The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State will hold its governorship primaries this year. But the friction between Governor Godwin Obaseki and his predecessor/national chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole keeps getting tougher, EMAMEH GABRIEL writes.
The long-standing feud between the national chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, (APC) and the Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki appears to have reached boiling point as developments in the state indicate.
Obviously, both sides have lost their equanimity; love is lost and trust long betrayed. For Obaseki, he has continued to display the vigour of no retreat, even as he strives to prioritise governance in the state. It also appears that he will stop at nothing to justify his stand, needling Oshiomhole over the party’s crises in the state. Having gauged his wits as fit enough to shake off the machinations aimed at edging him off the seat, indications are rife that Obaseki will neither retreat nor surrender any time soon as the party’s primary election in the state draws closer.
Obaseki’s recent disposition has been that of someone who has been transformed to a politician than the technocrat he was known to be. With a loyal deputy, Philip Shaibu, who knows Oshiomhole better, by his side, a resolute Obaseki is willing to push his former boss to the limit.
On his part, Oshiomhole is not only faced with the battle at the national level to save his seat, at the home front, he and his team of supporters are ready to take the fight against Obaseki to whatever limit to maintain relevance and influence in the polity of the state. To the embattled APC national chairman, it is either he wins to stay afloat or gets his fingers burnt.
There have been no clearer pictures as to the bone of contention till recently, but there have been claims, allegations, accusations and counter accusations from both factions, bordering on attempt to hijack the party’s structure by Obaseki’s faction and from the other side, it is a fight against godfatherism. Obviously, some of these conspiracy theories may not be far from the truth.
“It is a war of ego and control over who takes what and who decides who and what. This is the only reason crisis like that of APC in Edo could fester for this long”, a former APC chieftain who pleaded anonymity told LEADERSHIP Sunday.
“Obaseki doesn’t want to be controlled and by his level of leadership standard, he would feel betraying the trust the people reposed in him and the oath of office he took to serve no one but the people”, he said.
There have been attempts by stakeholders both at state and national levels to turn things around, calm frayed nerves and settle the rift between both factions, but the continued hostility by supporters from both sides appears to be the hindrance in the peace processes. They are not only ready to push and test their clouts but also out of ego to pitch both gladiators against themselves and cause them to dance naked in the public.
President Muhammadu Buhari had recently asked Oshiomohle to go home and resolve the crisis rocking the APC in his home state Edo and sue for calm, though this is yet to be achieved.
Obaseki had on different occasions declared that he would continue to pursue the part of peace but it appears that things are hanging in the balance as all efforts made to get both sides to the peace table never saw the light of the day.
Oshiomhole on his part had said he would tow the same line of peace but the Obaseki group appears to have lost trust. The fear is that, they might be ambushed by Oshiomhole, who they believe has a secret agenda to get rid of Obaseki and Shaibu in particular.
Recently, the leadership of APC at the national level made the attempt to step in whenever needed, to rescue the party from what has been perceived as a looming implosion. But just like several other efforts before now, the move met with a brick wall.
The NWC of the party set up by Oshiomohle had appointed the Senate President, Sen Ahmed Lawan to lead a reconciliation committee to bring both sides to the table for talks and subsequently settle their grievances.
But in swift rejection of the reconciliation moves, the Edo government had described some members of the committee as being people of “interests” in the crisis, saying they are not qualified to be arbitrators in a matter they are already party to.
In its rejection statement sent to media houses, the Edo State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Paul Ohonbamu, and the spokesperson to the state governor, Crusoe Osagie, had described both the Senate President and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ahmed Wase, as meddlers in the crisis.
They had faulted the composition of the committee with the duo of Lawan and Wase to serve as adjudicators on a matter they had presided over in a plenary session where the motion to take over the state assembly were deliberated.
LEADERSHIP Sunday recalls that both chambers of the National Assembly had in June passed a resolution to take over the legislative duties of the Edo State House of Assembly following the crisis emanated during its last inauguration by the Governor on June 17, 2019.
A Federal High Court in Port Harcourt had however restrained the National Assembly from interfering in the affairs of the Edo State House of Assembly.
Justice Kolawole Omotosho had ruled that the National Assembly could not compel Obaseki to issue another proclamation within the lifespan of an existing proclamation for inauguration of Edo House of Assembly.
It could also be recalled that leadership of both Chambers of the National Assembly vowed to challenge the ruling of the Port Harcourt High Court that restrained them from meddling into the Edo House of Assembly crisis.
It is against this backdrop that the Obaseki group had insisted that the Ahmed Lawan led committee was not qualified to resolve the difference between the warring factions.
“We believe the committee does not only fall-short of the most basic of integrity tests, but is also a disservice to genuine efforts to bring a lasting solution to the crisis rocking different chapters of the APC across the country,” the Edo officials said.
“To the specifics, Senator Lawan and Ahmed Wase in the Senate and the House of Representatives, respectively, presided over the plenary sessions where the motions to take over the Edo State House of Assembly were deliberated,” the statement had read, adding that the duo of Lawan and Wase “are also parties in the court case”.
The Obaseki group had also frowned at the formation of the committee, saying Oshiomhole cannot be a party to a crisis and at the same time a judge in the same case.
“The NWC, which constituted the reconciliatory committee, is presided over by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who is a key actor in the crisis in Edo State. With this move, it amounts to him also being the judge in his own case,” the officials had queried.
In what appears to be in retaliation, Oshiomhole had on the Christmas Eve
of December 2019 turned down gift items sent by the state government to his country home.
While both sides are playing their cards close to the chest and waiting to ambush each other, Oshiomhole recently took the lead to flirt with the opposition in the state and opened the doors for his fierce political rival in the state, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, and his supporters to settle scores with in a bid to fortify his camp.
His newly found romance with Ize-Iyamu was greeted with stiff criticisms by party faithful who described the move of the former labour leader as desperate, saying he acted not only to save his dwindling political fortune but was also ready to give the state away just to have his pound of flesh from Governor Godwin Obaseki.
“Oshiomhole is threading on dangerous grounds. I don’t envy him at all”, said his former aide on Trade and Investment, Lukeman Akemokue.
“He sure needs help, if not spiritual deliverance, perhaps from himself. How does one explain the current political suicide my oga is about to commit with this new romance with, and even marriage to the same man he told the entire world he and his comrades have successfully retired.
“Why should a man, who has been so favoured by sheer providence, consciously undertake to bring down a house he supervised its construction?
“It is indisputable that all the people manning the Obaseki government today were all his footsoldiers and strategists who gave their all to make him succeed in relegating the wolves, hyenas, leopards and jackals into oblivion. How can one imagine that the same Oshiomhole has now gone into that same oblivion to wake up the same wounded lion to devour his erstwhile comrades?”
In swift reactions to the array of criticisms that greeted his renewed relationship with Ize-Iyamu, the embattled APC national chairman had however debunked the accusation of an alleged compromise to sell out the state to the opposition, recalling that interest is paramount in politics.
“My doors are open. If you want to close your doors in politics, you can’t open them on election day”, Oshiomhole had said in an interview with Channels TV.
“There is no agreement with anybody, including Pastor. So, is it new to your knowledge of politics and politicking that people go and identify with people who we know we started this business together to come to us or they recognising that they made a mistake by leaving and they decided to return?” he had asked.
However, in an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP Sunday, the chairman of the Edo State chapter of the APC, Anslem Ojezua, described Oshiomhole’s new romance with Ize-Iyamu and other PDP stalwarts who defected to the party in the state as a clear “attempt to distract the government just to be able to get at the governor.”
According to Ojezua: “those who are plotting have forgotten that in this short time, he has been able to make an impact in the citizenry. And that is where my confidence stems from, that no matter what happens, provided that Obaseki is on the ticket, he would win the election.
“I am also confident that the party is squarely behind Obaseki. Do not forget that politics is local. The national level depends on the state level for its own validity”, said the party scribe who noted that “the general impression is that it’s unfortunate that Oshiomohle has placed himself in this embarrassing situation, because when he was governor, he got all the cooperation he needed to work despite the fact that he is not perfect and he offended a number of sensibility, everybody tolerated him”.
He said for Oshiomhole “to now begin to lead the onslaught against his own party and his own goverment, is the worse any political leader can do in politics”.
On the rejection of the peace committee set up by the NWC and the alleged ambush plotted by Oshiomhole’s camp, he said as much as they are ready for peace, it must be rooted on a sincere ground and warned that nobody should abuse the process of the primary election.
In his words: “If anybody uses his position or better still abuses his position by trying to manipulate the process, he will get the full wrath of both the people and the party members. Let me also tell you that in politics there is no dead end. So if they feel that there are ways and means they can use to abuse the process, there are ways and means by which we can also counter them and make sure that they are frustrated in the process.
“But I would rather wait and see what happens. I hear that he is planning on his own to change the executive in order to favour the mercenaries he has brought into the party. I wish them luck but they will get the full measure of their imagination.”
Oshiomhole Not Ready For Peace, Insists Ojezua
Ojezua insists that Oshiomhole’s body language does not portray one who truly wants peace.
According to him: “There have been several attempts on the part of a lot of people and leaders who mean well for the party and the state. But you know that if a person who is nursing a grudge does not purge himself off of that grudge, there is no way reconciliation can take place.
“What I see Oshiomhole doing is trying to keep the impression that he wants peace that it’s the governor who does not want peace. So, he pretends to set up a reconciliation committee, but in setting up that committee he has now brought people who have clear interests, people who are part of the crisis and said they should come and adjudicate over this matter. So that already tells you that he has an ulterior motive.
“Secondly and more importantly, something as simple as courtesy which is done annually where people in high position are favoured by government patronage during Christmas, which would have been the first step towards reconciliation; gifts where sent to him by Edo State government but they were turned down.
“Does that look like somebody who is thinking of reconciliation? “ He asked, adding that people should look beyond as they will find out that Oshiomhole has crossed the rubicon. I doubt it but I will be very happy if reconciliation is achieved.
“If you look at what the President has said in recent times, it’s clear that the President would have preferred that those at the national level should give some level of respect to those at the state level. Because like he said in his speech, politics essentially is local. We should be the one telling the national what we want and not the other way round as if we are a military brigade.”
It Is Obaseki Against Edo APC Not Me – Oshiomhole
In response to accusations of non commitment to peace, Oshiomhole who spoke through his press secretary, Simon Ebegbulem said he has no fight with Obaseki, rather “it is Obaseki that is having issues with the party”.
Ebegbulem who refused to comment further said there is a substantive state party chairman recognised by the party at the national level not Ojezua.
Already drums for the party’s primary election in the state have started rolling out as key actors interested for the contest are already scheming.
But analysts have raised concerns on the implications of the crisis on APC if the fractured fence cannot be mended. The fear is that, the PDP in Edo, even with its dwindling fortune is banking on leveraging on the crisis. There are clear chances that the party might bounce back if the ruling party in the state fails to put its house in order before the primary election.
Recently Obaseki had asked Oshiomhole to apologise to APC in the state so his suspension could be lifted. Obaseki made this known during an expanded ward meeting in Edo North where he described Oshiomhole as a man who has failed to manage his household.
According to him: “Can you imagine a national chairman that is creating problems in his own house? Because of that, we had to suspend him and he remains suspended.
“We pray that God should have mercy on him because he has done something bad against God and the people of Edo State. He should find his way back into the party and apologise to all of us.
“If he comes back remorseful and apologetic, we will consider taking him back”, he noted.
Prince Kasim Afegbua a former Commissioner of the state and media aide to Adams Oshiomhole, described the political crisis in Edo State chapter of the ruling APC as “needless”. “There is no basis for it”, he said.
“Now that it has assumed this boiling point, the state suffers and governance will be slowed down. Scarce resources which ought to be channeled to building critical infrastructure are now being frittered away on political engagements”, said Afegbua who condemned the incident that played out on 12 December in state, which grounded economic activities in some parts of the state capital.
“There is fear and trepidation everywhere. The other day, it was killings and mayhem at Etsako Central, and also at Ibviaro. We have also heard how a former member of the House of Reps Hon. Osahon was attacked at his home when he was holding a political meeting. The regime of fear is very palpable and this is not a conducive environment for business of government to thrive”, he added.
“If they like they reconcile, that is their business. I am praying for PDP to get its act together in order to reap from the fallout of the divisions. Edo people should be wiser by now. We cannot allow the APC to drag us backward.
“I do agree that reconciliation is an essential ingredient of democracy, but again, you cannot as a Governor choose who should be Judge in your own case. The NEC of the party or any party, is the highest decision making body of any party. Since they have decided, it is only natural you follow through,” Afegbua advised, saying “when chips are down, Governor Obaseki has a greater responsibility to play because he is the one that needs the votes of the electorates. It is Obaseki’s responsibility to ensure that people vote for him. This idea of fighting people is further alienating him”, he added.
On his part, Johnson Andrew, a social media influencer and commentator, fears that there are clear chances that the ruling party stands the risk to giving the state out to the opposition PDP on a platter of gold.
According to Johnson: “Obaseki if not careful will give an easy victory to PDP. As it stands, if true that Adams is suspended, any name submitted to INEC will be upturned by the courts. I see the Zamfara scenario repeating itself”.
Even as traditional rulers in the state have continued to sue for peace, the final outcome of the crisis will depend on who blinks first, though looking at the current situation, it is unlikely that Obaseki will rescind his position on the crisis in the state assembly.
But will the governor sacrifice his deputy, Philip Shaibu, to secure a second ticket? It appears that Philip, Oshiomhole’s long time friend and godson is no longer in the good book of the APC national chairman.
The former labour leader and Edo State Governor has expressed disappointment over what he described as Shaibu’s betrayal of trust. Oshiomhole had also in a recent interview, blamed the deputy governor for misleading his principal.
According to Oshiomhole: “Rather than reverse, they tell him crush. His weak point is his deputy. All I have told the Governor and I will repeat it here even now, there is no other alternative to peace and holding on to governance than reconciling with everybody”.
While Obaseki’s group are still suspicious to go into talks with Oshiomhole and his team of supporters, analysts have suggested that pressing for an equal share in power is just a tool to bargain for the best and this could only be achieved by involving neutral and honest parties that will arbitrate without fear or favour.
Meanwhile, rumour from the grapevine is that traditional rulers in the state are already putting heads together to bring both sides to table for talks. Will they buy peace at any price for the sake of the state? There are no answers yet.