Nigerian politics is renowned for accommodating an often benign figure – a godfather. During Godwin Obaseki’s campaign for the governorship of Edo State, his fiercest opponent Mr. Ize Iyamu used to taunt him. He often told the listening public that Adams Oshiomhole; the then State Governor was carrying Obaseki in his arms like a baby; speaking for him at every campaign venue and that Mr. Obaseki would be Oshiomhole’s stooge if elected.
Further, he urged the public to reject him. The Edo public did not reject him. They voted for him and he became the Governor of the State. Everything seemed to be working well between godfather and godson until the APC party primaries of 2019.
That was when the lamb in Obaseki woke up and turned into a lion; one that the godfather Oshiomhole did not probably know existed in the horizon. The two of them fought for the control of the State structure or machinery of the party.
Whoever controls the party’s structure is the king. Indeed, he is the one who decides who can run for office and who cannot. Oshiomhole apparently thought that Obaseki was still the lamb he thought he was.
On his part Obaseki knew that a godfather never sleeps; they always keep their two eyes open because they want to ensure that their godsons act in a manner that is prim and proper according to the rule book of the godfather.
The primaries became the first shooting ground where the two men would do their first target practice. I have no idea how the members of the State House of Assembly were divided between the two men. But it was obvious that Obaseki may not have had an overwhelming majority of the members in his palm.
If he didn’t, it meant he had to guard his loins. So he decided according to the wisdom of the battle-tested to inaugurate the State House of Assembly in the stillness of the night.
His preferred candidate Mr. Frank Okiye emerged as Speaker. That means that Mr. Obaseki had taken steps to put the affairs of the Assembly in his hands. It meant that he could organise the impeachment of any troublesome official. Also, it meant that he would be able to keep himself safe from being impeached.
Apparently Oshiomhole woke up late to discover that he had been schemed out of Edo State’s power orbit and he only had the slippery Abuja terrain to contend with as Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC). What sort of chairman would he be if he did not have control of his own house; a house he worked hard to build, he asked himself.
He had to stage a comeback fight. He asked that there should be a second and proper inauguration of the Assembly. Obaseki refused.
Oshiomhole remembered that he has friends in high places. Therefore, he appealed to the leadership of the National Assembly to intervene and to threaten that; if the second inauguration was not done; the National Assembly would take over the running of the Edo State House of Assembly.
Mr. Obaseki thought that even if he did not have friends in high places; the court may turn out to be his best friend. So to the court he went.
The court promptly ruled that the National Assembly cannot dictate to the State House of Assembly. This means that the State House of Assembly should not be seen as an extension or a junior arm of the National Assembly. From this judgement, Obaseki was able to say that the inauguration of the State House of Assembly cannot be done twice.
So, the matter is closed.
At the court front, the matter seemed temporarily closed but at another front it was opened. As it is often said, when one door closes another door may open. In this case, the door of violence was opened.
Mr. Seidu Oshiomhole, who is a member of the State House of Assembly; and some 14 other legislators-elect were attacked viciously. Those must be the legislators who were left out of the inauguration ceremony.
A few weeks later, Oshiomhole also alleged that his residence was attacked during the sallah holiday. The State Government denied that there was any attack on his residence. Also, the State Commissioner of Police, Mr. DanMallam Muhammed dismissed the report as false.
He said that the police had not only secured the residence; but they also saw Mr. Oshiomhole off at the airport to ensure that harm did not come close to him. The State Government then gave the National Chairman of the party an unsolicited advice; that he should always furnish the State Government with his itinerary so that they can “properly cater to his security.”
They told him that that is what is called protocol.
However, they did not add that they would roll out the red carpet for him each time he stepped on Edo soil. That is perhaps to be regarded as part of the protocol procedure.
Oshiomhole and his backers seem to have smelt a rat. They thought that is a Greek gift, a booby trap; a way of monitoring Oshiomhole’s movements and planning for the next attack of him.
These attacks, accusations of attacks and denials of attacks seem to be endless. At the convocation of the Edo State University at godfather Oshiomhole’s hometown; the former governor had asked Governor Obaseki, Visitor to the University and Oba of Lagos; Rilwan Akiolu to come to his residence for lunch.
As the convoy approached the residence, they were allegedly attacked by thugs. They had to turn back in anger. The godfather, Oshiomhole alleged that it was the Deputy Governor of the State; Mr. Philip Shaib who organised the attack to give him a bad name as an unfriendly host.
Mr. Obaseki made a feast of the incident and even wondered why he could not feel safe at the residence of the chairman of his party. He added that he was certain that if he visited the home of the rival Peoples Democratic Party Chairman; he would not be stoned. I would suggest that he books a flight to Abuja or Port Harcourt; or wherever else Mr. Uche Secondus, PDP Chairman lives and put his thesis to a test.
Mr. Secondus looks like a pleasant man. However, it has not yet been tested what he will do if an APC man appears at his door especially after what his party (APC) did to him and his party (PDP) in the last elections via a method called abracadabra.
Some friends of the two combatants; the godfather Oshiomhole and godson Obaseki have reportedly tried to resolve the dispute between them. Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State and the richest man in Africa; Mr. Aliko Dangote have reportedly talked to the two men.
But apparently, the warriors were not interested in having an outbreak of peace.
The presidency, I am told, have also made an effort to bring the two former friends together in the spirit of brotherliness. It doesn’t seem to have worked. Rather, it is becoming messier by the day.
One faction of the party in the state has suspended Oshiomhole. Another faction has suspended Obaseki. That means that both factions have suspended peace in the State.
So now, as Nigerian politicians like to say, “it is fight to a finish.”
State Governors of the APC seem to side with their colleague, Obaseki; apparently because some of them are being oppressed by their godfathers. Or because they are afraid that if the godfather Oshiomhole succeeds; that will be the template in other states where godfathers exist or would like to exist.
Some State Chairmen of the party appear to support Oshiomhole. This is apparently because they think Governors should be put under the feet of party apparatchik so as to maintain party supremacy and discipline.
Governorship candidates may be as meek as maidens when they are applicants looking for the job; but when they get there the meekness may melt away. They can then become their own men.
A godfather always think meekness is a virtue that a godson must wear on their sleeves forever. They do not know that meekness in politics has an expiry date. It goes out of the window when the man gets into office from the front door.
Will godfathers learn? They will not because as William Shakespeare said “there is no art to find the mind’s construction on the face.”