Saturday 11 May 2019

2nd Term Tickets: Plots Against Obaseki, Akeredolu, Yahaya Bello Thicken

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Despite the denials and rebuttals in some quarters, the fate that befell Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State in which he was denied the opportunity of flying his party’s ticket, is hanging in the balance and may befall three other governors of the All Progressives Congress APC, if the cup doesn’t immediately ‘runneth’ over them.

The trio caught in the web of the latest power struggle in the APC, as revealed by Saturday Telegraph’s investigations, are governors Godwin Obaseki (Edo), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo) and Yahaya Bello (Kogi).

Though it is still one year to the gubernatorial election In Edo and Ondo states, while that of Kogi is to hold later in November, the drums of war are already beating in the three states known as the ‘Heartbeat of the Nation’, the ‘Confluence State’ and the Sunshine State respectively, where the battle of supremacy between some godfathers and their godsons now reign.

In the camps of the APC in the three states, supporters are pointing fingers at one another, while reactions from the nook and cranny of the states indicate that the umbrella house is divided against itself.

Intrigues in Ondo

In the Ondo State, it is no longer secret that all is not well as the supporters and opponents of the governor have openly divided the ruling party. While those against the governor are said to have laid political mines on the path of his second term ambition, Akeredolu’s supporters have been having underground moves to sustain the sixth executive governor in office.

For those in the governor’s camp, the massive infrastructural developments, regular payment of salaries and developmental policies would get him the second term ticket, while many APC leaders who supported the election of Akeredolu in 2016 and felt cheated in the disbursement of political patronage are ganging up against those in the governor’s camp.

Some of those who felt cheated in the disbursement of government patronages have vowed that, “even if Akeredolu likes, he should tar all the roads in the state with gold”, he would not get the second term as his getting another term in office would send them into political oblivion.

Another hurdle Akeredolu has to cross include the array of people eyeing his position in the ruling APC. Among those interested in the party’s ticket are, the Executive Director Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) and close political associate of President Muhammadu Buhari, Mr Ife Oyedele; a former governorship candidate, Chief Olusola Oke; and pioneer Chairman of the APC in the state, Hon Duerimini Isaacs Kekemeke. Others are the Senator representing Ondo North senatorial district, Prof Robert Ajayi Boroffice; the runner-up in the APC’s primary in 2016, Dr Segun Abraham; and the Director General of Technical Aid Corps, Dr. Pius Osunyikanmi.

Apart from Oyedele that is affiliated to the Abuja power bloc, other contenders are political associates of the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, with the national secretariat in the hands of Adams Oshiomole who is said to be a Tinubu loyalist, those in Tinubu’s camp in the state are ready to deny the governor the ticket of the party.

The game plan to deny Akeredolu the party’s ticket may have been working out with the suspension of the governor from the party for alleged anti-party activities by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party. The thinking is that a suspended person would not be eligible to contest the APC’s ticket.

The governor’s opponents are also pushing for the dissolution of the party’s executive in the state and the appointment of a caretaker committee in order to make sure all the vestiges of the governor are removed before the party’s primaries.

But those in the governor’s camp said it is the people of the state that would determine their governor’s fate and not a foreign god either from Abuja or Lagos. The Senior Special Assistant to Akeredolu on Special Duties and Strategy, Dr Doyin Odebowale, who obviously spoke the mind of the governor and those in his camp blamed the shenanigans over the suspension of the governor on those who wanted to govern the state by proxy.

Odebowale in a statement said those accusing the governor of anti-party in the last general elections were the architect of anti-party in the state. A former Commissioner for Regional Integration in Osun State and former Chairman of Alimosho Local Government in Lagos State, Mr. Bola Ilori, had blamed Akeredolu for the crisis that led to the defeat of the APC in the last elections.

Ilori said the primaries that produced Akeredolu in the 2016 governorship election was fraught with irregularities and that the governor did not forgive those who did not support him in the primary election.

But Odebowale in a statement said Ilori and his sponsors laid the foundation for anti-party activities and was using their control of the APC at the centre to vilify their perceived opponents across the states in the country.

“It is not uncommon to read inanities from these characters these days. The reason is obvious. The belief that the control of the party at the centre is firmly in their grip, explains the growing audacity. They are correct to a great extent. The party leadership at that level has been able to isolate and victimise all those perceived to be antagonistic to pernicious expansionist tendencies.

“Their hyper activities have never been for service; and the irrepressible people of Ondo State are acutely aware of the lie, freely bandied by these strange progressives whose sole motive for participating in politics is to gobble the people’s commonwealth.”
Odebowale said the people of Ondo State will determine who govern them and not succumb to those who have the expansionist tendencies to rule over territories outside their domains.

Yahaya Bello walks the tight rope

In the state known as the Confluence State, the battled for the APC ticket in the November gubernatorial election is becoming uneasy for Governor Yahaya Bello, following reports that a former Chief of Naval Staff, Usman Jibril, and Mohammed Audu, the eldest son of former governor of the state, late Prince Abubakar Audu, are interested in the ticket.

Though Audu had refused to comment on his ambition, checks by our correspondents showed that he is being wooed by some leaders of the APC to succeed Bello.

Audu while reacting through a telephone conversation, said: “I don’t respond to rumour through the phone, we can only chat whenever we meet physically.”

But the speculations over the aspiration of Vice Admiral Usman Jibril, for the party’s governorship ticket, is stronger, as he is said to be a unifying force from the eastern zone of the state, to be the favourite.

Some of those supporting Jibril is of the opinion that, during his days as the Chief of Naval Staff, he influenced some remarkable projects in the state.

“Some of his projects includes the sighting of Naval base in Lokoja and Idah Local Government Area, also the establishment of Naval Secondary School at Okura, in Dekina Local government area of the state.

“The Naval school, which is said to be one of the best in the country, is currently grooming children across the country to be leaders of tomorrow”, a supporter, who craved anonymity, said.

Another contender for the race, is the former Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) President, Sanni Lulu, from Idah Local Government Area. He is said to be considered as another strong contender, following his track record as the NFF President.

One other factor that is currently going for the former football chief, is the strong backing he is enjoying from some top APC leaders both within and outside the state and.

The current Director-General of NARSDA, Professor Saidu Ogah, also a hard nut to crack in the struggle, is also said to be eyeing the ticket of the ruling party.

Another person is the third term House of Representatives member from Ikeja Federal Constituency, Hon. James Abiodun Faleke, who is from Erin Adde in Ijumu Local Government Area of Kogi State. He is said to be nursing the ambition to return to hustle for the party’s ticket, this time not as running mate but a governorship contender.

Faleke was the running mate to late Prince Abubakar Audu, during the 2015 gubernatorial election. Following his dogged fight at the court to reclaim the mandate of the late Audu, Faleke has become widely accepted by the people especially those from the Eastern part of the state.

Faleke had rejected an offer to be a deputy governor to Yahaya Bello, even when the party advised him to, saying that accepting the position as it then would have betrayed the mandate of his boss, late Audu.

When asked about his gubernatorial ambition, Faleke neither deny nor confirm the report. He said he is a current member-elect for Ikeja Federal Constituency and that his major focus, for now, is to ensure that his political brother, Femi Gbajabiamila, emerges as the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The incumbent governor Yahaya Bello, who obviously became governor through party inheritance, will for the first time, face a real political battle for re-election.

Saturday Telegraph gathered that the governor, whose expectation was to get an automatic party ticket for the second term, has practically relocated to Abuja, where he is said to be lobbying party leaders for support.

One of Bello’s traducers told Saturday Telegraph that a recent video trending in the social media, where the governor visited the National Leader of the APC, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to lobby for support, proved is level of desperation.

“Bello in the video was trying to woo Tinubu to his side, saying that he has been supporting Gbajabiamila since 2015 when he was a passive member of the party. He equally claimed that he has been supporting Gbajabiamila with his personal money and will continue to support and ensure that Gbajabiamila becomes the Speaker.

“It cannot work, the governor has already lost popularity both in the state and at the national level. It is an obvious fact that his government is currently the enemy of the people particularly, the state and local government workers and the pensioners”, he said.

A top party stalwart also informed Saturday Telegraph that the leadership of the APC is sceptical on issuing an automatic ticket to the governor, alleging that there is a complaint by the people that there is the absence of good governance under his watch.

He noted further that the party is considering a direct primary, but some are against it because it may cost the governor a return ticket, while the indirect primary is generally believed to be an automatic ticket for Yahaya Bello.

However, a source at the APC National Secretariat revealed to Saturday Telegraph that the party is still searching for a credible and acceptable candidate to fly its flag in the November gubernatorial election.

Edo power play tough for Obaseki

In Edo State, the ‘war’ is between the camp of the immediate past governor who is now National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, and that of the incumbent governor, Godwin Obaseki, and the issue is about who flies the ticket of the party as the two major camps are threatening fire and brimstone over whether Obaseki will run for the 2020 gubernatorial election or not.

Though Obaseki had upon his return from a foreign trip, denied any rift between him and his godfather, Saturday Telegraph’s investigation revealed that the duo are in no love lost.

Obaseki made the clarification at the Benin Airport upon his arrival in the state following a one-month vacation, describing the report as fake news, while imploring the people to focus on his achievements.

However, our correspondents gathered that Obaseki, who was hitherto an Oshiomhole’s ‘boy’ has fallen out of favour with his former principal over some political intrigues, which are; political appointments, the last local government election in the state, and the alleged currying of favour from those who are seen as Oshiomhole’s enemies.

Further checks show that the fight has divided the EXCO members, the legislative assembly and the leaders of the party who have split into factions. The leaders of the party, according to inside sources are sharply divided while names are being penciled among those tipped to take over from Obaseki, to the extent that there have been ongoing nocturnal meetings over the matter.

Sources close to the two parties informed Saturday Telegraph that an attempt made by the governor to settle with his ‘master’ during a recent trip to Dubai ended in a deadlock. This is because the former governor is still annoyed that, prior to the last general elections, Obaseki had gone to some perceived enemies of the Comrade to woo them to his side, a situation that infuriated the APC boss.

At the last count, more than five stalwarts of the APC have joined the political camp of Oshiomhole and scheming to take over from Obaseki. Those who are jostling for the top job include; a former deputy governor to Oshiomhole, Dr. Pius Odubu; a former PDP governorship candidate, General Charles Airhiavbere; the immediate past National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun; and about 16 members of the state assembly.

Others said to be on the list are Hon. Ganiyu Audu, Philip Shuaibu, Pastor Osagie Ize Iyamu, and Captain Hosa Okunbor, among others.

A female source told Saturday Telegraph that Obaseki had to work with Oshiomhole’s enemies during the last election because he needed to win.

“Obaseki needed to win that election, and that was why he approached those people. But Oshiomhole felt that the governor should have continued to toe his part. And in politics, you have to be your own man and fashion your way.

“Though their crisis started immediately after the appointment of commissioners, it was not this huge until the last election. What played out recently has shown that they are not going to settle the crisis now. It is the 2020 election that will determine what next.

“It is only a blind man that would say there is no cause for alarm when the war is boldly written on the party’s wall. There is serious fire on the mountain”, she said.

Though Obaseki and his predecessor have kept mute over the rumoured cold battle, some APC leaders have continued to reecho it that the chairman would do everything within his powers to ensure that Obaseki’s second term bid does not see the light of day.
Checks by our correspondents also show that the party is divided as some EXCO members are now dumping Oshiomhole to queue behind Obaseki, and vice versa.

As recently put by a stalwart of the party in the state, one does not need a prophet to know that the battle before the ‘wake and see’ governor would be a very difficult one.

The party chieftain opined that, in politics, there is no permanent friend and no permanent enemy and that it is a game of interest and numbers.

“You will agree with me that there are some people you cannot push away with the wave of hands when it comes to power game of elections”, he said, adding that the results of the 2019 general elections had thrown up many scenarios and unanswered questions when it comes to godfatherism.

Supporters for and against

In his submission, the immediate past Attorney–General and Commissioner for Justice in Edo State, Barrister Henry Idahagbon, said Obaseki did not have the political power to retire his political leaders from active politics.

During a chat with one of our reporters, Idahagbon advised those who think they are bigger than the party that brought them to power to have a rethink, stressing that no single individual, “not even the governor” has more powers than the party.

Revealing that APC stakeholders would soon determine who becomes who in Edo State, the former commissioner said: “I want to say it here loud and clear that Governor Obaseki has no political will power to retire his political leaders. Most of us have been in this business before him, we have paid our dues in Nigeria’s politics.

“The first stakeholders meeting we had thrown up controversies. Now, it is just to tell them that leaders of a political party cannot just be wished away just like that. As long as the APC is concerned, it is the stakeholders that call the bluff, and anybody or group of persons who thinks that leaders are not relevant does it at his peril.

“It is not a war between Henry Idahagbon and the governor, it is not about me, but it is about the party and the progress of APC. Those at the Government House said they will retire us from politics. How can you retire people that brought you to political limelight? Very soon we will call a stakeholder meeting across the state, that is when we would reply to them. Yes, they can call us names, they can say anything they like, it does not matter, we are justified.

“We have passed a vote of confidence on our National Chairman, for the successes recorded during the 2019 general elections in the country, and for leading APC into total victory at the polls. Oshiomhole is a leader that has earned his respect through his quality leadership style, the people of Nigeria especially APC members should be thankful to God for giving them such a pragmatic leader. Edo State is blessed to have comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole.”

“By the time we convey a full stakeholders meeting any moment from now, we will be able to chat the way forward for our people. And also know whether political leaders have a say or not. Then when the cloud is clear, we shall see the true colour of the sky”, he said.

However, one of Oshiomhole’s loyalists who asked not to be named, recently spoke with Saturday Telegraph in Abuja, where he carpeted the governor for ”not respecting the fingers that fed him”.

“In Nigeria democratic system, people make politicians, and people determined who becomes who in the political configuration of a state. So, in Edo State for instance, whether you like it or not somebody somewhere made the present governor.

“No matter his style of political abracadabra Oshiomhole is the one that holds the political key of who becomes who in Nigeria as far the APC is concerned. The average Edo voter and politician has started to feel the 2020 battle between the master and his boy.

“The big question many people are asking now is: Is Edo likely to witness an extension of Ambode’s treatment? Your answer is as good as mine. Who will this cold war consume by the time it is brought to the notice of the public? In Nigeria politics, has anyone really fought his master and survive?

The Abuja-based politician also recalled that during the short stay of Professor Osariemen Osunbor as the state governor, he fought his master, the late Chief Tony Anenih and paid dearly for it. He, however, agreed that people’s power reign supreme.
“Godswill Akpabio fought his people, he paid for it by losing his Senatorial ticket, Rochas Okorocha of Imo State fought his people by wanting to turn Imo State to the family property, and he paid for it. A former governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola, almost fall victim of godfatherism but thank God for Lagosians who stood their ground and said no to Jagaban’s plots.

“Again the outgoing Lagos State, Ambode fought his master; he also paid bitterly for it. Today, the battle has shifted to Edo State and 80 per cent of Edo people have vowed to deliver Mr. Governor from the grip of godfatherism, while others are saying no, we will teach Mr. Governor a bitter lesson of his life,” he said.

However, some members of the party who are indifferent believe that the people will settle the rift at the ballot box in 2020. One of the party chieftains, who is from Edo but based in Lagos also told our correspondents that the only way to determine the winner of this royale battle is to allow the people to vote.

Explaining that the fight is between the duo has gotten to a level that only the ballot papers can settle, the politician noted that the people’s votes would separate the two and determine the leader at the state level.

“Just recently, some loyalists of the governor mobilised supports to welcome the governor back home after a month vacation abroad, suddenly a call came from above that the red carpet reception should be called off. That was a clear show of power”, he said.
Further investigations have also shown that the Deputy Governor, Rt. Hon. Comrade Philip Shuaibu has aligned with his principal and is no longer in tune with the Oshiomhole camp. Our sources informed that Shuaibu had during a recent meeting told off his mentor and vowed to sink with his boss.

“Shuaibu has joined Obaseki in the ongoing struggle to retain power in 2020. And this has led to the people of Edo North having bad blood for the deputy governor. Those people from Edo North regard Oshiomhole as their only political leader.”

Some of Oshiomhole’s supporters did not fail to recall how the former governor in 2016, vowed to fight with the last drop of his blood in order to ensure that Obaseki succeeds him, and that when Obaseki took over the mantle of power in 2016, the relationship between him and his ‘master’ was very cordial until very when war of supremacy broke out between them over the local government elections.

The Lagos politician again said: “The local government elections were conducted in the state and both leaders try to impose candidates on the people. As a sitting governor, Obaseki resisted the move by Oshiomhole to impose candidates on him.

“He wanted to have his own political structure but that did not go down well with the APC big fish, because he wanted the governor to remain at his beck and call, forgetting that in Africa, a servant would always want his freedom”.

Our source further revealed that Obaseki had on many occasions complained to close political associates that he was getting tired of the overbearing attitude of his predecessor, and that he could not continue to pay bills to persons and leaders that would not add value to his government.

The governor was quoted as saying that he would rather channel the money into more meaningful projects that would benefit the good people of Edo rather than waste it on servicing political leaders at the detriment of the state.

Another major reason they fell apart, as shown by our investigations is that, when Obaseki came on board, he pursued some politicians out of the Government House, where he allegedly told them that Government House is not a bank, but a place to work. He was also reported to have sent some of Oshiomhole’s boys into oblivion, and took over their juicy position for his own boys.

“Most of the people Oshiomhole made were shown the way out of governance, that didn’t go down well with them. Most of the decision to get rid of the area boys from the streets of Benin was roundly applauded by the majority of Edo people, but perceived in the political circle as a show of ingratitude especially from the camp of those who never wanted him as governor.

“For those politicians whose duty is to wake up in the morning and drive posh cars in convoy to Government House to carry Ghana Must Go Bag, they were told that it was no longer business as usual, they felt disappointed and the only way to deal with him is to work against his second term ambition.

“Edo South Senatorial zone have decided to team up with Edo Central and few Edo North followers of the deputy governor to help chase out the bore heads out of town so that Obaseki can continue with the good work he has started in Edo State”.
But the man popularly called the ‘Wake and See’ governor is not bothered as shown by our checks. He was said to believe in the vote of the people, who are said to be greatly in supports of him returning.

A top government official, who confirmed the battle to Saturday Telegraph, said though the battle is tough, Obaseki will overcome.

He said: “As a top government official, right now nobody is talking about structures in Edo State, because we have one general umbrella body leadership which is that of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and the governor is also part of that umbrella body as a family.

“For us in Edo State, we are not looking at the issues that happened in Lagos as a case study, it is not yet time for us to start singing the song. Once it is time for us to sing the song, the second term of the governor would be singing”.

“For now, the governor is focusing on his initiatives and electioneering promises to deliver the greatest good to a high number of persons in Edo State, and that is our general focus for now. Obaseki may have stepped on so many toes, but give it to him, he has brought sanity into the system.

“People are very happy with him, we cannot allow one political leader to hold a state to ransom. Oshiomhole has done his part, so he should give way to some other persons. I know that it is going to be a tough battle, but people should not forget that we are politicians, we have a way of settling matters and I tell you that this issue would be settled amicably.”

Responding, one of Oshiomhole’s supporter in Edo North, Mr. Momoh Alidu, who is from Etsako said as far as politics is concerned in Edo North, Oshiomhole is the only leader they know.
“He is the one that opened our eyes to political development, so wherever he says we should go, that is what we will do. He is the one that made all the present people in Edo North holding political positions, so anyone that goes against him does it at his own peril.

“If he says we should support Obaseki we would definitely do. But I want to let our people know that Oshiomhole never loses any fight, and he is not a politician to be pushed aside.”
But a supporter of Obaseki, during an interactive session in Urhokpota Hall, said the people are firm with the governor. “You know that it is this governor that gave me this job before I was a bus driver, but now I have a government paid job, he has taken me off the streets.

“I can take care of my family without stress. So, anybody that wants to take this job away from me should be ready to take whatever he sees. We would support our governor to the last. I want to tell you that Edo people are fully ready to die for our oga. I’m using this medium to tell politicians outside the state to take their hands off Edo State politics, we will determine who becomes our governor in 2020.”

Saturday Telegraph also gathered that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has opened its doors to Obaseki incase APC denies him a second term ticket.

Confirming that the PDP is ready to pull the governor, a PDP stalwart who craved anonymity said: “Though Obaseki is not a member of our party, if he defects to PDP, we will give him an automatic ticket because he has done very well in governance.

“His people are not happy with him because of what he is doing, they are angry because he is not giving them the state money, they say is busy building prisons and courts, yes we like it because he has to chase those bad eggs out of the city.

“Anyone that contravenes the law should face the music. Prison is made for criminals if they do not want to change, they should be ready to pay the price for their offence”, he said.

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