Ahead of the 2020 elections in Edo State, media is awash with the stories of a cold war between former Governor and National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and his handpicked successor, Governor Godwin Obaseki.
What Governor Obaseki is saying: The Governor has said it before that there is no rift between him and Oshiomhole. After a recent closed door meeting with party officials, Obaseki also addressed the reports as untrue and a “deliberate attempt to distract” his administration. He said that the politicians driving the narrative are ”shocked by the progress of work done and the acceptance of the governor by our people.”
During this same event, the Edo State APC chairman Anselm Ojezua gave a veiled jab at politicians seeking “reward for political supremacy.” Ojezua has also maintained the no-rift position but believes that there are actors at play behind the crisis.
What we know: Both Oshiomhole and Obaseki have maintained public decorum while their foot soldiers have been waging their battles. There is definitely a cold war between both parties, with Governor Oshiomole determined to replace his successor, according to insider accounts.
Although Oshiomhole has been relatively mum on the issue, one public hint at his displeasure with Obaseki was a recent remark he made at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital where he lamented the failure of the Obaseki-led government to open a ‘Five Star Hospital’ project he had completed during his tenure.
“People elect government to make things work. That was why I decided to build what I called Five Star hospital to replace the decayed Central Hospital. I do hope that one day that hospital will open and you will see the equipment,” Oshiomhole said.
Likewise, Governor Obaseki has made critical references to the difference in the style of his management of public revenue (as more accountable) compared to the era of his predecessor. During a recent meeting with the Nigerian Labour Congress, Obaseki said:
“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.”
Obaseki is also making his own deft political moves as well, undercutting Oshiomhole’s loyalists. For example, one of the aspirants making rounds on Oshiomhole’s rumoured list to replace Obaseki, General Charles Airhiavbere, has been suspended by his local party chapter over alleged ’anti-party’ activities during the 2019 presidential elections. A state lawmaker Chris Okaeben – an Oshiomhole ally – has also accused the Governor of threats to his life.
One plot twist: Governor Obaseki has managed to secure the sympathies of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). We are hearing that recent private visits and public endorsements of the Governor by opposition leaders such as Sir Gabriel Igbinedion and Tom Ikimi might be connected with the alternative plans by the Governor should he be edged out by the pro-Oshiomhole forces.