On May 31st, 2020, I wrote an open letter to all young persons in Edo State, titled, “MESSAGE TO ALL YOUNG PERSONS IN EDO STATE #2020 GUBERNATORIAL ELECTION.” In that letter, I drew the attention of all young persons in the State to the political intrigues that were building up in our beloved State, due to the forth coming gubernatorial election.
I noted the daily increasing tension which was as a result of the battle for supremacy between the incumbent governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, and his estranged godfather, the now suspended national chairman of the ruling APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomole. I equally noted that the sad reality has without doubt brought down the pace of development in the State.
On June 12th, 2020, exactly 12 days after my open letter, the incumbent governor was disqualified from contesting the primary election by the APC screening committee. The news of his disqualification sent mixed reactions to Nigerians at large, and in particular, Edo people.
While some were thrown into jubilation, some felt sad, and some expressed disappointment. Yet, some others (like me) were indifferent to it all.
Those who rejoiced, saw the disqualification as good riddance to bad rubbish. Those who were sad, felt the governor should have been given the benefit of fair hearing. And those who felt disappointed, wondered why our politicians continued to annoy us with their endless drama. But for those of us who were indifferent, we asked, “How did Obaseki become a governor in the first place?” Didn’t he run under the same political party in 2016.
For Obaseki and his team, the journey out of APC was inevitable and imminent. Hence, they made hay while it was still daylight. There was a quick political move within 24hrs, from Edo to Rivers, from Rivers to Akwa Ibom. It seemed like a political strategy on how to broker a good exit from APC.
No sooner had Obaseki announced his resignation from APC (shortly after meeting president Muhamadu Buhari, as he earlier tweeted) than the national chairman under whose watchful eyes Obaseki was screened out, was suspended by the court of appeal sitting in Abuja, on the same day, June 16th, 2020.
Amidst the political intrigues in the last two weeks, the following is worth our consideration:
A. Godwin Obaseki, The 2016 Anointed Candidate:
When the tenure of the then incumbent governor, Adams Oshiomole was coming to an end, a successor was inevitably needed. Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, a heavy weight in the party was obviously seen as a possible replacement, more so, since his eyes had been on Edo State government house. But he was not the anointed candidate of Oshiomole. Oshiomole however had his eyes on an economist/a banker, Godwin Obaseki, who was the chairman of his economy team.
When Ize-Iyamu discovered that the game was not in his favour, he switched over to PDP, where he had served as Secretary to Government of the State, during Lucky Igbinedion’s administration – an administration that is unarguably rated as the worst in Edo’s democratic history.
While reacting to why he did not consider Ize-Iyamu for the number one position of the State in 2016, Oshiomole said, “I never gave Pastor Ize-Iyamu government job. I gave jobs to those I trusted. Pastor Ize-Iyamu would have done to me what he did to Lucky Igbinedion. It was because we kept him away from government that we were able to succeed and deliver on electoral promises. I didn’t allow him access to public fund. Edo cannot go back to what it was before. I laughed when he said he made me governor. Go and check the record, on election day, Ize-Iyamu did not as he was hiding from the EFCC. I have made my name and I worked hard for the Nigerian workers. We are not tied to anybody’s apron,” he added (The Nation Newspaper, July 28th, 2016).
B. A Relationship Turned Sour
Oshiomole’s relationship and that of his godson, Obaseki started on a very good note after the latter won the 2016 election, and was sworn in as the governor. It was difficult to see Obaseki in any very important public function, without the presence of Oshiomole. For most of their supporters, it was a journey unto sustainability, and a better chance to win more States in the South-South for APC, considering that Edo State was the only APC State in the South-South geopolitical zone.
But nearly three years after, Obaseki suddenly realised that he is the governor of the State, and must assert himself. For him, he had found his feet, and needed no one to godfather him anymore. Consequently, the relationship turned sour.
He felt that his now estranged godfather wanted to impose leadership of the house of assembly on him, to continue to control the State. Thus, he issued a pronouncement that saw 9 out of 24members of the State house of assembly sworn in by the clerk, Alhaji Audu Omogbai, at midnight of Monday, June 17th, 2019. All efforts to make Obaseki issue a fresh pronouncement, fell on deaf ears. Thus, from that day, the now unfolding battle that everyone is watching, was drawn.
Obaseki’s action saw accusations and counter accusations. And since he was trying to gain the popularity of the people, he seized the opportunity since that day to begin to tell Edo people that he is being persecuted by the people that helped him to power because he refused to share the State’s resources. “A clear case of political sympathy,” if you ask me.
C. Ongoing Battle
No sooner had the wind of the forth coming gubernatorial election started blowing, than Edo APC was torn apart, leading to two factions in the State. The faction loyal to the governor, headed by Anselm Ojezua, and the faction loyal to the suspended national chairman, headed by David Imuse.
The faction loyal to the governor in no time, moved for the expulsion of the national chairman in March 2020. Having regained his feet from the near end of his chairmanship, Oshiomole went for the once rejected Ize-Iyamu, who, having monitored the battle between governor Obaseki and his estranged godfather, switched over from PDP to APC.
For Oshiomole, the once “public thief” that can’t be trusted with the governance of the State, suddenly became the most viable force, capable of defeating Obaseki in the forth coming gubernatorial election.
No sooner was it obvious that Oshiomole was pitching his tent behind Ize-Iyamu, than he opted for direct primary, instead of the indirect primary of 2016, that brought Obaseki to the limelight.
That move was immediately opposed by Obaseki and his team. Obaseki without delay, issued an executive order banning large gatherings, due to corona virus that has been ravaging the State, amidst the drumbeats of their political battle. He suddenly realized that the State is in the top five list of the most affected States in Nigeria by corona virus.
While that was ongoing, the National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC, led by Oshiomole, set up a screening committee for the screening of all APC aspirants. Shortly after the screening exercise, Obaseki was disqualified from participating in the primary, on the ground of faulty credentials that he submitted.
No doubt, Obaseki is out of APC. Moments ago, he announced on his official Twitter handle that he was now officially in the PDP. This singular move brings PDP back as the ruling party of the State, pending when the scores will be settled in the September 2020 gubernatorial election.
The following questions therefore demand the urgent attention of Edo people:
- Since this battle started, what has been the condition of Edo State?
- Is Edo State better today than it was a year ago?
- Where lies the future of Edo State?
From the questions above, I hereby call the attention of the good people of Edo State to the following realities:
I. You voted them to serve you, but they have become the masters, and you the servants. They will dig a borehole for you, and you will go on a ‘Thank you’ visit to them in government house. Is this not a contradiction?
II. You voted them so that they can bring peace, and stability. But they have turned the State into a battle ground. They are using your common wealth to fight their political battles. #DoNotLetThemFoolYou.
III. Here was a man who came to power as a labour activist, and fought so hard to bring the late Anthony Anenih (Mr. Fix), a well known political godfather at the time, to his feet. He campaigned so hard for the ‘one man one vote’ mantra, all in the name of ending godfatherism. But today, he has become a grand godfather, as now speculated by many. #DoNotLetThemFoolYou.
IV. They have become judges in their own case by disqualifying those who have become disloyal to them. Have you bothered to ask how the disqualified got there in the first place. #DoNotLetThemFoolYou.
V. Following the unfolding events since 2019, can’t you see how foolish those fooling us are? Wake up from this long sleep, for the drama is becoming interesting by the day, and the end is not in sight soon. #DoNotLetThemFoolYou.
Finally, let me hope that you will not go out on that day, and still choose between two evils. DoNotLetThemFoolYou.
©Israel GodsPower ANAWEOKHAI, MSP. June, 2020
Israel GodsPower ANAWEOKHAI is a Catholic Priest of the Missionary Society of St Paul. He is currently on mission in the Archdiocese of Douala, Cameroon.