In Edo, Obaseki Battles Obaseki

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Ahead of the September 10 governorship election in Edo State, two governorship aspirants from the Obaseki family in the ancient Benin Kingdom – Dr. Don Pedro Obaseki and his cousin, Mr. Godwin Obaseki – evidently have their eyes on the All Progressives Congress governorship ticket and it is not clear yet who will get it. Shola Oyeyipo writes

Long before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced the September 10, 2016 date for the Edo State governorship election, the undercurrents have shown that the election would be very intriguing as each day passes and with each aspirant getting ready for the party primaries.

The issue of a renowned media guru, Nollywood pioneer, University lecturer, Edo State cultural ambassador and a brilliant young man, who holds a Masters’ degree in Business Administration and two Doctorate Degrees, Dr. Don Pedro Obaseki and his older cousin, Mr. Godwin Obaseki will surely be of interest, not only to the Edo State people, but every watcher of the election.

The aspirants, who are from the same family are vying for the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship ticket amidst widespread rumour that Governor Adams Oshiomhole might have endorsed the senior Obaseki, Godwin, who is the chairman, Economic Team of Edo State Government, as his preferred governorship candidate for the APC.

The rumour was heightened some weeks back, when some leaders of the APC told their loyalists that Godwin Obaseki was the governor’s preferred candidate and urged them to key into it. Since then, there had been a kind of concerted effort by other aggrieved aspirants to frustrate his emergence at the primaries.

But irrespective of the support Godwin is alleged to be getting from Governor Oshiomhole, Don Pedro, talking with journalists in Lagos about his ambition, vowed to pick the APC ticket in the primary. He insisted that the primary must be free and fair, noting that where the APC makes a mistake of conducting a disorganised primary, the party risks losing the state to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Defending his resolve to slug it out against Godwin, Don Pedro does not consider his insistence of challenging his cousin as any impediment for the family. First, he maintained that he was actually the preferred candidate of his family and that he has always enjoyed a relatively more cordial relationship with the people of the state than Godwin.

“I want to make it clear that it was after due consultations with my corporate family that I declared my intention to run for the governorship of Edo State. My family, at a well-attended festival in our patriarch’s palace in Benin on September 9, 2015 endorsed my ambition. And my cousin, Uncle Godwin happens to be my major supporter and I asked him to take me to Governor Oshiomhole because they are close.

“It was on the day (September 24) that he was supposed to take me to the governor that he told me that he was also running for the governorship. My family is not divided and this is not an election, it is a party nomination. If Uncle Godwin wins and he feels he needs my support, I will support him but I beg him to also support me if I win because I will need his support,” he said.

To him, contrary to the insinuation that Governor Oshiomhole is favourably disposed to his cousin, the governor has no preferred candidate. Aside that, he feels the governor is much more politically savvy and knows the thinking of an average Edo person and as such, would not insist on any one particular aspirant.

“The governor is not favouring anyone. He keeps saying that no man is God and that it is a game of one man, one vote. The governor is not a product of godfatherism, so he won’t subscribe to that. So, I say bring it on because I will defeat all the aspirants on the field,” and on the allegation that the leadership of the APC in Edo State is plotting to doctor the delegates list to favour a particular aspirant in the primaries, he said “That is not true.
“I was at a meeting with the other aspirants and the national leadership of the party made it clear that the rules of the game cannot be changed. APC is different from the PDP. In the PDP, the governors are the political leaders of the party in their respective states but in the APC, the state chairmen of the party are the political leaders. So, the primary election in Edo State is not going to be at the beck and call of the state government apparatus. It is the national headquarters of the party that would conduct the poll.

“So, I am not scared as we were told during the meeting that nobody who is not a delegate as at the time of the last convention would be a delegate during the forthcoming primaries because the Edo governorship election is actually a postponed 2015 poll and as a result, new rules cannot apply. It was also agreed that if a delegate is dead, he can only be replaced at the next convention, which would not hold before the primaries.

“If the APC allows a free, fair and credible primary election, we will go to the field to ensure victory for the party in the main election despite whoever emerges the candidate. Nobody, no matter how big, is greater than the corporate entity called Edo State. We are a different kind of people and anyone who takes us for granted is taking a big risk.”

He felt that it would be politically suicidal for the leadership of the APC to toy with the will and aspiration of the people of the state during the primary, particularly with the PDP lurking around the corner to take advantage of any slight discord in the APC. He therefore suggested that instead, it will be better to sustain the goodwill that Governor Oshiomhole had secured for the party by allowing the people elect their preferred APC candidate at the primary, stressing that it is only after then that Edo State can fully become an APC state.

“To say that Edo State is an APC state is to be economical with the political truth but I can leverage on the successes of Governor Adams Oshiomhole to win the state for APC. I call him the ‘Moses of our time’ because he had to fight Pharaoh. Edo’s political space before now was like living in Egypt but Oshiomhole’s coming took us across the Red Sea but I believe that I am the Joshua, who will lead the state to the promised land.

“I want to say this so that the governor can be mindful of what he is doing. In 2015, out of the three supposed candidates of the governor in the senatorial election, two lost. Senator Francis Alimikhena won in Edo North by a slim margin. That does not show an invincible governor.

“Also, the days of money politics or what some people refer to as stomach infrastructure are over. President Buhari proved this in the last elections. If money determines who wins election, former President Goodluck Jonathan would have won that election.

“Edo people are tired, not tired of the party but tired of the recycled and reshuffled ideologically bereft politicians. Those who are running for the governorship in the APC today, apart from one or two, are former members of the PDP, while those running in PDP are former APC/Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN),” he noted.
He has also said repeatedly that he does not have the financial war chest as some others in the race but that his motivation for joining the race was as a result of his belief that the state is on the throes of a motor park democracy and the urgent need to change the way things are done.

On where he is getting the political support to join the race, he said: “I don’t have a godfather; my ambition is being funded by the people of Edo State and my campaign billboards have my bank account number on them. So far, contributions have come from not less than 17,000 people and that is something quite different.

“It is a new way of doing things. I have been to so many countries, talking to Edo people in Diaspora because they are the single largest investors in the state as a bloc in terms of remittances back home. The difference between other aspirants and I is the package I have for Edo people. Even when some of them have made a plethora of promises, the question is: How do they intend to realise them and what is the difference between what they are offering and what we had prior to now.

“I want to reiterate this. Only God anoints. I am not rich in the interpretation of the billionaire space in Nigerian politics but I am very wealthy. I am wealthy in the sense that I am wealthy in ideas and belief. So, I believe that I alone among the army of aspirants in the APC have what it takes to make the party win Edo State,” he said assuredly.

If Don Pedro wins the APC ticket as he vowed to do, his campaign thrust would be hinged on an acronym, EDO, which he says would encompass empowerment, development and opportunities.

“I took EDO as my political message, ideology and mission. If you educate or employ a person, it comes under a larger umbrella which is empowerment. So, ‘E’ in Edo stands for empowerment, ‘D’ stands for development, whether human or infrastructural while the ‘O’ stands for opportunities, and that is creating the enabling environment for businesses to thrive,” he highlighted.

Though Oshiomhole has always said he respected each of the aspirants and assured had them that the leadership of the party would ensure the emergence of a candidate that will sustain the infrastructural development he put in place, a chieftain of the party, Rev Michael Egharevha, recently dismissed threats that if the older Obaseki emerges, it spells doom for the APC in the state.

“If Obaseki (Godwin) is the governor’s choice, nobody will stop him. Oshiomhole made most of us what we are today and if he decides it is Obaseki, so be it, we will all support him. So if anybody is threatening, it is only a waste of time,” Egharevha was quoted to have said.

Though Godwin himself has not been saying much about his well-celebrated ambition, fact is that his political ambition is well known to the people of the state and his name is already everywhere online, so watchers of the Edo State scenario will eagerly wait to see how this plays out eventually.

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My cousin, Uncle Godwin happens to be my major supporter and I asked him to take me to Governor Oshiomhole because they are close…It was on the day (September 24) that he was supposed to take me to the governor that he told me that he was also running for the governorship. My family is not divided and this is not an election, it is a party nomination. If Uncle Godwin wins and he feels he needs my support, I will support him but I beg him to also support me if I win because I will need his support