Fear of losing Edo prompts Obaseki, Oshiomhole’s rapprochement
Could it be that fears of the wrangling between Governor Godwin Obaseki and the national chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole upsetting the political balance in South/south geopolitical zone inspired the ongoing rapprochement? That is the big question dominating discussions about the direction Edo State politics would take in the days leading to the 2020 gubernatorial election in the state.
The supremacy battle between the governor and his former ally has moved from a seeming cold war to a titanic showdown that could not only upset APC’s chances of retaining the state and the state’s stature as the lone APC state in the South/South and Southeast.
Most observers from both sides of the divide point to the possibility that with the new momentum from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), it could be getting ready to push the ruling party out of centre stage.
Unless good counsel prevails, in the days to come, stakeholders suggest that Edo might lose to opposition due to internal fissures and unresolved disagreements.
Governor Obaseki had, in a recent interaction affirmed that if his camp did not display wisdom and caution, Edo APC would have been denied opportunity to field any candidate for legislative positions both at the state and federal level in the February and March 2019 general election.
The governor argued that a similar fate to what happened in Rivers and Zamfara States would have befallen Edo. Of late, a video of that intervention has gone viral.
But one significant development in the power show in Edo is the possibility that the opposition PDP could snatch the governor to render a faith accompli on Oshiomhole and APC.
Some APC stalwarts recall how former governor Oshiomhole appropriated the PDP structure loyal to former governor Lucky Igbinedion to outsmart the late Tony Anenih faction after it insisted on fielding Mr. Oserheimen Osunbor for the 2007 governorship.
However party stakeholders insist that out of fear of losing the state, some sort of rapprochement could still be brokered. They believe that while the governor enjoys some measure of popular acclaim, the plots by PDP governors in the South/South to lure him to their side to form a strong regional bloc is not lost on the ruling party.
Governor Obaseki has tactically maintained his cool, refusing to make formal declaration on whether he was leaving or staying back in APC to prosecute his second term ambition.
Knowing that even from the mouth of his perceived traducer, Oshiomhole, had come words of endorsement of his capacity and leadership acumen, Obaseki operates from the middle of the road. His body language has not made things easy for the opposing camp, but his recent romance with PDP heavyweights from South/South has compounded the emotional outbursts from the other camp.
An APC chieftain in the state, Charles Idahosa gave credence to the speculations about a possible switch of platform by Obaseki. He told journalists that it is expected, stressing: “The opposition are making moves on how to snatch him so that he can go to PDP, but we are not surprised.
“I warned about that before and I want to repeat myself. If by error of omission or commission Obaseki is pushed out of the party, APC is dead in Edo state.”
He regretted that Oshiomhole’s silence has attained a disturbing dimension, pointing out that while outsiders wonder where the bad blood was coming from, those close to the former governor continue to show that they are not mistaken.
The game of wits is becoming intriguing. Those loyal to Oshiomhole whisper that leaving APC would be a costly gamble by Obaseki, even as they express the belief that federal might would be a decisive factor in the muscle flexing.
Issue of mandate delivery
There are fears that consolidating on the state’s four cardinal areas of socio-political and economic sectors could suffer from the political battle. During his tenure as governor, Oshiomhole set the state up for accelerated development by identifying difficult political reforms.
Some of the critical areas of the reforms include, blocking financial leakages, war against thuggery, hooliganism and instituting new social order, human capital development and sustaining the tempo of infrastructural development.
It was in the bid to ensure that he delivered on those lofty promises that Oshiomhole insisted on having Obaseki as his successor even in the face of pressure from most of his close allies who saw Obaseki as merely a technocrat.
Oshiomhole was said to have premised his strong support for Obaseki on his (Obaseki’s) pedigree and ability to consolidate on the identified four cardinal planks of his administration.
Against the background of that staunch support, many stakeholders wonder why the same Oshiomhole should be among those distracting Obaseki to derail, stressing that in his three years in office, the incumbent has not deviated from Oshiomohle’s master plan.
In the contest of power and influence, it could as well be that those around the principal actors are the ones fanning the embers of discord to achieve some political mileage or attract attention to themselves.
Others express doubts that Oshiomhole may not have handed over to Obaseki to carry on the transformation agenda in good faith if after the governor has kept to the development agenda, he still found fault in him (the governor).
However, a former aide to Oshiomhole, Lukeman Akemokue, maintains that the crack between his former boss and Governor Obaseki is unnecessary, even as he admitted that the governor has kept faith with Oshiomohle’s laid down blue print for developing Edo State.
Akemokue stated: “The major reason I think this crisis is needless and totally uncalled for is the fact that Obaseki’s administration has not deviated an inch from the purpose for which it was birthed.
“The current government has not left anyone in doubt as to its determination to redirect the affairs of the state. No sooner had Obaseki and Philip Shuaibu stepped into Government House than they commenced the task of redirecting the vector of strategic directions of party politics.”
Although some Oshiomhole’s supporters see the governor as an inexperienced politician, Obaseki seems to have seen the other side of politics, because bristling with dissatisfaction and anger from his current experience and the huge cost of politics, he declared: “We can’t continue like this. We cannot continue to spend public money on politics, this has to stop.”
Could this be a source of his frustration or why he is being opposed from getting a second term? Is Oshiomhole disappointed in Obaseki’s disdain for politics? Why does the governor insist on development rather than striking a balance between politics and governance?
There are many questions, but only the major protagonists could provide valid answers. Even Lukeman, who prior this development had consistently frowned at the speculations of any cold war between Oshiomhole and Obaseki, said the new reforms in the state appear not to have gone down well with political hangers-on.
He agreed that the second phase of Oshiomhole’s master plan, which is political reforms that Obaseki is implementing was about the most difficult. But undertaking political reforms when there is an election provides loopholes that some actors are capitalizing on.
The fact that Edo State is the only state in the South/South under APC is strategic to both the ruling party and the opposition PDP for the evolving geopolitics. Would APC and Oshiomhole sacrifice Obaseki and lose a foothold in South/South?
In the event that Obaseki jumps ship out of the frustration, how free and fair would the 2020 governorship be, mindful of recent experience in Osun State? Both parties to the current disagreement in APC as well as the ruling party and opposition have much work to do.