Mar. 5, 2007
When in 1999 after the general elections Lucky Nosakhare Igbinedion emerged among the 36 state governors as the executive governor of Edo State he stood out among the rest for reasons other than experience in politics, achievement or high moral high ground. His unique moustache and the fact that he's an Igbinedion, one born with golden spoon in his mouth made the difference. A magazine in Nigeria then analysing the profile of the governors singled Edo out as a 'lucky' state whose helsman knew the smell of money having been born in a very rich popular family.
Lucky Igbinedion was not new to politics then because he was once the chairman of Oredo Local Govt with Benin City as headquarters. His randy billionaire father who single-handedly developed Okada Wonderland and owned defunct Okada Airlines is a household name in Benin City and Edo State in general. The father, Gabriel Osawaru whose sexual escapades with minors were public knowledge once clashed with the highly respected Benin monarch Oba Erediuwa. Igbinedion senior once went to America to claim that he was the 'king' of Benin and got the recognition he did not deserve; when the highly articulate Oba got wind of this abomination he suspended Igbinedion from the state council of chiefs which he chaired as a sanction. The Igbinedions after failing to clinch the gubernatorial election of 1993 took the Oba to court for supporting John Odigie-Oyegun who emerged the victor after acrimonious political battle between money and experience.
The day the monarch walked bare-footed to the high court on Sapele Road (the same court where Justice Omo-Agege tried and convicted the notorious armed robbers Lawrence Anini and Monday Osunbor) huge crowd followed him because it was sacrilegious to sue an Oba. Uku Akpolokpolo Erediuwa went to court to defend himself and majority of his subjects poured scorn and curses on the Igbinedions for doing the unthinkable.
The traditional Benin ruler was soon engaged in another supremacy battle with the Military Administrator of Edo state late Col. Onyearugbulem whose wife reportedly delivered a huge piece of yam as a child! Onyearugbulam (which in Igbo language means literally "someone should not oppress me") it was who visited the late Yoruba patriach Adekunle Ajasin in his country home in Owo when he was administering Ondo State before being posted to Edo. In that gruelling encounter the military young man descended on the grand old man who was then a NADECO chieftain heaping insults at him and forcing the eyeglasses of the former civilian governor of Ondo State to slip from his sullen eyes and fell on the floor.
The power tussle between Odigie-Oyegun and Lucky Igbinedion then reminded one of the titanic political 'war' between the late Prof. Ambrose Ali and Samuel Ogbemudia of yore when Edo and Delta still bore Bendel as a state. The celebrated political contest with wits and savvy as weapons (unlike now when you have money and 'anointing' and connection to the system) saw the Ogbemudia camp 'burying' Ali in a mock coffin and 'parading' his 'lifeless' corpse in the streets of Benin.
Lucky when he was the chairman of Oredo council performed below average and his successor George Idah was murdered in cold blood in his office at Ring Road and those who should know better accused Lucky of masterminding the assassination to settle a political dispute with Idah. The killers of Idah were never found and the case file had since developed wings and flown away. The culprits were said to have been spirited abroad when tension sorrounding the killing became unbearable.
I went to both college and post-secondary school in Benin City so my love for Benin and Edo people knows no bound; in fact Benin City is my adopted second home after Ihiala in the south-east; it's my choice city!
One still remembers nostalgically the good old days before the yanking of Delta out of Bendel state leaving Edo as it's presently constituted. One remembers fine jounalists like Mrs Adekunbi Ero (then editor of 'The Sunday Observer' and now working as one of editors of 'Tell' mag.); Pauline Ugbodaga who now works in AIT as Director of News/Current Affairs, Ambrose Ezenwani who resigned with then Bendel Broadcasting Service to pursue a career in advertising, Emmanuel Okogba who now works with Delta Radio; Tony Umole who is now with Nollywood; Joe Ohue and Stella Oli who're now at large, Senior Kings Ogbebor whose Tuesday Reggae programme then made our nights, the jazz addict/crooner Uyi Ihama, sports encyclopaedia Emmanuel Egharevba, Ebi Ebi Okpokiti, Nwasandi Otete and the Godfather himself Pat O.
One's memory refuses to forget late literary icon SMO Aka, Church Of God Mission evangelistic guru late Archbishop Benson Idahosa, the current BOT chairman of PDP Chief Tony Anenih and another more scrupulous Anthony, Enahoro. Or fails to remember former Vice Chancellor of Uniben Mrs Grace Alele-Williams, a woman of substance indeed. One of the lasting memorable dramas that had stuck with the passage of time was the great discovery of how 'Engineer' Nathaniel Ilube falsified his CV to get employed as the DG of the state-owned BBS; before the bubble got burst 'Eng.' Ilube had been in the saddle for years using raw gut and courage to steer the ship of the media outfit.
During our time quality education was still obtainable and available unlike the glorified prostitutes and secret cult agents one have today in the colleges and Ivory Towers across the lenght and breath of Nigeria. Secondary schools in Benin City alone were greater than all put together in some states.
It was Odigie-Oyegun's deputy who once described Benin City as "a developing village". And today that appelation has not changed as nothing has changed much. I spent three days in the city while in Nigeria visiting old friends from Ovie Whisky drive to Igun Street; from Ikpoba Hill to GRA. Most of them are now scattered in Europe and the Americas but their respective families still recognised me and welcomed me with delight.
Individuals are creating wealth for themselves and the hotel I lodged in Iyaro called "Diamond Height Hotel" was not there when I left the city for greener pastures abroad. The state of roads are still bad and sanitation is at best zero. Power and water supply are still at erratic points. The lack of tangible infrastructural development in Benin City could be linked to Lucky Igbinedion's unseriousness towards the art of governance bordering in the main on arrogance and family background. His cargo of failure is beyond quantification.
The 'Akatarian' phenomenon (Diaspora in local parlance) is bringing home millions of dollars sent through Western Union from Italy and other European countries where Edo/Delta girls use their 'bottom power' to get what they want. International prostitution network in Nigeria has Benin City and the inner nooks and cranies as the headquarters. A lot of Edo/Benin boys have made it in life smuggling their girls (some illiterate and others jjc's) into Italy and other European cities sometimes passing through here in Abidjan and Dakar in Senegal. Some retired 'old schools' in the job 'buy' the girls from the boys and make them pay huge amounts through proceeds from prostitution.
The Edo first lady, Eki, has been doing a great job educating parents on the inherent dangers associated with prostitution. In Benin some parents go to any lenght including selling of their houses and lands to sponsor their daughters abroad. Others simply go aborrowing promising to pay back with interest in the hope that Italy will be good investment. And before going into the life of sexual waywardry in Italy the human traffickers made the girls to undergo some rituals which sometimes involve using their hairs and vagina to swear to allegiance and non-betrayal. Some of these glorified prostitutes have had to die in foreign lands after being drugged by their white clients leaving their vaginas to their dogs. Many today have AIDS to contend with.
When I was in Holy Mary College off 2nd East Circular Road in the Edo State capital an old man once showed us the pictures his daughter sent him from Italy; she was naked in a swimming pool with his white 'husband'. The old man was happy as he displayed the photographs drinking beer and asking us to join him in the 'feast' as his daughter has got a 'rich Oyibo husband'. Eki Igbinedion's efforts against this immoral trend is therefore laudable even if her husband has failed history and posterity as governor. Whether her efforts are paying off is a matter for another day.
This's hoping that the in-coming governor (probably Prof. Osunbor or Comrade Adams Oshiomhole of NLC fame) will not emulate Lucky by leaving Edo State to the whims and caprices of those abroad. Igbinedion was reported to have celebrated elaborately his 'conquest' of Mount Kilimanjaro in east Africa by inviting the great Hugh Masakela from South Africa down to Benin City to entertain his guests. He was reported to have gone to Canada from his American official trip to buy up choice landed properties in Ontario and other choice locations. 'TELL' magazine once reported how Igbinedion had squandered a whooping 32 billion Naira that went to the state coffers from the federation allocations.
It was equally reported that Lucky had refused to allocate a piece of land to Raymond Dokpesi to build an AIT relay station in his state of origin. Because the Igbinedions own a television station in Benin they saw perhaps the presence of AIT or Raypower as a threat to their political dynasty.
Lucky Igbinedion's tenure as the governor of Edo state can only be described as how not to be a chief executive of a state like Edo with large literate population. As we approach April towards May when he will step down his eight years stint in the government house will be remembered more for their disappointments and failures.
About the author: Sunny Chris Okenwa is a new U-K contributor based in Abidjan Cote d'Ivoire.
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