By Emmanuel Ufot
The lingering squabbles between Godwin Obaseki governor of Edo state and his hitherto god father, Adams oshiomhole, the National Chairman of All Peoples Congress, APC seems to be deepening by the day following the inability of the warring parties to shift position, and the seeming insincerity on the path of the party leaders to wade in to resolve the crisis.
The duo whose squabbles began barely two years into Obaseki’s tenure over irreconcilable differences has lingered since then with the later amassing his Federal might to plot the non return of the former to the number one seat in Edo state. But the governor is maintaining that he must return, for a second term, which is his right unless he decides not to run for the election again.
However, the plot by the National chairman of the ruling APC to stop Governor Obaseki has manifested in the mode for the conduct of the June 22 APC governorship primaries to produce the party flag bearer.
Whereas Oshiomhole advocates for direct primaries which will involved all the registered party members from the ward level, the governor wants indirect primaries that will involve delegates.
Instructively, both preference to the two options is like a chess game which you know the plan of your opponent and block the loop holes. This is where the crisis has stalemated with both factions not shifting ground.
Oshiomhole’s glaring game plan to stop Governor Obaseki second term culminated in Pastor Ize- Iyanmu elected as a consensus candidate for the party in Abuja by his faction. This development which had other contestants stepping down for Iyanmu to emerge the consensus candidate suffered a setback as those that had allegedly step down went ahead to collect their nomination form.
However concerned party leaders like the governors had in the past days make frantic efforts to see how the issue can be resolved. They met the president and have also met the party national leader Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who incidentally was a former governor of the southwest satate of Lagos but it looks like there is no quenching of the fire as the crisis has divided the major stakeholders with most of the governors backing Governor Obaseki on his indirect primary preference while the National Executive Committee, headed by the national chairman and some members of the national working committee seems to be on the side of Oshiomhole.
This ugly development which played out in Lagos and saw the ouster of former Lagos State Governor Akinwumi Ambode which Obaseki wants to prevent, has already raised fears among party members and political analysts, that APC fortune in the October election might follow that of Rivers and Zamfara states that had no APC candidate in the governorship election because of party primary squabbles.
The supremacy battle between Oshiomhole and Obaseki had created factions in the Edo State chapter of the APC with parallel State Working Committees (SWC). It is not yet clear which of the APC factions in Edo- one loyal to Oshiomhole and the other loyal to Governor Obaseki will produce the authentic candidate of the party ahead of the gubernatorial election as the case is still pending in court.
Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who was the governorship candidate of the PDP in the 2016 governorship election in Edo and incidentally contested against Obaseki, then Oshiomhole anointed candidate and god son is now supported by the national chairman who used his powers to orchestrate the picking of Ize-Iyanmu as the consensus candidate of his camp.
Ize-Iyamu who returned to the APC in November 2020 will slug it out with Obaseki in the party’s primary slated for June 22, 2020. Ize-Iyamu emerged as the consensus candidate in Abuja during a screening chaired by Sen. Francis Alimikhena (APC, Edo North) . It was gathered that Mr. Pius Egberanmwen Odubu, Chris Ogiemwonyi, and Engineer and Charles Airhiavbere, a retired Army General, E.J Agnonayinma, Saturday Iwulekhue and Ebegue Amadasun, a professor, all governorship aspirants, participated in the exercise. Alimikhena, a Senator of Federal republic of Nigeria, was said to have presented Ize-Iyamu as the consensus candidate on behalf of a seven-man screening panel. Recall that the faction recently conducted a mock primary to pick a consensus candidate but the exercise ended in fiasco over alleged lack of transparency and fairness.
Meanwhile, Ize-Iyamu has obtained his Expression of Interest and Nomination Forms at the national secretariat of the party in Abuja. After obtaining the forms, the former Secretary to the Edo State Government told journalists that he had learnt his lesson and was back home to be a member of the APC after he left the party in 2014. He said, “We have resolved that before picking the ticket, we will support each other; even with finance, to enable us pick the form, and that was how I was picked. We mean well for our state and we are passionate about the development of Edo State as we are not happy with the pace of development, security challenge and other issues in the state; and that is why we need to change the incumbent government in Edo State.”
whoever wanted to contest could contest with him. Azebamwan said, “Ize-Iyamu is the sole candidate of the APC, but any Nigerian who is qualified can so decide to contest; we will not close the door. Nomination forms are on sale and if you meet the requirements, you can purchase the Form.”
Obaseki is also using his might in the state to push his case. He and the state chapter of the party had strongly condemned the picking of Ize-Iyanmu in Abuja and not in Benin even as the authentic date for the primaries is June 22.
Governor Obaseki had said the candidate of the party cannot emerge in Abuja. Speaking through his media aide, Crusoe Osagie, the governor dismissed the reports that the Edo State chapter of the APC had in a meeting in Abuja picked Ize-Iyanmu as its consensus candidate. He said the responsibility for selecting the gubernatorial candidate for the party resided with the Edo State chapter of the APC, while liaising with relevant national structures of the party. He said, “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.
“The charade in Abuja was not surprising as it was hatched by Oshiomhole and members of his Edo Peoples Movement (EPM). “It is, therefore, hilarious to hear that a so-called consensus candidate for the party for the Edo State governorship was selected in Abuja. For us, this is a joke. 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. “The last time we checked, the timetable released by Oshiomhole’s National Working Committee (NWC) fixed Edo primary election for June 22, 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,”
This same scenario played out in the case of Zamfara where internal wrangling in the build up to the 2019 general elections cost the APC Zamfara and Rivers states. In Zamfara, the battle between a former Governor of the state, Abdulaziz Yari, and eight governorship aspirants led by Sen. Kabiru Garba Marafa gave Bello Matawalle of the PDP the coveted seat. After winning the governorship election, the Supreme Court nullified the victory of the APC following a litigation arising from the governorship primary in Zamfara APC. The suit was filed by Sen. Marafa. It was a similar scenario in Rivers State. The feud between top stalwarts of the party in the state led to a political misfortune for the party. The Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, and Senator Magnus Abe fought till the Rivers State Government House went back to PDP without any fight from APC.
However to step up his machinery for a show down, the governor recently signed an executive order which states that any gathering of over 20 people must be approved by him. Political watchers see this as a move by the governor to checkmate the factional camp for organising any rally to sell their candidate.
Infact, INEC has confirmed the fear of many of a likely show down in Edo during the primaries.