THE battle for the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, governorship ticket in Edo State is panning out as a two-horse race between Governor Godwin Obaseki and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
The duo were the chief combatants in the 2016 governorship election won by Obaseki.
After several weeks of horse-trading and negotiations that nearly broke down, six governorship aspirants — Dr. Pius Odubu, Engr. Chris Ogiemwonyi, Major-General Charles Airhiavbere (retd), Johnson Agbonyima, Saturday Uwulekhue and Prof.
Ebegue Amadasun, have stepped down for Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu as their consensus governorship aspirant for the June 22 governorship primary election.
A seventh aspirant, Solomon Edebiri, was said to have voluntarily withdrawn from the race.
Vanguard gathered that negotiations for the aspirants to agree on a consensus was reached Tuesday night in Abuja, and Ize-Iyamu was said to have come tops, after a screening by a committee set-up for the selection exercise. The screening committee was headed by former Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Francis Alimikhena, while other members included former Edo Deputy Governor, Lucky Imasuen; General Cecil Esekhaigbe (retd); ex-Edo Speaker, Thomas Okosun; former Minority Whip of the House of Representatives, Samson Osagie; ex-member of the House of Representatives, Patrick Obahiagbon and Deputy Leader of the House of Representatives, Peter Akpatason.
Ize-Iyamu and incumbent governor, Godwin Obaseki, are now to square up for the APC governorship ticket on June 22.
Sources said the negotiations and horse-trading almost broke down when Odubu complained of maltreatment, lamenting that he had been in the party without break since inception but was being side-stepped for Ize-Iyamu, who just returned after running as Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governorship candidate in 2016.
Vanguard gathered that he was persuaded to step down eventually in the interest of the APC and in support of efforts to stop Governor Obaseki.
Confirming the development, factional State Secretary of the party, Lawrence Okah, said: “We are going with him to pick the form now. There is harmony in the family. We just have one common enemy. Obaseki should go, that’s all.”
Aspirants pool funds to buy form for Ize-Iyamu It was learned that all the aspirants in the contest contributed funds to buy APC’s N22.5 million Nomination and Expression of Interest Form for Ize-Iyamu.
A statement by the Director of Communication, Ize-Iyamu Campaign Organisation, John Mayaki, shortly after he picked the nomination form, described it as “another stride in the quest to move Edo State forward.”
He said: “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 and we are thankful to the other aspirants who have joined us here today to offer support.
“There have been efforts to cause disunity in our party and pitch people against each other by those who have sadly embraced politics without principles and are openly rebelling against the leadership of our party, because they believe they have absolute power. But as it is clear from today’s event, Edo APC is united and these deviants may have a loud voice but they don’t represent the majority.
“Everyone here may have personal ambitions but we are bound together by the common desire to fast-track transformation of our state through a transparent, effective and accountable governance that will improve the living standards and social well-being of our people.”
Why we want Obaseki out Meanwhile, Pastor Ize-Iyamu has explained his grievances against Governor Obaseki, saying it would be politically suicidal for the party to present the incumbent for a second term. Ize-Iyamu, who spoke, yesterday, shortly after picking his Nomination and Expression of Interest Forms at the National Secretariat of the party in Abuja, said the aspirants and members of the APC Caucus in the House of Representatives, led by the House Deputy Leader, Comrade Peter Akpatason, contributed the N22.5 million fees to purchase the forms for him. Conceding that the governor has a right to seek a second term, he argued that such ambition was negotiable, as other APC members have rights to seek to displace him. Ize-Iyamu said he had done his best trying to counsel the governor and that the time had come to reposition the state.
His words: “We mean well for our state. We are not looking for positions simply because we need to look for something to occupy us. Even though what we have now is an APC administration, we are not too happy with the pace of development.
“We are not happy with the rancor. We are not happy with the divisions. We are not happy with the insecurity, and that cannot augur well for development. That was why we said our party cannot be changed; that it is better to change the incumbent and ensure that our party remains in office.
“In all the rifts in the party, I have not heard the national chairman say anything against the governor. It has been a one-way traffic. It has been the governor, his deputy and people in his government constantly and persistently abusing the national chairman, who like a father has kept quiet.
“The governor has created a rift between himself and leaders of the party in Edo State, because the people that put him there, he has used all kinds of negative adjectives to describe them. He has no relationship with them.
“When I came in, I made several efforts to see the governor to tell him I was coming back home and to advise him that it was better to have a united house than create factions. It is surprising that before I came into the party, I could speak to him at will but the moment I told him about my agenda, why I wanted to see him, it became impossible.
“He closed the door and, of course, you do not expect me to force my way into Government House. I have done my best in trying to talk to him and those who are close to him that factions and strong words are not the way to go.
“For me, the governor has a right to seek a second term but he cannot say it is not negotiable, because, if that is your position, it means you are saying that the party should not even sell forms to anybody and that Edo people do not have the discretion as to who should be their governor. To say it is not negotiable is to rubbish the rest of us who also have a right to contest.”
One of the aspirants who stepped down, Mr Agbonmhere, said God had revealed to him that Ize-Iyamu will emerge next governor of Edo State, hence his decision to withdraw from the race. According to Agbonmhere, Pastor Ize-Iyamu is a leader of Edo people worldwide who has been part of development of the state, even before now.
He said: “Pastor Ize-Iyamu is a born leader who can unite all factions of APC in the state and I can tell you that the Deputy Governor, Phillip Shuaibu, that people are talking about today will gladly work with Ize-Iyamu as governor.
“Why I know that Ize-Iyamu will get the ticket is that apart from the fact that I got the revelation from God, I also know that Governor Obaseki has insulted all the leaders of APC in Edo State. He has called them names. He has called them thieves and beggars. So, the leaders are not happy with the governor and they are ready to work for the emergence of Pastor Ize-Iyamu as governor, who they believe is a mature leader and has the capacity to unite the state for development.”
Obaseki picks APC nomination form Meanwhile, Governor Obaseki has picked his Nomination and Expression of Interest forms to participate in the June 22 primary.
The forms were picked on his behalf by an Abuja-based group, Obaseki Mandate Forum, OMF.
Chairman of the Forum, Chief Nathaniel Momoh, told journalists shortly after picking the forms that most of the members of the group are card-carrying members of APC in Edo State He said: “We are confident that the will of the people will manifest in an unmistakable form on June 22 when our party conducts its primary for the flag bearer in the governorship race.
“We are convinced that no other name among those whose names are being touted qualifies as the incumbent and performing governor, Godwin Obaseki. We are optimistic that his pedigree will make him emerge winner to lead the party to the democratic contest in which he will again emerge winner to continue to boost the state’s revenue and infrastructure.”
However, Governor Obaseki said yesterday he was confident of returning to power because “power comes from God.” The governor, who disclosed this yesterday, in an interview on Channels Television breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, noted that he is a man of peace, not a violent person.
“I am not a violent person. But I am confident that the way I got into power is the same way I will return. God gave me power. If he wants me to return I will continue. No man can stop me. Power comes from God,” he said.
On violence during election, Obaseki said he had always canvassed peace and believed election should not lead to bloodshed. On the political rift in Edo APC, he stated that he is not distracted, adding that his focus was on developing the state.
“We have always canvassed peace. What are the issues in Edo and what are the issues that cannot be resolved in a democracy? Our concern is to use the resources of the people to develop the state. This shouldn’t lead to bloodshed.
“We will not accept to be cowed and intimidated because some people think they can manipulate rules and cut corners,” he added.
Asked if it’s not the resources of the people of Edo State that was used to make him governor, Obaseki said: “I have friends with resources. I worked for eight years behind the scenes before I became governor. So all that insinuations about using somebody’s resources… I became governor on the platform of the party and I am grateful for it.”
He expressed confidence that the rule of law will prevail in the forthcoming Edo State election because he is sure that President Muhammadu Buhari believes in the rule of law and will allow things to be done openly. Obaseki further noted that he is not in contest with anyone, stressing that he is confident of victory.
“It does not matter whether it is direct or indirect (primary), I will win,” he said.
The National Working Committee, NWC, of the ruling APC, led by the National Chairman of the party and former governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, had earlier on May 22 announced its decision to adopt direct primary for the June 22 governorship primary in Edo State.
Edo APC candidate can’t emerge in Abuja— Obaseki’s aide Indeed, Special Adviser to the Edo State Governor on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, dismissed reports that Edo State chapter of APC had in a meeting in Abuja chosen a consensus candidate to fly the party’s flag in the September 19 governorship election in the state.
In a statement, Osagie said the responsibility for selecting the governorship candidate for the party resides with the Edo State chapter of the APC, while liaising with relevant national structures of the party, and as such, a consensus candidate to fly the party’s flag in the election cannot emerge in Abuja.
“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.
Osagie 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 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,” he added.
He noted that under Oshiomhole, APC did not lose elections due to popularity but as a result of lawless conduct choreographed by Oshiomhole, which has placed the APC in dire straits one time too many.”
Plots to deny Obaseki second term ‘ll crumble — Idahosa In like manner, former Commissioner for Information in Edo State, Chief Charles Idahosa, said plots by party leaders, led by Oshiomhole, to deny Obaseki re-election ticket would crumble. On the debate over direct or indirect primary, Idahosa, who was political adviser to Oshiomhole, said: “It is very clear that primary is a domestic issue of a political party. There is a Supreme Court judgement on that. Some party leaders are just out to do a lot of destruction just like they did in Zamfara and other states.
“What surprises me most is that all the leaders of the party are just waiting for Comrade Adams Oshiomhole to destroy the fabrics of the democracy of APC. Why they are doing that, I don’t know.
“When people try to change story to suit themselves, it is very painful. Everybody is aware that on the issue of Edo State, Oshiomhole is a principal actor.
“In fact, he is an interested party in this matter. He wants Governor Godwin Obaseki out at all cost, even though the wider majority believes that the governor has performed well.
“Oshiomhole was governor in Edo State when Obaseki contested the governorship primary in 2016. The method used was indirect primary and it was held at the Ogbeh Stadium, supervised by Oshiomhole himself.
“I remembered then that the people with Oshiomhole now were abusing him, telling him that he was influencing the outcome of the primary because he wanted Obaseki to win. There was no COVID-19 then but he used indirect primary. Why he is now calling for direct primary at a time we are all trying to stop the spread of coronavirus in the state?
“Chief John Odigie-Oyegun has spoken and he advised that Oshiomhole should excuse himself. As national chairman of the party, Oyegun never supported Obaseki but he did not interfere in the process; he did not disturb Oshiomhole from doing whatever he wanted to do then.’’
On why he thinks that Oshiomhole will not be fair in supervising the primary, he said: ‘’The situation has been revealed to us by the Deputy National Chairman (North), Lawal Shuaibu, who said last week that Oshiomhole personally constituted both the screening committees for the governorship and senatorial elections, as well as the final appeals committee, all in violation of the extant constitutional provisions of the party vesting the power in the National Executive Committee, NEC.”
He said Oshiomhole also made himself the chairman of the appeals committee, so he could have the final say. “I repeat, we are not afraid of direct or indirect primary, but we are concerned about fairness. If Oshiomhole is allowed to be a judge in his own case, there will be no fairness. That is all we are saying.
“Oshiomhole should excuse himself from the primary in order to ensure justice and fairness. That is our position. We will not fold our arms and allow Edo to go to the opposition like Oshiomhole is doing. That was how Oshiomhole harassed Governor Samuel Ortom until the man left APC and contested under PDP.
“Today, he remains the governor of Benue under PDP platform. Is that what a national chairman who knows his onions be wishing for? A few days ago, he was asked what his problem with Obaseki was. He said he had no problem with the governor and he only wants him to carry everybody along.
‘’Meanwhile, he was busy organising mock primary that later resulted in violence. As a former governor, he is not concerned about assisting the Edo State government in finding a solution to COVID-19 pandemic in the state, all he is concerned about is how to deny Obaseki a second term. We are waiting for him. Let’s see how that is going to be possible.”
Source: Vanguard NGR