I did not contest against my brother, he contested against me – Don pedro Obaseki

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…Don Pedro Obaseki speaks

Don Pedro Obaseki, PhD,   is one of those prodigious Nigerians who at the early age of 23 years had already acquired a doctoral degree from the University of Benin. He lectured in that very University for several years until theatre, television and full time communications practice took him to Lagos where he staged many plays, worked immensely for Clapperboard, a TV content medium, DBN and was later consultant for the establishment of the first privately owned radio station in Nigeria; Raypower FM and later AIT and DAARSAT.

Obaseki was also an early participant in the early days of the Nigeria home video industry, Nollywood and was one of those who gave direction in the areas of production, marketing and distribution.

Don Pedro Obaseki

However, Obaseki recently came to political fore when he threw his hat into the contest of Edo state governorship elections which saw him confront his first cousin, Godwin Obaseki in the election.

He reveals how his doctoral thesis; Liberalising Broadcast space in a developing Economy as a panacea for coups brought about the privatisation of electronic media in Nigeria and by extension an end to coups.

What lesson did you learn from the Edo Governorship Contest?

I learnt that the average member of the Nigerian political class is bereft of ideas. They are inept and see things from a linear point of view. Life for them does not mean the collective we, but the personal me, myself and I as the epic centre of the entire political process. Unfortunately political office in Nigeria has become a dispensable largesse where people borrow money and invest with the full expectations of recouping by stealing the country, state, local government and constituency blind. So another big lesson for me was monetization of our political space.

So did you also borrow?

I did not in all honesty. Where did I stash such money? There are 192 wards in Edo State and during the campaign; the contestant was expected to go with N1m to each ward to bribe people. Before the primaries you were expected to bribe 3,500 delegates with between N250k/N300k. Even a few were able to pay such monies.

So if you pay such to cast a vote in ordinary primaries it means that for a minimum of N2bn would have been blown in bribing your way in the political process. You could not sow beans and reap rice or Cocoyam. So when I see people crying over unfulfilled promises by a politician, I laugh. He had even paid you before the process began.

Any pains or regrets in what happened?

I have no regrets contesting as I will not stop the odyssey. But I have plenty of pains in my heart over the issues of ethnicity and stupendous playoff of religion which does not really exist; squalor in the midst of plenty in the rural areas and pursuit of artificial wealth while sitting on basket of wealth. You see Edo State has a peculiar situation. The famous River Niger crosses through seven or eight LGAs in Edo State before entering Delta . From Aganebode through to Etsako and Esan land.

Governor of Edo State, Mr Godwin Obaseki

It is at the center of equatorial rain forest and has more rains in Nigeria, West Africa and Africa at large.    Edo State is where international cash crops like plantain and palm oil grow by default. Europeans first came for the oil rivers and not crude oil.

It was palm oil. Palm trees grow on their own and that is why it is said; may your life be as blessed as the palm. The Nigeria Institute For Oil Palm Research, NIFOR is set in Edo because of this. Edo is also the center of timber and plywood. Iroko is not an English word. It is Bini word Uloko..the biggest tree at the center of a forest. So when one says he is going to Siloko, it means he is going to the center of Uloko.

You started with APC and later…..

You see I am a foundation member of APC. I see myself as a political mentee of Tunde Fashola. He is about five or six years older than me. Babatunde Fashola made me realize that to sit down watching and doing nothing is to cripple fast. And that being a professional or an academic, you will not continue to be in the pure side. You have to apply at some point. So with him nudging me, I joined partisan politics. Everything I have done as a social commentator, broadcaster and entertainment content provider have always had political undertones.

But I will not continue to feed the people with  innuendos  so I joined politics from the time it was ACN and later morphed into APC. I was Director- General Fashola Independent Campaign Organization. I can never run from being APC because I am abreast with the processes of its foundation.

So you see in the last Edo guber election, former Governor Adams Oshiomhole    had transformed from a supposedly impartial father of APC in Edo who decided to drop his guard. The only good thing about his injustice to my person is that the beneficiary is a brother of mine. My cousin. But that the governor of Edo State is my brother then I should keep quiet on the fact that Oshiomhole did not provide a level playing field for all? No way.

He was most undemocratic. I think he should be held responsible for the problems in APC Edo State. My problems started when I did an article “Who is afraid of Don Pedro Obaseki?” which was widely published. I wondered why a then 48 year old man was causing men of over 60s most of whom do not know their exact ages to lose sleep. It vibrated the polity that all eyes came on me.

You were also disqualified…what do you recall of those moments?

When I couldn’t get the candidacy of APC, some other parties in union of Accord found me a viable option. But someone on the government’s pay roll got an injunction to disqualify me from participating on the last day of submission of forms. The situation put me in between the devil and the sea.

How did it feel to campaign and contest against your “brother”?

I never contested against my brother. Rather he contested against me. He was the first person I told I was going to run and he did not say he was running.  So I was the one running for governor before he decided to join the race. So he contested against me.    Maybe, I did not have the blessings of the powers that be for placing all my matter at the behest of the people. I keep praying for Uncle Godwin to succeed. We have not spoken in a long while.

We used to be very close even though he has said he is a venture capitalist while I am totally a social-welfarist.  He used to listen to me and I took all his advice until the election when he stopped taking my calls and I also stopped calling.  That was in the thick of the election.

Everyone in the larger Obaseki family knows this. But the family is too big that the two of us are too small to change its cosmic arrangement. We are actually riding on a name that neither of us built. We are beneficiaries of the sweat of a man who died September 1920. If today, 97 years after, we are beneficiaries of the statesmanship, vision and brinkmanship of our great-grandfather, it is to the glory of everybody. My grandfather married eleven wives and bore 56 children. I understand the enormity of such responsibility it reposes in me.

You have called Dokpesi your father at several fora…What is the relationship like?

I am never a staff of AIT or Ray Power. But I am a child of Raymond Dokpesi. I met him when I just left University and was lecturing at Uniben. My first work for him was to help scribble his advert when he ran for Senate in 1990…Vote for action, vote for freedom…vote for Chief Dr Raymond Dokpesi….

What role did you play in the privatization of broadcasting in Nigeria?

My PhD thesis was titled; Liberalising Broadcasting in a developing Economy as a panacea for coups. I used the Orkar Coup of 1990 as case study and main background. It was this thesis that opened the vista for private broadcasting in Nigeria. I reasoned that every coup in Nigeria succeeded whenever the coupists took hold of the two major stations, the FRCN and NTA.

Interestingly, these two stations were both situated not beyond 200 meters from two major military installations in Lagos. Dodan Barracks is right in front of FRCN while NTA is just around Bonny Camp. It was so easy to get hold of those stations and announce Fellow Nigerians…However in Gideon Orkar, they only got NTA but not FRCN.

I had noted that a few months earlier before the coup, there was a conference held in Badagry on opening up the broadcast space for private investment which recommended to Babangida that time was not yet ripe only for the coups plotters to strike in April and the saviour being that the plotters couldn’t get control of one of the stations.

After that Babanginda had to do the needful so that if you get FRCN, the President talks on Channels or AIT as the Commanding officer is still commanding or plotters had to go the extra stress of taking control of all the scattered stations before striking. That was my thesis submitted in 1991 and my Supervisor and external examiner Prof Sam Oyobvaire was made Minister of Information and the rest is history.

You once said that you had a brush with Abacha?

I had written a play on the demolition of Maroko which was staged severally across Nigeria… Sunset on the Lagoon—the Maroko saga. Abdul Oroh had invited the likes of me and Nimmio Bassey to join CLO which was then led by Olisa Agbakoba. At the same time, I was Financial Secretary of ASUU when Atahiru Jega was President. I got into a lot of things until I was arrested April 1994 and dumped in Gashua at the same time Late Gani Fawehinmi was there. In fact we shared same cell.

Obaseki was also an early participant in the early days of the Nigeria home video industry, Nollywood and was one of those who gave direction in the areas of production, marketing and distribution.

However, Obaseki recently came to political fore when he threw his hat into the contest of Edo state governorship elections which saw him confront his first cousin, Godwin Obaseki in the election.

He reveals how his doctoral thesis; Liberalising Broadcast space in a developing Economy as a panacea for coups brought about the privatisation of electronic media in Nigeria and by extension an end to coups.

What lesson did you learn from the Edo Governorship Contest?

I learnt that the average member of the Nigerian political class is bereft of ideas. They are inept and see things from a linear point of view. Life for them does not mean the collective we, but the personal me, myself and I as the epic centre of the entire political process. Unfortunately political office in Nigeria has become a dispensable largesse where people borrow money and invest with the full expectations of recouping by stealing the country, state, local government and constituency blind. So another big lesson for me was monetization of our political space.

So did you also borrow?

I did not in all honesty. Where did I stash such money? There are 192 wards in Edo State and during the campaign; the contestant was expected to go with N1m to each ward to bribe people. Before the primaries you were expected to bribe 3,500 delegates with between N250k/N300k. Even a few were able to pay such monies.

So if you pay such to cast a vote in ordinary primaries it means that for a minimum of N2bn would have been blown in bribing your way in the political process. You could not sow beans and reap rice or Cocoyam. So when I see people crying over unfulfilled promises by a politician, I laugh. He had even paid you before the process began.

Any pains or regrets in what happened?

I have no regrets contesting as I will not stop the odyssey. But I have plenty of pains in my heart over the issues of ethnicity and stupendous playoff of religion which does not really exist; squalor in the midst of plenty in the rural areas and pursuit of artificial wealth while sitting on basket of wealth. You see Edo State has a peculiar situation. The famous River Niger crosses through seven or eight LGAs in Edo State before entering Delta . From Aganebode through to Etsako and Esan land.

It is at the center of equatorial rain forest and has more rains in Nigeria, West Africa and Africa at large.    Edo State is where international cash crops like plantain and palm oil grow by default. Europeans first came for the oil rivers and not crude oil.

It was palm oil. Palm trees grow on their own and that is why it is said; may your life be as blessed as the palm. The Nigeria Institute For Oil Palm Research, NIFOR is set in Edo because of this. Edo is also the center of timber and plywood. Iroko is not an English word. It is Bini word Uloko..the biggest tree at the center of a forest. So when one says he is going to Siloko, it means he is going to the center of Uloko.

You started with APC and later…..

You see I am a foundation member of APC. I see myself as a political mentee of Tunde Fashola. He is about five or six years older than me. Babatunde Fashola made me realize that to sit down watching and doing nothing is to cripple fast. And that being a professional or an academic, you will not continue to be in the pure side. You have to apply at some point. So with him nudging me, I joined partisan politics. Everything I have done as a social commentator, broadcaster and entertainment content provider have always had political undertones.

But I will not continue to feed the people with  innuendos  so I joined politics from the time it was ACN and later morphed into APC. I was Director- General Fashola Independent Campaign Organization. I can never run from being APC because I am abreast with the processes of its foundation.

So you see in the last Edo guber election, former Governor Adams Oshiomhole    had transformed from a supposedly impartial father of APC in Edo who decided to drop his guard. The only good thing about his injustice to my person is that the beneficiary is a brother of mine. My cousin. But that the governor of Edo State is my brother then I should keep quiet on the fact that Oshiomhole did not provide a level playing field for all? No way.

He was most undemocratic. I think he should be held responsible for the problems in APC Edo State. My problems started when I did an article “Who is afraid of Don Pedro Obaseki?” which was widely published. I wondered why a then 48 year old man was causing men of over 60s most of whom do not know their exact ages to lose sleep. It vibrated the polity that all eyes came on me.

You were also disqualified…what do you recall of those moments?

When I couldn’t get the candidacy of APC, some other parties in union of Accord found me a viable option. But someone on the government’s pay roll got an injunction to disqualify me from participating on the last day of submission of forms. The situation put me in between the devil and the sea.

How did it feel to campaign and contest against your “brother”?

I never contested against my brother. Rather he contested against me. He was the first person I told I was going to run and he did not say he was running.  So I was the one running for governor before he decided to join the race. So he contested against me.    Maybe, I did not have the blessings of the powers that be for placing all my matter at the behest of the people. I keep praying for Uncle Godwin to succeed. We have not spoken in a long while.

We used to be very close even though he has said he is a venture capitalist while I am totally a social-welfarist.  He used to listen to me and I took all his advice until the election when he stopped taking my calls and I also stopped calling.  That was in the thick of the election.

Everyone in the larger Obaseki family knows this. But the family is too big that the two of us are too small to change its cosmic arrangement. We are actually riding on a name that neither of us built. We are beneficiaries of the sweat of a man who died September 1920. If today, 97 years after, we are beneficiaries of the statesmanship, vision and brinkmanship of our great-grandfather, it is to the glory of everybody. My grandfather married eleven wives and bore 56 children. I understand the enormity of such responsibility it reposes in me.

You have called Dokpesi your father at several fora…What is the relationship like?

I am never a staff of AIT or Ray Power. But I am a child of Raymond Dokpesi. I met him when I just left University and was lecturing at Uniben. My first work for him was to help scribble his advert when he ran for Senate in 1990…Vote for action, vote for freedom…vote for Chief Dr Raymond Dokpesi….

What role did you play in the privatization of broadcasting in Nigeria?

My PhD thesis was titled; Liberalising Broadcasting in a developing Economy as a panacea for coups. I used the Orkar Coup of 1990 as case study and main background. It was this thesis that opened the vista for private broadcasting in Nigeria. I reasoned that every coup in Nigeria succeeded whenever the coupists took hold of the two major stations, the FRCN and NTA.

Interestingly, these two stations were both situated not beyond 200 meters from two major military installations in Lagos. Dodan Barracks is right in front of FRCN while NTA is just around Bonny Camp. It was so easy to get hold of those stations and announce Fellow Nigerians…However in Gideon Orkar, they only got NTA but not FRCN.

I had noted that a few months earlier before the coup, there was a conference held in Badagry on opening up the broadcast space for private investment which recommended to Babangida that time was not yet ripe only for the coups plotters to strike in April and the saviour being that the plotters couldn’t get control of one of the stations.

After that Babanginda had to do the needful so that if you get FRCN, the President talks on Channels or AIT as the Commanding officer is still commanding or plotters had to go the extra stress of taking control of all the scattered stations before striking. That was my thesis submitted in 1991 and my Supervisor and external examiner Prof Sam Oyobvaire was made Minister of Information and the rest is history.

You once said that you had a brush with Abacha?

I had written a play on the demolition of Maroko which was staged severally across Nigeria… Sunset on the Lagoon—the Maroko saga. Abdul Oroh had invited the likes of me and Nimmio Bassey to join CLO which was then led by Olisa Agbakoba. At the same time, I was Financial Secretary of ASUU when Atahiru Jega was President. I got into a lot of things until I was arrested April 1994 and dumped in Gashua at the same time Late Gani Fawehinmi was there. In fact we shared same cell.



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