Oshiomhole and Obaseki:Shadow boxing
When last Thursday a group of loyalists belonging to the Edo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress, APC, issued a communique asking aggrieved colleagues not to split the party as was recently done in some states, the message was clear.
The division of the party in Imo, Zamfara, and Rivers led to the electoral bruising of the party in two of the states and the legal suspense over its fate in another following the recent general election.
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Now with the Edo State governorship election drawing close, it is not surprising that positions are being taken by political actors in the state.
A camp in the party is determined to stop Governor Godwin Obaseki from getting the second term ticket of the party, and those supportive of this plot are clubbing around the name of the party’s national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
The other camp comprises those who believe that Obaseki deserves the second term ticket of the party and should not be stopped.
Not directly involved in the squabble, but watching to see how it can prey on the foibles of the ruling party is the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP which is unquestionably the most organized of any opposition party in any state in the country.
The message from those who met in Benin last Thursday was apparently directed towards the group of political actors, who have sometimes styled themselves as the forum of former political appointees. Many of them served under the immediate former governor of the state, Oshiomhole.
A week ago, the former appointees and their associates published a message to eulogise their hero, Oshiomhole over his remarkable feat in delivering the state to the APC during the last election. They noted how he won the Edo North Senate contest, but remarkably forgot that the party also lost two of the three Senate seats. They also spoke of how his intervention led to the party winning all seats in the State House of Assembly.
The import of the message was not just that without Oshiomhole that the party would be finished in the state, but also aimed at indicting the incumbent governor as a political failure.
A direct counter to that message was the communique issued last Thursday by some of the party’s leading actors drawn from all sections of the state.
In their communique on Thursday, the leaders said, “if they [mischief makers] truly love Comrade Oshiomhole as we do and as they profess, they must learn from the bitter experiences of the party in other states and help him by ensuring that the home front is peaceful so that he can pay attention to his very exerting responsibility as our national Chairman.”
That communique indeed, revealed the extent to which the battle line has been drawn in the Edo State chapter of the party.
First, by using the harsh word: mischief makers, it showed how the two camps now consider one another.
Significantly, among those who gathered last Thursday were some of the more popular political actors in the state including Usman Shagadi from Edo North, Charles Idahosa, the affable Mathew Iduoriyekemwen, and Senator Ehigie Uzamere, the first man to win re-election to the Edo South Senate seat from two different parties.
In the last one month, publications sometimes in the form of innuendo, have flooded the newspapers as the gladiators tried to sensitise the public on the unfolding battle now brewing inside a once united camp.
The angst of Obaseki’s traducers is largely the claim that he abandoned those who made it possible for him to win his famous political victory in 2016.
Indeed, following his inauguration, the governor sought to draw a line between politicking and development, an action that seemed not to have pleased some stakeholders.
Interestingly, Obaseki once thought as politically stiff has started to unbend, reaching out to political actors that were in the past ostracized by his predecessor. The particular example of the honour given to Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, may have even caused a stir in the opposition, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Igbinedion without much notice last Wednesday alongside another PDP chieftain, Chief Tom Ikimi strolled to the Governor’s Office and poured commendations on the governor in recommendation of a second term for him.
It is against this background of increased acceptability that the Oshiomhole Camp has to trudge with caution in picking up a fight against the governor ahead of next year’s nomination.
With the national chairman himself embattled with his fights with the likes of Rochas Okorocha, Ibikunle Amosun among others at the national level, creating an unstable base at home is one that the shrewd Oshiomhole will definitely not opt for.
The conventional wisdom now is that the shadow boxing that is now being seen may end up as a training exercise. For Comrade Oshiomhole, picking up the gauntlet as his boys are asking may be a price too much to pay in the light of the ferocity that may come from a well prepared PDP.