Edo state has recently been synonymous with political crises among the leading parties few months to the governorship election and like other states where the APC is deep in crises, party loyalists and onlookers are keenly on the watch. Patrick Ahanor writes.
Neither the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) nor the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that had held sway for 16 years before former Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) president, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, from the blues emerged the winner of the governorship polls.
Following his eight years on the saddle, Oshiomhole ensured that his progeny Godwin Obaseki took over the mantle of leadership. It was expected that with his godson on the throne all would be well and the APC in particular would wax ever stronger since it controls the reins of power. But that turned out to be a mirage.
Currently, the APC is best described as a party in deep crises. Some eight members of the state House of Assembly are yet to be sworn in and it seems they may not enjoy the privilege of representing their people in the house. There have been suspension and counter suspensions all within the once thriving party.
The political gulf between the supporters of Governor Godwin Obaseki and his hitherto godfather, Adams Oshiomhole deepens by the day and the no-love- lost relation does not seem to have hope of been reversed. Add that to the ever growing opposition to the second term bid of Governor Obaseki and the equally ever stretching line of his opposers who are held bent on stopping his second term ambition, then the picture of the kind of wrangling that does the party no good becomes too obvious to ignore.
The PDP is not having it rosy either. In fact, following the sudden defection of its immediate past flag bearer in the governorship election, Pastor Ize_Iyamu, the former ruling party has been experiencing one form of turmoil after another.
Can Akande committee resolve face-off?
Few weeks ago, the APC National Executive Committee (NEC) opted to restore sanity in the party by setting up a reconciliation committee headed by former interim chairman of the party- Chief Bisi Akande. The panel has the sole function of meeting with and attempting to assuage aggrieved members to see reasons to work for the good of the party by settling their issues amicably with those they had issues with.
Whereas some have welcomed the committee with open hand convinced that the members who are mostly prominent and well-meaning members of the party would work hard to bring everyone on the table for dialogue, some though are less optimistic of any tangible and meaningful reconciliation. Obaseki and his support group, the Obaseki Shaibu Movement have backed the Akande-led committee. How the committee will resolve the crisis is what many are waiting to see.
Moreover, the Oshiomhole supporters, led by Col David Imuse, has been looking for accommodation in Bénin City for the purpose of having a rival state party secretariat but property owners are said to be unwilling to take the risk of letting out their building for fear of demolition owing to the example set by Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State.
Reconciliation may be herculean in view of the issues rocking the party. From the attempt to reunite the governor and the immediate past governor, to settling the issues involving some assembly members who are yet to be officially admitted into the house and the many suspensions and misnomers within the rank and file of the party that have made peaceful co-existence within the party a pain in the neck.
In respect of 2020 gubernatorial race, unlike in the past when the APC went into electoral contest as a united force, this time it seems rather far from being a front capable of forging ahead and easily confronting any opposition in the forthcoming governorship contest.
In particular, the Edo APC got caught up with the fight between Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and Governor Godwin Obaseki. At the moment Col David Imuse and Barr Anselm Ojezua are, however, laying claims to the chairmanship position. Engr. Lawrence Okah and Hon Osamudiame Edekere, are the two State Secretaries while Chris Azebamwan and Pastor Joseph Osagiede are both Publicity Secretaries.
Eight members of the Edo APC State Executive led by Col Imuse are operating from Abuja. Engr. Okah, Azebamwan and the State Woman Leader, Betty Okoebor are with Imuse and loyal to Oshiomhole while Barr. Ojezua and other party executives are loyal to Governor Obaseki and his second term bid.
APC members who are strong behind Oshiomhole in the current crisis between the governor and the APC national chairman are refusing to accept Obaseki as the leader of the party in the state. They argued that in a state where a National Chairman hails from, the governor seizes to be the party leader. But when confronted with questions that Oshiomhole as governor never allowed Oyegun to be the party leader in Edo, they said Oyegun was never assertive and did not carry people ‘along’.
Will the Akande panel then be able to set matters straight first between the duo of Oshiomhole and Governor Obaseki? Time will tell!
PDP also at crossroads
The Edo State PDP is also presently at a cross road. It is battling to vacate a court order that stopped it from further conduct of its congresses after its ward congresses were held on February 1st.
Three of its members, Hon Eruanga Gallant, Victor Idiakheoa and Jide Obalowoshe, have secured an interim injunction restraining the PDP from conducting the local government congresses scheduled to hold on February 8th.
The court, presided over by Justice Joy Okeaya-lnneh, also restrained the PDP and INEC from announcing, publishing and recognising the ward congresses results earlier conducted by the party.
Eruaga was beaten to pulp during the conduct of the ward congresses. In some areas, party members complained of absence of election officers, imposition of ward executives, amongst others.
Chairman of the Edo PDP congresses, Governor Seyi Mankinde of Oyo State had told reporters that the ward congresses were hitch free and successful.
The quest to pick the party’s ticket is what is causing a huge divide in the party. It is the belief of PDP leaders that the crisis in the APC would provide a leeway for it to return to power in the state. Aspirants presently seeking to get the PDP ticket are Hon Omoregie Ogbeide Ihama, Barr. Kenneth Imasuagbon, Hon Ifaluyi Isibor and Gideon Ikhine, while those who have declared interest to replace Chief Orbih are Engr. Fred Okah, Hon Chief Omi Imosili, Tony Aziegbemi and Hon Silver Peter.
How both parties played its cards in their present crisis would determine who will win the September 19 governorship election.