Why reconciling Oshiomhole and Obasaki has been difficult

Oshiomhole and Obaseki

Efforts by eminent Nigerians to reconcile Adams Oshiomhole and Governor Godwin Obaseki continue to fail, jeopardising the chance of APC retaining Edo in the 2020 governorship election




The history of Nigerian politics shows that most elected state and federal executive officers have always wanted to dictate who succeeds them in office. Often times, they have either succeeded in persuading their followers to accept their decisions or make them dose by hook or crook.

Right from the inception of the present republic which began in 1999, for whatever reasons best known to them, most state governors and even presidents, have insisted on, and succeeded in installing their stooges whom they expect to act out their already written scripts, as their successors. Of course, that gives birth to godfatherism.

However, the irony of the situation is that such arrangements have always ended up in fight between the godfathers and their godsons. The cases of former governors of Abia state, Orji Uzor Kalu and his successor, Theodore Kalu; Lagos state governors, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Akinwunmi Ambode, readily come to mind.

The latest is that of immediate past governor of Edo state, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and his godson, Godwin Obaseki, now governor of Edo state.

Of course, Obaseki was with his predecessor throughout the two terms he served as governor, as head of his economic team. It is therefore expected that Oshiomhole should have known Obaseki in and out and be able to decipher what he is capable of doing or otherwise.

The choice of Obaseki as his successor pitched Oshiomhole against most members of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the state, and almost tore the party to shreds. Many of the stakeholders argued that Obaseki was not a politician, describing him as a “rotten tomato that could not be sold” to the electorate. One way or the other, however, Oshiomhole saw to it that Obaseki scaled through every huddle on his way, and secured the party’s ticket for the 2016 governorship election. This led to the exit of some of the members from the party.

One would have thought that, with the way Obaseki emerged and the way Oshiomhole campaigned vigorously throughout the 18 local government areas to ensure victory for his candidate, there would never be any conflict between them. But, history has a way to always repeat itself. And, sure, it did, only that it took a bit longer than those of others.

Midway into his administration, rumors about rift between the godfather and his godson began to filter in. At first, no one took it seriously, until cracks began to be noticed in the ranks of the party members in the state. First, it began with the alleged ostracizing of notable party leaders from governance by Obaseki. The aggrieved members accused the governor of neglecting them (who worked for his election).

During the last general election, insiders alleged that party members accused Obaseki of starving them of much-needed funds, especially for the campaign of those seeking elective positions. This development further created cracks in the party, with the separation of Oshiomhole’s loyalists and Obaseki’s within the party.

It got to a crescendo after the state assembly election, and the party secured 100 per cent victory, winning all the 24 constituency seats. The constitution of the leadership of the 8th state assembly further divided the party, when nine members-elect were allegedly inaugurated at night on 16 June. Members-elect loyal to Oshiomhole have since stayed away and relocated to Abuja. Several court cases have also been instituted by both parties, to either stop further proceedings in the assembly or otherwise.

Not too long after, staunch loyalists of Oshiomhole formed a group, Edo Peoples Movement, EMP. Conveners of the group include a former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice under Adams Oshiomhole’s tenure, Barr. Henry Idahagbon and a former Minority Whip of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Samson Osagie.

Members of the EMP insisted that Obaseki must be denied second term ticket. They argued that Obaseki had deviated from the path laid down by Oshiomhole, now national chairman of APC. In fact, Idahagbon was quoted to have said that “Obaseki has lost touch with Edo politics.”

In response to such accusations, Obaseki and his lieutenants have continued to argue that his singular sin is his refusal to share the resources of the state to his accusers, and that he was not ready to share the “seed yam” of the state to a few selfish politicians. Of course, this has been denied by the EMP members.

To say the least, the internal crisis of the state chapter of the APC has negatively affected the governance, economic and general development of the state, which, in turn, has resulted in worrying concern to genuine stakeholders in the state affairs.

It is on record that several attempts have been made to resolve the unending impasse and cold war between the political godfather and godson.

Business mogul, Aliko Dangote, who is friend to both Oshiomhole and Obaseki, has intervened many times. President Muhammadu Buhari also delegated governor Nasir El’Rufai of Kaduna state to reconcile the two parties. It was also gathered that the revered Benin monarch, Oba Ewuare ll, has also tried to reconcile them. Regrettably, efforts failed.

It is pertinent to recall that the major actors have always denied the existence of rift or cold war between them.

On Monday, 12 August, during a service at St Paul Catholic Church, in Benin, to mark the 80th birthday of the first executive governor of Edo State, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, the officiating priest admonished Oshiomhole and his predecessor to make way for peace and development of the state by resolving their differences. In his response to the admonition, Obaseki, said that he had met with Oshiomhole and that efforts were being made to resolve issues ‘created by third parties’. He stressed that there are no fundamental issues between them.

The following day, Tuesday, 13 August, Adams Oshiomhole also denied the existence of cold war between him and Obaseki, whom he called “my brother”. He added that he was in constant touch with Governor Obaseki.

Oshiomhole who blamed the media for whatever rift existed between them, said that it was unfortunate that the media liked creating factions for their own gain. He added that the alleged rift between them was the creation of people with personal interests. He said this while receiving Obaseki, who led members of his cabinet to celebrate the Eid-el-Kabir festival with him at his country home in Iyamoh, allegedly encouraged by the Otaru of Auchi, HRH, Aliru Ikelebe all.

Obaseki equally said: “There is nothing unusual about this meeting; today is Sallah and we have just finished celebrating with the former APC national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun in Benin City, and we decided to come here to celebrate Sallah with my predecessor,” adding that people who think there was a rift between him and Oshiomhole should stop thinking.

Yes! Everyone wants peace and everyone claims to be working for peace, but, rather than getting better, the situation gets worse by the day, taking a violent dimension, with the alleged attack on Oshiomhole at his Benin city residence, by thugs allegedly loyal to Obaseki. A reprisal attack was also lunched on Obaseki, the Oba of Lagos, Akiolu and and other dignitaries, at the residence of Oshiomhole, when he invited them to have lunch with him at his lyamho residence.

The questions begging for answers is, why have all efforts made to reconcile Oshiomhole and his once upon-a-time indispensable political bride failed? Who are the ‘third parties’ benefiting from the unending feud between them? Interestingly, both sides of the divide have blamed each other for the unending crisis.

Reacting to these questions, a top aide of Governor Obaseki who did not want to be named, told our correspondent that the actions of Oshiomhole himself have not shown that he wants peace.

He said: “If you have been following the trend of things, the governor has made several efforts. You’ll remember on the Salah holiday when the governor paid a visit to the house  of the national chairman, he denied that there was no rift between him and the governor.

“Shortly after he said that he has no rift with the governor, that the media was the problem, the next thing was that Oshiomhole himself granted an interview to Channels TV, saying that he has a problem with the governor. He said the governor sacked his only appointee in his government. So, he makes one statement and then disowns the statement with his next action. His actions have not shown that he actually wants peace. Just last weekend, the governor also made an attempt to reach out to him, only for him to be attacked by some hoodlums at Oshiomhole’s house. If you also notice, the governor had issued several statements directing that none of his aides should make any comment on the issue. So, Obaseki has been making frantic efforts for peace.

On the other hand, one of the conveners of Edo Peoples Movement, EPM and a die-hard supporter of APC national chairman, Samson Osagie, told this magazine in an interview, that the crisis was caused by the way Obaseki treats the vast majority of the party members.

“There is no quarrel between Obaseki and Oshiomhole, the problem in Edo state is because of the way the governor is treating the vast majority of the party members. Adams Oshiomhole is concerned, he made effort to reverse the trend to make sure that the governor is in the good book of the as many members of APC as possible, but the governor has refused to listen to the voice of reason. Is it Oshiomhole that told him to go and inaugurate the assembly by night? If he does that, how does that bring problem between him and Oshiomhole? It’s between the governor and those house of assembly members that were shut out. A lot of people have intervened, the Senate President has intervened, the Deputy Senate President has intervened, the Governor’s forum has intervened, Dangote has intervened, the President even sent El’Rufai to intervene, but all efforts have failed. Oshiomhole has always been ready to ensure that peace reigns, but the Obaseki has refused, saying that he is the governor of Edo state, nobody can talk to him, he is now everything.

Just recently, Oshiomhole made a taunting remark about the crisis between him and Obaseki as a ‘buzzing mosquito’ around the ear, when he said: “The test of leadership is when a mosquito is blowing your ear, if you keep quiet nobody will hear and if you shout mosquito, mosquito, everybody will hear…May we not be provoked by it.”

In response to the taunting remark, Obaseki while speaking at the Edo Women Summit, as part of activities to mark his 3rd year anniversary, said mosquito can bite and also cause malaria. He said: “They say we are mosquito, but we will show them that mosquito can cause malaria and if you are not careful, malaria will kill you.”

One wonders why comments like these would emanate from men who claim to be brothers, who are at peace.

What is the way forward? Many are worried that if the situation continues the way it is in the build up, the risk that the ruling APC loosing the state to the opposition is glaring. It’s only a matter of time.