“He who comes into equity, must come with clean hands!”
The maxim above best suits the current development in Edo State where the two major political parties, ACN and PDP, slugging it out for the gubernatorial slot in the state have taken their campaigns to the doorsteps of the people.
The worrying part of the campaigns, however, is that while one of the parties, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has taken photographs of projects the Government has done in three years as evidence for the people to re-elect the Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, for want of evidence of performance in ten years in the state when Chief Lucky Igbinedion and Prof Oserheimen Osunbor were Governors, has also resorted to another form of campaign: campaign of calumny.
They also have photos of a project, not projects they failed to do while in government, but the project of a house allegedly being built by the sitting Governor. The purpose of taking photos of the building and splashing it on the pages of newspapers and the internet is to cause disaffection against the Governor by voters in the state.
But like the quotation above, he who comes into equity must come with clean hands. While the ostrich buries its head in the sand, believing that with its head buried, the hunter can’t see it, it forgot that its rear is still visible for all to see.
In a press statement, the PDP Chairman, Mr. Dan Orbih said: “When I saw the pictures of the buildings, the first thing that came to my mind was the image of Mobutu Sese Seko.
“Here we are, Oshiomhole has a very beautiful house by all standards; three years in government, he is erecting something running into billions. What a comrade. Having said that, I want to bring it to the attention of this body that the monies Oshiomhole has received so far from the Federal Government, no government before him had ever received it. On top of that, the Internally Generated Revenue of the state has risen to over N2 billion. That is not the issue; the issue is that in spite of this money that is coming to the coffers of the government, Oshiomhole has continued to borrow money, both internally and externally.
“It is no longer news that there is fraud in Edo State; it is no longer news that monies meant for the development of the local government are being siphoned by this government.” (Source: Compassnewspaper.org)
However, while the PDP is trying to paint Oshiomhole black, it forgot that a citizen took its candidate, Maj-Gen Charles Airhiavbere, to court over alleged mismanagement of soldiers’ monies, as I quote from other online sources: “A leading governorship aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party in Edo State, retired General Charles Ehigie Airhiavbere, has been dragged before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over allegations of fraud.
“Airhiavbere, a former Army Director of Finance and Administration, was dragged before the EFCC by a human rights activist for allegedly embezzling part of the entitlements of the 27 soldiers that were initially jailed for life for mutiny but had the sentences commuted to discharge from service.
“The soldiers, including four women, protested the failure of the Nigerian Army to pay them their full entitlements for their tour of duty in Liberia between 2007 and 2008.
“According to the human rights activist who dragged Airhiavbere before the EFCC, Shehu Omar Mohammed, the anti-graft agency should investigate allegations that the governorship aspirant knows about the missing money that should have been for the payment of the now discharged soldiers.
“Mohammed, in the petition dated February 7, 2012, said in part: “Their (27 soldiers who returned from Liberia without full entitlements) allowances were diverted by some senior military officers who set them up, got them dismissed and tried for mutiny. Whereas, their offences was because they had the effrontery to ask for their well-deserved dues.”
“Mohammed said owing to the alleged involvement of Airhiavbere in the partial payment of the soldiers, the Nigerian Army hierarchy had to let him go, adding that the general was not properly disengaged from service.
He said: “He was for the acts he committed arrested, detained and eventually sent to Kuru as instructor by General (Azubuike) Ihejieruka.”
Mohammed added: “It is on record that every soldier on the Liberia assignment was due to $1,000 per month.
“They got $600 per month.
“As the Army Director of Finance and Administration (ADAFA), he could not account for $400 per soldier per month.
“Rather, he sacrificed the career and put the family of the 27 soldiers on the line for his own selfish reasons.
“As at July 2011, he was said to have over N5 billion in his private account.”
The 27 soldiers, in making known their grievances after returning from the tour of duty to Liberia in 2008, barricaded the busy Lagos-Ibadan-Abuja highway.
“Chairman of the court martial, Brigadier-General Ishaya Bauka, said in sentencing the soldiers to life imprisonment: “From the evidence before us, the court has been convinced that they committed mutiny by protesting against the order of the commanding officer.”
But their counsel, Femi Falana, appealed against the sentences.
Before then, the Army court had convicted four army officers and a soldier of stealing $68,541 from Nigerian troops returning from the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Liberia.
The court had ordered that the convicted officers be demoted after they were found guilty of diverting the funds meant for peacekeeping troops to another military unit.
The officers, including a deputy director of finance at army headquarters, paid the soldiers less than the $5,040 each approved by the United Nations, sparking the violent protest.
Those convicted were a serving Commanding Officer of the 72 Army Battalion, Markurdi, Colonel A.A. Awotoye; Lieutenant Colonel Paul Baba; Major A.K. Shonva; Major C.H. Chajoku; and Sergeant Yahaya Umar.
They were convicted for conspiracy and stealing, contrary to the Armed Forces Act.
Mohammed said that as the person at the helms of affairs in the Finance and Administration Department of the Nigerian Army at the time, Airhiavbere cannot claim not to know what went on in his department.” (Source: http://www.theeagleonline.com.ng)
From the two sources quoted above, it is clear that the PDP has more to be worried about, especially now that we are in a season of probes. The furore generated over the pensions probe is yet to die down, and if it extends to Army pensions, then its candidate, Airhiavbere might not be exonerated.
A party which picked a candidate who has such a stain on his garment and has such a lawsuit hanging on his head cannot be trusted and cannot now claim to be so angelic. A party which produced Lucky Igbinedion who misruled, plundered, convicted of looting the State’s treasury and set the state almost a 100 years backward cannot today claim to be the party to trust.
What the PDP hopes to do, having seen that it has nothing to showcase is drag everybody in the mud. Attempts by that party to paint Oshiomhole black will certainly do little to sway the votes of the electorate in it’s favour against the ACN.
What I find so amusing is the way the PDP is trying to generate heat over a house it says the Governor is erecting in his village. Who says it is against the law for the governor to build a house in his village or in any other part of the country he chooses or he so desires? Which law forbids the Governor from building a house?
The only extant law is for the Governor to declare his assets before and after leaving office and if he builds a house or acquires any property for that matter, he answers to the Code of Conduct Bureau, not the PDP.
In any case, what is wrong with a Governor building, expanding or renovating an existing structure? Lesser mortals have structures far bigger and larger than the one the PDP is going to town screaming blue murder about.
What the PDP does not know is that as Governor, Comrade Oshiomhole is a high ranking public figure who plays host to high profile guests, including the President, Ministers, Senators, House of Representatives members, Governors and indeed other eminent Nigerians. Indeed, he has hosted Mr President, Goodluck Jonathan, the Speaker House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, Ministers, several Governors and diplomats, high ranking military officers at his Iyamho residence.
It is a matter of fact that the Governor’s village, Iyamho, does not have a single hotel to cater for these high profile guests while the house which he is currently renovating is a mere 4-bedroom duplex, which he built over twenty years ago, believe me, is not even fit enough as guest houses for Aide de Camps (ADC) of some Governors. Is that where a state Governor should play host to high profile dignitaries?
What the PDP believes is everyone has such a corrupt mind like the “unLucky” man they foisted on the state in eight years whose only purpose in government was to loot the state’s treasury.
From what the people of the state have seen, Oshiomhole’s single purpose is to drive the state into the comity of leading states in the country, and this purpose will not be truncated by a house which he builds or fails to build. In fact, Edo people are willing and ready to build houses for him across the state if he continues in his avowed commitment to develop the state as he is doing.
I’m particularly amused that while Oshiomhole has no other private residence in Benin City, or any other part of the state for that matter, except Iyamho, his PDP opponent, Charles Airhiavbere has a palatial mansion in the heart of GRA, Benin City complete with swimming pool, water fountain and other state-of-the-art amenities. He built the mansion while still in the Army, one wonders where he got the funds to build the structure. He has however refused to identify with people of his Agbodo village as he did not build even a hut in the village, which is one of the reasons given by the villagers when they issued a press statement rejecting him.
It is very laughable that when the PDP should be in the fields campaigning and presenting their manifesto to the people on the better programmes which they hope to offer the state, they are busy clinging to straws with the hope that the voters will be hoodwinked with fallacies and phantasms. A N10bn mansion! It boggles my mind how the PDP came up with that figure. With N10bn, Oshiomhole will turn Iyamoh into a little London, not the carcasses that was shown online and advertised in the newspapers.
It is gratifying that even from what was published, the PDP, innocuously admitted that Oshiomhole has nothing to hide as they admitted that the house is erected along the Auchi-Okene highway where it is in public view, not hidden away. So if there is really a N10bn project or palatial mansion there as they alleged, the whole world would have seen it.
What the Edo electorate expect the PDP to do is put its acts together, wash its candidate clean of the allegations hanging on his head and stop wasting its time taking carcasses of an uncompleted building.
Samuel Eguaikhide, a university don writes from Ekpoma, Edo State
To be continued