By Sufuyan Ojeifo
I have never known the former Edo State Governor and National Chair of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, to be a Moslem. As far as I know him, he is a Catholic of the Christian faith. I can, therefore, confidently attack the premise on which the beleaguered Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, visited him on the occasion of the recent Eid-el-Kabir. The visit, to put it unambiguously, was not fundamentally religious. It was just an opportunity to create a locus for political benefit.
The over-the-top action of “invading” the Iyamho country home of Oshiomhole with an entourage of his new commissioners, whose appointment had spawned political animus, actually defined the shape and texture of the “surprise” visit as described by most of the syndicated media reports. But there was no reinforcing content in the meeting.
A statement by the Governor’s Special Adviser on Media and Communications, Crusoe Osagie, had provided the peg for the media reports of the visit, which failed to maximize the opportunity to prove beyond doubt that the governor was not just play-acting. Obaseki did not seek private audience with Oshiomhole to discuss the elephant in the room: the political crisis occasioned by the divisive inauguration of the State House of Assembly and subsequent dissolution of the cabinet.
When I saw the “breaking news” on one of the online news portals on Monday, August 12, 2019, I had expected Obaseki to request that his retinue of officials should step out so that he could have a one-on-one meeting with Oshiomhole on the way forward. He never did that. Instead, according to grapevines, he was exchanging banter with Oshiomhole in the presence of everyone that came with him. But because he failed to do so, two things readily came to mind: one, he possibly was unconsciously exhibiting folly and/or, two, it was possibly part of his deliberate script to create the impression that all was well between them even when it was evident that there was crisis in the APC political family in Edo.
The statement by Osagie, which was extensively quoted by the various media organs, reinforced the second possibility by creating a veneer of bogus peace in the political family. He merely communicated the hollowness in the razzmatazz that the governor created by the so-called “surprise” visit. His claim that the visit had punctured the notion that Obaseki and Oshiomhole were quarreling was laughable. Don’t enemies live together under the same roof and pretend that all is well?
It is thus pathetic that Obaseki and his group tried to hide behind a finger in dismissing the notion of adversarial relationship between him and his predecessor. And, that Oshiomhole would lay the blame at the doorsteps of the media was, understandably, a red herring. Osagie had pointed the finger at those who allegedly profit from the challenges (crisis) as those working so hard to foment or stoke the fire. He said they were the ones who were creating tension and driving division in the State.
Since, according to him, his imagined trouble makers would twist the purpose of Obaseki’s visit to Oshiomhole, I ask: what then was the essential purpose of the surprise visit? Osagie failed to state what the reasonable and essential purpose of the visit was. But the governor was quoted to have said that he had met with Oshiomhole and that efforts were being made to resolve the issues between them.
Read what the governor reportedly said at St. Paul Catholic Church, Benin, during a mass organised to mark the 80th birthday of former National Chair of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun: “We have met-me and my predecessor in office- and fortunately, we do not have any fundamental issues. And because we do not have fundamental issues, I believe that whatever third parties are trying to propagate, I am sure we can talk over it. I assure you that very soon things will return to normalcy in Edo State.”
This is simply approbating and reprobating. Osagie was reprobating on the one hand and had, yet on the other hand, reported his boss to be approbating on the issue of crisis between him and Oshiomhole. Osagie said there were no challenges, tension and division; yet Obaseki was quoted to have agreed that there were issues but that they were not fundamental. Further still, he had asserted that whatever third parties were trying to propagate could be talked over. Pray, why did the governor bother to assure us that things would return to normalcy in Edo state very soon if there were no issues?
His acceptance that things have not been normal validates the very notion of “adversarial disposition”, which his media aide, Osagie labored very hard to dismiss. In his press statement, he had touched on one of the issues that had created division and precipitated revulsion against Obaseki within the APC, to wit: the propaganda that some powerful politicians wanted the governor to share public funds to them. His claim that the funds meant for projects that would benefit the masses were being targeted for sharing was merely appealing to the sensibilities of the masses to support the governor and deride the so-called powerful politicians.
But, indeed, there was nothing of such. The problem with Obaseki remains the fact that he is unable to manage post-election success and expectations of party members and leaders. He had also tried in vain to, single-handed, impose candidates on the party in the last general election but was disallowed by Oshiomhole who ensured that the state chapter of the party adopted direct primary election to elect popular candidates instead of indirect primary election that Obaseki had planned to manipulate to foist his candidates, who were largely unpopular, on the party.
The various candidates were thus elected by party members and not by selected delegates. That was the issue. The governor had wanted to build his political structure ahead of his 2020 re-election bid, but had failed in his gambit. Fearing that he did not have the number to produce his preferred candidate as Speaker of the State Legislature, he had also resorted to self-help by deploying the gangsterish method of inaugurating the House at night in foisting the will of nine members on fifteen members that were denied the information about the inauguration of the Assembly.
It is only folly that would make anyone to dismiss these as non-issues. Jokers would further amplify that foolishness. If the exertion was to diminish the magnitude of the near consensus that the governor should issue a fresh proclamation to properly convene and inaugurate the House, Osagie and his boss, on whose behalf he communicates, have failed abysmally woefully.
It is writ-large that the APC, the Presidency and the party-dominated National Assembly are against the travesty that took place in Edo Assembly on June 17, 2019 and to cure the mischief, the governor had been variously advised to do the right thing by issuing a fresh proclamation.
Just last week, specifically on August 23, the controversial Speaker, Frank Okiye, withdrew his suit challenging the decision of the National Assembly to take over the functions of the State Assembly in the circumstance of the festering impasse. His counsel gave the court no reason for the decision. Could this be a softening of stance towards reconciliation?
This is the kind of developments that people want to see, not the “awada kerikeri” (drama extravaganza) that Obaseki displayed by his “surprise” visit to Oshiomhole at Iyamho on Sallah Day. Seriously, I never knew Obaseki could be so dramatic. I have always thought he studied Classics and had Greco-Roman philosophy under his belt. The Iyamho display was more of an appeal to political illogicality.
· Ojeifo contributed this piece via firstname.lastname@example.org