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Edo APC: Obaseki, Oshiomhole’s loyalists square off in wait for Akande peace panel

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Pending the visit of the Chief Bisi Akande-led National Reconciliation Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the combatants in the crisis rocking the Edo State chapter of the party are sticking to their guns.

Mixed reactions have continued to trail the possibility of the re-election of Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State amid the political unrest that has engulfed the state since he fell out with his political godfather, Adams Oshiomhole, who incidentally is the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Against the backdrop of the political turmoil, the state chapter of the APC recently declared a one-day prayer and fasting for the return of peace ahead of the September governorship election.

This is coming as some powers-that-be in the state has vowed to give Obaseki a treatment akin to the one received by a former governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode from his political benefactor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

Obaseki is expected to join the race for the governorship ticket of the APC. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has fixed September 19, this year, for the election. It mandated the participating political parties to conduct their primaries and resolve accompanying disputes between June 2 and 27 while campaigns begin on the 21st of same month.

It is expected that Obaseki would face a tough hurdle to secure the ticket of the party and in the main election. Some members of the APC in the state have remained unsupportive of the Obaseki-led government.

For leaders of the APC under the Edo People Movement (EPM), the second term ambition of Obaseki is a lost battle and an exercise in futility.Former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Edo state, Henry Idahagbon, in an exclusive interview with The Guardian, declared that Obaseki’s second term ambition was a herculean task.

Idahagbon is the convener of Edo Peoples Movement (EPM), a political pressure group within the APC pushing to truncate Obaseki’s re-election bid. According to him, it would take divine intervention and not even Oshiomhole for Obaseki to be re-elected for a second term.He noted that Obaseki must go on his knees before party leaders and members to ask for forgiveness if his re-election bid was anything to be considered.He posited that the acrimony between members of the APC crept in as a result of the governor’s second term ambition.

Expressing worry over the Obaseki-Oshiomhole rift, Idahagbon frowned at what he described as the desperation and attempt by agents of Edo State government to remove Oshiomhole from office.He said the state governor failed to manage the crisis, which has almost become irreconcilable, owing to his unsavoury political leadership style.

According to Idahagbon, Obaseki doesn’t need to struggle for a second term ticket if he had members of the party on his side. “We fought for him in 2016 because of Oshiomhole. Now, we can’t fight for him, because he does not need us anymore from his political posturing.”Idahagbon, however, called for truce, saying reconciliation was possible only if the governor was truly ready for fence mending. “If Obaseki was a good politician, what is expected of him by this time is to go from one leader to another and beg. Obaseki isn’t too big to beg. Without our votes, Obaseki cannot be governor. That he is governor today is because all of us came together to support and vote for him.

“To tell you how hard it is to win elections in Edo State, Governor Obaseki during the presidential election lost his unit, ward and local government area. He lost his House of Representatives constituency seat and his Edo South Senatorial District seat as a sitting Governor.“So, there can only be reconciliation if the governor can be humble and meet with the critical stakeholders and beg them. Only then we will begin to think and see if we can find a place in our hearts to forgive him of all his transgressions,” Idahagbon said.

Faulting the recent protest for Oshiomhole’s removal by the APC Youths Stakeholders Forum (YSF) at the party’s secretariat in Abuja, Idahagbon alleged that Obaseki sponsored the protest to malign, ridicule and discredit the APC national chairman.“The protest against Oshiomhole was actually state sponsored. Disgruntled members of Edo APC sponsored the protest. We heard from the grapevine that the Edo state government sponsored them.

“For us, those protesting against Oshiomhole are miscreants; people recruited from the streets of Gwagwalada and Garki suburb. Many of the protesters are underage persons who do not know what the issues are. We should not waste our time to discuss such frivolous exercise. The protesters were street urchins looking at them carefully.”

However, the protesters claimed that Oshiomhole had been running the affairs of the party in breach of the party’s constitution, adding that his impunity has caused the party a major loss in Zamfara, Bayelsa and Rivers states.But Idahagbon said Oshiomhole should be commended for repositioning the party with the array of personalities that have joined the APC from other political parties including the PDP.

Despite the position of the EPM, many admirers of the governor in the state have joined forces with him to wage war against his perceived political opponents.A leader of the party and former Political Adviser to Oshiomhole, Mr. Charles Idahosa, who has been a pillar of support for the Obaseki government, berated those working round the clock to stop the governor’s re-election. He said that Obaseki’s re-election bid was not negotiable even without the support of Oshiomhole.

Idahosa said the EPM was not on ground anymore in the state to destabilise the peace and progress recorded by the Obaseki administration.He said Obaseki had won the heart of the people through infrastructural projects that cut across the state.Idahosa said the quarrel between Oshiomhole and Obaseki would be difficult to settle stressing that, “the four APC governorship aspirants in the state fanning the embers of discord in the party are loyalists of the APC national chairman.”He added that Obaseki was not bothered, saying the four aspirants now vying for governorship of the state were the same people Obaseki dislodged three years ago.

“Dr. Pius Odubu, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Maj.Gen. Charles Airhiavbere and Engr. Chris Ogiemwonyi who were defeated in the past cannot be a threat to Obaseki. Direct or indirect primaries, we are waiting for them. Have you ever heard from any of the four aspirants boasting that they will defeat Obaseki? The answer is no because none of them can.

“What we have heard them say is that Oshiomhole will not give Obaseki nomination form and that Oshiomhole will bring APC people from Abuja to come and conduct the primaries. And that Oshiomhole is the one that will submit names of APC candidate. That’s all they say. Nobody has ever said we have the capacity to defeat Governor Obaseki.

“Sometime ago, these EPM people went to a small hotel in the state capital to hold meetings. Don’t they know the state APC secretariat? Why don’t they hold their meetings or press conferences in any of the APC secretariats in the state? As far as I am concerned, nobody among the four aspirants can defeat Obaseki.”

Speaking on the Chief Bisi Akande-led reconciliation committee constituted by the national leadership of the party, Idahosa said: “There is nothing like reconciliation. We have accepted the reconciliation committee, but there is nothing to reconcile because Oshiomhole is the problem of the APC in the 36 states. The easiest way to accomplish the job of the reconciliation committee is for Oshiomhole to resign or let them fire him. That will bring peace in the 36 states of the federation as far as APC is concerned.”

Idahosa, who absolved Obaseki of allegations of being behind the recent attack on Idahagbon and the protest against Oshiomhole’s continued stay in office, said nothing good should be expected from an Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC.“People are protesting in APC secretariat in Abuja, and the next thing, they say it is Obaseki. Everything that is not in their favour is Obaseki,” Idahosa added.He said nobody had raised serious issues rather than crying out that Obaseki was not carrying party members along and accusing him of plotting against party leaders.

“Have any of the EPM people come out to say Obaseki is not performing or not doing well as a governor. All they say is that he is not carrying us along. What they mean by not carrying us is that Obaseki is not sharing tax payers’ money.“It is in this state that thugs and agberos were collecting revenue for government. We witnessed when the same people fighting Obaseki destroyed UNIBEN property in the GRA. The gang up against Obaseki is a fight between daylight against darkness.

“Political thugs in the state before now would celebrate billions of naira they collected from helpless hardworking Edo people from the streets of Benin. Political thugs before the coming of Obaseki were building multi-million naira hotels and Obaseki came to say this must stop.“The thugs at the Ring Road before now would beat you, break your windscreen and forcefully collect money from you. But all this is no more and some people are not happy. They want us to move backwards by saying we are not carrying them alone.

“Oshiomhole is no threat to Obaseki’s re-election. Whether direct or indirect primaries, Obaseki is going to defeat all other aspirants during the party primaries,” Idahosa said.On his part, the state Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Paul Ohonbamu, said the crisis rocking the APC in Edo would soon fizzle out without any form of negotiation between Obaseki and members of EPM.

“This crisis will end soon but without negotiation. It will be a surrender. Obaseki has all the advantages. The people are with him. And you know advantage is a better soldier.” Ohonbamu said.He added that Obaseki was unique among other aspirants because he was committed to serve the people.

“Obaseki has the tendency to serve the people, while the others who call themselves EPM have the tendencies to exploit and accumulate,” he said.
Ohonbamu, however, urged APC stakeholders in the state to exercise caution in handling the political crisis in the state, warning, “otherwise, APC in Edo would take a long sleep before sunset.”


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