T he recent Supreme Court verdict which threw away the alleged certificate forgery case against Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki, expectedly, closed the chapter on who should be governor of the state after the 2020 governorship election.
The twists and turns of the election, driven by the intense political gimmicks displayed by Obaseki, his estranged predecessor, Adams Oshiomhole, and the APC candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, there was no telling how the court case would pan out.
However as the legal dust arising from the case settles, a fresh chapter of political intrigues are unfolding in the state.
Oshiomhole’s reaction to the court verdict was interesting. His description of what happened between Obaseki and himself as unfortunate, smacked as eating the humble pie by some pundits.
In a congratulatory message he personally signed, Oshiomhole, who as national chairman, oversaw the sacking of Obaseki from APC, advised the governor to be magnanimous in victory.
He said “As I had repeatedly reminded you during our several meetings, our relationship has through the years developed beyond being friends to being brothers of different parents.
“Whatever happened is unfortunate and I believe God has a reason for everything. I have put all behind me and moved on. As I have consistently advised, please be magnanimous in victory. You are the Governor of all Edo people regardless of political leanings.”
Similarly, the APC governorship candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu also called on the governor to accept his congratulatory message having seen to the end all litigations. He however tried to make a case for the embattled lawmakers who sided with Oshiomhole in the fight against Obaseki.
“ I want to appeal to you to kindly consider the pertinent issues of the 14 constituencies, including the two in your local government – Oredo and the two in your deputy’s local government – Etsako West, that are presently without representation at the Edo State Assembly. Though the matter is in court, you are in a vantage position to consider an out-of-court settlement of the issue, in the overall interest of our state”.
But the governor seems unmoved by their entreaties and attempts at mending the broken political bridge.
Reacting to their congratulatory messages on the Supreme Court ruling, the governor said he was “yet to receive an original copy of the letters signed by the duo”.
Obaseki, who spoke to journalists after he was received by a mammoth crowd of supporters at the Benin Airport, noted that “we cannot look back” after repositioning the state.
He added, “For us in Edo, this victory means freedom and emancipation; it means that we must rededicate ourselves to our people because democracy is all about the people.
“Democracy is not about an individual or godfather. We have defeated the godfather finally in Edo, in our quest to take Edo to where it should be.
“They threw all sorts of trash at us, but by the grace of God, the verdict of the Supreme Court is just the final straw. All the court cases that we have gone through, all the challenges we have faced in the last two years, we have won every one of them,” he said.
The Edo Central agitation
However, the Supreme Court verdict has also reignited the clamour by Esan people who dominate Edo Central senatorial district to occupy Osadebey’s avenue, the seat of power in Edo State.
The agitation has since been described as the Ewohimi declaration which was sequel to the verdict.
Most of the agitators are of the view that the zone had been marginalised as far as occupying the office of the governor is concerned.
The discussion over the political future of Esan people dominated a summit held at the palatial country home of Kenneth Imansuangbon in Ewohimi, Esan South East Local Government Area of the state.
Participants at the Esan Leadership Summit 2021 were unanimous that it is time for all Esan to close ranks and speak in one voice in achieving one of the cardinal points of Esan agenda of not only development but producing the next governor after Obaseki’s tenure comes to an end by 2024.
Barrister Kenneth Imansuangbon, host of the summit organised by Timothy Okojie Ave, publisher of National Chronicle magazine, in his submission said: “the sacrosanctity of 2024 governorship position coming to Esan should not be traded for piecemeal.
“The Esan interest in 2024 is the Edo interest. We must therefore jointly protect this interest. We must not for any reason demean ourselves or try to cast aspersions against our brothers for political gains.”
Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Marcus Izeagbeaya Onobun, charged the participants to be united and strive to do things that would promote the ideals of Esan people.
He also advised that efforts should be geared to ensure that the voting population of the senatorial district is enlarged whereby eligible voters of Esan extraction all around the country come back home to register so that their vote can always count in any election in the state.
He praised the efforts of the organisers of the summit and also commended the host, Barrister Imansuangbon, for making his facility available for use at no cost.
In his presentation, an academician, Professor Omo-Ojugo said: “Let it be noted that occupying the seat(Edo State governorship seat) comes through competition. It is not given or donated to anybody. The group that seeks to provide an occupant of the office must be ready to field or sponsor a credible candidate. We must look out for worthy candidates to run for the office and file behind them.
“We believe that we have many competent persons of Esan origin, who are willing and ready to compete with others for the position. Let us fish them out and get the best among them to contest for the office.
“What we are asking for is that fair opportunities be given to our people. By a fair opportunity, we mean that the position be zoned to our senatorial district by all the participating political parties. Given the fact that Edo South and Edo North have had their fair turns, it is only fair that Edo Central Senatorial District be given the opportunity in 2024 to produce the next governor of Edo State.”
Convener of the summit, Timothy Okojie Ave, in his welcome address submitted: “We can still recall that it was one of our illustrious fathers, a bonafide son of Esan land, Chief Anthony Eromosele Enahoro, who moved the much celebrated motion for Nigeria’s independence. And indeed that brought Nigeria out of the shackles of dependence and servitude.”
In the same vein, daughter of late Professor Ambrose Alli, Mrs Stella Alli Okeregbam, said “I want to congratulate our governor for the well-deserved victory given by the Supreme Court. I also want to congratulate Edo Central for the victory of Governor Godwin Obaseki.
“It is a victory especially for the Esan people because we are here again today at the summit to talk about the Esan Agenda, the way forward. Esan Agenda come 2024 must be accomplished. We are using this medium to plead with the Benins and Afemais to join hands with us so that come 2024 the Esan man or woman will become the governor of Edo State. This is our decision,” she said.
But where this clamour will yield this expected result is another matter as the political permutations in the state continue to unfold.
Cabinet and PDP saga….
However the governor has the task of mending the emerging cracks within his party PDP even as the drive to ensure members who joined from APC have sense of belonging in PDP remains pivotal.
The simmering tussle between the governor and the “old” PDP members had come to the fore in light of the move to set up his cabinet. Now that the legal battles are done and dusted, many would expect either more rumbling within the party or a firm show of control of party structures by the governor.