PATRICK OCHOGA, in this report looks at the battle for Edo APC governorship ticket amid rumoured rift between some loyalists of the national chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and the incumbent governor Godwin Obaseki
It is no longer news that leaders of Edo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) are divided along camps led by Governor Godwin Obaseki and the national chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
The division is over the second term bid of the incumbent governor in light of moves to ensure a new occupant in Osadebey’s avenue, the seat of power in the state.
Even though, Obaseki and his predecessor have kept mute over the rumoured cold war between them, their supporters ahead of the 2020 battle for the governorship ticket continues to sound the political battle cry, fueling strong speculation that Oshiomhole may have severed ties with his successor.
It was gathered that since it became clear that some top Abuja based Edo APC leaders are plotting to stop Obaseki, picking the party’s ticket, he has been building political structures across the state to checkmate his opppnents within the party.
As speculation over such a rift mounts, former deputy governor, Pius Odubu, former minister of Work, Dr Chris Ogiemwonyi, and Gen Charles Airhiavhere are being considered as likely replacement for Obaseki.
Former federal lawmakers, Hon Johnson Oghuma and Hon Gani Audu, are also said to be pencilled down to replace Obaseki’s deputy governor, Comrade Phillip Shaibu.
Shaibu is from Etsako West local government area, a die-hard loyalist and political foot soldier of the national chairman. Fillers making around have it that he may have fallen out with his political godfather and now building structure for the Obaseki/Shaibu 2020 return bid against Oshiomhiole’s alleged plot.
In an apparent show of solidifying their political synergy for the first time even though constitutional, Obaseki handed over power fully to his deputy, and proceeded on his annual vacation. Shaibu was said to have been imposed by Oshiomhole to checkmate Obaseki.
LEADERSHIP Sunday investigation revealed that despite the fact that Obaseki has maintained his cool over the alleged underground plots to deny him return ticket, his foot soldiers insist that he must be allowed to complete his second term even as they caution against plots to impose a governor on the state.
Further report indicate that Obaseki is quietly consolidating hold on the APC structure in the state which saw party leaders hitherto loyal to Oshiomhole shift loyalty to Obaseki.
Genesis of Gang up Against Obaseki
Obaseki on assumption of mantle of leadership in 2016 ruffled political feathers in the state when he boldly banned revenue contracts hitherto given to some APC leaders and also disbanded Community Development Associations (CDA) engaged in illegal sales and allocation of land. This major activity had been ‘goldmine’ of sort to some party leaders.
The decision was roundly applauded by majority of Edo people but perceived in political circles as a show of ingratitude, especially from the camp of those who felt they supported his emergence.
A source said Obaseki had complained to close associates that he is choking under the overbearing attitude of his predecessor and that he wants to be his own man. It was learnt that Obaseki was expected to take care of some APC political boys loyal to the former governor, but that they were the first he got rid of the moment he was sworn in.
Besides, some political leaders were said to have complained bitterly of the lack of patronage from the governor and vowed to ensure that Obaseki is denied second term ticket come 2020. They were said to be unhappy with his leadership style.
The governor was also accused of empowering his Lagos based cronies with juicy contracts against politicians who had worked and supported his emergence. They had threatened to work against the governor during his re-election.
The outcome of the National Assembly and Presidential election especially in Edo South was seen as a payback for neglecting them. Some party members were found to have worked for the opposition PDP to spite the governor.
Of note was in Oredo local government area, ward 1, where former governorship aspirant, retired Major General Charles Airhiavhere, was given suspension for alleged anti-party activity by a party committee.
Felix Ehiguegbe, the ward chairman and Edward Oviawe, ward secretary, in a statement in Benin City, had narrated that Airhiavbere was also suspended by the State APC leadership for supporting the opposition party’s candidates against that of the party during the two elections. They stated that Airhiavhere was found guilty of the alleged offenses by an investigative panel.
The APC leaders also alleged that Airhiavbere, on the Election Day, deliberately withheld tags and other party tools meant for agents and APC members, thus, obstructing their movement on the field.
“Retired Gen. Arhiavbere canvassed for votes for PDP and thereby worked against our candidates; President Muhammadu Buhari, and National Assembly candidates.
Airhiavhere, who contested against Oshiomhole under PDP in 2012 and Obaseki in 2016 in nursing ambition to contest for the APC governorship ticket come 2020, had described his suspension as illegal and noted that it is not unconnected with his desire to contest against Obaseki.
However, an APC leader in Edo South who does not want be mentioned said the rumoured cold war between Obaseki and his predecessor is being orchestrated by some politicians in the state for selfish reasons.
He said at a recent meeting with the national chairman of the party in his residence in Abuja, Oshiomhole had given them order to commence work towards the second term of Obaseki.
“You see some of this talk that Oshiomhole and Obaseki are fighting is nonsensical and untrue. I was with Oshiomhole recently when the issue of Obaseki’s second term came up and he, Oshiomhole, told us that Obaseki is coming back, that we should all go and get ready to work for the governor.
Anybody who is interested should come out and not hide under the shadow of Oshiomhole. Whatever anybody thinks is happening is just a smoke screen. Oshiomhole is for Obaseki,” the source disclosed.
Gale of Endorsements
But the governor is not leaving anything to chance. He has started garnering home support toward his return bid. Members of the APC in Oredo local government area met in an enlarged meeting including local government executives, ward chairmen, councillors and leaders from the 12 wards that constitutes the local governments and unanimously endorsed him.
At the meeting they resolved that the governor must run and contest for a second term which also followed his adoption as the sole candidate for the 2020 governorship election in the state.
They also added: “That the governor has made Edo proud because among states in the federation, it stands out in all areas of development above states that are far more privileged in terms of federal allocation and Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).
“That since the reward of hard work is more work, the governor should heed their call to take the responsibility of governing the state for the next four years beginning from 2020; among others.
The resolution read in part, “We leaders of Oredo resolved to congratulate our National Chairman and Leader, Comrade Adams Aliu Oshiomhole on his effective leadership and victory at the presidential election and to pass a vote of implicit confidence on his leadership.
“Considering the pace of development in different sectors of Edo State from infrastructure to education, industrialisation, civil service and judicial reforms, enterprise development, prompt payment to pensioners and civil servants, among others, we are convinced beyond doubt that the only way to sustain the current rapid growth trajectory is to ensure that Governor Obaseki continues as governor of the state after the expiration of his first four-year tenure.
“We therefore with full sense of responsibility, call on him to run for second term and hereby adopt Governor Godwin Obaseki as the sole candidate for the 2020 governorship election in the state.
“The governor has made us proud as Edo people. At the moment, among states in the federation, Edo State stands out in all development spheres, heads and shoulders above state that are far more privileged than us in terms of federal allocation and Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).
“As the saying goes, the reward for hard work is more work and we therefore, urge governor Obaseki to heed our call to take on the responsibility of governing the state for another four years, beginning from 2020.
“We also assure, as leaders of the party in Oredo, of our readiness to pull all our resources together to ensure that the governor flies the flag of the party in the forthcoming governorship election and emerges as governor for a second term.”
The endorsement was greeted with reaction from party leaders across the state. Senator Domingo Obende who represented Edo North between 2011 and 2015, urged the party in the state to ensure Obaseki gets a second term to enable him complete the work he has started.
According to the Senator, “To whom much is given, much is expected. Governor Godwin Obaseki has given his all to us, and I believe that is not the finality of his capacity. The only good thing that can happen to us in Edo State is for him to come back for a second term so that he can download all his investment experiences and the opportunities to make Edo State better.
“Without any reservations, I am personally endorsing Governor Godwin Obaseki (GGO) for a second term in office and would appreciate if all necessary synergy is put in place to actualise this God-given development opportunities for Edo State in order to move on to the next level of value,” Obende declared.
Last Monday, large number of youths in Etsako West local government area after a meeting resolved to back the Obaseki/ Shaibu’s candidacy for a second term in office.
Coordinator of the group and senior special assistant (SSA) to governor Obaseki from Etsako West, Hon Benji Ojietu, told LEADERSHIP Sunday that it is only fair that one good term deserves another. He hinged their support and loyalty for Obaseki on what his administration has done in the 192 wards of the state.
Ojietu, equally lambasted politicians who are burning the embers of hate and disunity between Oshiomhiole and Obaseki, saying Obaseki’s sin is because he refused to share state resources to politicians.
“We are aware that some politicians met with Oshiomhole in Abuja some weeks back and he bluntly told them that Obaseki is doing well in Edo. It is because they are not getting the normal hand out they are used to. Obaseki believes in work and get paid. The man has performed and everybody can see. I trust the judgment of our national leader; after all, Obaseki was the head of Oshiomhole’s economic team. If he didn’t have confidence in his ability to deliver he won’t bring him.
“The last time I drove to Benin City, I didn’t see any potholes and not only in Benin but across the state. Why the change of a winning team?
“As it stands Obaseki may be depending largely on his domestic political machinery/structure against Abuja APC forces ahead of the epic political battle for 2020,” he said.