By ‘Yemi Adurotoye
In the spirit of June 12, another dream was aborted. On June 12, 1993, an historic election took place in Nigeria. An election adjudged to be so far the freest and fairest was conducted across all parts of Nigeria. It would have produced Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO) Abiola and Ambassador Babagana Kingibe as President and Vice President respectively but the announcement of the results was annulled. General Ibrahim Babangida, who was then the military president looked the other way, giving threat to security of the nation as reason.
There was turmoil. Everywhere was turbulent. After so much upheaval, demonstration by the masses and paralysis of the nation’s economy, Abiola declared himself president and was arrested. Babangida who had quit Aso Villa,ceded his position to Chief EnerstShonekan, who was pouched from corporate world as Head of Interim National Government. The rest, they say, was history.
Another June 12 played out in Benin City, capital of Edo State. The incumbent governor, Godwin Obaseki, had the dream of flying the flag of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) for his reelection bid. But it was bazenly aborted. A member of the screening committee from the national secretariat of APC brusquely announced that “the governor, Godwin Obaseki is found ineligible to participate in the party’s June 22 primary because of the discrepancies in his name on academic certificates and for taking the party to court in contravention of the party rules.”
In the screening committee’s report it was noted that Obaseki claimed he obtained Higher School Certificate from the Institute of Continuing Education in Benin but that he did not produce the certificate. The committee also claimed that the document he produced only attested to his attendance. In addition, the report pointed out that the governor’s National Youth Service Corps certificate reads‘ Obasek Godwin and that while this could be an error on the part of NYSC, the governor never took any step “to correct the anomaly.”
Obaseki and two other aspirants, Chris Ogiemwonyi and Mathew Iduoriye kenwen, were disqualified. Those cleared to take part in the primary were Mr Osaro Obaze, Dr Pius Odubu and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
The APC screening committee was headed by Prof Jonathan Ayuba, a close alley of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, national chairman of the party. Oshiomhole is Obaseki’s predecessor and benefactor. For over a year now, their relationship had turned sore. They have been at logger heads over the governor’s reelection bid.
Obaseki knew he would have to contend with Oshiomhole if he still remains the party’s helmsman. He plotted to get him butted out using his colleagues (governors). He couldn’t make it to the mountain top. The labour activist had it rough in the political scrimmage, he sweated as he was almost sent packing from the party. Obaseki’s intrigues and subterfuge failed, his plans to cut the rambunctious politician to size crashed. It was the presidency that rescued the party chair.
Oshiomhole is guilty of what he is fighting for, says pundits. He wants to be godfather and dictate the pace in Edo politics. He is the same person who had said: “He has come to put an end to godfatherism in Edo State” adducing reason to why he would not tolerate the likes of Chief Tony Anenih and others while he was in office.
The governor described the disqualification as unjust, adding that he would not appeal the exercise. The Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Communication Strategy, Crusoe Osagie, in a statement on behalf of his principal, said: “We have watched the mockery of the democratic process which Mr. Adams Oshiomhole is administering and superintending over in our great party, the All Progressives Congress.
“It has been an unfortunate, disheartening, and dreadful spectacle. We had initially asserted that going by the open display and enthronement of illegality by one man in the party that comprises several organs and eminent personalities, there is no way that Governor Godwin Obaseki would get a fair assessment in the run-up to the nomination of candidates to fly the flag of the party in the forth coming Edo governorship election.
“It is unfortunate that this open show of shame, illegality and travesty of justice is the brand of democracy which Mr Oshiomhole has reduced the APC to. We have, therefore, decided that it would be an effort in futility to appeal whatever the unjust out come of thee valuation and screening process of the APC will be. We wish Oshiomhole well in his maladministration of the party and trust that the Almighty will help our country to find the path to true liberty, freedom, and justice.”
Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, a former National Chairman of the party has reacted, advising that the disqualification should be reversed. He therefore warned: “If Obaseki’s disqualification is not reversed, APC will suffer dire consequences of it. He described the outcome of the screening exercise as a hatchet job aimed at installing a stooge that will allow some people unfettered access to the Edo State treasury. The disqualification is a clear indication that internal democracy has been murdered in APC, a party which we founded on the principles of fair play and good conscience,” he added.
To realize his second-termambition, Obaseki has approached Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). That was his Plan B, and he may be considered to run on the party’s platform. Sequel to the disqualification, the national leadership of the PDP has declared the party’s doors open to him. It was, however, not clear if the governor would get automatic ticket in the party if he decides to run on its platform.
His political strategists have advised that he should not waste time considering joining the PDP given that it is the only party that has the structure both in the state and at the national level. The party’s primary is slated for June 23 and 24 in the state. PDP might replicateinEdoStatetheconsiderationitgaveGovernorSamuelOrtomofBenueStatein2019whentheAPCdeniedhimitstickettocontestforasecondterm.
Varying political calculus are being solved as it were.Ize-Iyamu, Oshimhole’s preferred choice had emerged, as he had earlier been projected as consensus candidate. He has the backing of APC House of Representatives member caucus from the state. He ventured on healing the wounds occasioned by the privy disqualification. Local government council chairmen are with Obaseki haven defected to PDP with him.
PDP is not a pushover in Edo State as an opposition party. In the last Presidential election in the state, PDP had 275,691 votes representing 49.17 percent of the total votes while the APC got 267,842 votes. That just represents 47.77 percent of the votes. But considering the alegged discrepancy in the certificate, it becomes difficult for PDP to sleep with two eyes closed over Obaseki because of Zamafara and Bayelsa States experiences.
Now that Oshiomhole is down in history as the undertaker of APC in Edo State because Obaseki’s performance is a big plus for him.
Owing to the crisis, Chief Tony Momoh, APC chieftainan and former Minister of Information, said the party should not expect the forthcoming election to be an easy ride. “With what is happening in Edo APC, I think any party can win in the governorship election,” he had remarked. A view in consonance with most political pundits.
Adurotoye is a Journalist/Public Affairs commentator