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Friday, 24 April 2015

The Dialectic of Hosa Okunbor's Politics and Ethnic Consideration.

 Francis Ehigiator
 The 2015 general elections have come and gone, but the ripples of victory and defeat that they have generated across the country have been so profound that they are yet to settle. For the first time in the annals of presidential elections in Nigeria, an incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan, was defeated by the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari.
 This has forced spontaneous realignments across the political landscape with a good number of politicians switching platforms. While a few gladiators dumped the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the APC and vice versa before the March 28, 2015 presidential election, there was a gale of movements from the PDP to the APC after the defeat of President Jonathan in that election. Some founding leaders and members of the PDP who had benefited so much from the party in terms of elective and appointive positions left the party without as much as a whimper.
 With eyes, possibly fixed on the sharing of national cake in Abuja, principles took a whimsical flight. It was all a parade of absurdities and ideological somersaults for those who claimed to be guided by some form of political ideology. The development left those (especially businessmen) who have hugely invested their hard-earned resources in the development of the PDP and in support of elective office-seeking members, without getting anything in return, in a reasonable position to undertake a post-mortem and reach a decision on what next step to take.
 This is the position in which the political drum major and PDP leader in Edo South senatorial zone, where I come from, Captain Hosa Okunbo, found himself immediately after the March 28, 2015 Presidential and National Assembly elections. I am aware that Okunbo is a solid businessman in the billionaire league; he is, according to media reports, a good friend of President Goodluck Jonathan. This perhaps explains his decision to withdraw his support for the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in Edo state in 2011 and give the same to President Jonathan and his PDP.
 Okunbo had stuck out his neck for his friend (Jonathan) in the March 28 presidential election in spite of pressure from many of his kinsmen and women to act like typical businessmen who would sponsor candidates of both the ruling and the opposition parties in the same election(s). He had chosen to act differently, preferring to publicly identify with the PDP and thus expose himself to the vagaries of the tension of political goals and objectives.
 His investments in the actualisation of the second term aspiration of Jonathan yielded results in Edo state. He was able to deliver his Edo south zone with the highest voting population to Jonathan. He won three of the four House of Representatives seats fair and square while the APC won the fourth in a controversial manner. Overall, Jonathan won Edo State but the victory was not enough to give him a countrywide presidential election victory. The new realities that crystallised after the March 28 presidential election were a mixed bag of sort: Jonathan and PDP lost the Federal Government; the PDP is not the government in control of Edo State; and interestingly, a Bini son, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, is National Chairman of the APC, whose party has just won the presidential election. What this presents to all Binis, although those in the PDP may not like it, is that their own is holding the most powerful and influential position in the ruling party whose government will swing into action on May 29, this year.
 This development and other forward-looking considerations coalesced into the strategic move by Okunbo to review his political beliefs, decide to support his brother, Odigie-Oyegun, to be able to win all the State House of Assembly seats in the April 11 elections. If Okunbo had wanted to go the whole hog, he would have won the seats for the PDP, but the question is, of what benefits will that be for a Bini ethnic nation in desperate quest for national accommodation and integration? He would have worked against the very objective of Bini development, liberation and transformation that he has over the years espoused, and for which he has exposed himself politically for possible “vicious attacks”. Now, an APC government is stepping in the saddle on May 29 while an APC government is already in place in Edo State. So, what else is there to fight for other than for all Binis to align with the present realities?
 Okunbo, from all indications, has keyed into these realities by supporting the electoral victory of Binis into the State Legislature on the APC platform. Indeed, with the role he played in the April 11 State House of Assembly elections, I believe it is time Okunbo rose above political differences to strengthen his commitment to the liberation and transformation of Benin ethnic nationality in the context of national politics.
 Having staked his reputation and business interests by not only exposing himself to politics but also taking up the position of PDP Edo South Senatorial Leader for the sole purpose of offering a strong voice and representation to the Binis (who has been largely short-changed and marginalised in terms of strategic appointments) in the Federal Government, all Binis irrespective of their political affiliations and tendencies should rally round Okunbo to accelerate the actualisation of the Benin agenda for rapid integration, accommodation, infrastructure development and transformation.
 This is the only workable and viable option that the Binis must embrace under the fast-consolidating leadership of Okunbo working in concert with Odigie-Oyegun and other well-meaning Bini leaders.
– Ehigiator, a public affairs commentator, contributed this piece from Benin City

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