By Jethro Ibileke
Victor Oshioke, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Edo State and former spokesman to former Governor Adams Oshiomhole, blames Obaseki’s lackadaisical attitude towards reconciliation for the lingering crisis of the party in Edo.
Why has the crisis rocking the Edo State chapter of the APC fester till now?
The reason why the crisis rocking the Edo State chapter of APC has not abated till now is because Governor Godwin Obaseki does not want reconciliation. All that he wants is a second tenure in office. He knows that majority of stakeholders in the party do not support his second tenure bid, so he wants the party to remain fragmented. This way he believes he can work with only those members of the party that support him to the exclusion of others.
You can see that he has resisted all attempts made by the national leadership of the party to resolve the crisis in the state. In all the public statements made by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole on the Edo APC crisis, he has always called on the governor to reach out to aggrieved members of the party as a way to resolve the crisis, but the governor has ignored such calls and instead, continued his hard-line position through words and actions.
The National Working Committee of the party set up a reconciliation committee headed by Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje to resolve the crisis in the state, but Governor Obaseki warned the committee not to come to Edo State. He went further to use court injunction to stop the committee from carrying out its assignment.
Again, the National Executive Council of the party agreed that a national reconciliation committee should be set up to resolve the various crisis rocking the state chapters of the party across the country. This was obliged with the formation of a committee headed by Senate President, Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan. Again, only the Edo state chapter of the party rejected the intervention of the committee, claiming that the Senate President will be biased to their cause.
So, as you can see, Governor Godwin Obaseki, using the instruments of his office, is resisting any external intervention to resolve the crisis. He is using the suspended State Chairman of the party to fight all organs of the party that seek a resolution to the Edo chapter crisis.
There cannot be a resolution of any crisis if one of the parties is not amenable to intervention or compromise. So, to answer your question, the insistence by Governor Godwin Obaseki that it is either his way or no way, is the sole reason why the Edo State APC crisis has lingered till now.
The national chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, has been accused of playing the godfather. Why is that so?
This idea that the crisis in Edo State is because of godfatherism lacks merit, no matter how you look at it. Comrade Adams Oshiomhole fought godfatherism in Edo State and told all who cared to listen how the godfathers he was fighting tried to dictate everything that happened in government. He gave specifics of how the state budget was decided in the living room of a godfather, how projects that will benefit the people were struck out of the budget by a godfather and how every appointment had to be approved by the godfather before they could be announced.
But in the present scenario, Godwin Obaseki is making ambiguous statements about godfatherism without any specifics on any acts of godfatherism. Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as national chairman of APC, is very busy in Abuja, managing issues of the party across the country. Honestly, his interest in Edo state is not too different from his interest in any other APC state which is basically about good governance, unity and confidence of the people in the party.
I really don’t see what Comrade Adams Oshiomhole stands to gain from being a godfather in Edo state, where he was Governor for eight years and acclaimed to have performed excellently. As two times Governor, Oshiomhole executed projects that were dear to him. He appointed persons who he felt had something to offer and he dominated the politics of Edo State as much as he wanted. So there is nothing more for him to prove in Edo State. He was even fortunate enough to be elected as national chairman of APC after his two tenure as Governor, so he’s neither idle nor has he lost his influence.
Therefore, it is ludicrous that Godwin Obaseki is floating this idea that Comrade Adams Oshiomhole is playing the godfather. Rather, I see Godwin Obaseki as insecure and having inferiority complex. He is angry that even as Governor of Edo state, his public profile still cannot match that of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. He is frustrated by the fact that even when he is the incumbent Governor, he cannot command the followership that Oshiomhole commands in the state. So he vents this frustration by claiming that his fight with his benefactor is about godfatherism. He has not given any instance where Comrade Adams Oshiomhole countered any policy of his or worked against what he proposed.
On the contrary, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has only called on him to settle his problems with elders of the party who he has isolated and publicly shamed as parasites who want access to public funds.
If you look at it from another level, Godwin Obaseki is actually asking Comrade Adams Oshiomhole to play the role of a godfather to him by endorsing him for a second tenure. It is common knowledge that Godwin Obaseki is angry that Comrade Adams Oshiomhole is showing neutrality on the question of who gets the party ticket for the 2020 governorship election in the state. This is the root cause of the crisis. He wants Oshiomhole to publicly encore him for a second term in office.
But how can Godwin Obaseki expect Oshiomhole to endorse him when Oshiomhole is the national chairman of the party? That would amount to bias and foreclosure for any other aspirant to challenge Obaseki, which would be undemocratic.
Secondly, how can Godwin Obaseki get the endorsement of Oshiomhole when the Governor has refused to reach out to aggrieved members of the party who are key to the party winning the forthcoming election? So, I believe that it is your duty as journalists to investigate the claims of godfatherism made by the Edo State Government, rather than merely echoing the claims. They are baseless claims and should not be taken seriously by anyone.
The Anselm Ojezua-led faction of the party has accused Oshiomhole of fueling the crisis by harbouring members of the EPM and members-elect of the State House of Assembly in Abuja. How do you react to that?
The accusation by the suspended State Chairman of APC, Anselm Ojezua, that the national chairman is fueling the crisis by harbouring EPM and House of Assembly members-elect in Abuja is quite revealing of the divisive mentality of those who advise Governor Godwin Obaseki. Before his suspension, Anselm Ojezua was the state chairman of the party and it is clear that he was actually one of those who fuelled the crisis and even after his suspension, he’s still fuelling the crisis.
If he understood the expectations of his office and carried out his duties without bias, the crisis would not have reached this stage. But he undermined the authority of his office and became the Governor’s hatchet man. He reduced himself to the category of a Special Adviser to the Governor and was only there to announce illegal suspension notices written in Government House.
Is it not shameful that it was under his watch as state chairman that 15 elected House of Assembly members of his party were excluded from inauguration without a single complaint from him? He is the one that was supposed to advice the Governor that such a move would divide the party to the disadvantage of all stakeholders. But because he had aligned himself to the Governor, he couldn’t challenge that infamous act.
Those members of the House relocated to Abuja because they were attacked and humiliated in Benin city. They feared for their lives and when they ran to Abuja, they were never housed by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. Yes, he was sympathetic to their cause because he knew all of them and in his own analysis, he knew they were being maltreated. He also knew that their exclusion from the midnight inauguration was unjust and illegal, so was he supposed to join hands with Obaseki to push them out of the party?
Because of their lack of tact and understanding, it never occurred to Gov. Godwin Obaseki and Anselm Ojezua that if not for Comrade Adams Oshiomhole’s diplomatic handling of that case, those 15 House members[-elect] could have decamped to the opposition party and become a big problem for APC now.
EPM was a pressure group within APC. These were the members of APC without whom Godwin Obaseki could not have been elected Governor in the first place. So when they organized themselves to complain about the Governor’s high-handedness and neglect of key party members, one expected that the Governor would have seen it as a signal and reached out to them. Instead, he took the wrong counsel of some hawks within his government to mount a campaign of calumny and character assassination against them. He hounded some into prison and chased others out of the state.
But Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as national chairman of APC knew that these people cannot be allowed to leave the party. He severally called on the Governor to listen to their grievances and find a way to accommodate their concerns. Is that a wrong approach to be taken by the national chairman? But Obaseki wanted Oshiomhole to side with him and force those people out of the party.
In any case, these are all seasoned politicians who control the party structure in their respective communities. So, this is not a case of harbouring them, but accommodating them and ensuring that they remained in the party.
What’s the validity and the authenticity of the suspension and counter suspension by the two factions of the party, and where will it lead the party to?
On the validity of the suspension and counter suspensions within the Edo State chapter of the APC, what I can say is that one of the suspensions stand out as unique. That is the suspension of Barr. Anselm Ojezua as the chairman of Edo State APC. It stands out because it followed due process and was ratified by the NWC of the party.
Some are of the opinion that should the two factions conduct parallel primaries for the party’s flag bearer, the party could suffer the fate that befell it in Zamfara and Rivers states in the last general elections. Do you believe this?
I am hopeful that this whole crisis will be resolved before the primaries. The national leadership of the party is working relentlessly to make sure the crisis is resolved. I therefore call on all well meaning people who have the interest of Edo APC at heart to prevail on Governor Godwin Obaseki and his Deputy, Philip Shaibu, to subject themselves to constituted party authorities by working with the reconciliation committee set up to resolve this lingering crisis.
There are also fears that the crisis may affect the chances of APC in the forthcoming governorship election in the state, do you entertain such fear?
The APC crisis will not affect the chances of the party winning the forthcoming Edo state governorship election. What will affect the chances of APC winning the crisis is if Godwin Obaseki is given the ticket without a total reconciliation of the crisis.
I do not see his pathway to his victory at the polls if the critical stakeholders he is fighting are not reconciled with him. He has so fragmented the party in the state to an extent that he cannot mobilize the needed stakeholders across board to deliver victory.
To ensure victory for APC in the forthcoming election, the party needs a unifying candidate who is willing to put his ego aside and carry ever stakeholder along for the common purpose. Godwin Obaseki has consistently shown that he lacks the courage of leadership to make a reconciliatory move to enhance unity of purpose, in the interest of Edo people.
How would you react to allegation that Oshiomhole is working against the wish of the revered Benin Monarch in his effort to resolve the crisis.
Comrade Adams Oshiomhole holds His Royal Majesty, Omo N’Oba, N’Edo, Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, in very high esteem. You can be rest assured that Comrade Adams Oshiomhole will under no circumstance resist any entreaties from the Oba on any issue. So the idea that the revered Benin monarch made efforts to resolve the crisis which was resisted by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole is just one of those lies for which the government is now known for.
Rumours going round have it that Obaseki’s camp is currently reaching out to Oshiomhole’s camp, begging for forgiveness. Could you confirm that?
I have no privileged information on whether the Godwin Obaseki camp is making any overtures to anyone close to Oshiomhole. By their public statements and actions, it is clear that they do not seek reconciliation.
In any case, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole is not in conflict with the Obaseki people. They are only dragging Oshiomhole’s name into the crisis just to create an impression that they are fighting with a higher authority, when in reality they are fighting with ordinary members of the party.
So, if the Obaseki camp is indeed prepared for genuine reconciliation, let them reach out to those ordinary members of the party that they have betrayed all these years.
It is also being said that Obaseki’s efforts towards reconciliation are being thwarted by Oshiomhole’s men. Why are they doing that?
Who are the Oshiomhole’s men thwarting reconciliation efforts by Obaseki’s men? This is all propaganda. They should mention names and instances of anyone that thwarted their efforts at reconciliation.
The only thing I know is that Obaseki’s men are preventing anyone who is not shouting 4+4 to meet anywhere, including private residence. They beat up even APC youths and elders who gather anywhere as one, they believe the meeting is not to further Obaseki’s second term agenda. Many vehicles belonging to APC members who are opposed to Obaseki have been destroyed just because they refused to endorse the Governor for second tenure.
Now that Oshiomhole has finally brought Ize-Iyamu back home to the APC, how will he reconcile those negative comments and allegations he made against Ize-Iyamu in 2016?
Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu’s return to APC is a blessing in all ways. With his political structure joining forces with the existing structure, victory is guaranteed for APC in future elections. Certainly, a lot of issues were realised during the last campaign when he was contesting under PDP.
Most of those issues raised then had to do with the party he was representing, while a few had to do with his past when he was a young man. But one thing nobody can deny is that the Osagie Ize-Iyamu that we know today, is a fine gentleman with a track record of excellent public service. He has very good credentials as a politician, exceptional leadership abilities and human relationship skills. He is a mobilizer and unifier. So, the Edo state APC is proud to once again have Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu in our midst. He has the capacity to help take the party to the next level in the state.
In your opinion, what is the way forward? What is the lasting solution to the crisis?
The way forward is for Governor Godwin Obaseki to come to terms with the fact that he has failed in his responsibility to the party that brought him to power. He betrayed the trust of those who worked against all odds to ensure his victory in 2016. If he’s able to reach that point of acknowledgment, then he will find a way to reach out to those he has offended and seek genuine reconciliation. This is the first step that he must take. He has to accommodate dissent within the party. That is how he can measure the true level of his acceptance.
The present situation where he is only comfortable in the midst of those who sing his praises and crush all who tell him his areas of failure is unacceptable. He cannot continue to claim he’s the leader of the party in Edo state when he has not shown leadership.
A true leader does not have to broadcast that he’s the leader, he only has to lead in the right direction and people will naturally follow. That’s the difference between Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and Governor Godwin Obaseki. Oshiomhole did not ask to be followed. He’s followed because he offered leadership. Godwin Obaseki on the other hand is laying claim to leadership that he’s unable to provide.