By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, Niger Delta, Gabriel Enogholase and Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu (Benin City)
THE earliest three celebrated musketeers of Edo politics were former Minister of Works, the late Chief Anthony Anenih; two-time Governor of the defunct Bendel State, the late Brigadier-General Samuel Ogbemudia; and the only surviving member of the group, the Esama of Benin Kingdom, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion.
They decided what happened in the state politically until the former national President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, aka Oshio Baba, basking on his street popularity, performed the unimaginable, snatching power from the kingmakers.
Oshiomhole ruled for eight years, did not establish a ruling political class, but was all the rage enough and gravitated towards becoming a new political godfather of the state after he single-handed installed the current governor, the erstwhile chair of his Economic Team, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, as his successor against all warnings.
He did not only inaugurate Obaseki, he also picked the Deputy Governor, Hon Philip Shuaibu, and Secretary to the State Government, SSG, Mr Osarodion Ogie.
All of them were his aficionados, but with the current development in the state, the three have curved full circle in opposition to their sponsor.
Numerous All Progressives Congress, APC, leaders in the state confided in Sunday Vanguard that Obaseki, probably over the moon by what Oshiomhole did for him, conceded political leadership of the state to his former boss, while he busied himself with governance.
The state caucus of the party thereafter adopted Oshiomhole as the leader of the party, but that is not the story today.
The governor, his deputy and SSG are debatably the three new power brokers of Edo politics, but the question many are asking is: How distant can they run? They have already floated their own movement.
Oshiomhole was initially nonchalant about reports that there was something amiss, but by the time he put his heart to it, especially with the events that played out at the Edo State House of Assembly on June 17, he found out that he damagingly appraised the concerns.
The past one month has been very dramatic in the state and even with the controversies surrounding the inauguration of the House of Assembly, which shifted to Abuja, last week, still raging.
Obaseki and his team have carried on as if all is well.
During Oshiomhole’s tenure and in the early months of Obaseki’s administration, APC was like one big family.
The governor, in several of his thank you visits, attributed his victory at the polls to Oshiomhole and unflinching support from his predecessor’s immediate political family, represented by the trio of Shaibu, Ogie and Chief of Staff, Taiwo Akerele.
Oshiomhole brought Akerele into the system in 2009 when he was appointed a Senior Special Assistant (SSA) attached to the Economic Team then headed by Obaseki.
Many thought if there would be issues, it would be between the governor and his deputy, who, coming from different backgrounds, are of two different ideologies, as, while the governor emerged from an aristocratic background backed with rightist thinking, Shaibu is of the leftist stock.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that the first budget presentation of Obaseki was almost marred when his deputy reportedly refused to attend over the unilateral decision of the governor to incise allocation to his office.
Sources said Oshiomhole, who was then out of the country, had to send his former his deputy, Rt Hon Pius Odubu, to persuade Shaibu against boycotting the budget presentation.
However, somehow, the governor and his deputy were able to make up, culminating in Obaseki handing over the state to Shaibu as acting governor while on vacation.
The gloves off
In Obaseki’s inauguration speech in November 12, 2016, he alluded to the role played by Oshiomhole and promised to continue from where he stopped.
Events have, however, shown that while the governor was wooing the Oshiomhole political family to his side, he was tactically alienating Oshiomhole and this played out when the two did not easily agree in picking candidates for the local government elections about two years ago.
They did not also see eye-to-eye on the process adopted to elect candidates for the National Assembly and state House of Assembly candidates for the 2019 elections.
Sunday Vanguard reliably gathered that the governor had been under pressure from some quarters to remove himself from the apron string of Oshiomhole and start building his own structure.
Obaseki had repeatedly said during his campaign that he would leave politics for the politicians and face governance, but all these have faded out shortly after, as he has taken charge of both governance and politics of Edo.
Many believe that the audacity of the governor to take charge of affairs would have been near impossible if he did not get the support of his deputy, SSG and Chief of Staff.
We gathered that the plot to inaugurate the House with only those loyal to the governor, after his ‘directive’ that the members-elect should select his preferred candidate as Speaker failed, was hatched at the residence of the deputy governor.
The SSG, whose residence is a stone throw away from that the deputy governor, allegedly assembled a team of lawyers to x-ray the legal implications of the planned action of inaugurating the House.
The Chief of Staff, according to sources, provided the logistics like vehicles used to convey the lawmakers to the Anthony Enahoro Complex for inauguration.
For those hesitant to believe that Obaseki wants to be his own man, he defused it with the sacking of eight members of his cabinet, last week. Before the sacking of the commissioners, he did not to attend a meeting called in Abuja by the leadership of the National Assembly to negotiate the way out of the crisis in the state House of Assembly. However, he finally met with the Senate President on Tuesday in Abuja.
— Vanguard Newspapers (@vanguardngrnews) July 13, 2019
Unconfirmed reports said the governor’s decision to sack commissioners on the same day he and Oba Ewuare II of Benin led Edo monarchs to the Presidential Villa, Abuja, to plead with President Muhammadu Buhari to wade into imbroglio, appalled the monarch for those fired were purportedly Oshiomhole’s loyalists.
An Edo North monarch, who Obaseki named his daughter in his new cabinet, is also seething with rage, saying the governor did not consult him.
A source close to him said, “The royal father called the governor to ask why he did not consult him.”
Soon after the state executive meeting of that day, affected commissioners, unaware of what was awaiting them, the state government announced their sack and nominated six replacements and five Special Advisers.
Reactions to the abrupt sack in many quarters were that those dropped were all Oshiomhole’s loyalists in the exco and the Commissioner nominees and Special Advisers chiefly those who have one squabble or the other with Oshiomhole and expected to give unalloyed loyalty to Obaseki.
What went wrong?
A knowledgeable tactician explained, “There were certain things that happened between Obaseki and Oshiomhole and the former felt his former boss had become too domineering, that is the reason for this brickbat.
“The mutual suspicion has been there for some time, but it reared up strongly with the inauguration of the House.”
If Obaseki, who was outside Oshiomhole’s political family before he brought in, fell out with him, the real surprise is how Shuaibu and Ogie, considered insiders of the family, also joined to rebel against their ‘master’.
Why Shuaibu, Ogie fell out with Oshio Baba
Authoritative sources said Shuaibu and Ogie separately thought that their boss, Oshiomhole, would make one of them governor.
Obaseki was not in their contemplation, therefore, very early in his tenure as deputy governor, Shuaibu, who hails from Edo North like Oshiomhole started to build his own political structure.
Leaders from the area reported him to Oshiomhole, but he had made up his mind on certain matters and felt that it was better for him to combine forces with Obaseki to secure his reappointment as deputy governor.
Ogie, flaunted as Oshiomhole’s preferred political heir, never forgave him for preferring Obaseki above him, and in all probability, to scoff at the APC national chair, he is in every respect with Obaseki.
Despite their up to date irresistible power, political pundits are watching to know if they can dethrone Oshiomhole on whose wings they rode to power.
Has Obaseki swallowed his words?
Obaseki had during his inauguration speech in 2016 said, “I am humbled by the profound honour and pride of succeeding a governor who, in the last eight years, provided dedicated, inspired, fearless and indefatigable leadership and transformed our great state in ways most people, considered impossible”.