LAGOS – In spite of his public statement that he has no anointed candidate in the forthcoming governorship election in Edo state, some political actors in the state have continued to drag the name of Captain Idahosa Wells Okunbo, businessman and philanthropist into the political crisis rocking the state, thereby tarnishing his hard earned image and reputation.
First, towards the end of 2019, rumours were rife that Okunbo was planning to contest the governorship election in 2020 under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). However, his associates denied the rumours saying that while Okunbo takes the development of the state as one of his priorities, he has however never muted the idea to contest for the governorship of the state.
Also speaking, Okunbo said his major preoccupation is on how to manage his growing business interest across the globe and not the issue of governorship. He however said is willing and ready to always contribute his quota to the development of the state anytime he is called upon, without necessarily being political.
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In May 2020, Okunbo also dissociated himself from the pre-primary meeting of the APC held in Benin City to discuss the possibility of producing a consensus candidate to face Governor Godwin Obaseki at the primary. Though the meeting was disrupted by thugs who stormed the venue, Hon. Sebastian Okungbowa, a staunch loyalist of Dr Odubu, one of the aspirants, had alleged that Okunbo, APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole and other leaders were plotting to manipulate the process in favour of Ize-Iyamu.
Okunbo who strongly dissociated himself from Okungbowa’s claim , said that he never promised to fund any governorship candidate in Edo State. He said the rumours that he and other APC leaders were teaming up to endorse Ize-Iyamu because APC needs an aspirant who has big sponsors to win election and defeat Obaseki is false.
Rather than abate, vicious attacks against Okunbo has been on the rise as the election draws nearer. Following the disqualification of Governor Obaseki from participating at the primaries by the Prof. Jonathan Ayuba-led APC screening committee, some politicians in the state, alleged to be working for the state government have continued to link Okunbo with political crisis in the state.
One of them was one Hon. Marvelous Zibiri, said to be aide of the Edo deputy governor, Phillip Shaibu, who last week, described the highly respected and unassuming businessman as a ‘drug baron,’ in reference to an encounter Okunbo had with the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in 1995 and for which he was subsequently exonerated by a competent court of law.
Aside Zibiri, some other politicians in the state also made disparaging remarks about Okunbo, alleging that he is actively involved in the political crisis in the state.
Okunbo in a statement made available to newsmen in Benin on Sunday, captioned: “Enough Of This Nonsense,” said he had through his legal team, written to the Inspector- General of Police, about the activities of Zibiri. According to him, the said Zibiri attempted to denigrate his name through malicious and libelous publications, “ under the guise of playing politics in Edo.’’
Okunbo said that the said Zibiri, is a serving aide of a high political office holder in Edo. He said that he was referred to as a `drug baron’ in the said publication, adding that the outcome of a 1995 suit proved otherwise.
Throwing more light on what transpired between him and the NDLEA in 1995 during the era of General Musa Bamaiyi as the Director-General, Okunbo said a petition was written to the anti-drug agency querying how he came about his wealth and acquisition of choice properties and the he immediately instituted a legal action against the NDLEA.
In his response, when the case with charge No: MOT/L/163/95 was brought before the Miscellaneous Offences Tribunal, Lagos, where it was established that the prosecution had not made any prima facie case against him that would warrant him to even defend himself, he was discharged and acquitted of all charges on a ‘no case’ submission
“Proceedings of this case with the suit No: MOT/L/163/95 which was documented and accessible to the public.It is this unfortunate incident of 1995 that my detractors and vicious character assassins have continuously drummed up to tarnish my character, to score cheap political points and for other devious reasons whenever it suits them.
“I have never been interrogated nor charged, much less convicted for any drug or drug-related issue anywhere in the world. Thus, Mr Zibiri’s reference to me as a ‘drug baron’ is the height of malice and mischief. Much as they had tried to splash mud in my corner, including some of my businesses, I have not ceased to receive letters of commendations from our partners, who not only appreciate our efforts at adding value and improving the overall good, but urging us to do more”.
However, many respectable and well-meaning Edo State indigenes have come out to vent their anger against those orchestrating attacks on Okunbo.
Assistant Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State, Mrs. Bisi Idaomi, assured the philanthropist that the people of the state would take up his fight if those behind the blackmail do not desist from peddling further falsehoods against his person.
Idaomi said, “Here is a man, who does more for our people, leaders, students, women from Edo extraction than those in the present Edo State government – sending one of your aides to insult and peddle falsehoods about our son will be resisted by the ordinary Edo man and woman within the ambit of the law. This is a firm promise.”
Hon. Samson Osagie, a former House of Representatives member said Okunbo is as an inestimable asset in Edo’s socio-cultural and economic framework, saying, “Those whose official duty is to malign and pull down others usually don’t go far in life. We must continue to extol our own frontline generals in business, politics and administration and in all facets of human endeavours.
“For those with power today, remember there is nothing permanent in life, not even our positions today. We stand with Captain Hosa at this moment of the ineffectual attempt of some carpet beggars and unfriendly people to undermine his humanity,” he said.
A lawyer and Apostle of Edo renaissance, Daniel Osa-Ogbegie, said, “If one is sent an errand of a slave, one should carry it out as a child (a freeborn).” He meant that they were doing the wrong thing and should not just do it, because they were being pushed to do so.
As the Latin submission, “Vox populi, vox Dei”, meaning the voice of the people is the voice of God, a long list of people from different walks of life in Edo State have come out to vouch for Okunbo’s impeccable integrity.
Also, a former House of Representatives member, Hon. Sunny Aguebor, who described him as a man of integrity, said the attack on him is baseless and unfounded.
“You have built a name and business empire for yourself over the years, you are a man of strong character. Sir, I advise you to kindly disregard the cheap malicious character assassination, it does not deserve your precious time. My father told me only a tree with fruits attracts stones. You are a big tree with so many fruits, so stones are expected,” Aguebor urged Okunbo
The publisher, Mid-West Herald and former Commissioner for Transport, Hon. Orobosa Omo-Ojo, also lent his voice to the discussion.
He said Okunbo had been “tested and polished by the vagaries and the whimsical arbitrariness of Nigeria’s economy and political uncertainty. Like precious metals, the storm only brought out your gem!”
Others like Hon. Razak Edo-Osagie said Okunbo’s intimidating and progressive profile has been a source of worry to some, including his friends. Hon Festus Ebea and many more commentators also assured him that the people would resist any attempt to malign him.
Source : independent.ng