Edo 2024: Obaseki is sponsoring Asue and Akpata
_By Comrade John Imagbe_
In the current discourse surrounding the “Esan Agenda,” Governor Godwin Obaseki’s motivations have become a subject of controversy, with skepticism emerging about whether his actions genuinely serve the well-being of the Esan people and Edos at large, or if they are driven by self-interest. The latter is truly the case with personalities like Obaseki, who play PDP during the day and Labour Party at night.
Critics point to a perceived lack of Esan representation in crucial government positions, such as the Secretary to the State Government, Chief of Staff to the Governor, Head of Service, and State Auditor General, all occupied by individuals from the Bini ethnic group. The recent selection of a Speaker from Edo North further intensifies concerns, as it seemingly excludes Esan people from significant positions of power-sharing in the state.
Calls for transparency have led some to challenge Obaseki to provide a comprehensive list of Esan individuals holding prominent roles within his administration. The inconsistency in the governor’s approach to ethnic representation is highlighted, especially in comparison to previous administrations led by individuals from different ethnic backgrounds. Little wonder that the two Vice-Chancellors Obaseki has appointed so far as interim head of the State-owned University in Ekpoma are Benin men, one of whom is his brother-in-law. Is this how to support Esan agenda?
Speculation surrounds Obaseki’s sudden advocacy for the Esan Agenda, with some suspecting that it might be linked to promoting his friend and business partner, Asue Ighodalo, as his successor. Despite lacking an official government position, Ighodalo’s influential role in managing Edo’s resources raises questions about the extent of his involvement in decision-making processes and the use of state funds, especially considering the close ties between his bank, Sterling Bank, and the Edo State government. Recently, it was widely reported that Sterling Bank received close to a billion naira as bank charges from the Obaseki-led government.
The perceived focus shift from the Esan Agenda to what some term an “Asue Agenda” raises concerns among Esan supporters who feel neglected and betrayed. The suspicion that Obaseki is backing Asue Ighodalo as a successor adds complexity to the situation, with questions about the electoral value and the potential elevation of Asue above the interests of the Esan people.
Governor Obaseki’s emphasis on the “Esan Agenda” appears to be influenced by Asue Ighodalo’s Esan background. Had Ighodalo hailed from Akoko Edo, Obaseki might have championed the “Akoko Edo Agenda.”
However, examining the past seven years reveals a notable disparity in the representation of Esan individuals in key roles. There are fewer than five Permanent Secretaries and Judges of Esan extraction in the Edo State Civil Service, contrasting starkly with Edo South’s dominance, claiming over 80% of such appointments under Obaseki’s tenure.
Despite this, the tangible development in terms of roads and infrastructure in Edo South seems disproportionately higher than in Esan. The absence of any road development in Edo Central during the Governor’s term raises questions about the equitable distribution of resources.
Critics argue that Obaseki’s focus on safeguarding his business interests with Asue Ighodalo may eclipse genuine concern for Esan’s welfare. The apparent disconnect between rhetoric and action prompts scrutiny of the Governor’s commitment to addressing the needs of Edo Central.
Governor Obaseki’s emphasis on ethnic politics, seen in his pitting of candidates from outside the Esan ethnic group against average Esan indigenes, has triggered worries about increased division and conflict within the state. The consequences of Obaseki’s ethnic political strategy remain uncertain, but observers caution against allowing his agenda to overshadow the broader interests of Edolites.
Additionally, reports of Obaseki sponsoring the Labour Party candidate, Barr. Akpata from Edo South through his SSG further contributed to the complexity of the political landscape, indicating potential maneuvering behind the scenes. In 2020 Obaseki sponsored Akpata to emerge as NBA President. It is a known fact that Akpata uses Edo State government house protocols during his political activities in the state. Recently, the Governor through his wife had a meeting with Akpata in far-away America where a huge amount of foreign currency was doled out to the former NBA President. Also, vehicles were made available to Akpata, which he in turn gave to the Labour Party in Edo State in a bid to secure the party’s ticket.
As time unfolds, it will become clearer how these dynamics impact Edo’s political landscape, and vigilance is urged to prevent the installation of what is perceived as a political “stooge” by Governor Obaseki.
Comrade John Imagbe writes from