The fight to a finish between the self-styled godfather in Edo politics, Adams Oshiomhole, and his estranged godson, Governor Godwin Obaseki, reached a crescendo the other day with both losing out from the All Progressives Congress (APC) almost on the same day. But irrespective of who is right or wrong in the all-too-familiar politics of attrition, the worry is the masses, whose democratic powers and welfare are being squandered in the feud. For once, it behoves on the people to rise up and say enough is enough to politics of selfish interest, which has remarkably set us back.
Like a melodrama in a badly scripted movie, the frosty relationship between the deposed chairman of the APC and the sitting governor in Edo has made none the winner, but all losers. Oshiomhole was sacked by the judiciary, just after Obaseki cross carpeted to the People Democratic Party (PDP) having lost the ticket to contest primary election for a second term under APC. The ruling party in Edo State has been shredded into factions, as leadership crisis also engulfed the party at the top. The people of Edo State are left in the lurch of underdevelopment amid the COVID-19 medical emergency as the leadership is perpetually distracted from actual governance. If Obaseki could deliver as much as acclaimed in wartime, it is left to our imagination what he could do in peacetime without one-too-many rat races to curry second term favours.
Lest we forget, the purpose of governance is to deliver the public good in an equitable, just and fair manner. Politics creeps into the mix to ensure that the best among us, via fair selection or election process, lead the process and manage our affairs. As J.F. Kennedy once wrote in Profiles in Courage (1963), the legends of modern politics were really not people without private or self-interests. But they were statesmen that loved themselves yet maintained self-respect over popularity, reputation for integrity and courage over desire to stay in office, their conscience, personal standing in ethics and morality stronger than public approval or gains, and their chosen course of conviction over fear of public reprisal. Unfortunately, the Nigerian polity has more often been plagued by men without course, courage, morality, self-respect or merit, yet fighting but never for public good.
The infighting in Edo State is indeed strange, though not unusual in a circle of politicians without principles and ideals. Just less than four years ago, Obaseki was the darling boy and anointed candidate of Oshiomhole – the then governor that occupied the seat for eight years. Then, there were no issues with certificates across the board. The khaki wearing former labour leader, in fact, listed the elimination of godfatherism as his major achievement! Shortly after, he became an overbearing godfather with an eye on state’s revenue and denigration of the seat he once occupied, going by Obaseki’s allegations. Today, those politicians Oshiomhole once derided as thieves and sinners in the opposition camp for years ago are now the saints and APC’s flag bearers in the coming gubernatorial elections. Also blinded by ambition, Obaseki has gone over to the PDP to hustle for second term in a party that has no regard for true membership or early comers. Talk of men without self-control or values. C.S Lewis would have called these Edo gladiators, “men without chests.”
The development readily says much about the ruling party, its opposition, their consistent lack of internal democracy and the character of leadership piloting our affairs. For the ruling party that professed change, especially, it is unfortunate that its foremost leader, President Muhammadu Buhari, is not a man for critical moments or crisis management. Buhari’s curiously archaic style of leadership is to allow time to heal or fester all wounds. A president that could not be bothered by a national security crisis orchestrated by killer herdsmen, COVID-19 medical emergency, near collapse of the economy following drop in crude oil price, a festering rift between his National Security Adviser (NSA) and former Chief of Staff (CoS), first lady’s accusations against a cabal in the presidency and gunshot in the villa, among other malaise of a failed leadership, could hardly be expected to save his party even when it is going up in flames or crashing on his head.
Meanwhile, a more responsive leader should have called the feuding parties to order and put the overbearing godfather in his place, at least to set a good example for others. For a fact, his party like others before it lacks democratic values to instigate any change in narrative or paradigm shift for the nation. The basic issue is the death of democratic party structure that is anchored on a clear-cut ideology, by which a comprehensive worldview of societal development is instigated. But, like the party lost out in Zamfara and Rivers states in 2019, more surprises definitely await members of APC in the days to come.
More important, it is crucial for party members and the general electorate – the primary pedestal for access to power – to remember that no nation develops without values, principles, internal cohesion and sanctity of the constitutional instruments for stability. They cannot hope to see change or progress amid buccaneers who are on a mission to plunder for selfish gains. For a start, the masses should by now know where not to look for salvation or redemption. It is certainly not in this present crop of politicians.
The point is, almost 60 years after independence, the Nigerian people should be mature enough to demand public good at every political level and collectively say no to political jobbers and rotten political figures across the country. The masses should for once pause and ask: ‘‘How did we get here in the first place and how do we hope to forge ahead on the path of real development?’’ Clearly, the problem of Nigeria is humongous, yet not irredeemable. It should neither accommodate pessimism nor violence to get attention, but by collective renewal of our minds, insistence on meritocracy and leadership that they can hold accountable for each kobo at any levels.
The onus lies on the people to say no to politicians who are in the business of fraudulently packaging expired products, with all the features of a failed state, just to sell to the people as the messiah. Only that way, could a president, governor, lawmaker, local council chairman and even councillor do the biddings of the electorate without looking over his shoulders for any preying godfather or cabal. As Kennedy earlier stated, the masses should never forget that ‘’in a democracy, every citizen, regardless of his interest in politics, holds office; every one of us is in a position of responsibility; and in the final analysis, the kind of government we get depends upon how we fulfill those responsibilities. We, the people, are the boss, and we will get the kind of political leadership, be it good or bad, that we demand and so deserve.’’