By Ehichioya Ezomon
Interesting stories for you
Just as he dismissed the alleged attack on the home of the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, has also waved off his reported plan to ditch the APC.
Rather, he reaffirmed, last Thursday, October 17, his commitment to the platform that brought him into office in 2016, stressing that, “If a handful of individuals start misbehaving, and feel we will leave the party for them, they will be the ones to leave.”
A few days earlier, he had denied “any knowledge” of the attack Oshiomhole said he (Obaseki) “directed.” But the Commissioner of Police, Dan Mallam Mohammed, said the assault claim was “cooked-up” by the former Edo governor.
Still, CP Mohammed admitted that some persons, who camped outside the home, were “planning a protest,” and had to be dispersed. That shows something was, indeed, amiss!
These two issues, and Friday, October 18 suspension of the state secretary of the APC, Lawrence Okah, signal how far Obaseki and Oshiomhole have parted ways since their spat got into the public space in 2018.
Before their quarrel, they could fit into any of these descriptions: allies, buddies, colleagues, companions, consorts, cronies, friends, pals, partners, playmates, well-wishers.
So, as associates, Oshiomhole, as governor between 2008 and 2016, brought in Obaseki as Chairman of the Edo State Economic and Strategy Team (EST). Sources indicate that he’s a “major” financial mobiliser for Oshiomhole’s ambition, and election.
In that capacity, Obaseki was the arrowhead of the various developmental programmes of the Oshiomhole administration. And he revelled as being so identified!
Thus, it’s comfortable for Oshiomhole, against all entreaties, and threats from “core” members of the APC, to “pick and stand” by a technocratic Obaseki as his successor in 2016.
During the electioneering, Oshiomhole, as the crusader of “One man, one vote” in contemporary Nigerian politics, brought to mind the yeoman’s job that former President Olusegun Obasanjo did to elect the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in 2007.
With his oratorial prowess, acerbic tongue, and combative persona, Oshiomhole vigorously campaigned for Obaseki, as if he’s the one on the ballot. And Obaseki won eventually.
That’s why it’s a surprise to many how they fell apart so soon, and couldn’t reconcile their “differences” despite series of intervention by notable and respected individuals and groups.
Well, that’s the nature of politics, in which there’re no permanent friends or enemies, but permanent interests. Isn’t this true of the “perceived” intimacy between Obaseki and Oshiomhole?
As the relationship nosedived, the first to weigh in was His Royal Majesty, Omo N’Oba Nedo, Ukuakpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II of Benin. To the natives and residents of the famous Benin Kingdom, and Edo State in general, the revered Oba’s word is law.
If he intervenes in a dispute between his subjects, the matter is settled, dead and buried, and the subjects savour the royal engagement, and go home happily, and quarrel no more.
But this isn’t the case with Obaseki and Oshiomhole, prompting the Omo N’Oba to “report” them to President Muhammadu Buhari, as the leader of the APC, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
They honoured the “summons” by the president, who asked them to reconcile, if for nothing else, but for the interest of the APC, due to the 2020 poll: the source of the current intrigues in Edo State.
There’s also a reported “peace mission” by the governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who doubles as the Chair of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), and an apolitical personality and renowned industrialist, Alhaji Aliko Dangote.
Both “common friends” to the quarrelsome duo were recent “peacemakers” who, perhaps, thought that their closeness and camaraderie could do the magic. But no way!
Another reconciliation committee is assertedly being considered by the APC governors and other stakeholders. Will it succeed where the urging of Oba Ewuare II, and the Commander-in-Chief failed to sway Obaseki and Oshiomhole?
Recall there’s a ray of hope in August 2019, when Governor Obaseki paid a “surprise” visit to Comrade Oshiomhole at his country-home in Etsako, Edo State.
Coming out of a closed-door parley, accompanied by a retinue of applauding aides, they back-slapped each other, and debunked their alleged feud, blaming it on “mischief makers.”
But from the latest fissure, it appears the touted Obaseki-Oshiomhole “rapprochement” was for the cameras, as events prior to, and after that visit, portrayed a hardening of positions.
So far in the “power struggle,” Obaseki has the upper hand over Oshiomhole, as shown in these outcomes:
* He has refused to re-proclaim the Edo State House of Assembly (ESHA), as “ordered” by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC, and the two Chambers of the National Assembly.
* Rejigged his administration, weeding from the cabinet, and the 18 local government council areas, political appointees regarded as “loyal” to Oshiomhole.
* Received the supports of APC state and council chapters, political groups and high-profile individuals, and Edo teachers; and a stream of declarations, and solidarity rallies across the state.
And as he looks set to remove all vestiges of Oshiomhole’s in his administration, and, maybe in the APC, as he assuredly vowed, the governor attempts to label the regime he headed its “Think Tank,” as a failure in the delivery of dividend of democracy.
Which beggars the question: Was Obaseki “actually” part of the Oshiomhole government that he’s credited to have drawn huge investments, and numerous projects to?
Did he close his eyes to the alleged “rot” in the administration, while projecting himself as Oshiomhole’s right-hand man, and biding his time to be anointed successor in 2016?
Lest we forget! Oshiomhole, no matter how battered politically in Edo State, is still the sure bet for an Obaseki encore in 2020.
Those hailing the governor are fair-weather friends; members of Any Government in Power (AGIP), who “fought” Oshiomhole when he “anointed” Obaseki for governor. They deserted the APC, only to return, to destabilise the party, for their interests.
With Oshiomhole beside him, the powers against Obaseki’s re-election would fail. That’s why the governor should remember “where the rain beat him, and where the sun dried him.”
No matter the provocation, he shouldn’t humiliate Oshiomhole, but continue to extend all courtesies to him when he visits Edo State. But it would be unstatesmanlike for the APC Chair to “sneak” in, and holds meetings with his allies, without putting Governor Obaseki on notice.
It’s time to cut the antics, and locate the “real enemies” in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which, sensing a blowout in the “fight-to-finish” in the Edo chapter of the APC, is having a ball, as it savours its “chances” at the poll next year.
* Mr. Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.