With the adoption of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu as consensus aspirant of the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led faction of the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), ahead of the Edo State Governorship election primaries of the party slated for 22 June, the stage is now set for the clash of the titans, the final showdown between incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu, to clinch the ticket of the party in the election.
After a vigorous screening exercise that lasted the whole of last Tuesday, Ize-Iyamu emerged consensus aspirant of the faction, ahead of other aspirants in the faction, namely, Dr. Pius Odubu, Oshiomhole’s former Deputy, Engr. Chris Ogiemwonyi, 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 who was accused of allegedly “abandoning leaders of the party,” has however vowed to slug it out with loyalists of his benefactor till the end.
Members of the screening committee included Mr. Francis Alimikhena, the Senator representing Edo, 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 Representatives, Gen. Cecil Esekhaigbe and Mr. Patrick Obahiagbon.
Sources close to the screening process disclosed to this medium that “everything went smoothly according to the plans of those who wrote the script for the exercise.” He added that six of the seven members of the screening are loyal supporters of Adams Oshiomhole, hence, “it went like clock work.”
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 decide to either go ahead to obtain nomination forms of the APC, or move to other political parties entirely.
It is pertinent to state clearly here, that the Oshiomhole faction of the party 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 from whom they need to watch their backs.
Speaking about the outcome of the screening process, a staunch supporter of one of the aspirant of the Oshiomhole’s faction who asked not to be named, 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, Adams Oshiomhole, in connivance with a strong external force, deliberately arranged everything 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 Ishihara 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 allegations is another kettle of fish.”
Another side of the task ahead for Oshiomhole is the wranglings in the National Working Committee of his party. The Deputy National Chairman of the party (North), Sen. Lawal Shuaibu, last Wednesday 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 violation of Article 20 (v) on page 76 of the APC constitution as amended where only the National Executive Committee is the only organ that SHALL approve such guidelines and regulations which includes 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 State, as against the indirect primaries used to elect candidates 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 insists 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 is no gain saying 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.
Some 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.
According to them, “We and Edo people are surprised and disappointed that Comrade Oshiomhole who ought to understand your patriotic desire to end corruption in Nigeria and define governance at all levels from a more progressive dimension could go to the PDP to bring Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu who has no good reputation or capacity into APC with the main aim of using him to fight Governor Godwin Obaseki.
“Last two weeks, the EPM group met in Benin City amidst the ban on public gathering due to the coronavirus to organise a mock primary to elect the consensus candidate that they will use in fighting the governor, and from information available to us, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole gave directive for them to deliver Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. Unfortunately for him, the other aspirants protested that it will not happen due to the fact that he just joined APC about three months ago, as against all of them who have remained in the party and who have joined hands to build it when Ize-Iyamu left to PDP to contest the 2016 governorship election. This fight among them led to the disruption of the meeting by thugs loyal to the other aspirants.”
The concerned stakeholders lamented that Ize-Iyamu is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over his involvement in a fraud case of N700 million.
“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.
“Mr. President, as the leader of our party who has always advised on the need to strengthen our party and follow the Constitution, we appeal that you use your good office to call the National Chairman of our party to order.
“If Oshiomhole succeeds in forcing [Ize-Iyamu] on us with his influence as the National Chairman, I can assure you that it will be another disaster waiting to happen on our party after the Bayelsa electoral tragedy occasioned by the desire of some few individuals to force a deputy governorship candidate on the party even in the face of glaring legal encumbrance,” the ground said.
In the meantime, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu on 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 described 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.”
Meanwhile, Governor Godwin Obaseki has dismissed the adoption of Ize-Iyamu as consensus aspirant of Oshiomhole’s faction, 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 resides 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 gubernatorial 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 candidate for the party in Edo State governorship 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.
“The last time we checked, the timetable released by Oshiomhole’s National Working Committee (NWC) fixed Edo Primary election for 22nd of June,2020 and it is expected to hold in Edo State, but we now hear that they have conducted the primary election three weeks before the set date in a jurisdiction far away from Edo State, making a mockery of our great party, the APC, President Muhammadu Buhari, the presidency and all other institutions and esteemed individuals associated with our party.
“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.
All fingers are crossed, as we await the imminent fallout of actions and reactions of both factions of the APC, as the election approaches.