Adibe Emenyonu, in Benin City, writes on the faceoff between Governor Adams Oshiomhole and Deputy Governor Pius Odubu, which many have attributed to Odubu’s governorship ambition
Edo State Deputy Governor, Dr. Pius Odubu, and his boss, Governor Adams Oshiomhole, came on board November 12, 2008, when the Court of Appeal nullified the election of Professor Osarhiemen Osunbor, then of the Peoples Democratic Party. Oshiomhole and Odubu had since their coming enjoyed so cordial a relationship that the governor on many occasion describe his deputy as the most loyal deputy governor in Nigeria.
To demonstrate to the public that there was no rancour between them, Oshiomhole had during his re-election campaign in 2012 rejected pressure from Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who was then in Action Congress of Nigeria, to drop Odubu as running mate. The governor in conjunction with members of the Edo in Safe Hands, led by his Commissioner for Works, Osarodion Ogie, came to Odubu’s rescue and subdued Ize-Iyamu.
But the relationship between Oshiomhole and Odubu has turned sour. Although there have been no public altercations between the two men.
According to THISDAY investigation, the friction between the governor and his deputy began with the governorship ambition of Odubu, who is alleged not to have informed his principal of his ambition to run for governorship when Oshiomhole summoned his political associates, including Odubu, to support Godwin Obaseki. At the meeting, Odubu was said to have kept quiet, only to open a campaign office later.
It was further learnt that because of the choice of Obaseki, Ogie, earlier believed to be the governor’s choice, had to shelve his ambition as a mark of honour to Oshiomhole. The deputy governor was expected to do the same. But he did not. Based on this, Oshiomhole was alleged to have said that since both of them joined the boat at the same time, they will disembark at the same time.
Indications that the relationship between the two men had gone sour emerged when Odubu’s campaign coordinator, Humphrey Uanseoje, signed a letter with four governorship aspirants of the ruling All Progressives Congress in the state, which was addressed to the national leadership of the party. in the letter, they alleged plans by the state chairman of the party, Anslem Ojezua, to doctor the delegates lists with the backing of Oshiomhole. It was the first time that the deputy governor would openly accuse his boss of alleged plot to manipulate the forthcoming primaries of APC.
It was on the basis of this that a peace meeting was organised on April 11 by the inner circle of APC, with supporters of Oshiomhole and Odubu in attendance, to try to reconcile them. Present at the meeting were Ogie, Ojezue, state secretary of the party, Chief Osaro Idah, Oshiomhole’s in-law, Victor Eboigbe, and Chief of Staff to the Governor, Patrick Obahiagbon.
Others are Phillip Shaibu of the House of Representatives, former two-time House member, Gabriel Oibo, Chief Lucky James, former Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs.
At the meeting Ogie, who opened the meeting, narrated how the group, including the deputy governor, had worked closely in the past 10 years with Oshiomhole, saying it would be bad to allow the prevailing bickering between the governor and his deputy to continue.
Speaking at the meeting, Odubu was said to have lamented that his office had been starved of funds, while his political allies were victimised, and the governor directed the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Henry Idahagbon, and Washington Osifo to write a petition against him to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission with a view to impeaching him. Odubu further narrated how the governor had allegedly relegated him to the background.
In his response, Oshiomhole was said to have recalled how he had backed his deputy in his political battles with people and their discussions as brothers. He explained that the parlous state of finance in the state had even affected his own office and not only that of the deputy governor. Oshiomhole narrated how he had been travelling alone without his aides due to paucity of funds. Oshiomhole went further to berate his deputy for being part of those who signed a statement accusing him of backing the state chairman of the party in the alleged ploy to manipulate the delegates list ahead the primaries of the party. He said his deputy’s action was a clear indication of an attack against his person.
But Odubu denied the accusation. He said his coordinator had given his signature to some other party members who needed it but never knew what they wanted to use it for. But the leaders of the party expressed their doubt over his defence, asserting that he should have debunked the publication in the press if he was not behind it. Odubu, however, apologized to Oshiomhole, assuring that such mistake will not be repeated.
Tension in the room heightened when Oshiomhole started responding to the allegation against him by Odubu that he did not attend his wife’s birthday and that the governor had treated him recently like a leper. Oshiomhole declared to the leaders that he had deliberately avoided attending events at his deputy’s house after it was revealed to him that his deputy allegedly contracted native doctors to hurt him so that Odubu will take over as governor. Oshiomhole said he was informed of the alleged plan by a leader of the party, Chief Sam Iredia, and that he had met with the native doctor whom his deputy allegedly contracted to do the damage, adding that the native doctor admitted and gave him details of how the rituals were executed. Oshiomhole added that Iredia, who was out of the country, was ready to confront Odubu with the details of his alleged meeting with the witch doctors.
But to confirm his innocence, Odubu was said to have volunteered to contact a strong traditional doctor in Benin, popularly known as “Ayelala”, so that those who accused him will come and take an oath before the gods. He vehemently denied the allegations and reiterated his loyalty to the governor.
At this stage, some of the party leaders at the meeting were said to have confronted Odubu with his suggestion of Ayelala, informing him that his suggestion to invite a native doctor rather than the use of a Bible, since he is a Catholic, was a pointer that the governor’s allegation against him may have some element of truth.
The tension in the room heightened further when some of the party leaders in the room admonished Odubu to end his governorship ambition, while expressing shock over the disclosure by Oshiomhole. However Ogie calmed the situation and the meeting ended in a peaceful note after both parties expressed satisfaction with it.
With the satisfactory outcome of the meeting everyone went home happy. But Odubu went ahead to open a campaign office and formally declared his governorship ambition on April 29 while his boss was busy supervising projects.
The whole thing climaxed on April 30, when Odubu was reportedly attacked by some thugs in Afasho, Etsako West council area, during a campaign tour to see delegates for the upcoming party primaries. The primary election would elect the candidate that will fly the party’s flag in the September governorship election in the state.
He was scheduled to meet with party delegates in Fugar, headquarters of Etsako West local government. But he met the gates of the secretariat locked, a situation that was said to have angered some persons in his entourage who forced the gate open to enable the deputy governor meet with delegates outside the secretariat.
Odubu, in a statement by the director of strategic research of his campaign organisation, Samson Osagie, accused those at the corridors of power in the state of being behind the attack. He enumerated instances where a number of persons considered to be loyal to the governorship ambition of the deputy governor were illegally suspended and removed from office, adding, “This to us is the height of naked display of power of cruelty, animosity, intolerance and man inhumanity to man.”
He said five persons, including State Security Service officer, escort police attached to the deputy governor, were severely injured during the attack on Odubu.
According to Osagie, also a former House of Representatives member for Orhionmwom / Unhumuwode federal constituency, upon investigation, the organisation had identified three persons who masterminded the attack.
Fired by this accusation, the Commissioner for information and Orientation, Kassim Afegbua, in a statement, noted that the assassination theory told by the Odubu group was false. He stated, “Our attention has been drawn to newspaper reports and subsequent press statement by the Odubu Campaign Organisation on the alleged assassination attempt on Dr Pius Odubu, the Deputy Governor of Edo State and a gubernatorial aspirant of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
“While we condemn in very strong terms the ugly incident at Auchi, we note, however, that the conclusion of the Odubu Campaign Organisation on alleged assassination attempt appears hasty as preliminary reports suggest that the fracas at Auchi was caused by thugs loyal to the Odubu campaign imported in two truck-loads to Auchi who attacked other party loyalists not sold to the Deputy Governor’s aspiration.
“It is instructive to note that the Deputy Governor was inside the secretariat building of the APC in the company of the Party Chairman in the Local Government, Alhaji Umoru Akokhia, addressing the delegates while thugs loyal to him who had become unruly fired gunshots at other APC loyalists who were outside protesting against his visit.”
Furthermore, he said, “We gathered authoritatively that the first shots were, in fact, fired by Odubu’s security details in an attempt to scare away the party faithful who were against the hoodlums imported to their domain by the Odubu Campaign Organisation, before thugs loyal to him fired at the party’s loyalists.
“It should be noted that among those who sustained injuries are APC loyalists who are presently receiving medical attention in the hospital. It is laughable that the Odubu Campaign Organisation will allege that the Deputy Governor, with full compliments of security details, was shot at yet no casualty was recorded on the other side and nobody apprehended.”
PDP is certainly enjoying the battle in APC. PDP’s state publicity secretary, Chris Nehikhare, hailed Odubu for declaring his intension for the governorship race, saying he has exhibited boldness. PDP went on to accuse Oshiomhole of waging war against his deputy due to his preference for Obaseki as governorship candidate of the APC.
Obaseki has condemned the attack on the deputy governor. He said in a statement that the relevant security agencies should investigate the shooting, which he described as “not in the spirit of equity and fair play by which all political gladiators should align.”
He stated, “The Godwin ObasekiCampaign organisation strongly condemns this dastardly act. This is not in the spirit of equity and fair play by which all political gladiators should align.
“I, Mr. Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki, the Chairman of the Economic Strategy Team of Edo State and gubernatorial aspirant of the APC (and my team) unequivocally condemn this senseless act of violence”. While asking and encouraging all politicians not to use violence of any sort as a tool for electioneering, he however, urged all politicians to take heed and be mindful of incendiary comments and rhetoric that could encourage violence of any sort.”
Many believe that if the APC national leadership fails to intervene in time to settle the disagreement between Oshiomhole and Odubu, it may snowball into a major crisis that would hurt the party at the governorship election.