Edo 2020: Can Obaseki Scale the Hurdles?

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With the state of things in the Edo APC, it is yet to be seen how Governor Godwin Obaseki of the state plans to subdue opposition within to clinch the party’s ticket ahead of this years gubernatorial election, reports Adibe Emenyonu

It is no longer news that the crisis in the Edo State All Progressives Congress (APC) is as a result of who occupies the Dennis Osadebey Avenue, the seat of power in the state.
Incidentally, the real fight is not between the two rival parties, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the ruling APC. Rather, it is internal amongst top-notch members of the APC, which has since polarised the party.

Prominent among the gladiators is the National Chairman of APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and the state governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, while other members had also taken sides.
Already, three aspirants have lined up to take the governorship job from Obaseki. The first to indicate his interest is General Charles Airhiavbere. There is the former deputy governor, Dr. Pius Odubu, and, of course, Dr. Chris Ogiamwonyi. All the three contested the ticket with Obaseki in 2016.

They are back in the trenches with the governor in a fiercer battle than they did four years ago. Then, Obaseki was at advantage, because he had the backing of Oshiomhole, who even after imposing him on the party, also took him around the state for campaigns against the formidable Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, then candidate of the PDP but now back in APC.
Unfortunately, today, the reverse is the case, because the pendulum is no longer swinging favourably towards the direction of Obaseki, having fallen out with his benefactor.

Due to the friction and bad blood between the godfather and the godson, the once acclaimed political mentor now prefer one of the three in place of his former protégé.
It is in recognition of this fact that Obaseki is leaving no stone unturned in ensuring that he emerges candidate of the party against all odds.

First, the governor at every forum has said it categorically that his second term was not negotiable. At a meeting with Edo indigenes in Lagos, Obaseki said his focus was not on his reelection, because God has assured him of victory due to his achievements and commitment to serve the people of the state better.

The governor, who said his energy was geared towards developing the economy of Edo State, with the aim of making it the most prosperous in Nigeria in the next 30 years, added that before now, the state was bedeviled with lack of visionary leadership and shortage of resources.
Again, speaking when he received members of the Benin Unity League at Government House, Benin City recently, the governor reiterated that for him, second term is non-negotiable.

“I have said it clearly and I told my cabinet that second term for me is non-negotiable. I am demanding it, because I deserve it and I think I have earned it. We need to have it so we can continue what we are doing today,” he said.
Making a subtle reference to his estranged godfather, he said no individual can determine, who will become governor, adding that only God and the people can make the decision.

“I want to assure you that, this is a fight that we will prevail. We will fight and succeed. If anybody thinks I will back out, he must be daydreaming, because it is not my fight, it is about fight for the right thing and cause. I am not going to back off, because I know victory is sure.”
Continuing, Obaseki said nobody had accused him of implementing a wrong policy, adding that the accusations had been about not focusing on stomach infrastructure.

What may have given the Obaseki so much confidence is yet to be seen but one thing is clear and that is that there will be party ticket before the general election between contending party flag bearers. In the light of this, a lot of questions come to mind. One is how does he intend to win in a party that is so divided? As it is, APC even to the blind is divided. Will there be reconciliation before the party primaries is conducted? If there is no coming together of the warring faction, how does he intend to carry? Will he conduct a parallel Congress and if he did, which faction will the National leadership of the party recognize?
The answers to the above questions are probably a parallel congress. To achieve this, his faction led by Anselm Ojezua had set up a 39-man committee on January 4 for membership mobilisation
Inaugurating the committee headed by a former member of the state House of Assembly, Mr. Matthew Iduoriyekemwen. Ojezua charged them to embark on serious membership drive.

He named terms of reference for the committee to include serious membership drive, to identify and interact with notable persons across the state, who has shown genuine interest to join the party, and to develop a programme of action to receive them at all levels of engagements from the ward, local government and state level.
In addition to this is the endorsement by members before the actual primary election to elect the party candidate.
Another question begging for answer is what does he intend to do when he has categorically said Oshiomhole as the National chairman of the party has been suspended by his factional APC?

With these pronouncements, it means whatever comes from that axis will not be recognised and accepted. And should this happen and Oshiomhole remained to preside over the affairs of the party, will he be pushed to defect to another political party to actualise his second term ambition with his acclaimed popularity among people of the state, who enjoy his policies and people oriented programmes?
Even more worrisome is the governor’s open romance with members of the opposition PDP to the extent that they appear to be the ones endorsing him for second term when in fact, their party has an array of aspirants lined up to contest in the primaries coming up in March this year.

The latest is the endorsement by Senator Daisy Danjuma, apart from the earlier backing by Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, the Esama of Benin and Chief Tom Ikimi, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, all of who are staunch members of the PDP. This has thus fueled speculations that the governor has since jumped ship and was merely waiting for an auspicious occasion to make a public and formal declaration for the PDP.
But those who want his job appeared unperturbed. To demonstrate their resolve to deny themselves the ticket, the group of Dr. Pius Odubu, Pastor Ize-Iyamu, Gen. Charles Airhiavbere and Dr. Chris Ogiemwonyi last week held a press briefing.

In the briefing, Dr. Odubu, who spoke on behalf of others including their supporters, condemned what they described as needless crisis that had engulfed the party since the middle of 2018, and blamed it on the deliberate alienation of party leaders and members by Governor Obaseki, which they claimed they worked hard to install in 2016 through the wishes of Edo people.

Odubu, noted that the orgy of politically motivated violence, which swept through the state, during the period and targeted members of the party with opposing views from the state government, coupled with the attacks on the person of Oshiomhole and others perceived as threats to the second term ambition of Governor Obaseki, negated their collective desire for a party that is stable, virile and viable.
He argued that the inability of elected members of the legislative arm, all on the platform of the APC, to perform their responsibility of lawmaking for which they were elected since June 2019 is, “unprecedented and does not represent the progressive character of Edo people”.
The former deputy governor of Edo State, disclosed that the four of them and their supporters had passed a vote of confidence on the leadership of the party at the state and national level, led by Col. David Imuse (rtd.), and Oshiomhole respectively.

They also commended the traditional institution in the state led by the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, who took various steps to promote peace and unity while expressing their gratitude to President Muhammadu Buhari and other National leaders of the party for their insistence on party supremacy”. They also supported the party’s National Reconciliation Committee headed by the Senate President, Ahmed Lawn, which Obaseki has discredited as being partisanship but will only support the one led by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Shortly after the briefing, the four people were said to have gone into a mini-primary election, where Odubu was endorsed as the preferred person to slug it out with the governor. And should this happen, can Obaseki win the race? The answer is neither here nor there.
Yes in the sense that he quickly resolved his differences with those who are after his job. Second, is the quick intervention of the President Muhammadu Bulgari as leader of the party.

Former Publicity Secretary of the party in Edo, Comrade Godwin Erhahon, recently noted that it was a big challenge on the national leadership of the party, particularly the National Assembly, not to have been able to resolve the issue of Edo State House of Assembly.
However, he decried a situation where Obaseki, who had been locked in a bitter supremacy feud with his predecessor, had spurned every attempt and intervention to resolve the political impasse, upbraiding the governor for his perceived romance with the main opposition party, the PDP.

Erhahon, a journalist turned politician, recalled how a similar situation that has become intractable in the state, was easily resolved in Bauchi, when the president stepped in regarding the state assembly.
“The situation that happened in Edo State House of Assembly was similar to the one that happened in Bauchi State. Bauchi State is run by a PDP governor; even when the PDP governor wanted to be funny, by the time the president took a position and said look, you the majority should not sell your right, these people went back; the PDP governor now came down and cooperated with the APC majority in the House.

“But here in Edo State, you have an APC governor, who whenever he had crisis, he will rush to PDP to pay solidarity visit. So, if the PDP governor could obey the president and an APC governor disobeys him – you dare the president, dare the National Working Committee, you dared the National Assembly (Senate and House of Representat1ives). It doesn’t make sense to me at all. President Buhari should be more firm; he should be able to assert his position or allow Oshiomhole to handle it the way he deems fit”.
Erhahon confidently said the governor might be the loser if he failed to heed to wise counsel on the best approach to the present crisis in the party, which is dialogue.

“I am confident that at the end of the day, Obaseki will realise that politically, he has been on a suicide mission. The present crisis in the party, if the governor does not heed to any advice, will consume him.
“It is very obvious. And most of those who are encouraging or instigating him would deny him immediately. It’s not because they love Obaseki; it’s because they believe that from such crisis, they can make a lot of money,” Erhahon declared, adding that in a democracy you negotiate no matter how well you think you have performed.
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