The supremacy battle between the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, and his political godson, the Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki has assumed a frightening dimension following an alleged attack by supporters of the two gladiators. It is widely believed that the battle is over the party’s ticket for the 2020 governorship election in the state.
Last weekend, Oshiomhole’s residence was said to have been attacked by youths allegedly loyal to the state government.
Before the recent accusation and counter-accusation of an alleged attack by both loyalists of both political gladiators, the hostility was based on the war of wits and insult in the media.
The hostility started when some party leaders in the state alleged that they were abandoned by Governor Obaseki.
The governor was said to have told the party leaders that he was not going to share the state money to a few individuals, insisting that it was meant for the development of the state. Since then, the party in the state has not known peace.
Daily Trust Saturday also learnt that the crisis is about who would produce the speaker of the state House of Assembly between the godfather and godson.
It was learnt that the renewed hostility among the loyalists of the two gladiators started on October 10 when some hoodlums suspected to be Oshiomhole’s loyalists invaded a meeting of the APC in Ikpoba Okha Local Government Area by loyalists of the governor and chased them away. It took the intervention of the police to save the situation from degenerating.
It was further learnt that the following day, some youths, said to be supporters of the national chairman, also attacked the chief of staff to the governor, Taiwo Akerele, at Protea Hotel on October 12.
Shortly after that incident, suspected thugs allegedly loyal to the governor were said to have attacked Oshiomhole’s residence, located on the Okoroutun area of GRA in Benin.
Confirming the incident, the chief press secretary to Oshiomhole, Simon Ebegbulem, alleged that the attackers were sent by Obaseki, who he said was desperate to get a second term as governor.
But the state government, through the media aide to the governor, Crusoe Osagie, denied the alleged attack on Oshiomhole’s residence.
“We do not know about the attack. We have also reached out to the police and they affirmed that they do not know about such an attack,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, the commissioner of police, Edo State command, Dan Mallam Muhammed, said there was no attack on the residence of Oshiomhole as alleged in some quarters.
He said, “There was no attack on Oshiomhole’s residence. He (Oshiomole) visited the Oba of Benin and we escorted him to the airport and he thanked us for the security in the state.
“When Governor Obaseki visited him during Sallah, he said people capitalised on the issue to make money and create problems. Nobody attacked Oshiomhole’s house. Any place there is an attack you will see physical evidence.’’
Part of a statement signed by the Secretary to the State Government, Osarodion Ogie reads, “Government wishes to reiterate the comment of the commissioner of police in the state, to the effect that the purported attack never happened.
“Government also wishes to stress that in Edo State, tangible investment has been made by the government to enhance security for our citizens. It is not an accident that Edo is considered as one of the most peaceful states in Nigeria.
“As the national chairman of the ruling APC and former governor of the state, Comrade Adams Oshomhole is a national figure and his safety is of utmost importance to us as a government. Accordingly, it is expected that the state government and the state chapter of the APC would be put on notice whenever the national chairman desires to visit the state so that adequate security and logistics would be made and courtesies deserving of his status are accorded throughout his stay.
“Government also expects that the national chairman would make reasonable efforts to ensure that hoodlums do not take advantage of his presence to unleash mayhem on innocent members of the public or create tension where none exists.
Also, the Obaseki/Shaibu Movement (OSM) blamed Oshiomhole for the development and called on him to stop his followers from peddling falsehood to destabilise the state.
In a statement signed by its leader, Damian Lawani, the group said, “We urge Oshiomhole to caution his people on peddling falsehood. They should stop heating the polity.’’
Reacting to the alleged attack, a chieftain of the party in the state, Henry Idahagbon, blamed Governor Obaseki for the crisis rocking the state.
He said, “For me, it is time the government took responsibility to unite the party as it is preparing for next year’s election. He has allowed the crisis in the party to fester for too long. He is on the driver’s seat and the bulk stops on his table. It would be most unfortunate if he is fanning the embers of war in the party.
“Also, it is time the governor called stakeholders of the party to a round table conference and let us resolve our differences before we get to yuletide, so that, starting from January next year, we will present a united front in our campaign for the 2020 election.
“If we are unable to resolve the crisis before the election, it means we have to work harder to win; but I am confident that we will win the election.’’
He called party supporters on both sides of the divide to exercise restraint and have confidence that the leadership of the party would resolve the issue.
“Members should not allow themselves to be used as thugs or mob to harass others. We are a political family and are supposed to be brothers and sisters,’’ he added.
The state chairman of the party, Anslem Ojezua, also condemned acts of hooliganism and thuggery, saying, “I think the crisis is manipulated. I am confident that Edo APC is intact. I am consoled that other parties in the state are also in crisis.
The crisis was rekindled recently when Governor Obaseki declared that he deserved a second term in office because he had fulfilled most of his promises to Edo people and needed to consolidate.
“No individual can determine who would become governor. Only God and the people can take the decision. I have said it clearly and I told my cabinet members that a second term for me is non-negotiable. I am demanding it because I deserve it, and I think I have earned it,”
“I want to assure you that we will fight and succeed. If anybody thinks I will back out, he must be daydreaming because it is a fight for the right purpose. I am not going to back off because I know that victory is sure.”
But members of the Edo People Movement (EPM), who have been at loggerheads with Governor Obaseki, insist that he has lost touch with the state’s politics and must not be given a second term in office.
Responding, the Ojezua-led executive threatened to expel members of the EPM, warning that the party would not allow selfish individuals to dictate the fortunes of the party.
According to a statement from the executive, “On May 28, 2019, pursuant to a meeting of the State Working Committee of the APC, Edo State chapter, we caused a disclaimer to be published regarding the formation of a group going by the name, Edo Peoples Movement, purported to be an offshoot of the APC.
“In the publication, we took the pains to clarify that the constitution of our party does not have provision for groups such as the one in question. To that extent, such a group or movement is antithetical to the unity and stability of our party. We, therefore, directed that those behind the said movement should desist from their nefarious activities.
“Information reaching us indicates that rather than heed the legitimate directives of the party leadership, these elements have heightened their activities by holding meetings in some local government areas within the state.
“We cannot allow the reckless antics of shameless and selfish individuals dictate the fortunes of our party. We must instil party discipline within our ranks in Edo State, and we shall do that.”
Reacting to Ojezua’s threat of expulsion, a member of the EPM, Samson Osagie, said, “Anslem Ojezua has no moral right to contemplate the things he wrote in the paper. If anybody deserves to be suspended or expelled from the party, it is Ojezua. Since he became a member of this party he has not added any value. He has not been able to win an election for this party. Do you compare him to those of us who are exercising our constitutional right of association within the party?
“How do you explain a chairman who takes sides in conflict among his party members? He has never been able to bring people who have disagreements together.’’
Daily Trust Sunday learnt that the renewed hostility has resulted in the sack of some political appointees and four local government chairmen.
It remains to be seen how that the ruling party would resolve the crisis that has polarised it in Edo State as the 2020 governorship election approaches.