By Ehichioya Ezomon
The ways of the politician are comparable to those of a magician, whose antics are coined in the axiom, “The more you look, the less you see.” By the way, magic is an advanced trick, which only the adept can discern or decipher.
Lately, prominent Edo sons – Governor Godwin Obaseki and his predecessor in office, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole – have put a seal of approval to this aphorism, to be true of the politician.
Both the “godson” and “godfather,” known to be at daggers-drawn, capable of inducing a bloody confrontation between their loyalists and followers, have spinned the reality: “It’s a hoax!”
They ascribed the “lie” to the handiwork of some meddlesome interlopers, such as “Abuja politicians,” journalists, and unnamed “third parties.”
According to them, the matter that attracted media and national frenzy, was purveyed by “mischief-makers” out to plunge the ‘Heartbeat of The Nation’ into anarchy.
The other day, at momentous events in the state, Obaseki and Oshiomhole proclaimed their “chumminess” as it was when they worked together in Oshiomhole’s eight-year administration.
Actually, polity watchers attribute this “closeness” to the former governor’s choice of Obaseki as his successor, and thus, his labeling of as Governor Obaseki’s political “godfather.”
The duo had lived a life of “you rub my back, I scratch your back” until early 2019 when series of events exposed their “underbelly,” to the surprise, and anger of many within and outside the state.
Governor Obaseki was the first to speak on the issue, in response to the homily delivered by the Archbishop of Benin City, Augustine Akubueze, during a mass in Benin City, to mark the 80th birthday of the first governor of Edo State, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
He said: “I thank you, very much, for the remarkable homily… and I have taken every word in your remark to heart and very seriously. I want to assure you that we are in pursuit of peace and we will have peace in Edo State.
“We have met – me and my predecessor in office – and fortunately, we do not have any fundamental issues. And… I believe that whatever third parties are trying to propagate, I am sure we can talk over it… Very soon, things will return to normalcy in Edo State.”
On the same day at the Iyamoh country home of Mr. Oshiomhole, the governor said his visit to his former boss wasn’t out of place, but as part of the celebration of Edo leaders.
“Today is Sallah, and we have just finished celebrating with the former APC national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, in Benin City, and we decided to come here to celebrate Sallah with my predecessor,” he said.
And Governor Obaseki had a word for people, who thought a rift existed between him and Oshiomhole: “Stop thinking.”
Oshiomhole was to reinforce the governor’s stand, crediting the “alleged rift” to “the creation of people with personal interest,” and the media, which “like creating factions for their own gain.”
He said the visit wasn’t unusual, as “from time to time, we have always been meeting,” and this visit “afforded me the opportunity to meet with my brother, and with people I have worked with.”
Simply put, Obaseki and Oshiomhole’s denial of a gulf between them didn’t reflect the facts on ground, which crescendoed that it was impossible to cover up, as these tell-tale signs indicate:
One: Two groups suddenly emerged in the Edo chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC). One camp vowed to stop Obaseki from his second term aspiration in 2020, while the other warned if that happened, there would be no more APC in the state.
The bandied story was Obaseki’s refusal to open the state treasury to political jobbers; and the governor affirmed this arm-twisting, and blackmail, which his traducers couldn’t sufficiently debunk.
Two: The inauguration of the Edo State House of Assembly was effected by nine of 24 Members-elect at 10.30 p.m. on June 17 – clear 10 days from the June 7 session, as early earmarked.
The “unique” inauguration erupted in series of protests, and intervention by the APC and National Assembly, which “ordered” a fresh proclamation by Governor Obaseki; and the courts that stayed further actions until the disposal of all judicial processes.
Three: A concerned Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba Ukoakpolokpolo, Ewuare II, had to report Obaseki and Oshiomhole to President Muhammadu Buhari, to prevail on them to settle their differences.
On Wednesday, July 3, the Omo N’Oba, at the head of a delegation of Traditional Rulers and Chiefs, met President Buhari, and suitably laid out the “concerns” of the established rulers.
His words: “If this crisis is not resolved now, with immediate effect, it may jeopardize the progress of the state. On behalf of the good people of Edo State, we kindly appeal to Mr. President to use your good offices to intervene and stop this crisis.”
Four: President Buhari subsequently invited, and got Obaseki and Oshiomhole talking, not only for the interest of Edo State, but that of the APC, which faces a crucial re-election for Obaseki in 2020.
This is a background sketch to the stage in which Governor Obaseki and Comrade Oshiomhole surprised the watching public that the “mutual enmity” between them was “imaginary.”
Oh, a figment of the imagination, indeed! Yet, it prompted His Royal Majesty, Oba Ewuare II, to leave the court of the Benin Kingdom on a “Save-Our-Souls” journey to Aso Rock in Abuja, to present the matter before President Buhari.
If there wasn’t a dispute, why didn’t they stop their acolytes from heating up the Edo polity with a media war, protests and solidarity rallies, even as Governor Obaseki vowed not to succumb to the dictates of a “godfather,” as Oshiomhole had “taught us”?
If “nothing burger,” why the intervention of the APC, and both chambers of the National Assembly, which arrived at the same conclusion of an “improper inauguration” of the Edo Assembly, and called for a fresh proclamation by Governor Obaseki?
And if all was well, Chief Odigie-Oyegun shouldn’t describe the scenario as, “Quite frankly, what is going on is ridiculous. We are beyond this kind. I am ashamed… It is unfortunate that Edo State has been in the news for the very wrong reasons…”
Anyway, the “combatants” have denied ever unsheathing their swords. But as we await their demonstration of amity, they should do the needful. First, appease the piece-loving people of Edo State, for instigating a “quarrel” to “knock their heads together.”
Second, led by Governor Obaseki, and Oshiomhole in tow, pay a homage to Oba Ewuare II, for defying his royal and fatherly entreaties to settle their bickering behind the scenes.
Third, a visit by Governor Obaseki to the national headquarters of the APC, to pledge his continued loyalty and commitment to the party and its ideals, and to its leadership.
And four, a visit, chaperoned by Oshiomhole, and accompanied by Obaseki, to President Buhari, in appreciation for getting them back to renewing their bonds of friendship and association.
With such a holistic reconciliation, Governor Obaseki and Comrade Oshiomhole could rally the troops ahead of the task of retaining Edo State in the APC column in the 2020 governorship poll.
* Mr. Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.