Efforts by well-meaning individuals and stakeholders in Edo State, including the clergy, to reconcile Governor Godwin Obaseki and the national chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, seems to have hit the rocks. The setback follows yesterday’s decision by the Speaker of Edo State House of Assembly, Mr. Frank Okiye, to declare vacant the seats of the 12 legislators-elect loyal to Oshiomhole.
It would be recalled that the Speaker had, during the 50th-anniversary thanksgiving of the Deputy Governor, Phillip Shaibu, pleaded with the absentee lawmakers-elect to present themselves for inauguration so they could serve their constituents.
However, two days after the call and with no apparent sign of the dissenters in the state, who are believed to be in Abuja, the Assembly was moved yesterday to declare their seats vacant, thereby worsening the tenuous political situation in the state. Apart from the 12 recalcitrant lawmakers-elect, the House of Assembly also vacated the seats of two other members that could not meet up the mandatory sitting requirement for the 7th Assembly.
Deputy Speaker of the House, Hon. Yekini Idiaye, representing Akoko Edo State Constituency I, told reporters that the resolution was reached at the plenary on Wednesday, December 4, 2019. He listed the seats that were declared vacant as follows: Etsako West I, Etsako West II, Owan East, Owan West, Etsako Central, Etsako East, and Esan Central; Uhunmwonde, Oredo East, Oredo West, Egor, Ovia North East I, Ovia North East II and Ovia southwest I.
Idiaye explained that although two of those affected from Oredo East and Owan East were sworn-in, they failed to meet the mandatory 181-day sitting requirement for a member in a legislative calendar year. In the cases of others that were yet to be inaugurated since the proclamation of the House, the deputy speaker stated: “Their constituents have been complaining and have come to us that they want their voices and concerns to be heard in the House.
“So, people who are willing to provide quality representation have to be elected to bring the matters of the distraught constituents to the floor for debate and legislation, where necessary.”
Journey of no return
WITH the latest development in the House of Assembly, which was actually kick-started exchange of hostilities between Governor Obaseki and Oshiomhole, it is obvious that the political mind-games have reached a point of no return. Ever since the crisis of confidence between the governor and his predecessor broke out, Obaseki has maintained that his administration would continue to explore all avenues towards resolving the crisis rocking the state’s chapter of APC.
Also recently, President of Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria and Archbishop of Benin Archdiocese, Most Reverend Dr. Augustine Akubeze, in a homily at the anniversary thanksgiving of Shaibu, urged the governor to settle grievances with the APC national chairman, Oshiomhole.
In his response, Governor Obaseki said he had, in the past, heeded the Archbishop’s calls to make peace with the national chairman, recalling: “The last time I was in this church was during the 80th birthday of our elder statesman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, and the priest raised certain concerns.
“To tell you how seriously we take your views, I went to Iyamho with members of my cabinet and political party to pursue peace. I want to assure you that we will continue to pursue peace. We have been in this situation for more than six months and it is very difficult to change people’s views. One of my commissioners said, ‘you can only have a current champion and you cannot have a permanent champion.”
The governor, however, noted that it had become increasingly difficult for members of Edo State Chapter of APC to accept that godfatherism is good for Nigerian politics, stressing, “If we said 12 years ago that godfatherism is not good for our politics, 12 years after, it is difficult for us to change and accept that godfatherism is now good.”
While insisting that these “are some of the challenges we face,” Obaseki assured the prelate that “we will continue to pray and seek peace,” even as he implored the church to appeal to the members of Edo State House of Assembly who were yet to resume their duties to do so.
Archbishop Akubeze had in his homily urged an end to the political crises rocking the state, especially within APC, adding that the crisis does not benefit political leaders and the masses. He appealed to Governor Obaseki and Oshiomhole to bring down the walls of divisions and work together for the people of the state, declaring: “Let there be an end to the fractions and suspension of leaders in APC. A few selfish people benefit from conflicts. Overheating of the political space has to stop.”
Calendar of crisis
FOR Edo State APC, the year 2019 would remain outstanding as one characterised by incidences that continue to threaten the party’s chances ahead as it prepares for the 2020 governorship poll. Although signs of estrangement between Governor Obaseki and Oshiomhole began to show during the primary elections preceding the 2019 general election, it came to full glare after the May 29, 2019 inauguration of a new dispensation.
Ever since the rift has left both men taking vantage positions for war. It is obvious that both camps are arrayed for the party’s gubernatorial primary election during which the factions for and against the re-election bid of the state governor would clash. As the immediate past governor, Oshiomhole is known for his contribution to the development of Edo State. But both APC leaders and supporters loyal to Obaseki have also criticized Oshiomhole for his underground plots to deny the incumbent a second term in office.
But while residents support Obaseki for delivering on his mandate, others are of the view that Oshiomhole is merely overheating the polity to satisfy his supporters and sustain the impression that he has not only become a godfather but a strongman in the politics of Edo state. Most of those who are against the national chairman allegess that he (Oshiomhole) wants to step into the shoes of the late Chief Tony Annenih, who, until his demise, was the only influential politician in the state, even though he was a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) national leader.
So gradually, division crept into the membership of Edo State House of Assembly. As a result, Obaseki has not been finding things easy in the state, especially as his political rivals are said to have laid ambush against him by sponsoring some of the lawmakers with a view to attempting an impeachment process. The crisis has left the Assembly divided against itself in the last six months, starting from precisely June 17, 2019, when the legislature was purportedly inaugurated at nocturnal hours.
In a swift attempt to intervene and save the situation, the leadership of the National Assembly sent some of its members to the state. However, the intervention did not yield any positive result, because the 24-member legislature remains unsettled. Not minding that all the 24 members were elected on the platform of APC, the Assembly has been divided, with nine members inaugurated and presently representing their constituents and the others yet to complete their documentation or appear for inauguration.
The infighting culminated in certain members rising up to challenge Oshiomhole and accusing him of being responsible for the crisis rocking the state chapter of APC. It was this group that instigated the suspension of APC’s national chairman so as, according to them, move the party forward and arrest the anti-party activities he sponsored.
Conversely, leaders from Oshiomhole’s hometown, particularly Ward Executive members of ward 10 in Etsako West Local Government Area, (November 2) and LGA Executive members in Etsako West (November 9, 2019) in a motion signed by APC Deputy State Chairman, Mr. Kenneth Asekhome, said they had passed a vote of no confidence on Comrade Oshiomhole.
Accordingly, APC ward chairmen of Etsako West Local Government Area in a resolution on November 6, signed by Aruna Ozamah, Abass Yakubu and eight others, said, “In view of the attempt to polarize the party across the twelve (12) wards in Etsako West Local Government Area, we, the ward chairmen, hereby pass a vote of no confidence on Comrade Adams Aliu Oshiomhole and resolve to suspend him from the party today, Wednesday, 6 November 2019.
“Having been dissatisfied with his conduct, members wholly agreed and we hereby suspend him for anti-party activity and his attempt to factionalize the party in the local government and the state.”
While Oshiomhole’s supporters moved against the alleged suspension slammed on the APC national chairman, another group of APC stakeholders and leaders from Edo North Senatorial District in Etsako West, Ward 12, rose to the occasion to condemn the purported suspension of Oshiomhole, describing those behind the suspension as a paid group of Edo State Government and faction of APC.
But angered by the action of Edo State Government and faction of APC, Oshiomhole’s supporters and foot soldiers accused the rival group sympathetic to Governor Obaseki’s second term ticket bid of alleged anti-party activities and divisive tendencies in the state.
Leader of Ward 12, Alhaji SMO Momoh, who faulted the suspension of Oshiomhole, said the suspension was not only illegal but willfully done to malign the National Chairman prior to the conduct of APC National Executive Council meeting called by the party’s National Working Committee headed by Oshiomhole.
In a resolution at an enlarged meeting of ward leaders, executive and stakeholders at Ikabigbo said Oshiomhole’s courage and fairness as well as his insistence on party supremacy and adherence to the rule of law have reformed APC and set the party on the path of progress, orderliness, and widespread acceptance.
Momoh said: “We hereby dissociate ourselves from such illegal suspension and pass a vote of confidence on the APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, for his quality leadership. We the entire Ward 12 members dissociate ourselves from the purported adoption and endorsement of Godwin Obaseki and Philip Shaibu as party flag bearers for the 2020 gubernatorial election in the state.
“We noticed with dismay the divisive tactics of the ward Chairman Alhaji Aruna Ozamah and other disgruntled collaborators, including John Igenegbai, Mohammed Zibiri, Benjamin Ojietu, Abibat Yakubu, and Isah Abu. They have constituted themselves to deploy arrogance, antiparty, and destructive behaviours.
“The Ward Chairman collaborated with the persons above to allegedly suspend four foremost leaders of the ward without any cause. They also participated in endorsing the purported suspension of APC National Chairman Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole. They further participated in the paid endorsement of Godwin Obaseki and Philip Shaibu as flag bearers of the party in the 2020 Edo State governorship election, which campaign has not been approved by INEC.
“All these actions are without the approval of the ward executives and the entire Ward 12 members. The ward can no longer tolerate their breach of the electoral law, antiparty activities, disloyalty, destructive behaviours and the unruly practices of the above-mentioned political traducers in our ward. Hence the decision to suspend them.
“So, the Ward Chairman Alhaji Aruna Ozamah and his collaborators Mssers John Igenegbai, Mohammed Zibiri, Benjamin Ojietu, Abibat Yakubu and Isah Abu are hereby suspended from the party’s activities and as members of the ward with immediate effect. We also condemn and disown all their purported actions that are inimical to the progress and unity of the party and the ward.
“The meeting also passed a vote of no confidence on the State Deputy Chairman of APC, Mr. Kenneth Asekomhe and a member of the ward for his inefficiency, naivety and collaboration to suspend the APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. His behaviour and actions were personal and not a true representation of Ward 12. Hence the decision to suspend him and he is hereby suspended from the party. We also unanimously disown and dissociate the ward from his actions.”
In the days to come, it would be clear who, between Obseki and Oshiomhole’s camps, would blink first following the onslaught on the lawmakers-elect loyal to the national chairman.