Although it is no longer news that the ruling All Progressives Congress in Edo State has, against all odds, surmounted the high hurdles on its way regarding its choice of a candidate to fly its flag in the September 10 governorship election in the state, the party, definitely, still has more than it can imagine to contend with, if it wants to remain the occupant of the Government House after the forthcoming 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 elated Governor Adams Oshiomhole and his supporters, the emergence of Obaseki, their alleged anointed candidate, was a dream come true.
But having achieved the dream of having one of his own as the APC standard bearer for the forthcoming governorship poll in the state, Governor Oshiomhole and his supporters may have fresh issues arising from the party primary to contend with in the run-up to the September poll, if the ruling party would want to carry the day. 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 in the forthcoming election.
Some of the members in the ruling party are therefore growing increasingly apprehensive of the return of the APC to the Edo Government House, inspite of the power of incumbency expected to be wielded by Governor Oshiomhole at the poll.
Aggrieved APC aspirants’ threat
Watchers of Edo politics have contended that one issue the leaders of the party in the state quickly need to iron out is the widespread discontent at the last primary election by the eleven other aspirants defeated by Obaseki.
The APC standard bearer had contested 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 Oshiomhole’s alleged endorsement of Obaseki has been identified as largely accountable for the current disquiet in the ruling party in the state. Various allegations are being leveled against the governor and the APC candidate. They have accused Oshiomhole of stealthily aiding Obaseki to buy over the delegates long before the 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 Oshiomhole. He accused Oshiomhole’s anointed candidate of buying and mopping up the Permanent Voter’s Cards in preparation for his victory at the September governorship election.
Other aspirants have similarly threatened to spoil Obaseki’s chances at the forthcoming governorship poll.
Another issue threatening to tear apart the APC in Edo is the current 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, according to sources, appears to have fallen out with the party as he is now said to rarely attend APC functions. Observers have, however, pointed out that underrating the deputy governor may prove disastrous for the party during the September governorship poll. They are of the opinion that the party in the state needs to take urgent steps to persuade the deputy governor and the other aspirants to sheathe their already drawn swords before the election.
A party source, however, revealed that, against their earlier pledges, some of the aspirants have allegedly begun moves to work against Obaseki’s victory at the September governorship poll.
Already, the party’s Primary Election Appeals Committee has started receiving petitions from those aggrieved over the Edo primary election. Chairman of the committee, Opeyemi Bamidele, confirmed that the committee has received not less than two petitions on the election. Consequently, the committee said it has summoned all relevant stakeholders who took part in the primary.
Our correspondent gathered that the committee had received petitions from Kenneth Imansuagbon and Chris Ogienmwonyi.
“We confirm as a committee that we have received two petitions, and the national chairman of the party was also copied, and the party has given us the go-ahead and a freehand to conduct our sittings,” Bamidele said.
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, Ize-Iyamu, had been enthusiastic about the emergence of Obaseki as the APC candidate. 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 the forthcoming 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 Oshiomhole associate and a top official of the Edo State Government who pleaded anonymity revealed.
Ize-Iyamu’s acclaimed supremacy
Keen observers of politics in the state have 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 that of the ruling APC in the forthcoming governorship poll in the state.
According to them, Ize-Iyamu’s rich political profile 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 de-registration 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 the September 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 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 has 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.”
Igbiniedon, other bigwigs’ backing for Ize- Iyamu
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 Oshiomhole and the candidate of the ruling APC in the 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.
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 retain the occupancy of the Edo Government House in September is the perceived dominance of the opposition PDP in many parts of the state. Political observers say that Oshiomhole’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 checkmating at the 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 if the ongoing leadership tussle between embattled National Chairman, Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff and the Chairman of the Caretaker Committee, Sen. Ahmed Makarfi, is not resolved before the Edo election, its debilitating effects may trickle down to ruin the Edo PDP candidate’s chances in the 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 if the party leaders fail now to effectively resolve the crisis at the national level. The legal fireworks, the claims and counter-claims over which of the two factions has the authority and right to submit the PDP candidate’s name to INEC for the September 10, have continued to rage. But for now, with the rejection of the candidate of the Sheriff-led faction, Iduoriyekemwen, by INEC on Tuesday, Ize-Iyamu seems to have crossed the first hurdle and can now concentrate on his campaigns for the final battle on September 10.
PDP predicts ruling party’s defeat
Inspite of the deadlock within the Edo PDP, its State Chairman, Chief Dan Orbih, in an exclusive chat with our correspondent on his party’s chances in the coming election, boasted that the PDP has concluded plans to “shamefully defeat” the incumbent APC at the poll.
“Soon we will take our candidate round the 192 wards of the state and he will come out clearly on what he intends to do for the state. It is obvious that he is a choice that is supported by the people of Edo state. Though the other party has thrown up a candidate that is being backed by external forces, but I can tell you that this bid will fail woefully,” he said.
Asked if his party saw the opposition as a threat in the race, he said, “The issue of being a threat is not there, because in terms of popularity, we have a more popular candidate who is well-grounded. Moreover, Edo people want a candidate who is rooted in the state and who will be with them during and after his tenure and our candidate possesses all these qualities.”
On Oshiomhole’s influence, the PDP state chairman boasted that the APC would fall at the poll, despite the incumbency the party enjoyed in the state.
“The greatest problem Obaseki is going to face at this election is people seeing him as Oshiomhole’s candidate. As it is, the Edo people are sick and tired of Oshiomhole’s politics of deceit. Seeing him as his candidate is enough to make him fail in this election,” Orbih said.
APC’s efforts at mending fences
However, Edo state APC Chairman, Chief Anselm Ojezua, said the ruling party had set up a committee to engage the aggrieved members and aspirants in the recently conducted primary election.
Confirming this to our correspondent, Ojezua said, “Majority of the aspirants have agreed to support Obaseki, and for the aggrieved ones, we have set up a committee to reach out to them. We will talk to everyone on board. We have set up a committee to reach out to them all and I hope we will all come together to record success.”
The APC chieftain, however, said he felt sorry for the PDP governorship candidate, saying that the opposition party had no roots, both at the state and the national level.
“Is it possible for a party to have a governorship candidate when they do not have national executive? So I sympathize with the man that has been nominated, because, to me, it is an exercise in futility,.” Ojezua said.