Chief John Odigie-Oyegun was a former executive Governor of Edo State. In a keenly-contested guber election, decades ago, that pitted him against another former Governor Lucky Igbinedion Odigie-Oyegun narrowly triumphed. A rude battle for the occupation of the Dennis Osadebay Government House in Benin City experience and age prevailed over money. Lucky Igbinedion, the son of the richest man in Edo State, was also a former Chairman of Oredo local government area. As studious students in Benin City then we watched the heated campaign on the state TV with fascination.
Though Lucky later emerged Governor post-Oyegun history had it that a scion of a stupendously-rich family was trounced in an electoral contest he was desperate to win. When he left power after eight uninterrupted years as Governor Igbinedion had had a date with the anti-graft agency for criminal misappropriation of state funds. And in the end he had to cleverly negotiate with the EFCC for a soft-landing by 'vomitting' some of the loot he had cornered.
The randy Lucky failed woefully in his first term in office and as he sought re-election his equally randy billionaire father, Gabriel Osawaru, was once seen in one of the campaign events of his beloved son telling the Edo electorates that Lucky had indeed failed but that he should be given another chance to redeem himself. He compared his son to a poor student who had failed his terminal exams but who needed every moral and parental support to be able to make it next time by repeating the class!
The Edo indigenes gave him another golden opportunity at redemption but Lucky failed yet again! He not only embezzled more of the state funds to the tune of millions of Dollars and billions of Naira but underdeveloped Benin City in particular and the state in general even as his popular family developed single-handedly Okada Wonderland turning the village into a world-class town with world-class infrastructure. It took the arrival of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole to transform Benin city into a befitting city worth its cultural ands academic greatness.
Edo State has produced great politicians and Nigerians in the past. The late Anthony Enahoro made history as a young radical in the national parliament that moved the motion for our accelerated independence pre-1960. He remained a venerated patriot and an elder statesman till he gloriously passed away. Before Edo was carved out of Bendel State the defunct mid-western state had produced the late Governors Ambrose Alli and Osaigbovo Ogbemudia. The two strong-men had fought each other politically when politics in Nigeria had not been polluted with filthy lucre. Then, there were gentlemen in politics Nigeriana and politics of service and honour was the order of the day. Then Nigeria was a good country to live in. And she was promising in her predicted future.
However, Edo State had equally given us the men of infamy. We remember with trepidation the late armed bandit, Lawrence "The Law" Anini, who terrorized the then Bendel State in audacious Oliver Twist-like armed robbery operations. During the Babangida tyranny he was caught, tried and executed! Again, we could not forget in a hurry one infamous Edo man, Tom Ikimi, the former magniloquent Chairman of the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC) and later the Foreign Affairs Minister during the ill-fated Sani Abacha despotism. Then the late 'Khalifa' was the Locust loathed at home and abroad but Ikimi was there as a loyal defender of the indefensible, playing the African Joseph Goebbels!
For some years now John Odigie-Oyegun has been the Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). His mandate was recently, albeit controversially, renewed for one more year by the party's National Executive Committee (NEC). Before the vote of confidence passed on him Oyegun had been at loggerheads with the so-called National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
Between Oyegun and Tinubu there is no love lost. One sees himself as the 'godfather' and kingmaker of the party and the other as a recalcitrant old foxy politician without a power base. The 'Lion of Bourdillon' had sought desperately to discredit Oyegun by portraying him in bad light as a political light-weight, a nonentity without any unifying or mobilizing force in the party. And Oyegun has equally sought to demystify the cult of personality swirling around the proud Lagosian.
The former Governor of Lagos State was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari to reconcile the existing differences among members in the party. A hard mission in itself given the existing alienation and grievances toward the methods and tactics of Buharism Tinubu accepted the task and went about doing the near-impossible. But sooner than expected he had encountered entrenched hardened positions and conveniently heaped the blame on the party Chairman. He had forwarded a letter to the President and other party Chieftains accusing Oyegun of undermining or sabotaging his mission. Oyegun was summoned by the President and he must have given his own side of the story. Following that open feud the party's NEC extended Oyegun's tenure in a move that was interpreted as spiting Tinubu.
While Oyegun cannot be described as a superlative party Chairman or a leader without problems Tinubu is not a paragon from all indications. For one, Asiwaju, it would be recalled, had had to deal with issues related to graft in the past. For another, many a politician detest his guts and ruthlessness in terms of imposition of candidates and mafia-like stranglehold on western politics. And for yet another, Asiwaju as a political 'prophet' is not respected by all and sundry in Yorubaland. He has laboured very hard to impose his will, Adedibu-like, in the Oduduwa zone but he has failed to win every heart and mind.
While his dominance in Lagos state is doubtless given his achievement as Governor and his uncommon capacity to maintain his political ground his national appeal or popularity is nothing much to write home about. Many Nigerians still see Tinubu as a glorified 'crook' who knows how to work himself to the corridors of power at all times.
Asiwaju Tinubu has effortfully conquered Lagos through the dint of political hardwork and organization. After governing the state of aquatic splendour for eight long eventful years the strongman of Eko politics has always had his way in determining who succeeded whom and who got what in the state. But it is to his credit that good materials always emerged as Governors for the general good of Lagos.
Seeking extension of influence to other Oduduwa states Tinubu had 'planted' his 'big boys' in government houses in Ibadan, Abeokuta, Osogbo but attempts to impose his preferred candidates on the people had hit a brick wall in Ado-Ekiti and Akure. Governor Ayo Fayose simply organized an electoral heist of the century to be able to outwit Asiwaju. And when Olusegun 'Iroko' Mimiko was there in Ondo State as Governor he displayed little or no respect for Tinubu ensuring that he failed to determine who governed the state.
Between Oyegun and Tinubu there seems to exist some irreconcilable differences, dating back years, bordering on ego and hubris. The President as the bigger man must endeavour to reconcile any differences or the ruling party risks going to the next general elections as a divided house on fire. And that would definitely spell doom for Buharism in his inordinate quest for another 4-year residency of the Aso Rock Villa.