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Edo Saga: Disqualification, suspension, intrigues in APC, PDP’s pending combats

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Godwin Obaseki


• 14 State Constituencies As Potential Battlegrounds

Governor Godwin Obaseki’s entry into the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), last Friday, decreased the number of states under the control of the governing All Progressives Congress´(APC) control of states in the federation.

The internal squabbles in the Edo State chapter of the governing party became the Achilles heels of APC in the South/South geopolitical zone, which can now boast of being an all-PDP geopolitical zone.

The departure of Edo State from the APC fold, therefore, altered the national political balance, because while APC now controls 19 states, the opposition now has 16 states.

In the new scheme of things, the Southwest, Middle Belt (North Central) and Northwest remain the stronghold of the governing party with 5 states each under their control.

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The implication of this shrinking hold of the APC is that party has lost traction and public goodwill due to the creeping lack of cohesion in its structure.
Governor Obaseki’s journey to the PDP was the culmination of the irreconcilable differences between him and the suspended APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.

But it is clear now that the seed of joining PDP was sown long time ago giving the performance of the ruling party during the 2019 general elections during which the governor lost his constituency to the opposition. Friday’s ceremony appeared like icing on the cake, Obaseki had been half-APC-half-PDP.

The Edo State governor joined the PDP in furtherance of his ambition to seek re-election for a second term in the September 19, 2020 gubernatorial poll in the state.

Obaseki, who had kept Nigerians guessing about his next move after quitting APC, quietly drove out of the Government House, Benin City, on Friday, at 2:25pm, headed for the PDP Secretariat in the state.

Speaking to a gathering of party members and supporters, Obaseki said: “I am here to inform you that upon my resignation from the APC, having consulted widely from within the state and across the country, I have decided to become a member of the PDP.

“As has been demonstrated, this is a party that is rooted in democratic practices; it believes in justice and fairness and respects its members. Today is not the day I will make a speech. You will hear from me soon.

“I am here to go through the formalities of registering as a member of this great party. I know that upon taking membership of this party, I automatically become the leader of the party; that is the constitution. I read it thoroughly last night.”

The National Vice Chairman, South-south of the PDP, Chief Emmanuel Ogidi, received the governor in the company of the PDP State Chairman, Mr. Anthony Aziegbemi and other party executives, including the governor’s ward chairman.

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Like the COVID-19 pandemic that is currently turning the world upside down, the forthcoming Edo State governorship poll and the political supremacy battle between Obaseki and Oshiomhole, have stoked the recalibration of the nation’s polity.

Edo APC Crisis In Focus
THE genesis of the crisis in the Edo State chapter of APC could be reduced simply to a combination of disloyalty and leadership overdrive. It might sound simplistic, but the clash of egos between Oshiomhole and Obasaeki roiled both the Edo State polity and APC platform leading to the sudden reward for the PDP.

A quick rehash: Oshiomhole employed all manners of political trickery and administrative overkill to ensure the emergence of Obaseki as his successor as governor of Edo State.

And, after he mounted the saddle as governor, Obaseki sought to be allowed a breathing space to function as the state chief executive. But, perhaps reflecting on the rigours of making him governor, Oshiomhole demanded that the political structure that helped in the enterprise of enthroning Obaseki should be appeased and serviced.

Yet, feeling that some mischief was afoot, including subterranean plots to try impeachment, Obaseki decided to adopt self-preservation and confrontational manoeuvers.

But the silent underpinning of the entire political squabble was the refrain of the political behavior enunciated by the former labour leader and governor that the state should stand at all times against the imposition of one man’s will as the collective whim of the people.

That sentiment, which remained moot as the major gladiators battled for ascendancy, was echoed by no less a citizen than the Oba of Benin. At the peak of the political hostilities, the Benin monarch, His Royal Majesty, Oba Ewuare II, advocated for the abolition of godfathering and consensus candidacy in the country’s politics.

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The Omo N’Oba stressed that the eradication of the twin political evils by gladiators would prevent series of political conflicts and bad blood, which he said were currently ravaging Edo State.

Oba Ewuare, had in a statement by the secretary, Benin Traditional Council, Mr. Frank Irabor, declared the palace’s stance against the imposition of candidates at the expense of the people’s choice and exploitation of the poor masses.

He debunked speculations in social media that the Benin Royal Palace has prevailed on some gubernatorial aspirants to step down for a certain candidate in the September 19 gubernatorial poll in the state.

So, it could be distilled that apart from the issues of ego and Edo people’s angst against godfathers, the other silent factor, which underlies the supremacy battle between Oshiomhole and Obaseki, is the fate of the 14 absentee lawmakers.

While the Assembly crisis dates back to the inauguration of 10 lawmakers out of 24 lawmakers-elect on June 17, 2019, the continued absence of the rest 14 continued to feed the flames of the raging battle.

It became obvious that 14 deserters enjoyed the support of suspended national chairman, as they were quartered in Abuja at his expense and those of the Edo Peoples Movement (EPM).

The 14 dissenters were said to have given governor Obaseki the conditionality of issuing a fresh proclamation letter to the clerk of the state assembly as basis of their sustained protest.

The stillborn legislators were convinced that the Edo State House of Assembly would be taken over by federal lawmakers at the National Assembly, especially given that most of them were enamored of the national chairman.

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However, that promise of possible annexation by NASS hit a brick wall when Governor Obaseki’s staunch allies, particularly the ten inaugurated members rebuffed the seven-day ultimatum they issued.

Now, with Obaseki’s exit from APC and berth in PDP, there are strong indications that the 14 seats, which were earlier declared vacant by the Speaker, Hon. Francis Okiye, could become open for another contest in a by-election to give PDP some presence in the legislature.

Against the backdrop of recent developments, it is left for Oshiomhole and Obaseki to look back on their confrontations and see who wanted to replay the Benito Mussolini pranks and who actually was fighting imaginary political enemies.

Originally, Mussolini started as a fine revolutionary socialist, but later deviated to become a fascist paramilitary leader. Some commentators believe that while the APC national chairman wanted to emulate a former Lagos State governor, his protégé, in a bid to regain his freedom, started romancing with members of the opposition.

As the Edo State political saga lasted, some stakeholders in the state started wondering whether Obaseki has turned to a Mussolini of Edo politics, even as they insist that the governor and his deputy, Philip Shaibu, nursed a hidden plot from the onset.

Those in that school of thought contend that the governor and his deputy were surreptitiously disorganising Edo State APC in a clever design to raise an empire of their own bereft of opposition and correction.

Working according to the hidden plan, the governor and his deputy were said to have from the beginning betrayed the trust of not just party faithful, but also that of the man who charted their way to stardom, namely, Comrade Oshiomhole.

It is said that Oshiomhole was taken in by Obaseki’s brilliance as an economic adviser, which made him to unabashedly endorse and vouch for Obaseki without sparing a thought as to whether he (Obaseki) would be loyal with political power.

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Observers argue that if not that Obaseki had ulterior motives like Mussolini, he would not have inaugurated a partial state House of Assembly in the night with only 10 out of 24 lawmakers, even when all the members-elect belong to the APC.

Critics of the Obaseki administration said that apart from the skewed inauguration of the state Assembly in June 2019, the governor also employed parliamentary subterfuge by using his stooges in the Assembly to sack 12 out of the 15 lawmakers-elect in mid December 2019, in the guise that having not been inaugurated, the elected representatives could not make the 180 siting days as stipulated by the 1999 constitution as amended.

But going by all available indices, some stakeholders believe that if Obaseki had allowed the entire elected representative to take their seats at plenary as obtains in other states, his impeachment would have been a foregone conclusion by now.

The governor’s schemes came to light when all the committees set up at the national level to mediate in the assembly crisis flopped. Also, when the National Assembly was considering a take over of the legislative business of the state as a way of salvaging the democratic rights of the people, Obaseki obtained court orders.

With such devises, more than half of the state is not represented in the lawmaking process, despite that the constituencies elected their representatives.
Obaseki was also accused of conniving with some of his aggrieved colleagues and members of the APC NWC and using every instrument at their disposal to remove Oshiomhole from office. That and the inability of the governor to pursue genuine reconciliation in the party showed that his days were numbered.

Fighting Imaginary Foes
THE outcome of the screening exercise was merely an accidental attempt to square up with the governors antics. One of the most unfortunate incidents in the governor’s quest for a second term was the attempt to destroy all perceived political rivals and opponents.

The governor was said to have attacked an Edo State-born oil magnate, Captain Idahosa Wells Okunbo, who is also a well-trained commercial pilot.
With suspicions that Captain Okunbo was being groomed to contest the governorship, Captain was subjected to intense media attacks by those sympathetic to governor’s cause. It was alleged that being a man of immense public goodwill and impeccable character, Captain Okunbo was Oshiomhole’s trump card against Obaseki’s second term ticket on APC platform.

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Although Okunbo dismissed the insinuations, denying that he has ever nursed a governorship ambition, recent developments in APC and Edo State show that the governor’s supporters were making imaginary enemies for him.

Sources disclosed that the mudslinging from the governors’ men, the relationship between the oil magnate and Obaseki has gone sour. Yet, given the way APC accepted his resignation, the question is whether Obaseki’s new friends could return him as governor.

Those he left in APC are wondering what legacy and ethics PDP would be displaying by aligning with an uncertified candidate, just as some others cite his case as being analogous to that of Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State.

But, recognizing that Ortom’s election happened during the general elections, there are fears that the same strategy with which he was made to defeat Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu in 2016 would be applied against him.Oshiomhole had said that being an incumbent does not translate to wining election, adding that instead of running in pursuit of a toad, one should pick it up when one wishes.

Governor Obaseki’s move does not mark the end of the Edo State political crisis; rather it could just be the beginning of the real battle that would trigger other confrontations. The game has just started.

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