Edo 2020: APC might field two rival candidates as Obaseki-Oshiomhole feud escalates

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As the battle for political supremacy between Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, and the National Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole, escalates, indicators have emerged that the ruling party might end up with a parallel governorship primary early next year. The division between Governor Obaseki and Oshiomhole widened beyond measure last Friday, after the collapse of the much-hyped mega rally organized by the APC faction loyal to the national chairman to receive some prominent defectors from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The crisis of confidence in the Edo State chapter of the APC that has pitted Obaseki, against Oshiomhole, degenerated after the duo engaged in a public shouting match firing tirades against each other. Oshiomhole fired the first salvo, saying Obaseki lost his ward, local government and senatorial district in the last general election. But the governor, through his Special Adviser on Media and Communication Strategy, Crusoe Osagie, derisively advised Oshiomhole to concentrate on winning elections by the performance of the party and not relying on thugs and violence for electoral victory. He accused the APC chairman of trying hard to cover up his inordinate ambition to be the ultimate godfather in the state and usurp the will of the majority of the people.

Oshiomhole launched the attack on Obaseki while featuring on a television program at the weekend as he reacted to comments by Obaseki and his deputy, Hon. Philip Shaibu; that he (Oshiomhole) taught them all they are executing in the state, including the fight against godfathers. In a statement yesterday by his Chief Press Secretary, Simon Ebegbulem, Oshiomhole said he never taught them how to unleash violence and lose elections.

He said: “I have read them on several occasions saying that I taught them all they are doing today. This is laughable because I never thought them how to lose elections. As we speak today, the governor (Obaseki) lost his ward, local government and senatorial district in the last presidential election. As we speak, the governor is being represented by the PDP in his federal constituency and senatorial district. These in my view were early morning signals about need to change tactics, stop threatening people, saying you will crush, who are you crushing?

“But I won my entire senatorial district for Mr. President and I am being represented by an APC senator and House of Representatives member. Then his deputy, Philip, in Jattu where he comes from, in his polling booth where he and his family voted, Philip Shaibu lost. He lost his booth during his own governorship election in which he was standing as deputy governorship candidate. So if he learnt from me, he should have learnt well because I never lost election in my village.

But the governor countered Oshiomhole, urging him to concentrate on winning elections by the performance of the party and not relying on thugs and violence for electoral victory. Obaseki said: “Even his (Oshiomhole’s) allegory of politics being like a forest with dangerous animals is a poor excuse to continue to perpetrate thuggery and keeping the collective patrimony under the control of a few greedy and violent people in the name of winning units and ward elections.

“Good governance remains the surest path towards winning elections, especially when you are committed to free, fair and credible elections devoid of the kind of violence witnessed in recent elections in the country. So, instead of trying to pacify the violent and the lawless just because you want to win elections, Oshiomhole should support the stellar performance being displayed by Governor Obaseki; in that way, he will not need the services of his thugs to win the next election.”
Sources within the APC national headquarters confided to Huhuonline.com that as far as the national chairman was concerned, “the Friday rally was a big success,” as according to them, it is now a matter of record that the 2016 PDP governorship candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who gave APC a run for its money at the last election, has joined the party.” Also on the list of APC returnees was Tony Omoaghe, Donald Boih among others. They were to be officially received into the fold of the ruling party at the proposed Garrick Memorial School ground, Benin City but were restrained by a combined team of security agencies on the orders of the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Adamu Mohammed.

However, Oshiomhole, who blamed the botched mega rally on the conflicting signals from the IGP, Mohammed, and betrayal by some of his former lieutenants, particularly the Deputy Governor, Hon. Phillip Shuaibu is said to be working towards the forthcoming governorship primary to put Governor Obaseki “in the political garbage bin.” “Obaseki may have won the first round, but we are waiting for him for the second round, which is going be the governorship primary early next year,” one of the sources boasted. “With Capt. Moses Imuse well positioned as the Edo State chairman, it is hard for Obaseki to clinch the party ticket.” 
 
The APC constitution provides for direct or indirect method of governorship primaries, but with a further provision that the ultimate decision as to what method of primary to adopt lies with the stakeholders of the party in a particular state. Edo APC sources hinted to Huhuonline.com that the national chairman hopes to latch on the evident fictionalization in Edo APC to uphold the indirect method, stressing that the added number of delegates would make it impossible for the incumbent to win the primary election.
 
But the embattled Edo APC chairman, Hon. Anselm Ojezua, countered that the failed attempt to embarrass Governor Godwin Obaseki, who was away in Egypt with President Muhammadu Buhari, through a spurious rally, was evident that Oshiomhole parades powers he does not possess. Ojezua said, “It is a pity that some people in high places sometimes cannot be humble enough to accept what is called constituted authority, particularly if you consider that the office of a state governor is established by the constitution.
 
Reacting to the covert plans to ambush the governor with a parallel governorship primary with a view to replicating the Bayelsa example, Ojezua regretted that Oshiomhole’s “behavior has thrown the gates open to all kinds of speculations,” insisting that Edo APC is not factionalized. “APC in Edo State is intact. If you look at it, the party is fully behind the governor as far as Edo State is concerned. What he (the national chairman) is doing now is having discovered that EPM (Edo Peoples Movement) he created cannot gain traction he is going to import mercenaries to form alliances in an attempt to destabilize the State. “(But) all these are not quantities unknown to us. We have done political battles in the past with them and bested them; let him bring it on. The state organ would organize the party’s primary. He is not an all-powerful chairman; he is subject to the rules of the party, both the constitution and rules established by NEC, of which I am a member. It is the state rather than the (national) chairman that would determine the mode of the primary.”
 
On claims by Oshiomhole’s faction that they have practically dislodged him as state chairman, especially given that he was prevented from attending a meeting with President Buhari, alongside other state chairmen, Ojezua explained: “It is just a case of abuse of office and a bloated idea of powers attached to his office. That was done in violation of a court order, and I am taking steps to rectify that.” While insisting that he was not bothered by the various schemes being perfected to destabilize his office as chairman of Edo State APC, Ojezua challenged the “other man, whom he wants to impose on Edo State chapter in an unconstitutional manner” (Moses Imuse) to come an operate in Edo State, stressing that his purported removal is based on falsehood. “I have gone to court, the matter is in court,” he declared.
 
Also speaking on the situation in Edo State chapter of APC, a former commissioner for agriculture and member of the seventh federal House of Representatives, Hon. Abdul Oroh, chided the IGP for taking sides in the disagreement between the two factions, alleging that the police boss was not being fair to victims of violence orchestrated by supporters of Governor Obaseki.
 
The former federal lawmaker disclosed that APC national chairman applied and was granted permission to hold the rally, explaining that for half of the membership of Edo State’s PDP to be decamping to his party, the chairman saw it as a huge political capital. He lamented that unknown to Oshiomhole, the IGP wrote the deputy governor, who ordered that the rally be put on hold, stressing that if the IGP had informed Oshiomhole of the latest development he would not have bothered travelling to Benin City.
 
Oroh stated: “We came into Benin City and bonfires greeted us as we landed. Thugs were setting tyres on fire and police were watching. The Airforce kept security at the two entry points to the airport. We heard that one Haruna, who swore to deal with Oshiomhole, imported thugs in police uniforms from Kogi State. We left the airport through the entrance. “We decided to shift the venue to Ize-Iyamu’s private residence after the state government threatened to revoke the certificate of occupancy of the school, all that because Oshiomhole was not informed.”
 
On the implications of the factionalisation within the ruling party, Oroh said as a statutory delegate, he knows that whether by the direct or indirect method, Governor Obaseki could not win the governorship primary. He reiterated that the only option open to the governor was to go round and apologise to party stakeholders that he (incumbent governor) has offended, even as he did not rule out the possibility of the governor switching platforms.
 
It would be recalled that Governor Obaseki has declared on a number of occasions that he has no plans to dump APC for PDP or any other platform, stressing that as the state’s party leader, he remains in control of Edo State chapter of the party.

Meanwhile, Edo State Government has described as a faulty start Ize-Iyamu’s mode of entry into APC.
In a statement, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Media, Osagie, declared that “by now, all those who thought Governor Obaseki was a pushover that could be tossed around by a political godfather should have concluded that they were seriously mistaken.”

Insisting that the failed mega rally revealed the demystification of Oshiomhole, Osagie noted that the national chairman “had come in an attempt to receive former governorship candidate of the (PDP) in the 2016 Guber elections, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, into APC, but the events that played out in what would have been a show of dominance turned out to be a disgraceful outing.”

A lot of political watchers in the state have come up with different permutations as to what would have led to Pastor Ize-Iyamu return to APC after so many years of acrimony between him and Oshiomhole, to whom many years before Ize-Iyamu had served as a Director-General for his governorship campaign but fell apart shortly after Oshiomhole came into office.

The loudest of arguments is the fact that Oshiomhole had shopped for candidates to replace Obaseki within his team, but could not find anyone with enough political capital and network to match the force and popularity of the incumbent governor. But the first question really ought to be, why would Oshiomhole be shopping for someone to replace Obaseki, if he indeed means well for the development of the state? Given Obaseki’s performance rating, shouldn’t the matter be about mending fences and working to consolidate on the gains being recorded?

Even if those were to be overlooked, analysts ask why would Ize-Iyamu want to force his way into APC, when the body language from the camp of the governor, who is a leader of the party in the state, was for him to hold on and follow the schedule of activities the state chapter of APC had outlined for such occasions. However, what was made clear with the forceful – some would say disgraceful – way Pastor Ize-Iyamu came into APC, was that he has comfortably pitched his tent with Oshiomhole’s duplicitous faction in the state, and instead of strengthening the party, as he claimed he intends to do, Ize-Iyamu is attempting to deepen the division in the party, which many believe is the game-plan of Comrade Oshiomhole, who, it appears, thrives on chaos.

The flop further exposes Oshiomhole’s weakening political base, which at best is populated by political rejects. Youths, who ordinarily would have rallied round him, had staged protests across major roads in Benin metropolis on Thursday, warning that desperate politicians were importing thugs from outside the state to cause mayhem. In a statement before the proposed rally, the Secretary to the State Government, Osarodion Ogie, had announced: “The Government of Edo State has, over the past few days, made clear its position that the plans by some identified mischief-makers to organize an unauthorized political rally in Benin City, was capable of leading to a breakdown of public peace and also a danger to the persons and property of Edo citizens.

“In defiance of the clear and publicized instruction of the IGP, calling off the proposed rally owing to the security implications, these desperate persons are presently shopping around for alternative venues to carry out their incendiary activities.” With all of these staked against the rally, there obviously was no way it could have successfully held, given not only the charged political atmosphere but also the lack of support from those who had once called Oshiomhole their political leader.