By Eghebi Williams Lince
It is very easy to conclude that the battle line has been drawn between the diminutive Comrade Adams Oshiomole and the egregious Mr. Godwin Obaseki as the gubernatorial race for Edo State enters a very delicate stage. While it appeared that the National Chairman of the All Peoples Congress has anointed Mr. Osagie Ize-Iyamu for the ticket of the party, the current governor of the state is unwilling to be treated the Ambode way.
The former governor of Lagos State was not only denied a second term ticket but continued to be hounded by his successor over alleged financial impropriety despite been members of the same party. Mr. Obaseki is aware that the fight is beyond electoral victory but his future. A recent Government White Paper has found Mr. Adams Oshiomhole culpable on some financial dealings and thus recommended for trial. The victory of Mr. Obaseki will help his national party chairman to return to his trademark khaki in a correctional home. Though Adams Oshiomhole loves the attire but won’t fancy it in a prison especially now that he has a young woman as wife.
Comrade Adams Oshiomhole emerged a governor on the plank of annihilating godfatherism and political impunity. On this mantra, he gained unimaginable support coupled with his apparent good record as labour union leader. To drive his mission home, it did not take him long before he made the likes of Late Tony Annenih and Chief Gabriel Igbenedion with his son, political lepers. The electorate despite opposition from his kitchen cabinet supported his imposition of Mr. Godwin Obaseki as successor.
Oshiomole was able to demystify Pastor Ize-Iyamu despite his strong structure as the gubernatorial candidate of the PDP in 2016. Not long after the emergence of Mr. Obaseki as governor, frosty relationship with his benefactor was reported.
There is no clear evidence of the kernel of the matter but many insinuate it revolves from access to state financial resources to political control. The two gladiators initially denied that they had issues until last year when less than half of the member-elects of the state assembly were inaugurated. Several attempts were made to reconcile the pair without success. With the 2020 gubernatorial election coming fast and furious, the governor played the fox by almost succeeding to remove his political boss as the national chairman of the party using the court. A truce that was reached after the failed political coup did not last long as a result of the death of Alhaji Abba Kyari, Chief of Staff to President Mohammadu Buhari , the backbone of Mr. Obaseki in Aso Rock. With the demise of Abba Kyari, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole got a pyrrhic victory.
The political tension in Edo extends beyond the state. In fact, the presidential election in 2023 is a substantial crux with interplay of divergent forces. Senator Bola Tinubu, who does not hide his desire to succeed President Mohammadu Buhari, is an unrepentant supporter of Adams Oshiomhole. The presidential aspirant feels maligned by Mr. Obaseki through his unbridled comments. It was therefore not surprising when media reports suggested that the Boudelion Mayor rebuffed him when he visited with some governors last week.
In a battle where Senator Bola Tinubu and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole are on the same side, the governor ought to be a Lilliputian but this is not the case as all the tendencies not agreeable to the political ambition of Senator Tinubu have joined to make the state a mini theatre to rehearse the chess game scheduled for 2023.
That the Aso Rock Gate was opened for Mr. Obaseki to present his Expression of Interest Form to President Buhari, is an indication that there are some experienced drummers supporting him within the corridors of power. It is clear that he gets support from the midget in Kaduna. The very cerebral governor in Ekiti won’t water the ambition of Bola Tinubu nor the Lion of Ubima in Rivers State. Immediately after the encounter, the governor told reporters that the president said he was lucky not to face the rigours of filling nomination papers again.
Ordinarily, one would have seen Mr. Obaseki as a lonely monk walking in the rain with a leaking umbrella. This is not the case as he has been able to withstand the aggregation of formidable forces in Edo State against him. His ability to dust off the missiles thrown at him in his state, many believed, is because of the latest backing from the ageing grandfather of the PDP in the state. The Igbenedions will ordinarily support Pastor Ize-Iyamu considering their long relationship. However, that he ran to Comrade Oshiomhole provided Mr. Obaseki an opportunity to tap from the Esama of Benin Kingdom and his wide reach.
The tussle between Obaseki and Iyamu has ego interpretation. Though both of them are from Benin Kingdom, there are indications that the Binis that account for more than half of the voting population feel slighted that the minority imposes candidates for them. A prominent Bini politician in a recent interview frowned that while Late Chief Tony Annenih held sway between 1993 till about 2007, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole took the baton from him. He said a major reason that the majority Binis will support Mr. Godwin Obaseki is his ability to fend off the overbearing disposition of the former labour leader.
As it stands, the governor has control of the legitimate party structure in the state. There are no indications that this structure will slip from him anytime soon. With this structural advantage, it will be difficult to arm-twist him except the party wants a repeat of the scenario of Rivers and Zamfara States. This is why two appointees of the governor reportedly picked the governorship form. This subterranean move is not only bold but a masterstroke by the embattled governor.
The Edo Chairman of the APC neither confirm nor deny the allegation that Obaseki has a secret pact with the PDP. The nature of this pact remains unknown but it is a notorious fact that Mr. Obaseki will at least remain a governor till September 19 when the election will be held. It is incontrovertible that he will not catalyse the process that will put him on a slaughter table if denied a second term.
While the conundrum remains complex and difficult to dissect, the PDP stands somewhere like an intelligent but hungry fox. Edo is the only APC State in the South South Political Zone. While the national leadership is ready to retain her control of the state, the PDP is working assiduously to ensure that domestic brooms are no longer images to behold in the entire Geo-political zone. The injury the APC sustained in Bayelsa State is not responding to treatment. The sore may worsen if Comrade Oshiomhole pushes his luck without consideration to his size. Above all, allowing any other Bini man to emerge as governor guarantees the senatorial district holding sway for at least eight more years. This narrative won’t be a good tale for the minorities.