By Ehi Braimah
About seven months ago, I wrote an article on the political crisis in the Edo State chapter of the All Progressive Congress (APC) which has become intractable and deeply troubling. Why is it so difficult to resolve this matter? The point I made then was that as friends and brothers, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole who is the National Chairman of APC and former governor of Edo State for two terms of eight years under the APC banner and Governor Godwin Obaseki should sit down and iron out their differences.
Unfortunately, this has not happened because, as it normally plays out, there are two groups that are loyal to their respective political gladiators with each group threatening fire and brimstone. The hot topic on everyone’s lip is the political crisis in Edo State APC – whether it is on radio or television discussion programmes, newspaper opinions/editorials or social media or beer parlour and pepper soup joints, the story is trending rapidly. I’m confronted almost on a daily basis by concerned friends and colleagues with the question: what is going on in your state? This is a euphemism for the sad political situation in Edo State between the APC National Chairman and Governor Obaseki that has turned into a long running soap opera. Why did they throw their fellowship out of the window? Why did they drop the ball? Personally, I’m unhappy at the turn of events – what we have now is politics of bitterness, hatred and acrimony between two friends and associates. It did not have to end this way; it is public knowledge that Comrade Oshiomhole campaigned vigorously for Governor Obaseki to win the election three years ago.
How do we comprehend a situation where the National Chairman of APC is from Edo State; Governor Obaseki is the only serving APC governor in the South-South and South East regions and that the 24 members of the State House of Assembly are all from APC? Any yet, we are having a crisis of this magnitude! The 24 members in the House are not united – 14 members loyal to Comrade Oshiomhole are exiled in Abuja and the remaining 10 are in Benin running the show. This ugly situation is not a good advertisement for Edo people because that is not who we are. But in politics, anything can happen!
I got the chance to weigh in on this matter again during the ‘Morning Show’ on Arise News, a live television programme, on November 5 with Kassim Afegbua who was a former media adviser to Comrade Oshiomhole when he was the governor of Edo State. I re-stated the need for peace to reign because the crisis was giving Edo State a bad image both at home and abroad. We are peace loving and law abiding people – we respect our elders and those in authority. I made the point too that Comrade Oshiomhole should allow Godwin Obaseki serve the people of Edo State without let or hindrance. The allegation of most part members including those who made financial contributions to Governor Obaseki’s campaign is that he used and dumped them. In the TV interview, I also appealed to Governor Obaseki to build consensus within the party and engage all the key stakeholders who supported him to win the election for a win-win partnership. I added that even husbands and wives have their misunderstandings and disagreements but they should also have the presence of mind to reconcile.
There have been attempts at making peace by well-meaning Nigerians but the efforts have not yielded any fruitful results. Instead, both sides are digging in and Edo people are worried. Whatever agreement that both parties had has obviously evaporated. It is now evident that the politics of 2020 and the fight for relevance by Comrade Oshiomhole is a major cause of the political crisis. Comrade Oshiomhole denies being a godfather in Edo politics but nothing could be further from the truth. His body language and overbearing attitude have betrayed his mission and his strong arm tactics to ‘capture’ Edo State at all cost in 2020 by using Edo People’s Movement (EPM) – a pressure group and faction within the party — is already on full display and the intention is to hand over the APC ticket to Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu who re-joined APC recently
This explains why the crisis is now going to be a fight to the finish because, from all indications, the battle line has been drawn by both sides – the fight is getting messier and messier by the day. The Edo State gubernatorial election is due in 2020 and Governor Obaseki who will be completing his first full term by November 2020 says he deserves a second term ticket because of his record of performance. Previously, Ize-Iyamu, a very influential politician, bridge-builder and activist in Edo State, was in APC and then crossed over to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Now, he’s back to APC at the instance of EPM and Comrade Oshiomhole as the main challenger to Governor Obaseki. If this matter is not quickly resolved, I foresee political violence from two parallel primaries that would eventually hold in Edo State and the avoidable litigations that would follow.
I understand why Edo people, especially the leaders of thought and professional groups, are not speaking up on this matter even if they are outraged by the egregious behaviour that is on display by the political class. In one moment, you will find politicians fighting and tearing themselves apart and the next time, they are friends again – you can never be sure where they stand and this is why most stakeholders prefer to sit on the fence and speak from behind the curtains. The law of self-preservation, as I have found out, is the primary motivation of politicians. Only very few members of the political class care about principles and the common good. I’m not surprised Ize-Iyamu is back to APC because politicians are all the same but he should note that if Comrade Oshiomhole can fall out with Governor Obaseki, then it can happen to him again – Ize-Iyamu left APC for PDP when Comrade Oshiomhole was governor because he complained of “hypocrisy” within the party.
Why is Comrade Oshiomhole, the National Chairman of APC, unable to put his house in order? What does he really want from Governor Obaseki? Instead of managing the crisis in his party in Edo State where he was a former governor, Comrade Oshiomhole is stoking the fire and creating a crisis that is likely to consume the party in the state. In my Arise News interview, I advised Comrade Oshiomhole to play the role of statesman and leader by bringing everyone to the table and settle their differences. In such a scenario, there should be no winners and losers and the spirit of reconciliation should prevail and motivate all to finding a lasting solution to the crisis.
But Comrade Oshiomhole would have none of that because he’s a key factor in the contrived crisis and he wants to eat his cake and have it. I’m actually surprised that Comrade Oshiomhole cannot see the hand writing on the wall in plain sight. Should Edo State be reduced to a theatre of political war and bloodshed for personal ambition? Is this crisis part of the political calculation for 2023? I think Comrade Oshiomhole should at this time sit back, take a deep breath and reflect on how he became governor of Edo State because it appears he has forgotten. If he can call to mind the events in very recent memory, this needless dog fight – now famously known as Abuja versus Benin fight — where he is clearly the aggressor would be unnecessary. However, if he has forgotten, my sources tell me that Governor Obaseki, Chief Lucky Igbinedion, former governor of Edo State under the banner of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP); Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Captain Hosa Okunbor and Chief Tom Ikimi – prominent Edo indigenes — will remind him.
I have a strong feeling that Comrade Oshiomhole would be caught on the back foot in the current political face-off if he does not toe the path of genuine reconciliation. Firstly, he has exaggerated his sense of importance and influence within the party — he is using his might as APC National Chairman to cause confusion in his home state instead of playing the role of a leader and statesman. Secondly, Governor Obaseki declared again recently that the APC National Chairman remains suspended from the party in Edo State in a show of power just as Comrade Oshiomhole’s faction says Governor Obaseki has also been suspended from the party. Thirdly, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says only National Party Chairmen can submit candidates’ names but the State Chapter of the party, according to the APC constitution, shall conduct the primaries – and you know what that means. Fourthly, the Deputy Governor, Comrade Philip Shaibu, who used to be Comrade Oshiomhole’s die hard loyalist and foot soldier, is now with Governor Obaseki; he’s also a popular and influential activist, mobiliser and grassroots politician. Both Oshiomhole and Shaibu are from the same clan in Etsako West local government area in Edo North Senatorial District – whereas Oshiomhole is from Iyamor, Shaibu is from Jattu-Uzairue, about 12 minutes’ drive from Iyamor where Comrade Oshiomhole cited Edo University when he was governor.
In addition, the governor has effectively taken control of all the wards and local government areas as part of their mobilisation strategy for the upcoming primaries and elections. There is also the incumbency factor which cannot be discounted – expectedly, it will be used as leverage by Governor Obaseki. More importantly, if it is the wish of Edo people that Governor Obaseki should return for a second term, there’s nothing anyone can do about it. Comrade Oshiomhole is bitter over the current political permutations in Edo State because he senses he is losing grip and power to the Obaseki/Shaibu group. Rather than cast himself as an opportunist who must win at all cost, Comrade Oshiomhole should behave as a leader by taking full responsibility of the situation and review his strategy urgently – he should sit down with Obaseki, Shaibu and Osarodion Ogie, the secretary to the state government (SSG); three men that he hand-picked to govern Edo State and agree the way forward for peace in the ‘Heart Beat of the Nation’.
Governor Obaseki is happy working with Shaibu and Ogie, and since there’s no crack in the team, I suspect it is yet another source of worry – and possibly pain and sleepless nights — for Comrade Oshiomhole. It is not too late for our erstwhile labour leader to retrace his steps and work out a compromise solution to the imbroglio in the spirit of this season of goodwill because he’s not going to be APC Chairman forever neither is Obaseki going to be governor forever. We must honour and fear God because nobody knows tomorrow.
Comrade Oshiomhole is still very unhappy over botched Benin City APC rally – a very big bruise to his ego which he scored as a victory for the Obaseki/Shaibu group and thereafter blamed the Inspector General of Police — to welcome Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and others into APC recently. By the way, how was such a rally supposed to hold when Governor Obaseki, the APC leader in the state, travelled with President Muhammadu Buhari to Egypt for a peace conference?
I call on all men and women of conscience and goodwill to speak up on this matter now or forever hold their peace. I also want to specially appeal to President Buhari to urgently intervene in this crisis as the leader of APC and the father of the nation in the interest of fair play and for peace to reign in Edo State. May God Almighty bless Nigeria.
*Braimah is a public relations and marketing strategist based in Lagos