Godwin Obaseki: A Brief History of Political Begging and Its Consistent End Result
Recently, with glee, the embattled Governor of Edo State addressed journalists from the Aso Rock. Soon, newspaper reports emerged, but most importantly, the illustrious HD picture of Obaseki, on a surgical face mask, presenting his Expression of Interest Form to President Muhammad Buhari. And that was what he said was his mission: to show the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria the form that shows the expression of his interest in contesting for a second term in Edo State gubernatorial.
It is an honest ambition and a harmless visit but it is not for nothing that the governor is described as ‘embattled.’ Therefore, it is not for nothing that Obaseki is showing his nomination form to the number one citizen of Nigeria—the President. Was he even presenting? Was it necessary to present? Or was he in an entirely different mission, one too known in the recent Nigerian political history? Was Obaseki trying to draw favour in the sight of the President? Given that there were other high-class meetings, for example, to the National Leader’s place, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, was Obaseki simply begging for mercy and consideration? If he is, then he is not alone, not the first to do so, will not be the last, and they’re definitely lessons from the past.
The past includes, among so many other examples, the very recent and much-publicized Owelle Rochas Okorocha experience in 2019. The plot is the same, except for a few peculiar characters and devices. The setting, albeit different in geography, is still but within the State Gubernatorial framework. The saga, the contest, raged for long and drew to the ultimate climax of finally consulting the President and the National Leader, Muhammad Buhari and Bola Ahmed Tinubu, urging them to influence the National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, to accept his (Rochas) son-in-law as the party’s governorship candidate of Imo State.
And there is the Ogun State example, one that commanded and held national attention, across geo-political zones and parties. For the then outgoing Governor Ibikunle Amosun, after a long drawn battle and muddying of still waters, he went deeper in his emissary, employing even traditional rulers into the train of delegates that went for the official plea of consideration. They went to Buhari, and also to Tinubu, seeking that Amosun’s candidate be adopted and made the party’s candidate in Ogun State.
There are also Northern case studies. Governor Abdulazeez Yari, the Chairman of the Nigeria Governor’s Forum begged both Buhari and Tinubu to prevail on Comrade Adams Oshiomhole to accept his candidate.
Finally, there is the most popular example – the widely followed Ambode Lagos treatment. Governor Akinwumi Ambode used all the governors in Nigeria, he in fact even used both local and international connections to beg both Buhari, Tinubu, and Oshiomhole to give him a soft landing in Lagos.
The final outcome of all these examples is renowned. It is not that the begging crew failed and that the people for which they interceded ended up not achieving, becoming, or keeping the position they lusted after. Putting it that way translates as insulting all the involved personalities and letting an important lesson elude us. The important significance drawn from how all these examples ended up is the high-quality democracy found in the All Progressives Congress.
There is no doubt if the men who were being begged and urged to move body and exert influence are capable of doing so. They are. The instructive element in the whole plot is the emergence of a new reality, of a new spirit and character, one that Nigerians have for long yearned for. It is a situation where our democracy is strengthened, where it becomes a politics of and for the people, and not of and by powerful individuals. And so it is not about one begging and his or her wish not granted, rather of the respect of democratic principles and ultimate submission to the supremacy of the party, its ideal, provisions, and laws.
This is why Governor Obaseki’s beggarly visit to the Aso Rock and Bourdillion is not just a waste of time and resources but a horror show of a lack of understanding of history—even as recent as last year. Clearly, the visitations will not stop APC direct primary election in Edo and it is not because the President and the National Leader are not kind and understanding people but because they both believe in party’s supremacy and rule of law, and they see why it must be respected.
Failure to do so will set an unnecessary exceptionality and even hurt the persons in the past experiences and examples. Manipulating the party process for Obaseki to emerge would simply be a reward for bad behavior and will set a dangerous precedent for the future. Obaseki’s fate will be decided by party members, like in all the examples above, and like it should in an ideal democratic setting. People should stop mounting pressure on Oshiomhole because it is unfair and unkindly set him out as wicked and unbending. But he isn’t because he is just a man standing guard to process and structure, things without a party as great as ours become another rudderless association.
Yet there is an antithesis to the current development. Godwin Obaseki, the man who is at the center of this beggarly movements, is the one who had vehemently oppose all the past endeavors targetted towards peace and reconciliation. He went to court to bar the Ganduje Reconciliation Committee from even coming into the state. He also shunned the resolution of the APC-led National Assembly and even went further ahead to sponsor denigrating media posts labeling the leadership of the Assembly as “rubber stamp”.
A neutral observer will at this point ask: what then is the point? And that, exactly, is the most pertinent question. So far, there is a consistent pattern in the end result of political begging in APC: you will be met with goodwill, you will be wished well, you will be given equal opportunity, and then you will go through party process, guided by the law and structure, and that will be all. This has been the case yesterday, this is the case today, and this will be the case tomorrow. The very beauty of APC, the hallmark of its achievements, and the unique character that sets it apart is that institution trumps individual and it is important, even in the face of serious temptations, that it remains this way.