By Ozioruva Aliu
On June 22, the All Progressives Congress (APC) is expected to hold its primary election to pick its candidate for the 2020 governorship election in Edo State fixed for September.
There is a big gulf between Governor Godwin Obaseki and majority of the members of his party who have described his leadership style as politics of exclusion.
Many politicians of note in the APC across the three senatorial districts are against Obaseki’s second term, but the governor and his handlers have continuously exuded confidence that he would get the second term ticket.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that the governor after losing his Senior Special Assistant on Anti-Human Trafficking, Solomon Okoduwa, who resigned his appointment and later that of his Chief of Staff, Taiwo Akerele, may lose more supporters in the next few days if what is happening in his kitchen cabinet is anything to go by.
There was a recent burst up between some principal members of his kitchen cabinet but when contacted, one of them, former Speaker of the House of Assembly, Kabiru Adjoto, simply said: “The tongue and teeth quarrel and they also settle. So the story that somebody was slapped was not true”
It was reliably gathered that some of them a real ready reaching out to the opposition group against Obaseki to join in theant-Obaseki campaign.
Attempt to remove Oshiomhole
The number one challenge for Obaseki’s second term bid is the failed attempt to remove or suspend Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as the National Chairman of the party.
It was reliably gathered that one of the strategies Governor Obaseki and his handlers adopted was to ensure that Oshiomhole was removed hence the intensity and barrage of litigations that led to the aborted National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting.
Two of Obaseki’s supporters had boasted to Sunday Vanguard late last year that Oshiomhole would not be national chairman of the party by the time Edo governorship primary election would be conducted.
It was also gathered that the announcement by Governor Obaseki shortly before the aborted NEC meeting that the APC was planning to register 500,000 new members in the state was to be carried out once Oshiomhole was removed and the new leadership of the National Working Committee (NWC)which was expected to be ‘friendly’ would have given the green light for fresh party membership registration. But these plots failed
Fourteen out of the state legislators are yet to be inaugurated more than one year after their election. They are being held back and their seats even declared vacant for challenging the way and manner the House was inaugurated.
After the failure of the plot to remove Oshiomhole, the governor was said to have gone back to the drawing board to adopt new strategies to ensure he gets second term, but whatever plan they were working on suffered a setback when his Chief of Staff, Taiwo Akerele, suddenly resigned from the government citing administrative reasons for his action.
Akerele’s resignation has led to the ridding of the government of many appointees linked to him while those remaining go to work daily expecting the worst. Some who are still in office were said to have given their commitment and loyalty to Obaseki before they were told to continue after serious interrogation by the office of the Deputy Governor.
The resignation of Akerele would remain as our point as it took the Obaseki government by surprise. Even though a replacement was immediately announced, the governor was not expecting it. Akerele’s resignation has substantially reduced the reach of the governor in Akoko-Edo Local Government Area one of the areas in Edo North that he was expected to make inroads. The place has become vulnerable as apart from Senator Domingo Obende, who with his supporters have remained solidly behind Obaseki, other notable leaders like Deputy Leader of the House of Representatives, Peter Akpatason, and former member of the House of Assembly, Anselm Agbabi are in the opposition. Akerele is expected to play a role in the emergence of the next candidate and wherever he pitches his tent would get supporters.
One plan Obaseki’s supporters had hoped would notwork was the decision of the aspirants opposed to him to have a consensus amongthem and then jointly deploy their resources to back the choice.
Former Deputy Governor, Pius Odubu, former Minister of State for Works, Chris Ogiemwonyi, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Solomon Edebiri, Saturday Uwalekhue, Professor Ebegue Amadasun and Ehiozuwa Agbonayinmaare the persons that have so far indicated interest to contest for the governorship election of the state in APC.
Even though an earlier attempt for them to agree on one of them failed, recent developments indicated that the aspirants may have settled for Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu as their consensus candidate. The governorship hopeful has been granted a waiver by the national leadership of the party to contest the primary election.
Sunday Vanguard reliably gathered that some powerful interests in the party want Ize-Iyamu.
With 2023 elections already in mind, the interests, it was gathered would want to use Edo State to expand its influence in South-South having lost Bayelsa State to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Ize-Iyamu’s entrance into the race shortly after here turned to the APC changed the narratives as he became the aspirant to beat.
He defected to APC with the structure he used as the governorship candidate of the PDP in 2016 when he contested against Obaseki.
The return of Ize-Iyamu to APC generated somuch air that the state government made frantic efforts to stop it including placing a ban on all forms of political rallies and meetings in both private and public residences.
A day before his formal return to the APC, there was orchestrated violence in Benin City, the state capital that led to the police not give the go-ahead for the formal return. There were attacks on several persons believed to be supporters of Ize-Iyamu.
Oshiomhole was declared persona non grata in the state and the government issued a statement saying he must get permission before he visits the state, claiming his presence was sparking violence.
Shortly after this, a venue fixed for a rally in Auchi, Etsako West Local Government Area to receive defectors from the PDP wasburnt overnight. Another venue in Irrua, Edo Central Senatorial District, was destroyed although that turned out to be a decoy as the organizers learning from what happened in Auchi, actually had an alternative venue which was the country home of a leader of the party, Chief Francis Inegbeneki.
Inegbenki’s private residence in Benin City was attacked with substances believed to be explosives and few days later, the home of the state Secretary of the party, Lawrence Okah was bombed.
Before these, the building housing the legal office of Henry Idahagon, a former Attorney General of the state was attacked by gunmen and several other business centres in the building were destroyed. Several used pellets were recovered from the area.
There were several attacks and sometimes disruption of meetings called by persons believed to sympathisers of Oshiomhole.
All these attacks were never publicly condemned by the state government but rather it said they were self-inflicted.
In February, the Benin residence ofOshiomhole in Oko-Otun area of GRA was under siege as the two entry points fromIkpokpan and Dennis Osadebey Road were blocked by trucks believed to be owned by the state government. One of the trucks was later set ablaze and abandonedfor several days.
The blocking of the road was a continuation of attempts to stop Oshiomhole from leaving the airport on arrival from Abuja to attend a burial party. He was escorted from the airport by heavily armed security operatives.
But the Special Adviser, Media and Communication Strategy, Crusoe Osagie said: “We don’t know anything about these, our concern is that the National Chairman came to Edo State and did not inform the government about his presence. He is the national chairman of our party and courtesy demands that he informs the government about his presence.”
Even though his aides have severally denied it, Sunday Vanguard can authoritatively report that there were moves by Obaseki toleave the APC and talks were on with some leaders of the PDP for him to fly their ticket. He was said to have slowed down his move when the idea of removing Oshiomhole as the national chairman came up.
For the first time in the history of the state, two ministers were appointed: the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire and Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Agba.
Obaseki’s critics believe he is not leveraging on the goodwill these appointments could bring to the state and his administration.
Closely related to this is the role he allegedly played in the opposition to the appointment of Odubu as the Chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). He is alleged to have coordinated other governors from the South-South to force President Muhammadu Buhari to stop the inauguration of the board even after clearance by the Senate.
One of the lawyers who went to court to challenge the composition of the board is now one of his Senior Special Assistants.
But the governor has recently doled out hundreds of appointments which is a strategy to get more party members, the outcome of the primary election would determine whether this strategy would work or not.