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Apprehension grows over Oshiomhole’s feud with Obaseki, Akeredolu

…As APC, PDP enter another 'ring' in Edo, Ondo

Adams Oshiomhole appears to be wearing a “crown of thorns” as the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC). In some states controlled by the party, there has been a Babel of voices, screaming, “away with Oshiomhole”.

Some critics and aggrieved members of his party have insisted that the former Labour leader has brought more of misfortune to the party than fortune expected of him. They appear to have their reasons. But the National Chairman does not see his actions and inactions as being responsible for some of the misfortunes that had befallen the party under his watch.

Recently, he scored high, the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party, which he chairs, saying that it was the dogged leadership of the party that saw the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari, which he termed a huge feat.

But those who have blamed him for the party’s misfortune point to some instances to buttress their point.

In the 2019 general election, the APC lost Zamfara State enbloc. Candidates of the party in the state were prevented by court rulings to contest for the positions they had signified interest in. The reason was non-adherence to the letters of the Electoral Law on the conduct of party primaries. Oshiomhole was accused to have caused the problem for the party by aligning with a faction of the party rather than uniting the party for a united contest.

In Rivers State also, the scenario repeated itself. The APC was restrained from contesting the elections as a result of faulty and acrimonious primaries. As a result of in-fighting, factions emerged, which discredited the selection process within the party.

Oshiomhole’s “battle” with RochasOkorocha, a former governor of Imo State, was said to have played a huge role for the initial loss of Imo State to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) during the gubernatorial election. Under his watch also, the APC lost Adamawa and Oyo States. Some members say that there was no reason the broom party should not have retained those states if the national leadership of the party was alive to its responsibility.

It is no longer news that Oshiomhole is not enjoying a cordial relationship with the governor of his own state (Edo), Godwin Obaseki, and RotimiAkeredolu of Ondo State. The faceoff appears to have raised the apprehension level in certain quarters among the APC faithful who are wondering how the impasse would affect the party’s chances in the two states in the forth-coming off-season gubernatorial elections.

The APC and the main oppositionPDP would soon enter another ‘ring’ of political battle to take control of Edo and Ondo states.

This is sequel to the recent announcement by the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) that the Edo Governorship election will hold on September 19 while Ondo’s would be October 10 this year.

Mahmood Yakubu, INEC Chairman had at a media briefing in Abuja said the tenure of the governors of Edo and Ondo States would end on 12th November 2020 and 24th February 2021, respectively.

“Pursuant to the provisions of Section 178(2) of the 1999 Constitution and Section 25(8) of the Electoral Act 2010, elections cannot hold earlier than 150 days and not later than 30 days before the expiration of the term of office of an incumbent governor.

“Accordingly, the Commission has fixed Saturday 19th September 2020 as the date for the governorship election in Edo State and Saturday 10th October 2020 for Ondo State”, Yakubu stated.

Though according to recent deregistration of 74 political parties by the INEC, Nigeria has 18 parties but the battle for Edo and Ondo is more reserved for APC and PDP.

Since the ruling APC ousted PDP in 2015, making it an opposition party, every political contest have always been for either of them, except in Anambra State where the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) holds sway though with a slant to any of them.

Thus, without undermining any party’s clout, as far as the September 19 and October 10 governorship elections in Edo and Ondo are concerned, the battle is  squarely between the incumbent and the PDP, as each would once again, want to prove its mettle.

What makes the contest even more interesting is that the incumbent Governors of both States, Godwin Obaseki and RotimiAkeredolu are just finishing their first terms and are, from all indications, interested in seeking a second term.

However, for too long, they have been having endless battles with the National Chairman of their party, Adams Oshiomhole. And despite the seriousness of the battle ahead, they appeared to have sworn not to sheath their swords.

The continued face-off, analysts say, may jeopardise the chances of the APC in the states as the probability of the affected governors getting second term ticket is zero.

In Edo State, there has been bad blood between Oshiomhole and his successor, Obaseki since after the inauguration of the 7th Edo State House of Assembly when 15 out of 24 members ‘loyal” to the former governor were not inaugurated while nine said to be ‘loyal’ to the incumbent governor were inaugurated.

Thus, there have been verbal and physical battles between the Oshiomhole and Obaseki factions of the APC in Edo State leading to the destruction of properties and physical injuries inflicted on some members.

The height of the crisis was demonstrated recently when Edo Government submitted a written petition to the Inspector-General of Police and the Director-General of the State Security Service (DSS) demanding immediate arrest of the National Chairman for breaching the state law banning political rally.

The Deputy Governor, Philip Shuaibu who spoke to journalists in Abuja recently, on behalf ofObaseki, said:  “I am in Abuja to meet with the IG. I have a petition to the IG and to the Director of DSS to the effect that Comrade Adams Oshiomhole be arrested by the Police and be arrested by the DSS for the breakdown of law and order that he has consistently perpetrated in Edo State. We banned rallies, the IG in a letter also suspended rallies.”

By the same token, Governor Akeredolu of Ondo State and Oshiomhole have been at loggerheads since 2018 when the governor alleged that the events that took place during the party’s primaries had exposed not “only the sheer incompetence” of the APC National Chairman, but more painfully, his “shocking liking of banditry and impunity”.

Under Oshiomhole, the APC National Working Committee suspended Akeredolu for anti-party activities which, the governor claimed, “greatly affected the fortunes of its candidates in the presidential and National Assembly elections in the state”.

Even the National Reconciliation Committee, Chaired by the former interim National Chairman of the party, BisiAkande inaugurated last week was not given specific mandate to quell the crisis in Edo and Ondo where Oshiomhole, Obaseki and Akeredolu are prime actors.

At the inauguration of the Committee, the National Chairman simply told the Committee to do whatever it thinks can help to facilitate peace across the 36 states and FCT and identify intra-party conflicts or squabbles or misunderstanding in any of the 36 states of the federation and the FCT.

Handing down the terms of reference, Oshiomhole tasked the committee, to: “Identify those involved in the conflict with a view to resolving the issues and enthroning lasting peace in the party.

“The Committee shall make appropriate recommendations at the end of its exercise or from time to time as it’s deem fit.”

Speaking directly to the members of the committee, he said: “The members of this committee in your own rights, who are members of the party in your respective states and you have played roles in resolving conflicts in your respective states and even beyond;so, there is nothing here that is strange. The bottom line is that at the end of the day, we expect the party to become stronger.”

A political analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he would not be surprised to see the Zamfara and Rivers’ episodes repeating in Edo and Ondo states over some likely troublesome primaries.

“I am sorry if I sound pessimistic in this case. The way things are going on in Edo, I foresee a situation where Oshiomhole, in an attempt to show that he controls the party’s machinery at the national level, would want to manipulate the primaries to deny Obaseki the return ticket. Same may also happen in Ondo. Mind you, the two governors, by now, are aware of whatever plan that is being hatched. In that case, they may sponsor factional primaries that could now create some legal issues. If the APC does not get its acts together, they may lose the two states to the PDP. I think that Oshiomhole should come down from his high horse and allow peace to reign,” the analyst said.

Eno Isaac, a political scientist, told BDSUNDAY that it would be in the interest of Oshiomhole to ensure that the crisis in Ondo and Edo are resolved before the elections.

“I wonder why Comrade Oshiomhole doesn’t see the larger picture. For instance, if he ensures and works for the return of peace and unity in the Edo and Ondo APC, he would be one of the biggest beneficiaries. Do you know why I said so? If Zamfara and Rivers were under APC today, he would be visiting those states like a king, and would be given a rousing welcome by the governors and people of the states. If he works for the return of peace in Edo and Ondo, and the party retains power in those states, it would be to his own credit. Why is he being short-sighted? May be, he will learn his lesson, in a hard way, if APC loses Edo and Ondo, and I think at that point he should be ready to be stoned to death by aggrieved party faithful,” Isaac said.

 

James Kwen, Abuja

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