Edo Continues To Be A Theatre Of Political War

Edo Continues To Be A Theatre Of Political War

The name Jonathan Ayuba, arguably had some recognition in the academic world, where he is designated a professor. However, his leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Governorship Screening Committee has suddenly shot him into national recognition. For many keen watchers of the polity, the Ayuba committee had a script from the Adams Oshiomhole led National Working Committee of the APC and followed it to the letter, in order to achieve the desired result-disqualification of Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State from seeking a second term on the platform of the APC.

The reasons adduced by Ayuba and his team mates for striking out Obaseki’s name from the list of contenders for the Edo APC governorship ticket only strengthens the series of actions taken to achieve this objective.

For the avoidance of doubt, the Prof. Jonathan Ayuba-led Screening Committee also disqualified Engr. Chris Ogiemwonyi and Hon. Matthew Iduoriyekemwen. In the political calculation of governorship aspirants on the platform of the APC in Edo State, it is widely known that Pastor Osaze Ize-Iyamu, Engr. Chris Ogiemwonyi and Dr. Pius Odubu had a pact which they publicly signed a couple of weeks ago, agreeing to surrender their governorship ambition in favour of Ize-Iyamu. By the same token, Iduoriyekemwen is acknowledged as ally of Governor Obaseki, who was filling the political space in readiness to handover his structure and supporters to Obaseki at the right time.

What the APC screening committee has done with the obvious exclusion of Obaseki and Iduoriyekemwen is to leave the nomination field wide open for Ize-Iyamu. The supposed contest for the Edo APC governorship ticket on June 22 between Ize-Iyamu and Odubu may have already been decided before those affected hear about it, leaving them with no option but to accept it.

On the day he picked his governorship nomination form, Ize-Iyamu was in the company of five other aspirants: Prof. Ebegue Amadasun, Gen. Charles Airhiavbere, Engr. Chris Ogiemwonyi, Hon. Ehiozuwa Agbonayinma and Hon. Saturday Uwuilekhue and other leaders of the party, including members of Edo State APC caucus at the National Assembly. He told journalists that the other six aspirants, including the former deputy governor of Edo State, Dr. Pius Odubu, had stepped down for him and that he had their support.

Posing a question mark on the eligibility of Obaseki to seek the Edo APC governorship ticket, the governor was said to have sworn to an affidavit before a High Court in Abuja and stated under oath that he graduated from the University of Ibadan with a BA degree in Classical Studies in 1976. However, the University certificate he attached to his nomination form bears 1979. That is not all, the committee also concluded that Governor Obaseki’s Higher School Certificate and National Youth Service Corps discharge certificate were flawed.

In the case of Ogiemwonyi, the committee observed inconsistencies in his names, whereas Iduoriyekemwen was disqualified for instituting suits against the party without exhausting all intra-party mechanisms for settlement.

Agreeing with the conclusions of the Ayuba group, the Screening Appeal Committee of the APC for the Edo State governorship primaries approved the disqualification of the State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, from participating in the exercise.The Appeal Committee headed by Dr. Abubakar Fari. said: “It is inconceivable that the same University will award two certificates with separate dates for the same graduate. We also find it difficult to vouch for the authenticity of his National Youth Service Corps certificate. There is no indication as to where he served. We find that he should be disqualified.”

The question many observers have raised is whether the documents presented by Obaseki this time around are different from those which he secured the governorship slot in his first tenure.

Obviously frustrated by the outcome and convinced that he would not get a fair hearing in a matter over which Oshiomhole, his estranged political godfather has an interest, Obaseki who had repeatedly called on the APC National Chairman to excuse himself from political cases involving him in Edo State because of potential conflict of interest or lack of impartiality, said he will not appeal the submission of the APC Edo Screening Governorship Committee.

However, many were not surprised at the outcome of the Edo APC governorship screening exercise. What would have shocking is if an unexpected result had emerged, like allowing Obaseki to contest the party’s governorship ticket.

The unfolding political drama in Edo, which still promises many twists is at a sobering payback stage, in which Oshiomhole is set to take a pound of flesh. When Obaseki spearheaded a move to oust the man who gave him political power and fame without recourse to niceties, but failed in the bid, he should have been wise enough to know that no one touches the tiger by the tail and goes home without bruises if he is lucky not to be consumed by it.

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During the campaign that brought Obaseki to power, Oshionhole went against the popular warning and supported the current governor of Edo State against all odds. Many warned then that he was putting a snake into his pocket, but he ignored them. He went ahead to ensure his wishes were granted even by some unbending cynics.

However, no sooner he took over than Obaseki began to manifest the traits people warned Oshiomhole about. First, he toyed with the idea of retiring old politicians and replacing them with younger elements. This he did by appointing Special Assistants (SA) and Senior Special Assistants (SSA) in each of the 192 wards and 18 local government areas of the state respectively and made them accountable to him.

The second move he made was to alter the tripod of power sharing structure in the state when he initiated the impeachment of Victor Edoro as Speaker based on the ill advice of one of the assembly members to him that Oshiomhole planted Edoro to impeach the governor.

The third move which eventually broke the camel’s back was the controversial inauguration of nine members out of the 24 members of the state house of assembly on June 17 last year. All entreaties to have them inaugurated was rebuffed.

It would be recalled that in the heat of the Edo State House of Assembly crisis, a top government official said, “it was deliberately done. Just give them three months and they will come begging. Why should they challenge the governor on the choice of who becomes Speaker of the House.”

That matter is ongoing, defying different moves by party leaders, including the National Assembly calling for a truce. But the governor allegedly sponsored the stoppage of an alleged National Assembly taking over the affairs of Edo State House of Assembly through a court order obtained in Port-Harcout, Rivers State

On his own part, however, Obaseki has accused Oshiomhole of being the one fueling the crisis in the state by backing the Edo Peoples Movement (EPM), a pressure group within the state APC made up of the 14 yet-to-be inaugurated members-elect of the Edo State House of Assembly, displaced party leaders such as the three former deputy governors of the state, senatorial party leaders, youth leaders etc.

Simultaneously, the Obaseki-Shaibu Movement (OSM), a pressure group within the party has also emerged, thus paving the way for complete polarization of the party between the National Chairman of the party and the state governor.

The ensuing battles on different fronts has made Edo a theatre of political war, where Oshiomhole was at different harassed and even stopped from entering the state, while property of leading persons in the camp of the National Chairman were destroyed, setting the stage for mudslinging, cheap propaganda, physical battle, preventing groups from hold meetings and more wanton acts of highhandedness.

Having ruptured the relationship with Oshiomhole, Obaseki began to make new friends especially from members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), that made a surprising good showing in last February’s election into the senate. The relative success of the PDP in the National Assembly elections was not only shocking to the ruling APC in Edo State, it showed clearly that there was a gaping hole in the wall of the APC that could be exploited to the advantage of the PDP. While the APC leaders in the state continued to trade blame on what happened, the PDP consolidated on its win. Thus, Obaseki looked to the PDP to endorse his second term ambition while his part members looked forlorn.

Nonetheless, certain elements in the Edo APC waited for the opportunity to ambush Obaseki. On the sidelines, they raved the engine of intra-party opposition as the party primary election approached. Clearly, it is their time to pay the governor back in his own coin.

Obaseki may have seen the handwriting on the wall, but he was not willing to go down without a fight. He too armed his foot soldiers and the battle for the soul of Edo APC entered an irreversible course of self-destruction. The Edo governor compounded the matter by first contesting the mode of the governorship primary election. He did not just take it up with party leaders, but was quick to use his proxies to go to court, challenging the propriety or otherwise of the party NWC to order direct primary, knowing fully well that it is unheard of for a candidate in an examination to dictate to the examiner, the kind of question to set.

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His penchant to head for the courts fast, without first exhausting the internal party mechanisms provided for conflict resolution many have remained the greatest undoing of the governor.

Chief Bisi Akande, the first National Chairman of the APC expressed similar views shortly after the intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari, APC National Leader, Asiwaju Tinubu; and other party leaders in the crisis that almost consumed Oshiomhole as a result of his removal by an Abuja high court.

Before the indefinite suspension of that NEC meeting, Chief Akande who played his part as interim national chairman frowned at the increasing number of court cases being filed by party members that has to do with disputes regarding the leadership of APC, saying that the fact that all party members do not agree on all things was not abnormal because politics, after all, was the art of resolving conflicts and disputes in a manner that strengthens institutions as well as relationships between people who share common institutions.

According to him, “I am a bit taken aback by the swift resort to the courts by some members, who seek external decisions on what are intrinsically internal matters best determined by deliberative process that is part and parcel of democratically-oriented party politics.”

Akande did not stop there. He said, “I do not know the motivations behind this litigation conduct. It is not in my nature to ascribe negative or harmful motives to any. Those seeking access to the courts to decide what are basically political questions, perhaps, think they are doing the right thing. If this is the case, I must state that they are innocently in error. Their actions are harmful to the party in compound ways. First, the subject they bring to court is not amenable to judicial pronouncement. The matter by which court decisions are rendered – one side wins, the other loses – is not the best way to resolve political disputes.”

Nevertheless, it is not over yet for Obaseki as it was gathered that a meeting has been fixed for him to meet with President Buhari this week the same way he did when he obtained in intent and nomination form.

Although nobody can predict what may be the outcome of the meeting, two things may take place. One, the intervention of the president on his behalf or going there to bid him farewell as he moves to another political party to actualize his second term ambition.

Already, it was gathered that Obaseki has allegedly made arrangements to defect to the PDP. Last Saturday, about 10 governors of the party met him to join the party and pick its governorship ticket.

One of the governors from a South-south state is said to have led others in the overture to woo Obaseki to join the party.

According to an inside source, Obaseki was weighing other options like moving to a new political party but was advised against it as he may not have any financial and moral backing, rather he will end up wasting his time and resources to no avail. More so that any party that does not have even a single governor will amount to political suicide and bad market strategy. But there have been lone cases like former Governor Mimiko of Ondo State who stood his ground and served his two terms as governor on the platform of the Labour Party, in the South-west region surrounded, largely by APC governors. In Anambra State, the All Progressives Grand Allinace (APGA) has rebutted every move by either the PDP or the APC to win the governorship slot.

The rationale behind moving to the PDP therefore, as reliably informed is based on the fact that he will get massive financial and moral support from PDP governors.

But will Obaseki surmount the likely opposition that would great his defection and possibly picking the party ticket is another huge question begging for answer. Again, what is the guarantee that those who have being nurturing the party with the aim of picking its governorship ticket will not sabotage the efforts.

Again, will Obaseki dump his deputy, Philip Shaibu because he cannot get the PDP ticket without making compromises such as the party in question producing the deputy governorship candidate?

Besides, what is the faith of party big wigs like Omoregie, Ogbeide-Ihama, PDP member, representing Oredo federal constituency; M. Kenneth Imansuangbon, who has put up a strong political campaign team already in every nook and cranny of the state meeting party delegates to cast their votes for him as candidate? Or Gideon Ikhine, who has a formidable team in place to ensure his dream is actualized, will all these aspirants just wash their hands off and help to crack a kernel for the foul?

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Meanwhile, a movement of young Edo professionals christened “I am Edo” has been launched in Lagos. The movement, whose mission is to inspire a spirit of patriotism in Edo people, and mobilize citizens action for good governance, has also endorsed the second term bid of the incumbent governor, Godwin Obaseki, pledging support for his candidacy under any party.

Speaking during the launch event, Tony Usidamen, convener of the ‘I am Edo’ Movement, noted, “For far too long, hard-working sons and daughters of Edo have distanced themselves from politics and governance in the state, and watched as a few entitled politicians, who are a demographic minority, call the shots in the affairs of the state, and brazenly plunder our commonwealth.”

“As major stakeholders in the Edo project, we the young professionals—home and abroad—can no longer stay on the sidelines. This is why the ‘I am Edo’ Movement was birthed to galvanize Edo people to take control of their destiny, and join in the process of restructuring, remodeling and rebuilding the state, so that all citizens can journey towards their dreams with confidence and dignity.”

“Indeed, the power and responsibility for social change lies in the hands of the people. Through media advocacy and grassroots campaigns, we want to encourage participation in the electoral process, drive systemic changes in the community, local government, and state administration, and engender inclusive socio-economic development in line with the principles of democratic governance and social justice.”

On the choice of Obaseki as their preferred candidate in the September 2020 gubernatorial election in the state, Usidamen said, “The positive impact of the intervention programmes of the Obaseki administration across key sectors of the economy—including education, healthcare, agriculture, power, manufacturing and industry, roads and infrastructure, art and sports, law and order, and the civil service—is clear for all to see.”

“And so, when one finds a crop of leaders who go against the grain, selfless men and women that identify with the challenges and aspirations of the people they govern, and are committed to economic and material advancement of the majority rather than a few, it is only natural that we support them. The credential of the other major contender, who seems to have the backing of self-acclaimed godfathers in the ruling APC, pales in comparison.”

Ensuring that government works for the public good requires informed, organized, active, and peaceful citizen participation. The overarching goal of the ‘I am Edo’ Movement, said the convener, is to instill a real sense of pride and patriotism in all people of Edo heritage, home and abroad. It is a vehicle through which citizens can aggregate their interests, voice their preferences, and exercise the power necessary to effect sustained change.

QUOTE 1:

The question many observers have raised is whether the documents presented by Obaseki this time around are different from those which he secured the governorship slot in his first tenure.

Obviously frustrated by the outcome and convinced that he would not get a fair hearing in a matter over which Oshiomhole, his estranged political godfather has an interest, Obaseki who had repeatedly called on the APC National Chairman to excuse himself from political cases involving him in Edo State because of potential conflict of interest or lack of impartiality, said he will not appeal the submission of the APC Edo Screening Governorship Committee

QUOTE 2:

The unfolding political drama in Edo, which still promises many twists is at a sobering payback stage, in which Oshiomhole is set to take a pound of flesh. When Obaseki spearheaded a move to oust the man who gave him political power and fame without recourse to niceties, but failed in the bid, he should have been wise enough to know that no one touches the tiger by the tail and goes home without bruises if he is lucky not to be consumed by it. During the campaign that brought Obaseki to power, Oshionhole went against the popular warning and supported the current governor of Edo State against all odds. Many warned then that he was putting a snake into his pocket, but he ignored them. He went ahead to ensure his wishes were granted even by some unbending cynics

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