PRESS STATEMENT BY CAPT. (DR) IDAHOSA WELLS OKUNBO (CAPT. HOSA)
AN OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI AND THE GOOD PEOPLE OF EDO STATE: PLEASE, URGE GOVERNOR GODWIN OBASEKI TO LEAVE ME ALONE
I have, for some time now, experienced an unprecedented dose of orchestrated bashings and campaign of calumny calculated to malign my person and cast aspersions on my hard-earned reputation.
This spate of coordinated attacks, with their attendant mode of vicious execution, can best be described as the unconscionable actions by attack dogs and hirelings of desperate Edo State Government on the watch of Governor Godwin Obaseki.
After a deep evaluation of these seamless attacks and poisonous bitterness against my person, I have come to the conclusion that, as a good-hearted Edo son, I do not deserve the embarrassing treatment. My pedigree will never, ever allow me to deliberately concoct any wrong against my State and its Governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki who, today, by the grace of God, enjoys the mandate of the good people of Edo State to preside over their affairs.
I am, however, shocked, bewildered and pained to observe that despite my very sincere, robust and stated commitment to support the anticipated pace of infrastructure development, progress and other social investment initiatives through the deployment of my modest goodwill and network of capital, for which I am eternally grateful to God, alas, the response has been to paint my person with a tar brush of public odium that verges on mischief.
I have, regardless of this very unpleasant experience, remained a lover and promoter of peace and will continue to be at peace with myself and most members of the society, but which by the Governor’s actions and inactions, it has become impossible.
My contributions to peace, progress and visible development of the economy of the state pursuant to our collective aspirations and shared commitments remain a fait accompli. These contributions are self-sacrificing without necessarily expecting any iota of reciprocal gesture or patronage from the Government of Edo State.
I, therefore, find it sickening and incomprehensible to understand or accept any justification for the series of sustained virulent attacks against my person in the social and print media by some agents of Edo State Government.
My long and trusted acquaintances of very many years will attest to my unrepentant fidelity to principles and facts. They know that I will not, through distortion of facts, destroy the integrity of such values to gain undue relevance, unnecessary attention and sympathy.
To be sure, I state the facts of matters as they are to the best of my ability, good conscience and the fear of God. It is therefore in this context that I set out to address contending issues in this statement.
Pursuant to my personal convictions and without any fear of contradictions, I have solidly supported the administration of Governor Godwin Obaseki without employing rhetoric but verifiable evidence of actuality in the last three years of his administration. These very modest contributions of solidarity include but not limited to:
1. In 2016, on assumption of office, I met with Governor Godwin Obaseki to discuss several ways of driving foreign investment and ultimately making Edo State an investment hub. Pursuant to this objective, I immediately sponsored the Governor and his team of officials on an investment pathfinder’s trip to China. This was done pursuant to my firm conviction in private sector-led participation as being the key to economic and industrial development of the State.
2. As a show of reinforcement of solidarity for the Governor’s mandate when I was invited to the Edo Convention in Toronto, Canada, I again demonstrated my support for the Governor by my speech where I encouraged everyone to support his administration and also, on that occasion, donated 5 (five) houses worth N50m (Fifty million Naira) to support his housing project located in Benin city towards helping our Edo brothers and sisters in the Diaspora, all in a sustained campaign to share his vision, because I believed in the development template, which he sold to me and this I wholeheartedly accepted.
3. My advocacy to the political class and other critical Edo stakeholders on the need to embrace the virtue of patience with Governor Obaseki as he settled down for governance and infrastructure development remains legendary. This I did with a lot of passion without the least expectation for reward in any form. I was filled with ecstasy that Edo State had a new sheriff in town, an illustrious son, with a private sector background who had stepped in the saddle to pilot our dear State in the direction of development and prosperity. I never knew all these were ILLUSORY.
4. Only very recently, I joined some well-meaning sons and daughters of Edo State to donate generously to the Governor’s COVID-19 relief fund campaign. How more supportive could I have been?
It is instructive to mention that when the Governor requested my daughter to work with his administration, I obliged him even though the little allowance which was only sustained for 5 months and stopped, had to be subsidized from my office and none thereafter. In a bid to reinforce my support for the Governor, I purchased a brand-new Toyota Hilux van to enable her discharge her responsibilities effectively on the project she was assigned. From then on, she has neither earned from Edo State Government nor does she owe the State one kobo to the best of my knowledge.
My dear People of Edo State, the fundamental question, yearning for answer, is: WHAT WRONG DID I COMMIT FOR IDENTIFYING WITH GOVERNOR OBASEKI AND GALVANIZING SUPPORT FOR HIS ADMINISTRATION?
In the course of time, I heard he started having issues with former Governor, Comrade Adams Aliu Oshiomhole and, I was quite worried and vehemently pleaded with him to settle whatever the issues were and embrace the path of peace in the interest of the good people of Edo State. As a stakeholder in the state, I advised on the need to allow wisdom drive his decision-making processes. I emphasized the critical position of leadership he occupies. I further espoused the virtues of patience and sacrifice in public service as I considered these as sine qua non to achieving one’s vision. Following a series of complaints of abandonment by his friends and associates from the political class who knew my relationship with the Governor, I recommended to the Governor to bifurcate between politics and Governance.
I recommended the need to appoint a trusted and experienced politician to bridge the gap and manage his relationship with the political wing of his administration so as to avoid distraction as he faces the onerous task of steering the business of moving the State towards economic and developmental prosperity.
He, however, rejected my proposal and insisted politicians were rogues and would not patronize them or see them in Government House. Governor Obaseki told me without mincing words. He emphasized he would not be moved an inch about their responses or feelings on this particular issue, reiterating he did not need their support either. He told me clearly that he was not interested in pursuing any SECOND TERM agenda.
At a time, I spent almost three hours of my precious time in the Governor’s house, explaining to him the need to build synergy between him and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the then APC National Chairman, in the best interest of the development of our State. He was blunt that he was not interested in any peace talk and that he was embarking on a fight to the finish with Comrade Oshiomhole. Again, to prove that he meant every word of his threat, he sent a mutual friend to me that night when I got home with a warning that I should steer clear from the ensuing fight between him and Comrade Oshiomhole, else, he would inflict severe collateral damage on me. In fact, I was stunned by his message, yet I put a call to him the next morning to confirm the veracity or otherwise of this message delivered to me by our mutual friend. He confirmed it.
It is however interesting, as an aside, to mention that the Deputy Governor Philip Shuaibu, who I have always known as Comrade Adams Oshiomhole’s political son, did not, on his part, help matters. While efforts were on by various personalities for reconciliation, he announced that Comrade Oshiomhole should be arrested by the Police.
Following a series of very disturbing, ugly and unacceptable developments, I decided to hands off the matter. Indeed, I felt I had done all I could possibly to engender a peaceful atmosphere for governance and development of our state.
To God, my Father in Heaven, I am speaking the truth and will have no reason whatsoever to do otherwise. I am blessed beyond measure and expectations to His Glory. My pedigrees remain an integral influence on my conduct and character.
I have always believed in the virtues of Hard-work, Uncommon Service Delivery powered by exceptional personal integrity. These are the values I remain totally and irrevocably committed to. My passion for lifting the quality of lives of our people and developing our environment remains an existential imperative for me.
I am also totally committed to supporting our Traditional and rich Cultural Heritage which is the pride of the average Edo man. For my age, I am stoutly and irrevocably committed to certain intrinsic values that include but not limited to Honesty, Integrity, Peace, Progress and Support for Humanity. “Faith in God gives meaning and purpose to human life. It is also incontrovertible that POWER belongs to only God Almighty and no man will share His glory with HIM.”
Now, to hazard a guess as to why I became a target of unconscionable attacks by agents some of whom have claimed to be working for Edo State Government: it is true that overtures were made to me by well-meaning Nigerians from within and outside Edo State to run for the office of governor in 2020. I made them realise that there are several ways one can be of service to his people, not necessarily by holding public office and that I am satisfied with the business trajectories that I had charted for myself right from the outset and wasn’t interested in the office of the governor.
I believe, on getting this hint, the Governor decided to bare his full fangs, seeking to tear me apart. He did not want me to run for the position; yet he never sat with me at any point in time to solicit for my support and vote for his second term bid. The only time he made a remark about the governorship to me was at a reception in Lagos where he mockingly addressed me as “IN-COMING GOVERNOR”, which I immediately dispelled and told him, like I was telling others, that I wasn’t interested in the office of the governor.
Coincidentally, on that same day that the reception held in Lagos, the story of Nigerian Ports Authority’s move against my company, SAA, was published in THISDAY newspapers. The story insinuated I was interested in the Edo governorship race and numerous reports have come back to me that Obaseki was the one behind all of that.
As God would have it, while in the company of some friends in the governor’s house in Benin, on one occasion, I confronted him that he was the one behind the attack on my company. In a bid to defend himself, he put a call through to someone in Lagos and, perhaps, mistakenly, left the phone speaker on. He asked the person at the other end: “Why is the MD of NPA worrying Captain?” and the man replied: “Godwin, I thought you said this man was fighting you. The MD of NPA is fighting your battle for you.” I quickly told him that I had caught him. On this occasion, I had witnesses and, if further probed, names could be mentioned.
Secondly, Governor Obaseki was the Chair of the National Economic Council’s Ad-Hoc Committee on Oil Theft and Pipeline Vandalism and I got a feeler that a damaging report was going to be written about my company by the Committee. I was then given an opportunity to address the Committee on the matter to defend my company and its job. My defence was excellently delivered, but at the end of the day, when the report came out, it was still damaging even when I had complied with my threshold and responsibilities.
It is sad that Governor Obaseki has been paranoid about me even before he became governor, for reasons best known to him. I have since got to know that the disagreements between Comrade Oshiomhole and myself during his eight-year administration in Edo State were orchestrated from the background by Governor Obaseki who was at the time Chairman of that administration’s Economic and Strategy Team. But with patience, maturity and forgiveness from Oshiomhole and myself, we were able to, once again, rekindle the spirit of brotherhood and trust in our relationship.
So, I keep wondering what Oshiomhole must have done to Governor Obaseki to make it impossible for him to embrace reconciliation such that he would irrevocably commit himself to the project of pulling Oshiomhole down from the top of the very high Mountain Olympus, according to Honourable Patrick Obahiagbon, just because he had state power and resources. As my people would say: “Na wah oh!”
In the face of all these developments, I had maintained a high sense of equanimity, without taking it out on the governor. I stayed out of their politics, and made it publicly known I was not interested in the office of the governor because I knew from the outset that these attacks were, largely, politically-motivated. I guessed there were also shades of envy involved.
Validation: There was an occasion when the Governor wanted to frustrate the President’s visit to inaugurate my greenhouse farm in Benin and I had to reach out to the President directly to please oblige me on this occasion to inaugurate my farm, only for the Governor to call me that the President would not come out of his car. Of course, I knew that was improbable.
However, the movement of the Army Week celebration to Maiduguri was what then made it impossible for the president to come for the inauguration since that was the main assignment that the President was on a visit to Benin to accomplish. That singular act has discouraged me from the expansion programme for my farm coupled with the fact that the Governor had earlier pleaded with me to do a proposal on fish farming, which I directed my junior brother, who runs my farm, to embark on.
Following his successful submission of the proposal, having invested so much hard work, resources and time, he was blocked out after the money was collected from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for its actualization and, as a matter of fact, the project never happened to our greatest surprise. All these and more had discouraged me from further investment in the expansion of my farm and also further investment in Edo because the business environment was now looking a little bit too toxic and harsh for my liking.
When Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu returned to the All Progressives Congress (APC), Governor Obaseki and his men attacked me for facilitating his return to the Party, which came as a surprise to me. Pastor Ize-Iyamu is not unknown to many people as a politician and as a Nigerian; everyone knows he has his constitutional right like everyone else to join any party and legitimately play politics. So why attribute his return to me?
My dear people of Edo State, what have I done wrong to deserve the barrage of invectives being ceaselessly hurled at me by agents of the State Government? Even for the purpose of argument, don’t I have a right to associate with and support a candidate of my choice?
I have built enormous goodwill in Edo State, which money cannot buy. Regardless, I had issued statements severally calling out for them to leave me out of their politics. It is very regrettable and saddening that my name has now been dragged within Edo State political firmament where I have never, ever harbored any personal interest to run for any political position.
I wish to make this save-my-soul appeal to all well-meaning Edo indigenes and Nigerian citizens both at home and in the Diaspora to tell Governor Obaseki to stop these continuous attacks on me, my family and my business. I have been told how they intend to burn my farm and revoke the Certificates of Occupancy of all my houses in Benin City. I have already alerted the Police to this heinous plot. But, what have I done to deserve this bellicose treatment?
My good people of Edo State, I have always wished for a state where we can have a desirable atmosphere to bring about investment opportunities and create employment for our teeming youth population. There is nothing I desire from the State Government other than to create enabling environment for me to bring investments back home, create opportunities for employment and, in the long run, retire peacefully in my old age.
I call on our people to tell Governor Obaseki and his team to leave me alone to exercise my fundamental human rights and, in particular, allow me exercise my freedom of choice without intimidation and blackmail. I am sincerely worried about the desperation and intolerance of the Governor. I am honestly worried that these agents and hirelings may go beyond the limits of their mandate at the risk of my life and that of my family, including the destruction of my personal and corporate investments which have taken me decades to put in place. I have never before experienced this high level of intolerance, wickedness and envy from anybody in my life, until now from a so-called friend and fellow Benin Man.
My dear people of Edo State, I plead with you to save my soul from the hands of the Edo State Government. As it is, I cannot fight any government and even if I can, I am not interested in doing so and, if so pushed, will surely fight within the ambit of the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The Edo government should, therefore, be told to leave me alone. Today, those who are fighting me have the machinery of government to do so on spurious claims that I have been funding all activities of the opposition against the Governor.
My philanthropic gestures, charity works and compassionate heart to bless fellow human beings is not tantamount to misplaced spending. These are humanitarian enterprises to which I have committed my entire life. I am not, in any way, associated with imprudent spending on sponsorship of opposition against the Governor or anybody for that matter. It’s also very sad that they kept hammering on financial sponsorship while underrating my enormous wealth of goodwill, which is far more than money they solely rely on.
Against the backdrop of these scenarios, and regardless of the attacks on me, my admirers and the teeming youths who see me as their role model and Goodwill Ambassador need not be told, as they know where I stand on the critical issue of choice of the next Governor of Edo state in order to move our state forward towards rapid development and economic prosperity.
If, therefore, on the basis of my personal conviction and the exercise of my fundamental rights of association and choice, Governor Obaseki and his team carry through their threat to burn my farm and revoke the Certificates of Occupancy of my houses in Benin, it will be a worthy price to pay for my conviction and the courage of my choice. It is imperative for me to categorically state that if that, indeed, happens, it will only facilitate my resolve to excuse myself from Benin as long as this wickedness remains directed at my person, family and my businesses.
I also believe that our dear state has had a fair share of discriminating treatment in opposition politics as witnessed during the Oshiomhole era. It is therefore important that Edo State reorders its priorities and works in concert with the Federal Government rather than drift, once again, to the oppositional flank.
This press statement, which I have tried to make as detailed as possible, has become necessary in order to present my case to the good people of Edo state to enable them to know what I have been going through in my sincere effort to galvanise support for the Obaseki administration. It is pathetic that our State, under the Obaseki administration, has become a laughing stock, a butt of jokes about violence, disrespect for processes, rule of law and outlandish character assassination being the orders of the day. We must rise to reject these negative profiles.
I am, sincerely, wondering that since the last election and the atmospherics in Bayelsa State, where we had ex- militants, have become more peaceful than what is playing out in Edo state, even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic challenges, there is a need for collective reasoning to embrace peaceful conduct. Human lives are sacred and the governorship ambition of any man-caring and God-fearing candidate should not be more important than the blood of any man or woman. We need peace and harmony in the coming days, months and perhaps years ahead.
It is significant to place on record the fact that I am NOT using this medium to seek for settlement because I have already chosen my path, to wit: to align with the Federal Government of Nigeria, in this circumstance, in order to realise the goal of developing our dear state.
My dear brothers and sisters of Edo State, without a modicum of doubt, I have remained steadfast, resolute and irrevocably committed to the peace, progress and development of our State through various initiatives. I have graciously, to the glory of my Creator, gleefully shared God’s bountiful blessings to my deserving brothers and sisters in the face of the plethora of challenges and hunger that I see on the faces of my fellow citizens who manage to reach out to me.
This has remained my hallmark and imperative with a view to alleviating poverty while also reducing huge dependence on Edo State’s perceived lean resources following ceaseless lamentations about the ingratitude of the State Governor to a large community of those who helped him to power but who he abandoned on assumption of office. My assistance to deserving citizens has been carried out within the limits of God’s compassion and mercy on my life and I have never been noisy about it. Yet, Governor Obaseki seeks to destroy my personal and business interests that I have solidly built in the last thirty-two years when I retired as a certified commercial Pilot at the age of 30 to chart the business trajectory.
My dear good people of Nigeria and Edo state, in particular, IN CONCLUSION: if I could suffer all this injustice for no just cause, so you can imagine how many innocent citizens of Edo State that Godwin Obaseki and his agents would have been STANDING ON THEIR NECKS THAT CAN’T BREATHE.
God bless you all.
Long live my good people of Edo State!
Long live Edo State!
Long the live the Federal Republic of Nigeria
OBA GHA TO KPERE! ISEE.
Captain (Dr) Idahosa Wells Okunbo (JP)