PALONGO AS METAPHOR IN EDO GOVERNORSHIP RACE
Ponder these lyrical lines from one of the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s classical hit songs, “International Thief Thief”: “You be thief, I no be thief; you be robber, I no be robber; you be armed robber, I no be armed robber; argument, argument, argue…” and these will help you to properly appreciate the nuances of the melodrama that is playing out in Edo State over some massive buildings purportedly under construction on the premises of the Iyamho country home of Governor Adams Oshiomhole.
The Will, an on-line publication based in the United States of America, published on Sunday, April 15, 2012, an earth-shaking expose on the “monuments to madness” being built by Oshiomhole in the backwater of the state, that is, his village. The story had companion pictorials to give validity to it. On Monday, April 16, 2012, the Nigerian Compass published the story as its leader with a splash of pictures of the mansion and other structures being erected on the sprawling estate.
The narrative by the Nigerian Compass was anchored on a news briefing by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State which felt scandalized by the revelation in the media. And, acting promptly the way any political party which is at a position of advantage would do, the PDP latched on the report to call Oshiomhole to account. It has understandably spared no effort to ensure that the governor’s underbelly –perceived unbridled acquisitive tendency- is exposed.
This is the tension that has forced Oshiomhole into a palongo (what the Yoruba people call out-of-tune) dance. The building of the multi-billion naira mansion and other structures in his hitherto modest country home, if it is true, should be seen as out-of-tune with the public perception that the Oshiomhole persona, as a labour leader and pro-masses ideologue, has created. If it is true, apologists of his leadership style who were so influenced by his unionist disposition should begin to sing his Nunc dimittis servum tuum (Lord, now you are dismissing your servant in peace).
But the opposition will not dismiss Oshiomhole in peace. There are several options open to it. One is piling the pressure on the anti-graft agencies to investigate the governor- how he came about the money being expended on the mansion and other structures at his Iyamho country home. The governor knows it and that is why he is trying to fight back. He knows that this onslaught, coming in an electioneering period, is capable of causing collateral damage to his re-election bid.
Early reactions from his aides have shown how rattled and confused his camp is. Perhaps, Oshiomhole and his aides never thought the monuments he is hiding away in his village could become public knowledge at this time and that they (structures) could offend the sensibilities of Nigerians, not because some other governors had not done similar thing, but because it is Oshiomhole-the self-acclaimed people’s governor-that is involved.
The official riposte articulated by the Special Adviser, Media Affairs, Tony Iyare, was so tenuous, not because Iyare lacked or still lacks the capacity to generally defend his boss, but because on this specific issue, he was trying to defend the indefensible. It was mediocre to condemn the timing of the expose. Regardless of the timing, is it true that those monuments are sprouting on Oshiomhole’s estate at Iyamho?
If they are not, I had expected Iyare to throw the gauntlet to Edo people and Nigerians to visit the place on a sightseeing verification tour in order to put the lie to the opposition’s purport. He had amateurishly gravitated into the domains of the governor’s performance in office wherein he wrote about “the unprecedented growth and development witnessed by Edo State in less than forty-two months of his exemplary stewardship.” Even if this claim were true, is it the reason his boss has decided to compensate himself with the monuments while still in office?
In the 11-paragraph response, Oshiomhole’s publicist-in-chief had devoted only one paragraph to present what he described as “the facts” of the matter. Read him: “Governor Oshiomhole built his country home at Iyamho more than 20 years ago. Everyone knows the road to the house in question. In fact, all his houses, including the one(s) located in Kaduna and Abuja, were built many years before he ever contemplated contesting the governorship seat in Edo State. The house in Iyahmo is currently undergoing some renovation which is aimed at providing for some walkways and an outdoor bar on the existing empty space.”
A content analysis of the above “facts” would show that Iyare has further played into the hands of the opposition by confirming what it (the opposition) has claimed- that Oshiomhole is not the people’s governor; that he is propelled by greed in the acquisition of material things possibly utilizing public fund, otherwise, why would he be expending multi-billion naira to build an expansive country home? Why would he, if he were to be a true comrade in the tradition of the labour struggle, be consumed by the passion to build houses in Kaduna and Abuja while still donning his khaki attire (that looks like safari suit) to hoodwink gullible Nigerians that he is a labour leader like the late austere Pa Imoudu?
How many houses in Abuja was Iyare referring to that Oshiomhole built many years ago? When exactly were these houses built or possibly bought? If it was indeed before Oshiomhole became governor, what was his preoccupation and how much accrued to him to validate his financial capacity to erect or buy the buildings? Iyare’s so-called facts have not been convincingly articulated. They have not been salutary to Oshiomhole’s patron saint image. Rather, they have further demystified him as one of those who have hidden their actions and inactions in the garb of labour union pretensions.
If the house in Iyamho is undergoing some renovation as claimed by Iyare, would it not be in apple-pie order to present the true photographs of the structures in the estate as a counterpoise to the ones said to have been concocted by The Will and parroted by Nigerian Compass? The governor’s camp should publish the pictures of the modest structures that are hidden in Oshiomhole’s estate at Iyamho now that the opposition has courageously gone ahead to sponsor paid advertorial on it in some national dailies.
Since they are the government, it should be appropriate to avail the public of the building plans of the estate so that Edo people who are knowledgeable would be able to put two and two together to arrive at a reasonable conclusion.
It is not just enough to declare that “the so-called N10b mansion is only a phantom existing in the warped imagination of the sponsors of this publication.” It is lame strategy to divert (or redirect) the attention of Edo people and Nigerians whose consciousness has now been pricked to life by the odious scenario in Iyamho by pontificating on some questionable “principles of fiscal discipline, transparency, efficient management of resources and a dogged attempt to ensure that the people of Edo State feel the impact of governance.”
Do the monuments being built to madness in Iyamho (if it is true that the governor is expending on them public fund or money made while in public office) amount to a testimony of fiscal disciple and transparency in a state where development of road infrastructure, which is the governor’s only Unique Selling Point (USP), has not been evenly distributed among the three senatorial districts? The issue of road infrastructure will be interrogated at another time.
After all, the former governor of Ekiti State, Engineer Segun Oni, who suffered an unjustified attack in the hands of Oshiomhole who called him (Oni) a thief (ole ni Segun Oni, meaning Segun Oni is a thief) during the ACN rerun governorship campaign in Ekiti, spent about three years in office before the Court of Appeal decision that gave victory to Governor Kayode Fayemi; but he did not build any house in his village at Ifaki or Abuja while in the saddle. Yet, Oni is not a labour union comrade. His integrity has not been impeached even out of office by the ACN government in Ekiti. This is food for thought for the comrade governor who is understandably dancing out-of-tune over the Iyamho mansion saga.
Written By Sufuyan Ojeifo