OSHIOMHOLE VERSUS OBASEKI: The Battle Rages On…

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Obaseki and Oshiomhole

As the political differences between the National Chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole and Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki festers, Adibe Emenyonu paints the political maladies and obtuse reasoning their feud presents

Although the quarrel between Governor Godwin Obaseki and his predecessor, Adams Oshiomhole began with the muscle flexing that preceded the primaries that threw up the party candidates in the 2019 general election, the real fight festered with the nocturnal inauguration of 10 members of state lawmakers, which saw the outing of 14 others even when later showed up to join others, they are yet to be inaugurated.

The matter is still in court following the approach by both warlords seeking interpretation of the court on the rationale or otherwise of such a late night inauguration and the ruling by the Federal High Court that the governor could not issue another proclamation as directed by the National Assembly and the APC.

The political impasse further degenerated to the deployment of thugs in the warfare. First, it was the beating up of members-elect, who did not show up in the inauguration, because according to them, the Assembly Clerk did not communicate the proclamation letter to them.

As if that was not enough, there was the drama of thugs allegedly sent by Oshiomhole to attack the Oba of Lagos, Oba Akiolu, the Chancellor of Edo University, Iyamho and other dignitaries, who were invited by Oshiomhole for lunch at his home in Iyamho.

Hardly had that died down than the news of the alleged attack on Oshiomhole in his house in Benin City by thugs said to be close to the state government pervaded the airwaves, even though former Commissioner of Police in the state, DanMallam Mohammed, denied any such thing.

Even when people thought that would be the last in the entire political imbroglio, another ugly incident surfaced two weeks ago over the propriety of some group of persons led by Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, PDP governorship candidate in the 2016 election in the state to defect to the APC.

This generated a heated debate to the extent that some organised youths under the name “APC Youths” staged protests, burnt tires along the Benin Airport road close to the exit gate of the airport just to register their grievances against Oshiomhole, whom they thought was behind the defection just to prevent Obaseki from securing a second term ticket in the party.

Just as the state government succeeded in botching the mega rally and reducing it to a mere gathering, it however did not remove the effects of the rally, which was to receive all the defectors.

They were however received by the Zonal Vice Chairman of APC, Hilliard Etta while the former Legal Adviser of APC, Olusola Oke was among the party stalwarts from outside Edo present when the leaders of defectors were presented with a broom which is the party’s symbol.

For Obaseki’s acolytes, however, the botched rally was victory for the governor as he had succeeded in preventing Oshiomhole from attending the mega rally slated for Garrick Memorial School Ground.

Besides, it was believed in their quarters that merely holding down Oshiomhole was an indication that he was no longer a force in the political equation of the state.

This, perhaps, buoyed the state chapter of the APC loyal to the governor to believe that Oshiomhole should throw in the towel by resigning his position as national chairman of APC or risk being precluded from functioning in office while his suspension subsists. As far as they are concerned, the political structure of the APC helmsman had been weakened and no longer effective.

It is believed that with the relief from the Federal High Court that the National Assembly lacked the power to take over the functions of the Edo State House of Assembly or any other state assembly, Oshiomhole’s wings had been clipped and rendered ineffective.

In a widely reported media briefing, Anselm Ojezua whose faction of APC is loyal to Obaseki announced that the governor enjoyed the goodwill of the people of the state and that the peoples support alone was enough to deliver Obaseki come 2020. Beyond these seeming political victories is the ability of the governor to galvanise support of former political foes of his party, APC, whom he once criticised as responsible for the failure of government to bring development to the people of the state in the past.

Amongst these are Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, the Esama of Benin and his son, who was governor for eight years; Chief Tom Ikimi, former Minister of Foreign Affairs; Chief Osamede Adun, owner of Bob Izua Motors and many others, who in recent times had openly endorsed Obaseki for second term.

But one question political analysts keep asking is, when has opposition party endorsement translated into electoral victory without party primaries and support from members of one’s party?
Second, some persons had also reasoned that party primaries or automatic ticket is a product of negotiations and persuasions by interested parties involved and not by coercion or brut force being displayed recently in Edo State by the actors.

This prompted the general apprehension that the faceoff between Obaseki and Oshiomhole might likely portend grave danger for the processes that would lead to the Edo APC governorship primary polls as well as the election itself. The danger signals are already there.

Arising from a press briefing, Ojezua openly denounced the national leadership of Oshiomhole, saying he has ceased to be the national chairman by virtue of his purported suspension by his ward, local government and state chapters of APC.

But, again, the question the factional chairman refused to answer following his removal by 11 out of the 16-member State Working Committee (SWC) of the party is, who will he be dealing with in matters of party affairs since his removal has been ratified by the National Working Committee of APC for as long as Oshiomhole remains the party boss through the period of the primary elections.

Another discomforting news is that the Obaseki faction has concluded plans to compile its own membership as Ojezua at the briefing said it would soon open the gate to allowed people who are interested to join the APC even from the opposition to do so. The import of this, no doubt, was to ensure it was not caught unawares during the primaries since he has denounced Ize-Iyamu and his group’s entry into APC as strangers not wanted for fear that his coming was to contest the party primaries with Obaseki, a strategy they perceived as a means designed by Oshiomhole to stop the governor.

Aside from this, the struggle for power has also moved to name calling and subtle blackmail. Earlier, before Ojuzua’s media briefing, Special Adviser to Obaseki on Media and Communication Strategy, Crusoe Osagie, branded Oshiomhole, a serial and pathological liar that must not be taken seriously’

In a statement, Osagie, responding to claims by Oshiomhole that he did not teach Governor Godwin Obaseki and his Deputy, Rt. Hon. Comrade Philip Shaibu how to lose elections, said Obaseki did not only win his unit and ward during the last general election, but also polled more votes for President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019 elections than Oshiomhole, when he was governor during the 2015 elections.

He added that the disgraceful events that played out at the private residence of Oshiomhole when Obaseki, the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, Dr. Aderemi Makanjuola and other guests were attacked, also exposed the lies of Oshiomhole after he came out to twist the story.

The governor’s aide said with the endless telltales by the suspended National Chairman, the average Nigerian should know by now that Oshiomhole doesn’t stick to one story.

“It is rather unfortunate. It is the manifestation of this that we see with the crisis associated with different chapters of the APC across the country.” But Oshiomhole, who is consolidating his position after a planned and orchestrated protest to remove him from office during the party’s NEC meeting, said he remained the national chairman of the party.

Responding to Ojezua, who called for his resignation and non recognition as the national chairman, Lawrence Okah, Secretary of the party, whom Ojezua said had also been removed, said the call for Oshiomhole’s resignation was laughable because it is coming from members of the Obaseki/Shaibu Solidarity Movement and not APC members.
Okah, who referred to Ojezua as the chairman of Obaseki/Shaibu Movement (OSM) and not APC, said Col. Imuse was the authentic chairman of the APC and recognised by the NWC.

“I said it is laughable, because we have not seen where a tenant will ask the landlord to leave the house. Obaseki and Ojezua are a bunch of confused men, who have lost focus as to how a party is run,” he said, adding that, “Eleven out of 16 members of the state Exco signed for Ojezua’s removal and he has been removed according to the constitution.”

He said the Obaseki government was suffering crisis of confidence, blaming the governor for the growing level of poverty, insecurity and unemployment in the state.

He said the 5 Star Central Hospital has been given out to a consultant, who charged as much as N5,000 for admission card before accessing medical care contrary to the welfare of the people, which remained the primary aim of government.

He also alluded to the closure of Tayo Akpata University of Education, College of Agriculture, Iguorikhi by the Obaseki government in the guise of repositioning while the staff remain unpaid amidst government parroting of haven created 157,000 jobs.

Also, the Chief Press Secretary to Oshiomhole, Simon Ebegbulem has challenged Obaseki to show his result if he won his ward during the last elections.

Ebegbulem noted that Oshiomhole was able to ride on his integrity to ensure victory for Obaseki, adding that if they said Oshiomhole was lying, it’s shocking because people could go and find out who was the House of Representatives member for Oredo Federal constituency, where the governor hails from.

Ebegbulem said the indulgence in blackmail, name calling and violent assault on dissenting voices by Obaseki was only momentary and would not last the test of time.

From all indications, the entire scenario may amount to a fight to the finish, as both gladiators are ready to decimate each other in order to remain relevant.

The only remedy to the whole imbroglio is for both parties to heed the voice and advice of the Edo Forum of Patriots (EFP), a socio political group, which has called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the Inspector General of Police, Muhammed Adamu to intervene in the escalating crisis in the state for fear it was assuming a violent dimension.

The group suggested a round table, which it said should be presided over by Buhari or a peace accord to be masterminded by the police.

A statement by the Chairman, Interim Management Committee of EFP, Ayamenkhue Edokpolo said the crisis could result to cult war with many social inconveniences for the people.

“We call on the President, the Inspector General of Police to ensure they act swiftly, so as to ensure that peace is restored to the state. A way out could be a peace accord, where critical stakeholders and leaders of these troubling scenarios undertake to promote peaceful coexistence amongst their supporters and followers.
“This will go a long way in ensuring that Edo still maintains its status as a peace loving state. And as we all know in the absence of peace, there can hardly be tangible positive developments”, the group noted.

The suggestion of the group may not bring peace afterwards as the Obaseki/Shaibu Movement (OSM), has rejected the Senate President Ahmed Lawan-led APC National Reconciliation Committee, purportedly constituted by the party’s National Working Committee (NWC), to resolve the lingering crisis in the APC and foster peace and unity among members.

In a statement, Convener of the group, Damian Lawani, protested the constitution of the committee, noting that some of those selected as members are interested parties in the crisis, which calls to question their neutrality in carrying out their assignment.

The group said that the actions of NWC on the matter, “goes to show that the National Chairman is still out to hound his political enemies by conscripting his allies to head the committee. We are not convinced that the committee will be fair to all parties in the matter, especially as it relates to Edo State, which we know is the main target of the National Chairman.

“This is because we suspect that the committee would be presented with a script they would come and act out on the Edo crisis. To that extent, we wholesomely reject the committee and request that a committee that will do justice to the matter without prejudice be constituted,” the group insisted.