...Obaseki counters claim
WHAT started as a united family is in tatters and there are fears that the political family with the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, as father may never be one again.
This is evident in the attack on Governor Godwin Obaseki and Oba Rilwan Akinolu of Lagos by suspected thugs during their visit to the house of Oshiomhole in Iyamho after the convocation of the university in the home town of the party leader penultimate Saturday.
There have been claims and counter claims after the attack. Obaseki and state government officials said the attack was masterminded by Oshiomhole’s loyalists while the party leader alleged that Deputy Governor Phillips Shaibu started it all when he allegedly brought people suspected to be thugs into the university town ahead of the convocation.
By Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu
The second term ambition of Obaseki and the controversial inauguration of Edo State House of Assembly which led to the exclusion of 14 of the 24 members are the bone of contention.
Obaseki, his deputy, Shaibu, Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Osarodion Ogie, and Chief of Staff, Taiwo Akerele, on one side in the feud against the APC National Chairman, were all part of Oshiomhole’s eight years as governor of Edo.
Charles Idahosa, who was Political Adviser to Oshiomhole for eight years, is also on the side of Obaseki.
Recall that Idahosa was the first to raise issues against Obaseki when Oshiomhole mooted the idea of the APC fielding him as his successor in 2016 and even stopped from participating in the activities of the party but was convinced to come back by Oshiomhole.
It is no longer news that Oshiomhole and Obaseki have irreparably fallen apart.
Their once robust relationship had been displayed in 2015 when Obaseki was Oshiomhole’s best man during his (Oshiomhole) marriage to Iara after the death of his first wife Clara.
The first sign of crack in the political family showed when there was no unanimity on how Edo APC primaries ahead of the 2019 elections would be conducted.
While the governor wanted consensus arrangement which, according to him, was less expensive, Oshiomhole wanted direct primary election which, he said, was more democratic and would turn out candidates that could actually win elections. Oshiomhole had his way but since then the centre could no longer hold.
Observers believe that another source of problem between them is the conflicting philosophies and styles of administration of the two.
While Oshiomhole, as governor, brought a populist government where the provision of facilities and welfare of the people were his priorities, Obaseki has introduced an elitist government with business orientation where there must be value for every kobo spent.
The crisis got to an alarming point recently when suspected thugs invaded the residence of Oshiomhole in Okorotun GRA in Benin-City chanting war songs.
Meanwhile Obaseki has continued to take decisions that inflame the situation including the ban on the meeting of Edo Peoples Movement (EPM), a pressure group within APC clamouring for his replacement, during a parley of the party.
The meeting was followed by local government leaders meeting where the directive was further handed down to party leaders at the two levels.
Edo APC Chairman, 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 a governorship aspirant of the party, Charles Airhiavbere, a retired army general, condemned the decision on EPM.
Airhiavbere told journalists that for APC to win the 2020 election in Edo, there must be internal mechanisms to stabilise the polity, saying EPM is not the only pressure group in the party in the state as there is also the OSM (Obaseki,Shaibu Movement) which, he said, was established to promote Obaseki and Shaibu ahead of APC primary.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that there is a directive to the leadership of the party to flush out anybody perceived to be sympathetic to EPM.
This played out when the Secretary of the party in the state, Lawrence Okah, was suspended through a letter issued by Ojezua.
But Okah told Sunday Vanguard that the letter is of no effect because “the Chairman does not have such powers as it is only the party that can do that and it must get the ratification of the National Secretariat”.
The party Chairman said the suspension was administrative to facilitate investigation into a petition against Okah.
The suspended Secretary said he was accused of being a member of EPM and that 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 where they passed a vote of confidence on Okah and accused Obaseki of becoming a dictator.
Sounding confident, the governor recently said his second term ticket was not negotiable.
“No individual can determine who will become governor. Only God and the people can make the decision”, he said.
On the alleged attack on Oshiomhole’s house, it was gathered that the youths that did it arrived in several vehicles but were dispersed by a combined team of security agencies in the area just a street away from the official residence of the state Commissioner of Police.
Although the Commissioner of Police, Danmallam Muhammed, has said that there was no such attack, Sunday Vanguard learnt that the road to the house of the APC National Chairman was closed to traffic for some time after the alleged incident before it was re-opened.
The following morning, five police patrol vans were stationed in different positions along the street in addition to those of Operationwabaizigan, a joint security patrol team funded by the state government.
Party members sympathetic to the National Chairman said the motive of the ‘invaders’ may have been to embarrass Oshiomhole.
Oshiomhole himself was said to be attending an event outside the house at the time of the purported attack.
The party leader, while addressing some youths who followed him to home subsequently, said there was no cause to fear as he only came to Benin-City, the state capital, to attend a ceremony and rest.
He urged the youths to ensure there is peace in the country and Edo.
“We must be seen to behave well, if other people are beating drums of war, we will share the powder of peace”, Oshiomhole said.
“In moments like this, it is not madness-for-madness because many of you I see here, in 2007, you were already strong. In 2012 during my second term, you were there. In 2016, many of you were deployed as party 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 controlled by the PDP.
“So now that the Federal Government is controlled by 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 mushroom; if you 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 is the maximum speed of a snail?
“When I was contesting for re-election in 2012, two men wore red went round town saying I will not get second term, that they had 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 grace of God, I am what I am. What God has willed no man can change it.
VIDEO: Kogi Dep Gov, Edward Onoja, mocks Wada, tells PDP Youths to join APC(Opens in a new browser tab)
“I am very happy, there is no one road that I did in this great city that has been washed away; drive on Akpakava, drive on Upper Siluko, drive on 2nd East, Airport Road, Five Junction and other roads. “The power of 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 later issued by Secretary to State Government said the Obaseki administration has zero tolerance for thuggery in Edo even as it condemned attempts by some unscrupulous elements to cause a resurgence of thuggery in the state.
The statement 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.”
EPM, the group that has now been banned by Obaseki in Edo APC, is co-convened by a former Minority Whip of the House of Representatives, Hon Samson Osagie, and a former Attorney General of the state, Hon Henry Idahagbon.
Other APC members believed to be uncomfortable with the governor and would not hesitate to see his back in 2020 include the 14 lawmakers-elect who have not been sworn-in; Aihiravbere; Osakpanmwan Eriyo; a former deputy governor, Dr Pius Odubu; Lucky Imasuen, another former deputy governor; and Tony Adun.
Others include Gideon Obakhan; a former senatorial candidate, Francis Inegbeneki; a former Speaker and former state Chairman of the party, Thomas Okosun; Chris Ebare, Professor Julius Ihonvbere and Abdul Oroh.
Osagie, co-convener of EPM, recently told Sunday Vanguard when asked how prepared they were for 2020, “Once the bell rings, we are battle ready for the election.”