Edo State has become a hotbed of politics where power and intrigues play out in rhythmic order. As already in the news, the anticlimax of the protracted power struggle in the state is the precipitate exit of Governor Godwin Obaseki from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and his ultimate berth in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Obaseki formally joined the PDP on Friday to pursue his second term ambition, having been disqualified by the screening committee of the APC for some alleged inconsistencies in his certificates. Pursuant to his re-election bid, he led his teeming supporters, as well as appointees of government to the secretariat of the party to make an open declaration of his membership of the new party.
“I have officially joined the PDP to advance my ambition to seek re-election as governor of Edo State. I, as always, remain committed to engendering good governance and sustainable development of our dear state,” he wrote in his twitter handle.
For the sake of emphasis, Oshiomhole is the godfather and immediate predecessor of Governor Obaseki. In the run up to the 2016 governorship primaries of the APC, he single-handedly propped up Obaseki as his preferred candidate even at the expense of his loyal deputy, Dr Pious Odubu, who also had his eyes on the plum job. And he virtually led the campaign train to all nooks and crannies of the state to ensure the victory of Obaseki.
But somewhere along the line, the convivial relationship between the duo went sour and so things irretrievably fell apart. At the height of the supremacy contest, Governor Obaseki allegedly took the battle to the state House of Assembly and inaugurated nine out of 24-member legislature loyal to his administration, a development some party hierarchy regarded as executive rascality and lack of discipline. Yet, all entreaties made by the relevant authorities, including the intervention by a delegation of the National Assembly, to resolve the quagmire met a brick wall.
The terms and condition with which Obaseki joined the PDP to ventilate his second term ambition is still shrouded in secrecy and would remain so since it is exclusively an internal affair of the party. Even at that, it cannot be taken for granted that the party would mindlessly trade off the interest of other prospective aspirants who had been on the field campaigning for the primary without some concessions. With the circumstance of his exit from his former party and the desperation with which he negotiated for the new platform, it can only be presumed that Obaseki would not plunge himself into another political slavery. Otherwise, the tendency is there that he might have unknowingly walked himself into the hands of some hidden godfathers who would eventually come out in their true colour in the course of time.
No matter how benevolent they are, those financiers and other relevant individuals who had laboured and toiled to keep the party alive in the last 12 years of the APC-led successive administrations would at one point or the other demand a return for their investment. By that time, it would be too late to begin to cry blue murder. This has been the recurring decimal in the Nigerian politics and Edo State under Obaseki cannot be an exception.
The truth of the matter is that god-fatherism is a Nigerian phenomenon, which cannot be simply wished away. How individuals in power handle it depends on the circumstance of their emergence. Under the present arrangement and with the desperation with which he jumped ship, Obaseki could not have dictated the terms.
For a true test of his popularity, it would have been more humane for him to go for a platform where he could have a stronger bargaining power than the main opposition party. By his latest decision, the embattled governor may have reached the nadir of his political career.
One interesting scenario is likely to play out here. All things being equal, if the primary of the APC goes the way it is being expected, Obaseki will likely lock horn once again with Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who was the candidate of the PDP in the last governorship election. If he wins, he wins it all. Otherwise, that may be the end of his political career. As they say, 24 hours is a long time in politics. Anything can happen.
Born in Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria, Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki is the third child of the late Pa Roland Obaseki and Gbinigie of Owina Street, Ogbelaka Quarters, Benin City. Before he was sworn in November 2016 as governor of Edo State, he had served as the chairman of the Edo State Economic and Strategy Team inaugurated by former Governor Adams Oshiomole in March 2009.
Obaseki, who holds postgraduate degrees in both Finance and International Business, is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Stock Brokers, Nigeria. He also served as executive board member of several private companies, including Afrinvest. Some political pundits described him as “Wake and See Governor”. Others see his decision to go for the PDP’s ticket as another leap into the unknown.