OSHIOMHOLE VERSUS OBASEKI: It’s Mutually Assured Destruction

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The current animosity between Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State and his estranged predecessor, Adams Oshiomhole, is unhealthy for both the ruling APC and the government, writes Olawale Olaleye

Signs that the duo of Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State and the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole, would ultimately lock horns in serious disagreement started during the party primaries that ushered in the 2019 general election.

As a new comer that he was presumed to be, there were conscious moves to sideline Governor Obaseki and subtly take over the state party leadership from him by deciding those, who ran for elections in the state. That way, he could also be at their mercy.

Indeed, the development affected the party in the state especially during the national elections. Although the party managed to stage a comeback during the state assembly elections, by this time, the governor had seen the handwriting and the need for each to mark his territory had begun.

But the first indication that the governor understood the signs and was on top of his own game too manifested during the inauguration of the state assembly, which held at night and left out many of the lawmakers believed to be loyal to Oshiomhole.
The governor made sure his choice candidate, Frank Okiye emerge speaker, contrary to the extrapolation of those on the other side. He was said to have even conscripted some lawmakers on the other side, many of who feigned ignorance of the real intention of the governor’s camp.

Oshiomhole would not have any of this outplay him. But it gradually began to dawn on him that all he had worked for in the state had begun to slip off his grip – particularly his seeming leadership. Even when the leadership of the National Assembly came to his rescue and demanded a review of the process that led to the inauguration of the assembly, the governor too got the court to ask the federal legislature to back off. And the battle continued.

However, the introduction of violence took centre stage, when thugs believed to be loyal to Obaseki, reportedly attacked Mr. Seidu Oshiomhole, younger brother of the APC national chairman in Benin. The younger Oshiomhole was attacked alongside 14 other lawmakers-elect in the state some five months ago.

Again, months after, Oshiomhole alleged that his Edo State residence, was attacked by thugs believed to be loyal to the governor during the Sallah holidays. The APC also issued a statement to that effect, confirming the attack on Oshiomhole’s residence.
But the state government denied any such thing through the various statements from its spokespersons. Even the state Commissioner of Police, DanMallam Muhammed dismissed the report as untrue, saying the police ensured the security of the former governor and saw him off to the airport.

Interestingly, the state government, at this point requested of Oshiomhole to always intimate it with his itinerary so it could “properly cater to his security”. This, it said, was following protocol. But Oshiomhole and his people said it was a ploy to further monitor his movements, so, they could perfect their subsequent attacks on him.

Amid these back and forth, Obaseki and Oshiomhole have had some “photo sessions” to give the impression that all was well. But because it was no more than a move for the ‘gram’, last week’s reported attack on the convoy of the governor, bearing amongst others, the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu, at the residence of Oshiomhole, finally gave it all away.

Whilst the governor expressed concern that his safety could no longer be guaranteed at the residence of his national chairman, a development he thought was shameful and unfortunate; Oshiomhole was unequivocal about the fact that the deputy governor of the state, Philip Shaib, was behind the organised attack.

Almost a week after the said attack, recriminations from both parties had not ceased. In fact, there is a strong feeling amongst the observing members of the public now that with the look of things, Obaseki and Oshiomhole might have activated the Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) button in the ongoing survival battle.

To think that some of their closest friends, including the likes of Alhaji Aliko Dangote and Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State had allegedly intervened in the crisis and beseeched the both of them to sheathe their swords without either of the parties budging, means the MAD button is already activated.

Curiously, their friends had also left the both of them to exhaust themselves especially that a few of them felt there was more to the disagreement that either of the parties was not wiling to divulge, then, there could not have been more from them in terms of intervention.

Thus, with the obvious failure of preventive diplomacy as was seen in the many interventions, including those from the presidency, mutually assured destruction might have become inevitable, which ultimately is sure to leave both the ruling APC and the state highly devastated.

Clearly, what is even more evident is that the two parties might have underrated each other at inception and with the current level of personal attacks from the two camps, exacerbated by sweeping mistrust, genuine rapprochement might be impossible going forward, whilst the collateral damage due at the end of the mutually assured destruction would be staggering, both in form and content.