I read with disgust, the aforementioned full-page advertorial by a group under the name of Benin National Council, published in the Vanguard of June 19, 2018. The authors of the statement ought not to have been dignified with a reply, given their very poor reasoning. However, upon deep reflection I felt a reply was expedient to put the matter in controversy in proper perspective.
What is the issue at stake? It is whether former Governor Adams Oshiomhole should be subjected to EFCC investigation as canvassed by the popular Edo based social critic and human rights activist, Bishop OsadolorOchei. The so-called Benin National Council, hitherto unknown, thinks otherwise and for which they sponsored the publication referred to above which instead of addressing the issue engaged in ad hominem and diversionary tactic. One laughable fallacy, which the group tried to use in defending their principal is the copious mention of the reception accorded Comrade Oshiomhole by the Oba of Benin upon the completion of his two-term governorship of Edo State.One wonders how the Oba’s honour of Oshiomhole as governor should shield him from investigation for alleged diversion of Edo State resources.
In the same vein, how does the commendations he received from some members of the Benin elite, some of who are his long standing political associates, make Oshiomhole beyond reprimand for alleged financial crimes he committed when he was governor? It is pertinent to point out that some of the persons convicted so far, including former governors, were also at one time or the other conferred with honoursand chieftaincy titles no lesser in value than what the Oba of Benin did for Oshiomhole, on completion of his tenure as Governor of Edo State.
The issue in Bishop Ochei’s petitions before the EFCC has nothing to do with Oshiomhole’s so-called developmental strides as governor but rather with his conduct in the application of thefunds received on behalf of Edo State government,as prescribed by law. For instance, the Bishop drew attention to allegation of Oshiomhole possessing multi-million estate in his Village Iyamho, near Auchi. He also stated that Oshiomhole has a mansion worth millions in Benin City. These are issues that should not be waved aside if really we are committed to fighting corruption perpetrated by public officials. Talking about how well Oshiomhole performed in office goes to no issue when interrogating his judicious use of public funds. The allegations have been made; EFCC ought to visit Iyamho and Okorotun by way of investigation to unravel the true state of the properties.
What would it cost the EFCC to do this? The issue of the Central Hospital, Benin, constructed and commissioned by Oshiomhole but which has remained non-functional and locked up two years after is a pointer to the rot that characterised Oshiomhole’s administration. Oshiomhole himself said in a recent interview that the hospital has remained unused due to an issue with the contract he awarded for the equipping of the hospital. Similarly, we have the issue of the N30billion Benin Storm Water Project which is largely uncompleted and has become a serious environmental hazard despite the huge amount expended. It is common knowledge that Governor Godwin Obaseki has rejected the rates Oshiomhole was using for roads and other contracts on the grounds that they were too high and indefensible.
Recent revelations from Edo State Ministry of Education leading to the dismissal of a Permanent Secretary under Oshiomhole, the on-going trial of the former SUBEB Chairman and others by the EFCC and Governor Obaseki’s outburst over the level of corruption in EDSOPADEC, only confirm our suspicions and why the EFCC should act. Can Oshiomhole account for how he spent the World Bank loan he collected which has made Edo State the third most indebted state in Nigeria with regards to foreign loans? These are just a few of the issues, which perhaps Bishop Ochei has in his 68 sacks of evidence that he says the EFCC has, and which they have refused to investigate.
For Bishop Ochei, a well-known advocate of good governance who does not need the prompting of any politician to advance the public good, his resort to court to compel the EFCC to take action on his petition submitted in November 2016 is commendable. The unknown Benin National Council however says that Bishop Ochei’s action is motivated by the desire to discredit Oshiomhole ahead the June 23 National Convention of the APC. Is it not ridiculous to relate an action which was instituted in 2016 when Oshiomhole had not dreamed of contesting the APC National Chairmanship to the event that would take place almost two years after?
Similarly, why did the group try to distract attention of the public from the subject matter by attacking Pastor OsagieIze-Iyamu for the petition against Oshiomhole? What has Pastor Ize-Iyamu got to do with the petitions or allegations against Oshiomhole? Unlike Oshiomhole, Pastor Ize-Iyamu, from the records has neither been elected to any office in Edo State nor has he had the power to approve the release of government funds for the development of Edo State.
Therefore, making reference to Ize-Iyamu in order to defend Oshiomhole from answering questions regarding how honestly and judiciously he spent the funds placed under his care for the full benefit of Edo people, for the eight years of his governance is completely misplaced. Finally, the question Edo people, and indeed all Nigerians, ought to ask, against the backdrop of the desperate and trenchant defence of the BNC and others sympathetic to Oshiomhole, is why should Oshiomhole be afraid of EFCC investigation?
Nosa Omorodion, a journalist and social commentator writes from Benin City