The seemingly intractable feud between the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki and his estranged predecessor and National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole is raging and fast tearing apart the ruling party as members loyal to both gladiators have extended the tenor of the warfare through their hardline posturing.
Many believe the war has been taken over by 2023 presidential politics as gladiators seek to capture the party’s national structure ahead of the titanic battle. Although attempts to remove Oshiomhole as APC chairman failed during the last National Executive Council (NEC) meeting, when the “Any Other Business” on the agenda was shelved on the orders of the president, Muhammadu Buhari, there are strong indications that opponents of the chairman, backed by Obaseki and his supporters, are angling for an emergency NEC meeting to be held before the end of the year to finally effect Oshiomhole’s removal. But there is a slim chance of this happening since the chairman and his National Working Committee (NWC) have to call such a meeting which is unlikely in the current circumstance.
But in spite of his intense political battle, Obaseki has commended the commitment of Buhari to implementing the ‘visa on arrival’ policy for all Africans visiting Nigeria, saying it was a move that would encourage Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into the country.
But the last is yet to be heard of the feud between Obaseki and Oshiomhole, a situation that was accentuated recently by the formal declaration of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, a former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate in Edo State, whose rally was nearly vitiated with the denial of a permit by the police on account of a statewide ban on rally.
The last NEC had been planned to be the last day of Oshiomhole in office as APC chairman as governors and their allies in the executive had perfected his removal, an agenda said to have been placed under AOB before it was killed through a sudden motion for adjournment, which was sailed through especially, with Oshiomhole allowed to direct affairs at the meeting, a situation permitted by Buhari, who was the chairman.
Although a prominent source within the APC said another reason the planned removal of Oshiomhole was deliberately allowed to fail was, because after some of them studied the mood at the NEC, it was clear opponents of the chairman had not properly perfected their strategy and if allowed to run through, it could divide the party at the time because Oshiomhole too was ready with a majority of his field supporters allowed into the NEC.
According to the source, “Edo was not discussed at the meeting with the president. It was purely about the state of the party and the leadership of Oshiomhole. However, a majority of the members made it clear he should. None actually spoke in his favour as everyone agreed that the party was in trouble with him in leadership.
“But later, a few others from Lagos, Osun, and Borno felt he should be given a chance to reform himself to which many argued that his temperament and character were not suited for political party leadership.
“The president, although, said Adams was his choice after feeling dissatisfied with Oyegun’s leadership, he was however full of regrets about how things had turned out and felt whatever it takes to put the party back on its feet should be done and done in accordance with the rule of law and the party constitution”.
Another source said also described the NEC attendance as an embarrassment to Oshiomhole and a vote of no confidence on his leadership, because “every single person purportedly suspended was at the caucus and NEC. He tried to stop them from attending by sending messages to them that they were not invited, but overwhelmingly, the view of everyone was that he was usurping the power of NEC.
“In fact, the president pointedly asked him how he could even talk about the suspension, when some of the people affected had taken the party to court, and the party did not set up a body to investigate anti-party activities but to reconcile warring parties,” he noted.
However, unsatisfied with the outcome of the last NEC, the anti-Oshiomhole group was said to have begun to collect signatures of inclined members, governors especially, preparatory to the emergency NEC that is being proposed before the end of the year, because according to them, the Oshiomhole leadership must end with 2019.
One of the sources privy to the latest development hinted that one of the reasons Oshiomhole’s planned removal failed the last time was also as a result of the choice of his replacement, which they had not agreed to even when their removal plan was in top gear.
The source said that even on the day of the NEC, the anti-Oshiomhole group had not agreed on any particular candidate, because of conflicting interests and the fear of replacing him with an even worse candidate.
But that concern, the source said, seemed to have been taken care of now as the group had agreed on a certain candidate he declined to disclose and which he claimed had been approved from the top, ahead of the emergency NEC.
Even at that, there are concerns that moles in the rank of the anti-Oshiomhole might give them away and prepare Oshiomhole for the emergency NEC. That notwithstanding, the source said, “Oshiomhole’s exit is a concluded decision. When and how it would take place, are what they are yet to ascertain.”
Obaseki on his part is mobilizing some state chairmen of the party alongside governors to move against Oshiomhole. While Oshiomhole is said to still enjoy tremendous support from a broad spectrum of the party. At the moment, however, the feud between the godfather and his godson is now essentially out of their hands and it’s being driven by those positioning for the 2023 election and who gets what in the party. Tinubu and some prominent party leaders who see his continuous stay as an advantage to their ambition in 2023, while Fayemi and others are allegedly said to be mobilizing to have a new executive in place also in furtherance of their likely presidential ambition.
Meanwhile, Obaseki, while endorsing Buhari’s visa on arrival policy at a session with journalists at the Benin Airport after a trip with the president to Egypt, said the initiative, which is a trend among many countries on the continent, would encourage movement of persons, businesses and other transactions.
Obaseki had accompanied Buhari on a 2-day official visit to Egypt for the Aswan Forum, which focused on conflict, peace, and development in Africa and also looked at the devastating effect of insurgency in Nigeria’s Northeast as well as how peacebuilding and development of the affected areas could be achieved.
“The conference was on conflict, peace, and development in Africa. The issue discussed is on insurgency and its effect in the Northeast of Nigeria. How it has affected development focusing on the way to resume peacebuilding and development in the affected areas.
“The commitment of the President to receive visitors into Nigeria issuing them visa on arrival is a welcome development as it would encourage foreign direct investment. It is the trend today as Kenya has embraced the policy and many nationalists get visa on arrival in Kenya.
“It helps facilitate businesses and transactions on the continent of Africa, knowing that we need a lot of private sector investment, particularly foreign direct investment. Our concern is the issue of human trafficking and irregular migration, which leads to the displacement of people.
“The conference gave us the opportunity to discuss resettlement and what to do to address as well as reduce the incident of people wanting to leave home. I had the opportunity to discuss with Mr. President on how to help the state to deal with the issue of human trafficking and irregular migration,” he added.