By Madu Onuorah
Few months before the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) was almost imploding with the power blocs in the party divided into two. One side wanted the National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshoihmole, to step down from his position. The other wanted him to remain.
Expectedly, Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, backed by some of his colleagues Governors, were the frontal leaders of the Oshiohmole must go group. The other group, largely the loyalists of APC leader, Alhaji Ahmad Bola Tinubu, led by the Governors of Lagos and Osun States and the two latest beneficiaries of Oshiohmole’s reign, Governors Yayaha Bello of Kogi and Hope Uzodinma of Imo States, formed the resistance group.
The National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party was to be the battleground to test which of the two group was really in control.
Political pundits were already predicting a make or mar contest for the party when President Muhammadu Buhari, prompted by his late Chief of Staff Abba Kyari, intervened and halted the scheduled NEC meeting.
The President met with the party’s Governors twice to find a lasting peace. And in the end, a truce was reached with the Chief of staff influencing.
There was a kind of a no victor, no vanquished understanding. Obaseki was directed to accord absolute respect to his erstwhile political godfather, Oshiohmole, while Oshiomole should also respect the party’s unwritten understanding that a sitting Governor who has done well in his first term should be allowed to go for a second term.
Oshiohmole was reminded that if he could allow a badly performing Bello of Kogi a second term, he should have no difficulty in allowing Obaseki.
This meant that Oshiohmole should not try to block Governor Obaseki’s chances of securing a second term ticket.
With this brokered peace, Oshiohmole survived the removal plan which was almost done with forces against him more, but for the intervention of The Presidency.
The death of the Chief of Staff appears to have torpedoed all the accord as the combatants returned to their trenches soon after his death.
Oshiohmole’s people have lined up behind Pastor Izu-Iyamu, their common choice to replace Obaseki, all bragging that Obaseki will not smell a second term ticket of the party.
This group even ignored the havoc COVID-19 was causing in the State and continued their politicking ahead of the June gubernatorial primaries.
The Obaseki group, refusing to be weighed down by the COVID-19 challenge, have been fighting back, making efforts to establish their own faction as the authentic APC in the State.
Concerned watchers are already predicting that Edo state APC was heading the way of Zamfara and Rivers state wherein internal wrangling over gubernatorial tickets made the party lose the two states through court pronouncements.
President Buhari is currently overwhelmed by the COVID-19 challenge, especially the impending economic repercussions and would not want to be distracted by State politics of brothers refusing to embrace peace.
Moreover the cabals that usually intervene on behalf of the President are currently in disarray since they failed to have one of them replace Kyari on the COS job.
The new man, Prof Ibrahim Agboola Gambari, needed time to understand the intrigues and it does not seem he would be disposed to politicking like his predecessor, especially being an outsider.
So, the ground is now open in Edo State for a free for all fight that may end up in Court who eventually will determine who the correct ticket holder will be for the September gubernatorial elections.
Although the party’s constitution and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) guidelines give the National Chairman and the National Secretary the power to submit list of candidates, the Court has the power to determine if the candidate being submitted emerged through the laid down rules of both the Commission and the party.
In 2019 general elections, the party had submitted names in Zamfara and Rivers States but ended up losing out because the Court declared the process that produced the candidates invalid.
Concerned APC watchers are apprehensive that Edo is on the same path as these two States, given the polarized status of the party currently in the State.
The two warring groups appear to be working for this purpose because of their extreme position of if not us, let it not be the other person.
The stance is playing into the hand of a formidable opposition, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) who is working hard and praying for the escalation of the crisis.