Ahead the 2020 governorship election in Edo state, political gladiators in Edo state are gearing up to the challenges ahead, as political leaders and their followers are aligning and re-aligning with structures that suit their interest. The All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state appears to be heading for some crisis due to the recent moves by some leaders of the party in the state that they are opposed to the second bid of governor Godwin Obaseki. Similar crisis is also brewing in the state Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) after some members are agitating for the emergence of the senator representing Edo South senatorial district, Senator Mathew Urhoghide as against Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who contested against the incumbent governor of Edo state, Obaseki in 2016. But the former chairman of Owan West Local Government Area, Dan Asekhame believes that the younger generation should be given the opportunity to vie for the governorship just as he declared that the duo of Ize-Iyamu and Urhoghide must give others a chance to try the governorship.
But as expected, the battle for the soul of APC has continued to heighten in Edo state especially with the rumored rift between the governor and his predecessor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. However, the governor who arrived the state Wednesday after his one-month vacation, debunked the rumoured rift, describing it as fake news. According to him, “the rumoured rift between me and my predecessor is fake news”. But prior to the Airport reception, Saturday Vanguard gathered there was a shouting match between the two top officials of the administration over whether to accord the governor the reception at the airport or not. It was gathered that while one of the top officials argued that the governor had called to say that the planned reception should be cancelled, his colleague disagreed, arguing that with his position in government his colleague lacked the authority to ask him to cancel the event. The argument, we gathered, scuttled the earlier expected fanfare the airport reception would have elicited which included a street walk by the governor and his supporters at the airport. However, supporters of the governor led by his deputy, Philip Shaibu, had commenced the building of a political structure called the Obaseki, Shaibu Movement across the 18 Local Government Areas. It was gathered that the structure is being oiled in the event that Oshiomhole decides to dump the trio of Obaseki, Shaibu and Ogie in 2020. Ironically, while the governor was being welcomed at the Benin Airport, last Wednesday, some APC leaders moved to puncture that structure when leaders of that group across the 18 Local Government Areas of the state gathered at the Buhari Campaign office located at the Government Reservation Area (GRA) Benin City and vowed to revive the APC after they alleged that the party was losing momentum in the state. The meeting was convened by the former Attorney General of the state, Barr.Henry Idahagbon and former member House of Representatives, Samson Osagie. The meeting was chaired by veteran politician, Engr. Festus Evbuonwa. Some of those who attended were former member House of Reps, Patrick Ikhariale, Ken Ihensekhen, former youth leader of the APC and now President of RTEAN, Comrade Osakpanwa Eriyo, Tony Kabaka, former Commissioners in the state, Gideon Obakhan and Chris Ebare, Jackson Eribo, Mathew Ehigie, Macdonal Obasuke, S.S. Mayaki and many others.
The group while commending the leadership of the National Chairman of the state, Comrade Oshiomhole both in the state and the Nation, they attributed the woeful outing of the party in the just concluded Presidential and National Assembly elections to the dwindling fortunes of the party following weak leadership. Engr. Evbuowan who addressed the meeting, urged members to remain calm and focused and expressed optimism that the leader of the party, Comrade Oshiomhole will work together with the party to produce a governorship candidate capable of winning the 2020 governorship election. They observed that the party would have been kicked out of the governorship election if election held in the state now. He said this was due to the anger of majority of the leaders of the party in the state. Tony Kabaka Adun, who also spoke at the meeting, lamented that “we have been treated like slaves after ensuring victory for the governor in 2016. Some of us are still in this party today because of Oshiomhole who used all of us to deliver Obaseki. But in 2020, we must have a change and if Oshiomhole refuses to give us another person and insists on Obaseki, for the first time, we will go against him. After laboring, we saw a situation whereby people from Lagos and Delta state are now enjoying the fruit of our labour. If they say they are not sharing money, we have no problem with that, but we have not even seen the development they promised to give us with the money. All we are still seeing today are Oshiomhole’s legacies which they are trying to destroy including the five star Benin Central hospital. But we will not allow them. We will fight anybody who tries to destroy Oshiomhole’s legacies in this state because he is our father, we will not fail to repay their ingratitude”.
The meeting however urged the party leaders to go to their respective wards and Local Governments to attract more people into the party despite the frustrations from some quarters. Reacting to the claim by the governor’s handlers that Obaseki is currently the most popular politician in the state, a chieftain of the APC in the state, Mahmud Mohammed described it as not true. “I have read so many articles both on social media and the print obviously emanating from Osadebey Avenue, where they tried in vain to argue why Obaseki deserved a second term. And unfortunately, they tend to blame other people rather than the Governor over the failure of the party in the National Assembly/Presidential election. The truth is that the governor and his cabal from Lagos and Delta State have weakened the APC in the state. The only people singing his praises are those benefiting from him. I read where they described the Governor as the most popular politician in Edo state which is not true. The question is, what made him popular now? Is it for not delivering Edo South senate which Patrick Obahiagbon contested under the APC, which also is the senatorial district of the governor? Is he popular because he could not deliver President Buhari in his ward, Local Government and senatorial district? Is he popular for marginalizing the party members? I use this opportunity to urge the state Executive of the APC to set up a committee to try those who were involved in anti-party activities during the election. The governor could be invited so we could hear from him why APC lost the election in Edo South.”
Oshiomhole had continued to keep mute about the political situation in his Edo APC, even as his loyalists are said to be campaigning for a change in the state. Apparently to douse tension, Obaseki’s camp has declared no rift between their principal and Oshiomhole. But the two men have not been together for months now. Besides, Oshiomhole was conspicuously absent when the state government celebrated the victory of the party in the House of Assembly Elections in the state where the APC won the entire 24 seats in the House. However, the next few months will be interesting in the state. The public will be eager to see how this new group, tagged Edo APC Revival Group intends to confront the Obaseki, Shaibu Movement in this brewing political contest. Of interest will also be Oshiomkhole’s position on 2020 election. The expected battle between Pastor Ize-Iyamu and Senator Urhoghide in the PDP will be another interesting contest.