By Osa Director
The coming governorship election in Edo State slated for September 2024 comes with a lot of excitement, tension, and intrigue.
The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state is engrossed with internecine strife, as a result of the dogfight between Governor Godwin Obaseki and his deputy, Philips Shaibu, on one hand, and Obaseki’s war of attrition with the Party Executive Council led by the National Vice Chairman (South-South) Dan Orbih on another hand.
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress (APC) is intent on reclaiming the state it lost in 2020 due to the desperation of former Governor Adams Oshiomhole to transmute into a political godfather, a situation which led to Edo-lites choking him with a humble pie.
Now, with APC’s retention of power at the federal level, Edo state looks ripe enough for plucking, especially with the politically self-destructive and immolating politics and governance style of Governor Obaseki.
However, what may look like an easy victory for APC is been complicated by the self-inflicted minefields planted by (Senator) Oshiomhole. Once again, Oshiomhole by his deprecating political manoeuvres and shenanigans is working to scuttle the victory of APC come September 2024.
The former khaki-wearing labour unionist as a victim of the illusion of self-grandeur is commonplace. For those who know him, Oshiomhole wants to be the only cock that crows in Edo state politics. His propensity for self-promotion and zeal to be Edo State’s political godfather has made him read Jagaban’s book of godfatherism upside down. Hence, at the expense of the party’s victory, he has embarked on a journey to political perdition by attempting to implant his will and wish over that of the APC as a party, and the generality of the Edo people.
In its wisdom, the APC has stated clearly that the governorship will not be zoned to anybody or the senatorial zone. Hence 29 aspirants across the three senatorial zones have indicated their interests to contest the governorship post under the platform of APC. That has created intense excitement, decent politicking, and horse-trading in the state’s APC. But Oshiomhole, the opinionated and self-appointed leader of the party in the state would have none of that.
In a manner characteristic of a meddlesome interloper, Oshiomhole set up a kangaroo committee to screen the 29 aspirants and reduce them to six. But in what capacity can he do that? Where did he derive the powers to set up a screening committee? Is he a one-man National Working Committee to do so? Does he have the authority of President Bola Tinubu, the national leader of the party, President and Commander-In-Chief? Was he mandated by Abdullahi Ganduje, the national chairman of APC to do so? Questions about the integrity and legality of his actions are too numerous to mention.
Free entry and exit, and equal and uninhibited participation by all citizens is a fundamental principle and propellant of democracy and the rule of law. Therefore, why is the erstwhile labour unionist determined to restrict and shut out those he does not fancy their faces out of the political process?
Even from a a sheer economic perspective an upcoming election as the one in Edo state is an opportunity for the APC as a party to rake in some good money and embrace self-sustenance instead of pressuring governors elected under its platform to loot their state resources to aid the party. Could Oshiomhole as National Chairman of APC have allowed anyone to restrict his authority and access to the party funds the way and manner that he is doing to Ganduje? As they say in boxing, Oshiomhole has a glassy jaw. He can dish out jabs to others but cannot take any!
Most discerning political observers see beyond former governor Oshiomhole’s charade masked in the guise of statesmanship and attempt to foster party unity by pruning the numbers of aspirants. For example, Oshiomhole simply wrote the six names that were announced and given to the so-called screening committee. He did not allow them to do an independent job.
So, why not boldly come out to state his preference rather than soil the name and political career of the committee members by using them as a decoy to achieve his diabolical political agenda?
To signpost Oshiomhole’s innate cravings for political domination and self-aggrandizement, the committee on resumption of their assignment argued that it would be unfair to Edo South senatorial district, which is bigger than the two other senatorial districts combined to also produce only two aspirants. In deference to reason and political wisdom, the committee unanimously agreed that Edo South should produce four aspirants as against two each by the two other senatorial districts. That was how Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and Major-General Charles Airiavbere were added to the list.
Unfortunately, Oshiomhole would have none of that, as he went livid with rage, telling the committee that they went beyond their terms of reference. He bullied them to go and announce the two names in Edo South that he submitted to them. They were the former deputy governor under Prof Oserheimen Osunbor, that is, Lucky Imasuen, and a serving member of the House of Representatives, Dennis Idahosa.
It is laughable and tragi-comical that Oshiomhole could reject the two strongest aspirants from Edo South, and also a third that was not even mentioned, the former minister of works, Engr Chris Ogiemwonyi for a young Idahosa who still has political catarrh to clear from his nasal cavity.
Truth be told, without sentiments and political adumbration Ize-Iyamu remains the most strategic and energetic political mobiliser in Edo State today. He is the political numero uno in Edo State. Saying that Ize-Iyamu does not matter is akin to going to Kano State and saying that Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso does not matter, or going to Lagos State before Tinubu became President and saying he does not matter. That would be approximating and cultivating a rendezvous with political disaster and suicide.
Airiavbere, apart from being a retired Major-General, was the PDP governorship candidate in 2012 and gave Oshiomhole a run for his mettle as a sitting governor. Suddenly, they don’t matter, simply because a certain delusional political demigod cannot stand their guts!
Down to Edo central senatorial zone, Oshiomhole penciled the immediate-past state chairman of APC, Col David Imuse (retd), and a serving senator, Monday Okpebholo as his choice. He looked beyond the former governor, and his predecessor in office, Osunbor who is a professor of Law and gentleman. Even though Osunbor could not meet the amorphous standards set by Oshiomhole, his (Osunbor’s) deputy while in office, Imasuen from Edo South met the cut-off mark. He also rejected another professor of political science, and pro-democracy activist, Sylvester Odion-Akhaine. Truth be told, when the likes of Akhaine risked their lives to fight military dictatorship and attain our present democracy Oshiomhole was nowhere near the scene.
Oshiomhole’s rejection of these eminent professors with unquestionable pedigree did not come as a surprise. He has a reputational snub and scare of intellectuals but with a strange preference for rednecks.
However in his home senatorial district of Edo North, Oshiomhole picked the two strongest aspirants in Clement Agba, the immediate
past minister of National planning, and a recently retired Federal Permanent Secretary, Ernest Umakhihe. Hence, is his agenda of prebandalism and ethnic chauvinism not obvious?
The so-called screening was self-serving as there are also verifiable claims of a particular political leader from the state collecting three brand new Prado jeeps from three different aspirants whose names appeared on the censored list. That is besides the obscene millions of naira/dollars that exchanged hands between them.
President Tinubu and Ganduje must call Oshiomhole to order and immediately tame his audacity of impunity if APC wants to win Edo State. Oshiomhole caused APC to lose the state in 2020. Therefore, history must not be allowed to repeat itself. But if men refuse to learn from the lessons of history, history will teach them a lesson by repeating itself.
Consequently, President Tinubu and Ganduje and all men of good conscience and clout in the APC must rein in Oshiomhole so that thunder should not be allowed to strike twice in one place. If it does, the consequences will be dire and unparalleled. Every willing aspirant must be allowed to contest on a level playing field, otherwise, that would be the beginning of the end of APC in Edo State.
*Osa, a journalist and lawyer writes from Lagos