By Sufuyan Ojeifo
The aphorism by the Yoruba that “whoever does something that is
unusual will experience a consequence that is unusual” perfectly
mirrors Edo state governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki’s self-inflicted
political bind. Having stirred the hornets’ nest with the June 17,
2019 controversial inauguration of the State House of Assembly, a
contraption that bears his imprimatur, he has been at the receiving end
of assaults from stakeholders and arbiters from within and outside the
Obaseki is, understandably, hysterical, seeking for critical support and
legal ways to stave off the onslaughts against his position. Although,
the prospects for survival in the short term look good, yet, in the long
run, they may diminish irredeemably. In a circumstance such as this, in
which a political solution is possible, a smart politician would have
scoffed ego and retraced his steps in surrender to wise counsel to issue
a fresh proclamation for proper inauguration of the State Legislature.
But nudged on by a motley crowd of narrow-minded advisers, associates
and beneficiaries of government largesse, it is not always easy to
subsume ego in supremacy battles in which illusions of victory hold
sway. This has been the tragedy of Obaseki’s governorship. Those
advising and encouraging him to defy the directive by the presidency,
the national working committee of the APC and the National Assembly for
the issuance of a fresh proclamation do not love him. They are certainly
doing so in furtherance of their selfish political interests.
Indeed, when the chips are down, they will naturally take a walk,
possibly cap-in-hand, to the other camp, for forgiveness and
reconciliation; and, Obaseki will be left in the lurch alone, an
ill-fated, deflated, pathetic power monger and serial anti-party actor.
Funnily enough, many of the advisers were, perhaps, either nowhere close
to him or did not give him a chance of becoming governor in 2016.
Out of persona animus, they must have kept their distance when the
former governor of the state and national chair of the APC, Comrade
Adams Oshiomhole, anointed him as his successor and practically put him
on his back for governorship electioneering across the state in 2016.
The Oshiomhole momentum that produced the Obaseki governorship was sui
generis. Oshiomhole did the talking and dancing at campaigns while
candidate Obaseki just managed, most of the times, to let off some
smiles and read from prepared texts.
Today, Governor Obaseki has challenged his chi (god) to a fight. I do
not care about the concerns being raised and insinuations being made in
certain quarters over the resurgence of a godfather’s tendency on the
part of Oshiomhole. As the leader of the APC political family in Edo
that produced the Obaseki governorship, Oshiomhole’s stake-holding in
the enterprise is critical and validates his responses and actions,
whether overt or covert, at saving the APC in Edo state from Obaseki’s
mismanagement of victory.
In fact, I am in _consensus ad idem _with those who subscribe to the
view that any action(s) that tends or tend to discount the
Oshiomhole’s political influence in the manner that Obaseki had
plotted his predecessor’s political eclipse should not be allowed to
flourish on the grounds that it mirrors political treachery that is
capable of bringing down the entire APC structure in Edo. Obaseki’s
original gambit was to dismantle Oshiomhole’s political structure and
supplant it with his in the build-up to the 2019 general election.
The political plot would have been seamlessly achieved had providence
not thrust the position of national chair of the APC on the laps of the
Iyamho-born labour unionist and politician. One may not know the
gravamen that precipitated the conflict between the godfather and his
godson as a former governor of the state and former national chair of
the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun indicated in a chat with journalists
in Benin ahead of his 80th birthday, however, I disagree with his
suggestion that because he, as national chair, did not interfere with
the governance of the state under Oshiomhole, therefore, Oshiomhole, as
national chair, should not have interfered with Obaseki’s governance
While the Odigie-Oyegun analogy may appear logical on the surface and
only to the extent that Oshiomhole did not facilitate Obaseki’s
emergence as governor, the analogy is malapropos at the level of deeper
logic. While Odigie-Oyegun was not instrumental to Oshiomhole’s
governorship and there was no basis upon which he could have interfered
in the administration, the Obaseki administration was packaged by
Oshiomhole on the philosophy of continuity of the policies and
programmes of the APC administration that he superintended over in Edo
for eight years.
Through Oshiomhole’s political nimbleness, the monumental sacrifices
that he made and the risks that he took confronting the behemoth of the
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the APC has been able to maintain its
hold on Edo as the only state it controls in the entire South-south
zone. If there was anything that spoke eloquently for the revalidation
of mandate in the APC in Edo state, it was Oshiomhole’s goodwill that
was produced by his pro-people governance approach that got the vast
majority of Edo people to support his administration, especially in his
fight to upend the influence of the tribe of obdurate political
godfathers in the state.
Oshiomhole’s “one-man-one-vote” mantra gave a sense of inclusive
participation and importance to the masses in the democratic process of
determining who their leaders would be. His rapprochement with civil
servants in the state benefitted from his understanding of the terrain
as a former president of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC); and, this
accounted for his administration’s decision to implement the payment
of N25, 000 as against N18, 000 as minimum wage to Edo workers.
There was massive infrastructure development, which was largely
celebrated while Oshiomhole was in the saddle. Some of the laudable
projects such as the Benin Water Storm project, Benin Central Hospital,
etc., were to be continued and completed by the Obaseki administration.
Has Obaseki completed them? That is one of the concerns in the APC.
What of APC’s political structure? How well has Obaseki managed and
deployed it in consolidating the victory of the APC and its
administration in Edo? That is another concern.
Perhaps, it was the mismanagement of the political structure ahead of
the 2019 general election that created the division in the state chapter
of the party. The governor’s failed bid to impose his men who were
perceived as unpopular candidates on the party in that election was,
perhaps, partly at the root of his grouse about Oshiomhole.
Whereas, according to a grapevine, Oshiomhole was interested in the APC
fielding popular candidates who could win election, Obaseki differed
because the perceived popular candidates happened to have all served,
just as he did, in Oshiomhole’s government; and, to that extent, they
were categorized as Oshiomhole’s loyalists. The subsequent animus had
produced frenzied reactions by Obaseki who was said to have threatened
on different occasions to align with some governors to remove Oshiomhole
as national chair.
Besides, the governor is always quoted to have declared his readiness to
fight. As it is, the coast is clear for him to fight since he has made
up his mind to defy the directive of relevant stakeholders to issue a
fresh proclamation for the inauguration of the State House of Assembly.
I doubt if he can withstand the free for all in the APC with the 2020
governorship ticket as the prize to win or lose.
The party’s position on a fresh proclamation, regardless of judicial
intercession, is supreme. The support of the National Assembly is
critical. The approbation by the Presidency and the intervention by the
royal fathers in the state, which Obaseki discountenanced, are
supportive. Except, Obaseki has perfected his exit strategy to pick the
governorship ticket of another party, he is headed for political
hara-kiri in the APC. Can he run the gauntlet in the governing party?
Can he have his cake and eat it? Time will tell.
· OJEIFO CONTRIBUTED THIS PIECE VIA OJWONDERNGR@YAHOO.COM
Editor- in- Chief
The Congresswatch Magazine