Edo APC Crisis: It is Fire for Fire as Obaseki, Oshiomhole Feud Gets Messier

The worsening relationship between Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki and his estranged godfather, Adams Oshiomhole, national chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, has degenerated into name-calling and blame game over the crisis that had sharply divided the party into two camps. And as the two political elephants wrestle for the soul of the party ahead of the 2020 governorship election, like the proverbial grass, the first major casualty has been the seventh Assembly of the state legislature which took off amidst a macabre drama whereby nine out of 24 members loyal to the governor were clandestinely inaugurated on Monday.

Charles Idahosa Photo
Charles Idahosa

Three of those who made the number, however, claimed to have been abducted and railroaded to the event in order to achieve a quorum that would wear the exercise a legal toga. Though the two protagonists had been keeping up appearances, denying any rift between them, the proxy war was, however, to take a new dimension yesterday, snowballing into a dirty fight with the governor brazenly taking the battle to the doorstep of his political benefactor.

In a no-holds-barred press conference addressed at his residence yesterday, Charles Idahosa, a former political adviser, and a leader of the party, literarily took Oshiomhole to the cleaners, calling him unprintable names. Idahosa, a recent convert to the Obaseki camp, heaped the blame of the crisis rocking the party on the former governor whom he said chose to keep quiet when he should have called his loyalists to order. He also accused the former president of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, of encouraging lawmakers-elect loyal to him to defy the position of the state working committee, SWC, in sharing of positions in the seventh assembly. A faction of the party operating under the name, Edo Political Movement, EPM, led by Henry Idahagbon, former Attorney-General and commissioner for justice, had been opposed to the re-election of Obaseki whose first tenure ends November 12, next year, over complaints of being sidelined in his government. Though Idahosa agreed that Obaseki had not been fair to the leaders, he however opined that no two governors or two administrators think the same way. According to him, “If this is his style, we’ll just be patient…. The type of things we enjoyed in the previous administration, we are not enjoying it now. But that’s not enough for me to say we must scatter everywhere; that we must rock the boat. As long as he’s still there, you just adjust. That is my position. We must not say we will destroy him; we will destroy the government; he’s not coming again.” 

Idahosa, a member of the board of the Nigerian Railway Corporation, NRC, expressed amazement at “a situation where we have a governor that was brought by a political party, the people out there are very happy and commending this governor for working so hard; he’s very, very popular, but the problem is with the leadership of the party.” He said he decided to speak out because “we are not comfortable with what is happening in Edo State today; the political division, the confusion. A situation where we ought to be very happy as a party, but it is now like a tragic-comedy; a situation where we have a governor that the people are happy with, but his problem is with the leadership of the party… While the people outside, the voters, are very excited, the people who brought him are not happy with him because according to them, he’s not carrying them along and so want him out of power.”

While admitting that over two years ago he was the first person to react to the governor’s style in terms of the relationship between him and party leaders, Idahosa said “I called leaders who are today fighting Obaseki, but nobody saw what I was talking about. They turned around to present a situation that I was fighting the governor. These same people have now ganged up under some funny acronyms to fight him. Some have been promised federal boards, some want to be governors to take over from Obaseki. But I find it very strange that Governor Obaseki, on arrival from his vacation at the Benin Airport, announced to the mammoth crowd that came and said I have no problem with Adams Oshiomhole. He repeated the same to leaders of Edo South, Edo Central and Edo North. I have waited since to see his reaction, but there is no reaction. The question I want to raise today is why is it that Adams Oshiomhole has refused to say a word – I did not send anybody to form any group against the governor. I have no problem with the governor. I am not a lawyer, but the simple thing that we know is that silence means consent. Why has he not said a word to say I sent them or I didn’t send them? Now we see how this problem, the disagreement has snowballed into the House of Assembly imbroglio. I make bold to say that Oshiomhole is responsible for the problem of APC in Edo State today by his silence. Oshiomhole’s refusal to talk means he’s supporting them. They are his boys.”

Apparently, still smarting from his loss of the APC governorship ticket to Oshiomhole in 2007, Idahosa accused him of robbing him of the party’s ticket, after “traversing different political parties in Edo State before he berthed in APC.” According to him, “It’s on record that there was no primary. They sat down in Airport Road and wrote the results… because he (Oshiomhole) was too new in the party to defeat me. .. But if I could work with you for eight years for the betterment of Edo people, what is the problem that you have with Obaseki? You brought Obaseki to us and you said he’s your engine room. So, what is happening? You have finished as governor, you have done your eight years; Lucky Igbinedion did his eight years. Obaseki is there now, it’s Benin’s turn. That is the irony and the tragedy of the whole thing. Minority want to sit over the head of the majority. So, why is he disturbing Obaseki? What makes him feel he’s invincible? Who the hell does he think he is?”

Accusing Oshiomhole of being over-bearing such that he chose all of Obaseki’s commissioners and other appointees, a visibly agitated Idahosa posited: “what is the problem? Oshiomhole brought Obaseki, Oshiomhole brought Shaibu, Oshiomhole brought secretary to government, Oshiomhole brought Anselm Ojezua, the state party chairman; he controlled the party and everything. Only one man! So, you want to turn yourself into a small emperor here. No, we will not accept it. Nobody would tell us who will be the next governor. Obaseki must do his eight years. There is nothing he can do about it. He completed his own eight years without interference.”

Idahosa asserted that the whole idea is to cause confusion in the state, stressing that “If Obaseki is pushed out they will now bring another Benin man that will now spend eight years instead of an Esan man because, after Edo South, it is the turn of Edo Central. What has Obaseki done? He chooses everything because the governor wants to respect him.” Pointing out that Obaseki has never been rude to Oshiomhole, Idahosa stated that throughout Oshiomhole’s eight years, “he insulted those who brought him to power. He will abuse Igbinedion the father and Igbinedion the son.”

Lamenting the political misfortunes the party suffered in the 2019 general elections, the fire-spitting Idahosa posited that Oshiomhole ought to have resigned as national chairman. “In any civilized society, you came in as a National Chairman and you lost five states; in your first outing! How did we lose Oyo State, the heart of old Western Region? We lost Rivers. The buck ends on your table. You, as the chairman, in a decent society, you will resign. He shouldn’t wait for anybody to tell him. Today we have no foothold in the Southeast, a major political bloc in this country. The only state we had there, we lost it. You send one committee to a place, before it finishes, you send another. Meanwhile you are specialist in imposing. Let the people lead, it is all lies. Nobody is leading, you are the one leading. One man, one vote is all lies. God has been kind to you; in spite of your size and everything, God has been kind to you but you still don’t want to respect yourself. What you are punishing Okorocha for, is that not what you did? All the states we lost, there was no one that PDP took us to court; it’s APC against APC. Is that not interesting? …And if Godwin Obaseki did not handle Edo well, we would have ended up with PDP taking the House of Assembly because the same thing that happened in Zamfara, happened here but luckily for us, no one went to court. If they had gone to court, we did a primary, he cancelled it and that is what we are still suffering today. And our delegates who were already in Abuja for our national convention were ordered to come back the same night because the primaries were not well put together.”

Explaining the genesis of the crisis rocking the seventh Assembly, Idahosa, a broadcaster turned politician, said he was initially happy when he heard there was a settlement between the governor and Oshiomhole in Abuja, only to realize that it was a fluke. An angry Idahosa said “how do you see a situation we are hailing party supremacy at the national level but fighting it in Edo?  In Edo, we told Obaseki to call a few people but Obaseki said we should follow the national template. The State Working Committee, SWC, presided over by Anselm Ojezua, the party chairman, met with the lawmakers and zoned the positions for principal officers to different local governments. We went back and brought names. Another meeting was held where Obaseki presided. They (pro-Oshiomhole lawmakers-elect) went back and said they disagreed. Who is funding them? If Oshiomhole had called them to order, there will be no noise. He and Obaseki would have shared the positions. Why is he not talking? If Oshiomhole had called his supporters to order, the thing we are quarreling about, these positions, Oshiomhole and Obaseki would have sat down and shared them. They would just tell us, all these positions, this is how it is. But he was encouraging division in the party so that he alone can have a hold on the party.”

Asked why leaders and elders of the Benin kingdom had not waded into the matter to broker a truce, Idahosa said the reason he decided to talk was because he never thought such a thing could ever happen, regretting that “unfortunately, in Benin, we don’t have a political leader. Majority of the people that are joining Oshiomhole to fight Obaseki are Benin. We have always been like this. And I think it is lack of leadership; no central leader. The only person we have is a spiritual leader and that is the Oba of Benin. There has been no political leader since Omo-Osagie died. There had been no political leader that anybody can trust.”

He believed that somebody like the immediate past national chairman of the party, John Odigie-Oyegun would have moved in having been a former governor, “but he didn’t. So, that is where we are and that is why you see us having this problem. But whatever they are doing, they will fail. It’s an exercise in futility because it’s not about Obaseki. What we want is development and the betterment of our people.” Proffering a solution, he said the way out of the present logjam is for Oshiomhole to know that he has finished his tenure as governor “and leave this man to run the government the way he wants for his eight years. He did his own eight years; after that, then, we know what to do.”

 But returning fire for fire, Idahagbon, the convener of the EPM, dismissed Idahosa as “a known political jobber” who recently met a fellow jobber in Obaseki “and unfortunately for the people of Edo State, these two jobbers are frolicking together under the guise that they are fighting Oshiomhole.” Exonerating his former boss from the crisis, Idahagbon said Oshiomhole is the national chairman of APC and not Edo State, and as a result, “he cannot condescend to their level to play ethnic politics.” He added: “Idahosa is only frustrated because Oshiomhole failed to give him Ghana must go when he faked ill and claimed he was traveling abroad for check-up. Of course, Obaseki, the willing tool, dished out the millions and suddenly, the Obaseki he once described as a stingy bastard became his new godfather. Oshiomhole is too big for these people and it is sad that each time Idahosa wants to seek relevance, he sings Oshiomhole’s name so that his benefactor will see that he is working.”

While affirming that the crisis in Edo is between Obaseki and the leaders of APC, and not Oshiomhole, Idahagbon stated that “many of us are well known for the efforts we made to bring on board this ungrateful governor. If they like, let them call Oshiomhole’s name to high heavens; it will not stop our genuine agitation. And we will continue until we kick the ingrate out of Government House. Idahosa is free to continue his sycophancy; that is his stock-in-trade. We will not be surprised to see him on the other side tomorrow. He betrayed Engr. Chris Ogiemnwonyi, he betrayed Dr. Pius Odubu, he betrayed Gen. Charles Airhiavbare; he betrayed Oshiomhole, and he will destroy Obaseki tomorrow.”

And as the battle for the control of Edo State rages, the last is yet to be heard or seen. How peace will return to the state, particularly in APC, no one can tell.  

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