May 29, 2024

Governor Godwin Obaseki and the Benin Monarchy


Oba Ewuare II, the Ivory Pendant Benin Court Art and Gov Obaseki, Proponent of MOWWA

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By Prince Kassim Afegbua

Godwin Obaseki has become a bad name. Like every tragic hero to every encounter, Obaseki’s eight year tenure is sour grape that is fast coasting home. When his anointed candidate finally stumbles and crumbles, the history of Godwin Obaseki as governor will be told in one minute, as DM.

The Benin Kingdom is one of the monarchies in Nigeria that have survived years of series of surreptitious attempts at usurping their sovereignty.

It has serially been the object of several acts of betrayal that were meant to undermine its territorial power and influence.

Heroically, the Benin Monarchy has sustained its ingenuity and cultural fecundity for almost 800 years, and has kept its historical originality with ecclesiastical awareness.

This though has not come at anything less than austere costs.

Despite the pervasive western civilisation, the monarchy has remained unadulterated and has consistently retained its cultural heritage: Not too long ago when Godwin Obaseki was seeking to govern Edo state, there were several undercurrents and silent protestations against his ambition, arguably because of his great grandfather’s role in one attempt to undermine the monarchy; so history says.

Many prominent Binis prevailed on the then Governor, Senator Adams Oshiomhole, to distance himself from Godwin Obaseki as a forbidden fruit.

Their moves were based on their vexation about the historical record, that Agho Obaseki tried to usurp the Benin Monarchy during an invasion in 1897, and they feared that recruiting Godwin Obaseki to become governor, could lead to Deja vu.

In their wisdom, they foresaw the likelihood of the younger Obaseki repeating his great grandfather’s inglorious exploit.

Unfortunately, Comrade Oshiomhole ignored the idea as lacking substance, holding that Godwin Obaseki is a contemporary man who was not to be detained by colonial reality. Comrade Oshiomhole pleaded with many Benin sons and daughters to allow Obaseki have his way and worked assiduously to deliver Obaseki as governor.

Today, it is indeed Deja vu that we see; Obaseki is insistent on completing the bad works of his ancestor.

Those words of caution delivered to Comrade Oshiomhole in hushed tones have since become the article of trade in the last eight years. Godwin Obaseki as governor has broken all bad records, and even set new ones in terms of his relationship with the Benin Monarchy.

Even under the military dictatorship of Anthony Onyearegbulem of blessed memory, things didn’t get this bad.

When the latter tried to undermine the monarchy, he applied breaks once he understood the implications. Godwin Obaseki is the only governor in the recent history of Edo state to with-hold the statutory allocations of the Benin Palace.

He was the first Governor to lock up the Oba Akenzua Cultural Centre, which represents the administrative headquarters of the Benin Cultural Heritage domiciled in the Palace environment.

He remains the only Governor to have masterminded a court case against the Palace for the sole purpose of whittling down the Oba’s powers and influence.

The people who are seen pushing the legal disputation publicly are just Obaseki’s foot-soldiers masquerading as the real agitators.

Prof. Gregory Akenzua is Godwin Obaseki’s Uncle. One doesn’t need a crystal gazing to know the rationale behind this territorial onslaught that is heating up against the Benin Monarchy.

Governor Obaseki is the first to scuffle with the Palace over the ownership of Benin Artefacts; those artefacts that were stolen during the 1897 invasion for which Agho Obaseki is still seen as a betrayer till date.

Godwin has refused to let go of those artefacts even when the administration of Mohammad Buhari, by gazette, ceded them to the rightful owner, the Benin Palace, from where they were originally stolen.

Governor Obaseki wants Edo citizens to accord him respect which he has not earned; he disrespects the Benin Monarchy, and turns round to demand respect form Edo’s; what a joke.

He remains the only governor to have consistently made frantic efforts to balkanise the Benin Kingdom; reason why the present court case has instructively raised fresh curiosity.

It is abominable to try to elevate Enigie (Dukes) to assume the status of a King. That will be a Royal rumble.

The Oba of Benin Kingdom oversees all the “Enigie” in the entire seven Local Governments of Edo South Senatorial District, partitioned into several communities with defined hierarchies.

What the Obaseki administration is trying to do, is to impose his whims and caprices on a system that has endured for more than 800 years, while trying to steal the returned artefacts through the back door.

As an alibi, he keeps the Benin Palace busy with this phoney court case that has defied all logic, which only seeks to undermine the monarchy.

Asuen Ighodalo, Obaseki’s friend and anointed political godson, is not any better; he’s another with a different name.

He has been the adviser to Governor Obaseki, over the past eight years; meaning that he Asuen has been the one advising Obaseki along the lines of Obaseki’s actions.

At every turn, Godwin Obaseki’s article of trade is to decimate the monarchy and undermine the Palace in what appears like charting the course of a script; the script of his adviser.

As if to pour insult into an already decaying sore, Governor Obaseki has already commenced building his Edo Museum of West African Arts -EMWAA- to warehouse the artefacts that originally belonged to the Benin Palace.

He has even recruited his friends who are non-Edo indigenes to midwife the work-in-progress project; persons who know nothing about the cultural imperative of the artefacts.

This is most bizarre. Albeit, it has always been said that once money was involved, you will find Governor Obaseki lurking around the corner.

This is the same attitude he deployed to plunge the state into a cesspit of loans and debts, now weighing down on the state.

The latest is the N24b loan he desires to collect to prosecute a DOA electoral project, seeking to supplant his chosen successor.

Edo’s current debt profile is a huge elephant in the house, now at N356bn, Edo’s collective destiny has been imprisoned by a debt profile that is inexplicable.

The rot in the education sector through to the health sector, and the orgy of unfulfilled promises and litany of Memorandums of Understanding, are some of the low points of Obaseki’s government, that thrive on rent, like coupon clippers; Obaseki’s government is now nicknamed “kalo-kalo government.”

Afri-Invest, Obaseki’s private company, which he ran before he became Governor has over the years of him being governor, grown in leaps and bounds.

Conversely, Edo State’s infrastructural state has decayed beyond fathom. Afri-Invest was at some point a bad example of a quoted company; but today, it has almost completed its new corporate headquarters in the heart of Ikoyi.

Getting his lap-boy elected, is Obaseki’s most prioritized project at the moment; and every new dawn comes with a new set of drawbacks that meets of course, more calculated effort from him.

There is no tempting reason for Edos to heed his voice though: when it rains in Benin, the flooding scares the citizens, he demolished Edo state Library and implanted shoprite; an act akin to killing our tomorrow for his today, what he calls Legacy Projects are mere renovations of already existing infrastructure which he gives new looks, he quarrels with anyone who does not turn a blind eye to his avarice, and maliciously hounds the people who dare challenge his knavery.

He is a sleek guy with no scruples. Now he sees his exit from the rostrum of power as a day of reckoning.

He now suddenly notices that his name evokes scorn and hate from the citizens, it is so bad that his name is a liability for his godson, Asuen Ighodalo.

The relationship between them has hitherto been defined by business interests, now transformed into political interests, oiled by a patronage system that degrades the state, and upgrades their pockets.

Installing Asuen as his successor, gives Obaseki hope to cover-up his predatory economic exploits during his eight year stewardship, which has left Edo State lying prostrate and in dire straits.

That dream of having an anointed successor using whatever means, assisted by a hypocritical gang-up of sinuous fawns is daily being impaired by several engagements: and this really, really frustrates him.

Hence Governor Obaseki’s latest plot to forcefully undercut the Benin Monarchy by unleashing all sorts of arsenals against the Benin Palace.

The Gods of the land will be in the Monarchies defence, to decimate him.

By exhibiting his conquistadorial and draconian traits, and other acts of his, he has succeeded in placing the larger Obaseki family on red alert.

The demolition he has done even to his own family name may be a permanent dent on them all.

Great guys exist in that pantheon, though; and it is baffling to know that such people are related to Godwin. Jackson Gaius-Obaseki, a former GMD of NNPC, a gentleman par excellence, is Godwin’s Uncle; a great mind with a calm disposition, a brilliant mind who continues to offer knowledge in the energy sector till date.

Also, Owen Obaseki, the Otaifo of Uromi Kingdom, a younger Obaseki with cosmopolitan orientation and suave upbringing who is a selfless man, ever ready to shoulder responsibilities for others, is a member of that great family, and many others; Don Pedro, Elvis Obaseki.

Sadly, the sins of Godwin Obaseki is an accident to his family. He is just a bad person. A psycho-analysis of his trajectory will speak further to his character indices.

Godwin Obaseki has become a bad name. Like every tragic hero to every encounter, Obaseki’s eight year tenure is sour grape that is fast coasting home.

The realisation of this has suddenly brought a new awe to perch on his rooftop. When his anointed candidate finally stumbles and crumbles, the history of Godwin Obaseki as governor will be told in one minute, as DM. I hope he won’t seek refuge in the same palace he has tried effortlessly to diminish; just like his compatriot of Kogi State.

Prince Kassim Afegbua, former commissioner for information, Edo State, writes from Abuja

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