By Augustine Osayande
I am averse to write-ups that attack personalities rather than issues. Once I see the drift, such a write-up instantly loses me. But that did not happen while reading through a rejoinder by my brother and Special Adviser to the Edo State Governor on Media and Communication, Crusoe Osagie titled, “Re: Obaseki and the Dialectics of Oppositional Politics”. That was understandably so because it had to do with developments in my dear state. The piece to which Osagie reacted was penned by a respected senior colleague, Sufuyan Ojeifo, who is also a worthy son of the state. Therefore, we are all involved.
Interestingly the three of us worked together at THISDAY newspapers for several years. In essence, through the happenstances workplace and state of origin, we had shared and continue to share a common destiny. Let me state at this juncture that my intervention is not a defence of any of these two seasoned journalists who are grounded in the nitty-gritty of their profession and who I believe have the capacity to defend their respective convictions. After all, Osagie had described his response to Ojeifo’s write-up as an “intellectual exchange with an opponent I know fairly well.”
While the concept of intellectual exchange was alluring, I was not comfortable at all with the usage of the word, “opponent”. That defeated the essential philosophy on which a proper intellectual exchange would have been grounded. In the light of the combative sense in which the word was deployed, I knew that there was not going to be any intellectual exchange in the strictest and purest form but rather a hurling of diatribes. How beautiful and inspiring would it have been if Osagie had not resorted to bully tactics and personality attack? He would have acquitted himself creditably if he had dismantled Ojeifo’s supposed prejudices line-by-line with evidential and verifiable facts. That is how to make valid arguments, not by making innuendoes or silly allegations that the opposition has compromised him (Ojeifo) or that he received his briefs from the Chair of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, Chief Dan Orbih.
I hold the sincere view that Osagie was patently unfair in his rejoinder in which he angrily devoted a larger chunk of the narrative to attack Ojeifo. I can understand that Osagie is under pressure to defend his boss as well as the governance philosophy and model that he espouses; he should realise that equanimity is required in the business of salesmanship, the kind that he does for a political boss. After all, Ojeifo was so magnanimous and objective in his description of the immediate past state government under the control of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole of which Governor Obaseki was part and parcel.
Without a doubt, we all desire good governance for our state. Yes, we know where we are coming from and certainly where we are going. It is therefore wrong for Osagie, for instance, to suggest that because he now works in the Government House in Benin, he is in a better position to pontificate to the rest of us about the goings-on in the state. We visit the state regularly and our family members are there. Nobody needs to be conned or deceived to peddle misinformation. There is a legal maxim that says: res ipsa loquitor, meaning the fact speaks for itself.
I consider puerile Osagie’s suggestion that Orbih and his bedfellows conned Ojeifo to do the piece. It is sad that Osagie is afflicted by such mentality. Perhaps, that is what he does and he therefore believes that every other person does so. Such thinking is pitiable and absurdly cheap. In the gallimaufry of his invectives, he failed to explain a whole lot of issues, especially the missteps in the attempt to effectuate a paradigm shift from the very successful governance model of his boss and predecessor, Comrade Oshiomhole, who almost single-handed installed him as governor.
And, according to Ojeifo who even supported the idea of a strategic paradigm shift that requires the support of experienced and grassroots politicians who worked for his election, this is one of the reasons the Obaseki administration is caving in to opposition’s pressure and committing a rash of blunders, including an own goal when it decided to send a petition to the Police to investigate allegation by Orbih that the government diverted bags of rice donated by the Federal Government to internally displaced persons in the state. Who advised him to respond to such inanity when there were weightier allegations of financial misappropriation that deserve more forceful responses? Yet Osagie argued that his boss does not need the service of experienced politicians, who helped him secure electoral victory, for guidance.
Now concerning the allegations by the PDP that the state government diverted bags of rice meant for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Uhogua, Ovia North-East Local Government Area of the state, when I read Osagie’s first statement “Rice and other Items for Displaced persons: Fact Check” in which he blamed the Nigerian Customs and Army for supplying 2,182 bags of rice unfit for consumption to Edo State, I thought it was an egregious error.
Seeing his response to Ojeifo’s piece, it is now certain that the Governor’s spokesperson had blundered again as he usually does in most of his responses. He should not have ab-initio deliberately concealed the information of bad bags of rice from the public consequent upon the reception of these items. Assuming that he did not deliberately conceal it, why would he then attack persons demanding probe of the diversion of the items that were meant for the IDPs in the State?
In his attempt to prove that his boss and the ruling party are not under any intense pressure, Osagie made reference to the recent one-sided local government elections, which conduct and result are a mockery of democracy. His argument that there is a new order in the state, which will remain for a long time to come, is the greatest illusion ever forced on the indigenes of the state in recent times. It is like saying that Edo people have accepted to live with the abysmal performances of APC in the state.
If Osagie has forgotten, it is necessary to remind him that under the watch of his boss and the APC, the state’s external debt profile has been on the upward swing, yes, in geometric progression without commensurate development to show for it. This and other development issues are what that the Obaseki government should concern itself with. It should prove to the opposition that it is solving inherited and existential problems. That is how to justify the mandate the people have given to the government. The last thing I want to see happen on the political terrain in Edo is for Osagie to turn himself into an attack dog just because he must defend his master.
Augustine Osayande contributed this piece from Abuja via [email protected]