It is now clear that the epic battle for the Edo State All Progressive Congress (APC) governorship ticket is between Governor Godwin Obaseki and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, following the emer-gence of the latter as the consensus aspirant of a camp within the party.
Ize-Iyamu emerged after a screening exercise that lasted the whole of last Tuesday, ahead of oth-er aspirants in the faction, namely, Engr Chris Ogiemwonyi, Dr. Pius Odubu, Oshiomhole’s former deputy, a former minister of state for Works, retired General Charles Airhiavbere and others.
Another frontline aspirant, Dr. Solomon Edebiri, had earlier on Tuesday announced his withdrawal from the race.
Recall that the four aspirants, Odubu, Ize-Iyamu, Airhiavbere and Ogiemwonyi, had last year formed a formidable alliance to stop the re-election bid of incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki, with each of them promising to work with whoever emerged consensus aspirant.
Obaseki’s political ordeal started last year when some party members loyal to Oshiomhole under the umbrella of Edo Peoples Movement (EPM) accused him of shutting them out of the party, af-ter working for his emergence as governor in 2016. The party leaders therefore resolved to stop Obaseki’s return bid.
To achieve their objective, the governorship aspirants loyal to the APC national chairman in a meet-ing last December, agreed to produce a consensus aspirant that would challenge Obaseki at the June 22, 2020 governorship primaries.
An earlier attempt to produce a consensus aspirant last month in Benin, the Edo State capital, ended up in a deadlock, which prompted the leaders of Oshiomhole’s faction to set up a commit-tee which last week produced Ize-Iyamu as the consensus aspirant.
Intrigues of Ize-Iyamu’s Emergence
Ize-Iyamu relocated to Abuja, the nation’s capital prior to his emergence as the group’s consensus candidate, it was gathered. He met with party chieftains, including senior government functionar-ies who were said to have pressured Oshiomhole to see reason why Ize-Iyamu should emerged as the consensus candidate.
Aspirants such as Ogiemwonyi with a more solid qualification were not selected even though it re-mains unclear the criteria the members of the screening committee adopted in producing Ize-Iyamu. Shortly after his emergence, the aspirants accepted the outcome and congratulated Ize-Iyamu.
Some of the committee members who are core loyalist to Oshiomhole included the Senator rep-resenting Edo North, Francis Alimikhena, Chief Lucky Imasuen (a former deputy governor), Peter Akpatason, a member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Thomas Okosun, a former speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Samson Osagie, a former minority whip in the House of Repre-sentatives, Gen. Cecil Esekhaigbe and Mr. Patrick Obahiagbon.
A source close to the screening process disclosed to this that “everything went smoothly according to the plans of those who wrote the script for the exercise.” He added that six of the seven mem-bers of the screening are loyal supporters of Adams Oshiomhole, hence, “it went like clockwork.”
The adoption of Ize-Iyamu as factional aspirant, might have finally put paid to the governorship ambitions of aspirants like Pius Odubu, Chris Ogiemwonyi and Charles Airhiavbere, unless they de-cide to either go ahead to obtain nomination forms of the APC, or move to other political parties entirely.
What’s more, although the Oshiomhole-led faction might have succeeded in adopting a consensus aspirant, but, it is not yet Uhuru. The real battle has just begun.
The hand writing on the wall clearly shows that beyond Obaseki, Oshiomhole and Ize-Iyamu have more internal enemies within the rank and file of the faction.
Commenting on the outcome of the screening process, a staunch supporter of one of the aspirant of the Oshiomhole’s faction who craved anonymity, said; “My brother, we have adopted a sit-down-and-look attitude. We are just watching them. If that is how they want to do their party, well and good, we will leave it for them.”
Another frontline member of the faction who did not want his name mentioned, alleged that “the national chairman of APC, in connivance with a strong external force, deliberately arranged every-thing to favour the emergence of Ize-Iyamu.”
In his word, “How could they give the party ticket to somebody who just returned to the party a few months ago, at the expense of other loyal members who have remained all these years?
“Secondly, with the way he destroyed Ize-Iyamu’s moral reputation during the last election, selling him to the electorate will be a herculean task for the party. Mind you, the masses are no longer gullible, they heard everything Oshiomhole said about Ize-Iyamu before. Clearing him of those al-legations is another kettle of fish.”
Another side of the task ahead for Oshiomhole is the wrangling in the National Working Committee of his party. The deputy national chairman of the party (North), Sen. Lawal Shuaibu, last Wednes-day accused Oshiomohole of not being transparent in the build-up to the two primary elections in Edo and Ondo states respectively.
Shuaibu in a statement, said: “With regards to Ondo and Edo primary elections, there is already an absence of transparency. The regulations issued that will guide the processes are already in viola-tion of Article 20 (v) on page 76 of the APC constitution as amended where only the National Exec-utive Committee is the only organ that shall approve such guidelines and regulations which in-cludes the mode of nominating our candidates. I am crying for APC inside me!”
Oshiomhole and his kitchen cabinet had imposed the direct primaries on Edo APC as against the indirect primaries used in electing candidate of the party in Kogi and other states in the last general elections.
A direct primary election is one in which all card-carrying members of a party come together in their various constituencies to elect candidate for a particular election. The candidate who scored the highest number of votes across the state shall be announced as the party flag bearer.
Whereas an indirect primary is one in which party members gather together at ward level to elect delegates that will represent them at the local and the state congresses.
Should the national secretariat of the APC insist on picking it’s flag-bearer for the election using the direct primaries method, as against the indirect method clamoured by the Obaseki-led faction, there are concerns that the decision could result in litigations that may eventually end up the way of Zamfara and Rivers States for the party in the last general elections, where the party ended up without candidates for all the elective positions.
Leaders of the party in the state recently cried to President Muhammadu Buhari to “save Edo from Bayelsa tragedy.” The party leaders under the aegis of ‘Concerned Edo State APC Stakeholders’ made the plea in a letter to the president, which was made available to journalists in Benin City.
The letter was jointly signed by Hon. Etiosa Ugiagbe, Chief Enakhare Odaro, Mr. Chris Omoregie, Hon. Emmanuel Umweni, Mr. Akhere Odion, Engr. Jude Okojie, Chief Dr. Edionwele Ikpea, Mrs. Odial Abubakar, Mr. Greg Onimisi and Dr. Omoruyi Graig.
They lamented the choice of Ize-Iyamu, saying it was unfortunate that he joined APC about three months ago, whereas other aspirants remained in the party and helped to build it when Ize-Iyamu left to PDP to contest the 2016 governorship election.
The concerned stakeholders further expressed concern that Ize-Iyamu is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over his involvement in a fraud case of N700 mil-lion.
“What about if he is convicted before the election? That means APC won’t have a candidate and the tragedy that happened in Bayelsa will also happen in Edo State because of the overbearing and careless action of one man. We think the time to stop it is now.”
Unfazed, Ize -Iyamu last Wednesday obtained the nomination form of the APC in Abuja. He was accompanied by other aspirants such as Prof. Ebegue Amadasun, Gen Charles Airhiavbere, Engr Chris Ogiemwonyi, Hon. Ehiozuwa Agbonayinma and Hon Saturday Uwuilekhue, among other leaders of the party in a show of solidarity and restatement of their commitment to work together irrespective of the outcome of the primary election scheduled for the 22nd of June.
The statement which was signed his director of communication and media, Mr. John Mayaki de-scribed the step as “another stride in the quest to move Edo State forward.”
He added: “By obtaining the form today, we have formally placed our name on the party’s ballot for our internal primary next month. It is another great stride.”
Governor Obaseki dismissed the adoption of Ize-Iyamu as consensus aspirant of Oshiomhole’s fac-tion, noting that APC candidate for Edo gubernatorial election cannot emerge in Abuja.
Obaseki, who responded through his special adviser on media and communication strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, said the responsibility for selecting the gubernatorial candidate for the party re-sides with the Edo State chapter of the APC, while liaising with relevant national structure of the party, and as such a consensus candidate to fly the party’s flag in the election cannot emerge in Abuja.
According to him, “The Edo State chapter of the APC, which is responsible for deploying the inner workings of the party towards the emergence of a candidate of the APC in the forthcoming guber-natorial election, resides and operates in Edo State, not Abuja.”
He said the charade in Abuja was not surprising as it was hatched and actuated by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and members of his Edo Peoples Movement (EPM), a dissident group of politicians in the state.
“It is, therefore, hilarious to hear that a so-called consensus aspirant for the party in Edo State gov-ernorship election was selected in Abuja. For us, this is a joke taken too far and clearly shows that Comrade Adams Oshiomhole once again has set the APC on a journey to perdition in Edo State as he did in Zamfara, Bayelsa, Rivers, Taraba and several other states.”
Osagie noted that under Oshiomhole, APC did not lose elections due to unpopularity but as a result of the lawless conduct choreographed by Oshiomhole, which has placed the APC in dire straits one time too many.
“Our conclusion on this matter is that like all other illegal actions taken by Oshiomhole, this too is a nullity and shall come to no-effect,” he noted.
In a similar vein, the deputy governor of Edo State, Comrade Philip Shaibu appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene in the crisis rocking the party, noting that Oshiomhole is bent on destroying the president’s anti-corruption legacy.
Shaibu, alleged that Oshiomhole was not joining forces with the president on his anti-corruption crusade, but rather aligning with a man who has a pending corruption case to contest for the gov-ernorship seat in the state.
“Oshiomhole is not joining the president’s anti-corruption crusade but rather bringing an alleged corrupt person that has a N700 million case pending in court to contest an election. Oshiomhole called this man a thief; it is the same man he is bringing to rob Edo people.”
The deputy governor also said Ize-Iyamu was not a registered member of Edo APC, and as such is not qualified to contest in the governorship election, noting, “Ize-Iyamu is not a member of the Edo APC because he is not registered in his ward.
“The constitution says for one to be a member of the APC in the State, he or she must be regis-tered member of the party in his or her ward.”
Shaibu noted that Oshiomhole’s achievements as governor can’t be compared to that of Governor Obaseki, whose successes are resounding across the state.
“The party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) said every state executive should decide on their mode of primary and submit to NWC. We have done that and stand by that resolution. Oshiomhole is an interested party and can’t decide for us,” he added.
Anti Obaseki Group Reacts
But APC members loyal to the national chairman challenged Obaseki to put aside all his fears and have the courage to participate in the forthcoming governorship primaries slated for June 22 in the state.
Chairman of the group in the state, Col. David Imuse who dared the governor at a press confer-ence held in Benin, insisted that there was no going back on the direct mode method for the gov-ernorship primaries as already pronounced by the National Working Committee (NWC) whose con-stitutional duty is to determine options for presidential, national and State Houses of Assembly elections.
He reeled out various steps allegedly taken by the governor to stop Pastor Ize-Iyamu from joining the party, collection of his nomination/expression of interest forms and others, pointing out that his fears are self-induced.
According to him, “the responsibility of who decides the mode of election for the president, gov-ernor, national and state houses of assembly is the NWC. There is nothing anybody can do about it.”
Imuse who spoke against the backdrop of claims by chairman of chairmen of the party in the 18 local government areas of the state, Mr. Ben Oghumu on Friday that Pastor Ize-Iyamu was not a member of the APC, said the party’s governorship registered online on the membership portal of the APC.
He explained that Ize-Iyamu’s foresight of registration was “in accordance with article 9.1 (ii) of the APC constitution, adding that the responsibility to validate online registration lines solely with the National Working Committee.”
On waiver, Imuse stated that, “Article 31.1 (I) refers to someone who is not a member of the APC. But even at that, article 31.2 empowers the NWC to grant a waiver to such a person if the need arises. In this instance, the waiver clause does not really apply to Pastor Ize-Iyamu.”
These are early days yet but the battle for the party’s governor ticket has been defined.