By Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu – Benin City
The growing crisis between Governor Godwin Obaseki and his predecessor and National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole assumed an alarming dimension penultimate weekend when suspected thugs invaded the residence of Oshiomhole in Okorotun GRA in Benin City chanting inflammatory songs.
Before this incident, many have already taken the purported peace meeting between the two during the last Muslim holidays when Obaseki led top government officials and some party leaders to Iyamho to visit Oshiomhole as not genuine. The two feigned no crisis and even shifted the report of rift between them to the media.
The cause of the rift remains the governorship election in the state come 2020 as it is believed that Obaseki is not getting the backing of his erstwhile ally and bosom friend Oshiomhole; the two have fallen apart.
Their once robust relationship was displayed in 2015 when Obaseki was Oshiomhole’s best man during his marriage to Iara after the death of his wife Clara besides Obaseki being the chairman of the Economic Team for the eight years Oshiomhole was governor of the state.
Observers believe that one major contention between them is the philosophy and style of administration of the two as while Oshiomhole brought in a populist government whereby the provision of facilities and welfare of the people were his priorities, Obaseki has introduced a more elitist government and bringing in business orientation into governance where there must be value for every kobo spent.
After the meeting in Iyamho, Obaseki had taken decisions that did not indicate any sign of peace as this culminated in a state executive council meeting of the party few days ago where the governor insisted a ban on the meeting of the Edo Peoples Movement (EPM); a pressure group within the APC that is clamouring for his replacement for the 2020 governorship election.
This meeting was followed by local government leaders meeting where the directive was further handed down to local government and ward leaders.
The state chairman of the party, Barr Anselm Ojezua said the party would not fail to suspend those he described as forming parallel groups within the party as he insisted that the party remained united.
But one of the supporters of EPM, and a governorship aspirant Major General Charles Airhiavbere (rtd) condemned the decision on EPM.
He told journalists that for APC to win next elections, there must be some internal mechanisms to stabilise the polity. “EPM is not the only pressure group, before EPM, there is the OSM (Obaseki, Shaibu Movement) which was established to promote Obaseki and Shaibu winning the primaries and so EPM is the other pressure in the same political party that is against the OSM so who is proscribing who?”
Vanguard gathered that there is a directive to the leadership of the party to flush out anybody perceived to be sympathetic with EPM.
This played out over the weekend when the Secretary of the party in the state, Lawrence Okah was suspended through a letter issued by the state chairman of the party, Barr Anselm Ojezua.
But Okah told Vanguard that the letter is of no effect because “The chairman does not have such powers it is only the party that can do that and it must get the ratification of the National Secretariat. I am here watching them”
He said he was accused of being a member of the Edo Peoples Movement (EPM) and the governor also sees him as an ally of Oshiomhole.
However, the leadership of his Ward 7 in Oredo local government area held a meeting on Saturday where they passed a vote of confidence on Okah and berated the governor for becoming a dictator. Chairman of the ward; Osamudiamen Osarhekhoe said “In an election, you don’t fight the people, you negotiate with the people, he has stepped into the toes of so many people.
Today you sack the commissioner, you sack SAs and SSAs, you sack appointees in the local government, you cannot continue like that. APC is everywhere in the media and our election is by the corner, how are you going to reconcile these people our advice for him is to embrace peace and not by fighting or beating up people.”
Obaseki recently said when he met with members of the Benin Unity League that his second term ticket is not negotiable noting that “no individual can determine who will become governor. Only God and the people can make the decision.”
Meanwhile, it was gathered that the group that attacked Oshiomhole’s house arrived in a bus and other private vehicles but were dispersed by a combined team of security agencies in and around the area which is just a street away from the official residence of the commissioner of police.
Although the state Commissioner of Police, Danmallam Muhammed has said that there was no such attack, Vanguard gathered that the road was closed to traffic for sometimes after the incident before it was re-opened.
The Chief Press Secretary to Oshiomhole, Simon Ebegbulem alleged that the attackers were sent by Obaseki who he said was desperate to get a second term as governor of the state but that the attack was neutralised by APC youths who were mobilised to the national chairman’s residence. On his part, the Special Adviser to Obaseki on Media and Communication Strategy, Crusoe Osagie said the allegation against Obaseki was false.
Osagie said he was not aware of any such attack and there was no information to them that Oshiomhole was even in town and that the allegation against Obaseki was false.
After the incident, the following Sunday morning, five police patrol vans were stationed in different positions along the street in addition to the operation ‘wabaizigan’ a joint security patrol team being sponsored by the state government which is always at the entrance gate to the residence.
It was gathered that the motive of the “invaders” was to embarrass Oshiomhole either when he is coming out of the house or when he is going into his house but as at the time they came, Oshiomhole was said to be attending an event in Protrea Hotel which is less than two kilometres from his house.
Some APC youths were said to have mobilised themselves to the scene but as at the time they got their the suspected thugs have been dispersed.
Oshiomhiole while addressing some youths who followed him to his house from the hotel said there was no cause to fear as he only came to Benin to attend a ceremony and rest.
He urged them to ensure there is peace in the country and Edo state. He said “Anything that happens anywhere, they say is the President so we have to help him, we have to help to secure the whole country and in our state, we must be seen to behave well, if other people are beating drums of war, we will share the powder of peace.
“In moments like this, it is not madness for madness because many of you I see here, in 2007, you were already strong, 2012 during my second term, you were there, 2016, many of you deployed as agents; I used to call you guys our infantry Division who protected our votes even when we were in opposition when the federal government was PDP so now that the federal government is APC, we have to take it easy so that there is no breach of peace anywhere in Nigeria and particularly in our state.
Those people who are looking for trouble, they are like a small mushroom; if you go and take a stick to destroy a mushroom, do you need a stick to do that? How far can a snail travel? If a snail is running, what s the maximum speed of a snail? Are you going to join running after snail?
“I was contesting in 2012, two men wore red went around town saying I will not get my second term, that they have declared war on me I called our women and said go and put on white; the red they wore is their blood, the white is our peace and from that position till today by the Special Grace of God I am what I am. What God has willed no man can change it.
“I am very very happy, there is no one road that I did in this great city that have been washed away; drive on Akpakava, drive on Upper Siluko, drive on “2nd East, Airport Road, Five Junction and other roads; the power of the truth cannot be buried by the combined weapon of the most potent armed forces in the world, the truth is more powerful than the most potent army.”
A statement issued by the state government signed by Secretary to State Government said the Obaseki administration has zero-tolerance to thuggery in the state even as it condemned attempts by some unscrupulous elements to cause a resurgence of thuggery in the state.
The statement also urged Oshiomhole “to always put the state chapter of the APC and the government on notice when visiting so he can be accorded courtesies due him as a national figure.”
The governor would soon embark on ward tour across the state and observers are watching how far this would go in boosting his second term chances of otherwise.