By Emmanuel Ufot
The lingering face off between Godwin Obaseki, governor of Edo State and Adams oshiomhole, a former governor of Edo state and now, National Chairman of the All Progressive Congress, APC, over supremacy tussle which culminated in the later vowing to stop the governor’s re-election has now produced the victor and the vanguished.
After several glaring manouvrering orchested by the APC Chairman to stop the governor which included the adoption of Ize-Iyanmu as consensus candidate of the party in a mock primaries in Abuja. The governor was on Friday June 12, disqualified by the screening committee led by Prof Jonathan Ayuba from contesting the forthcoming APC governorship primaries.
In arriving at the decision which to many political Observers of Edo 2023 saga, the committee cited discrepancies in the governor’s names and certificates.
Although two other aspirants –Ogiemwonyi and Iduoriyekemwen were also disqualified alongside Obaseki, the governor’s case looks more worrisome. But it was not surprising to the governor’s supporters that others were just smoke screen as the main target was the governor.
Some chieftains of the party who have not been happy with how Oshiomhole is handling the party have frowned on it and said the party will suffer for the injustice in the coming election. One of such is the former National Chairman of APC, John Oyegun. He said it was a hachet job. Many believe the governor might decamp to another party and work against the party.
if the governor and the two other disqualified Candidates wish, the appeal Committee was said to have come out with a notice that they are ready to hear any appeal.
The journey to the disqualification of Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki from the June 12, 2020, governorship primary of the APC, in the state preceded the verdict of the Prof. Ayuba Jonathan-led screening committee.
The crisis of confidence between the governor and his former political benefactor and predecessor, as well as National Chairman of the party, Oshiomhole, started during the Edo State delegate congress of the party in 2018.
While the former governor, who had just resumed office as national chairman, used the opportunity to reward his loyalists and all those that worked for his emergence, Obaseki was not allowed to input his own loyalists.
Stung by Oshiomhole’s apparent attempt to maintain control of the levers of political power in the state, the governor, who had just been in office for two years, decided to take his pound of flesh last year when it was time to proclaim the 8th Edo State House of Assembly.
He played a fast one by dribbling Oshiomhole’s loyalists to ensure the emergence of Francis Okiye as Speaker, instead of Francis Ederor, preferred by the national chairman.
The disagreement over the constitution of the Assembly and configuration of its leadership threw up the simmering disaffection between the political godfather and his political godson.
Attempts by Oshiomhole to muscle his 14 loyal members-elect into the Assembly through the contrived take- over of the legislature by the National Assembly met the stout resistance of the governor and his rambunctious deputy, Philip Shuaibu.
Emboldened by the ruling of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, capital of Rivers State, Obaseki succeeded in resisting the pressure on him to issue another proclamation that could have enabled a united Assembly and a repeat election of the principal officers.
With the 14 lawmakers-elect in limbo, Oshiomhole was forced to relocate them to Abuja, where they had remained for the past 11 months at his expense and members of the Edo Peoples Movement , EPM.
Matters came to a head after the national chairman supervised the denial of a second term ticket to the immediate past governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode, where he aligned with the sentiments of some party chieftain in the state to adopt the direct primary.
Having been convinced of the workability of the direct primary methodology to displace an incumbent, all efforts to make the national chairman recognise the rights of Obaseki as an incumbent failed, leading to the escalation of hostilities.
Signs that some mischief was afoot against Obaseki emerged last Wednesday when he went through screening exercise, during which he was asked whether his penchant for dragging the party to court does not translate to anti-party behaviour.
There were allegations that APC performed woefully during the last presidential election in Edo State due to the perceived soft spot the governor had for the candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
The implications of excluding the governor from further participation in the candidate selection exercise are many and varied. One, the ruling party would remain embattled, seeing that it appears the decision to debar the governor had the blessing of President Muhammadu Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
Two, given the general perception that Obaseki gave a good account of his mandate as governor, he might be tempted to contest the primary election on an alternative platform to test his popularity.
More importantly, first term governors in the party might interpret the development as a gradually emerging pattern and decide to show solidarity with Obaseki and insist on his participation or moving out en masse from APC.
Alternatively, Obaseki might stay put in the party and work against the APC candidate in the main election, especially given his boast that he can do just one term to ensure the end of godfathering.