The feud between Governor Godwin Obaseki and his estranged ally and National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, keeps festering ahead of the party’s primary on June 20, writes Samuel Ajayi
It started as a rumour. Then it gained traction and by time delegates of the Edo State chapter of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), go to the polls to elect the party’s flag-bearer in the governorship election in the state later in the year, it would have taken a miracle to see Governor Godwin Obaseki and his estranged ally, former governor and current National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, in the same camp.
The battle line has been drawn and each camp seems to have reached a point of no return in the battle for the soul of not just the state chapter of the APC, but also the state.
Rewind to four years ago and you would wonder what could have gone wrong between the two political soul mates. A sitting governor and one of those who made moves to reconcile the two in the early days of their feud told THISDAY on the condition of anonymity that he got frustrated because it seemed there was something the two men were not willing to disclose about what caused the rancour in the first place.
“This has made reconciliation difficult if not almost impossible,” the governor said.
Initially, the discord between the two politicians was being discussed in hush tones within the state until the bubble burst some months ago. Though many had accused the governor of ‘showing his hands’ too early. He has also been accused of being ungrateful to the man who ‘made’ him politically and biting the hand that fed him.
He too had countered that his sin was that he did not open the state’s treasury to people who wanted to loot it, pointing out that his disagreement with his estranged political godfather was based strictly on principles. Not personal.
The disagreement between the duo reached a new height in 2019 when the governor declared that Oshiomhole must inform him (the governor) any time he wanted to visit the state so as to ensure his personal safety. Many knew this was far from the truth as it was during the period the national chairman had issues with some national leaders of the party.
Also, last year, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, the Peoples Democratic Party’s flag bearer in the 2016 governorship election, suddenly announced his resignation from the party with rumours making the round then he was pitching his tent with the APC.
This was later confirmed when he announced his defection to the APC. But the Obaseki group that was well aware that Ize-Iyamu was being prepped to pick the APC ticket instead of the incumbent governor.
Subsequently, Ize-Iyamu’s planned grand entry into the party was scuttled as Obaseki banned public gathering in the state and enlisted the Inspector General of Police to withdraw permission for the rally, where Ize-Iyamu would have announced his defection to APC. The rally, if at all it could be called that, was eventually held in Ize-Iyamu’s personal home.
Late last year to early this year, plans were hatched to get Oshiomhole out of office. As expected, Obaseki was fully involved in the scheme. Sources told THISDAY that President Muhammadu Buhari, who had initially given his nod for his removal, later backed off due to fears that some elements he would not be able to control might hijack the party.
A political analyst, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told THISDAY that the moment Obaseki and co failed to remove Oshiomhole, they should have known that his own re-election would hang in the balance. He explained that Obaseki should know that Oshiomhole would come for him with full force. The APC chairman did not disappoint only that the way he wants to go about it will pit him (Oshiomhole) against other stakeholders in the party.
Oshiomhole is said to be pushing for the candidacy of Ize-Iyamu, seen by his critics as counter-productive and vindicates those who allege APC is worse than PDP.
During the 2016 campaigns, Oshiomhole, known for his lack of restraint when speaking publicly, had lambasted Ize-Iyamu, calling him unprintable names, saying he was a thief, who had no discernible source of livelihood. Predictably, a video of that incident surfaced on social media recently.
“Oshiomhole, truth be told, lacks finesse at times,” the political analyst told THISDAY. “Some of the things he said in that video should not have been said by a national chairman of a party, even a sitting governor. The problem now is that won’t he feel any shame mounting the rostrum and raising the hand of the same Ize-Iyamu up and telling Edo people that he is the best thing to have happened to the state?”
That is the dilemma and that is why many governors on the platform of the party are ready to battle Oshiomhole to a standstill over the issue. Many of them are of the opinion that even if Obaseki would not be returning to office, he would not be replaced by someone who just defected to the party from the PDP.
Besides, the APC governors also fear that the Zamfara scenario might play out ultimately in Edo.
Akinloye Oyeniyi, a political analyst and legislative expert, who at a time was the National Public Secretary of the now deregistered Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), echoed the same concerns.
He said APC constitution does not allow individuals in Ize-Iyamu’s situation to seek the party’s governorship ticket because he would not have stayed long enough in the party to qualify to contest on the platform of the party, adding, “In compliance with Article 31 (3 i, ii and iii), APC will have to first scrutinise Pastor Ize-Iyamu, whose time of joining the party disqualified him from running for the governorship position; thereby making him to need a waiver to run and also if he has not been convicted by any court of competent jurisdiction for any criminal offence.”
If Ize-Iyamu is to apply for a waiver, he has to apply at his Iguododo Ward Executive of the party, which will forward it to his Orhionmwom local government, which in turn forward it to the state chapter of the party that will further route it to the South-south geo-political chapter of the party for onward transmission to the National Working Committee of the party.
It remains to be seen how Ize-Iyamu will scale these hurdles considering how fragmented the party is, right from his ward to the state level.
Meanwhile, Obaseki has gazetted a new law, which prohibits any gathering of more than 20 people in the state and designated the Ogbe Stadium as the only venue, where any gathering more than that could take place.
Many are of the opinion that Obaseki did that to frustrate the moves by Oshiomhole to conduct the selection process of the governorship candidate via direct primary, whereas the camp of the governor wants indirect primary.
It remains to be seen what the final outcome will be. But, according to political observers, this is one battle Oshiomhole did not need to have waged, questioning his leadership style described as autocratic, lacking respect for other stakeholders. Oshiomhole has always prided himself as the one who sacked godfatheris in Edo politics. Will Obaseki do the same to him?