Ahead of the governorship primary, the Edo State All Progressives Congress (APC) is battling with a succession crisis. Correspondent BEN OGBEMUDIA examines the genesis of the crisis and its implications, as the chapter prepares for the exercise.
THE Edo State All Progressives Congress (APC) under the leadership of Governor Adams Oshiomhole was once a robust and united entity. This is based on the governor’s charismatic leadership and performance in the last seven years.
But, as the chapter prepares for the governorship election, the party is not united. According to observers, the crisis may get out of hand, if not nipped in the bud.
The Edo APC, which once prides itself as a united fold, is now breaking up into factions, because of the disagreement over the choice of the candidate.
It all started with the rumour that Oshiomhole has anointed a particular aspirant for the ticket and that he has directed other aspirants to go and collapse their structures and work for his preferred candidate.
This caused a stir within the rank and file of its members. This compelled the governor to come out openly to douse the tension by stating that the party will conduct an open and transparent primary for all aspirants. Nevertheless, he maintained that he has the right like other party members to support a particular candidate.
The governor while speaking at a stakeholders meeting in Government House attributed the success recorded by his administration to the collective achievements of party members. Oshiomhole added, however, that he can not be neutral in matters that may affect his environment.
His words: “I will never be afraid to take a position and to explain my position. Let me say clearly that I cannot be neutral in matters affecting my environment. If there is anyone of you who is a father of a house who will not intervene when it comes to how his house is organised, I don’t envy him. Even people who are not from Edo State, have been anxious that we get it right because they don’t want us to return to the past.”
Apparently referring to the rumour that he has endorsed a particular candidate, ahead of the primary, the governor added: “In a democracy, whether mature or growing, endorsement is legitimate and democratic. What I owe Edo people is clear to me.”
From the array of gladiators eyeing the ticket, many observers believe that the deputy governor, Dr. Pius Odubu, has the capacity and competence to pilot the affairs of the state after the exit of Oshiomhole and that he has what it takes to retain the state for the party.
They opined that his preference even by a cross section of the populace for the job is because he is calm, calculated, loyal with competence, intelligent and credible.
Unarguably, Odubu is the most experienced amongst the lot.
But, who is afraid of Odubu? That is now the question on the lips of many residents of Edo State in recent weeks.
But, it all took another dimension as perceived supporters of various aspirants began to test their muscles, trying to outwit one another with regards to the ownership of the party structure at the grassroots.
A meeting called by the leader of the party in Uhumwode to discuss the issues relating to the choice and possible preference for the governors man ended in fiasco
The attempt by the convener of the meeting, Charles Idahosa, to unveil a particular candidate in the locality was shouted down.
The Special Adviser to the Governor on Political Affairs had at the meeting told them to key into the governor’s choice.
Sources said the convener was immediately shouted down, when he broached the subject matter; saying the governor had directed party members from the area to support a particular candidate.
The party faithful, it was learnt, chorused in unison that the governor cannot tell them what to do and that, rather, he should allow all aspirants to go to the field to contest the primaries.
Later, the battle for succession was shifted to Egor Local Government Area.
Tension heightened, following the suspension of the State Vice Chairman and senatorial leader, Gentleman Amegor, with the duo describing their suspension as baseless and illegal.
In a press statement, five out of the seven chairmen of the local government areas of Edo South Senatorial Districts accused the suspended vice chairman of anti-party activity during the 2015 presidential election and failing woefully to implement the laudable objectives contained in Articles 13.9 of the party’s constitution.
The statement by Pa. Ogbomo, Hon. Henry Okhuarobo, Mr. Vincent Uwadiae and Chief Johnson, among others, also accused Amegor of failure of convene regular meetings of the district to discuss and resolve issues affecting the party.
But, in his reaction, the embattled vice chairman said his suspension by some leaders was null and void and of no effect. He added that those who suspended him are neither members of the state executives or executives of the Edo South Senatorial District Caucus of the party.
He said: “That the APC has a constitution which must be obeyed. They ought to have checked our constitution to guide them in anything they do and those to do it. And that those who signed the release are majorly decampees from another party who enjoy crises.
“I make bold to say that as a true Benin son I will not succumb to intimidation and blackmail. I am aware of those who can best serve the interest of Edo people. It is important to state categorically that all the accusation are baseless and without foundation whatsoever.”
While threatening to seek legal redress against signatories to his suspension, he urged party supporters to disregard the illegal and baseless suspension of the founding secretary of APC as it is spurious, laughable and lacks legitimacy.”
Later, ward chairmen passed a vote of no confidence on Hon. Henry Idahagbon, the Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General as leader of Egor Local Government Area.
The party, in an emergency meeting held on January 16, said the decision became inevitable, owing to the commissioner’s cynical, parochial, self-seeking and over ambitious style of leadership, which, if not nipped in the bud, would inflict further bruises on the party.
In a communique at the end of the meeting by the Egor Local Government Area party executive and ward chairmen, and made available to reporters in Benin, the party said that before Idahagbon’s appointment as leader of the APC, it has never lost any election, but has rather been the pride of the Governor Oshiomhole and the leadership of the party at the state level.
The communique said Idahagbon’s culture of divide and rule, high handedness and cluelessness resulted to the party’s defeat in the last general elections.
While the party executive urged Oshiomhole to call the commissioner to order, they said, but the collective patrimony he should stop making inciting and provocative statements that can lead to further conflict and skirmishes.
The statement added: “Idahagbon has threatened to change the names of duly elected party executives, bragging that he will be the one to decide those that will vote in the forthcoming APC governorship primaries. This statement has no doubt heightened the tension in the local government.”
But, Idahagbon described his purported suspension from the APC as ‘laughable’. The commissioner, who spoke to reporters in Benin, the state capital, said he is being castigated by those he described as forces of darkness.
He added: “On the issue of passing a vote of no confidence on my leadership, I want to say that I became a leader because a lot of people were fed up with Amegor, an individual holding four positions. He was the senatorial leader; he was the LGA leader and leader of ward 5. In fact he collected N50, 000 for his unit as unit head. He collected another N1M meant for his ward, which he failed to distribute on Election Day and that was why we lost in his unit on Election Day. The man has been suspended and he is doing everything to fight back instead of him to confront the allegation before him.
“They are just two allegations against him. First, he has not been calling party meetings since his election as senatorial leader. He has only called four to five meetings and in those meetings he will only invite people he believes are supporting his aspirant, which is wrong.
“Why didn’t they go the party’s secretariat to pass the vote of no confidence? Why was he not at senatorial meeting we held? As a senatorial leader he is not allowed to openly support any candidate but rather he is threatening everyone.”