Odubu, Ogie, others shocked
By Simon Ebegbulem, Benin City
The joining of the 2016 governorship race in Edo State by the Chairman of the Economic Team of the Edo State government, Mr Godwin Obaseki, may have changed the calculations ahead of the poll.
Before now in the All Progressives Congress (APC), we have aspirants such as the incumbent Deputy Governor of the state, Dr Pius Odubu; a former governor, Prof.Osarhiemen Osunbor; the Commissioner for Works, Barr.Osarodion Ogie; Gen.Charles Airhiavbere; a former Minister of State, Works, Dr Chris Ogienmwonyi; and educationist, Mr Kenneth Imasuagbon. Many had thought the contest was going to be between quintuple before the emergence of Obaseki towards the end of November 2015.
Ordinarily, Obaseki’s emergence would not have been a problem for the other aspirants, but, with the seeming support being given to him by Governor Adams Oshiomhole, they have reason to worry. Sunday Vanguard gathered that the governor had told close political associates that Obaseki is his choice, but that would not stop other aspirants from going into the primary if they wish.
Oshiomhole had, on several occasions, expressed his respect for all the APC governorship aspirants but, as it seems, he decided to go for a neutral person whom, according to a source, he has so much confidence in. The situation in Edo is similar to what played out in Lagos in 2007, when the National Leader of the APC, Ahmed Bola Tinubu (the Jagaban), anointed the little known Raji Fashola as his governorship candidate to the chagrin of many of his loyalists. Sunday Vanguard learnt that it took Oshiomhole time to make up his mind on Obaseki, after he was convinced that the latter has the wherewithal to move the state to the next level after his exit. And as expected, the governor’s perceived preference for Obaseki is creating tension in the APC as the decision may have pitched the governor against his political son, Ogie and deputy, Odubu.
It was gathered that Ogie and Odubu were earlier on the list of the governor after holding meetings with the duo sometime in September because the governor, Sunday Vanguard learnt, had always preferred those aspirants who have been in the APC, right from its formation stages, so as to ensure that the PDP does not take over the state through the back door.
The governor had attributed the crisis that rocked the leadership of the National Assembly to PDP members who defected to the APC, stressing that because those category of lawmakers don’t understand the struggle some of the leaders of the party went through to build APC, it will, therefore, be difficult for them to understand what the APC is talking about.
Though Oshiomhole enjoys good relationship with most of the aspirants, he believes he should put the state first before his relationship with people. The only issue about Obaseki’s aspiration is that he is not a politician but a technocrat who has contributed immensely in moving the economy of the state forward. Oshiomhole’s worry now is how to market the preferred aspirant to the public, starting from his APC. And that is where he needs his traditional political allies, Odubu and Ogie. It was gathered that it is as a result of this that the governor commenced consultations with the aspirants in his cabinet to see how they can assist him make the primary election of the APC stress-free.
As at August 2015, many believed the pendulum was swinging in the direction of Ogie, who has been the governor’s ‘closest associate’ as far as the politics of the state is concerned. But, according to a source close to the governor, “if the governor was thinking about himself alone, Ogie would have been his first choice like people know but, in this project, the governor is thinking for the state as whole and that is why he went for Obaseki”. Sunday Vanguard gathered that it was a difficult decision for the governor to dump Ogie for Obaseki, but Oshiomhole believes strongly that it may be difficult for Ogie to step on toes if he becomes governor due to his closeness to many political figures in the state unlike Obaseki. But loyalists of Ogie disagreed, asserting that their principal understands the governor’s vision for the state and would do every thing to protect it, no matter whose ox is gored.
However, Sunday Vanguard understood that the governor is consulting with Ogie to see how the latter can dump his ambition and help him deliver Obaseki. Ogie’s supporters are hurt about the situation but it may be difficult for him to say no to Oshiomhole who is like a father to him. But for Odubu, the situation is tense. Like Ogie, the deputy governor is well known by most of the likely delegates for the primary; as a result he believes he can clinch the ticket. But the fear is that the situation may pitch him against his boss who wants Obaseki. Another worrisome aspect of it is that other aspirants such as Ogienwonyi, Imasuagbon, Osunbor and Airhiavbere have been working hard for the primary and may not entertain any move to stop them from going for the exercise. They have been watching the drama between Oshiomhole, Ogie and Odubu closely, and may have been strategizing on how to benefit from it. But, tactically, Oshiomhole has been putting his seven years experience in the politics of Edo into good use by trying to neutralize any gang-up that may stop his candidate from emerging.
He tactically got the support of his Political Adviser, Charles Idahosa, who initially was for Odubu. Idahosa is one vocal politician that can always rattle Oshiomhole when he is at his best; as a result, many Benin politicians in the APC were hoping he will lead a rebellion against Oshiomhole in the event that the governor wants to anoint a successor without their input. Sadly for these politicians, Idahosa is today leading the campaign for the Obaseki governorship. The governor is neutralizing every gang-up against his candidate across the 18 local government areas of Edo. And the result has been positive as many APC leaders, Sunday Vanguard observed, have keyed into the project in order not to offend the governor. Luckily for Obaseki, he has a family name that is so popular in Benin Kingdom. As a matter of fact, about six of his uncles are palace chiefs and that has punctured the belief in some circles that the Obasekis are not in the good books of the Oba of Benin. And as a person, he is a financial expert that has used his position to assist the Edo government which has immensely helped in moving the economy of the state forward.
There is no doubt that the APC governorship primary will be a Titanic battle. Oshiomhole has assured that there will be a level-playing field for all the aspirants. He has equally told anyone who wants to listen that he has a candidate of his choice just like any other party leader; so any one attributing it to god fatherism is making a big mistake. It is obvious that the governor wants a less rancorous primary and that has necessitated his several meetings with some of the aspirants. If he succeeds in reconciling with his angry foot soldiers, he may be good to go.
But as it seems, other aspirants can only check him if they prune down their numbers which is almost an impossible task considering the calibre of aspirants in the party. Oshiomhole’s targeted votes, which may deliver Obaseki, will be intact while votes of other delegates will be shared among other aspirants. That may give the governor the expected edge. But that is if he does not suffer rebellion in his camp because Odubu, Ogienwonyi, Imasuagbon and Arhiavbere are experienced in party primaries and are capable of giving the governor a shocker. Oshiomhole’s experience in politics will be put to test in the next few months; no doubt about that. He has succeeded in battling the god fathers in the state, but the big question is, can he successfully anoint his successor without the god fathers fighting back?.