Tension is heightening in Edo ahead of the 2016 governorship election in the state, as leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) engage in war of words over the alleged endorsement of the Chairman of the Economic Team of the state government, Mr Godwin Obaseki, as the likely candidate of the APC, by Governor Adams Oshiomhole.
The situation has pitted leaders against their political sons and Oshiomhole against some leaders in the state just as other governorship aspirants intensify their campaigns in the battle for the over 3,500 expected delegates for the primary.
The governor had informed some of the party leaders that he preferred Obaseki due to his expertise in the financial sector to ensure the state continues to enjoy development amid the current economic hardship even after he must have left office.
Other aspirants in the race include the incumbent deputy governor, Dr Pius Odubu; a former governor of the state, Prof. Osarhiemien Osunbor; a former Minister of State, Works, Engr. Chris Ogiemwonyi; Barr. Osarodion Ogie; Gen. Charles Airhiavbere and Kenneth Imansuagbon.
Tension grew last weekend when a former Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Mr Samson Osagie, warned against the alleged attempt to impose Obaseki on the APC by the governor, asserting that the party stood a risk of losing the gubernatorial election if other aspirants were not given a level-playing field.
“This fear is what is palpable amongst APC members and some of the party’s apologists across the state. And I have no reason to deny that same exists especially as one of the latest victims of a mismanaged electoral process in the 2015 general elections by the ruling APC.
The 2016 gubernatorial election is going to be the true test of Governor Oshiomhole’s capacity to sustain his party’s hold on power in Edo or lack of it. It’s almost forgotten by those who have constituted a cabal around the governor and himself that there is going to be an election after the primary and one wonders whether the bad blood that is being fueled by sycophants around the governor just now will deliver the votes when the real election comes sometimes in July.
A good attribute of a leader is to also listen to the yearnings of followers and take into account the peculiarity of the circumstances”, Osagie said..
But another former House of Representatives member from Edo, Mr Rasaq Bello-Osagie, disagreed with Osagie, insisting that the governor has the right to pick his successor, particularly “when the person is Obaseki who is seen by many as eminently qualified”. According to Bello-Osagie, “The first thing is that Oshiomhole came into governance in 2008, after a rigorous court process. Edo citizens were highly expectant based on his antecedents as a labour leader.
At the time he came, he was not a politician. He just led labour and Nigerians were happy with him and that is why people gave him overwhelming support in Edo. Oshiomhole constituted a team and this same Obaseki, for instance, from day one, put together a team to support the Comrade Governor. It was a strong team of professionals to help the administration.
He remained in the policy cockpit of the Oshiomhole administration. Obaseki is totally committed to intervention initiatives in the area of employment to take our youths off the streets and create entrepreneurial initiatives. What is needed in Edo now, as a recipe for development, is not restricting the choice of candidate to those who see themselves as politicians. We are looking for managers who can creatively manage our meagre resources for the benefit of Edo. His antecedents as a management expert eminently qualify him to aspire to the position of governor of the state”.
Amid the brouhaha, the Vice Chairman of the APC in Edo South, Barr. Gentleman Amegor, was suspended for alleged anti-party activities. Amegor, viewed as one of those opposed to the Obaseki project in the zone, however, described his suspension as illegal.
The state Publicity Secretary of the APC, Comrade Godwin Erhahon, who also came in his defense, distanced the governor from the suspension, agreeing that the purported suspension did not follow due process. While Amegor is seen as the arrow head of the campaign of the deputy governor, Oshiomhole’s political adviser, Charles Idahosa, is leading the campaign for Obaseki.
The two groups are at daggers drawn.
Consequently, Oshiomhole summoned a meeting of leaders of the party across the three senatorial districts of the state last Thursday. The venue was filled to capacity as the governor stood up to speak. He took time to remind the leaders of the party where they started from and how they battled the god fathers in Edo. The governor described as regrettable how he had been called names by APC members over his preference for Obaseki. Oshiomhole narrated his political victories in the state. That tactically disorganized some of the leaders who came there with the purpose to make trouble.
He said: “Today, in the media, our party has been in positive publicity while the PDP has been in the negative because of how they (PDP) stole money. I am happy that everybody now agrees that the army that I led crushed the god fathers. Then you hear that ‘the governor has anointed a candidate, he has turned himself to a god father’. Even people who are not members of the party are talking. That is why I said today I want to clear some issues. I want to say that the governorship candidate of this party will be produced through primary. What I believe I owe my party is to explain the qualities of the governor we require.
I believe we need someone who believes in our state, who believes that Edo deserves to continue to prosper. I believe we need a governor who will see the three senatorial districts as his constituency regardless of the senatorial district he comes from. I believe we need a governor who has the capacity to see beyond going to Abuja for allocation because there is not much available in Abuja now. In this hall, not less than 70 per cent of you, either individually or in small groups, have come to ask me, where do we go? But I told them it is too early. But let me ask: If any one of us has a right to have a say, should I, as governor, have no such right to have a say on the choice of my successor?
There will be party primary according to our constitution. But, as governor of this state, who has gone through a lot in the course of governance, let me say clearly that I cannot be neutral in matters affecting my environment. Even people who are not from Edo will always tell me to guide them so that the state will not go back to the past. I will never be afraid to take a position and to explain my position on the basis of my conviction.
In a democracy, whether mature or growing, endorsement is legitimate. What I owe Edo people is very clear to me. I have heard several things about my person; some said ‘he has anointed one of the candidates’, some now call me god father. There is no question that the governorship candidate of this party will be produced through party primary. The last House of Assembly, National Assembly and presidential elections, we held primaries; no body was imposed. So when people make those statements, I just laugh. So this governor has no power to impose any body on our party and,,certainly, anybody on our state.
“I am proud to say that we have more than 60 political parties. Why is it that everybody wants to run on the APC platform? Why not Labour Party or the PDP? It is on the strength of the performance of the government that I am privileged to head. It is the collective achievement of all of us as reflected in what we have delivered to the people of Edo as a government that makes our party attractive today. But I like us to reflect on this. Even some of those who have written that Oshiomhole wants to impose a candidate, I look at them and reflect on how they left their parties for our party and became candidates, and we appealed to our leaders to support them. I wonder how they describe that process that produced them. The world is a circle.
“I am proud that it is only in my government that you can have different commissioners canvassing for different candidates and, yet, they remain in my cabinet. It points to my liberal heart because, all my life, I have never had the opportunity until I came here to choose who works for me. So I am the only one whose commissioners can hold a meeting and say, ‘I will not agree with the man Oga said he will support’. And they return to Exco and hold meetings.
“Let me summarise, there will be party primary. Those who seek my view I will share with them about the kind of person I think we need, and who I think we should entrust with this task and why I think we should do so. But if you decide to go your way and enter a pothole, will you blame me? I will rather be known to have made my honest opinion that was probably ignored. I see how people were crucified in Lagos: The deputy governor revolted, 15 commissioners abandoned the Exco, a senator went to war, but Tinubu insisted that Fashola was the guy. And they said Fashola was not a politician. Is Fashola today not considered as one of those who ran a successful government in Lagos?
Has that not deepened APC in Lagos? And, today, he is to help fix some of the critical ministries in Nigeria. I will never want to be remembered as a coward. I must be on my feet, God will give me the strength. I will guide you, with clean conscience, if you allow me to do so. The next governor must be on his own, nobody is controlling me and so I am not ready to control any one. And only a fool will think you can have a governor that you will control. If your son becomes a governor, you will be shocked what he will tell you. He will tell you he is in charge of government; therefore, he may not listen to you until he gets home”.