Tony Osauzo, Benin
Obviously, some individuals or groups are plotting to liquidate the Edo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of the 2020 gubernatorial election if their plan to take total control of the party machinery in the state fails.
The violence that enveloped Benin City, the state capital penultimate Thursday disguised as protest against defectors from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who were billed to be received into the APC on that fateful day of December 12, 2019, attest to the position as stated above.
Otherwise, how could a ruling party that should be consolidating its power base be opposed to welcoming new and powerful members from an opposition party into its fold?
In this part of the country, there is an adage that says fishes can never be angry because there is too much water. But the contrary appears to be the case with the Edo APC that has become factionalized because of the coveted governorship ticket for 2020.
Rightly, political analysts are of the view that the real issue in the Edo APC crisis is governorship ticket. They contend that there is too much apprehension over the second term ticket.
Besides, they argue that the ingredients of democracy are persuasion and lobbying to achieve targeted objectives and goals, not violence.
Though the crisis in the state APC had blown open over the inauguration of members-elect of the state House of Assembly in July, the latest dimension came when Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and his political associates and supporters were scheduled to be received into the APC after they had parted ways with the PDP.
The mega rally for the reception was fixed for Friday, December 13, at Garrick Memorial School ground in Benin City after the police authorities granted permit for it to hold. But sign that there was trouble lurking in the corner manifested when the state governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki, told journalists that he was not aware of any planned rally to receive defectors into the APC.
The police that earlier gave nod for the rally to hold reversed itself and withdrew the permit, saying it could not guarantee law and order if the rally was allowed to hold.
On Thursday morning, residents of Benin woke up to behold bonfires and blockade of roads, especially the Airport Road and invasion of the airport by suspected hired thugs who were protesting against the planned rally amidst sporadic shootings throughout the day.
It was in the confusion that the National Chairman of the APC and some members of National Working Committee of the party arrived at the airport from Abuja to be welcomed by a counter-force of youths, who engaged the protesters.
When the smog from the bonfires and shooting cleared, it was a harvest of bullet injuries and many of the victims were rushed to the Specialist Hospital for medical attention.
Consequently, the state government, in a bid to stop the rally from holding and to avert more crises, announced total ban on political rallies, processions and demonstrations in all parts of the state, with a threat to revoke the Certificate of Occupancy of any property used for rally in breach of the government order.
Following the announcement, organisers of the rally in a smart move, changed the venue to the private residence of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu at Ugbor area of Benin City, where the defectors were received into the APC by the party’s chairman, Col. David Imuse, who handed them broom, the party’s symbol.
As fallout of the rally, Anselm Ojezua, now leading the Governor Obaseki faction of the party, called on Comrade Adams Oshiomhole to resign his position as National Chairman, saying that he has been suspended from the party by his ward.
But the state Secretary of the APC, Mr Lawrence Okah, said Ojezua is chairman of Obaseki/Shaibu Movement (OSM) and cannot speak for Edo APC, as he has since been removed by by 11 of the 16-member State Executives of the party and replaced by Col. David Imuse (rtd) as state chairman.
Asked if he was not worried by the state of affairs of the Edo APC ahead of next year governorship election, Okah boasted that “we will win election anytime any day”.
He said Oshiomhole won the election for Governor Obaseki and he knows what to tell the people.
“Ojezua cannot lead us to win election, he has compromised. God is on our side. We are carrying out internal re-organisation, that’s why we are emptying the PDP into APC to strengthen the party”, he said.
When further asked if there was no room for the factions to reconcile, Okah stated emphatically that “that depends on the governor, not me”.
But Anselm Ojezua, while reacting to Okah’s comment, said he was tackling his purported removal as state chairman at the Edo State High Court, disclosing that the court last Wednesday, restrained the party from tempering with his chairmanship pending January 13, 2020 when the suit will come up for hearing.
On the possibility of the factions of the party reconciling ahead of 2020 governorship election, Ojezua said “anything is possible in politics”.
He claimed there is no faction in Edo APC, referring to the other group as dissidents.
“They are dissidents, they have no weight. Unfortunately, they are being led by Adams Oshiomhole who seem to be giving them weight. They are inconsequentials”, he said.
Ojezua further alleged that it was in a bid to give the group weight that Oshiomhole “brought in Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu to form alliance to fight Obaseki”, adding that the National Chairman of the APC and Ize-Iyamu were “strange bedfellows” who cannot work together.
He boasted that his faction was in control of the party, having 25 of the state executive members while the side has eight, controls 15 local governments, while the side controls three local governments, just as he said his faction controls the entire 192 wards in the state.
Reacting to Ojezua’s claim, Lawrence Okah said that “at the appropriate time, after Christmas, we will know who controls who”.
Meanwhile, Pastor Ize-Iyamu has faulted Ojezua’s comment that he returned to APC to fight Obaseki.
“It is wrong for him to say that I was procured to come to fight. Where was the arrangement made? All I am interested in is the unity of the party”, he said.
Clearly, the battle for the soul and governorship ticket of the Edo APC lies ahead.