Supporters of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Edo State collectively campaigned and worked assiduously for the party’s victory in the September 28, 2016 governorship election in the state but afterwards, the party was embroiled in crisis, leading to the suspension of some members.
Currently, over 60 party members have been suspended across the three senatorial districts of the state, over what the state chairman, Aslem Ojezua, described as anti-party activities during the election.
Findings by Daily Trust however revealed that the suspension intrigue was an alleged ploy by some leaders of the party to tactically prevent some members from being appointed as commissioners and special advisers by Governor Godwin Obaseki. He is yet to appoint commissioners and special advisers though the process has begun.
The first chieftain of the party to receive the suspension hammer was the state publicity secretary, Godwin Erhahon, who was suspended on December 30, 2016, for what the party described as disparaging statement against the immediate past governor of the state, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
Erhahon’s sin was that he granted the Tell Magazine an interview in which he was said to have cautioned President Muhammadu Buhari against replacing the National Chairman of the party, John Odigie-Oyegun, with Oshiomhole and that the President should beware of Oshiomhole.
Not too long after the suspension of Erhahon, another chieftain, Osakpawman Eriyo, the state chairman of Road Transport Employees Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) and youth leader of the party, was also suspended.
Before his suspension, Eriyo was in December 30, 2016, remanded in prison custody for alleged verbal confrontation with the incumbent state governor, Godwin Obaseki, and an alleged threat to the life of the state chairman of the party, Anselm Ojezua.
As he was still battling at the court, on February 6, the State Working Committee of the party adopted and ratified the vote of no confidence passed on him by the leadership of the Oredo local government chapter of the party and commuted his hitherto expulsion to suspension pending the final determination of his case.
He was also removed as RTEAN chairman while his contract with the state government as tax consultant was terminated in the ongoing state government tax reforms policy.
While the dust raised by Eriyo’s case was still settling, on February 1, about 30 leaders of the party in Oredo Local Government Area were suspended alongside many others in Edo Central senatorial district.
A statement signed by the party chairman, Anselm Ojezua, and made available to journalists, listed suspended chieftains from the Edo Central senatorial district to include Henry Ikoror, state vice chairman Edo Central senatorial district; Francis Inegbeniki, Edo central senatorial leader of the party; Kenneth Ihensekhien, former deputy chief of staff to former Governor Adams Oshiomhole.
Others are Henry Okpamen, youth leader; Anthony Ibhafidon; Francis Ubene, Esan Central local government area party chairman and Desmond Egbadon.
According to Ojezua, they were suspended for allegedly holding the state party chairman, Anselm Ojezua, hostage in Uromi, Esan North-East local government.
He said the incident took place in the home of Henry Ikoror and that the suspended leaders were identified to be involved in the incident.
He added that a committee headed by the State secretary of the party, Osaro Idah, has been set up to investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident and submit its report within one month.
Ojezua explained that the committee was mandated to look into all pending matters arising from the reports from the local government chapters in relation to the last governorship election in the state and make appropriate recommendations.
However, Francis Inegbeniki described his suspension as unconstitutional, null and void as well as laughable. He said the purported suspension was as a result of his petition against the state party chairman, Ojezua, to the national working committee, accusing the chairman of anti-party activities and embezzlement of funds meant for last September’s governorship election.
He said Ojezua has no powers to suspend him as he is neither a member of the executive of the State Working Committee nor an executive member of local government area and a ward executive member of the party.
Inegbeniki noted that Ojezua cannot suppress him not to expose his anti-party activities in the state, especially in the last governorship election where he worked for the PDP, noting that the chairman was on a mission to destroy the party in the state
As party members were getting over the spate of suspensions slammed on members, former Minority Whip of the House of Representative, Samson Osagie, was suspended alongside 30 others, including local government executives of Uhunmwode local government, for alleged anti-party activities.
Reacting to his suspension, Osagie described it as ill-motivated and unconstitutional.
Osagie, in a statement, said his suspension was not only laughable but allegedly masterminded by a leader of the party in the area and former political adviser to the immediate past governor of the state, Mr. Charles Idahosa.
He said “I followed Governor Godwin Obaseki and the entire state campaign team to campaign throughout Edo South senatorial district and, eventually, worked hard to ensure that the APC won overwhelmingly in my Unit 4 at Egba and the entire Ward 6 (Umagbae South).”
He noted that he and other suspended members were “never invited” for fair hearing on the matter, stating that his suspension was a fallout of the last gubernatorial primaries in which he supported the former deputy governor, Pius Odubu, as against the incumbent governor.
“Idahosa, who masterminded my suspension, did not win his own unit in his community, Ehor town, during the governorship election. The results are there for all to see,” he said.
Interestingly, the suspension hammer moved from Edo South to Edo North, where another party chieftain from Etsako Central Local government area, Blessing Agbomheri, was suspended. He was suspended for allegedly taking the party to court over the recently conducted Etsako Federal Constituency by-election.
In reaction to the suspension, Agbomheri alleged that the purported suspension was pre-arranged and masterminded by former governor of the state, Adams Oshiomhole, and the current deputy governor, Philip Shaibu.
According to him, some chieftains of the party were afraid of his rising political profile which they see as a threat to their expansionist theory.
He said “I still remain a respected member of the party and nobody can wave me aside in the scheme of things. On a daily basis, I get support through phone calls from the party members who also express shock at the premeditated plot against me.”
He said he has contributed immensely to the growth and success of the party, adding that he still remains a strong member of the party, working for its progress.
A chieftain of the party told Daily Trust in confidence that the crisis in the party at the moment was largely because of political appointments.
“As you can see, the problem started when party chieftains were asked to nominate people for commissioners and special advisers. So, the fight is not because any member did something wrong but to prevent them from being appointed or make inputs in the political appointees. There are indications that some names would be rejected by the governor and they are afraid that he may pick some people on his own,” he said.
A political watcher, who also spoke on the issue, believes the crisis was a tactical way of preventing some people from benefiting from political appointments and other economic largess that may be given to members of the party in the state.
With the party enmeshed in its suspension hurricane, observes are on the lookout for the next victim, just as they are eager to find out how the party plans to manage its victory.