By John Mayaki
So far, Edo State Governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki’s answer to the downward spiral witnessed in the state is to construct an alternate universe on Facebook (and other social media platforms) where he, with the assistance of his retinue of aides, offers a misleading portrayal of things and engage in subterfuge.
It made sense then that the students of the striking Ambrose Alli University in Ekpoma took their protests of the administrative impasse – caused largely by Obaseki’s ineptitude and tyranny – that has paralyzed the learning institution and setback their academic progress to the same platform.
For weeks they have assembled in the comment section alongside other dissatisfied citizens to express their anguish, dueling with Obaseki and his handlers who, instead of proffering a solution, are more interested in muffling the voices of the students and other citizens, evidently with the aim of avoiding holes punctured in their bubble of lies.
Like primary school teachers in the state, members of the academic staff union of the university declared an indefinite strike when it became clear governor Obaseki was not interested in fulfilling his obligations to the institution. Despite new levels of borrowings and a self-declared spike in revenue generation, Obaseki has failed to pay salaries, let alone invest in education infrastructure that make learning both effective and convenient. They were slaving away while Obaseki gallivants the country in cushy jets with his newfound company of tax collectors.
Things particularly reached a breaking point when the staff union sought an audience with the governor to reconcile positions in the larger interest of the students and continuous running of the academic calendar, and he rudely declined. Apparently, Mr. Obaseki, who is probably uploading another edited photograph to Facebook as I write, has no time for such things. He prefers hangouts in distant states where the agenda is solely to insult the President.
Whereas other responsible governors would have opted for consensus-building and compromise as a way to resolve the dispute, avert protracted legal contests, and safely return the students to classrooms devoid of tension of any kind, Obaseki took a different but familiar path, demonstrating once again his choice of tyranny and contempt of laws that guide and limit the actions of elected officials.
He caused his personal Assembly, the one he enthroned with tractors and thugs without the consent of the people they pretend to represent, to enact new laws that arrogate to him broad powers equivalent to that of a supreme commander.
For one equipped only with a hammer, everything resembles a nail. Obaseki has only one solution to every problem: unaccountable powers. To achieve this, he has subverted the very process of democracy that facilitated his emergence. When the people traveled a different direction from him in the state assembly elections, he installed his own members anyway, leveled the chambers of the arm to the ground and reduced it to an acquiescent body functioning at his pleasure.
Journalists and citizens who dare to disagree see their properties summarily demolished, even with subsisting court orders recommending a stay of action, and their lives and freedom threatened. This is the Obaseki way and his handling of the AAU crisis, caused by his inability to pay salaries, is yet another manifestation. When asked, he insists the violations were committed to protect the interest of the people. Patriotism is after all the last refuge of the scoundrel.
Some may attribute these unfortunate developments to the unhinged displays of a power-drunk man. Yet there is a method to it. Obaseki’s goal is to upend democracy in Edo state and institute one-man totalitarianism, hence the observed unique assault on education. Several institutions of learning are locked, with no solution in sight. Basic education is no better, with pupils sharing space with trees and reptiles in the death traps called classrooms in Edo public schools.
Obaseki understands that tyranny only thrives in darkness and ignorance. He wants to undo all academic progress made in the state and reduce the youths to disempowered entities dependent on government handouts and political patronage for survival. This is why he chooses chaos instead of peace, conflict instead of dialogue, and dictatorship instead of mutual compromise.