Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
Ahead of the Edo State 2020 governorship election, history is about to repeat itself in the fold of the All Progressives Congress (APC) should the crisis of confidence raging between the National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and the Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki continues unabated.
Already, there are indications and high propensity that the incidences that cost the ruling party governorship tickets in Zamfara and Rivers states during the 2019 general elections might repeat itself in Edo State if urgent and drastic intervention measures are not taken to stem the crisis.
What started as minor disagreement and misunderstanding has lamentably degenerated to a disturbing dimension capable of recording avoidable casualties on both sides of the gladiators especially as the subject of disagreement has become insoluble.
While Governor Obaseki and his deputy, Philip Shaibu have relentlessly continued to battle forces bent on denying them second term ticket for this year’s governorship election, their godfather, Oshiomhole has remained resolutely afloat from the surging tidal wave threatening to consume him as the national chairman.
In fact, it has become a case of who blinks first in their smart moves perfectly designed to outsmart each other. The gladiators and their loyalists have effectively deployed all manner of crude and legal suppressive and tactical instruments including sponsored attacks and suspension of both individuals from the party.
They have equally levelled accusations and counter accusations at each other of planning to destabilise the party, threatening fire and brimstone and hauling all manner of unprintable allegations against the other. Attempts at each other’s lives have equally been successfully carried out through violent planned attacks, just as their body languages and overbearing attitudes have betrayed their missions and strong arms to capture the state at all cost in 2020.
Regrettably, peace initiatives and inter- ventions from even the presidency, APC Progressives governors, traditional institutions, stakeholders, opposition party and concerned persons have collapsed, fallen by the wayside and repeatedly failed to produce any positive result.
President Muhammadu Buhari, Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II and his traditional rulers, the Christian and Muslim religious institutions, industrialists and the business communities, political stakeholders among many others have all intervened without success.
Miffed by the intractable state of the rift and perhaps out of frustration, Edo State Council of Traditional Rulers had gone spiri- tual recently, ordering its members to embark on a one-day fervent fasting and prayer to seek divine intervention to the protracted crisis which has polarised the ruling party in the state with little or no success.
The crisis has been characteristically escalated by endless media war, hauling of verbal attacks and abuses, arm twisting tactics, endless sponsored organised protests, shenanigans and horse-trading on both sides that have continued relentlessly.
From the mudslinging from both gladiators, their aids and loyalists, to the protracted State Assembly legislative imbroglio and to the violent protests, the Edo crisis of confidence between Oshiuomhole and Obaseki has unarguably continued to dominate political discourse in the country more than any other issue since the conclusion of the 2019 general elections.
The situation has resulted in alignments and realignments for and against the warriors and disturbingly endless gang up and conspiracies allegedly from the APC Progressives governors and other allied forces from stakeholders hell-bent to impeach or sack Oshiomhole as the national chairman of the ruling party.
The state has remained the biggest casualty as the rift has obviously retarded development and denied Edo indigenes the dividend of democracy as funds earmarked for developmental purposes may have been wrongly channelled into managing the crisis. But, this has remained a secondary consideration to the forces at war.
As the crisis deteriorates and assumes dangerous level few months to the party primaries and the governorship elections, the gladiators seem to be oblivion of the party’s recent nasty historic misfortune in Zamfara and Rivers states, caring less how it carelessly gifted the governorship ticket to the opposition party due to mindless rifts and internal wrangling close to the 2019 general elections.
Beyond the dangers the crisis pose on the future and fortune of APC in Edo State, there are thick clouds of uncertainties over the future of both power brokers. While Oshiomhole has continued to clutch to every available object to survive the threat to his office as the national chairman, Governor Obaseki has continued to wedge unrelenting battle of his life to pick the ticket for his second tenure.
But, the crisis has already started wreaking havoc in many ramifications. For some time now, every political or social event involving the two elements has been punctuated with apprehension and tension as many of such have turned battleground for their loyalists to test their strength and superiority.
Only recently, the controversy and tension generated by the reception of Osagie Ize-Iyamu into the APC fold, which reverberated across the country and almost resulted in total anarchy in the state, before Oshiomhole was prevailed to stay out, was yet to die down when the absence of APC’s boss again at a big function, Auchi Day, deflated another time bomb already at a boiling point.
Supporters of the two main actors had mobilised themselves around the venue, apparently to capitalise on the arrival of their principals to showcase their solidarity and strength.
But, for the intervention of a combined team of army, police, other sister security agencies and local vigilante which ensured the crowd was stopped from entering the venue except only those who agreed to remove their crested caps, the arena would have turned into a hostile political ground.
Capitalising on the opportunity, Obaseki had waxed spiritual, speaking to the gath- ered celebrants, stressing: “I want to use this opportunity to re-emphasise peace and lovely disposition of our people; I want to emphasise peace and love because these are the hallmarks which characterise the Muslim community.
“I agree we are not here on our own accord and therefore anybody, particularly a leader, who believes he is here because of his own attributes or because of how special he is, is mistaken. God brought us all here. Our salvation is in the hands of the Almighty Allah, whatever you will be, whatever you will achieve, rest in the hands of the Almighty because no man can play the role of the Almighty. God is God, He is the one who determines who will be what and what will be.
“As we enter the election season, I implore all of you to continue to be models of peace, regardless of your individual political leanings. I want to assure you, your royal highnesses, that as long as I remain governor, I will continue to pursue peace because there can be no development without peace. I want to promise you that no matter how humiliated I am, no matter the humiliation I receive, it will not deter me from pursuing peace,” he quipped.
However, beyond the shenanigans and show of might, the future of APC in Edo State hangs dangerously in the balance. Will the desired intervention come before the conduct of the party primaries or will there be rancorous primaries?
The biggest conundrum actually is the possibility of Governor Obaseki surviving the hurdles of the usual APC manipulated primaries to emerge the party’s standard bearer and more importantly the probability of the Oshiomhole-led APC National Working Committee (NWC) graciously succumbing to pressure and blackmail to issue Obaseki the ticket at the expense of its alleged anointed aspirant Ize-Iyamu.
Who becomes the most wounded victim and casualty between the gladiators and what will likely be its implication on the ruling party are questions buried in the womb of time? Will Obaseki leave the party as speculated if denied the ticket? Will
the APC governors on solidarity support one of their own to turn the table against Oshiomhole and what will be the possible outcome of the party going into the election as a divided house? Those are pertinent unanswered questions?
But, characteristic of Nigerian politicians, do they even give a hood on what might be the consequences? Events in the recent past, with Zamfara and Rivers state as cases in point, have shown that consequences have always been a secondary consideration to the gladiators. It matters little or nothing
to them whether such situation has always ended in disaster.
Edo State APC crisis is going the way of Zamfara State 2019 general election incident. Like Zamfara, there are already two parallel state party executives in Edo State battling for legitimacy and recognition from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Like Zamfara State, there are strong indications that one faction may likely opt for direct and the other indirect mode of party primaries elections by the time INEC releases timetable for this year’s election.
There are also stronger indications that the outcome of the possible parallel primaries by both factions of the party, may drag dangerously too late into the election timetable. It may also involve legal battle and delay in the submission of the rightful candidate of the party to INEC on the stipulated period and these situations are capable of robbing the party the ticket.
Again, like Rivers, the build up to the Edo APC primaries, has shown possible lack of internal democracy and orchestrated plan to favour one aspirant against the other, which may likely be interpreted or misinterpreted as imposition with an implication of disrupting the system through a fight back. The ultimate outcome is capable of costing the party the Edo government house in favour of the opposition.
Again, should Obaseki emerge from the anticipated rancorous primaries, will Oshiomhole in exercise of his statutory mandate, be magnanimous and large hearted to endorse the certificate of return bearing Obaseki as the party’s candidate even after failing in his tactical support for another aspirant like Ize-Iyamu?
In an attempt to send strong signal to the Oshiomhole camp, the Obaseki loyalists have already proactively embarked on perfecting every arrangement to ensure that the pendulum swings in its favour.
As part of the arrangements, the faction loyal to Governor Obaseki, only recently inaugurated a 39-member mobilisation committee for membership drive, charged with the responsibility of serious membership drive and thorough screening members to ascertain their qualification and mission.
Confirming that the committee is a counter force, factional APC State Chair- man, Anselm Ojezua, had charged: “You
are expected to work closely with the party leadership at the state, local government and ward levels. They will be the ones to partner with you and guide you in the course of your work. You know as well as I do that quite a number of people have indicated interest to join our party; some for good and some for not so good.