Oshiomhole, Obaseki

Ahead of the Governorship polls taking place in Edo State next year, the political drama in the state now seems to be unending. At the weekend for example, and following reports of the cross-suspension of both the Governor, Deputy Governor, National Chairman, State Chairman and State Secretary, among several others from the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC party in the state, a myriad of conflicting reports is yet coming out of the state.
In one such account, the State Youth Leader of the APC, Mr. Valentine Asuen told newsmen in Benin that his alleged participation in the signing of a document to rid the party of the Governor, his deputy, the state chairman and deputy was allegedly secured under duress and as such it should be discountenanced.

Indeed, more than three years after assuming office as Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki is still running from pillar to post. The technocrat-turned-politician has like Rasheed Ladoja in Oyo, discovered that there is indeed a subsisting political establishment underlying the Nigerian political environment that you will do well not to ignore.

For Obaseki in particular his nemesis is the mercurial Adams Oshiomhole, his erstwhile political mentor, boss and predecessor who now doubles as National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. After building a political career on the premise of an unwavering assault on the practice of godfatherism, the former activist President of the Nigerian Labour Congress has now become solidly entrenched as the new godfather of Edo politics. And he is leaving no one in any doubt that his erstwhile godson’s days in office are numbered.

But this is a position that both Obaseki, his deputy, Philip Shuaibu, and their allies object to, and say they are determined to fight and reject.

For one of his subsisting backers, Hon Okani Raphael Oshote, Chairman Edo State House of Assembly Service Commission, the crisis may indeed just be a storm in the tea cup that would soon blow over. And he explains why this is very likely going to be the situation:
‘Since 2016, Obaseki and Shuaibu as Governor and Deputy Governor have done very well. They promised a lot of things while campaigning and by the Grace of God the people are happy with him because he has delivered on his electioneering promises. If you talk of roads, Obaseki has tarred a lot of roads in Edo State.

Oshiomhole had tarred the major roads in Benin. It is now the adjoining streets that Obaseki is tarring. Driving around Benin now you find that a lot of the streets have been tarred. Many adjoining streets in Oredo, Uhunwonde, Ikpoba-Okha, and Egor have been tarred. If you go to Esanland, to places like Ekpoma, you will find that some of the major streets that had been tarred during the era of Governor Ambrose Alli have now been tarred again. In fact I cannot mention all the roads he has tarred.’
But some of these fruits would clearly take a longer time to blossom.

When this reporter visited the Ugbor-Amagba GRA precincts suburb of the capital city, it was indeed a most bumpy ride even when work was ongoing on the main link road in the area. Construction workers were on ground carrying out basic activities but they, like the residents were also having to grapple with the effects of the long rains that were constituting a challenge for both commuters and road workers.

Beyond roads, Oshote in his chat with Buisiness Hallmark, also listed several other achievements recorded by Governor Obaseki in the past three years that he has been in the saddle:
“This governor is such a painstaking person that even the Secretariat Complex that Samuel Ogbemudia did not complete he has completed. He also built a house for the judiciary and there are several other buildings in that region. Some are completed some are ongoing. Recently, he was even awarded ‘the best Governor in the country’ by the Nigerian Union of Teachers, NUT at an event that was held in Abuja.

“There are a lot more things that he has done. In terms of agriculture, go to places like Sabongida Ora, you will see a lot of farms he has put in money into in the interest of the state. He has in my view delivered on at least 80 per cent of his electioneering promises.”

Asked to put a handle on what then the problem could be between the governor and his erstwhile benefactor, Oshote says; ‘It appears that the National Chairman has some interests.’ He would not go beyond that.

However, given what he continues to vigorously describe as Obaseki’s stellar performance, Oshote is convinced that given his track record, ‘we are convinced that there is nobody that can stop Obaseki/Shuaibu come 2020.’

To make this point, solidarity rallies are being held in and around the state. One of such is by the Obaseki Shuaibu Mandate Group which Oshote subscribes to. When VP Osinbanjo came to Benin to close the recently held National Festival of Arts, NAFEST, the group stormed the venue drumming, dancing and singing the praises of Obaseki to the apparent delight of their hero, and of course his visitor’s hearing.

‘Says Oshote about the determination of friends and associates of Obaseki and Shuaibu to ensure that their interests are very well protected and advanced going forward:

‘I belong to the Obaseki/Shuaibu Mandate Group, an organization of carefully selected politicians who know what it is to politick. In our organization today, you will find the key players in the politics of Edo State. So I am very optimistic that whether it is by direct or indirect primaries. Obaseki and Shuaibu would have the day.’

Asked if he was not bothered over the potential threat posed by the opposition PDP to the chances of the APC on the one hand, and then of Obaseki and Shuaibu returning to Osadebey Avenue next year, Oshote dismissed it as a non-event.

‘The PDP is not a threat. In fact, if I will tell you their angle has been well taken care of. We are not anticipating any problems there. There is no external opposition. There are PDP people working with us. And this is because the people of Edo State know what they are doing. They acknowledge the performance of this governor so we are not afraid of opposition.’

While not directly confirming this view, the PDP state chairman, Dan Orbih maintains that the party is open to all-comers, including Obaseki, that want to enlist within its ranks. He however debunked allegations that N6billion had been given to the opposition party by the embattled governor to soften the ground ahead of his switch, saying that he does not need to do so to join the party.

Returning to the big elephant in the shop, namely the opposition to Obaseki’s re-emergence as governorship candidate of the APC by the National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and his associates, Oshote would however not rule out any last minute act of rapproachment.

‘Well we are optimistic that the problem can be resolved. There is nothing that is impossible. It could be resolved because the National Chairman is such a person that when he sees that Obaseki/Shuaibu are on ground in this matter he will have no choice but to join them. He is the Leader of the Party in the state and you know it is not a conventional position. The governor is ordinarily the leader of the party according to the party constitution. But as we have it now, it is the national chairman that is the leader. Indeed, it is the governor and deputy governor that organised and brought him as the leader. As far at the state is concerned. That is the position.’

Changing landscape

Another very clear casualty of the unfolding situation is the very clear collapse of political party fidelity.
As the crisis lingers, sources say that Obaseki may very well have almost concluded plans to dump the ruling All Progressives Congress and move over to the APC. Indeed the Oshiomhole camp and other stakeholders within the party have made this point publicly known even as some Obaseki loyalists and PDP members also do not discountenance the suggestion that Obaseki may eventually run on the platform of the PDP.

While this is going on, the APC in its own bid to not lose out entirely has reportedly reached out to Obaseki’s 2015 challenger, Ize-Iyamu who has now returned to the party from where he had unsuccessfully attempted to wrest the ticket from Oshiomhole in 2015. And with the Benin area vote being the strongest bloc voting segment of the state, chances are that the people of the state are going to ultimately end up with another ferocious Obaseki/Ize-Iyamu contest, a clash of two sons of the age-long Benin Kingdom.

But this time around, there is a very clear 360 degrees shift with both candidates running against the exact political party platforms that they had run on only four years ago! Stuff happens, right?