Wednesday May 27, 2020 7:41 AM

Guber Poll: Tension heightens in Edo as politicians prepare for primaries

All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship aspirants in Edo State are strategising ahead of the September 19 election.

Tension is heightening in Edo State as politicians are prepare for primaries and the September 19 this year’s governorship poll, The Nation reports.

The All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are the dominant political parties in Edo State. Barring any unforeseen development, the primary of the ruling APC would hold on June 2.

The face-off between the National Chairman and former governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and his successor, Godwin Obaseki may cost the incumbent governor APC’s ticket; thereby opting out of the race or defecting to another political party to be part of the September 19 contest.

To say the re-election of Obaseki will be a Herculean task is simply stating the obvious because his benefactor and godfather felt betrayed by attempts of some members and leaders of the party to unceremoniously remove him as the national chairman, in spite of his numerous achievements and contributions to the success of the party during the 2019 elections nationwide.

The Edo governor was also accused of teaming up with some members of the National Working Committee (NWC) to forcibly remove Oshiomhole as the party’s helmsman. But, the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to cancel the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting, where the decision was to be taken, and the prompt intervention of the National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, saved the situation.

Top politicians who are very close to Oshiomhole hinted that he would definitely take his pound of flesh, by ensuring that Obaseki does not get the APC ticket, after the failed coup against him, thereby teaching the governor some political lessons. As a result, Obaseki and his allies have started extending an olive branch to the national chairman who was almost humiliated out of office.

The Obaseki/Shaibu (Deputy Governor, Philip) Movement (OSM) 2020 may find itself in a situation where it has to start negotiating for an alternative platform for the governor and his deputy to contest the election, except leaders of the party quickly intervene and plead with Oshiomhole to sincerely forgive his political godson.

Besides Obaseki, other governorship aspirants within the APC are Dr. Pius Odubu, Saturday Uwalekhue, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Chris Ogienmwonyi and Maj.-Gen. Charles Airhiavbere (rtd.). For the PDP, the major aspirants are Ken Imansugbon, a lawyer, who hails from Edo Central Senatorial District; George Ikhine, also from Edo Central; and Nosa Ogbeide-Ihama, the representative of Oredo Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives. The latter hails from Edo South senatorial district.

The decision to pick the party’s chairman from Edo Central during the recent congress, in the person of Tony Aziegbemi, suggests that the governorship candidate would come from one of the other two zones. Aziegbemi is a former member of the House of Representatives. Observers believe the present state of affairs favour Ogbeide-Ihama to emerge as the PDP flag bearer.

Its Publicity Secretary, Chris Nehikhare, said the peaceful nature of the event is a sign of a new dawn for the Edo PDP. Nehikhare was re-elected during the March 14, 2020 congress at the Government Reservation Area (GRA), Benin, the state capital. He said: “We are going to do things better, faster, sharper, more people-oriented and focused.

“The new Edo State PDP Chairman’s style may be different from that of the outgone Chairman, Chief Dan Orbih, but we have to complement one another.”

Ogbeide-Ihama also called on all PDP faithful in the state to work with the new members of the State Working Committee (SWC), in order to be well-positioned, especially with the fast-approaching governorship election.

On March 7, former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Austin Opara, supervised the PDP’s congress across the 18 local government areas of the state, and on March 8 in Benin. He said whoever emerges as the PDP governorship candidate would win this year’s election in Edo State.

The former deputy speaker, who hails from Rivers State, declared that the party’s governorship candidate would replace Obaseki of the APC this year and ensure good governance.

He said: “The PDP is getting stronger in Edo State. I can tell you from what we have done in the state, the PDP can only come out stronger during the 2020 governorship election.

“I want to seize this opportunity to tell members of our party (PDP) that though they cannot get all that they want, where there are areas of disagreement, they should give and take, but we are almost there.

“The PDP is ready for the forthcoming governorship poll in Edo State. Indeed, we are waiting for the PDP to take over the state.”

On March 23, one of the governorship aspirants on the APC platform, Ize-Iyamu, hailed President Muhammadu Buhari, the National Leader Asiwaju Tinubu, APC governors and other stakeholders for foiling the coup against Oshiomhole.

Ize-Iyamu said: “We are very grateful, as indigenes of Edo State, because we would have been ashamed and disappointed if our son, Comrade Oshiomhole was removed from office.

“President Buhari, Asiwaju Tinubu and other leaders of the APC deserve commendation for foiling a coup which was the product of a grand conspiracy, coordinated and funded from Edo State, for the removal an Edo son, Comrade Oshiomhole as National Chairman.

“You can imagine a situation where few Edo indigenes were spending Edo people’s money to pay some persons to remove an eminent son of the state (Oshiomhole) as the National Chairman of APC.”

The governorship aspirant also stated that members of the National Working Committee (NWC) and National Executive Committee (NEC), as well as the state chairmen of APC, including Edo State chairman, Col. David Imuse (rtd.), must also be commended for supporting Oshiomhole at the crucial period.

He said: “Edo people are not ingrates. We appreciate persons who stood by us in times of need. We do not want the attitude of a few persons to give a wrong signal, because gratitude is in our DNA.

“It is wrong and undemocratic for anybody to be talking of automatic ticket, as far Edo 2020 governorship election is concerned. It is also wrong to say that Obaseki’s second term is non-negotiable.

“In Edo State, where a majority of the youths have no jobs; where there are no industries and there are no health facilities, how can anybody brag and say that he has earned a second term ticket. We should prepare for APC’s governorship primary election on June 2 this year, to change the way Edo is being governed.”

Ize-Iyamu also urged all members of APC in Edo state to remain open to new members, while at ward meetings.

On March 18, a faction of APC in Edo state loyal to Oshiomhole opened a new state secretariat in Benin, to allow a level-playing field for all the governorship aspirants on the party’s platform.

The factional secretariat, which is now a beehive of activities are not too far from the main state secretariat of the APC in the capital.

Amid prayers and thanksgiving by teeming members and leaders of the governing APC, the new secretariat was inaugurated by Odubu, a former Edo deputy governor, who was accompanied by Uwalekhue, while the three other governorship aspirants were away in Abuja to celebrate with Oshiomhole on his victories.

The acting Chairman of Oshiomhole’s faction of APC in Edo, Col. David Imuse (rtd.), also insisted that he remained in charge of the party’s affairs in the state, following the legitimate removal of the APC chairman loyal to Obaseki, Anselm Ojezua.

Spokesman of the APC faction loyal to Oshiomhole, Chris Azebanmwan declared that Imuse remained the acting chairman of Edo APC, making him to attend the last National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party in Abuja as Edo chairman of APC and he was also in attendance when chairmen of the party in Nigeria and other stakeholders of APC in the country visited President Buhari at the State House in Abuja.

Azebanmwan said: “After we removed Anselm Ojezua in November last year, armed thugs took over the state secretariat of APC in Benin City, in their thinking that we wanted to eject Ojezua from the office, but we always bear in mind that no Edo citizen’s blood is worth the political ambition of anybody, since what they are doing is in furtherance of Obaseki’s second term ambition.

“The building does not make the Edo secretariat of APC. If the national secretariat of our great party wants to get in touch with the real leaders of Edo APC, we will be contacted wherever we are located.

“Fortunately, the campaign office of President Buhari in Benin for his second term was available. So, we decided to adopt the place as our operational base and new secretariat of Edo APC.”

Ojezua, however, maintained that he remained the legally-recognised Edo chairman of the party and operating with members of his executive from the “authentic” secretariat.

Spokesperson of the faction loyal to Obaseki, Pastor Joseph Osagiede, said: “I am not aware of any other state secretariat. That is not allowed by law. Our party does not allow for two secretariats. So, what they might have done is illegal and unconstitutional.”

On March 17, Obaseki and five of the governorship aspirants on APC platform in the state engaged in a war of words over the survival of Oshiomhole as the national chairman of the governing party.

The Edo APC governorship aspirants, at a news conference in Benin, declared that Obaseki’s attempts to remove his benefactor and immediate predecessor (Oshiomhole) ended in futility.

The chieftains of Edo APC declared that the “illegal” NEC meeting of the party, which was eventually cancelled on the order of President Buhari would have caused implosion in APC.

In a three-page address read by Odubu, the governorship aspirants asked the “microscopic few” who wanted to sacrifice all they had collectively built and achieved as a party, on the altar of 2023 unbridled ambition, to have a rethink, while insisting that Oshiomhole’s leadership of the APC had brought endless gains and possibilities to the party and he would be adequately supported.

The APC governorship aspirant said: “March 16, 2020 will indeed linger in our memories as a day of victory for justice, due process, for transcending darkness, rule of law, for upholding constitutionalism and the respect for party supremacy and internal mechanism of conflict resolution.

“As we celebrate these victories, it is also a moment of sober reflection for us in Edo State APC, as we remember the unwholesome roles played by Obaseki in the failed attempt to remove our National Chairman, Comrade Oshiomhole, his benefactor.

“It has been one case of evil, witch-hunting and executive rascality to another. To Obaseki, his second term is not negotiable. It is more important than the lives of people of Edo State. Anyone who dares to stand on his path must be crushed. Edo governor, who ought to be a political leader that unites all members of APC, has become an instrument of division, intimidation, humiliation and political vendetta.

“Obaseki sponsored spurious actions in courts, geared towards the removal of our son, Comrade Oshiomhole, as the National Chairman of APC. We thank God, all his attempts ended in futility. To Obaseki, no Edo man qualifies to hold any high position in Nigeria, as far as he remains governor and he is seeking a second term.”

Edo APC governorship aspirants also appreciated the party’s faithful for their steadfastness and resilience in the midst of the injustice, oppression and provocation, while assuring them that the Egyptians they were seeing today, they would see them no more from November 12 this year.

They hailed President Buhari, as well as the National Leader Asiwaju Tinubu, the progressive governors and other critical stakeholders of the party, whose timely decision helped to restore peace in the party. They stood in defence of party supremacy and Oshiomhole, in appreciation of his sacrifices to the APC.

The aspirants asked the “agent provocateurs” to immediately retrace their steps and embrace the supremacy of the party, while urging all the aggrieved members of the APC to sheathe their swords and utilise the internal dispute resolution mechanism, as stipulated in the party’s constitution.

They added that the onerous task of delivering the “Next Level” dividends of democracy, as promised by the APC and President Buhari, should be the primary focus of members of the party.

Obaseki, who reacted through his Special Adviser on Media and Communication Strategy, Crusoe Osagie, described the Edo APC as factionalised. He accused Odubu and the other governorship aspirants on the party’s platform of sabotaging the peace efforts of President Buhari and APC governors, among others.

The Edo State governor claimed that “these characters” (governorship aspirants) neither meant well for APC nor Oshiomhole.

He said: “Less than 24 hours after the peace initiative by President Buhari and APC governors in Abuja, Odubu has launched a barrage of attacks on the person of Edo State governor; a situation that jeopardises moves to restore peace to a party that has become severely troubled.

“Odubu has been a known frontline speaker for Comrade Oshiomhole during the crisis that preceded the current peace initiative. He (Odubu) is also a frontrunner in the factionalisation of the APC in Edo State, under the supervision of Comrade Oshiomhole.

“They (Edo APC governorship aspirants) will rather continue to stir crisis and disrupt the peace in the state and the party. We call on the Presidency to take note of this trend, aimed at rubbishing all the efforts by President Buhari and the APC governors to bring peace to the party at all levels.”

“We challenge Comrade Oshiomhole to come out to publicly denounce the irresponsible comments (of Edo APC governorship aspirants), if he does not subscribe to them. Failure of which proves that he (Oshiomhole) is actively in support of the renewed attacks on Edo governor.”

The governor of Edo State also said the attacks on him by the governorship aspirants were consistent with their character, stressing that there was no denying that they would continue, which was why it was pertinent to draw the attention of the Presidency to the antics, aimed at sabotaging the peace efforts of President Buhari, APC governors and other leaders of the party.

Ize-Iyamu, however, declared that the unnamed persons who wanted to destroy Oshiomhole would not succeed.

He said Obaseki would be defeated during the governorship election of September 19 this year by a “better” candidate of the party (APC).

Ize-Iyamu, a lawyer, while receiving teeming members of Safe Edo Movement (SEM), from overseas and Nigeria, who endorsed him and called on him to vie as governor on the APC platform during this year’s poll, assured Edo people of good governance, when elected.

The former Secretary to the Edo State Government (Ize-Iyamu) said: “By the grace of God, Edo State will not die and it will not be destroyed by persons that God gave the privilege to be in office. On September 19, 2020, God will change the present government in Edo State. APC will still continue to govern, but the present governor will go.

“We will not be afraid of persons who think they can intimidate us. Bombs are being thrown. My house (in Benin City) has been surveyed many times on how bombs will be thrown.

The Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) of my house was threatened with revocation, if I dare to receive people in my house. Guns are being fired to the offices and homes of people who dare to dissent with persons in government.

“An elected civilian governor (of Edo State) has declared that his second term is not negotiable, that even God cannot say no, that Edo people have no say and that whether we like it or not, he must continue in office.

Are we going to keep quiet about it? Are we cowards? Are we afraid? Can things continue like this? We are ready to meet with the challenges and by the grace of God, we will triumph.

“The National Chairman of APC (Oshiomhole) is a very illustrious son of Edo State, who was elected twice as governor of this state. Some of our people are trying to pull him down and it is unfortunate. Comrade Oshiomhole and I disagreed in the past, but disagreement does not mean that you do not know what is good.

Disagreement does not mean that you do not appreciate your own. A man who cannot forgive the misunderstandings of the past cannot be a child of God. Comrade Oshiomhole is our brother, son, friend, leader and undisputedly he is the National Chairman of APC.”

The governorship aspirant (Ize-Iyamu) also stated that members of SEM had been at the forefront of progressive struggles, stressing that there was the need for change in Edo state this year, while reiterating that during the last governorship campaigns of APC in Edo, Oshiomhole was always holding the microphone in the 18 LGAs of the state to campaign for Obaseki and Shaibu, whom he accused of betraying their benefactor.

The former Edo SSG (Ize-Iyamu) noted that it would not be enough to lament about the suffering of people of the state and the stagnation in Edo, which he said had gained notoriety for violence and crime, without meaningful development, adding that the state could not afford to continue on such path.

Obaseki, through his media aide, urged members of the “dissident” group, Edo Peoples Movement (EPM), which he claimed was proscribed by the Edo chapter of APC, to accept the olive branch extended to them by the party under his leadership, before it would be too late.

The Edo governor stressed that APC was willing to re-admit the remorseful members, while noting that the window of opportunity was still open for them.

He also denied being behind the travails of Oshiomhole, whom he alleged only reaped the consequences of his actions and inactions.

Another governorship aspirant on the APC platform, Odubu, noted that Oshiomhole had shown that he is a leader and a tough man.

Odubu said: “We all know that tough times do not last, but tough people do. The number of lives Comrade Oshiomhole has touched and the development he brought to Edo State outweigh his shortcomings. God will always give him victory over the people that he raised, but are now plotting his downfall.

“My teeming supporters across the 18 LGAs of Edo State should keep faith with my desire to provide people of the state with robust and approachable leadership with a human face, in addition to continuing to rally support for the National Chairman of our great party, the APC, Comrade Oshiomhole.”

The former deputy governor, while speaking on the allegation that Oshiomhole’s attempt to become a godfather was responsible for the crisis between him and Obaseki insisted that it was far from the truth.

He said: “There is no godfather in Edo politics. Comrade Oshiomhole fought godfatherism to a standstill and he made sure that every vote counted, while the people also led. They are just giving a dog a bad name, in order to neatly hang it.

“On many occasions, we have challenged Obaseki to name the overbearing tendencies or proclivity of Comrade Oshiomhole in Edo State and how he has tried to influence political activities in Edo State.

“Comrade Oshiomhole stated some time ago that he influenced the appointment of only one commissioner in Obaseki’s cabinet, while the commissioner had since been sacked. Is that the way of a godfather? They know that there is no other way they can possibly fault Comrade Oshiomhole than to come up with the nebulous terminology that he is playing godfatherism.

“Governor Obaseki’s problem in Edo State is not located at the doorstep of Comrade Oshiomhole. The Edo governor is responsible for his own problem because he has refused to show respect to party members and the leadership of his party in the scheme of things.”

Odubu also admonished Obaseki to stop blaming Oshiomhole for his travails, ahead of the September 19 this year’s governorship election.

Members and leaders of the PDP in Edo state are strategising to benefit from the crisis in the state’s chapter of APC. The Chief Bisi Akande-led National Reconciliation Committee of the party should move much faster, in order not to lose the only Southsouth state, after APC’s shocking loss of Bayelsa state.

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