Edo: Political obsequy of the godfather – By Louis Odion, FNGE

Adams Oshiomhole

So, after all the feint and razzle-dazzle, the victory dance of Osagie
Ize-Iyamu would be aborted even before it started. For the gangling matador
expected to lead PDP’s chariot against the foe on September 10, how ironic that
the first attack came, barely 24hrs later, in form of a vicious dagger-stab in
the back from within his own party.
 By disclaiming the primaries that
crowned Ize-Iyamu as PDP’s standard-bearer in the Edo governorship contest some
80 days away, factional national chairman, Ali Modu Sheriff, has effectively
set the cat among the pigeons in what remains of a once formidable party.
 Pray, in the days ahead, on what moral
ground, high or low, will PDP be perching to promise Edo people salvation and
prosperity when it is in disarray itself? It is clear the aspiring physician
himself is in dire need of healing to begin with.

 In a letter addressed to the Independent
National Electoral Commission (INEC), Sheriff dismissed the Monday event staged
by the Ahmed Makarfi faction at the Sam Ogbemudia stadium as an exercise in
futility because the “caretaker committee is illegal”. For doubters,
he has since unfolded an elaborate timetable for the “authentic”
congress beginning from yesterday and climaxing June 29, barring any unforeseen
circumstance.

Louis Odion

 Even before Sheriff threw (a) spanner in
the works on Tuesday, the two challengers Ize-Iyamu trounced to the ticket,
Solomon Edebiri and Mathew Iduoriyekemwen, were already sulking before the last
ballot was counted, typically alleging irregularity. Now, it remains to be seen
if they are principled enough to resist the temptation to make a gamble for
Sheriff’s own ticket.
 In the circumstance, pundits have now
found themselves in a frenzy of permutations. If Sheriff goes ahead to issue
his own ticket, will two “candidates” then run parallel campaigns in
PDP’s name in a shared determination to win the election first before seeking
court’s interpretation on who is right? Will Edo people accept to be part of
the ensuing circus? Which faction will INEC recognize?
 While contemplating the prospects of
such dark scenarios, the significance of Ize-Iyamu’s emergence Monday should
however not be lost. If nothing at all, it has hammered down the last nail in
the coffin of Tuketuke politics once glamorized by Tony Anenih, Mr. Fix-It. For
easy reference, that brand of politics refers to the cartel species in which
the word or even silence of the introverted godfather is binding. Politics was
played under a depraved ethic that normalized rigging. Power was allocated at
the pleasure of and exercised to the benefit of same godfather.

Osagie Ize Iyamu


 Tellingly, on the day Ize-Iyamu was
coronated by the dominant faction of Edo PDP the old fox from Uromi was missing
in action. Or, the worst of all fears: could Anenih be in cahoots with Sheriff?
 Whichever the case, with Sheriff on the
offensive today, it would seem the wheel of perfidy has alas turned full cycle
for PDP.
  In case the Kanuri-born undertaker is now derided as a Frankenstein
monster, his creation dates back to more than a decade ago under PDP’s old
order dominated by barons like Anenih. As ANPP governor of Borno beginning from
2003, PDP recruited Sheriff to subvert his own party, to the pleasure of
puppeteers then holed up at Aso Rock and Wadata House.
 At home, the band of thugs he nursed as
sitting governor is believed to have formed the nucleus of what is today known
as Boko Haram. When Sheriff failed to corner the headship of nascent APC in
2014, PDP top brass like Anenih rolled out a red carpet to receive back home
their Prodigal son, the wrecking ambassador. Now, the proverbial Karma is on
the prowl.
 Returning to Edo, at the height of his
imperial reign as “Mr. Fix-It” twelve years ago, Anenih had the likes
of Ize-Iyamu defenestrated from PDP for taunting him that “No man is
God”. Intoxicated with misbegotten power and consumed by an animal rage to
avenge that obloquy, the ruthless godfather drew a rare weapon. He floated the
idea of “re-registration” of members. By the time a new register was
unveiled, all the “rebels” had been summarily deleted. Such
arrogance!
 The other day, Anenih declared before a
Catholic altar in Benin City that he had forgiven those who wronged him. That
is expected of any true Christian. But while extending unsolicited amnesty to
perceived transgressors, one would have expected his gesture be prefixed with
an unqualified apology to all Edo people and indeed all and sundry across the
nation who, over the years, were made to bear the affliction spread by his own
toxic brand of politics.

Chris Ogiemwonyi


 That the old godfather could no longer
afford to stand in the way of the train that ferried Ize-Iyamu to the Markafi’s
ticket last Monday in Benin City only helps to underscore not just the tectonic
shift in the intra-party behavior of PDP, but also the changing texture of Edo
politics generally. Now stripped of the federal talisman and with the
proverbial “oxygen mask” from Abuja effectively demobilized, Anenih
has overnight morphed into a political vegetable, swallowing his once
elephantine pride, forced to make peace with his ancient adversary in sheer
desperation for mere survival.
 Indeed, when the old godfather gnashes
his sparse denture at his growing misfortune and inability to impose candidates
on his party anymore, it simply means the stocks of democracy is rising. Voter
power is on the ascendancy.
 To an extent, it could be said that this
tendency was also reflected in the countdown and outcome of the APC primaries
which preceded PDP’s. Governor Adams Oshiomhole’s open endorsement of Godwin
Obaseki was hardly enough to extinguish the burning desire of eleven other
aspirants, with no fewer than three of them putting up a titanic fight to the
very end. So much that no one was sure where the pendulum would tilt until the
umpire’s trenchant count of “Obaseki !, Obaseki !!,
  Obaseki !!! …” became dominant in the small hours of that wet
Sunday.

Tony Anenih


 That fellow party stakeholders like Pius
Odubu (deputy governor), Chris Ogiewonyi and Ken Imasuagbon could go that far
in defiance of the governor is a testimony that our democracy has left the
Tuketuke harbour of old where no one dared look the godfather in the eyes. But
if any doubt ever lingered on who remained in firm control of Edo APC, it was
emphatically erased last Sunday with the wide margin Obaseki, Oshiomhole’s
anointed, won.
 Nonetheless, with the staccato of
lightning, thunder and sheer turbulence that had preceded June 18, the former
labour president should have been cautioned as well on the limitations of his
own charm. At no time in the past eight years has his authority within his own
very political home been this fiercely challenged. On account of that tumult at
the backyard, he must by now be fully awakened to the monster his own creation
has transformed to. Obviously, the “one man, one vote” advocacy he
had launched in 2006 then as a contender to the Dennis Osadebey house has since
assumed a life of its own. And long after the tale of the moulded bricks and
erected mortals of the past eight years would have become stale, posterity will
certainly credit the man from Iyamoh forever as the game-changer in Edo
politics.


 On the whole, what I consider a big
minus on the part of the party establishment was denying the roughly 2,600
delegates, nay the Edo public, an opportunity to hear the horde of aspirants
speak, however briefly, in the true tradition of party convention. That way, an
aperture would have been opened to directly view the minds and assess the
thinking of those wishing to succeed Oshiomhole.
 But if any man truly emerged from the
Ogbemudia Stadium in the wee hours of last Sunday greater than he went in, it
is undeniably Odubu, the first runner-up who polled 471 votes. As Ernest
Hemingway tells us, to be defeated and not surrender is the ultimate victory.
Indeed, no one gave Oshiomhole’s own deputy any chance early in the day. Not
only did he throw his hat in the ring when his boss was thought to prefer
someone else, he thereafter ran a vigorous campaign despite all odds. At the
end, he proved he was no push-over after all.
 Interestingly, in a rare show of
gallantry, five among those defeated have individually accepted the verdict and
congratulated the winner. They include Charles Airiavbere (the retired Army
general who carried PDP’s flag against Oshiomhole in 2012), Peter Esele
(immediate past president of TUC), Emmanuel Arigbe-Osula, Ebegue Amadasun and
Blessing Agbomhere.
 But the same cannot be said of Ogiewonyi
and Imasuagbon whose lack of grace in defeat is worsened by the incoherence of
argument. Incidentally, both are decampees from PDP. Before the election, they
had raised the alarm that INEC PVCs were being mopped up by Obaseki. They only
stopped beating the gong after being reminded of the inherent illogic. PVC is
used in general elections, not party convention.

Aminu Bello Masari


 For a contest supervised by Governor
Bello Masari of Katsina State (assumed to be observing the Ramadan fast as a
devout Muslim) and conducted in the open before live cameras of no fewer than three
television stations, it is quite disturbing that Ogiewonyi and Imasuagbon are
now alleging massive rigging by way of “abduction and detention of
delegates” by Obaseki’s promoter and “smuggling cloned ballots”
to the election venue.
 For instance, in one breath, they
alleged the venue was flooded with “mercenary” delegates to vote a
particular candidate. In another, they reported: “The announcement of the
final result immediately provoked a general condemnation and rejection of the
result by delegates that voted in the primaries.”
 The same “mercenary”
delegates? Haba! Being bad losers is already despicable enough. Peddling such
wonky theory is carrying self-ridicule too far.
 Curiously, the duo were silent on the
use of money in the exercise. On that note, there were only a few saints. The
delegates all had a field day feasting around. Just the way Obaseki was called
“Oshio Baba’s pikin”, Ogiewonyi (a.k.a oil sheik) and Imasuagbon
(a.k.a Rice Man) were generally seen as free-spenders.
 In fact, according to The Nation account
last Sunday, shortly after Oshiomhole left his seat in the state box for the
field while voting was ongoing, the duo, suspecting some mischief, literally
leapt in rage from their seats onto the arena and raised hell. While enjoining
the State Police Commissioner (Chris Azike) to stop the governor, Ogiewonyi
reportedly thundered: “Do you know how much I have spent? The governor
should go to his seat!”
 Visibly agitated, Imasuagbon spoke in
similar vein, claiming to have spent hundreds of million of his own money over
the years buying and sharing rice around the state.

Ali-Modu-Sheriff


 But there are other interesting aspects
of the drama that transpired among the contestants inside the Ogbemudia stadium
last Saturday that the zoom lens of the television cameras missed and have so
far not been documented by the print media.
 Before voting commenced, Ogiewonyi,
known to enjoy the strong backing of John Oyegun (APC national chairman) the
same way Obaseki had Oshiomhole’s support, engaged the governor in banters and
theatrics in the state box. Later, Odubu was locked with his boss in Azonto
shuffle for several minutes, dancing to an highlife number blaring from the
loudspeaker. Ditto Arigbe-Osula. And down the front roll in the state box, Osariemen
Osunbor, flanked by his spouse, sat throughout, looking absent-minded, except
for when he devoured a cob of boiled maize.
 When Imasuagbon materialized, he moved
over to where Oshiomhole sat and genially snatched a finger from the bunch of
banana the governor was snacking on, to the applause and admiration of
onlookers including journalists.
 In all, if there was any shocker, it is
the fact that Ogiewonyi miserably failed to live up to the hype after billions
of naira he sunk. Swindled by charlatans and conmen masquerading as political
strategists, the one-time Works minister continued to live in denial of one
grave inadequacy. He was still a PDP contractor at the birth of APC between
2013 and 2014 when the list of delegates was compiled. Without having his own
men on the original list, how could he have hoped to come in and upstage those
who dug the foundation of the castle?
 Considering the spirit of camaraderie,
the bear hugs that had permeated the state box last Saturday evening, the
puzzle is: at what point did Ogiewonyi and Imasuagbon wake up to the litany of
infractions or the “programmed fraud” now alleged? Was it after they
finished dancing Azonto with Oshiomhole that evening? It is high time our
politicians imbibed the spirit of true sportsmanship and stopped the flatulent
habit of crying wolf in defeat.
 Truth is: the strongest candidate won
the APC primaries.

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