Following suspicions, allegations and counter allegations by supporters of Governor Godwin Obaseki and former Governor Adams Oshiomhole, who is the National Chairman of All Progressives Congress, there is fear that the Edo State chapter of the party is currently threatened ahead of 2020 governorship elections, reports Assistant Editor, ‘Dare Odufowokan.
IN spite of the denials by Governor Godwin Obaseki and ex-governor Adams Oshiomhole, the two main players in the unfolding crisis currently engulfing the Edo State chapter of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), strong indications have emerged that all is not well within the party. Ahead of next year’s governorship election in the south-south state, party leaders and other stakeholders are expressing concerns over what political observers have described as a political face-off between the two most powerful camps within the party in the state.
Obaseki succeeded Oshiomhole, current National Chairman of the APC, as the governor of the state in 2014 and the two had enjoyed very cordial relationship until recently when stories of rifts and disagreement between them started trending. Party sources claim the issues may not be unconnected with the 2020 governorship ticket of the party. While those supporting the governor daily accuse Oshiomhole of plotting to prevent the re-election of Obaseki, the national chairman’s supporters say it is the governor that is working against his predecessor’s political interests.
But neither the governor nor the APC National Chairman has publicly accused the other of any wrongdoing; rather, it is their aides and associates that are constantly throwing brickbats across the tensed divide, giving the impression that the state chapter of the ruling party may soon explode if urgent steps are not taken to mend the obviously broken walls of the once united political family. To further confuse undiscerning observers of the happenings within the party, Governor Obaseki, recently, on his return from his one-month vacation abroad, announced that there was no rift between him and Oshiomhole.
He made the statement at the Benin Airport. According to him, the reported rift with the APC boss over his second term ambition, are better described as fake news. Urging people to disregard the reports, he urged the people of the state to engage themselves with how the government could provide good governance to them and not petty issues. He said the APC in Edo State is united and ready to deliver on its promises to the people. Standing right beside him as he made the clarifications was Deputy Governor Phillip Shaibu, a known ally of Oshiomole, giving the impression of a peaceful and united party.
But barely had the governor finished allaying the fears of party members over the reported face-off than contradicting signals started emerging from the ranks of his own supporters and those supporting his predecessor. A chieftain of the APC in the state and a known supporter of the governor, Martins Osakwe, while urging the governor to focus on serving the people of the state, accused some APC leaders of working against the re-election of the governor. “Only an enemy of Edo State will say Obaseki doesn’t deserve a second term.
“Governor Godwin Obaseki is perhaps the best we have had. Those against him are people he told he can’t share Edo money to, and they are angry. This state has more than four million people and those of us in politics are not more than five percent. The governor was elected to serve everybody and that is what he is doing. God wants him to serve the majority. The opposition will even vote for the governor with his performance. What is Governor Obaseki guilty of? In Oredo, where I come from, women used to pay N900 for every stall daily. Today, they are paying N200. 90% of the funds collected in the past went to private pockets,” he said.
But Francis Inegbeki, another APC stalwart in the state, accused Obaseki of destroying the Oshiomhole’s legacies in the state by listening to a few people who are misleading him. He also accused the governor of being mischievous politically. “Obaseki is working against the political structure that brought him to power. He is destroying the legacies of Oshiomhole. That is the problem with him. Sadly, he cannot get a second term without the real leaders of Edo APC supporting him. We didn’t know Obaseki until Oshiomole introduced him to us sometime in the year 2000.
“Those saying there is no problem are hypocrites. They are not saying the truth. Before then, Obaseki had never voted in any election in the state. He was not a politician. Oshiomole made Obaseki politically. But today, Obaseki is showing ingratitude by trying to destroy the ladder with which he climbed to the top. He is now dining and wining with all those Oshiomhole fought to make him governor. He has equally abandoned all the projects Oshiomhole commenced in the state and, in fact, chased away all APC leaders who made him governor,” he said.
Many sources within the Oshiomhole camp have also accused the governor of moving against allies of the National Chairman. One of such, a council chairman in the state, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said many loyalists of the former governor are being eased out of the government on various pretexts. “Unable to bear the glaring animosity of the governor, many of our people are resigning from the administrations. Others are keeping their distance to avoid being ridiculed or embarrassed. Things are that bad as we speak,” he said.
On the reverse, supporters of the governor claimed that Oshiomhole and his people are daily plotting how they will stop Obaseki from getting the governorship ticket of the APC next year. “They are plotting in Abuja against the governor. Some elected lawmakers and other government officials spend more time in Abuja working against the re-election of the governor than they do in Edo State working for the people who elected them. It is people like these who will accuse the governor of showing them animosity. What do you expect him to do with characters like that?
Last Tuesday, Obaseki made a rare statement that further pointed to the fact that the ranks of the ruling APC in his state may be divided. Saying his vision is to serve the people of Edo, not the greedy politicians in the state, Obaseki declares that such greedy politicians will not have public funds to share again adding that he will remain undistracted. Obaseki said his major objective in government is to serve the people as he reportedly added that the era of sharing public funds to a few greedy politicians was over.
Around the same time, the lawmaker representing Oredo East Constituency in the Edo State House of Assembly, Chris Okaeben, accused Obaseki of playing politics of gossip and allowing opportunists to confuse him. The lawmaker, a known ally of Oshiomhole, reminded the governor that they both were political children of Oshiomhole, vowing to stand with the APC National Chairman even in the face of attempt to undermine him. According to him, Governor Obaseki owed former Oshiomhole, his predecessor in office, absolute loyalty.
Okaeben revealed that he had reported to the national leadership of the party about threat to his life because he knew that the Edo State leadership had been compromised. He claimed his trouble started after he urged both Obaseki and Oshiomhole to seek peace instead of disagreeing openly. He claimed he was prevented from contesting for a seat in the National Assembly largely because of his support for the National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Oshiomhole.
“Anybody loyal to Oshiomhole cannot benefit from the goodwill of this administration. I have no regret owing allegiance to Oshiomhole. Obaseki should do away with political gossips. What is happening now is political distraction. Some persons have set up a vault to launch second term campaign for Obaseki. The only way they can make money is to tell him to stay away from Oshiomhole so that they can make more money to buy property in Dubai,” he lamented.
As it is, it is obvious that all is not well within the party and many chieftains are now urging stakeholders to wade into the matter and save the situation before it is too late. The unexpected spat between Oshiomhole and his predecessor John Odigie Oyegun, also from Edo State, has also heightened the anxiety of APC members in the state amidst fear that if not curtailed, the ongoing crisis may cost the party the state during the 2020 governorship election. “This is not a good time for our party leaders to disagree the way they are doing. The PDP is waiting to benefit from all these rancors,” a party source said.
Already, women leaders in the party under the aegis of Female Opinion Leaders, have sued for peace among the warring leaders and members, saying that without peace, development cannot be sustained in any part of the state. Addressing journalists in Benin City, spokesperson for the group, Rev. Mrs. Nosakhare Ikponmwosa, condemned in very strong term, alleged rift among party leaders, noting that such ugly trend was capable of generating crisis in the polity which would do no one any good.
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