Obaseki/Oshiomhole rift and 2020 Edo election

HENDRIX OLIOMOGBE writes on the recurring hostilities between the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State and the likely implications on the governorship election coming up in the state in 2020.

 

FOR the  governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, his deputy, Comrade Phillips Shaibu and the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu, last Saturday was one hell of a day. This is because on that day, all hell was let lose at Iyamho, Etsako West Local Government Area, the home town of the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. The incident took place shortly after the convocation ceremony of the Edo University, Iyamho (EU).

Obaseki may have been Oshiomhole’s guest at his Iyamho residence several times, but the echoes of the violence that marred the event and the subsequent accusations and counter-accusations by the dramatic personae involved and who are all members of the ruling APC will continue to reverberate in the state for a long time.

It appeared obvious, right from the start, that all was not going to be well as a result of the reported fall out between Obaseki and his mentor, Oshiomhole, in the build up to the governorship election coming up in the state in 2020. While the governor is Bini from Edo South senatorial district, Oshiomhole and Shaibu are kinsmen from Uzairue and Jattu (Ekpe), both in Etsako West Local Government Area. The relationship between the trio could be described as that between the tongue and the teeth until the recent ugly development which made the mentor (Oshiomhole) and his mentees went their separate ways over some individual differences.

Going by the account of the clash at Iyamho, it was more of a show of force and test of might between the two kinsmen namely, a battle for the control of the political turf in Uzairue and, by extension, Etsako West Local Government Area. To many observers in the state, the venue of the convocation ceremony was however not the proper place for the supposed test of popularity between the godfather and his godsons.

Only recently in the state capital, the APC national chairman was violently attacked by hoodlums at his residence, an action which the state government promptly denied any complicity, just as the police arrested some suspects and whisked them to Abuja for questioning.

The latest attack, which bore the hallmarks of a revenge mission, started at Iyamho during the convocation ceremony where the governor and his deputy were booed. It was obvious that before the commencement of the convocation ceremony, a collision was obvious as the supporters of Obaseki and those of Oshiomhole stormed the institution, chanting solidarity songs in favour of their different patrons.

While Obaseki’s supporter were shouting four plus four, Oshiomhole’s supporters replied, shouting three plus one, no more four. It took the intervention of the security agents that dispersed the group with teargas canisters to avert a possible clash between the supporters of the duo. The hostility climaxed after the ceremony when Obaseki, Shaibu and Oba Akiolu drove in a convoy to Oshiomhole’s country home for a lunch a few metres away on the Benin-Auchi-Abuja Expressway where the hoodlums savagely attacked them.

During the incident, four government vehicles were destroyed by the thugs who called Obaseki and Shaibu unprintable names but nobody was injured as security operatives refrained from shooting at the crowd. The windscreens of two vehicles on the convoy were shattered with stones by the thugs and had to beat a hasty retreat without the governor and his entourage seeing the APC national chairman.

Obaseki who spoke with journalists at Iyamho after the incident, described the attack as unfortunate. He said: “It is really unfortunate that we can’t feel safe at the house of our national chairman. I am not sure that if I went to the house of the national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), they will attack me the way they did in the house of our chairman. It is really unfortunate that thing has degenerated to this extent but we will continue to pursue peace and we cannot afford to lose the gains of the last three years.”

It was gathered that Oshiomhole, who was inside his room during the period, later got the wind of the attack. But before he could come out of the house, the governor and his entourage had gone. A source noted that Oshiomhole was furious when he heard of the development.

The APC national chairman pointed fingers at the deputy governor who he accused of having mobilised more than over 200 commercial motorcycle riders to the venue of the convocation ceremony, in a desperate bid to embarrass him and his guests.

“I decided that I should use this medium to speak to the unfortunate incident that happened in my community after the convocation at the Edo University. Like I already directed my press secretary to do, obviously it was my decision to invite the Chancellor and his entourage, including His Royal Majesty, Oba Akiolu, Oba Otudeko and other dignitaries. When I discovered that something had gone wrong, I went to the gate and by then they had gone. I tried to speak with the governor; I called him, the phone rang out. But, at least, I was able to speak with the chancellor [of the Edo University] and his wife and I am happy that they fully understood.”

The former governor said he did his best to save the situation from degenerating when he heard that the government had allegedly imported thugs into the venue of the convocation. Probably aligning with the age-long saying that silence is consent, the deputy governor engaged Oshiomhole in a verbal duel as he said: “As much as I would not want to banter words with our national chairman, Nigerians know better between him and Edo State deputy governor who has thugs as associates, fondly referred to by him as ‘my infantry division’”.

Shaibu said the accusation by the APC national chairman was contradictory in the sense that he alluded to the rising reception that greeted the governor by the youths of Etsako West on his arrival in Iyamho the previous day. He noted that the reception for Obaseki was joyous, claiming that there was no violence and negative incident on that day as the youths were only on ground to show solidarity with the government of Governor Obaseki.

Shaibu, who reacted via a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Musa Ebhomiana, said he was nowhere near Iyamho on the day before the incident. He claimed that he was also a victim of the attack on the convocation day as he was in the same bus with the governor, Oba of Lagos and other dignitaries.

The deputy governor, in the statement, said: “The simple truth is that the national chairman felt offended and intimidated by the huge crowd of party youths that came out in solidarity with the governor. He then decided to ‘teach’ the governor and his deputy a lesson.”

The chairman of the APC, Mr Anslem Ojezua, described the violence as an ill-wind which will surely not blow any of the party members any good. He described the incident as unfortunate, adding that there was a tendency that it would escalate, if not checked.

On the way out, the chairman advised: “Everybody should get his or her act together. Leaders must provide quality leadership. The Edo APC condemns the attack and all those responsible for the mayhem. The perpetrators must be brought to book.”

From being assaulted at his [Oshiomhole] Benin City residence, on October 12, by some alleged thugs and the subsequent exchange of words with Obaseki, whom he accused of having a hand in the deed, to the latest face off with Shaibu, political pundits have predicted that the cold war between the mentor and his mentees will turn hot. The gripping melodrama may just have begun.

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