Edo 2020, Obaseki, Oshiomhole: Who blinks first?

Edo state has been in the news for the wrong reasons in recent times following the cold relationship between Governor Godwin Obasaki and his predecessor Adams Oshiomhole. PATRICK AHANOR writes.

Recent turn of events within the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo state are indicating that things have fallen apart in the ruling party largely due to the governorship election billed for 2020 when incumbent, Governor Godwin Obaseki would have completed his first four-year term.

Obaseki was the economic adviser to former governor Adams Oshiomhole as governor for eight years. As a result, Oshiomhole backed Obaseki to pick the party’s ticket at the primaries by defeating five other aspirants which include the then deputy governor, Pius Odubu.

Less than three years after Obaseki assumed the governorship of the state, the supremacy battle for the control of the state appears to be a straight fight between what analysts call ‘godfather and godson’.

Besides it’s believed that a deep gulf arising from political differences have separated both men far apart thereby heightening political tension in the state.

His alleged sins

At the centre of the crisis, according to sources, is Governor Obaseki’s refusal to continue with the ‘old order’, disagreement over who gets the party’s ticket during the last APC primaries in the state and the party’s woeful performance during the February 23 presidential/NASS elections.

Many believe that Obaseki’s seeming disconnect from the party leaders accounted for the party’s heavy defeat in Edo South Senatorial district where he lost his ward and local government.

Also, a chieftain of the party, Mr Osakpawan Nomoless, who also hails from Ordeo local government like the governor, was clamped in prison over alleged threat to life of a party member and afterwards removed as the party’s youth leader while in detention.

The governor had, however, attributed the party’s loss to what he called ethnic coloration and voting pattern even as he thereafter pulled the rug off the feet of the opposition parties when he led the party’s campaign for the state assembly elections with a triumphant victory of all the 24-seats for the APC.

Besides he had told persons believed to have wanted things in the ‘old order’ saying “Government House is not a bank.”  He added that he can’t share government money meant for the development of the state with greedy politicians.

Be that as it may, interest groups believed to be loyal to the national chairman of APC under the aegis of Edo Peoples Movement (EPM) have vowed to stop the Edo governor from securing the party’s ticket for his re-election.

And like what has now become of an epic movie,  the group is led by the immediate past attorney general of the state, Henry Idahagbon and a former minority whip of the House of Rep, Samson Osagie and Osakpawan Nomoless- a former youth leader of the party on one hand, while the governor’s faction is believed to include the outgoing speaker of the state assembly, Kabiru Adjoto,  incumbent deputy governor, Philip Shaibu and secretary to the state government, Osarodion Ogie, both of whom were former allies of Oshiomhole.

While the former governor and Obaseki are yet to personally trade words over the unfolding drama in the party’s rank, the duo are believed to have deployed their foot soldiers on the social media to show their might ahead of the party’s governorship primaries.

For instance, the EPM at a forum where they openly rejected the second term bid of the governor said, “We stakeholders in the APC have realised that without our urgent intervention, the ship of the party in the state is heading for a very disastrous end.

“This was exemplified during the general elections; the presidential and National Assembly polls where the party lost woefully in Edo South and Edo Central. In fact, it is on record that Obaseki is the first sitting governor anywhere in Nigeria to lose his polling unit”.

 According to a leader of the group, Henry Idahagbon said, “That is a score card of failure, he (Obaseki) has failed politically and administratively he has failed and we are determined that in 2020, we will have a replacement for him because the voice of the people is the voice of God.”

Obaseki is not a weakling – Commissioner

The comments however, provoked a solidarity rally for Obaseki by some N-power beneficiaries, market women, the National Union of Road Transport Workers, National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) and others.

 The group assured the governor of their full support and his people-centered policies, urging him to ignore attacks by a handful of those they describe as greedy politicians over his refusal to give them access to the state’s treasury.

The state commissioner for information and orientation, Paul Ohonbamu, who received the support group in the Government House on behalf of Obaseki, warned political detractors not to mistake the governor’s humane disposition for weakness.

Ohonbamu who declared that Obaseki is not a weakling said the governor was aware that tolerance of aggression would bring more aggression, adding that the he would respond to opponents of his second term bid with positive works.

 “Those who threatened that they will let hell loose, I want to tell them that no governor is a weakling.

“Every governor can sting; every governor can strike. We are fortunate to have a governor who is an unwilling serpent.

“This fight is not Obaseki’s fight. The people put him there. He has the legitimate votes from of the people and he cannot betray the trust. The goodwill cannot be squandered,” Ohonbamu said.

More so, it’s believed that the recent travails of Oshiomhole may have given the anti-Oshiomhole’s camp the impetus to fight on as it was learnt that the Government House was in jubilant mood over the APC national deputy chairman, Sen Lawal Shuaibu’s letter urging Oshiomhole to step aside over the party’s loss of fortunes at the polls.

For the anti-Oshiomhole forces, the former governor will have his hands full when the call for his removal gathers steam and would be too busy to save his job while Governor Obaseki takes full charge of the state chapter of the party unhindered.

In what looks like home trouble for the embattled APC national chairman, a group under the aegis of Edo APC stakeholders last week joined the call for Oshiomhole’s resignation.

Spokesman for the group, Dr Peter Ologun, claimed that Oshiomhole’s continued stay in office would, no doubt, culminate in the demise of APC in the country.

“If Oshiomhole refuses to toe the path of honour by tendering his resignation letter, Edo APC members would be left with no option but to stage a one-million-man march in Abuja to peacefully enforce his removal from office.”

Ologun further said whereas President Buhari has never interfered in the affairs of Katsina state and other states, it said the situation is different in Edo.

For now, a reconciliation of the warring factions appears impossible as the state would be heading the way of Zamfara if urgent step is not taken to heal wounds and unite both groups.

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