As opposition against the second term ticket for incumbent governor, Godwin Obaseki continues to mount within the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC in Edo State, the arrow-head of the fight, Henry Idahagbon, immediate past Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice has ruled out the possibility of a settlement with the embattled governor. Idahagbon told TELL that the battle has gotten to the level of ‘no retreat, no surrender’.
Obaseki’s tenure expires November 12, next year. Idahagbon, the convener of Edo People’s Movement, EPM, an anti-Obaseki group within the state chapter of the party declared on a note of finality that “it’s too late for settlement” stressing that if given another opportunity, “he’ll do worse when he’s no longer expecting anything from you and there is nothing anybody can do by that time”. A strong loyalist of immediate past governor of the state and national chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, Idahagbon denied that the activities of the group were being sponsored by the former governor now estranged from his erstwhile political godson whose candidacy he foisted on the party. He said Oshiomhole was deliberately kept out of their activities because given his nature he may call for settlement when pressure is on him, “and we have passed that stage”.
Idahagbon stated defiantly that “when I was calling the first meeting, I had made up my mind if Oshiomhole tried to stop me, I would say no; I have sufficiently demonstrated that I am loyal to you. But this issue of Godwin, I’ll rather go and join somebody else. This one, it’s either Oshiomhole joins us, or we will join him to Obaseki”. The first meeting of the group took place May 1, 2019, while a more expanded one which featured chieftains of the party from the three senatorial districts took place a fortnight ago, thus sending a signal that the governor may be walking a tight rope as far as his second term ambition is concerned. Apart from the frosty relationship between the governor and his predecessor, many party faithful are angry with Obaseki for allegedly alienating them from his government. Obaseki’s response, however, further worsened the crisis as he accused the aggrieved party leaders of greed and vowed not to share the funds of the state to “greedy” politicians.
The former commissioner is, however, outraged by the governor’s outburst, stating that he got it wrong. According to him, “what we are quarreling for is the ostracism; you ostracized the political class from the politics of the state. Nobody expects the governor to give him money just for visiting government house. But if there are patronages, I am entitled to it because I am a member of the party and I worked for you. What type of patronage do I expect from you? I am not a contractor; I have never done any contract. But if I am not a contractor and I can get people to do the job for me, it’s my right. You cannot call me a thief or greedy because of that. The most important thing is that the job is done and it is done well”. Idahagbon was particularly pained that “most of us stuck out our necks; we put our necks on the chopping block just to make you governor, then you alienate us and you expect us to be clapping for you and still queue behind you when you say you want second term”.
On why the situation was allowed to degenerate to this level without calling for the intervention of Oshiomhole, Idahagbon explained that it was not as if people did not complain to him, adding that “somebody told me that he said because he was not living in Benin, he didn’t know the situation was this bad. Some people were telling him what was happening but he thought they were trying to cause disaffection between the both of them. But he now knows the true situation and unfortunately, the situation has gotten out of hands. We are very ready for him; no retreat, no surrender. We are ready to fight. We believe in the justness of our cause, and God almighty will be on our side; and by next year, he will not be governor”. On who the group has in mind to replace Obaseki, his response was “we don’t know yet. But what we have in mind is Any Body But Obaseki, ABBO. Another acronym is HERO – Help Edo Remove Obaseki. Even if we don’t find a Benin man in Edo, we can go to Rivers or Imo to borrow as long as it is not Obaseki”.
But a seemingly defiant Obaseki warned those he described as political detractors not to mistake his humane disposition for weakness. Apparently taking on the EPM, the governor asserted that he was not a weakling, adding that he was aware that tolerance of aggression would bring more aggression. While positing that he would respond to opponents of second term with positive works, Obaseki vowed that “never again will the food of the children be given to the dogs”.
Speaking when the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, National Union of Local Government Employees, NULGE, National Butchers Union, Market Women, National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, youths and students, held a protest march to endorse him for second term, the governor who was represented by the State Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Paul Ohonbamu, said the social contract he entered into with Edo people in 2016 was being fulfilled across the state.
Ohonbamu, a lawyer and former lawmaker, said “Obaseki is a development warrior. He wants to create an alternate society where honour will be given to men and women who deserve it and not those who bought them. That is the society he wants to create where there will not be primitive accumulation. Where there will not be wastage. Obaseki believes that the wealth of a state is not measured by the opulence of rulers of that state but the productivity of the people of the state. People are not comfortable with the process he is adopting”.
According to the commissioner, “the process of changing the fortunes of Edo people is being opposed. It is a system that can create winners and losers in the political arena and economy market place. They are not comfortable because the type of politics Obaseki is playing is too sophisticated for them”.
Talking tough, Ohonbamu sent a stern warning to the governor’s opponents not to test his patience. In his words, “those who threatened that they will let hell loose, I want to tell them that no Governor is a weakling. Every governor can sting, every governor can strike. We are fortunate to have a governor who is an unwilling serpent. This fight is not Obaseki’s fight. The people put him there. He has the legitimate votes from the people and he cannot betray the trust. The goodwill cannot be squandered”.