By Ozioruva Aliu
2020 is a decision year in Edo State as the governorship election is due after four years of the administration of Governor Godwin Obaseki which would end in November.
As various parties prepare for the battle on who succeeds Obaseki at Osadebey Avenue, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is enmeshed in a serious crisis which analysts fear may consume the party as the actors have refused to sheath their swords and preparing to fight to the finish.
For the past one year, the crisis has defied solution as the party is sharply divided into supporters of the governor, and those of the National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
Supporters of the governor accuse Oshiomhole of playing a godfather role and wanting to control the governor.
But the crisis must be brought to an end one way or the other to ensure the APC participates in the election. However, egos have been bruised and it is believed that there would be casualties at the end of the day.
Expectations were that the current administration would be a family affair as the first four political officers in the executive arm were seen as Oshiomhole’s political children; the governor was the Chairman, Economic Team of Oshiomhole’s eight years administration; the deputy governor, Comrade Philip Shaibu, rose to become the Majority Leader of the state House of Assembly before going to represent Etsako Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives where he was called back to become the deputy governor; Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Osarodion Ogie, first-served as Secretary, Oshiomhole Campaign Organisation and then Chief of Staff to Oshiomhole in his first term and Commissioner for Works in his second term; the Chief of Staff to Obaseki, Taiwo Akerele, came to the Oshiomhole government as Senior Special Assistant (SSA) attached to the Economic Team headed by Obseki.
Today, the deputy governor, the SSG and the Chief of Staff have all teamed up with their principal, the governor, while Oshiomhole has found new allies who have vowed to resist the return of Obaseki for second term.
The party’s NWC, on December 18, 2019, raised a 10-member committee headed by Senate President Ahmed Lawan to resolve the lingering crisis in Edo APC.
The arrangement was in line with the November 22, 2019 resolution of the party’s National Executive Committee.
The first (interim) APC National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, was appointed to serve as Vice-Chairman of the committee with the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ahmed Wase, and the immediate past Nasarawa governor, Senator Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, as members.
Other members are Senator Kashim Shettima; Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor; Alhaji Nasiru Aliko Koki; Senator Khairat Gwadabe-Abdulrazak; Senator Binta Garba and Senator John Enoh as Secretary.
The governor rejected the Committee just as he earlier rejected the Kano State Governor Abdullahi Ganduje-led five-member Fact-finding Committee, raised in November 2019 on the crisis rocking the Edo APC.
The Obaseki/Shaibu Movement (OSM), a support group for the re-election of the governor and his deputy, rejected the composition of the Committee.
There are two factions of the party in the state as factional Chairman loyal to Obaseki, Anselm Ojezua, whose suspension through a vote of no confidence passed by members of the State Working Committee and ratified by the National Working Committee (NWC), has argued that he was not duly removed and is challenging his removal in court. He has called for the resignation of Oshiomhole as National Chairman of the party on the basis that he lacked the capacity to lead the party and that he has been suspended from the party in his ward and local government area.
On the other hand, a former Deputy State Chairman, Col David Imuse (ret.) has assumed office as acting Chairman of the party. He recently received a chieftain of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who was the governorship candidate of the PDP in 2016, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, into the APC.
Genesis of crisis
It is widely believed that the bubble for tolerance and accommodation between Oshiomhole and Obaseki burst in the build-up to the primaries to elect candidates for the 2019 National Assembly and state House of Assembly elections when they could not agree on the mode to adopt.
The governor wanted consensus arrangement which he believed would reduce cost and post-primaries rancour while Oshiomhole wanted direct primaries which he said was more democratic and participatory. The party eventually settled for direct primaries.
The exercise was conducted twice; first because the State Working Committee conducted the exercise without the presence of the Committee for that purpose from the National Secretariat.
However, the APC won all the 24 seats in the state House of Assembly and it was widely celebrated by the state government when an inter-denominational service was held to celebrate the victory at the polls.
But the controversial inauguration of nine of the 24 members on June 17, 2019 further put cohesion in the party on the reverse gear and has defied all solution.
Notable party leaders took sides and then emerged the now proscribed Edo Peoples Movement (EPM) which is a pressure group in the party formed to rally opposition against the re-election of the governor. It is coordinated by a former Minority Whip of the House of Representatives, Hon Samson Osagie, and former Attorney General of the state, Hon Henry Idahagbon.
There is also the issue of style of governance and class struggle between the gladiators and their followers.
While Oshiomhole introduced a populist style of administration with his slogan, ‘Let the people lead’, and concentrated his infrastructure on densely populated areas, Obaseki has brought in a more elitist government devoid of social services and more of aristocratic tendencies.
Plot to remove Oshiomhole
It is widely rumoured that the governor and his agents have been part of the plot to remove Oshiomhole as National Chairman of the APC to, among other things, pave way for his second term bid.
A supporter of Obaseki confided in Sunday Vanguard that Oshiomhole would not be the National Chairman by the time Edo APC governorship primary is conducted. He went further to say that plans were on the way to remove Oshiomhole at the last NEC meeting of the party.
Although the plot did not work, he is optimistic that Oshiomhole would be removed by February.
“And then we will see how he will come and conduct the primary and stop Obaseki from getting his return ticket”, the supporter said.
It is also believed that the governor has been in support of the protests that greeted the composition of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) where a former deputy governor of Edo, Dr Pius Odubu, was Chairman-designate before President Muhammadu Buhari ordered its reconstitution.
It is alleged that Obaseki believes Odubu was nominated by Oshiomhole to work against his second term interest hence his alleged sponsorship of legal cases and protests against the composition of the board.
The immediate past Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Hon Kabiru Adjoto, who contested the House of Representatives seat and lost to the current Deputy Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Peter Akpatason, in the courts recently vowed to commence a sustained protest against Oshiomhole.
He said the National Chairman was driving himself into political oblivion.
Adjoto described the rumor of the governor’s planned defection to the PDP as baseless, noting that Obaseki will enjoy the ‘Privilege of First Refusal’ during the forthcoming APC governorship primary as enjoyed by Oshiomhole in 2012.
Besides Adjoto, many supporters of Obaseki, notably Hon. Charles Idahosa and Adams Oteghe, have been calling on Oshiomhole to resign his position as National Chairman of the APC.
No less than four cases have been instituted for and against the controversial inauguration of the state House of Assembly while Obaseki and his team are also in court to ensure an injunction that would make Ojezua remain as Chairman of the party till after the governorship primary later in the year while the Imuse-led team is already in the Appeal Court to vacate the lower court order that it had jurisdiction to hear the internal matter of the APC.
The traditional institution has remained silent on the matter even though Sunday Vanguard gathered that some traditional rulers have tried to mediate discreetly but the two parties have stuck to their guns.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Edo South controls more than half of the total population of the state, so whoever will be governor must control this zone. It was votes from this region that made Oshiomhole governor in 2008.
But if the number of political and opinion leaders are anything to go by in determining who wins the battle in this zone, then Oshiomhole could go to sleep.
Notable political leaders like Oshiomhole’s deputy for eight years, Odubu; another former deputy governor, Lucky Imasuen; Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, whose defection to the APC was resisted by the state government; and Secretary of the party, Lawrence Okah, are all for the National Chairman.
Others include the family of former governor of old Midwest and Bendel State, the late Dr Samuel Ogbemudia, led by Gentleman Ameghor and Eghe Ogbemudia, who was recently removed as Chairman of Egor local government area; a former member of the House of Representatives, Hon Isaac Osahon; lawmakers-elect who have not been inaugurated: Chris Okaeben, Uyi Ekhuoseyi, Vincent Uwadiae, Crosby Eribo, Ugiagbe Dumez, Washington Osifo and Sunday Aghedo.
The conveners of EPM, Idahagbon and Osagie; the National President of the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN), Osakpanmwan Eriyo; a former youth leader of APC in Oredo,Tony Adun; a former Chairman of Oredo local government area, Osaro Obazee; Oshiomhole’s former Chief of Staff, Hon Patrick Obahiagbon; governorship aspirants, Major General Charles Airhiavbere (ret.), Solomon Edebiri, Dr Chris Ogienmwonyi, and thousands of their supporters from Edo South are all for Oshiomhole.
Business mogul, Captain Hosa Okunbo, has maintained dignified silence but it is believed that when the chips are down, he would be on the side of Oshiomhole. It has been rumoured that he is one of the persons being convinced to contest the governorship primary.
The member representing Ovia Federal Constituency, Hon Dennis Idahosa, has chosen to be mediator as it was gathered that he has been preaching peace and settlement.
On the other hand, the immediate past National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun; a former member of the NDDC, Matthew Iduoriyeknmwen; Adams Oteghe, Special Adviser to Obaseki on Politics; Chief Osaro Idah, the APC Oredo House of Representatives candidate in 2019; Hon Osaigbovo Iyoha, and current Leader of the House, Roland Asoro, are for the governor.
Notable politicians like the Speaker, Hon Frank Okiye, the governor’s Special Adviser on Agriculture; Prince Joe Okojie; Ojezua; Deputy Leader of the House, Hon Marcus Onabun; and business mogul and former senatorial aspirant, Theo Okoh, are all for Obaseki while grassroots politicians like Hon Patrick Aguenede, Ken Ihienseken, Chief Francis Inegbeneki, Hon Thomas Okosun, Hon David Iyoha and Gideon Obakhan are all for Oshiomhole.
Shaibu is from this senatorial district like Oshiomhole and, with him, the governor has the likes of Senator Domingo Obende, Akerele, Senator Francis Alimikhena, who is said to be angry because he did not get Oshiomhole’s support to be Deputy Senate President, Obaseki’s Commissioner for Education, Jimoh Ejegbai, Adjoto, and Chief of Staff to the Current Speaker, Blessing Agbebaku.
But on the side of Oshiomhole are the Minister of State Budget and National Planning, Hon Clem Agba, former Deputy Governor, Rev Peter Obadan, Deputy Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Hon Peter Akpatason, former member of the House of Assembly, Hon Anselm Agbabi, immediate past Deputy Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Hon Pally Iraise, former member of the House of Representatives, Abdul Oroh, Prof Julius Ihonvbere, Ohio Ezomo, Hon Abubakar Momoh, Blessing Agbemere, Jarret Tenebe, Hon Segun Oseh Tenebe, Victor Okhaimo and numerous others.
All these personalities from the three senatorial zones have roles to play in terms of mobilising party members to vote for their preferred aspirants during the primary election.
A supporter of Obaseki, Oteghe, told Sunday Vanguard that Oshiomhole “should come down from his high horse and put the peoples interest before self-interest’’.
Oteghe went on: ‘’He should look at the interest of Edo people. He has to accept that the governor is serving the interest of the people, the interest of the party and building a future for our children, he has to support the governor.
‘’If he decides to fight the rest of us, that is the silent majority of the Edo people, it will be rather unfortunate that he will be risking it all.
‘’2020, to me, is a year of prosperity, a year of continuity, a year of progressiveness. I expect Oshiomhole to toe that path, he should come down from his high horse, show humility, otherwise, he will fall.’’
He denied that the governor had derailed but that rather he is developing on what he met on ground.
But the first Director-General of Godwin Obaseki Campaign Organisation, Osakue Ayevbekpen, said the governor had derailed and that he had surrounded himself with people who did not know how he became governor.
He said “For the information of the vociferous novices, campaign and election are two related operations that are comparable to war.
“The strategies are similar except that one does not include the use of guns and killing of enemies. In politics, we have opponents and not enemies. In both political and military operations, when a little slip occurs, the consequences could be devastating and irreversible. We took full advantage of our opponents slip to overtake them at the last lap! That’s how the result was delivered!
“To the horde of ingratiating manumits and hallelujah choristers, who celebrate outright ingratitude and legendary insensitivity, we pray for them to come face-to-face with such acts that they now glorify in every facet of their lives! May they commit their intellect and talents and put their lives on the line for a cause and, at the point of success, may they be so neglected, abandoned, dumped and blackmailed!’’