How the relationship between the retired taciturn former soldier and the vocal, active former unionist could define the future of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC
By Simon Ebegbulem
Following the decision of two of his rivals to step down for him ahead of tomorrow’s national convention of the All Progressives Congress, APC, the chances of the leading candidate, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole almost returning unopposed were as of Press time, very promising.
The first to step down for Oshiomhole was Chief Ibrahim Emokpaire, followed by Oshiomhole’s predecessor as governor of Edo State, Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor. The remaining contender as of Press time was Mr. Clement Ebri, a former governor of Cross River State whose potentials to cause damage to Oshiomhole’s candidacy was largely being dismissed by party operatives and chieftains.
Oshiomhole’s ascendancy had been buttressed by the near universal acceptance of his aspiration by the overwhelming majority of the APC governors who in fact, control the structures that would turn in the votes at the convention ground.
It was not as if the governors easily bought into the Oshiomhole candidacy. Many of them had their own desires, but they almost without exception, capitulated once the body language of the president made it clear that the immediate past governor of Edo State was his candidate for the party’s top position.
How Oshiomhole won Buhari’s heart
After he came onboard, there were immense pressures on him to defect to the PDP on the prism that the South-South must remain a PDP enclave. Till date, Edo State remains the only enclave of the APC in the South-South region.
Even before he ascended the nation’s highest office, President Muhammadu Buhari had also observed the challenges Oshiomhole faced against the behemoth PDP.
Vanguard learned that Buhari called Oshiomhole several times to sympathise with him over his travails in the hands of the PDP. It was gathered that the President while watching the television with his wife, called Oshiomhole to inform him that he had been nursing this fear that his life may be in danger the way and manner he was fighting the PDP godfathers including the former Chairman, Board of Trustees of the PDP, Chief Tony Anenih. It was learned that Buhari was particularly worried when Oshiomhole’s former aide Olaitan Oyerinde, was killed and advised Oshiomhole to be careful that Nigeria needs him.
However, Buhari was impressed with the way and manner Oshiomhole methodically and ruthlessly decapitated the political godfathers in Edo State namely: Chief Tony Anenih and the Esama of Benin, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion. Oshiomhole’s doggedness and seeming hatred for the PDP-led administration attracted him to Buhari.
President Buhari, it was said thus saw Oshiomhole as a like mind to work with. The idea was to ensure the perpetual end of PDP in the governance of the nation. And he found a great ally in Oshiomhole in that regard.
The president was also impressed with the doggedness with which Oshiomhole stood with him in the 2015 presidential election despite the tremendous pressure brought on the then governor not to work against a fellow South-South candidate in the person of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
Following his resistance to the PDP pressures, there were alleged attempts by the then ruling PDP administration to intimidate him, efforts that did not move the comrade despite the inherent dangers to him and his close political allies.
Oshiomhole, nevertheless, remained dogged and informed them he would rather win or lose with Buhari than joining the PDP. However, after he refused to budge to their demands, there were attempts to arrest some of his chief lieutenants prior to the presidential election in 2015.
His political son, the current Deputy Governor of the state, Philip Shaibu and his family escaped with marks on their bodies after gunmen invaded their residence in the Legislative Quarters in Benin searching for him. Oshiomhole’s chief political strategist and current Secretary to the Edo State Government, Osarodion Ogie went underground with other APC leaders but remained defiant. And on the day of the presidential election, Ogie, Charles Idahosa, Chief Osaro Idah, Lawrence Orka and other APC leaders held Edo South which is the largest in population in the state, from their underground locations where they resorted to, for fear of arrest.
In the end, Oshiomhole’s efforts contributed to Buhari scoring 46 per cent of the votes, the highest he got in the South outside the South-West.
The bravery exhibited by Oshiomhole further endeared him to Buhari who was said to have called Oshiomhole after the presidential election to describe him as a ‘lion.’
And the President would have wished to work with Oshiomhole for some time before Oshiomhole left office in November 12, 2016 but he was glad that Oshiomhole ensured that the party retained the governorship in the state through the emergence of Governor Godwin Obaseki.
President Buhari was also impressed that in spite of the fact that Oshiomhole spent most of his tenure in office as governor fighting political battles against the PDP godfathers, he also radically transformed the physical landscape of the state.
This was seen when the president lavished praises on Oshiomhole when he visited the state on November 7, 2016 to commission some projects executed by Oshiomhole. The President’s visit came five days before the expiration of the tenure of Oshiomhole as governor of the state. While commending the job Oshiomhole did in the state in eight years, the President informed the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II that he will give Oshiomhole a national position after his tenure as governor.
The President repeated the comment while commissioning the state-of-the art Central Hospital building constructed by Oshiomhole. The President said that the country will be the loser if the APC failed to utilise the “people’s governor’s wisdom, skill and energy.” According to him, “it will be a pity to waste his energy by allowing him to retire. I hope there will be a higher assignment for him to do more for the nation. I congratulate the governor for his hard work. Oshiomhole is a hard working governor. We will need his services in Abuja. Thank you for inviting me. You have served two terms and you are about to leave. You deserve a place in history. I hope APC will look for a place for you because your service for the country is far from over.”
Therefore, those who have been following the President’s relationship with Oshiomhole will not be surprised when the President urged governors of the party to support the former governor for the national chairmanship position of the APC.
President has also bonded with Oshiomhole’s past personality as a unionist
Vanguard learned that sometime in 2016 before he left office as governor, he visited the Villa in company of other governors for a dinner session with the president, wearing a suit like some of the governors. It was said that Buhari sarcastically asked “who is this person?” A shocked Oshiomhole was said to have identified himself. It was said that President Buhari now told him that he didn’t know him with suits noting that he, (Oshiomhole) was not even comfortable wearing the suit. Buhari thus charged him not to lose his identity with his khaki which Nigerians know him for.
Oshiomhole’s boundless energy exhibited during past political campaigns may have also endeared him to the president.
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