The storms have started gathering against Governor Godwin Obaseki’s second term aspiration in Edo State.As the schemings gain traction, the two major political parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are putting forth their best feet, thus promising to make the forthcoming Edo 2020 very explosive.
Already, there are telltale signs that the APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole and the incumbent government are engaging in some political hide and seek. While Obaseki’s close allies are pressuring him to dump his running mate Hon. Shuaibu in the 2016 gubernatorial election, some PDP stalwarts have designed a ‘cold’ strategy to use Obaseki to turn the tide against APC chairman.
Meanwhile, Gen. Charles Airhiavbre who is believed to be banking on both Oshiomhole’s and PDP’s support seems to be caught in the middle of the intrigues, especially after the governor returned from his overseas vacation to announce that there was no division between him and the APC chairman.The development has given rise to a multiplicity of interest groups within the ruling party in Edo.
Between Oshiomhole, Obaseki
ONE feature of the political unease in the state is the inability of party chieftains to put a handle to the hazy relationship between Oshiomhole and Obaseki. As such it has been difficult for stakeholders to declare their allegiance to either of the duo openly for fear of possible backlash.
However, a chieftain of the party in the state, Chief Francis Inegbiniki, who decided not to sit on the fence in the matter, recently stated that Obaseki’s second term ambition would remain a fantasy until he (the governor) secures the backing of the APC national chairman. Inegbiniki stressed that the current political structure being raised by Governor Obaseki preparatory to the 2020 governorship election would, rather than lead him to victory, end up in shameful defeat.
While contending that “authentic” APC leaders would not allow the governor destroy Oshiomhole’s legacies in the state, Inigbeniki, who was APC Senatorial candidate for Edo Central in 2015, accused the governor of playing treacherous politics. He regretted that the governor fell out of reckoning by jettisoning the political structure Oshiomhole built and which brought him to power.
His words: “Obaseki’s style of politics is alien to modern day politics; his style of politics is treacherous. Some of us that are grassroots politicians did not know Obaseki untill Oshiomole introduced him to us sometimes in the year 2000.
“Before then Obaseki had never voted in any election in the state. He was not a politician. Oshiomole made Obaseki politically. But today, Obaseki is showing ingratitude by trying to destroy the ladder with which he climbed to the top. He is now dining and wining with all those Oshiomhole fought to make him governor.“He has equally abandoned all the projects Oshiomhole commenced in the state and, in fact, chased away all APC leaders who made him governor. That is why I laughed when I read the statement signed by my good friend Osarodion Ogie, who is now the Secretary to the State Government, who claimed there is no problem between Obaseki and Oshiomhole, which is pure hypocrisy.”
Inigbeniki alleged that Obaseki started by fighting all Oshiomhole’s loyalists, stressing that as one of the most experienced politicians in Edo State today, “I know that in life if you say the truth, you will die; if you don’t say the truth, you will still die. So, let me say the truth before I die.”He maintained that Obaseki had betrayed Oshiomole and most of the people who made him, pointing out that the governor must therefore work hard to earn a second term, since according to him, “some of us objected to Oshiomole making Obaseki the candidate of the party in 2017.
“We later agreed based on our respect for the former governor and campaigned round the state, convincing Edo people that it was going to be continuity. The APC structure you see in Edo State today was put in place by Comrade Oshiomole; it was that structure that was used to make Obaseki governor. But today where is the structure?”
Inegbeniki said the new Obaseki structure could not stand as some of them have vowed not to stand aloof to see Oshiomhole’s structure destroyed. He said Obaseki and his loyalists organised the last National Assembly and Presidential election with their structure and failed in their units, wards and local governments, including the governor’s. So, without Oshiomhole, they will fail again.”
The APC stalwart counseled Obaseki to watch the utterances of those around him, particularly the young boys he brought from Lagos carrying laptops and POS around, saying, “We are watching them and Edo people will react soonest.”
PDP’s hide and seek
MEANWHILE, the opposition PDP has decided to up the ante in the shadow-boxing between godfather and godson in the state. Notable figures in the party had, during a courtesy visit on the governor, commended him for his sterling performance. But while the gesture riled those within the ruling party who have a soft spot for Oshiomhole and raised speculations that PDP was trying to appropriate the governor and his incumbency factor to requite Oshiomhole’s betrayal in 2007, the state chapter of PDP dissociated itself from the visit.
In a statement, Edo State chapter of PDP described the visit of two of its chieftains, Esama of Benin, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, and Chief Tom Ikimi, to the governor as mere ‘private visits,’ insisting that “the visits were private and so were the comments, discussions and purported endorsements credited to them.”
Signed by the party’s spokesman, Mr. Chris Nehikhare, Edo PDP in the statement not only disassociated itself from all that transpired between the leaders and Obaseki, but also stated that “it is abnormal and not politically suave for party leaders to endorse aspirants of another party other than the candidate of their party.”PDP left a lot to imagination by stating that “at the appropriate time in accordance with our party’s constitution, a credible PDP candidate will be nominated to contest the governorship election to liberate the state from poverty, insecurity, unemployment and unimaginable colossal debts.”
But, while the puzzle was still in the air, the statement from a former Minister of External Affairs and PDP chieftain, Ikimi, made matters more intriguing. Ikimi had urged Governor Obaseki to remain focused and continue to work for the good of the people.Chief Ikimi stated that the governor had warmed his way into the hearts of Edo people with his impressive performance since he took up the mantle of leadership in the state. While urging the governor to remain “focused and continue with his remarkable passion to develop the state into an industrial hub,” Ikimi canvassed support for the governor, even as his visit swelled the rank of opposition party leaders, who defied party leanings to express admiration and support for his development strides.
APC divided in tongue, lineup
ALTHOUGH the encomiums showered on the governor came from the opposition and ought to elicit joy in APC’s ranks, the ruling party manifested further the incipient division within its fold over who ultimately should get the party’s governorship ticket for the gubernatorial poll slated for 2020 in the state.Just as the Oredo Local Government Area chapter of APC urged the governor to seek re-election on the strength of his performance in office and pledged unwavering support to deliver the governor should he signify interest, a group within the party has warned Obaseki not to re-contest.
The group, Concerned Edo Youths for Good Governance (CEYGG), said the party should decide who gets APC’s ticket through a credible, free and fair primary in the state.In a statement signed by its Director of Publicity, Dr. Calistus Osamoyi, the group admonished Obaseki to be wary of those endorsing him for a second term, stressing: “It is nauseating to hear people saying there is no vacancy in Osadebey Avenue, because they want to make Obaseki happy. We are calling on these party leaders to allow Edo people pick their governor come 2020 and not leaders, who have already compromised and are trying to justify their pay.”
The group explained that APC is known for conducting primaries even in states where they have sitting governors, adding that Obaseki must merit a second term and not through sycophants who are professionals in creating crisis so they could feast on the governor.Yet, Oredo APC leaders insist that it has endorsed the governor as its sole candidate at the poll as a reward for hard work. The endorsement was contained in a communiqué issued after a meeting of the local government executives, ward chairmen, councilors and leaders from the 12 wards.
Signed by Hon. Goodwill Alabi, Chairman (Oredo LGA APC), Magdalene Isekhuere (Secretary) and 40 others, the leaders expressed confidence in Adams Oshiomhole, national chairman of the party, noting: “At the moment, Edo State stands out in all development spheres, heads and shoulders above states that are far more privileged in internally generated revenue (IGR) and federal allocation.“As the saying goes, the reward for hard work is more work. We therefore urge Governor Obaseki to heed our call of governing the state for another four years.”
On its face value, the assurance by governor Obaseki that there was no rift between him and Oshiomhole upon his return from his yearly vacation could assuage the feelings of all interest groups, politicians and aspirants spoiling for war ahead of APC’s guber primaries.
But the caveat is that most stakeholders, especially those siding Oshiomhole, describe the warm sentiments as mere banter. They have continued to devise tactics aimed at giving Governor Obaseki red card.The political atmosphere in Edo State remains charged as APC’s guber primary, slated for later in the year has divided party members and leaders, who hitherto were not only loyal to the governor, but worked for the success of the party.
Things seem to have fallen apart between the governor, his supporters and allies as most of his supposed henchmen and friends within the APC are now gunning for his job. Some topnotch members in the ruling party confided in The Guardian that it would take God’s timely intervention to stop aggrieved party members from going ahead to hatch the grand plan to deny the governor the party’s nomination ticket for the 2020 poll.
The aggrieved members maintain that it would be wise for Obaseki to heed the advice of not going for re-election than allow the leaders reject him during the party primary, and cautioned him to avoid a repeat of what transpired in Lagos state.
Events keep unfolding as the days go by. Those loyal to the former governor and national chairman, believe Oshiomhole has what it takes to fix and install whoever becomes the next governor, considering the enormous power he wields and his political acumen.
Those in Oshiomhole’s camp are waiting for him to direct the political alignment to adopt for 2020 guber. They recall how Oshiomhole handpicked Obaseki and anointed him to succeed him against all odds in 2016.Even Oshiomhole’s deputy, Pius Odubu, who was regarded as the most sought-after by party leaders was turned down, only to suffer defeat at the primary, because Oshiomhole never supported him despite a series of warning for him to desist in 2016.
Those who have decided to pitch tent with Obaseki doubt Oshiomhole’s political dexterity to determine the political direction and permutations of the state’s guber and are therefore gearing up to a tough fight against his loyalists. On paper, it looks as if the fierce battle between Obaseki and Oshiomhole would be won and lost during the party primary as both men wield so much power as incumbent and former governor of the state.
However, Oshiomhole, whose political profile seems to be growing by the day, might have to contend with Obaseki, who has, within a short time on the saddle, won the hearts of many residents in the state following his ‘wake and see’ projects spread across the state.
For his monumental transformational ideology and people-oriented projects, Obaseki is without doubt gradually winning the people’s trust and confidence as they have given support in his last three years in office. On that basis, it is likely that the electorate would want the governor for another term given his track record, which has earned him the fond epithet “Wake and See Governor.”
The Guardian gathered that despite the performance of Obaseki, Oshiomhole’s loyalists are hell bent on ousting him. They claim that Obaseki is not generous with public funds to service politicians in the state. It is also the issue of financial handouts that seem to have pitched governor Obaseki against some leaders of the party, with many accusing the governor of being self-centred, similar to the accusations against Governor Ambode of Lagos State.
Obaseki had on many occasions stated unequivocally that he would not use Edo taxpayers’ money to service politicians in the state, maintaining that taxpayers’ money is for the development of the state. This is quite understandable for a man who is coming from the private sector. Obaseki, while marking the first-year anniversary celebration of Edo State Task Force Against Human Trafficking at Government House in Benin City in 2018, emphasised that under his watch, money meant for the development of the state will not be shared.
He said: “All Edo State Government’s money will be used for the development of the state. This is the brand of politics I have chosen to play. Our developmental challenges are so enormous and only a frugal and prudent utilisation of taxpayers’ money would ameliorate the sufferings of our people.”It was gathered that the governor’s statement that “no matter the pressure and irrespective of the quarters such pressure would come from, I will not break my oath with Edo people, to provide purposeful leadership” has continued to ruffle feathers in the state.
Party leaders rose in anger and that marked the beginning of the cold war between Obaseki and politicians, particularly influential party leaders who are now at loggerheads with his leadership style.With speed and deftness, party leaders went to town on a campaign of calumny against the governor, insisting he must not return for a second term on the platform of APC. They did not stop there; they began to desperately shop for his replacement come 2020.
To achieve their goal, the disgruntled leaders have teamed up with powers at the federal level. But as Obaseki succeeded in keeping the pestilential politicians away from Government House, another challenge has cropped up.This time, the party’s primary got him busy again and Obaseki had to ruffle feathers with Oshiomhole and other power blocks on a mission to take control of the party’s structure from him at the state level.
Should he succumb to loyalists of Oshiomhole’s camp who are determined to hijack the party’s levers? Obaseki quickly identified his foot soldiers and equipped them for the task ahead. He quickly learnt for the first time how to combine both the art of politics and business of providing governance for the people.
Notable among the governor’s loyalists are member representing Oredo East Constituency in Edo State House of Assembly (EDHA), Mr. Osaigbovo Iyoha, and the Assembly Speaker, Alhaji Kabiru Adjoto, who have joined forces with him to fight perceived political enemies of his administration. However, the duo fought hard to win their elections into the Federal House of Representatives during the last polls without luck.
The Guardian investigation revealed that some of the APC chieftains expected to join the guber race include former APC gubernatorial aspirants, Airhiavbere, Engr. Chris Ogiewmonyi, and former Deputy Governor, Pius Odubu, who contested for the nomination ticket in the party’s primary that produced Governor Obaseki as its flag bearer in 2016.