Adams Oshiomhole, who in 2016 by-passed his own deputy, Pius Odubu, former governor, Osarhiemen Osunbor, Osarodion Ogie, his political son, former minister, Chris Ogiemwonyi, Kenneth Imasuagbon and Charles Airhiavbere and Ize-Iyamu, a founding member of APC and chairman for his re-election committee to pick Godwin Obaseki as APC candidate, might have been humbled by the outcome of last Sataurday Edo election, but the real losers are President Buhari and his APC.
What was witnessed in Bini ile Ibinu) land of anger, as their Yoruba kinsmen describe them, was a protest vote against President Buhari’s mismanagement of power, his APC intra-party crisis and our crisis of nation-building. The Binis like most other Nigerians are angry with President Buhari, who loathe politicians and political parties after using them as vehicles to attain power. Although he dressed Bola Tinubu in the robes of a party leader, President Buhai is the APC party leader and the buck stops at his table.
But because of President Buhari’s incompetence in the management of political parties, he would not even sit down to listen to Governor Godwin Obaseki’s grievances. The governor ended up being tutored by President Buhari’s unelected loyal gatekeeper. Oshiomhole, his estranged godfather suffered greater indignity. Buhari worked with his political enemies to unceremoniously remove him from office despite enjoying the support of 14 of 20 APC National Working Committee (NWC) members with three against and three neutral during a stormy meeting in June.
Yet apart from Tinubu sidelined after carrying the president on his back around the country to win the 2915 election, called upon at the last minute to mend fences among warring party members across the country, Oshiomhole was the architect of Buhari’s 2019 re-election. He inherited from Oyegun a party in disarray in most of its state chapters. Oshiomhoile had to apply the big stick against Senate President Saraki who had made the country ungovernable for three years, the empire building governors and those who wanted to create a fiefdom out of their states.
But first the politics of Edo and its political elite. It can at best be described as “politics of water has no enemy” or politics of shifting loyalty. Edo political elite are among the most educated, most resourceful and creative Nigerian politicians. They all share a common worldview of no permanent friends but permanent interests.
We remember Tony Enahoro who became an editor of a national newspaper at around 22 and remains the best parliamentarian Nigeria has ever produced. He had moved from NCNC to AG and later hobnobbed briefly with the conservatives before his death. There was General David Ejor who surfaced three days after rebel invasion of Benin claiming he rode a bicycle for three days to join the federal side. There was also an illustrious Samuel Ogbemudia who joined the group of Nigerian politicians massaging Babangida’s ego by serving as the face of his fraudulent ‘railway revolution’ which did not go beyond the repainting of old railway coaches in new colours.
Tony Anenih was the chairman Babangida’s decreed SDP. He sold off the victory of his party to please Babangida. In the 4th Republic, he became a leading member of PDP where as “Mr. Fixer”, presided over rigging of elections across the country until his retirement by Oshiomhole. His fellow Edo kinsman, Tom Ikimi who also headed Babangida’s other decreed party, the NRC rather than concede defeat in an election his party lost ‘round and square’, joined Abacha as external affairs cowboy foreign minister. He has in the current 4th Republic moved from PDP to APC and now back to PDP. Oyegun’s sympathy was for Yar’Adua during the short-lived 3rd Republic. He became part of June 12 and later became APC chairman.
As Obaseki’s backer, he is technically back to PDP with Obaseki’s last Saturday’s victory.
Oshiomhole himself was never an ACN member. He was of the Labour Party that went into a marriage of convenience with Action Congress Party (ACN) to fight the April 2007 Edo governorship election against PDP governor Osunbor who has also since joined APC. Osagie Ize-Iyamu moved from APC to contest election on the platform of PDP and returned to contest same election on APC platform four years later.
What matters to the Edo political elite is their permanent interest. Their embrace of PDP politicians indicted by the judiciary for stealing the state blind in the past did not mean they forgot where they were coming from. The failure of President Buhari and his APC to deliver on their promises is sufficient impetus. As our people say, “If the deity cannot protect me, it should at least leave me the way he met me”. Fortunately for the ever-mobile Edo political elite, this is a sentiment today shared by most Nigerians.
President Buhari may be working hard to build a solid foundation for tomorrow but a house built on a shifting sound without a solid foundation will eventually be washed away. In any case, he cannot pretend to know what Nigerian want more than Nigerians who have insisted on devolution of power because centralisation and confiscation of state resources since the end of the civil war have produced only stagnation.
While the federating states are complaining of centralisation of everything through a federal constitution which made no provision for a residual list, Buhari’s government seems to be determined to take away some freedoms secured by the states through judicial pronouncement such as state right over their waterways.
Our situation today is worse than under Lugard in 1914 and during the run up to independence in the fifties. At least under Lugard’s constitution, the native administration was staffed by locals who controlled the native treasury saddled with the responsibility of collection of taxes, half of which went to the colonial government with the native treasury retaining the other half to take care of police, hospitals, public works and local courts. That was 46 years before our independence in 1960 and 106 years ago.
The 1954 Lyttleton Constitution ensured each region had powers over law and order, education, economic development social welfare and public information. But 66 years after, Shehu Garba wants to bring community police under the Inspector General of Police that has been unable to tackle insecurity across the states while the rest of us who live in denial treat the unfolding tragedy as comedy.
The loss of Edo by APC is a pointer to what will happen in 2023 except President Buhari and his APC rediscover themselves and acknowledge their incompetence in terms of management of power, party politics, and our crisis of nation-building. Rude insults and innuendoes on leading members of ethnic nationalities that insist the president cannot substitute what he thinks Nigerians want for what Nigerians demand cannot change the groundswell of discontent as demonstrated by Edo voters. But except as some have argued, losing power to PDP in 2023 may also be part of deliberate strategy of some of Buhari’s loyal gatekeepers who are in the interest of other tendencies they serve are encouraging him to shoot himself in the leg by destroying the APC so that retailing power by the north in 2023 becomes inevitable.