The rift between the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and the governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki over who takes control leadership of the state House of Assembly has remained in the realm of verbal war. However, the acrimony has snowball to fisticuffs with the alleged attempted attack on Oshiomhole in in residence in Benin City, writes Adibe Emenyonu.
Right from the time Edo people woke up to be greeted with a nocturnal inauguration of the state assembly with nine out of the 24-member house, all the parties in the political combat have been living in self denial of no rift between Governor Godwin Obaseki and his benefactor, and now National Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
Recently, Governor Obaseki was confronted by journalists at the Benin Airport when arrived the state from Abuja to attend the last May Day rally. He categorically stated, when the question was posed to him, that there was no rift between him and his predecessor.
Obaseki even went further to say that it is the imagination of the media to suggest that both of them are quarrelling. According to him, the relationship between the two of them is cordial.
However, after the inauguration of the state assembly which is still in contention till date, the music suddenly changed from harmony to that of discordant tune. The bubble burst with godfather and godson falling apart. Not only that, the party in the state became polarised with most state functionaries in support of Obaseki, while majority of those in Abuja are behind Oshiomhole.
Just as the Abuja politicians, as they are branded, is powered by Edo People’s Movement (EPM) with the mandate to truncate Obaseki’s second term ambition, loyalists in support of Obaseki operate under the umbrella of Obaseki, Shaibu Movement (OSM) with the objective to actualise a second term ticket for Obaseki and his deputy, Phillip Shaibu.
In order to consolidate his position, Obaseki has embarked on sacking those he believes are loyal to Oshiomhole and replacing them with his loyalists. He started this with the sack of Etsako West local government chairman, Hon. Musa Yakson, while the Vice Chairman of Uhunmwode, Hon. Edosa Iyayi was forced to resign to avert removal.
Others that fell under the hammer are the chairman of Esan West, Hon. Patrick Aguinede; the chairman of Etsako East council; and the vice chairman of Orhionmwon local government council, Hon. Elekuezi Eleduwa that was removed by the legislative arm in a controversial manner and has gone to court to contest his impeachment, as well as Ms Erie Ogbemudia, chairperson of Egor local government.
In the words of an APC chieftain loyal to EPM, “those removed have been tagged enemies of the governor hence the trump up charges of financial misappropriation levelled against them.”
Also penciled down for removal as reliably gathered is the council chairman of Etsako Central local government, Hon. Joseph Akhigbe
In addition to these removals or forced resignation is the sacking of all Special Assistants and Senior Special Assistants to the governor which one of the ruling party chieftains in the state told THISDAY was perfected to do away with those found romancing with EPM or those he best described as, “OSM in the daytime and EPM in the night.”
There was also a verbal war between the two opposition groups within the party. Not too long ago, the state APC chairman, Mr. Anselm Ojezua was quoted as saying that the party will not fail to suspend members forming parallel groups within the party in order to cause disharmony
Ojezua who gave the warning shortly after the state executive committee meeting held at the party’s secretariat with governor Obaseki in attendance, also frowned at the attitude of some of members he said are hell bent on breaking the rank of the party, noting that the party leadership has no right to suspend members who are dissidents but can only make recommendations for their expulsion.
Ojezua who reeled out the various constitutional breaches by this group or group of persons and the punishment for various offenses, noted that the penalty goes with suspension with the possibility of expulsion subject to ratification by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party.
He said the state executive meeting became necessary to checkmate those who want to cause disaffection within the party, stressing that the meeting was essentially held to discuss issues of formation of a group within the party and to look at what the constitution says about that.
His said, “We reached the conclusion that the constitution of the party forbids the formation of a parallel group within the party. It is anti-party for members to works to weaken the fabrics of the party and it must be discouraged. So we are going to take steps to deal with those issues.
“As you recall, in May, we published a disclaimer where we said the constitution of the party does not recognize groups particularly, the said group EPM or whatever it is called.”
But members of EPM led by Henry Idahagbon, former state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice fired back accusing Ojezua of hypocrisy. He said Ojezua cannot appropriate and reprobate.
To him, if in the words of the state APC boss, EPM is a dissident group because it opposes Obaseki’s style of politics, then, OSM which is opposed to Oshiomhole calling Obaseki to order, is also as guilty as EPM and should be dealt with in like manner. He added that all Ojezua needed to do as the party chairman is to call both groups to order rather than taking sides.
Similarly, a chieftain of APC in the state and 2020 governorship aspirant, Major-General Charles Airhiavbere (rtd) has accused Governor Obaseki of plotting to abandon the party and seek his second term bid in another party after realising that it would be difficult to get a second term ticket due to the way and manner he has handled the party.
He further accused Obaseki of the move to cross carpet in order to have soft landing while leaving his main assets which are the APC leaders in disarray.
General Airhiavbere who made the allegation while speaking to journalists in Benin City, said the crisis in Edo APC became obvious after the presidential election where the party lost in Edo South and Edo Central, adding that the party only succeeded because of the massive votes from Edo North for President Muhammadu Buhari to scale through in the state.
Aihriavbere also noted that the incompetence of Obaseki was responsible for his falling out with the leaders of the party including his predecessor, Oshiomhole. He pointed out that after the last presidential election, there had not been governance in Edo State and that if things are allowed to go the way they are are presently, the opposition will take over.
The former governorship candidate of PDP in 2012 election who later decamped to APC expressed worry that the state with all 24 members in the house of assembly is divided, advising that more problems await the party if something is not done quickly.
Reacting swiftly, Special Adviser to Obaseki on Media and Communication Strategy, Crusoe Osagie described the allegation of defection as a lie from the pit of hell. He said, “Governor Obaseki is firmly rooted in the party in the state because he has recorded 100 per cent in his political career. He is performing. He is the leader of the party. He controls the party so who will he leave the party for? That allegation is a complete lie from the pit of hell.
Osagie also stressed that Governor Obaseki has a very robust relationship with the presidency and his party at the centre, noting that since APC is the ruling party in the state and at the centre, why will the governor leave?
According to him, “The good records of Obaseki cannot be compared to that of Airhiavbere. Obaseki contested for election once and won. Airhiavbere has been contesting and has always lost even when he was a candidate of another party in 2012, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole defeated him in the entire 18 local government areas of the state. He should be asked where he gets money to always contest elections.”
Apart from these verbal altercations that has dominated the political space, the crisis has however, took a different dimension last weekend with the alleged attempted attack on Oshiomhole by youths loyal to Obaseki which resulted to a near clash between youths loyal to the two leaders.
The alleged attempted attack which is an indication that it is now fight to finish was said have taken place at Okoroutun Street, residence of Oshiomhole in GRA, Benin City. The incident occurred shortly after Oshiomhole arrived his house.
It was learnt that the suspected thugs loyal to Obaseki had gathered around the residence of Oshiomhole and were chanting “Oshiomhole ole” apparently waiting for him to come out of the house not knowing he had left the house.
Upon getting the information, those loyal to Oshiomhole were said to have mobilised to the scene for a possible showdown before security operatives quickly came to the scene to disperse them and at the same time beef up security in and around the place.
Supporters of Oshiomhole alleged that the suspected thugs were sent by Governor Godwin Obaseki’s Chief of Staff, Mr. Taiwo Akerele who in turn countered that he was attacked by a chieftain of the APC, Tony Adun popularly known as Kabaka in Protrea Hotel while meeting with some foreign investors.
Narrating his experience, Akerele said he just arrived from his home town where he also discovered that unknown persons burgled his house. Their mission is not yet ascertained.
He said he went to the hotel at about 7pm on Saturday, for a meeting with some foreign investors and that while the meeting was on Kabaka attacked him verbally and was walking towards him when he was restrained by people around.
When contacted however, Adun denied the allegation. He said they went to Protrea to see how Oshiomhole was faring after the attempted attack in his house, pointing out that he was at home when they received a call that some persons have mobilised to the house of Oshiomhole .
He disclosed that the hoodlums upon citing them ran away before security agents came to barricade the street.
“Thank God Protrea is a world class hotel and they cannot say that they don’t have CCTV. They should go and play it and see what transpired between us. If there was an attack and attempt at assassination as alleged, Tony Kabaka will go in for it, but if there is no such attempt, I will sue them,” Adun threatened.
Chief Press Secretary to Oshiomhole, Simon Ebegbulem while confirming the incident alleged that those who harrassed his principal were sent by Obaseki who he said was desperate to get a second term as governor of the state but that the attack was neutralised by APC youths who were mobilised to the national chairman’s residence.
On his part, the Special Adviser to Obaseki on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie said the allegation against Obaseki was false.
Osagie said he was not aware of any such attack and there was no information that Oshiomhole was even in town and therefore, the allegation against his boss was a blatant lie.
However, Oshiomhiole while addressing some youths who followed him to his house from the hotel, said there was no cause for alarm as he only came to Benin to attend a ceremony and rest, urging them to ensure that there is peace in the country and Edo State.
He said anything that happens anywhere, people allude it to President Buhari and that is why they (APC) leaders have been helping the president to secure the whole country including Edo State, urging them not be among those that beat drums of war, rather they should be among those who share the powder of peace.
Oshiomhole counselled that in moments like these, no one should return madness for madness. He reminded the youths that in 2007 and during his second term in 2012 they remained strong up to 2016 when many of them were deployed as agents of the party to protect votes when the federal government was controlled by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
“Now that the federal government is APC, we have to take it easy so that there is no breach of peace anywhere in Nigeria and particularly in our state, Edo. Those people who are looking for trouble, they are like a small mushroom. If you take a stick to destroy a mushroom you gain nothing because you don’t need a stick to do that. How far can a snail travel? If a snail is running, what is its maximum speed? Therefore, don’t run after a snail,” he further admonished the youths.
He recalled that prior to 2012 governorship election, two men who wore red went round town saying he (Oshiomhole) will not get a second term; that they have declared war on him and “I called our women and said go and put on white. The red they wore is their blood, the white is our peace from that position till today by the special grace of God I am what I am. What God has willed no man can change it.
“I am very happy that there is no one road that I did in this great city that has been washed away. Drive on Akpakava, Upper Siluko, Sokponba road, Mission road up to Upper Mission, 2nd East Circular, Airport road, Five Junction and other roads,” he said, declaring that the power of the truth cannot be buried by the combined weapon of the most potent armed forces in the world because truth is more powerful than the most potent army.
In order to consolidate his position, Obaseki has embarked on sacking those he believes are loyal to Oshiomhole and replacing them with his loyalists. He started this with the sack of Etsako West local government chairman, Hon. Musa Yakson, while the Vice Chairman of Uhunmwode, Hon. Edosa Iyayi was forced to resign to avert removal