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Good lessons from Edo State

By Emmanuel Aziken

It is certainly not because of his bulky frame that officials of the Edo State government are these days said to dread the media outings of Chief Dan Orbih, chairman of the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

It may also not be because of his famous but now deceased father, Chief MCK Orbih, a key player in the politics of the former Bendel State.

If truth be told, Chief Dan Orbih with his sharp, witty and constructive criticisms of the Edo State government has redefined opposition politics in a way that should positively benefit all democracy stakeholders across the country. Even if he is irritating to those in government, he has positively positioned the PDP in Edo State to keep the All Progressives Congress, APC administration on its toes. With that spirit, the benefit in the long run would accrue to the people of Edo State.

Last Thursday’s town hall meeting in Benin on a bill to prohibit open grazing in Edo State was a fitting example of the way the PDP under Orbih’s stewardship has done well. The bill which was articulated by the state chapter of the PDP is presently before the Edo State House of Assembly and was the PDP’s response to the menace of herdsmen in the state.

Given the apprehension of many people in Edo State on the activities of the herdsmen, it is no surprise that the proposal has been largely welcomed by citizens of the state irrespective of political party affiliation.

However, the proposal has caught the state administration on the wrong side with state officials saying that the proposal is premature.

Governor Godwin Obaseki understandably, would not want to see himself as a champion of the controversial but yet constructive proposal to prohibit grazing, especially given the fact to prohibit open grazing, especially given the fact that senior officials of the APC administration in Abuja have kicked against it.

However, the danger for Obaseki is that should casualties be again traced to herdsmen in the state, he would be hard-pressed to sustain his opposition to the open-grazing prohibition bill as canvassed by the PDP.

The hullaballoo that followed the allegation by Orbih of the diversion of rice and other provisions earmarked by the Federal Government for Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs in the state is another endearing mark for Orbih and his leadership of the PDP in the state.

It is reassuring that Governor Obaseki’s spokesman, Crusoe Osagie has elaborately acquitted his principal of culpability. The bags of rice Orbih claimed were diverted were apparently not collected by the state government supposedly because they were in bad condition.

Casting aside the PDP state chairman’s witty poser as to how government officials got to know that the rice was bad if they did not taste it, Osagie’s rebuttal of the allegations should stand except otherwise controverted.

Orbih’s tackles of the present and preceding APC administration is despite the fact that he and Adams Oshiomhole, the leader of the APC in Edo State, were at one time very close. In  their younger days, they reportedly exchanged family visits.

Orbih may not be a perfect man, and many, especially associates of Rotimi Amaechi  would not forget in a lifetime, his quiet but brutally effective role in removing Amaechi from the leadership of the Rivers State chapter of the PDP in 2013.

Officials of the Edo State government may from time to time taunt him as a nuisance; but surely a nuisance that has kept the administration upright and careful. After all, it would be foolhardy of Governor Obaseki to allow himself to be caught pants down by Orbih.

The developments in Edo State need to be replicated across the country. Nigeria surely needs more of such robust opposition that would keep every governor, both PDP and APC in check.

Soundbite criticisms of the sort that opposition parties chorus should be consigned to history. Anyone who criticises should also have the courage and capacity to proffer alternatives to the policies and programmes of the administration in power.

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