Disqualifying Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State from the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship primary has set the stage for unprecedented political gestorama in the state.
The journey to the disqualification of Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki from the June 22 governorship primary of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) preceded the verdict of the Prof. Ayuba Jonathan-led screening committee.
The crisis of confidence between the governor and his former political benefactor and predecessor, as well as National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, started during the Edo State delegate congress of APC in 2018.
While the former governor, who had just resumed office as national chairman, used the opportunity to reward his loyalists and all those that worked for his emergence, Obaseki was not allowed to input his own loyalists.
Stung by Oshiomhole’s apparent attempt to maintain control of the levers of political power in the state, the governor, who had just been in office for two years, decided to take his pound of flesh last year when it was time to proclaim the 8th Edo State House of Assembly.
He played a fast one by dribbling Oshiomhole’s loyalists to ensure the emergence of Francis Okiye as Speaker, instead of Francis Ederor, preferred by the national chairman.
The disagreement over the constitution of the Assembly and configuration of its leadership threw up the simmering disaffection between the political godfather and his political godson.
Attempts by Oshiomhole to muscle his 14 loyal members-elect into the Assembly through the-contrived take over of the legislature by the National Assembly met the stout resistance of the governor and his rambunctious deputy, Philip Shuaibu.
Emboldened by the ruling of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Obaseki succeeded in resisting the pressure on him to issue another proclamation that could have enabled a united Assembly and a repeat election of principal officers.
With the 14 lawmakers-elect in limbo, Oshiomhole was forced to relocate them to Abuja, where they had remained for the past 11 months at his expense and members of the Edo Peoples Movement (EPM).
Matters came to a head after the national chairman supervised the denial of a second term ticket to the immediate past governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode, where he aligned with the sentiments of some party chieftain in the state to adopt the direct primary.
Having been convinced of the workability of the direct primary methodology to displace an incumbent, all efforts to make the national chairman recognize the rights of Obaseki as an incumbent failed, leading to the escalation of hostilities.
Signs that some mischief was afoot against Obaseki emerged last Wednesday when he went through screening exercise, during which he was asked whether his penchant for dragging the party to court does not translate to anti-party behaviour.
There were also allegations that APC performed woefully during the last presidential election in Edo State due to the perceived soft spot the governor had for the candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
The implications of excluding the governor from further participation in the candidate selection exercise are many and varied.
- The ruling party would remain embattled, seeing that it appears the decision to debar the governor had the blessing of President Muhammadu Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
- Given the general perception that Obaseki gave a good account of his mandate as governor, he might be tempted to contest the primary election on an alternative platform to test his popularity.
More importantly, first term governors in the party might interpret the development as a gradually emerging pattern and decide to show solidarity with Obaseki and insist on his participation or moving out en masse from APC.
Alternatively, Obaseki might stay put in the party and work against the APC candidate in the main election, especially given his boast that he can do just one term to ensure the end of godfatherism.
Obaseki becomes the fourth governor in the Fourth Republic to be denied a re-election ticket by his party. Others who had been denied were Akinwunmi Ambode in 2014 by the APC in Lagos State; Mallam Mala Kachallah of the All Peoples Party, APP in Borno State in 2003 who was forced to defect to the Alliance for Democracy.
The other was Dr. Chinwoke Mbadiniju of Anambra State who was ordered not to seek the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and eventually went to the AD too and lost.
Obaseki’s technical disqualification leaves the field open for three aspirants to seek the contest. Two other aspirants, Mr. Matthew Iduoriyekemwen and Engr. Chris Ogienmwonyi were also disqualified.
The disqualification of Iduoriyekemwen has compounded the options for Obaseki as it leaves him without an option among the remaining aspirants. Iduoriyekemwen was the governor’s only ally in the field of other five aspirants and was supposed to serve as his stand-in after the disqualification. He was also expected to be used as a prop in the judicial process. He was disqualified for supposedly taking the party to court leaving the field for three aspirants who have largely been inclined towards the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole led tendency in the party.
Ogienmwonyi was disqualified for discrepancies in the names in the credentials submitted to the party. Ogienmwonyi was aligned to the Oshiomhole tendency in Edo State. His disqualification would apparently give the impression that the party was fair handed in dealing with everyone involved.