The Turf War In Edo State

Diminutive two-term former governor of Edo State and currently the national chairman of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole, is apparently attempting to wield the ‘federal might’ like a cudgel to bludgeon Governor Godwin Obaseki into ‘godson-like’ subservience. But from unfolding events, the former feisty labour leader has badly miscalculated in his effort to cage the unassuming graduate of Classics, versed in nuances of Greek power lore.

During his years as governor, Oshiomhole brooked no competition. He fought the late powerhouse of Mid-west politics, Chief Tony Anenih, to a standstill. He was the sole face and voice of the government, an inimitable public space man, who offered the essential articulation and defence of his administration’s policies, programmes, as well as its actions and inactions.

Then, Obaseki was chairman of the Economic and Strategy Team (EST) under Oshiomhole. In that capacity, he pioneered successive, innovative policy reforms that saw the state restructure its public finance, secure funding for infrastructure and improve the business environment to attract investment in power, agriculture and other critical sectors. He was also instrumental in attracting the Edo-Azura power project, with support from World Bank to the state.

Obaseki’s demonstrable strategic vision earned him prime consideration in Oshiomhole’s search for a successor that would continue his administration’s policies and development programmes. Oshiomhole knows fully well that a sound economic foundation is imperative for a solid political superstructure. Therefore, his decision to pick Obaseki instead of his former Deputy Governor, Pius Odubu, an astute politician, flowed from that knowledge.

Perhaps, Oshiomhole also chose Obaseki because of his seeming apolitical disposition so that he (Oshiomhole) would continue to supervise the APC political structure in the state once out of power, while his inducted godson, Obaseki, frontally confronts the state’s governance issues.

But when godfathers become over-bearing and dodgy, a fight-back to neutralize political asphyxiation ensues. Its then little surprise that one of the crucial lessons that Governor Obaseki learned from Comrade Oshiomhole was how to fight overbearing godfathers. He, however, is sufficiently modest to give credit to the Edo people – “the Edo people will be the ones to put a final end to godfatherism in Edo politics, not me.”

Further, given the tentative political interactions that characterize relationships between godfathers and their godsons, where a godfather insist on total supervision of their godsons, there is bound to be conflict of interests that could obviate whatever the earlier understandings were obtainable. This feature has come to define godfather-godson relationships in Nigeria.

Whether or not Oshiomhole is benefiting from sound advice by his close aides, it is evident that his moves to retain sole control of Edo State’s APC party structures, executive governance activities and even the state parliament are clear errors in political visioning. The national chairman is simply progressing in egregious errors and strategic missteps, thus escalating intra-party tension to the joy of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). It is claimed that Oshiomhole does not have the temperament to lobby and persuade, which is the reason he has resorted to arm-twisting and witch-hunt.

It is this dictatorial feature of the essential Oshiomhole that made him grossly mismanage his party’s governorship primaries before the last election where APC lost several states due to in-house wrangling spawned by his bruising, non-consultative style. Many are worried at the possible consequence of Oshiomhole’s heating up of Edo politics.The emerging consensus now is that Oshiomhole is in a cold embrace with karma, having done some things similar in his past political voyage.

By engaging in a cold war with Governor Obaseki over control of the APC structure, Oshiomhole is misreading the political terrain of Edo State and repeating history. He is perhaps over-estimating his political worth against his now erstwhile godson. This quite explains the growing strength and popularity of Obaseki and sure consolidation of the state’s political structure.

This is exactly what is ailing the APC in Edo State. It is not about claims in certain quarters that Obaseki is simply resisting efforts to remotely administer the state from Abuja by Oshiomhole. Those close to governance in the state argue that the erstwhile labour leader went into over-drive to strangulate Obaseki.

From day one, Oshiomhole has been showing more than a passing interest in the administration of the APC in Edo, because it is the political machine that continues to oil his political relevance, especially as national chairman. But, at what cost? Some allege that Governor Obaseki, in the selection of candidates for the 2019 general election wanted to install his loyalists as candidates for National Assembly and State House of Assembly elections without recourse to the political sentiments and sensibilities of Oshiomhole.

The governor certainly was within his rights in the face of a determined godfather targeting Obaseki’s political survival. Shockingly, Oshiomhole is seen to be demonstrating political naiveté at odds with his often over-hyped political experience. The Governor has successively rebuffed many demands from an over-bearing godfather.

A miffed Governor Obaseki had said several quotable, quite revealing things in his face-off with Oshiomhole. During the GO Support rally at Ring Road, the governor spoke out loudly. Hear him: “They hate to see our youths respecting their elders; but, like to see a seating Governor abusing the likes of Esama, Tom Ikimi, Annenih, and co, who are old enough to be their father.

“They hate to see a modern city. Let them continue with their blackmail, the truth will be told at the poll. The Edo people will be the ones to put a final end to godfatherism in Edo politics, not me. I repeat, I won’t share Edo State money with any godfather or corrupt leader.”

Oshiomhole’s consistent effort to overthrow Governor Obaseki has also penetrated the state legislature. The Edo State House of Assembly has been embroiled in controversies over the ‘inauguration’ and the ‘election’ of a new Speaker for its parliament. No longer a secret this development confirms the rift between the Governor Obaseki and Oshiomhole.

Currently, in a move widely seen to have Oshiomhole’s imprimatur, members of the House of Representatives have given a one-week ultimatum to Governor Obaseki, to issue a fresh proclamation for the Edo State House of Assembly. The lawmakers reached the resolution on Wednesday while adopting the report of a 13-member ad-hoc committee mandated to investigate the crises in the state legislature.

While adopting the recommendations presented by Abdulrazak Namdas, chairman of the House of Representatives’ committee, the House also directed that all actions taken by the current assembly in Edo should be declared null and void pending proper inauguration.

Subsequently, the House agreed that where the above recommendations fail, the National Assembly shall invoke the Provisions of Section 11(4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which empowers it to take over the State House of Assembly until the situation normalises.

But in its reaction to the House of Reps proclamation, the Edo State House of Assembly rejected the move to disrupt activities in its chamber, calling on the Inspector General of Police and heads of the Department of State Services, the National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress to respect a subsisting court order restraining them from interfering in the activities of Edo House of Assembly.

Speaker of the Edo House of Assembly, Right Hon. Frank Okiye, clarified in a statement he issued in Benin City on the same Wednesday, said, “It has come to our knowledge that the Ad hoc Committee of the House of Representatives investigating issues surrounding the inauguration of the Edo State House of Assembly has recommended that the Inspector General of Police and Department of State Services should seal up the Edo Assembly.

The Speaker noted that “Considering what we (have) come to know in the course of this process, the recommendation of the ad hoc committee does not come to us as a surprise.”

His words: “It was clear that the ad hoc committee was up to no good. Their report was always going to be biased. Moreover, we want to draw the attention of the general public and the police to a subsisting court order restraining the Police, headed by the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu; the National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress, the Department of State Services and their agents, from interfering in the affairs of the Assembly, as the House has been going about its activities peacefully and without rancour.”

He correctly counselled that “The National Assembly must take note that they are expected to act as agents of peace and not merchants of crisis. Edo State has always been peaceful and any attempt for them to carry out this order will certainly disrupt the peace that is currently being enjoyed in the state.”

Perhaps realizing that his political fate hinges on dislodging or destroying Governor Obaseki politically, many believe he will go to the extremes to achieve his aim. But then many discerning observers know that Governor Obaseki is no rooky having been forged in the intricate furnaces of both the private a

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