BY TAIWO FAROTIMI
Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State must be wondering what step of hid would receive commendation from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the state. Following the recent outbreak of fire at the Spare parts Market in Benin he had promptly visited the scene and raised a panel to investigate and proffer ways of preventing a re-occurrence. Not only that, the governor also pledged to assist the traders in ameliorating their losses. If he did not expect the PDP to congratulate him for his actions, he perhaps did not expect the opposition to criticize the steps he took. But the PDP did not only fault the steps he had taken, the party is also demanding an apology from the governor for certain infractions it alleged the government is guilty of.
Rather than commend Obaseki, the PDP took a swipe at the governor, whose approach to governance it described as ‘sluggish’.
In a statement signed by Chris Nehikhare, publicity secretary of the party in the state, the PDP states, “Instead of just setting up a committee to probe the cause of the fire, which in itself is misplaced, we suggest Governor Obaseki should also apologise to the traders in Uwelu market for his sluggish approach in revamping and reorganizing a fire service worthy in name.” the opposition also admonished the governor to channel his energy and state resources at making the state a better environment for the people than to engage in ‘superiority’ war with his godfather, former governor Adams Oshiomhole. According to the party, the practice of neglecting governance, by providing infrastructure and other things, while giving more attention to political row is not ‘Politically Bailable!’ Meanwhile, the governor and his godfather appear to have started a process towards resolving the crisis between them. Meetings are said to have been held in Abuja and Edo State country home of Oshiomhole, who is also the national chairman of the APC where the tow of them even denied that a conflict ever existed. However, prior to the statement by the PDP there was the belief that the effort by the governor was quick and appropriate.
The opposition party is not encouraged by steps taken so far by the governor, as it sees them as the usual ‘misplaced priorities’ displaced by the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC in the last 12 years in office.
The source of the fire, which caused damages running into millions of naira in cash and stocks, was not immediately known. Traders are surprised that the security men could not immediately call for help before the fire went out of hand. This has raised suspicion that they probably were not at their duty post, as expected. The suspicion arose because traders said there have been no electricity supply to the market, and so the fire could not have been due to power surge. So why would anyone suspect dereliction of duty on the part of the security men? Osaretin Augustine, chairman, Motor Dealers Association at the Uwelu market said curiously that he was alerted by an anonymous caller, but when he called the security man who was supposed to be on duty, but the fellow denied that there was a fire incident. Rather, he was said to have told Augustine that it must be smoke from some nearby location where someone must have been burning something. But he raised for the market all the same. The chairman regretted that the situation would have been saved had the state fire service responded to distress call, even after he had enlisted the support of an on-air personality in the state. When it was apparent that the state fire service was not going to be of any help, the traders ran to the University of Benin, which responded promptly and was also assisted by the military fire unit. He told newsmen that but for the efforts of the university fire service and the military ‘the whole market would have been razed.’ Augustine pleaded with the government to assist traders, adding ‘Most of us took loans from micro-finance banks and we pay daily to them.’ He fears that they may not be able to even pay interest on the loans, let alone the principal sum.