By Charles Igbinidu
To any keen political observer, it is obvious that what is happening today to the Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki is akin to what happened a few months ago to the outgoing governor of Lagos state, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode who was deprived of the opportunity of enjoying a second term in office by his own political party.
Paradoxically, both of them are members of the All Progressive Congress (APC), they were not seasoned politicians, they became governors through the instrumentalities of political godfathers who handpicked and imposed them against the wishes of many within the party.
Just like Ambode, the expression of the displeasure of the godfather started with social media campaigns and then moved to the mainstream media. The godfather didn’t grant any interview or issue any press statement, but his disenchantment, grief and bitterness were expressed through his foot-soldiers within the party.
But unlike Ambode, it doesn’t seem Obaseki will go down without fighting. APC may just be setting in motion a process that will ultimately benefit the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The offences allegedly committed are similar – not being good party men by refusing to patronise (both politically and economically) those who worked with the godfathers to make their emergence as governors possible.
Like Ambode, there are two major groups within the APC that are openly and vociferously against Governor Obaseki having a second term. In Lagos, it was the Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Group and the Babatunde Fashola Group. Both groups eventually worked together to get their common enemy out. Similarly, there are currently two major groups in Edo APC that are working for the defeat of Obaseki, the Oshiomhole group with Barrister Henry Idahagbon as the arrowhead and the former Deputy Governor of the State, Dr. Pius Odubu’s group, with Honourable Samson Osagie as the point man.
Barrister Idahagbon is the immediate past Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Edo State. He was one of Edo APC members that fought to ensure that Godwin Obaseki succeeded Adams Oshiomhole as the state governor, but with the race for 2020 gathering momentum, he has not hidden his disappointment with Obaseki
His words: “The leaders of the APC made a fundamental mistake in 2015 when they brought a political neophyte, somebody who has never been in government, somebody who has never done anything tangible or worthwhile as governor. We made a mistake of electing somebody who had been rejected by his people, the most aloof governor we have ever had in Edo State. And I say this with all sense of responsibility, and I have evidence to buttress every point I have made. You will recall that as a prelude to the 2016 elections, his cousin was actually the first person to alert the state that Godwin Enogheghase Obaseki is a funny human being. He told us about Obaseki’s personal and private life, which I don’t want to delve into, but because of our loyalty to our leader, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, we didn’t listen to him; we waved him off as the rantings of a disgruntled brother, but we now know better”.
Continuing, he said: “He has succeeded in alienating the party; he has succeeded in marginalising other members of the party under the bogus claim that he doesn’t have the resources to satisfy the private greed of party members. No party member wants the governor to give them money or dash them money. I ask the question; for the eight years that he was Chairman of the Economic Team under Oshiomhole, was he dashed money? Comrade is somebody that if he spends a thousand, he wants to get N2, 000 value from every thousand that he spent. But party members are entitled to patronages from government having worked assiduously to enthrone the government. Those who are contractors can be patronised in the area of the contract they specialised in, I am not a contractor, I have never done any contract and I don’t want no contract, but I should have access to my governor, a governor that I worked day and night for, a man who did not even know how we made him governor”.
Speaking at an APC stakeholders forum, Hon. Samson Osagie, the former minority whip of the House of Representative said: “……today we have the biggest misfortune in our political history in Edo State to have elected a man who believes he is the most intelligent and knowledgeable person than everyone else in Edo state including the man who sponsored him. He called his party members unprintable names ranging from thieves to greedy politicians. Yet he wants them to retain him as their Governor. Is that possible?”
He uses his office to arrest and jail party members on trump up charges, he exhibits hatred for all those who contested with him in the party primaries of 2016 and their followers, he makes thousands of promises and cannot fulfil hundreds, he demonizes his party that put him in power and romances the with the opposition day and night, yet he masterminds the suspension of party members for anti-party activities, he opens the till of government to spread largesse in order to curry the favour of the same party members he demonizes , he does not find party members good enough to handle important government assignments yet he imports his friends from US, Canada, Lagos and other places to pilfer the economy of the state, he has killed the morale of every party member thereby making them loose faith in the party they formed”.
But, some supporters of Governor Obaseki have also spoken in his defence. According to a Chieftain of the party in Igarra, Akoko-Edo local government area of the state, Chief Adewole Mayaki, the perceived feud between Governor Obaseki and his predecessor and National chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole, will be resolved amicably.
Chief Mayaki described plots against his second term bid by some members of the party, as exercise in futility that is bound to fail. He further described those campaigning against Obaseki’s re-election bid as “hungry people and sycophants who do not mean well for the well-being of the generality of the people of the state.”
Indications are that while Oshiomhole and his men may be able to stop Obaseki from getting the ticket of APC to pursue his second term ambition, they may not be able to stop him from contesting the governorship election in 2020.
The open fraternisation by Obaseki of the leaders of the main opposition party in the state is a pointer that he is already surreptitiously looking for an alternative platform to realise his ambition. With his seeming popularity with the common man on the streets of Edo State especially Edo South Senatorial Zone, it will definitely be an uphill task for APC to defeat PDP with Obaseki as candidate in the 2020 governorship election.
There are however those who believe that the recent defeat of APC in the Presidential and National Assembly elections in Edo South Senatorial Zones was a referendum on Obaseki.
This may not be correct because in 2015 when Oshiomhole was the governor, Edo South also voted for PDP’s candidates. The problem of APC in Edo South in 2015 and 2019 was the non-acceptance of President Buhari by the majority of voters from the zone.
Also, unlike Ambode, Oshiomhole may not be able to scare Obaseki with impeachment and premature removal from office. Members of the state House of Assembly are not one hundred percent with him as the Lagos state legislators were with Tinubu. Furthermore, ethnic consideration may come in if Oshiomhole and his men decide to take that route. The Benins will definitely resist it. While the Esans of Edo Central will see it as opportunity to pay their revenge on Oshiomhole for the shabby treatment he largely subjected them to during his tenure.