When will peace return to the Edo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC)? Can there ever be truce between the national chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and the governor of the state, Mr Godwin Obaseki as preparations for the 2020 governorship election begin? And in whose interest is the protracted battle between the duo for the soul of the party?
These and many other questions run through the minds of many political observers following the varying dimensions the frosty relationship between the hitherto allies. A botched political rally organised to receive the governorship candidate of the 2016 governorship election in the state, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, into the APC last Friday in Benin City ran into a brick-wall, following a last-minute order by the Inspector General of the Police, Mohammed Adamu stopping the rally. The directive reversed the earlier approval by the police high command for the rally. The cancellation of the approval introduced a new twist to the imbroglio between the two camps, with some APC stalwarts alleging double standard on the part of the police top hierarchy.
For example, a former Commissioner for Agriculture and member of the seventh House of Representatives, Honourable Abdul Oroh, reportedly chided the IGP for not remaining neutrality in the disagreement between the two factions. According to Oroh, the APC national chairman applied and was granted permission to hold the rally.
However, the loyalists of Obaseki believe the botched event was an indication that the APC national chairman was no longer a force to reckon with in the politics of Edo State. It was in this light that the state chapter of the APC asked Oshiomhole, to resign or risk being precluded from functioning in office while his suspension subsists. Ojezua, who noted that Governor Obaseki enjoyed the goodwill the people of the state, said theirsupport would delivered the state to the party in the 2020 governorship election. According to the APC state boss, “By now, all those who thought Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State was a pushover that could be tossed around by a political godfather should have concluded that they were seriously mistaken.”
The fallout of the rally that failed to hold following the intervention by the IG has thrown up a number of issues. Some account of the incident that occurred that day despite the police order stopping the rally, claimed the national chairman was demystified because he was reportedly sand-witched by security personnel to gain entry into his residence in Benin City. The initial plan that he would receive Pastor Ize-Iyamu, into the APC turned awry. Some critics of the chair claimed that the drama meant that his political structure had become weak and ineffectual. This was against the background of the fact that about seven years ago, the Oshiomhole political machinery was not just formidable but also a winning streak at the polls. Then, Oshiomhole was known to possess the ace in Edo politics before he left office in 2016. Sadly, his critics said the frosty relationship between him and Obaseki has consistently assumed different dimensions since the party primaries for the 2019 general election and the inauguration of the State House of Assembly and whittled down his influence and control in the state APC in particular.
Threats to security
For the December 13 planned rally, Pastor Ize-Iyamu and his supporters had to opt for a low profile event, even as the state government banned political rallies in private residences and schools in the state. This became necessary because of the order by the IG, that the rally be cancelled over “overriding internal security interests.” He also directed the commissioner of Police in the state to meet with the warring political interests over the rally originally slated for Garrick Memorial School, Ekenwan Road. In a letter to the state deputy governor, Rt. Hon. Philip Shaibu, signed by his Principal Staff Officer, Assistant Commissioner of Police Idowu Owohunwa, the IG said: “In cognisance of the security consequences of the proposed Mega Rally, I am to confirm that the Inspector General of Police has directed the Commissioner of Police, Edo State Command to emplace appropriate security framework that is directed at suspending the rally until further notice.” The twin measure culminated in the deployment of police personnel to strategic parts of the state, especially in the state capital and in the dispersion of crowds that gathered at the Ugbor-Amagba axis of the state. It is recalled that the government had warned all property owners that any venue used for activities in breach of its orders would have its right of occupancy immediately revoked and forfeited to the Edo government, noting that it would not allow any person to turn the state into a battlefield. The directive was contained in a statement issued by the Secretary to the State Government, Osarodion Ogie. The government directed security agencies to deal firmly with all persons (no matter how highly placed), who might breach the directive, just as it warned parents and guardians “to advise their children and wards not to allow themselves to be used as canon-fodder in aid of the misguided political ambition and ego of people, whose own children reside and school abroad.”
Time for truce
More concerned stakeholders in Edo are calling for truce between the two leaders in the overall interest of the state. The general fear is that the ongoing face-off portends grave danger for the processes that will lead to the 2020 governorship poll and the election proper in Edo. Many observers could not comprehend why the main actors in the ruling APC seemed not bordered about the feud, just as other analysts wondered if the party had not learnt any useful lesson from what happened to the party, especially in Zamfara, Rivers and Bauchi states in the 2019 general election.
In Edo proper, individuals and groups are worried that the crisis is already impacting negatively on the political arena. They are concerned about the rising political tension, which in their opinion, can lead to an implosion. Accordingly, acting under the aegis of the Edo Forum of Patriots (EFP), the citizens have pleaded with the major actors to sheathe their swords and embrace peace.
Speaking through the chairman, of the Interim Management Committee of the EFP, Aiyamehue Edokpolor, cautioned against acts capable of undermining the record of the state as being among the most peaceful and hospitable in the country. Similarly, the director general of the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR), Dr. Bakut Bakut urged the warring camps to pursue the path of dialogue with just two weeks to the election year.