The political atmosphere in Edo is fully charged as rumours of the state governor’s endorsement of one out of 20 identified aspirants gained ground and elicited royal reaction from the Palace of the Benin monarch, Edo Bureau Chief, Victor Osehobo reports
Tension has been brewing in the Edo State chapter of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, following speculations that there may be no primaries to pick the party’s governorship candidate for the 2016 governorship elections.
The speculations followed information that pressure was being mounted on the Association of Local Government of Nigeria, ALGON, to embark on an endorsement campaign of businessman, Mr Godwin Obaseki, out of 20 politicians seeking to succeed the state governor. Obaseki has been the governor’s personal investments manager until he brought him into the state government in 2012, as chairman of the state economic team, a non-cabinet position.
While the state was agog with rumours of the plot by some ALGON officials, the governor himself at one event was praying that, “ May God give us a governor that will put Edo people first, that will respect the traditional institution and that will work for the unity of our people across the 192 wards”, an indication that the entire state would play a role in choosing his successor.
Oshiomhole further said, “As I have said repeatedly, I think all of us must work together to ensure that we have a governor who, first and foremost, believes in Benin, and who believes in the state,” while reacting to rumours that he has a favoured aspirant.
Commenting on speculation that ALGON has been ordered to endorse the aspirant, the Secretary of the Association and Chairman of Owan East Local council, Barrister Jimoh Ijegbai, said it is laughable. He said “When the time comes and as critical stakeholders in the system, we have the right to decide who our preferred choice will be but before we do that, we must consider the interest of Edo people, Edo people must come first.”
“But for now, it is too early to start thinking that way, I can assure you that not even the governor or other officials can tell us what to do. In any case when the time comes, we will do the needful. Nobody can coerce us to do what is not right.
Some other stakeholders in the party who have expressed apprehension about talks that the state governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has anointed Obaseki ahead of the primaries, noted that such moves will negate the principle of One- man- one- vote.
The Edo State chairman of the APC, Mr Anselm Ojezua, recently said the endorsement of any aspirant in the Edo APC will not be seen as an imposition, but a statement expressing preference without prejudice to the processes of our party.
Ojezua was reacting to speculation that Mr Godwin Obaseki, chairman of the state economic team and a governorship aspirant in the party has been endorsed by the state governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
Obaseki himself had stirred the hornets’ nest with his pronouncement last Sunday that the Benin people suffered humiliation in the hands of the British in 1897 when they failed to listen to the advice of his great grandfather, Chief Agho Obaseki.
Obaseki said when the British came to Benin Kingdom and wanted to do business with the Binis, his grandfather advised the then Oba of Benin, Oba Ovonranmwan N’ gba’ si, who was later deported to Calabar, to sign a treaty with the British but the monarch refused to heed the advice.
He said the end result of the failed agreement was the invasion of the Benin Kingdom and the looting of their valuable treasures by the British.
However, it is not certain if the Palace of the Oba took kindly to these words as during the week, the Benin leaders of thought, cautioned the Edo State governor Comrade Adams Oshiomhole over the dangers of playing the godfather in the race to choose his successor.
The group made up of all Benin Princes from Edo south and Chiefs of the Oba of Benin, spoke at a press conference addressed by His Royal Highness, Edun Akenzua, the Enogie of Oghobaghase at the Oba’s Palace.
They said they were taken aback by rumours that the governor was sponsoring a particular aspirant in his party APC as his ‘anointed’ successor in this year’s governorship election in the state.
The media conference came in the wake of media reports that the governor has endorsed the aspiration of the businessman, Mr Godwin Obaseki, who is the chairman of his economic team and chairman of the firm Afrinvest limited, as his successor.
In addition, the social media has been awash with posts by government media aides about Obaseki, even as the state Attorney-General, Mr Henry Idahagbon went public at a social function organised by the NUJ Edo State Council, announcing the businessman as the next governor.
The group added that whereas the governor can support any aspirant of his choice, it should not be as a ‘godfather’ as ‘godfatherism’ in Edo politics which saw to the imposition or anointing of aspirants against the wishes of Edo people was detrimental to the socio-economic and political development of the state.
“The people now know they can ask people they asked to run government how they have performed. Governor Oshiomhole came and wiped out godfatherism from our clime…when he arrived the godfather disappeared. No longer will he decide who represents our people, never again.”
According to the group, “The people of Edo State should be given free hands to determine their next governor because as the governor observed as far as 2009, ‘what makes governance difficult is that some leaders are imposed on the people that create absence of support.”
They said that the legacy which governor Oshiomhole has bestowed on Edo people, will endure forever, even far more than development projects and raising the peoples’ political awareness.
The state party chairman, Ojezua, has however, warned that the party would not hesitate to deal decisively with those threatening to foment trouble in the party on account of the rumours around Godwin Obaseki. He denied knowledge of any imposition plot by the governor, adding that it would be, “naïve and unthinkable that a seating governor will not have an interest in who succeeds him in the 2016 governorship election.
He added that having consulted with the governor on several occasions, he is assured that there will be party primaries to pick the governor’s successor and such would be a free, fair and credible contest for all aspirants.
According to Ojezua, “now we have almost 20 people parading themselves as aspirants in this party,” adding that, “ the guidelines are not far-fetched, how much contributions have they made to the upliftment of our great party and advancement of our fortunes.”
But an aspirant, Engineer Chris Ogiemwonyi who has been in the race for a long time, having dumped the PDP soon after serving as the nation’s junior minister for works, said in an interview, that it will be a complete misplacement of trust if the governor is found to be endorsing any aspirant.
He said “when you hear things like this, many people prepare to discuss things they don’t know. Oshiomhole preached one man- one- vote for five years and we saw what happened in this state, things have changed to that philosophy.”
“ I as a person like to commend people; this guy destroyed godfatherism that was in our state here before now, we had about three people deciding how things are shared but today, godfatherism is buried and our prayer is that it will never rise again in Edo State.”
Continuing, Ogienwomyi said, “…When I hear about that the governor has anointed somebody, all APC is going to do is that we are going to the field, there will be an open primary, and it is the people that decide. He has promised that there will be free and fair primaries, how will anointing come into that? If he is anointing, it is the people you should blame because the only way you can exhibit democracy, is through open ballot and that is what the man is preaching.”
He said he was set for the party primaries which he is confident will hold in 2016 for the APC to pick a candidate to face the PDP candidate in the governorship elections.
Another gubernatorial aspirant and Nollywood star, Don Pedro Obaseki, has described as shocking, the ‘betrayal of trust’ on the part of Godwin Obaseki whom he refers to as his cousin.
Don Pedro Obaseki said as it is typical of African tradition, he intimated Godwin Obaseki about his governorship intent only to be shocked that few months later, the same Godwin has now shown same interest in running for the position.
According to him, “Everybody in my family is fully aware of my ambition, they are equally aware that I am seeking for the APC ticket. I am as shocked as you are that another Obaseki is running…it really sounds funny and uncomfortable to many people outside. Me as child of tradition before I decided to run, I consulted massively with my friends and family, when am talking about my family, I don’t mean my immediate family, I mean the enlarged Obaseki and to the extent that I have done two serious events to cement that announcement of my ambition.”
‘For me, I have the corporate endorsement of the Obaseki’s clan not just the Obaseki’s clan in Nigeria but the Obaseki’s clan worldwide. Mine is not a forested ambition of one person but a collective decision of the Obaseki family.”
While it has become a two- thronged battle of sort for the Obaseki brothers, the other leg is left between the new godfather of Edo politics, comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the other 19 aspirants and the APC delegates to choose who in fact is their flag bearer.