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…Threatens billions of naira worth of investments for state devt

As the Edo state governorship campaigns take prominence in the country’s political landscape, public watchers say it should be devoid of blasphemy, virulent attacks on investors in the state economy   

Because state and national elections are periodical and strong states are determined by their economic prowess, it is therefore always advised that political public officials be more interested in entrenching or building stable and vibrant economies than they play politics.

For political economists, promoting entrepreneurship, jobs creation, sustained growth, local and foreign direct investment and ensuring protection for operators of such economic establishments in a state are considered key in the guarantee of economic growth in every state. 

The difference in rates of growth is often attributed to two factors: government and entrepreneurship. As rightly noted by Britannica, the two are mutually exclusive.

Borrowed from that, it is then apt to state the obvious – the role of the government is to provide incentive, favourable environment for entrepreneurship to take hold rather than make the state hostile to economic investors on the premise of political campaigns and search for power. 

Those who understand these intricacies are aware that such actions of state actors are highly discouraging to potential investors; and even hinder development. Edo state is one of the states with the least number of private sector presence, a situation many say should force the current Governor Godwin Obaseki to streamline the baselines between politics and business by embrace private sector investors in the state, led by a renowned business mogul, Captain (Dr) Idahosa Wells Okunbo and other investors.

But instead of towing that part, Obaseki is seen vilifying the entrepreneur and philanthropist of international repute to the dismay of many, both home and abroad. Capt. Okunbor, an entrained friend of the sitting governor is now perceived as enemy of the state because of his usual fraternity with all and sundry – both in public and private sector operators; regardless of party affiliations. And that is the best character of every wise business investor. 

Not a few would say the ongoing campaigns must not be allowed to impede the economic potentials of the state.   

The ongoing onslaught against Okunbo and his businesses aswell as other investors is largely seen as trying to paint his person with a brush of public odium that verges on mischief, despite his very sincere, robust and commitment to support the anticipated pace of infrastructure development, progress and other social investment initiatives in Edo state through the deployment of his modest goodwill and network of capital.

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Recall recently, in a public notice, in what Okunbo called “save-my-soul appeal” to all well-meaning Edo indigenes and Nigerian citizens both at home and in the Diaspora, Okunbo practically begged governor Obaseki to stop “these continuous attacks on me, my family and my business.”

“I said he has been told how the governor and his machineries intend to burn his farm and revoke the Certificates of Occupancy of all his houses in Benin City. “But, what have I done to deserve this bellicose treatment?”

Pursuant to his personal convictions and without any fear of contradictions, Capt. Okunbo had solidly supported the administration of Governor Godwin Obaseki without employing rhetoric but verifiable evidence of actuality in the last three years of his administration.

“I 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,” the business mogul had expressed concern in a statewide media briefing.

Public affairs analyst, Niyi Efosa said Governor Obaseki has unjustly decided to put the heat on the business mogul, using his connections within the Nigerian governors’ forum to attack Capt. Hosa and his business interests. 

The downside of the ongoing campaign against Capt. Hosa and businesses establishments has the potentials of reducing state revenues – considering the human and economic contributions of his companies to the state economy.

Those who have been following the thread since Obaseki jumpsuit – from APC to PDP will tell you that the ultimate goal is to block him at every turn, whittle down his economic strength, thereby and cutting down the potential threat his popularly has for Obaseki and his desperate ambition to be re-elected. 

Capt. Hosa has large followership across the state and beyond. His businesses crisscross major sectors of the economy. His large heart of philantropism and job creating capacity has endeared him into the hearts of most Edolites. 

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He been around doing genuine businesses and making solid investments for more than three decades now. It is therefore not possible to neutralize or even waste him by one or two masterstrokes orchestrated by some persons in Edo State government.

Obviously, those who want the obliterate Capt. Hosa’s economic clout and undermine his contribution to the state and national economy are indeed, aiming at his jugular. 

For instance, those who hold such view are quick to point to the fact that recent move by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to issue a marine notice to mariners and ship owners in respect of the Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) where ship berth and are protected from pirates attacks in the Lagos port, which is jointly operated by the Nigerian Navy and Ocean Marine Solution (OMS), was said to have been instigated by Obaseki with the support of a Northwest governor who has a lot of influence on the Managing Director of the NPA.

“That was Obaseki trying to put his leg on Capt. Hosa’s neck, but the neck would appear too big for his ‘kwashiorkor’ leg,” Sylvanus Isa, a public affairs commentator wrote in his openion on the cold war between the current governor and his perceived political adversaries.

Mr. Obaseki reportedly wrote a damning report against Capt Hosa’s interest as chair of the Ad-Hoc Committee on Oil Theft and Pipeline Vandalism set up by the National Economic Council (NEC). 

The OMS provides security protection for the pipelines in parts of the oil-rich Delta region, specifically in Escravos and Forcados, among others. Not even the robust defence presented to the Committee, as reported by Capt. Hosa himself, did anything to avert the damning report, even though the OMS chair had complied with his threshold and responsibilities.

Don’t forget that on his resumption of office in 2016, Capt. Okunbo immediately sponsored the Governor and his team of officials on an investment pathfinder’s trip to China. This was done pursuant to his firm conviction in private sector-led participation as being the key to economic and industrial development of the State.

Riding on his goodwill across board and the respect he enjoys among power brokers in the state, Capt. Okunbo personally appealed 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. 

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This he did with a lot of passion without the least expectation for reward in any form. Okunbo confessed publicly that he 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.

If you ask Taiwo Akerele who is the project director, Incentive Based program, For North Eastern Nigeria, he will tell you that Capt. Okunbo’s enterprenurship spirit is not only demonstrated in his capacity to turn Breton woods agreements into reality via actually establishing industries with attendant job opportunities created for young persons, but his demonstration of genuine love for his people is altruistic.

Akerele who was the last chief of staff to Governor Obaseki that mysteriously resigned from Obaseki’s Government, could have forsaw these crisis and wanted no part of stranguling the business development of the state.

Interestingly, evidence abound that Capt. Okunbo who is erroneously seen now by Obaseki and his team as the battle axe of the political camp opposed to the incumbent in the APC, has actually made enormous contributions to peace, progress and visible development of the economy of the state. 

It is not that Capt. Hosa was or is a member of the APC.  His influence simply cuts across all the parties.  He enjoys statewide approbation. Had he decided to accept overtures to him to offer himself for the ticket of the APC, he would have been the consensus candidate of not only the APC, but also of may if not all of the parties.

Moreover, to avoid sentiment and escape been ‘Okunbocentric’, one would assume the challenges lingering  in the petroleum industry which scrambles for investors (hindered by unfavorable policies and business environment), will be a case study that should not be replicated in Edo state which quest to grow its revenue base and businesses by prospective investors are key.


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