Edo APC crises enter emergency, expose weakness of ruling party
• Enough Of Oshiomhole’s Gambles With Soul Of Party — Sources
It all began as a quiet ambush. Now, despite all denials, pretensions and political-pussyfooting, the cat is out of the bag: Governor Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki and his predecessor, Adams Oshiomhole, are engaged in a bitter supremacy battle for the soul of Edo State chapter of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
On the surface, it appears as if the feud is all about the second term aspiration of Edo State governor. But, the bitter exchanges between the governor and his benefactor in recent time have opened the door for the complex structural defects and internal contradictions within the ruling party.
Consequently, it could be said that the wrangling between the two former allies has been accentuated by the indisputable fact of the seethe animosities fueled by the vaulting ambitions of some entrenched political interests in APC. And, given the nature and caliber of the ‘supporters’ of the two gladiators, the Edo political emergency becomes a curious metaphor for the structural defects and wider battle for the soul of the party.
So, the battle lines have been drawn along the following formations: Obaseki and his footsoldiers versus Oshiomhole and his loyalists arrayed mostly in the Edo Peoples Movement (EPM) with the setting in Edo State; and Obaseki, supported by his colleagues in the Progressive Governors’ Forum versus Oshiomhole and the Southwest tendency (Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the party.
The Edo State mini-theatre of war therefore gains prominence, because it comes as the setting for the incumbent, Obaseki, and the APC national chairman, Oshiomhole, to settle domestic scores. As such, it is therefore possible that whether it is the mini battle for the control of the state structure, or the larger battle, which has to do with the soul of the national platform, there must be casualties and collateral damages.
The setting for victims and collateral damages seems to have been provided by the rash, but cross suspensions and votes of no confidence visited on some state functionaries of the party and the suspension of the national chairman, which has raised some constitutional questions as to the validity of the action of local council executives.
The party’s Edo State Deputy Chairman, Kenneth Asekomhe, announced the removal of the state secretary, Lawrence Okah, from office shortly after 11 out of the 16 members of the State Executive Committee endorsed the sacking of the state chairman, Anselm Ojezua.
Asekomhe disclosed that the decision to remove Okah came “after the meeting of the State Executive Committee, in pursuant of Article 17, Section 5 of the APC constitution of 2014, as amended,” adding that members of the executive committee passed a vote of no confidence in the state secretary and promptly removed from office.
But in a swift move, the APC National Working Committee, in a statement issued by the National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, declared that it upholds the suspension of Ojezua by the factional party executive in the state.
While explaining that the NWC has watched with grave concern the political developments within the Edo State chapter of APC, Issa-Onilu said: “The meeting of the NWC at the party’s National Secretariat, received a notification of the suspension of the Edo State APC Chairman, Anslem Ojezua by 11 out of the 16 members of the Edo State Working Committee (SWC). We have reviewed the process they followed and conclude that they have fulfilled the required conditions.
“We, therefore, uphold the suspension of the Edo State APC Chairman, Anslem Ojezua while we await the outcome of the fact-finding and reconciliation committee.”
But the dingdong continued, as no sooner had the NWC position on the removal of the Edo APC chairman been made public than the state chapter loyal to Obaseki repudiated it, stressing that being a member of the party’s NEC, Ojezua cannot be removed in such a manner.
Conveying their rejection in a statement signed by the State Assistant Secretary, Ikuenobe Anthony, the Edo APC SEC maintained that the NWC displayed bias, stressing that the speed with which it accepted the “unconstitutional attempt to remove the state chairman” underscored the fact that they were sponsored by the national chairman, Oshiomhole.
“Furthermore, nothing was done to authenticate the signatories to the infamous document relied on by the officers concerned. Having accepted the charade presented to them, they tried to shroud their shameful act in a garb of fairness by purporting to set up a “fact-finding panel”. This raises very strong doubts whether, in fact, a meeting of the NWC actually took place.”
The State Assistant Secretary alluded to the unsettled disputation over the inauguration of the Edo State House of Assembly, alleging that the national chairman “is a party to the dispute being the sponsor of the Edo Peoples Movement (EPM), a splinter group of APC in Edo State” and therefore incapable of playing a mediatory role.
Apart from reiterating that “all the executive organs and leaders of the party in the state have passed a vote of no confidence in him (Oshiomhole) culminating in his suspension from the party from the ward level to the state,” the Obaseki faction of APC said it was relying on the APC constitution to ask the NWC to recuse itself from any matter concerning Edo State and allow the National Executive Committee (NEC) to attend to the issues and matters raised.
Genesis Of The Melee
AT the buildup to the 2019 general elections, efforts by Obaseki, who was by then barely two years in office as governor, to have some of his loyalists nominated as candidates for the legislative elections, especially for the state constituencies, were rebuffed by forces loyal to Oshiomhole.
But, apparently bidding his time, Obaseki did not make much fuss out of the denial of opportunity to field his trusted allies on the APC platform. However, after the primary elections had been won and lost, it came for funding the campaigns. And recalling how the Oshiomhole tendencies cornered all the slots, Obaseki was said to have informed the candidates to work hard, taunting them that since they claimed to be popular, the need for money does not arise.
Based on what transpired during the APC primary elections in the state and subsequently after the general elections, Governor Obaseki was said to have started re-assessing his relationship with the national chairman. Those in the know said that it did not take long before the governor realised that the national chairman wants to control the expected state Assembly, ostensibly to exert some oversight on his administration.
But sources within the Oshiomhole camp, comprising mostly his former aides, disclosed that the chairman was stung by the outcome of the National Assembly and Presidential elections, during which the opposition PDP trounced the ruling party, except in Oshiomhole’s Edo North Senatorial District.
The sources disclosed that piqued by the outcome of the February 23, 2019 polls, particularly Obaseki’s refusal to be a spendthrift, the APC national chairman ran to Lagos State, where he already got assistance with funds to prosecute the remaining stanza of the elections and avert a disgraceful outing in the hands of PDP.
While those small words were making the rounds, it was also gathered that Oshiomhole was being reminded of Obaseki’s boasts during his electioneering that “I will not be a puppet to any godfather or godmother if I become governor of Edo State.”
And The Bubble Burst
Just as the 2018 APC primary election helped to open up cracks in the buxom political relationship between Oshiomhole and Obaseki, the attempt to convene the 8th Edo State House of Assembly blew the lid of the pretentious façade both men presented after the general elections.
While nine out of the 24 members elect of Edo State House of Assembly, who were loyal to Governor Obaseki surreptitiously withdrew to the state legislative complex and carried out the swearing-in and inauguration, the 15 members-elect within the Oshiomhole camp were taken aback.
They were beaten to the game, because shortly after the governor sent his proclamation, words started making the round that the lawmakers would shortly after inauguration commence impeachment proceedings against the governor.
Having effectively divided the House of Assembly, Governor Obaseki decided to talk tough, lashing out at those he called Abuja politicians that want to distract him from focusing on his obligations to Edo people.
By then the hide-and-seek game was over. The battle has begun! To fight back, the national chairman touted the shaky principle of party supremacy and tried to propel the lower chamber of the National Assembly to intervene in the madness in Edo House of Assembly.
Instead of seeing the federal lawmakers as peace advocates, Governor Obaseki used the occasion of their fact-finding visit to announce that he has taken up the gauntlet against godfatherism in the state.
The governor told the lawmakers that he has decided to uphold the legacy of fighting godfathers since it has favoured the people, stressing that it was actually Oshiomhole that started the crusade of fighting Edo godfathers in 2006.
It took the ruling of a Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt to arrest the planned take over of the Edo State House of Assembly, thereby granting the governor some reprieve and window of opportunity to clear his nominees for appointment to the state cabinet.
Former Edo State Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr. Abdul Oroh, told The Guardian that contrary to insinuations in some quarters that Oshiomhole was against the governor’s quest for a second term, the national chairman actually advised the governor to concentrate on delivering on his mandate in the belief that his work would speak for him during the electioneering.
Oroh revealed that at the point when Oshiomhole insisted on supporting Obaseki against all odds, the governor offered to replicate the Lagos State template that subsisted between former governor’s Ahmed Bola Tinubu and Babatunde Fashola, such that while he focuses on governance, Oshiomhole will grapple with politics and considerations of who does what and goes where.
But as the hostilities escalated, Obaseki has gone ahead to deny the claims that Oshiomhole single handedly made him the governor, explaining that it was a mutually beneficial political association that dated from when he assisted the national chairman to raise funds for his governorship campaign in 2006.
Speaking when APC members paid a solidarity visit on him, Governor Obaski denied allegations of ingratitude towards Oshiomhole, saying that only God can claim responsibility for his emergence as governor, since according to him, “I became governor by God’s grace, with the support of many other people.”
It was not as if it was only the issue of a template that was imported from Lagos to Edo State in the current battle between political godfather and his godson.
Sources attributed the loss of camaraderie between Oshiomhole and Obaseki to the successful ouster of former governor Akinwunmi Ambode from partaking in the second term ticket of the party.
Sources disclosed that the Lagos example suggested that it could be replicated in Edo, considering the closeness between Oshiomhole and the national leader of Bola Tinubu.
It was therefore disclosed that Oshiomhole’s acquiescence to the one term agenda in Lagos motivated Obaseki to take his political destiny into his own hands, especially against the background that Oshiomhole completed his second term without anybody breathing down his neck.
Failed Peace Mission, Aggregation of Foot Soldiers
It is often said that when evil men conspire, good men should combine. Although the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF) led by Senator Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State, made repeated attempts to ensure that the supremacy battle between their colleague, Obaseki and the APC national chairman did not escalate, sources indicated that the forum was compelled by some former governors to show solidarity with the Edo State governor.
A source within the PGF confided in The Guardian that as far as the governor’s were concerned, “the battle is one Oshiomhole cannot win,” adding that the governors are incensed at the ignominy with which the national chairman treated their colleagues in the recent past.
The source gave instances of such overbearing measures taken against governors of Adamawa, Bauchi, Imo, Lagos, Ogun and Zamfara States, stressing that the governors seem to have endured the ill treatment of the APC chairman enough.
It would be recalled that the Director General of the PGF, Salihu Mohammed Lukman, had released a statement titled: “APC and Our Inconceivable Organisational Challenges: Urgent Call to Our Leaders,” invited the party leaders to “rise to the challenges facing APC as a party and take all necessary measures to convene superior organ” to begin to resolve all the challenges.
The source regretted the recurring disgraceful outings of the party, including the loss of strategic states to the opposition in the recent general election, pointing out that the time to invoke a letter written by the party’s Deputy National Chairman, Senator Lawan Shuaibu, has come.
“That is the imputation of the call on Oshiomhole to convene the NEC,” he explained, recalling that President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to raise an ad-hoc reconciliation committee headed by Tinubu was tactically rebuffed to await the general election.
Although the leader of the party, President Buhari, is expected back to the country today, the APC Constitution vested the power to convene the party’s NEC on the national chairman.
But a highly placed official of the party, who pleaded to remain anonymous, said the reference to the NEC was an allusion to a fate that awaits the national chairman.
He said: “We have looked at his tenure and contrasted it with that of Chief Odigie-Oyegun and the opinion of a greater majority of stakeholders is that we have had enough of him.
“All the various caucuses have their complaints. Look at the way we lost Zamfara State, look at the conduct of the governorship primaries; as a ruling party we do not deserve the open show of partiality and preferential treatment. So, we believe somebody is behaving like a bull in China shop and the time is now to begin a new lease.”
There are indications that the governors have laid an ambush against forces challenging Obaseki’s second term ticket, but the shadow of 2023 calculations has continued to hover on the political future of some powerful individuals in No 40 Blantyre Street, Wuse 2, and Abuja.
Governor Obaseki has remained adamant in his stance that he was not leaving APC. His challenger in the 2016 poll, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, has been associated with a possible defection from PDP to the ruling, so as to fly the APC flag in the 2020 governorship.
However, given the schemes and plots to effect some radical changes in the party, whatever assurances Ize-Iyamu extracts from Abuja might end up as just a shelter from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), because there is no likelihood that Obaseki would be a casualty.
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