Godwin Obaseki, the embattled governor of Edo state, had his moment not too long ago and almost brought down Adam Oshiomhole, the National Chairman of the All Progressives (APC).
Mr Obaseki, other APC governors, and some ministers from the South-South had put in all their political might in a plot to remove Mr Oshiomhole before the commencement of the party governorship primaries.
And, of course, that appeared to be the safest route for Mr Obaseki to easily pick the APC ticket to run for a second term as Edo governor after a once-promising relationship between him and Mr Oshiomhole became horribly sour.
Back home in his Edo State where he had served before as governor, Mr Oshiomhole had been suspended by the local chapters of the APC and thoroughly discredited in the state, obviously through the prompting of Governor Obaseki.
Time was ticking against Mr Oshiomhole.
In a matter of days, he would be kicked out of office as the APC chairman, most people had concluded.
And just in the nick of time, Bola Tinubu, the man that is highly regarded as the party’s national leader, stepped in. He said those who were plotting Mr Oshiomhole’s removal saw the national chairman as the obstacle to their 2023 political ambition.
“The Chairman has been a tireless campaigner and mobilizer for the party. He has steered the party through difficult elections. His contributions should not be undervalued now that the bulk of elections are behind us,” Mr Tinubu said in a statement in March.
Mr Tinubu said it would, therefore, be “an act of ingratitude” to remove the APC chairman.
“It is no secret that the Chairman and Edo Governor Obaseki are in dispute. This is unfortunate. However, the party has moved through proper procedures within the proper organs of the party to hopefully resolve this spat,” he added.
The sea became calm, quiet, and safe for the APC chairman, after Mr Tinubu’s statement.
Nigerian politicians share a common belief – if you do not “finish” your political enemy, if you give him a breather, he is likely to come for you with every strength he could muster, and with every ‘weapon’ he could lay hands on. And also when the fight gets dirtier, you could actually be fighting under the rule that there is no rule.
Mr Oshiomhole survived the plot, gathered some strength, and, with Mr Obaseki’s disqualification on Friday from contesting the forthcoming APC governorship primary in Edo State, it seems he has now taken his pound of flesh from his erstwhile protégé.
Oshiomhole-Obaseki political fight has been on for several months. In fact, it became an open secret in June 2019 that the two leaders were at war against each other.
The fight divided the APC in Edo state and crippled the Edo House of Assembly, where 14 elected lawmakers, out of 24, are yet to be inaugurated several months after their elections. The 14 members are loyalists of Mr Oshiomhole.
Governor Obaseki, in order to take complete charge of Edo politics, kicked Mr Oshiomhole’s loyalists, one after the other, out of political office.
But in the latter days, when it became clearer that Mr Oshiomhole and his supporters were closing in on Mr Obaseki, some of the governor’s aides, including his chief of staff, resigned from the administration.
What is Tinubu saying?
Mr Obaseki and other APC governors met with Mr Tinubu recently to seek a possible resolution of the Oshiomhole-Obaseki rift.
“Though I cannot quote exactly what he (Tinubu) said because I was not there, but essentially he took side with Oshiomhole, by insisting that they should go and do direct primary with this COVID-19 challenge that we are faced with,” Mr Obaseki’s spokesperson, Crusoe Osagie, told PREMIUM TIMES, Friday evening.
Shortly after Mr Obaseki’s meeting with Mr Tinubu in Lagos, Joe Igbokwe, an APC chieftain in Lagos and a strong supporter of Mr Tinubu wrote on Facebook, “But they said Edo is not Lagos,” apparently mocking those who had boasted that Mr Obaseki was going to trounce Mr Oshiomhole, unlike the former Lagos governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, who failed to secure a second term because of his disagreement with Mr Tinubu.
“Please fear PMB, Jagaban and Oshiomhole. These are not small boys,” Mr Igbokwe added in his Facebook post.
When the national leadership of the APC announced that the party would use direct primary (against the indirect primary canvassed by Obaseki) to choose their governorship candidate in Edo it became obvious that Mr Tinubu and others, probably including President Muhammadu Buhari, had turned their back against the Edo governor.
The disqualification may just be a confirmation that Mr Obaseki has been abandoned to face his fate.
On June 12, a few hours after Mr Obaseki’s disqualification, Mr Igbokwe again took to Facebook to celebrate the development. “Please know that APC is not PDP. Men in APC are not boys. Sometimes they take hard decisions to send some strong signals out there,” he wrote on the social media site.
PREMIUM TIMES asked Mr Obaseki’s spokesperson if the governor felt betrayed by Mr Tinubu. “I wouldn’t know, let me not react to that,” he responded.
Is Obaseki leaving APC?
Mr Obaseki’s initial statement, through his spokesperson, Mr Osagie, appeared as though he had given up on Mr Oshiomhole and APC.
“We have decided that it would be effort in futility to appeal whatever the unjust outcome of the evaluation and screening process of the APC will be, especially when Comrade Oshiomhole has declared that he is the Supreme Court and ultimate determiner of the fate and future of our great party,” the governor’s spokesperson, Mr Osagie said in the statement.
“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,” he added.
But when PREMIUM TIMES contacted Mr Osagie, Friday evening, to ask him specifically if Mr Obaseki was leaving APC, he said the governor had not said so.
Mr Obaseki has told his supporters to remain calm and wait for a further directive, Mr Osagie said.
Mr Obaseki, as it is now, has the option of heading to court to challenge his disqualification. He could also get the ticket from another party to contest for his re-election.
The chairman of APC in Edo State, Anselm Ojezua, a loyalist of the governor, gave an induction that may be Mr Obaseki’s direction.
In a statement late Friday, he said the APC only stopped the governor from using its platform not from contesting the election. He vowed Mr Obaseki will contest and win.
Nigerian politicians share another common belief that 24 hours before any election is enough time for any political maneuvering to take place and that anything can happen within such available time.
The governorship election in Edo is in September, about three months from now. Mr Obaseki still has enough time to pull out all his cards against Mr Oshiomhole.