By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, Niger Delta and Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu (Benin City)
ATTEMPTS by the Governor Kayode Fayemi Peace Committee set up by President Muhammadu Buhari to mend the cracks in the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Edo State, especially the alleged rancour between Governor Godwin Obaseki and the National Chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, have collapsed.
Sunday Vanguard learned that members of the committee, including Fayemi, who is the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State, Governor Abubakar Bagudu of Kebbi State and business magnate, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, were unhappy at the development.
The last straw was the abortion of their decision to come to Benin-City, Edo State, last Sunday, to meet with stakeholders of the party and feuding lawmakers to resolve the issues.
It was the collapse of the peace efforts that made the Senate, which earlier gave a window for a political resolution of the matter, slam a one-week ultimatum, last Tuesday, on Obaseki to issue a fresh proclamation for the inauguration of Edo State House of Assembly.
We gathered that at the meeting held in Ekiti House, penultimate Monday, the committee stated its position that they wanted to make peace, if possible, resolve the matter politically without having to compel anybody to do anything.
Asked to state in what ways Oshiomhole had wronged him, Obaseki allegedly mentioned the national chair’s alleged penchant for mobilising against him (governor) in Abuja the cancellation of the primaries conducted by him (Obaseki), last year, as if he was not the governor of the state.
Sources told Sunday Vanguard that el-Rufai knelt down for nearly 30 minutes at the meeting begging Obaseki to allow anybody to ill-advised him and that the matter required a continued dialogue with Oshiomhole even if he does not agree with his predecessor.
The Kaduna governor reportedly said he came to the meeting at the instance of Buhari, who would want the matter resolved with a fresh proclamation, especially with the crisis the party was also facing in Bauchi State.
His argument was that the Presidency, APC and the governors wanted the right thing done in Edo before they could take on the Bauchi matter, where Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, benefited from the scenario that the party’s National Working Committee, NWC, averted in Edo, which Obaseki was grumbling about.
El-Rufai spoke about how he had to dialogue with the party’s NWC and the Presidency on his problem with Senator Shehu Sani. He also alluded that a national leader of the party, Alhaji Bola Tinubu, had to succumb to the NWC position even after they had conducted primaries in Lagos.
Oshiomhole reportedly showed the fruitless text messages he sent to the governor and his deputy requesting a meeting for them to come to a table to resolve the problem without reaction.
He maintained that he could not destroy the house that he built and they blocked his attempts to ensure peace
Other governors, including Fayemi and Bagudu, reportedly said they stand with el-Rufai, saying they would come to Benin-City, last Sunday, to meet with stakeholders, members of the House of Assembly and, in fact, everybody connected to the matter in the state to end the crisis.
They also agreed to work out a position on the Speaker of the House, but Obaseki allegedly stated that he would be unavailable last Sunday for the meeting.
“It is at this point that the meeting broke down because it became clear that there will be no headway and that is why the Senate, which gave a window for the political option to be taken, had to concur with an earlier resolution of the House of Representatives on the mater,” our source revealed.
“President Buhari is aware of the developments and had expressed his wish on fresh proclamation before the Senate finally issued a directive to the effect.
“Nothing really happened at the meeting that was to hold at the Transcop Hilton Hotel in Abuja, as it did not really hold because of intrigues.”
How they stand in Edo South
The disagreement, which has now polarized the Edo into two cleavages, one for Oshiomhole and the other for Obaseki, is already taking its toll on the party and it prepares for the 2020 governorship election and it will run into crisis if the grievances are not amicably settled.
Edo South remains the largest senatorial district in the state. It houses more than half of the voting population in Edo and, understandably, it has been the most vociferous since the crisis began.
Anybody who must be governor of Edo must win a majority of the votes in this senatorial region. In fact, most of the votes that made Oshiomhole governor in 2008 after the court separated the valid from the invalid votes came from here
Apart from the members of the Edo Peoples Movement, EPM, which has vowed to see the back of Obaseki come 2020, the Joint Action for the Advancement of Democracy, JAADE, a coalition of some socio-political groups led by Ayanmekhue Edokpolo, and some group of activists, those who have come out to defend Obaseki are from the opposition parties.
In fact, the lawyer, who reportedly helped in reviewing the legal implication of the controversial inauguration of the House of Assembly, is a known lawyer of the PDP. This is same for several others who have been defending the actions of Obaseki.
Again, one of the civil society leaders who organized a recent mass rally in support of the governor was one of the foot soldiers that mobilised support for the PDP and against Obaseki in 2016.
A former ally of Oshiomhole who was his political adviser for eight years when he was governor, Hon Charles Idahosa, has pitched his tent with Obaseki. He was the first to raise the alarm about the governance style of Obaseki and even threatened to resign from the APC but they persuaded him to return to the party.
He repeatedly said Obaseki must get his second term and that, if by any act of “omission or commission Obaseki is forced out of the party, APC is dead in Edo State,” adding that if the governor decides to leave APC, he would follow him.
Secretary to State Government (SSG) Osarodion Ogie has maintained a stoic quietness. Known for his silence and always preferring to work behind the scenes rather than taking the front stage, he has been one of the most dependable allies of Oshiomhole in the state and particularly Edo South.
He was Secretary of Grace Group, a movement through which prominent members were pulled out of the PDP in 2006 and which was used to prosecute Oshiomhole’s election in 2007. He was also the Secretary of Oshiomhole Campaign Organisation and coordinated the legal team that delivered victory to Oshiomhole in court. He was Oshiomhole’s Chief of Staff in his first term and then Commissioner for Works in his second term. He was touted as Oshiomhole’s successor before Obaseki came into the scene.
Observers believe that in the event that Obaseki leaves Edo APC and Ogie decides to go with him, it would adversely affect the fortunes of the APC in the Edo South, especially if he chooses to re-align with his former allies who are now in PDP.
However, the likes of two former deputy governors, Dr Pius Odubu, who was deputy to Oshiomhole for eight years, and Lucky Imasuen, who was deputy to Professor Oserheimen Osunbor, the leadership and members of EPM, most of the state House of Assembly members-elect and some members of the State Working Committee (SWC) of the APC are with Oshiomhole.
People like the Lawrence Okha, the party scribe once told to resign by Obaseki, remains loyal to the governor while Hon Dennis Idahosa, member representing Ovia Federal Constituency, Hon Matthew Iduoriyeknemwen, and some others have remained neutral preferring to sue for peace.
State of affairs in Edo North
It is the second-largest senatorial district and Oshiomhole hails from here. Shockingly to many, his political son and Deputy Governor of the state, Comrade Philip Shaibu, has been the rallying point on the campaign against Oshiomhole.
He had before now been seen as somebody who will never work against Oshiomhole’s interest no matter who is involved, but events in the last two months have indicated that for political exigencies, Shaibu can do otherwise.
Shaibu has also found an ally in Hon Kabiru Adjoto, immediate past Speaker of the state House of Assembly who has just been appointed a Special Adviser by Obaseki. Adjoto’s grouse is that Oshiomhole denied him the ticket to represent Akoko-Edo Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives.
Even though the Supreme Court did not rule in his favour, he has continued to insist that he won the APC primary, but Oshiomhole stopped him and returned the current Deputy Leader, Hon Peter Akpatason, who, against all odds, is in the House for a record third term.
Former chair of APC in Akoko-Edo, Jeff Obasanmi, has also become an ally of Obaseki. However, the three members of the House of Representatives from the senatorial district, namely Akpatason, Professor Julius Ihonvbere (Owan) and Hon Johnson Oghuma (Etsako), have remained with Oshiomhole. Senator Domingo Obende has been calling for a peaceful resolution of the crisis.
Who is where in Edo Central?
The state Chairman of the APC, Mr Anselm Ojezua, is from this zone and he has consistently defended the actions of Obaseki.
He is serving his second term as state Chairman. He took over from Thomas Okosun, who, incidentally, is also from this district. Ojezua was first a Commissioner, later Special Adviser to Oshiomhole before he became the Chairman of the party. Although he had said severally that they are all Oshiomhole’s boys, on this crisis, he has pitched his tent with Obaseki.
Also toeing the line of Ojezua is John Inegbedion, who, until last year, has been the Commissioner for Finance since 2008. He was the APC Edo Central senatorial candidate in the 2019 elections but lost to the PDP. He is currently challenging his loss at the election tribunal.