By John Mayaki
Still smarting from his near defeat to the spirited contest put up by Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu in the 2020 Edo Governorship election, Governor Godwin Obaseki has gone a step further in the various acts of political vendetta pursued against his APC opponent at the polls with a recent announcement of the state government’s plot to seize his farmland in Amagba, Benin City.
The state government revealed this planned action in an official gazette published in the newspapers. There was no reason provided beyond a nebulous claim that the parcel of land, owned and developed by his political opponent for several years, is suddenly required “for the service of the government of Edo State “.
The move is an escalation of a trend witnessed since the Governor won re-election and secured victory in the court. Clearly irritated that others in the state dared to follow their conviction and form an opposition against him in the previous year, Mr. Godwin Obaseki has weaponized state agencies and institutions in a scorched earth campaign of political vendetta which has seen him target the businesses and properties of identified individuals, notably members and associates of the All Progressives Congress.
He has demolished homes in violation of subsisting court orders, revoked duly issued certificate of occupancy on landed properties, shut down places of businesses, and charged the state-like Police formed by his administration to go after persons. All victims of this clear and outrageous government intimidation and repression share one thing in common: membership of the APC and opposition to the Governor’s brand of politics.
Yet the rights of assembly and political opinion are guaranteed by the country’s constitution. In effect, Governor Obaseki, by his actions, seeks to create a personal fiefdom in Edo State where rights are awarded on the basis of political affiliation. This is an outrage, an unmistakable assault on democracy.
The Governor’s actions have hurt economic growth and stymied the state’s ability to recover from the pandemic-induced downturn. For instance, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu’s farm, which Obaseki is hell-bent on claiming – illegally so, has dozens of persons in its employ and produce from it feeds hundreds of citizens across the state.
Notably, at the height of the pandemic lockdowns, when the Edo State Government was focused on detaining citizens without providing a safe landing for those without the survival tools required to observe a prolonged stay-at-home order, the produce of the Amagba farm contributed significantly to the food items Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu distributed across the 192 wards of the state in a charity effort unmatched by its sheer scale and timeliness. He saved many lives in the process and contrasted the state government’s callousness and lack of human face.
Perhaps this forms part of the reasons Governor Obaseki is now plotting to abuse government powers in claiming ownership of the land.
The government’s control of land, as highlighted in the constitution, is to hold in trust on behalf of the people – and was certainly not designed to be used as a political tool to carry out vengeance against opponents. Governor Obaseki’s actions are dangerous. He must be halted lest he throws the state into unmanageable chaos.