Crisis: Obaseki Consolidates Grip of Edo APC

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Gov. Godwin Obaseki
Gov. Godwin Obaseki

Abuja – (Sundiata Post) – Apparently, there is no going back on the raging political war for the soul of Edo State between Governor Godwin Obaseki and his predecessor, the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.

Prior to the 2016, governorship election, Oshiomhole had canvassed the nooks and crannies of the state to install Obaseki as governor. In fact, on most campaign podiums Oshiomhole described Obaseki as the ‘engine room’ and secret of the success of his administration.

Oshiomhole was convinced that the governor was the right candidate to succeed him, considering his vast experience garnered from the private sector, which informed why the former governor appointed his successor to head the economic team for eight years during his tenure.

But barely three years of Obaseki’ administration, the confidence and trust between the godfather and his political godson has hit the rocks.

The supremacy battle heightened penultimate week when governor Obaseki proclaimed the state House of Assembly.

His preferred choice for leadership of the House emerged against the choice of Oshiomhole, a development that further widened the gulf between the camps of former governor and his estranged successor.

Prior to the uproar over the House Assembly issue, Oshiomhole had maintained a disturbing silence over the affairs of the party in the state, a situation which made some party leaders accuse him of backing those opposed to Obaseki’ second term bid.

His silence was however broken when he described what transpired at House as embarrassing and cannot stand.

But actions taken by the governor last week confirmed the assertion that he is ready for a little OK no battle. In a bid to have a firm grip of the party, and to put his traducers at bay, he approached a Federal High Court in Benin City and obtained a court order banning the APC, National Working Committee, and the Police from interfering or obstructing the constitutional duties of the Edo Assembly members.

Also to ensure that there are no spies within his administration and to keep those perceived as loyal close, the governor in a statement signed by secretary to the state government further sacked eight commissioners said to be loyal to Oshiomhole including his nephew from his government.

The Commissioners sent packing are “Joseph Ugheoke, Commissioner for Minerals, Oil and Gas; Magdalene Ohenhen, Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development and Engr. Osahon Amiolemen, Commissioner for Infrastructure.

“Others are Dr. David Osifo, Commissioner for Health; Mika Amanokha, Commissioner for Youths and Special Duties; Mariam Abubakar, Commissioner for Budget; Barr. Emmanuel Usoh, Commissioner for Wealth Creation, Cooperatives and Employment; Dr. Christopher Adesotu, Commissioner for Science and Technology.”

The sacked Commissioners were replaced with his core and trusted loyalists who will fight on his side ahead of the party primaries and 2020 governorship election.

It was gathered that the interim court order obtained may not be unconnected with the plot by his political opponents to use the National Assembly to take over the running of affairs of the State House of Assembly.

According to Leadership, the court documents issued and presided over by Justice G. Umar, noted: “restraining the defendants by themselves, their servants, agents, officers or privies from interfering with, obstructing or harassing, in any manner whatsoever, the plaintiffs in the performance of their constitutional duties as the Legislative Arm of the Edo State Government, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on Notice for interlocutory injunction.”

The order also added: “That an interim order of injunction is further granted restraining the 1st defendant, his servants, agents, officers or privies from further publishing in any newspaper or other media, any inciting publications concerning the inauguration of the 7thAssembly of the Edo State House Assembly and the election of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker which took place on 17/6/2019 in the Edo State House of Assembly.

“That interim order of injunction is also granted restraining the defendants by themselves, their servants, agents, officers or privies from further committing any act aimed at disparaging the integrity of the legislative arm of the Edo State Government and/or destabilising the peace, order and good governance of Edo State in general, pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice for interlocutory injunction.”

As the court order was being obtained, a lawmaker loyal to Oshiomhole, Hon Emmanuel Agbaje, representing Akoko Edo Constituency II, presented himself to be inaugurated as an honourable member of the Edo State House of Assembly, swelling the number of members loyal to Obaseki in the House to 12.

Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Frank Okiye, swore him in immediately and noted that the House reconvened for the swearing-in after Emmanuel had completed the required documentation.

The elated lawmaker had explained that his decision to leave the 15 lawmakers who had relocated to Abuja, was informed by his deep conviction that his purpose was to serve the people of his constituency who voted and elected him into the house.

He said:  “Sincerely I would say that there comes a time when one would put his personal interest aside and consider the interest of the people. I was elected to serve my people, so their interest comes first.

“I may have some reservations about my earlier decision, having reviewed my position and the position of my people, I have decided to toe the line of the masses. That is why I came forward to be inaugurated. My people need to be represented. I was elected to serve them. I did not come on my own. Which ever way you view the situation, I must have to toe the path of my people.”

He assured to uphold the confidence his constituents reposed in him, noting “I think they will also appreciate that I listened to them. I will provide that representation which I have received the mandate to do.”

Hon. Agbaje also appealed to the other 12 members-elect yet to be inaugurated to complete necessary documentation to be inaugurated as members of the assembly, noting, “My message to my colleague is this; I urge them to sheath their sword. I granted an interview and said this is a family matter. For intra-party issues there must always be disagreements.

“But there should be compromise. So I urge them to sheath their sword. Let them come back home and join forces with the present government and rebuild Edo State. We as Members have own issues. I think we should join hands and support the present government’ developmental strides.”

With reconciliation and peace still elusive between Obaseki and Oshiomhole, the Edo State Traditional Council led by the respected Benin Monarch, Omo N’ Oba Uku Akpolokpolo Ewuare II, visited President Muhammadu Buhari with an appeal on the President to intervene in the political rocking the state.

The monarch expressed strong worry over the and told the President that if the crisis was not resolved now it may jeopardise the progress of the state.

The monarch was quoted to have stated: “On behalf of the good people of Edo State, we kindly appeal to Mr. President to use your good offices to intervene and stop this crisis. Personally even though I do not like to interfere in inter-party or intra party matters, and always maintain that the Benin Crown is non-partisan, it is however difficult to turn a blind eye because if this is not brought under control, it is likely to jeopardize the welfare of the masses.

“This is where I, in my capacity as Chairman of Edo State Council of Traditional Rulers and Chiefs, supported by members of the Council, will endeavor to broker peace between the warring parties.’’

This appeal is said to be coming after the leadership of the National Assembly led by the Senate President was said to have met with representatives of the governor and some APC leaders led by the deputy governor, Phillip Shaibu. It was gathered that the meeting resolved that Obaseki should issue a fresh proclamation for inauguration of the house within five days where the 24 members of Edo Assembly will be present.

However, a top government source said that the proclamation and inauguration of the House was done in line with constitutional provision and added that the courts are there for anybody to challenge the legality of what had transpired at the State Assembly.

However, joining the debate of the legality of the action of the house, a notable constitutional lawyer and former Provost Marshal of the Nigeria Army, Brigadier General, Ikponmwen Idada, however blamed the leadership of the party for the imbroglio.

According to him: “The constitution provides that when the state cannot function properly the national assembly takes over their role. The question again is how do you discern whether the state assembly is functioning properly or not? If you ask my personal view on that I will re-emphasize that there is this expectation which is legal and constitutional that those who won election are to be properly sworn in.

“But when it is now a situation where others are sworn in and others are not, there is definitely a problem with that. What led to that must be looked into. It is a matter of survival. On the whole, APC has a problem in Edo state as far as this matter is concerned; the party is indictable on this matter.”

He however added, in spite of the obvious crisis, Obaseki should be encouraged to continue with developmental strides that is ongoing in the state.

“Obaseki come across to me as a humble man, hardworking and well informed. But as a Nigerian politician, he also wants to make a name for himself and have a structure and it is this process of wanting to ensure that he takes control of a system under his control that probably drove him to inaugurate the house in a way that he felt is safe for him.

“By way of infrastructure, I am personally impressed by what he is doing and the way he is addressing it is visible for everybody. Look at the high courts, the secretariat building is something that is commendable. I don’t think it is right for anybody to say the governor is not sharing money.

“I am speaking as an elder statesman and not a politician, Obaseki should be encouraged to take the bull by the horn. I will subscribe to him not to be a puppet to anybody,” he said.

Cullee from The Leadership