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.
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 ano-holds-barred press conference addressed at his residence yesterday, CharlesIdahosa, a former political adviser, and a leader of the party, literarily tookOshiomhole to the cleaners, calling him unprintable names. Idahosa, a recentconvert to the Obaseki camp, heaped the blame of the crisis rocking the partyon the former governor whom he said chose to keep quiet when he should havecalled his loyalists to order. He also accused the former president of theNigeria Labour Congress, NLC, of encouraging lawmakers-elect loyal to him todefy the position of the state working committee, SWC, in sharing of positionsin the seventh assembly. A faction of the party operating under the name, EdoPolitical Movement, EPM, led by Henry Idahagbon, former Attorney-General andcommissioner for justice, had been opposed to the re-election of Obaseki whosefirst tenure ends November 12, next year, over complaints of being sidelined inhis government. Though Idahosa agreed that Obaseki had not been fair tothe leaders, he however opined that no two governors or two administratorsthink the same way. According to him, “If this is his style, we’ll just bepatient…. The type of things we enjoyed in the previous administration, we arenot enjoying it now. But that’s not enough for me to say we must scattereverywhere; that we must rock the boat. As long as he’s still there, you justadjust. That is my position. We must not say we will destroy him; we willdestroy the government; he’s not coming again.”
Idahosa, a member of the board of the NigerianRailway Corporation, NRC, expressed amazement at “a situation where we have agovernor that was brought by a political party, the people out there are veryhappy and commending this governor for working so hard; he’s very, verypopular, but the problem is with the leadership of the party.” He said hedecided to speak out because “we are not comfortable with what is happening inEdo State today; the political division, the confusion. A situation where weought to be very happy as a party, but it is now like a tragic-comedy; asituation where we have a governor that the people are happy with, but hisproblem is with the leadership of the party… While the people outside, thevoters, are very excited, the people who brought him are not happy with himbecause according to them, he’s not carrying them along and so want him out ofpower.”
While admitting that over two years ago he was the firstperson to react to the governor’s style in terms of the relationship betweenhim and party leaders, Idahosa said “I calledleaders who are today fighting Obaseki, but nobody saw what I was talkingabout. They turned around to present a situation that I was fighting thegovernor. These same people have now gangedup under some funny acronyms to fight him. Some have been promised federalboards, some want to be governors to take over from Obaseki. But I find it verystrange that Governor Obaseki, on arrival from his vacation at the BeninAirport, announced to the mammoth crowd that came and said I have no problemwith Adams Oshiomhole. He repeated the same to leaders of Edo South, EdoCentral and Edo North. I have waited since to see his reaction, but there is noreaction. The question I want to raise today is why is it that Adams Oshiomholehas refused to say a word – I did not send anybody to form any group againstthe governor. I have no problem with the governor. I am not a lawyer, but thesimple thing that we know is that silence means consent. Why has he not said aword to say I sent them or I didn’t send them? Now we see how this problem, thedisagreement has snowballed into the House of Assembly imbroglio. I make boldto say that Oshiomhole is responsible for the problem of APC in Edo State todayby his silence. Oshiomhole’s refusal to talk means he’s supporting them. Theyare his boys.”
Apparently,still smarting from his loss of the APC governorship ticket to Oshiomhole in2007, 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 inAirport Road and wrote the results… because he (Oshiomhole) was too new in theparty to defeat me. .. But if I could work with you for eight years for thebetterment of Edo people, what is the problem that you have with Obaseki? Youbrought Obaseki to us and you said he’s your engine room. So, what ishappening? You have finished as governor, you have done your eight years; LuckyIgbinedion did his eight years. Obaseki is there now, it’s Benin’s turn. Thatis the irony and the tragedy of the whole thing. Minority want to sit over thehead of the majority. So, why is he disturbing Obaseki? What makes him feelhe’s invincible? Who the hell does he think he is?”
AccusingOshiomhole of being over-bearing such that he chose all of Obaseki’scommissioners and other appointees, a visibly agitated Idahosa posited: “whatis 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 acceptit. Nobody would tell us who will be the next governor. Obaseki must do hiseight years. There is nothing he can do about it. He completed his own eightyears 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 politicalmisfortunes the party suffered in the 2019 general elections, the fire-spittingIdahosa posited that Oshiomhole ought to have resigned as national chairman.“In any civilized society, you came in as a National Chairman and you lost fivestates; in your first outing! How did we lose Oyo State, the heart of oldWestern Region? We lost Rivers. The buck ends on your table. You, as thechairman, in a decent society, you will resign. He shouldn’t wait for anybodyto tell him. Today we have no foothold in the Southeast, a major political blocin this country. The only state we had there, we lost it. You send onecommittee to a place, before it finishes, you send another. Meanwhile you arespecialist 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 toyou; in spite of your size and everything, God has been kind to you but youstill don’t want to respect yourself. What you are punishing Okorocha for, isthat not what you did? All the states we lost, there was no one that PDP tookus to court; it’s APC against APC. Is that not interesting? …And if GodwinObaseki did not handle Edo well, we would have ended up with PDP taking theHouse of Assembly because the same thing that happened in Zamfara, happenedhere but luckily for us, no one went to court. If they had gone to court, wedid 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 wereordered to come back the same night because the primaries were not well puttogether.”
Explaining thegenesis of the crisis rocking the seventh Assembly, Idahosa, a broadcasterturned politician, said he was initially happy when he heard there was asettlement between the governor and Oshiomhole in Abuja, only to realize thatit was a fluke. An angry Idahosa said “how do you see a situation we arehailing party supremacy at the national level but fighting it in Edo? InEdo, we told Obaseki to call a few people but Obaseki said we should follow thenational template. The State Working Committee, SWC, presided over by AnselmOjezua, the party chairman, met with the lawmakers and zoned the positions forprincipal officers to different local governments. We went back and broughtnames. Another meeting was held where Obaseki presided. They (pro-Oshiomholelawmakers-elect) went back and said they disagreed. Who is funding them? IfOshiomhole had called them to order, there will be no noise. He and Obasekiwould have shared the positions. Why is he not talking? If Oshiomhole hadcalled his supporters to order, the thing we are quarreling about, thesepositions, Oshiomhole and Obaseki would have sat down and shared them. Theywould just tell us, all these positions, this is how it is. But he wasencouraging division in the party so that he alone can have a hold on the party.”
Asked whyleaders and elders of the Benin kingdom had not waded into the matter to brokera truce, Idahosa said the reason he decided to talk was because he neverthought such a thing could ever happen, regretting that “unfortunately, inBenin, we don’t have a political leader. Majority of the people that arejoining 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 wehave is a spiritual leader and that is the Oba of Benin. There has been nopolitical leader since Omo-Osagie died. There had been no political leader thatanybody can trust.”
He believed thatsomebody like the immediate past national chairman of the party, JohnOdigie-Oyegun would have moved in having been a former governor, “but hedidn’t. So, that is where we are and that is why you see us having thisproblem. But whatever they are doing, they will fail. It’s an exercise infutility because it’s not about Obaseki. What we want is developmentand the betterment of our people.” Proffering a solution, he saidthe way out of the present logjam is for Oshiomhole to know that he has finishedhis tenure as governor “and leave this man to run the government the way hewants for his eight years. He did his own eight years; after that, then, weknow 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 thatthe crisis in Edo is between Obaseki and the leaders of APC, and notOshiomhole, Idahagbon stated that “many of us are well known for the efforts wemade to bring on board this ungrateful governor. If they like, let them callOshiomhole’s name to high heavens; it will not stop our genuine agitation. Andwe will continue until we kick the ingrate out of Government House. Idahosa isfree to continue his sycophancy; that is his stock-in-trade. We will notbe surprised to see him on the other side tomorrow. He betrayed Engr.Chris Ogiemnwonyi, he betrayed Dr. Pius Odubu, he betrayed Gen. CharlesAirhiavbare; 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.