups of exhibiting ignorance by protesting against the Land Use Charge Law.

But Barrister Friday Osakponmwan Ogierakhi, a former member of the Edo State House of Assembly, told THISDAY that the protest was provoked by the “inhuman and shameless policies” of the governor.

“There is a limit to Adams Oshiomhole’s political rascality. He cannot continue to take the people for granted; the people are the owners of the land; the governor has not erected a bloc in the state in the last seven years. Yet, he had imposed unreasonable Land Use Tax on the people,” the legal practitioner added.

A day after the huge protest by members of the civil society, there was an attempt by the governor’s men to puncture the anti-people protest against Oshiomhole through what looked like a sponsored solidarity rally from some selected students from the Ambrose Ali University.

Addressing the students, the governor claimed that the Ezama of Benin Kingdom, Chief Osawaru Igbinedion and his son Lucky, a former governor of the state, were responsible for the protest and promised to deal with them. Oshimohole said his problems with Igbinedion family started when he revoked “200,000 hectares” of land the former governor illegally allocated to his father.

“The angrier they are, the happier I am. With the powers vested in me as the governor, I used the powers to revoke the over 200,000 hectares of land the son gave to the father and returned it to government. That is why Igbinedion is fighting me. But I said (that) if he does not obey the law, he will go to prison. They were able to cover these things (but) Buhari is there now. So, it can never be business as usual.”

Oshiomhole claimed the former PDP-led federal government lacked the will to fight corruption, hence his inability to probe the administration of former governor until now.

“There were things I could not do under PDP. People asked me, why didn’t you speak all these years? If I say it, what difference would it have made? Now, I can talk because I know that the man there, if I can provide evidence, he will act. There was no point reporting a thief to an armed robber,” he said in a combative tone.

Continuing, he added: “I am not going to waste my precious time dealing with the opposition. We are ready to engage with real civil societies. They have a signature House in Abuja and they know what they pay there. They have a house in Bishop Avenue in London occupying 1,300 square meters, whether the one owned by the father or the son, they have properties in South Africa and they pay land use charge for those properties whether they live there or not.”

But, if the governor with his acidic tongue had thought he was going to get away with his invective on the Igbinedions, he failed this time around.

Responding, Mr. Lucky Igbinedion said Oshiomhole lived in a glass house and accused him of being ‘the biggest thief in Benin’.

According to him, “He has called everybody in Nigeria a thief; he has called former President Olusegun Obasanjo a thief; called former President Goodluck Jonathan a thief, he called (ex-Minister of Finance, Ngozi) Okojo-Iweala a thief, and others. Yet, he cannot prove his cases. I don’t think he knows the meaning of a thief. He lives in a glass house and throwing stones. President Muhammadu Buhari will soon find out the real Oshiomhole by the time we provide documents against him,” he said.

Igbinedion said he had made it very clear time that the files of his tenure were there for everybody who cares, saying he did not intend to dignify the pugnacious Oshiomhole any longer by joining issues with him. He rather asked Oshiomhole to explain to the people of Edo how he squandered trillions of federal allocations and Internal Generated Revenue he collected in the last seven years.

“He should explain to the people of Edo State how he spent the federal allocations and internally generated revenues running into trillions of naira in seven years.

“He should tell the people of Edo how much he is paying as land tax for his house in Iyamho worth over N10bn and other properties he has acquired in the last seven years in Dubai, Cape Town in South Africa, in San Francisco, United States of America, and a high rise apartment in Atlanta also in America and in London. He is calling everybody a thief but Oshiomhole is the biggest thief in Benin City today.”

He claimed that Oshiomhole attacked him because he was looking for ways to divert the people’s attention, adding, “Oshiomhole has mismanaged the financial resources of the state, which were entrusted in his care in the last seven years, and because he is receiving the heat from the people, he (Oshiomhole) is looking for ways to divert attention.

“Oshiomhole has failed; the people of Edo State now know him better. He is the least qualified person to talk about corruption in the country today because his actions and programmes in the last seven years in Edo State epitomise corruption.”

Beyond the war of words by the governor and his predecessor, political watchers in the state say what is currently playing out is a strong contest for power: backbiting, spiteful and vicious political maneuvers by different political camps, especially on the part of the PDP and the APC, in preparation for next year’s gubernatorial election.

While the self-styled Comrade Governor is busy working on who succeeds him among the many aspirants in his party, the PDP is certain the time is up for APC in the state.

Oshiomhole-led APC in the state had said again and again that PDP is dead in the state, boasting that his party would continue to “run things” in the state. He said it would be suicidal to allow PDP to come back to power again in the state after many years of bad policies and programmes in the past.

On his part, a popular PDP governorship aspirant, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, said it is laughable when the APC-led government in the state kept referring to what happened in 1999, about 10 to 15 years ago.

“They (APC members) told us the state would not see flood again, but seven years later – just a year remaining – we are worse for it. Meanwhile, the state government had received huge funds that no government in this state has ever gotten. If you put the resources together – at the last count, about two months ago, the state in the last seven years had received N716billion without adding the internal generated revenues (IGR).

“Now, compare that with eight years of Lucky Igbinedion administration, which got a total sum of N197 billion. And if you add IGR to N716 billion, what they had received in less than seven years is over a trillion naira. And no one has even received that in this state.”
The PDP chieftain said one would have expected that with that huge amount of money, the people would see landmark projects in the state, saying the state is yet to witness the changes the APC promised the people in spite of the huge amount of money the APC government in the state had received.

“The reality now is that we are not better off. In the election next year, our people are going to be asking a lot of questions. Those who are saying we should vote for continuity will be disappointed,” Ize-Iyamu stated.

“Continuity of what? Of corruption? Continuity of touts all over the place? Continuity of multiple and unnecessary taxations? What continuity will they be talking about?”

As the political calculations build up in the state, analysts say the next few months would be very interesting, indeed.

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