X-raying Obaseki’s guber battles
Ahead of the governorship election in Edo State, CAJETAN MMUTA x-rays the political tussle between Governor Godwin Obaseki and his estranged godfather, Comrade Adams Oshiomole, as the final battle nears.
Can Governor Godwin Obaseki overcome the landmines placed on his way to Osadebay Avenue? This is the most potent question on the lips of every Edo indigene today as the battle for the governorship ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) thickens. For Obaseki, the stage is set and there are signs of what is to come, now that the critical year 2020 is here.
The battle ahead is nothing but a grueling war that may cost sweats and therefore requires more midnight candles to put fierce arrows in check. As determined as ever, the governor is not at a loss about the ferocious forces that are out to scuttle his quest for a second term in office.
No doubt, as an investment czar and businessman, Obaseki has learnt the intricacies of service and leadership laced with the thrills and frills of party politics. He has proven critics wrong and given admirers reasons to ponder and admit that indeed, his mission and vision to steer the ship of the state are not in verbose but proven in his quality of work as testimonies abound in all-round sectoral reforms.
The gains of the APC led government within the period in office are evident in the massive infrastructural development, among many other achievements, as Edo State has become an industrial hub and haven for investors with guaranteed security of lives and property.
Challenges: Obaseki’s nightmare at the moment, however, is the daring threat and all out fiery attacks by forces loyal to his estranged godfather and the National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adamson Oshiomhole. Before Obaseki’s emergence, the Iyamho-born former governor had armtwisted all known governorship aspirants to support Obaseki, a former chairman of the state’s economic team and engine room of the Oshiomhole administration.
Though the plot to impose Obaseki was resisted by some party leaders and aspirants, Oshiomhole campaigned vigorously for Obaseki’s victory and those who dared his resolve were humiliated at the party’s governorship primary election. Few months into the Obaseki administration, Oshiomhole’s influence was irresistible, having played a major role in the choice of key cabinet members.
Investigation revealed that the center failed to hold when Obaseki’s tolerance and patience was overstretched with undue dictates and pressure on decisions on key political matters, some of which were kept in the cooler. Accusations and counter accusations Sources close to the two are of the view that part of Oshiomhole’s brush against his successor was hinged on alleged secret business deals, saying the bubble had burst because Obaseki took control of the driver’s seat and firm grip of intricacies and challenges of issues.
The Special Adviser on Political Matters to Edo State Governor, Chief Osaro Idah, accused the embattled National Chairman of depriving Obaseki the opportunity to nominate federal appointees from Edo State. In a meeting with ward leaders in Oredo Local Government Area, Idah said unlike the tenure of Chief Odigie Oyegun as National Chairman of the APC, who would not interfere with federal appointments in the state, Oshiomhole continued to interfere in such appointments. He said Obaseki had hitherto allowed Oshiomhole to have his way in order to preserve the peace in the state, alleging that, of the eight federal slots assigned to the state, the governor recommended only one person, while Oshiomhole still interfered and the person was dropped.
“Edo had eight slots for its indigenes for federal appointments, but Oshiomhole filled all the positions. The only nominee the governor submitted for the National Population Commission (NPC), Oshiomhole replaced him with his person.”
On his part, Chairman of the state’s chapter of the APC, Anselm Ojezua, called on the ward leaders in Oredo to support the governor who is their son.
He said no other governor had supported the party as Obaseki had done in the last three years, saying, “I urge you to support your son and never allow anyone treat him anyhow. Possess your possession!” But to Oshiomhole’s foot soldiers, one of the governor’s undoing was to bid bye to revenue collectors, whom, from the governor’s argument were milking the state, to live in affluence while the masses suffer. They also accused the government of returning leadership and power to the grassroots while party leaders have accused the governor of lack of political patronage.
However, Obaseki insisted that his government couldn’t toe the old path of frittering away state resources to service few individuals, as there are needs to be met. This did not go down well with some politicians, who began the plot to bring down the government with threat to pull the rug off the feet of the governor and stop his quest for second term in office. The consequence of this is the split of the party into two camps, and each loyal to the governor and Oshiomhole.
State assembly crisis
The battle to puncture Obaseki’s ambition for reelection this critical year was further worsened by the neck deep war over the control of the 24-member Anthony Enahoro state legislature. On June 17, 2019, the 7th assembly of the house was inaugurated with Mr. Frank Abumere Okiye in charge.
At the moment there are 10 lawmakers representing their constituents in the parliament while 14 others (two lawmakers and 12 members elect) loyal to Oshiomhole are presently held up in Abuja, the nation’s seat of power since the past seven months.
In addition, a groundswell of legal tussles are pending in various courts since the turmoil in the state assembly. Worse still, two factions of the APC with a group under the state chairman of the party, Anselm Ojezua taking charge of Obaseki’s firm political structure and another under Col. David Imuse (rtd) holding forth for Oshiomhole.
The glaring split followed a gale of suspensions that trailed the party in what is believed to be power assertion by both camps in the state. The EPM moves More so, there is a massive plot allegedly by members of the Edo Peoples Movement (EPM) to stop the governor at all cost from securing the critical APC governorship ticket for the second term project.
Source close to the APC leadership in the state disclosed that a meeting held last year by five governorship aspirants during the 2016 polls, some of whom are key actors in the EPM, have resolved to give vent to the deadly landmine to stop Obaseki at all cost from realising his ambition to occupy the exalted seat for a second term.
The plot was said to have informed the clashes and controversies as well as action taken by Obaseki during last year’s defection of some members of the Peoples Democratic Party led by Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, into the APC. Indications are rife that Oshiomhole may opt for a dark horse as Obaseki’s replacement where options for possible reconciliation fail.
About 12 aspirants from the South and Central senatorial districts with deep pockets are set to slug it out with Obaseki in the race for the state government house this year. Meanwhile, members of the EPM led by Barr. Henry idajagbon, which the state government had earlier declared as illegal, had given conditions to the governor towards resolving the impasse and also issued a December 31 deadline, positions that the government insists cannot stand the test of time.
The Benin Royal Palace: The palace of Benin Kingdom is hoped to play active role to stabilise the raging tussle when it matters most. There is no doubt that the Enigies and top palace chiefs will not allow what belong to the area to be frittered away or thrown to the dogs.
Oba Ewuare 11, Ogidigan, Oba of Benin, had been at the forefront of the campaign to give new direction to people of the sate. He has waded into the raging feud between Obaseki and Oshiomhole, and had taken active lead with other monarchs, pleading with President Muhammad Buhari for his timely action to save the state from anarchy and bloodshed. Moves to whittle down Oshiomhole’s powers: Uncovered plot showed that the National Working Committee of the ruling adopt direct primary to elect it’s candidate during the gubernatorial polls in the state, though the state government said it was not perturbed by whatever mechanism.
In addition, a new game plan is been hatched to use chairmen of state chapters of the APC to submit list of candidates for states where governorship elections have been slated in the country. While the schemes are awaited, Governor Obaseki had vowed to use last drop of his blood to defend Edo people and the state, a vow that has continued to reignite his sizzling drive in governance, sustained peace and relentless war of political freedom and welfare of all. Few weeks ago, the party took measures to strip Oshiomhole, of the leadership role in Edo North and replaced him with the state Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu.
The APC National Chairman, who recently lamented over the crisis that engulfs the party in the state, accused Shaibu and others from his Etsako West local government area of betraying him despite assisting them to attain political heights.
Oshiomhole who addressed people on solidarity to him said: “The only thing I will say to anyone who is an agent of my son, when I talk of my son I am talking of Philip Shiabu who now thinks that his own political future requires that he attacks me and import thugs to disgrace me in my village, the Hausas have a saying that when people are possessed and they do things like that, just say God take control.
“Supposing I was dead after 2016 and somebody tells me that my son, Philip, will organise people to attack my house or to attack my village to disrupt the convocation, maybe my body would be turning in heaven and I will not believe”.
But the Special Adviser to Obaseki on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, in reaction, said, the Deputy Governor had not in any way betrayed his political father, in the ongoing challenges facing the APC in Edo State. Crusoe in a statement said what Comrade Shaibu is doing in the ongoing faceoff is exactly what Adams Oshiomhole taught him through the years which is to fight for the oppressed and downtrodden in society.
“It is the dream of a father for his son to imbibe his principles and surpass his achievements, and that is what he has been doing. Oshiomhole taught us activism, forthrightness, and standing for what you believe in. He is still our father and we are living by the principles he taught us.
“The unfortunate thing is that for some unexplainable reasons, our father seems to be deviating from the principles which he taught us. The real fight is against those trying to take him away from us, and others trying to shake him off the very principles he has lived by almost all his life.
His position in our lives is intact and the principles he taught us, we hold sacrosanct.” But the governor at a thanksgiving service to mark the 2019 Alaghodaro has reiterated that he and his team are ready to die in service of Edo people as long as the mandate, which was divinely given by God for the service of the people. He noted that Edo State is therefore worth dying for, adding “I have no doubt that as long as his merc ies endureth with us, we are committed to use every drop of our blood to work for the people of Edo State. “People say is Edo worth dying for, I say yes, Edo is worth dying for. And if we have to die for the service of Edo State, so be it. But I am sure God will not let it happen that way.”
War against godfatherism:
There is no doubt that the governor has take full scale war against Oshiomhole and others whose acts as godfathers portends serious threat to his government. He declared total war towards dethroning godfatherism in the state, saying that he will fight with everything possible to defend the state and ensure better welfare of the people. He said that his pact with Edo people is to defend their interests and dethrone godfatherism, which threatens to deprive them of their democratic rights. Obaseki pointed out that he came into office with a mission to further the fight against godfatherism started by the former governor of the state, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, but that it was unfortunate that the latter is reneging on the mandate. The governor stated this while hosting ward leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Oredo Local Government Area of Edo State He called on them to join him as he continues to fight godfatherism in the state. Obaseki also faulted the fight against godfatherism by his predecessor and National chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole who today is favourably disposed to the same. According to the governor, “Comrade Oshiomhole came to me, asking that we join forces to fight and bring an end to the practice of godfatherism in the state. The partnership helped us in changing the narrative of development in the state. This led me into politics. I am into politics to better the lives of Edo people. We believed Oshiomhole and followed him to fight godfatherism. “He said godfatherism is not good but today he is saying godfatherism is good. He said let the people lead but today he wants to lead the people, against their interest.” Noting that he would always stand with the people irrespective of the circumstance, the governor said; “any politics that doesn’t benefit the majority of the people is bad politics. The resources we have in the state are to be used for the benefits of the people of Edo State, not a few politicians.” Obaseki urged APC members and supporters in Oredo Local Government Area not to be worried, as he is not bothered because no man is God “When they say I am a mosquito, I was never worried; I told them that mosquitoes can bite. The bite can cause malaria and if not well treated, it can kill someone. Those bitten are already on life support but we pray they don’t die.” Already, attempts by concerned stakeholders including the Presidency, committees within the party as well as clergy and traditional institutions, have hit the rocks. The question now is; going by the provision of the Electoral Act and as explained by the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mammud Yakub, that only the party can submit the names of candidates, how will Obaseki save himself from OshiomShaibu Idahagbon hole’s frontal war?