By Emmanuel Aziken
Last Thursday, four governorship aspirants believed to be aligned to the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, came out to frontally take a position against Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State.
The quartet, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Engr. Chris Ogiemwonyi, Gen. Charles Airhiavbere (rtd) and Mr. Pius Odubu, are known to have ambitions to take over the seat presently occupied by Obaseki.
Ize-Iyamu and Airhiavbere, remarkably, are the immediate past governorship candidates of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. The two men left their former party for the APC after defeat by Obaseki (Ize-Iyamu) in 2016 and Oshiomhole (Airhiavbere) in 2012.
None of the four men is a pushover. Ize-Iyamu had, until when he contested in 2016, been regarded as one of the greatest political master strategists to have come out from Edo. He had either managed or remotely guided the campaigns of the four governorship elections before 2016.
His defection to the APC late last year is believed to be the joker that the Oshiomhole tendency desires to shock Obaseki out of office.
However, how they achieve their goal is a serious challenge that is not lost on the part of the National Chairman.
Indeed, despite seeming bellicose vituperations by his former protégées for and against Obaseki, Oshiomhole has continued to explore windows of opportunity to bring Obaseki back under control. If not to guide him, then to lead him to the slaughter as associates of the governor believe.
The former governor has, until recently, publicly refrained from directly attacking his successor, even going to the extent of making apologies after the famous altercation at Edo State University Iyamho last year.
However, beneath the shadow of seeming appeasement, the Obaseki camp is not lost in the fact that their man is a marked man and that Oshiomhole’s boys are determined to shove him out of office.
The APC National Chairman’s raison d’eter, they claim, is to catch him off his feet and lead him to the slaughter.
It is against this position that the Obaseki camp has raised postulations as to the judiciousness nay, reasonableness of having Oshiomhole preside over issues pertaining to the state chapter of the APC ahead of the governorship primary.
That issue was at stake last Thursday as the two major contending factions came out against one another over the propriety of the National Chairman’s empanelling a team to adjudicate over a matter he is a primary disputant.
The four aspirants in their speech read by Odubu observed that it was the right thing to support the Senator Ahmad Lawan-led reconciliation committee as constituted by Oshiomhole.
“We collectively desire a party that is stable, virile, and viable for us to realise our individual and collective aspirations”, they said.
Countering them, Barrister Anselm Ojezua, the Chairman of the mainstream of the party in Edo, which is aligned to Obaseki, observed that he inclined to the APC that the tendency was averse to Oshiomhole being a judge in his own case.
“It must be known that we are not averse to reconciliation. However, the constitution of any National Reconciliation Committee must be done with respect to the dictates of natural justice”, Ojezua said.
“Parties to a dispute should not be allowed to adjudicate on matters where they have shown reasonable interest. This is the defect of the Reconciliation Committee set up by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and a few associates within the National Working Committee.
“While we support the constitution of a Reconciliation Committee to clear the problem caused by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and a few dissidents within Edo APC, it will be best constituted by President Muhammadu Buhari, who is the National Leader of the party, as was decided in the last National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting in Abuja.”
Surprisingly, the supplication on the President to directly intervene seems to have fallen on deaf ears, a development that has allowed the crisis in the state chapter of the party to fester.
Obaseki, indeed, has said that if given the opportunity Oshiomhole would roast him, an observation that may have further emboldened his aversion to whatever peace moves as initiated by his predecessor.
Indeed, while most people believe that the crisis between the governor and his former benefactor has its locale at the Edo State House of Assembly, it is apparently emerging that what came to be seen as the governor’s disadvantage in the state legislature was framed by a political plot that preceded the March 2019 state legislative election.
Obaseki recently explained at an expanded meeting with leaders of the APC from all the wards and local government areas in Edo North, held at Jattu-Uzaire, Etsako West Local Government Area of the state, “He (Oshiomhole) cancelled the primaries that were initially done by the party at the state level for the 2019 general elections and did his own because he could not control us at the executive (level). He manipulated the legislature so he could use the House to remove us.
“Oshiomhole thought he was setting a trap when he chose Philip Shaibu as my deputy and Osarodion Ogie as Secretary to the State Government. He was thinking that we would always quarrel, fight and then run to him to settle issues.
“If you behave like a godfather, we will fight you. If you cannot be a disciplined member of the party, you will leave the party, whether you are the national chairman or not”.
However, any attempt to outwit Obaseki through the platform of the state legislature has apparently been made impossible through judicial pronouncements.
In one of such, the controversial inauguration of some members of the legislature was declared as legal.
That decision by Justice Kolawole Omotosho of the Port Harcourt Federal High Court has also frustrated what was believed to be Oshiomhole’s resort to the National Assembly for help in bringing Obaseki to order.
Now deprived of such, the Oshiomhole tendency’s only panacea is to stop the emergence of Obaseki as the party’s candidate in the forthcoming election.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that Obaseki seems determined to sink or swim within the APC and dismissed the insinuation of a defection to the PDP.
But how does the group inclined to Obaseki ensure it prevails in the match against Oshiomhole?
Indeed, it has become a refrain on the part of the Obaseki tendency in Edo to tag the National Chairman as suspended by that apparently hoping to provoke further dissension among Oshiomhole’s many traducers in the APC.
The plot appeared to have succeeded last Tuesday when the National Vice-Chairman of the party, North-East, Mustapha Salihu, vowed not to recognize Oshiomhole as the National Chairman of the party upon the suspension orders triggered from Edo.
Salihu, who vowed to drag Oshiomhole to the Department of State Services, DSS; the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC and other agencies, at a press conference at the national secretariat, said: “I have seen a subsisting court order where he has been suspended from the party in Edo. They followed the procedure of suspension from his ward, local government, state and his suspension was announced and court upheld it.
“I have not seen any court that is vacating that subsisting court order. So, I am not recognising him as National Chairman. He doesn’t have the right to call any meeting.”
Willy-nilly, the huff and puff within the APC is not unnoticed by the opposition. As the two sides exchanged brickbats last Thursday, the PDP was quick to rebuke the APC cautioning the ruling party and the Obaseki government not to force the crisis in their party as a crisis affecting the state.