There is no doubt that the ruling All Progressives Congress in Edo State has, against all odds, surmounted the high hurdles regarding the choice of a candidate to fly its flag in Saturday’s governorship election in the state. But the APC, definitely, still has a lot to contend with, if it wants to remain the occupant of the Edo Government House after Saturday’s poll.
Out of the twelve prominent citizens of the state who contested the APC governorship primary, Mr. Godwin Obaseki breasted the tape, ahead of the others, to emerge the party’s standard bearer for tomorrow’s poll.
For elated Governor Adams Oshiomole and his supporters, the emergence of Obaseki, their alleged anointed candidate, was a dream come true. Although it believed that they have been taken care of, certain issues arising from the party primary may rear their ugly heads again and if care is not taken, they may deny the ruling APC the opportunity of carrying the day at the end of voting on Saturday.
Opposing camps are contending that the party and the governor’s best may, after all, not be good enough to ensure victory for the APC on Saturday, due to the bottled up anger arising from the conduct of its governorship primary on June 19.
Inspite of the power of incumbency expected to be exerted by Governor Oshiomhole during Saturday’s poll and all the assurances of victory even from President Muhammadu Buhari, a section of the members in the ruling party is still apprehensive of the return of the APC to the Edo Government House.
AGGRIEVED APC ASPIRANTS’ THREAT
The fears being expressed by this section of the ruling party are not unconnected with the widespread discontent at the governorship primary election by the eleven aspirants defeated by Obaseki. The matter is believed by the watchers of Edo politics not to have been completely ironed out.
The APC standard bearer had contested the primary against the incumbent Edo State Deputy Governor, Dr. Pius Odubu; Kenneth Imansuangbon, Gen. Charles Airhiavbere (rtd), Chris Ogiemwonyi, Peter Esele, Austin Emuan, Senator Oserheimen Osunbor, Emmanuel Arigbe- Osula, Blessing Agbomhere, Prof. Ebegue Amadasun and Tina Agbara.
Governor Oshiomole’s alleged endorsement of Obaseki was identified as largely accountable for the disquiet engendered in the ruling party in the state, immediately after the governorship primary. Various allegations were leveled against the governor and the APC candidate. Oshiomole was accused of stealthily aiding Obaseki to buy over the delegates long before the governorship primary election was held, to ensure his victory.
One of the aspirants, Chris Ogiemwonyi, a former minister of state for works, even threatened a total showdown with Obaseki and Oshiomole. He accused Oshiomhole’s anointed candidate of buying and mopping up the Permanent Voter’s Cards in preparation for his victory.
Other aspirants similarly threatened to spoil Obaseki’s chances during the governorship poll.
Another issue that threatened to tear apart the APC in Edo was the face-off between Governor Oshiomhole and his deputy, Dr. Pius Odubu, over the alleged imposition of Obaseki as the party’s standard bearer for the election.
Apparently dissatisfied with the result of the party primary, Odubu had then fallen out with the party, shunning APC functions. Although the party leadership in the state had to some extent, since persuaded the deputy governor and many of the other aspirants to sheathe their swords, observers of politics in the state are of the view that the matter had yet to be completely resolved.
A party source revealed that, as part of their efforts to make good their earlier threat, some of the aspirants have allegedly secretly begun moves to work against Obaseki’s victory on Saturday. This is inspite of the seeming cohesion existing within the fold of the party in Edo State.
However, the presence of President Muhammadu Buhari at the grand finale for Obaseki’s governorship campaign last Tuesday seems to have returned the confidence of winning tomorrow’s poll to the APC in the state.
The APC in Edo, analysts say, received tremendous fillip on Tuesday with Buhari’s statement at the event congratulating in advance Obaseki as the next governor of the state.
The President told the APC governorship candidate, shortly after addressing the crowd of party supporters at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin, “Congratulations to you, already.”
ALLEGED PDP PLOT, INTRIGUE
The Point gathered that Governor Adams Osihomhole’s political calculations, which saw Obaseki emerge as the APC candidate, might eventually turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the PDP standard bearer, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
Our correspondent gathered that the camp of the PDP standard bearer in the state, had all along been enthusiastic about the emergence of Obaseki as the APC candidate in Saturday’s poll. Sources hinted that in the run-up to the party primary, Ize-Iyamu allegedly secretly plotted with his friends and allies serving in Oshiomhole’s cabinet to ensure that Obaseki, who he sees as no match for him in tomorrow’s governorship election, was eventually picked to fly the APC flag at the poll.
“You can’t believe it, Ize-Iyamu and I talk from time to time and he always urges us to encourage Comrade not to relent in his support for Obaseki, mainly because he and many of us know that Obaseki is no match for him,” an associate of the governor and a top official of the Edo State Government, who pleaded anonymity, revealed. The PDP in the state is also not leaving anything to chances in taking over the Edo Government House after tomorrow’s election.
The opposition party on Tuesday dragged the APC standard bearer before a Federal High Court in Benin, praying for his disqualification from participating in tomorrow’s governorship poll over alleged false claims regarding his academic certificates.
The PDP approached the court as President Buhari and other chieftains of the APC were rounding off the grand finale of Obaseki’s campaign in Benin for the governorship election.
The State Chairman of the PDP, Chief Dan Orbih, said the court should disqualify Obaseki from the election for allegedly making false claims and providing false information on oath to the Independent National Electoral Commission.
Orbih, therefore, called on voters in the state not to waste their votes for the APC because the party had no candidate in tomorrow’s election.
IZE-IYAMU’S ACCLAIMED SUPREMACY
Regardless of the President’s tipping of Obaseki as the next governor of the state, keen observers of politics in the state have, however, continued to assert that after Oshiomhole, the PDP standard bearer, Ize-Iyamu, is the next most popular and active politician in the state. They are of the opinion that this high rating of the PDP candidate may give him an edge over the candidate of the ruling APC in tomorrow’s governorship poll in the state.
According to them, Ize-Iyamu’s rich political resume is believed to be a plus for him. He is a Benin politician of Orhionmwon Local Government Area extraction; he is both a former chief of staff and secretary to the Edo State Government during the Lucky Igbinedion administration. After falling out with the then PDP leadership over the deregistration of some members of the party, he joined forces with others to form the Grace Group, a pressure group that left the party to form the AD and then the Action Congress in Edo State.
He was vice chairman South- South of the defunct ACN. He, however, returned to the PDP last year after falling out with Oshiomhole. Some APC lawmakers in the Edo State House of Assembly also defected along with him to the PDP. He was almost immediately made the Edo State coordinator of the Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Organization for the 2015 presidential election.
Boasting about his chances in tomorrow’s governorship poll, Ize-Iyamu, said he had lived in the state all his life, and had acquired the goodwill that people now refer to as his political structure.
He stressed that his circle of friends extends to all parts of the state, every ward and local government. “I’m talking about people I could stay in their houses and eat, based on long term relationships. So, when people talk about political structures, it does not necessarily mean control of political parties, but being able to have credible men and women, who are close to you in all parts of the state.
“That, to me, is a credit. As for my ambition, I have had the opportunity of serving in government and I know the workings of government more than a lot of people. I also thank God for good education. I cannot see my state being misled and mismanaged and be indifferent. It is natural and patriotic to have an ambition under such circumstance,” Ize-Iyamu said.
Insisting that he had a clear vision of how the state should be administered, the PDP candidate described his plan for the state as a product of widespread consultation and experience in governance, which he had gathered all his life in the different sectors.
According to him, “You can’t operate government focusing only on education as if you don’t have anything to do with health, people will die. You can’t focus on health and education and you have no time for business, if the economy does not grow, people will die. Government must be handled from a very holistic point of view, not something you decide that you forget about security, armed robbers will hold sway.
“So, you have to be able to use available resources in a manner that these areas are dealt with, while still able to focus on certain priority areas; you don’t kill certain areas. It’s like in a family, you say, well, because I go to school, people will not eat anymore. No, they will still eat, you must still pay rent, you must still pay medical bills and you still look for a way to pay your education bills.” I
e-Iyamu’s endorsement by Igbiniedon, other bigwigs.
Also, the backing said to be enjoyed by Ize-Iyamu from some political big-wigs in the state, including former governor Lucky Igbinedion, is believed to be capable of turning the tide against Governor Oshiomole and the candidate of the ruling APC in tomorrow’s governorship poll.
Igbinedion and others are said to have assured Ize-Iyamu, who has been in constant consultation with the various stakeholders in the state, of their total support in his bid to upstage the ruling APC from the Edo Government House on Saturday.
Igbinedion has also publicly rated the PDP candidate atop of the other candidates vying for the governorship seat of the state.
ASSESSING EDO PDP’S STRENGTH
Another factor that the ruling APC needs to quickly do something about if it wants to return to the Edo Government House tomorrow is the perceived dominance of the opposition PDP in many parts of the state. Political observers say that Oshiomole’s performance in the last eight years may not be enough to earn the party the mandate of the people to continue to govern the state. They argue that the APC would have a herculean task checkmating at tomorrow’s poll the PDP, which now controls most of the state’s senatorial districts and constituencies. The PDP occupies two of the three senatorial seats meant for the state in the National Assembly, in addition to having majority of the Federal representatives in the state.
HURDLES BEFORE PDP
However, the fly that may pollute the ointment of the PDP standard bearer is the prolonged crisis in the opposition party at the national level. It is believed that with the inability of the party at the national level to resolve the ongoing leadership tussle between embattled National Chairman, Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff and the Chairman of the Caretaker Committee, Sen. Ahmed Makarfi, the debilitating effects of this development may trickle down to ruin the Edo PDP candidate’s chances in the Saturday governorship poll.
Already, Ize-Iyamu’s candidacy is being challenged by the appearance of another standard bearer of the party, Matthew Iduoriyekemwen. He had emerged from a fresh primary later conducted by the Sheriff group. Although Iduoriyekemwen’s candidacy seems to have somehow been nullified with the affirmation of Sheriff’s sacking by the court, keen observers of the state’s politics have expressed fears that Ize-Iyamu’s candidacy may be challenged in future since the party leaders have now failed to effectively resolve the crisis at the national level.