By Francis Ulinfun
Former Governor of Edo State, Professor Oserhiemen Osunbor, in a two page in terview published at pages 46 and 47 of
Vanguard edition of Monday, June 8, 2015, deliberately and maliciously revisited a political past that should have been better forgotten when he spoke on the so-called money quar- rel between him and former Chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Anthony Anenih.
But since Osunbor had decided to dance na- ked by his unsavoury narrative, it is only proper to recall and put the event that happened in 2007 in context so that Edo people in particular and Nigerians in general who may be interested in the issue would not be deceived by the one sided story told by a man who is still in pains over how he allowed power to slip through his fingers as governor. Contrary to the impression he may have created in some quarters that Anenih was instrumental to his loss of the governorship seat his misfortune was deservedly self inflicted.
It is therefore uncharitable for Osunbor to demonize Anenih as unforgiving. A vast majority of Nigerians who have benefited from Anenih’s large-heartedness and political mentorship would readily describe Osunbor’s characterisation as inappropriate. The historical fact that Anenih mentored Osunbor in politics is an eloquent testimony to my assertion: while not maintaining that Anenih is not easily offended by the disloyalty of his followers and associates, I must state without any fear of contradiction that he has on so many occasions welcomed home some of his prodigal follow- ers and associates who have shown penitence and promised to be of good behaviour in their political relationship with him.
I shuddered when I read Osunbor’s claim that he had gone to Anenih on countless number of times to beg for forgiveness. If that claim is true, then it may be that he (Osunbor) is yet to sincerely beg for forgiveness. Assuming he was truly desirous of being forgiven, his action of going to press to rake up issues that should have been allowed to reside in the past clearly does not show that he was sincere about his plea for forgiveness from a man that God used to give him (Osunbor) political visibility in Edo state and Nigeria.
To be precise, Osunbor was a Professor of Law at the Lagos State University (LASU) from where Anenih (who did not even know him from Adam nor did he know his first name), acting on a recommendation by some associates, got the powers that be to nominate him into the 1994/95 Constitutional Conference. Strengthened by his belief that Osunbor did well at the Conference, Anenih decided to procure the nomination form for him to contest election to represent Edo Central Senatorial District from 1999-2003. Anenih funded the entireelectioneering. Heal so ensured that he was returned unopposed for a second term in the Senate from 2003 to 2007.
Strapped Osunbor was offered the gubernatorial ticket in 2007. It was Anenih, after the most popular aspirant Odion Ugbesia had been prevailed upon to withdraw from the race, who directed his delegates to cast their votes during the December 9, 2006 governorship primaries for Osunbor at the expense of Professor Julius Ihonvbere, who was next to Ugbesia and more popular than Osunbor. That was how with the solid support of Anenih, he emerged as the PDP gubernatorial candidate
and went ahead to win the 2007 governorship election.
No sooner did he become governor than he began to challenge Anenih for control of the PDP structure in the State. He resorted to bit- ing the finger that fed him. Perhaps, unknown to him, Anenih was not new to political treach- ery, confrontations, disloyalty and accusation of being high-handed by some of his followers. With God on Anenih’s side, the plot by Osunbor to use his office as governor to humiliate him did not succeed. Osunbor’s action was indeed shocking to many of us who were watching the development then. That Osunbor could allow some forces within the party to incite him against his mentor a man who almost single-handed helped him into political prominence was awfully painful.
This brings to the fore the so called money quarrel, which he said, existed between him and Anenih. Some leaders who were privy to the funding of the election campaign that produced Osunbor as governor have clarified that Anenih had already spent over N500 million before he sought for a bank loan when the campaign ran out of funds. According to one of them, Anenih had in company with Osunbor met with the bank officials in his Uromi country home where he requested for N300 million loan; but the bank could only give N200 million in addition to another N10 million which the bank donated to the campaign. Anenih provided the Certificate of Occupancy of one of his property as collateral, which the bank took possession of before granting the loan. The campaign at the end overdrew the loan by additional N6 million. Osunbor was said to have paid back the loan while in office.
The claim by Osunbor that funds were sent to state branches of the PDP to finance campaigns in the run-up to the April 14, 2007 governorship election did not indicate that these funds were supplementary or auxiliary and,
therefore, not enough to take care of the entire campaign. Consequently, Osunbor’s assertion that “I didn’t see any N200 million that Anenih contributed to finance my election; but I am aware that he contributed N100 million to the PDP in Edo State and, as governor, I ensured that money was paid to him,” is dubious and self-indicting if, indeed, Anenih facilitated and secured the N200 million-loan with his connection and property as collateral. Is Osunbor claiming that he does not remember his meet- ing in Anenih’s Uromi country home with the bank officials where the deal was perfected?
Osunbor’s ranting against Anenih is, to say the least, very despicable and reprehensible. His people of Iruekpen, Esan West Local Government and, indeed, the entire Esanland, must take a strong exception to the ranting of their son against his benefactor (Anenih). Osunbor should be advised to be mindful of his public utterances and the falsities he wilfully peddles because such falsities might do him more harm than good. He should be warned that attack- ing and casting vain aspersions on Anenih is the most unwise and therefore non-productive way of relaunching his hitherto slumbering political career.
Besides, Osunbor should remember that he might one day go back to Esan and Edo people for support for any possible political ambition like 2016 governorship, which he is, without disguise, nursing. He should then not be sur- prised that he will find those fingers that once voted for him to have been either blunted or bitten off by his unalloyed disloyalty to some of his leaders and many of his followers while he was governor of Edo State.
In fact, Osunbor turned his back on his friends, followers and leaders while in office. He surrounded himself with a coterie of praise singers and hypocrites who did not have the capacity, influence or the wherewithal to in- tervene for him when he desperately needed
assistance. It was therefore not surprising that he lost the legal battle he faced at the Election Tribunal in spite of the fact that he is a Professor of Law.
He did not get his acts right and he apparently misplaced his priorities by concentrating on needless plots to bring down Anenih.
He understandably and explicably lost focus and with the loss of focus, it was not surprising that he was not able to fight with a single minded purpose for the validation of his governorship election “mandate” both at the Election Petition Tribunal and at the Court of Appeal. I expect that Osunbor should have by now learnt his lesson and try to avoid the mistakes of the past rather than celebrating them and trying to blame Anenih for his gubernatorial misfortune.