Godwin Obaseki, financial expert and governor of Edo State, is facing the greatest political battle of his life. For the embattled governor, it is a time of storm, stress and distress. Predictably, he faces a perilous future. The predicament cannot be speedily and easily ameliorated. Will he survive his current ordeals or accept his fate and proceed to political oblivion? Depending on how he is able to resolve the puzzle, he may, as from September, be aptly described as an outgoing chief executive.
On Friday, what he feared most came upon him. The power of incumbency was liquidated in Edo. To his consternation, he was disqualified by the All Progressives Congress (APC) Screening Committee, headed by Prof. Ayuba. Although the University of Ibadan had given him a clean bill of health on his degree certificate, the committee said it was still taken aback by some inconsistencies in other aspects of his credentials.
The committee sent a strong message to its members, especially gladiators nursing ambition for elective offices. The implication of the outcome of the exercise is that the shadow poll is the internal affair of the party. The party sets its criteria for lifting its flag during elections. The party owns the ticket and it is within its purview to determine the fitness of its standard bearer.
The final signal is that the party is supreme. For the Obaseki camp, the disqualification may translate into the collapse of a cherished second term agenda. This may also have serious implication for the political future of its members. According to observers, the unfolding drama underscores Obaseki’s lack of political experience on the slippery political field. It has revealed his lack of capacity for learning, and the absence of good advisers.
The misfortune has now boxed his main strategists, particularly Deputy Governor Philip Shuaibu, factional chairman Anslem Ojezua and Charles Idahosa, into confusion. They may have to return to the drawing board to re-strategise. Yet, time, which is of essence, is running out. The embattled governor had anticipated the looming disaster.
But he lacked the skill and impetus to avert it. In despair, he had raised issues over the panel’s lack of neutrality, saying that he could not hope for justice. His fate may now be similar to those of Mallam Kachalla in Borno, Obong Clement Isong in Cross River, Senator Rashidi Ladoja in Oyo and Akinwunmi Ambode in Lagos whose hopes for re-election were dashed.
It was double tragedy for a self-confident starter, who was full of bravado. Not only was Obaseki denied the right of first refusal, the primary, either based on direct or indirect mode of election, is now a no-go area. The handwriting was bold on the wall. Obaseki may have chosen to ignore it to his peril.
He had boasted that the Ambode treatment could not be replicated in his domain because Edo is not Lagos. But, when the heat was turned on him, he stormed Lagos for inexplicable help. Obviously, it was actually too late for perceived outsiders to meddle in the Edo APC internal affairs. Having challenged his benefactor, Comrade Chairman Adams Oshiomhole, to a duel by supporting the plot to remove him, the die was cast between the estranged godfather and son.
But Obaseki is perceived as a fighter, or he has posed as a formidable fighter. Therefore, the disqualification may not be the end of the matter. Yet, it is curious that the governor has decided to shun the Appeal Committee, which seemed to offer a ray of hope. He said he will not take his case to the higher panel despite its power to set aside the report of the screening committee and order a review.
Will he take his case to the National Leader, President Muhammadu Buhari, who could not successfully intervene in the Rivers, Ogun, Zamfara and Imo imbroglio? What options are now before the governor? Will he take the party to court for flouting imaginary internal democracy or violating due process? It is most likely.
But will the temple of justice see any merit in the claim of exclusion? The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is watching the chaos in the ruling party with keen interest. It has closed its governorship nomination, making speedy defection difficult for the governor. But, there is a window of opportunity.
There is room for substitution of candidates. But, will Obaseki defect to PDP? If he defects to the PDP, will the ghost of past accusation over academic certificates not also hunt him? Instructively, in 2016, PDP had cried foul, saying that Obaseki had case to answer for forgery. Or will PDP overlook its previous allegations because, as it is said, there is no permanent enemy in politics; what matters most is interest?
If Obaseki defects to PDP, what is the assurance that all the members of his camp will abandon APC and follow him? If he joins the main opposition party, will his colleagues in the Progressives Governors’s Forum support him? If they back him, will that not amount to anti-party activity on their part? It is doubtful if Obaseki will like to be a mere spectator on poll day. Will he stay in the APC and subvert it by mobilising support for the opposition at the critical time? If the governor defects to any of the smaller parties, how far can a mushroom platform go? How strong and formidable is the structure of the party on the fringe?