OPINION: A Case For Ejection Of Godwin Obaseki From APC

Edo State Governor

By John Mayaki

This distinguished committee headed by Chief Bisi Akande, one of the founding fathers and leaders of our great party, is the party’s third official attempt at reconciliation in the Edo State Chapter of the All Progressives Congress.

The first two attempts, the latest being the committee constituted and headed by the Senate President, Senator Ahmed Lawan, was scuttled by the governor of the state, Mr. Godwin Obaseki who, with a wave of the hand, publicly announced his rejection of the committee, accusing the characters involved, including fellow governors and national figures of the APC, of bias and less-than-ideal integrity.

In the case of the Senate President’s committee, Mr. Godwin Obaseki did not even wait for the committee to initiate the process of reconciling the conflicting parties in the state before filling the pages of the newspaper and other segments of the media with attacks on the personality of Senator Ahmed Lawan, emboldening his loyalists to reinforce the oppositional line of attack including the abhorrent designation of the Senate President as a “rubber stamp” official for his willingness to help the President and Leader of the APC, President Muhammadu Buhari, achieve his ‘Next Level’ mandate without the kind of institutional resistance and unnecessary grandstanding the previous Senate embarked on to the detriment of our great party.

This is worth retelling as it showcases – more recently – and symbolizes the inflammatory and careless approach Mr. Godwin Obaseki employs in the handling of matters that relate to politics and governance in Edo State, his quick resort to media blackmail of individuals he disagrees with irrespective of shared party membership and how the attacks may affect the party, disregard of stipulated party processes to conflict resolution, and an almost despotic insistence of having his own way in all matters without care for establishing a consensus or even considering other interests as it ought to be in a democracy and party decision making.

Ultimately, by choosing this path, Mr. Godwin Obaseki set the stage for the crisis in Edo State and escalated same to the point where his membership must now be stripped to avoid breaking the morale of teeming members in he has mindlessly trampled on and to preserve the principle of party supremacy that places defined laws and processes above everything else.

Mr. Godwin Obaseki’s emergence in 2016 on the platform of our great party was a direct product of the leadership of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, and the labor of numerous political actors in the 18 Local Government Areas of the state.

It is without a doubt that his journey right from the primaries to campaign and subsequently, the election itself was a political process, as is normal in party democracy, and given his own admitted limited knowledge of politics, he relied on the expertise and experience of politicians in the state loyal to our party to claim victory in a difficult contest against the formidable Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the then opposition party.

To put it simply, Mr. Godwin Obaseki emerged from a political process designed and implemented by politicians with added qualifications as professionals in various walks of life to carry on the mandate of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole whose performance and success helped the APC to build trust and gain acceptance in the state.

However, no sooner did Mr. Godwin Obaseki resume office that he began to castigate the same process that propelled him into the position. Under the pretense of ‘focusing on governance’ as though he is the first elected governor of the state, Mr. Obaseki neglected party matters and treated leaders and members of the party with disdain in an elitist, restrictive and disrespectful disposition that left many shocked, disillusioned and began to consider jumping ship.

The important work of deepening the ties of the APC with the people of Edo State and broadly the South-South region that began in 2007 before the merger as Action Congress of Nigeria and continued post-merger as the united front of the APC replaced the PDP government at the center faced a deadly prospect under Mr. Godwin Obaseki, exposing members to ridicule and promoting the damaging idea that the Edo APC is merely focused on winning elections and not managing what comes next.

Mr. Godwin Obaseki in his appointments shunned loyal party members, favored unknown individuals were incapable of passing any competence test and placed his own personal relationships above important party considerations. This was a problematic factor that resulted in the governor handing sensitive positions to members of even the opposition party, creating real problems for our leaders who had to deal with complaints of party faithful who were becoming disillusioned and wondering why the party that won the election is not forming the government as is the usual practice in every democracy across the globe.

Worse still, under the watch of Mr. Godwin Obaseki, Edo state slipped into a state of complete disrepair with critical projects abandoned and new ones commissioned and executed with sub-standard materials leading to near-immediate disintegration, a clear reversal from the days of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole whose legacy projects remain solid and visible in the state till this day. All of these made it difficult to justify the actions of Mr. Godwin Obaseki and his neglect of the party in the state, especially to members who sold the Obaseki candidacy to their friends and neighbors and became subjects of ridicule and reproach at the poor governance that followed.

When leaders of the party in the state brought these issues to Mr. Godwin Obaseki, he roundly dismissed them and forthwith, began a campaign of calumny against them in the media, spreading falsehood and depicting the leaders as “locusts”, “corrupt people” etc who are demanding that he “shares Edo people’s money” with them.

His media aides also had a field day attacking leaders of the Edo APC in the cyberspace, attaching their images to graphical illustrations bearing weighty but false allegations, effectively tarnishing their image and exposing them and family to real danger. Unsurprisingly, this reckless and dangerous action found a resistant reaction amongst members of the party whose discontent had simmered for so long.

With things coming to a head, instead of embracing dialogue and accommodating the interests of others to find a resolution and returning things back to normal, Mr. Godwin Obaseki dug deeper and began to engineer the illegal arrest and detainment of party leaders at the local level, accusing them of all manner of crimes in what represented an abuse of office, misuse of state agencies and bastardization of due process.

The first public consequence of Mr. Godwin Obaseki’s obstinacy and misguided attack on his own party structure came during the general 2019 elections when, as a result of his divisionary tactics, poor organization, fading popularity, and incompetence, Edo State lost to the PDP in the Presidential election, with the governor himself, for the first time in the history of the state, failed to deliver his own ward, Local Government Area and Senatorial District to the APC. As a matter of fact, the party obtained confidential correspondence that showed that Mr. Godwin Obaseki deliberately tanked the ambition of the party’s Edo South Senatorial candidate, Hon. Patrick Obahiagbon, causing his defeat because he felt the respected and loyal Hon. Patrick who has given years of service to the state and building the APC in Edo will not pay him fealty.

Similarly, during the primary election for the representatives of Edo State in the Edo House of Assembly, Obaseki’s growing rejection by party members also came to the fore when his attempt to rig the nomination process was resisted and credible candidates were produced. Initially, when the nomination process was concluded, Mr. Godwin Obaseki went to town decrying the process and baselessly accusing the National Chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, of swapping the list of nominated candidates in Abuja and replacing them with “unpopular choices”.

However, when the APC swept the election and produced all members for the available 24 seats in the Edo Assembly, the same man recanted his stance, attempting to claim credit for the outcome by posturing that the victory was a ‘vote of confidence’ on his administration despite his opposition to the candidates who delivered the victory and his apparent unwise attack of the National Chairman.

The lie soon came to be exposed when Mr. Godwin Obaseki, once again resorting to force and intimidation, conditioned the inauguration of the Assembly and the swearing-in of the members-elect on the selfish requirement that they relinquish their age-long, constitutionally-guaranteed practice of freely electing the leadership of the House and determining the legislative agenda and priorities of the Assembly.

Afraid of his own shadow and perhaps fearing retribution for his failed attempt to scuttle their election during the campaign and election stage, Mr. Godwin Obaseki sought to divide the Assembly by imposing a minority rule by propping Mr. Frank Okiye as the only accepted Speaker even though he lacks the backing of the majority of his colleagues and the House of Assembly is an independent arm of government that can be lobbied but not harassed into a decision.

To fulfill this selfish and condemnable desire, on the 17th of June 2019, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, acting through his Deputy, Philip Shaibu, forcefully hijacked nine out of the 24 members-elect and assembled them at the Assembly complex where they were compelled to swear oath of inauguration and purportedly elect Frank Okiye as the Speaker of the Assembly during nocturnal hours.

As follow up to this illegal action, the majority of the members-elect who refused to be a part of the sham process and insisted on the right thing, including a well-publicized and circulated proclamation of inauguration served to all members-elect indicating time and venue for the inauguration exercise contrary to the nocturnal affair conducted by the governor, came under attack by thugs led by Mr. Godwin Obaseki’s personal security aide, Michael Nwankwo, at the Golden Tulip hotel in Benin City on the 19th of June 2019. They suffered physical assault and some were hospitalized including Hon. Crossby Eribo.

Thus began a concerning wave of attacks and state-sponsored violence in the state. Even though both arms of the National Assembly controlled by our great party, in independent investigations, arrived at the resolution that Mr. Godwin Obaseki issue a fresh proclamation for the conduct of a legal and inclusive inauguration ceremony for the Edo Assembly, he refused and violated the party constitution which holds that members are not allowed to seek court intervention in internal crisis without first exhausting the stipulated means and mechanisms of conflict resolution by the leadership of the party when he dragged the National Assembly to multiple courts in the country, portraying the party as one that lacks discipline and providing the opposition at the state and national level with ammunition to offer scathing criticisms of the APC to the public.

Mr. Godwin Obaseki denied representation to dozens of constituencies in Edo state that placed their trust in the APC and doubled down in his violence and threats, including at a vanity rally held in Benin city where he essentially gave a public endorsement to non-state actors to unleash violence on anyone perceived to be against his political desires, including any delegation sent by the national leadership of the All Progressives Congress.

When the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, in his position as the leader of the party, waded into the crisis and called for all parties to abide by the party constitution, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, aware that his actions contravene the constitution and indeed all known legal laws and moral decency, personalized the call and heightened his attack on the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, framing him as an overbearing godfather and tried to turn the public against him.

On multiple occasions, including on the 3rd of November 2019 during the convocation ceremony of Edo State University, Iyamho, attended by the Oba of Lagos and other eminent guests, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, seeking to embarrass the National Chairman and pinning the state-sponsored violence he is driving on him, attacked the residence of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole with some thugs led on a motorcycle by his Deputy Philip Shaibu as seen in pictures that made the rounds on the internet. Not stopping there, using the pliable and suspended former Chairman of Edo APC, Anselm Ojezua, Mr. Godwin Obaseki carelessly and unwisely announced a said suspension of the National Chairman of the APC, a deeply embarrassing event and an affront on the National Working Committee as well as other leaders of the party across the country that endorsed the emergence of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and have expressed confidence in his service. He took the embarrassment a notch higher with his recent submission of a petition to the Police and DSS demanding the immediate arrest of the National Chairman.

As it stands, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, bent on imposing himself on the party and the state for another term, has attempted to jeopardize the growth and expansion efforts of dedicated party members who are working hard to bring new people into the party to strengthen its numbers ahead of the forthcoming election. Even though their job is already made harder by the obvious incompetence of Mr. Godwin Obaseki, he has now  restricted membership of the APC only to ingratiating persons who accept his return as an inevitable outcome even though this runs against the principle of internal democracy and non-forceful consensus that the party is built on.

This came to play when Mr. Godwin Obaseki tried to block the return of Pastor Osagie Ize Iyamu, a well-followed and influential politician in the state whose membership of the APC will definitely help her fortunes at the polls, by announcing an undemocratic ban on political gathering and rallies, setting the stage for his thugs who attacked and burned the scheduled venue where the Edo APC planned to ceremoniously receive Pastor Iyamu into its fold alongside thousands of his members.

Using this illegal ban as an excuse, even though the constitution is clear on the body with the authority to issue such ban and the conditions under which it can be used to guard against suppression of dissent and denial of the freedom to assemble and voice support for a cause, Mr. Godwin Obaseki continues to attack rallies of the APC including the ones held recently in Edo North and Edo Central to welcome defectors.

Beside the National Chairman of the party, Barrister Henry Idahagbon, Chief Lawrence Okah and other leaders of the APC in the state have come under assassination attacks for their opposition to Mr. Godwin Obaseki. While they managed to escape, other party members have not been so lucky with many still receiving treatment at various hospitals across the state for injuries suffered at the hands of thugs empowered by the state government and given a free rein to unleash terror on anyone not caving to the tyrannical desire of Mr. Godwin Obaseki. Houses have been demolished, businesses sealed and life cut short as Mr. Godwin Obaseki has blurred the line between the personal and official, using state agencies and public resources in his personal quest to crown himself King of Edo politics – against popular desire.

For months now, as Mr. Godwin Obaseki continues to ridicule leaders of the APC and disregard their attempt at managing the crisis, he has publicly opened talks with leading figures in the opposition party, fraternizing with them and fueling rumors of a plan to decimate the APC before abandoning it for another party in the coming days.

From the few cited instances and ugly incidents, it has become glaring that Mr. Godwin Obaseki is a bad party member incapable of the summoning the loyalty, decency, maturity and respect for hierarchy required to steer the ship of the APC successfully in Edo state. His actions, and inaction, have done real damage to the party, inflicted injuries on scores of members, and sowed seeds of division that can only be uprooted with him.

The party cannot move forward with the continued membership of Mr. Godwin Obaseki and his cohorts as that would be implicitly promoting the message that the leadership lacks the authority to exert punishment on an errant member that crossed every possible line in presenting an affront to the founding ideals and institutional authority of the All Progressives Congress. Worse still, given his incompetence and already cemented legacy as a traitor and treacherous individual, the people of Edo state have made clear their rejection of Obaseki. At present, because of his actions, Mr. Godwin Obaseki has become a liability and cancer to the All Progressives Congress.  A clean, surgical removal and eviction is the only possible solution.

Mayaki is a Professional Consultant on Communication, Management and Strategy.

Views expressed is solely those of the author and not that of the newspaper


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