Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The disqualification of Governor Godwin Obaseki and two other aspirants from participating in the All Progressives Congress (APC) primaries for the September 19, 2020 Edo State governorship election, certainly did not come as a surprise to many political watchers.
To compound his woes, the Screening Appeal Panel has adopted the reports of the Screening Committee and the APC National Working Committee (NWC) had equally endorsed both reports, completely foreclosing any possibility of Governor Obaseki contesting the party primary for the September poll on the platform of the ruling party.
In reality, his disqualification confirmed the worst fears over his dangling fate with the party and ultimately climaxed the unending rivalry and supremacy battle between him and the party’s national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
Expectedly, the regular and social media outlets have not only been agog since the news break, but also the situation, which has sharply factionalised Nigerians, has understandably become the loudest political discourse in the country and beyond.
It was really a dramatic end to the political battle as each faction deployed all manner of arsenal and winning strategy with wit, force, power, intrigues, mudslinging among others.
Of course, panic merchants had watched anxiously the unfolding drama and hostile relationship between the hitherto godson and godfather deteriorate to the intolerable level, resulting in the former almost pulling the rug off the latter’s feet, before the somersault that gave the godfather a last laugh through the decision of the committees, which declared Obaseki ineligible to re-contest.
Call it a theatre of the absurd; call it balance of terror or any other description of the manoeuvring deployed to get the desired result but as far as the battle is concerned, the incumbent governor seems to be on the losing end of the political combat.
With the decision, Governor Obaseki may struggle to come out clean of the dent on his integrity with regards to his qualification for re-election. He may not be the only political leader with alleged questionable credentials, but the integrity deficit may have come at the wrong period in his political voyage.
Retrospectively, the indication that Governor Obaseki may not escape the trap had emerged after Oshiomhole, his opponent in the battle escaped the impeachment plot against him before the outbreak of the global health pandemic.
Looking so subdued and harassed after the appearance before the screening committee, Obaseki re-emphasised for the umpteenth time that he had no confidence that he would obtain justice in the Oshiomhole-led national leadership which he said, would not remain an unbiased arbiter in the primary process of the party.
He had further complained bitterly about the humiliations meted to him at the screening, claiming that the members raised trivialities to discredit him, even as many believed that he may not have actually done much in plucking the loopholes to escape the enemy trap?
Many have also argued that the incidence that culminated in Obaseki’s disqualification may have been methodically manipulated in several ways, but questioned whether he tightened the loose ends very well especially as it concerns the credibility doubts over the authenticity of his credentials.
However, the big unanswered moral question is whether Governor Obaseki is actually guilty as charged? The continuous pontificating by the panel chairman, Prof Jonathan Ayuba may have actually put his moral integrity to question.
All through his appearances before newsmen, he had constantly boasted over his integrity but how true is better left for posterity to judge.
Justifying the unanimous adoption of his disqualification by the NWC at the weekend, Oshiomhole had while reeling out his iniquities, said: “We have reviewed the two reports and note with satisfaction that all members of the committees were unanimous in their decisions. We had deliberately appointed men and women that are, in our judgement, not only knowledgeable in academic world but also in law, what our party, APC, stands for and our ideals.
“The NWC after reviewing the two reports, the grounds for qualifications and disqualifications, is satisfied that the Appeal Panel did a thorough job that reinforced the findings of the screening committee. The NWC has unanimously approved the reports, meaning that as recommended by the committees, Matthew Aigbuhuenze Iduoriyekemwen, Chris Ogiemwonyi and Governor Godwin Obaseki have been disqualified.
“But, let me also reemphasise one other thing that it is not about certificate alone but also things beyond our control. The committee reminded us that they have a petition which drew its attention to the fact that in Edo State, contrary to the provisions of our constitution, the governor had managed the state disenabling the legislative wing of the state House of Assembly by inaugurating the House with nine members out of a House of 24 members.
“It is unacceptable in a democracy that the executive manipulated and completely disenabled the legislative arm. Let me amplify what the committees noted that even the President had intervened on this matter when he asked me to advise the IGP to ensure that illegal House is compelled to inaugurate every member in accordance with the provisions of the law and traditions of parliament.
“But the governor obtained a court order to stop the police and DSS from carrying out this instruction, which I dully communicated to the IGP and the DSS. The Senate president also intervened on this matter and he confessed to the fact that he inaugurated the House without circulating the proclamation letter to all the members elect. Yet went ahead to inaugurate nine person, leaving out 15 persons.”
But the question is, was Obaseki right to have allowed the hostile relationship with his godfather linger to the extent of the enemy using his weaknesses against him or would he have opted for the several reconciliatory windows provided by the concerned persons especially the various appeasement committees constituted to mend the fences between them?
As many equally asked, won’t he have deployed the political trick of stooping to conquer for his second term ticket before unleashing the beast in him on his detractor? If it is a moral burden on Oshiomhole to have withdrawn his backing, Robert Green in his book, the 48 Laws of Power, succinctly advised that an enemy must be killed totally.
Now that the chicken has come home to roost, casting gloom on Obaseki’s political future, there are palpable fears that the reasons adduced against him may have apparently provided legal teeth to the seen and unseen opponents fighting to wrest the ticket from him.
Above all, the fate that befell Governor Obaseki may have confirmed that political sins are never forgiven and that there is no morality in politics, but can his detractor, Oshiomhole, rightly pump Champagne and bask in the euphoria that the battle has been won and lost?
The national leadership may have manipulated the methodical approach applied in disqualifying Obaseki but many argue that the Bayelsa State incident that scuttled the party’s victory at Supreme Court still fresh in mind, may have also warranted the thorough scrutiny of his alleged defective credential that resulted in nailing him.
However, many have equally argued that the iniquities that nailed Obaseki’s coffin would have been avoided if he had gotten his ass perfectly right especially in correcting the spelling mistake on his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) discharge certificate corrected.
Again, on a broader perspective, the battle may have been won and lost but the situation has posed a moral question and burden on both gladiators. The stark reality is that the marriage between both parties has crashed irredeemably, but the battle line may have been drawn, particularly with the roaring of Progressives Governors Forum (PGF) not to watch their own go down shamefully.
Expectedly, rumour merchants are already at it over the governor’s next line of action, speculating that he has not only jumped the gun, leaving the ruling party, but also inches close to joining another political platform to contest.
The reality is that even though the winners are smiling in jubilation while the losers seem to be leaking their wounds, it may not certainly going to be a stroll into the park by the ruling party, facing more hurdles now than before in the build up to the race for the governorship poll.
With this resolution of questionable credential hanging on his neck, what then are the options left for Governor Obaseki and the chances of the APC retaining the governorship seat after the September 19 do or die election? For Governor Obaseki, the options are many but certainly laced with thorns and landmines.
Although an insider source within his camp told Daily Sun that contesting under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is a remote possibility as it apparently looks like an enemy camp, he does not have all it takes to assemble the structures in other smaller parties to stop the APC moving train that will make him retain his seat.
“The approach of the governor to the battle for Edo State APC confirmed that he is not a thorough bred politician but a technocrat. If he had given it his best, his strategies and approaches were not really good enough. He explored very myopic legal options to stifle various dialogue options he would have exploited to his advantage. I fault his use of court orders to stop all the peace and reconciliation moves to settle the faceoff. Again, his approaches to the legislative impasse in the state should have been handled differently”, the source noted.
Despite winning the battle for primary, the question now becomes, is the coast then clear for the APC to win the war? A member of the NWC revealed to Daily Sun in confidence that part of the game plan is that having cleared only the aspirants loyal to the national chairman, the party will exploit the option currently on the table for two of the aspirants to step down for the anointed one even before the primaries to make the exercise a mere formality.
While emphasising that it was a plan to mitigate possible casualties during the primary, the NWC said: “Agreed that the Chairman has his faults, Governor Obaseki actually played into his hands in many ways. Now that the plan has worked out perfectly well, the primaries may just be mere formalities because the possibility of other aspirants stepping down for one aspirant is currently on the table.”
For many political commentators, the ugly situation that befell Governor Obaseki apparently marks the beginning of the intense horse-trading that will define and shape the trajectory of the political contestation in the APC family for the party’s 2023 presidential ticket.
There is beginning to emerge a strong indicator for the alignment and realignment of forces and certain elements perfecting strategies to wrest the structure and machinery of the party to smoothen their chances of winning the presidential ticket.
Sources close to the Governors’ Forum told Daily Sun in confidence that the ugly treatment meted to their member would certainly lead to the implosion that will balkanise the party, stressing that they have resolved not to watch Obaseki suffer such humiliation and victimisation alone to avert such happening to any of them in distant time.
“Let me inform you on good authority that the governors are not happy over what happened to Obaseki. They have virtual meetings over the incident and resolved that if they allow such to stand, it will be a confirmation that certain elements have hijacked the structure of the party for the sole aim of deciding and defining the political contestation of 2023 presidential ticket.
“If this decision is allowed to stand, it will certainly lead to the implosion that will balkanise the APC and I can confirm to you that such arrangement is already perfected. It has certainly come to that because of the silence posture Mr. President has maintained in the face of crisis rocking the party”, the source noted.