By John Mayaki
During the yuletide, when the general public, myself included, was displaying love in the spirit of the season, I watched, among others, Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo state and his Deputy, Comrade Philip Shaibu manifest the love of Christmas at an IDP camp in Edo State. These fine gentlemen were in the company of their wives – Mrs. Betsy Obaseki and Mrs. Maryann Shaibu – celebrating with those who have been dealt a cruel hand by the unrest in the Northern part of the country.
I was quite unaware that while the Governor and his deputy were applauded by all and sundry, both locally and internationally, one fellow – Nosa Omorodion – an unrepentant anti-progressive, as a quick background check would suggest, went to town expressing horrifying ideals.
In a scathing article inspired chiefly by sentiment and overwhelmed with mordancy, Omorodion conveyed what he posed as priceless advice to the Government of Edo State. Apparently, he took exception to the governor’s fete with Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), with special grievance directed towards the Santa Claus outfit donned by the governor to share gifts to the people.
In a few contradicting paragraphs, he unsuccessfully berated Governor Obaseki and the federal government, and all but snatched gifts out of the hands of the IDPs residing in Edo state. He received instant negative feedback from the social media. One person said; “Nosa Omorodion has run amok again!” Another conservative opined that; “Nosa thinks we all must wake from the same corner of the bed.”
This leftist’s nebulous article was titled “Governor Obaseki’s Father Christmas Posture: What Gifts for Edo People?”, and for over 72 hours, it could generate naught but two likes; possibly from himself and a co-traveller. However, while no one commented on the forgettable post, I find it my social responsibility to do so for two reasons.
First, to swiftly correct his erroneous impression and secondly, to sound a note of warning to his ilk that Edo people elected Obaseki to work for them, so no attempt should be made to blackmail him with warped thinking. Such a person who does that will become a cog in the wheel of progress.
Christmas is truly a time when not just a state, but the Christian world celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. These celebrations are characterised by acts of kindness, giving gifts to loved ones and the needy, and bringing cheer and happiness to others in society.
Omorodion was therefore ill-advised and completely out of kilter to suggest that the Governor’s memorable gesture to the IDPs was solely to delight ‘Northern gods’ in order to be favoured in the governorship election dispute at the Tribunal.
Omorodion must be forgiven, even though he is not penitent, for his cavalier attempt to force religious bigotry on the tolerant people of Edo State. His article reveals a mind warped by doctrinal prejudice. Acts of kindness should be extended to any human being, irrespective of their tribe, religion or ethnicity.
If he had not been malignantly biased in his analysis of Governor Obaseki’s Christmas celebration, he would have realised that the major aim of the gesture was to call for support in catering for the welfare of the IDPs. The Governor did not travel to the North, but he reached out to the people in Edo State.
True Christian tradition demands that you love your neighbour as yourself. Who is Omorodion’s neighbour?
The camp in question is in Edo State under the care of Edo State Government. Even in advanced societies, where there are refugees, the government provides shelter, food, healthcare and education for them. They eschew discrimination. But our churlish Omorodion urges the Governor to leave them to their fate because they are Muslims – an unsubstantiated allegation.
His argument is that: “Should the children’s food, according to Christ in whose memory Christmas is celebrated and who majority of the IDPs have been trained not to tolerate, be given to strangers?”
However, when you see him – I mean Nosa Omorodion, ask him – Are the children in question not Nigerians, our own people? How about being our neighbour’s keeper according to the Holy Bible?
Again, listen to him: “Can one blame any Edo person that takes offence at this gross display of ironic magnanimity? Should Obaseki with his wife from another place like Oshiomhole and his foreign wife Iara, seek to adopt foreign children while neglecting those to whom they owe irrevocable obligation? Must the children’s bread be given to dogs?”
It was at this juncture that my heart sank. I wondered if Omorodion was a human being, and if so, from what planet? What is ironic magnanimity in reaching out to the most vulnerable in our midst?
Who are the foreign children – Nigerians who are displaced by Boko-haram? Presently, it occurred to me that Omorodion requires sympathy, for his mind-set is warped, imprisoned and in need of liberation.
Contrary to Omorodion’s insinuations, humane governments and citizens alike encourage acts of kindness and reach out to the needy. They are not dictated to by a few disgruntled individuals harbouring sinister motives.
Undoubtedly, it is the responsibility of the government to make life easier for her citizens through the implementation of good policies and programs, and the provision of an enabling environment for them to thrive.
This cynic fully appreciates this is done by execution of budget policies, but he deliberately set out to misinform the people like he is unaware of the Edo State Government’s 2017 Budget?
If Governor Obaseki had pronounced subsidized or free services in the health, transportation and educational sectors, Omorodion’s bellicose ilk would have again fired salvos at him.
Running a government is not a sweet shop, where Omorodion can turn up to help himself to anything. It is serious business and requires careful planning and implementation of policies and Governor Obaseki is fully on the ball.
Christmas season is that time of the year when citizens of a state look forward to the state government giving out gifts by way of decisions, pronouncements or acts that bring economic succour to some groups of people, if not all.
It is a time when state governments invite their own children to Christmas parties and take substantial gifts to orphanage homes run by their people and for abandoned children. It is that time of the year when, in the spirit of fraternal celebration, humane governments seek to make life easier for their people by rendering subsidised or free services in the health, transportation and the educational sectors.
However, I must be pardoned as I admit that I don’t know Omorodion’s background and level of exposure. So I am a little taken aback by his understanding of the cash squeeze. Nigeria is in a recession and in countries where recession occur, there are bound to be cash squeezes.
Besides, with the fall of crude oil prices and the economic sabotage of Nigeria’s critical oil installations and other infrastructure, why won’t there be cash squeeze? Where would President Muhammadu Buhari find the money from and where will Obaseki?
That Edo people are hopeful and confident that Obaseki will deliver for them is not disputed. That Edo people made the right choice electing Obaseki is also not in dispute. That Obaseki has what it takes to build the Edo of our dreams is also not in doubt.
Since Obaseki’s November 14, Edo people have seen the pronouncements and policy direction of his government. From the stock take, to the Edo Strategy Dialogue and the 2017 Budget presentation to Edo State House of Assembly, the direction of Obaseki’s vision couldn’t be more clear-cut.
So when this mischief-maker suggested that the Obaseki does not seem to have a clear-cut direction in fulfilling the yearnings of the people, one wonders what he has been reading. To vent that a government – especially one of ‘continuity’ – that is sincere, pragmatic, methodical and less than two months old is directionless is nothing but sinister, mischievous, and outrightly wicked.
Omorodion is expected to be patriotic and lend his support to the government or at least be constructive, but that’s not the case. I am convinced his only aim is to make sure Obaseki fails. But Edo is bigger than any individual or group. The interest of Edo far outweighs any other competing interests, political or otherwise and as a people, we will stand by Obaseki to succeed because when Obaseki succeeds, Edo succeeds.
Should Omorodion pick up his wanton pen to write and re-invent the divide along religious lines in order to set us against ourselves, and against our brothers and sisters, I am sure we would have taught him that ethnic or religious bigots cannot divide us.
We are Edo people, we are Nigerians and we are tolerant of our diversity in religion and ethnicity. We are hospitable and we care for our neighbours. We care about what happens around us, we are humane and will not take offence for acts of kindness designed to bring succour to the less-privileged and vulnerable amongst us – irrespective of where they come from. Most importantly, we would have taught him that we are fully behind Obaseki to build the New Edo of our dream.
John Mayaki is Chief Press Secretary (Interim) to Edo State Governor