By Imade Osahon, Benin City
The cold war between APC chairman Adams Oshiomhole and governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki is no longer news.
There are those looking forward to a possible reconciliation and there are those who believe that the ongoing bad blood will lead to a new dawn in Edo. Since the intrigues started there have been two opportunities for the two men to meet and possibly reconcile or add a fresh angle to the crisis.
The visit of former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon to the University of Benin on May 16 and the Okpekpe Road Race on May 25 created good platforms for them to meet. They were expected to meet and people were full of expectations on the possible outcome.
After the big chance for a meeting failed at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, UBTH, the lawmaker representing Oredo West constituency in the House of Assembly, Hon.Chris Okaeben raised an alarm over alleged threat to his life. The battle for the soul of the party is between forces Loyal to the National chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and those of Governor Godwin Obaseki. Okaeben, who is one of the loyalists of Oshiomhole in the state Assembly, alleged that the executive arm of government was at war with him because of his opposition against destruction of Oshiomhole legacies in the state and some anti-people policies which, according to him, had led to some indigent women in his constituency being thrown into Oko prison for selling their products on the walkways. According to him, “the threats are coming after some people informed me that some people were planning to deal with me, that if I weren’t careful I would not be inaugurated during the swearing in of the incoming lawmakers. As you know I am one of the returning lawmakers in the House. Since this threat, I have been receiving strange calls which have made me so uncomfortable. So I am appealing to the Inspector General of Police and other security agencies to protect me and my family”.
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However, Okaeben who spoke to journalists in Benin City, narrated that “I have not done anything wrong to anybody. Why is it that members of my constituency, mainly women are languishing in Oko prison, just being arrested for trading on the walk ways? Some of these women have given birth in the prison. I also complained that the Central Hospital is still under lock and key after the former governor, Adams Oshiomhole built and equipped the hospital for Edo people. The governor now was chairman of the state Government Economic Team when Oshiomhole was governor. So why are they setting up kangaroo Committee in the state House of Assembly to rubbish the name of Oshiomhole? The hospital was fully equipped and government has refused to open it for Edo people to use and I feel we deserve to ask questions because it was done with tax money of Edo people. I have kicked against some anti-people’s policies which affected us during the presidential election. Come to think of it, the people there now were all products of Oshiomhole, including my humble self. So I asked them why will they be on the saddle to destroy Oshiomhole’s legacies? All of us have all ridden on the back of Oshiomhole to rise to where we are today. So for anybody to be cooking up evil against a man that labored and made APC stand firm in Edo State out of the six South South states, it is unbelievable and we will not allow them.”
He spoke after it was alleged that Secretary of the APC, Lawrence Okah was asked to resign his position or be removed. It was said that Okah who confirmed the development to other APC leaders and journalists, declared he would not resign since he was elected by the party members.
Edo top officials have always said there were no issues with Oshiomhole. The first chance for Godwin Obaseki and Oshiomhole to meet for the first time since tension started mounting came with the Inaugural Founder’s Day Celebration and Launching of Endowment Fund which took place at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) Thursday, 16th May, 2019, Oshiomhole was at the event but the governor was conspicuously absent even when his protocol officers throughout the event guarded his seat which was next to that of Oshiomhole. Former Head of state, Gen.Yakubu Gowon and his wife, Victoria attended. The Master of Ceremony announced several times that the governor was on his way, but he never did, fuelling rumours that the governor was avoiding his predecessor due to the on-going cold war between them. Saturday Vanguard gathered that many wanted to use the ceremony to reconcile the governor and Oshiomhole but the governor was absent.
Oshiomhole used the opportunity to speak on the five star Benin Central Hospital which his administration built and equipped with modern health care facilities and wondered why the current administration had decided to keep the hospital under lock and key.
Another was was the IAAF sanctioned Okpekpe race two weeks ago. Again, Oshiomhole attended and the governor being the host of an event that has brought Edo ingternational limelight was expected to be there. The governor had attended the event last year before the cold war started. He was missing this year.
Certainly, there’s cold war between Oshiomhole and Obaseki. There are many Edo people who have sympathy for Obaseiki, insisting that his style of governance must not be the same with Oshiomhole’s.
Obaseki’s backers easily make references to the generosity or actions of Oshiomhole which they argue could not be sustained by Obaseki as a matter of principle, style and economic circumstances. Edo people and the party, they assure, are solidly behind Obaseki.
Obaseki himself recently said “ my party is solidly behind me. I am not standing on my own. So, ignore and forget what you are reading in a section of the media. Those are people who want me to give them the money I should be using to train our teachers, provide for our children and develop the state. I will never give our people’s money to them.” He said his administration was determined to use the little resources in the state for development, especially in the education and health sectors.”We do not have all the money in Edo but whatever we have – no matter how little – we will prioritise education and healthcare. What is important to us are things that affect ordinary Edo citizens. Those are the things the APC and I stand for. We will never go back to where we are coming from. Oredo’s monthly Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) was N7 million when I came in but today working with the union and by digitalising the process, we now earn N70 million and we can do more,” he said.
“This is why we can now pay salaries and pensions. If I allow people on the streets to collect revenue, how will I pay salaries? I am being threatened and harassed with election, but I will ever remain focused and never be distracted as I continue to deliver the dividends of democracy to the people of Edo State. As a state, we have all the resources but need to manage these resources well to serve the interest of Edo people rather than serving the interest of a few. That is what I am doing; I am putting the people first”.
Oshiomhole has continued to keep mum on the political situation in the state but his foot soldiers have continued to tackle the governor, expressing regret that they helped bring him on board as governor. They also alleged that Obaseki frowned at some government officials who visited Oshiomhole during his last visit for the May 16 ceremony which Gowon graced. Sources say cabinet reshuffle is imminent in Edo and that all the loyalists of Oshiomhole may be shown the way out.