Mobilizing for a generational change

Edo APC and quest for consensus candidate

The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has fixed June 2, its governorship primary in Edo State, ahead of the September 19 poll. Southsouth Bureau Chief, BISI OLANIYI writes on the intrigues and power play.

The people of Edo State are politically conscious. The September 19 governorship election will be a battle between the candidates of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

APC has fixed June 2 for its governorship primary, while members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP are yet to decide on a date for the crucial primaries in Edo state.

The re-election of Governor Godwin Obaseki of the APC would have been very easy, but the bid will be a Herculean task, in view of his face-off with his benefactor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the national chairman of the party.

Oshiomhole, a former Edo governor, according to his allies, will surely take his pound of flesh from Obaseki, thereby punishing him for the failed coup against him, which would have cost him the national chairmanship, but for the quick intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari and APC’s national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.

Edo APC now has two factions. The pro-Oshiomhole faction has Col. David Imuse (rtd.) as its Chairman, while the pro-Obaseki faction is chaired by Anselm Ojezua, a lawyer.

Besides Obaseki, other Edo APC governorship aspirants are Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu; Dr. Pius Odubu; Chris Ogiemwonyi, an engineer; Gen. Charles Airhavbere (rtd.); Chief Solomon Edebiri; Ehiozuwa Johnson Agbonyinma; Saturday Uwuilekhue and Prof. Fred Amadasun.

On April 30, the Edo governorship aspirants loyal to Oshiomhole met in Benin, but they could not vote for a consensus candidate to challenge Obaseki.

The Edo APC stakeholders’ meeting took place at the Airport Road, Benin residence of a former Deputy Governor of the state, Lucky Imasuen.

The meeting was chaired by a member of the House of Representatives, who represents Owan constituency, Prof. Julius Ihonvbere, an ex-Secretary to the State Government (SSG), when Oshiomhole was Edo governor.

With the deadlock at the meeting, the voting for the consensus candidate was postponed till a later date, which was not disclosed.

At the strategic meeting, there was controversy on whether to allow the fourteen elected members of Edo House of Assembly, who are loyal to Oshiomhole, but are yet to resume sitting, to vote, while it was later decided that they should be allowed to exercise their franchise, not minding their soft spot for Ize-Iyamu.

There was also a disagreement among the APC leaders on the number of delegates from Edo North and Edo Central Senatorial Districts, who would be allowed to vote during the shadow election.

Sources disclosed that before the meeting was rounded off, Ogiemwonyi left, since voting could not take place, especially with the disruption by some members of APC, who were uncomfortable with the decisions taken.

On May 3, Edo state government, through its Commissioner for Information  and Orientation, Paul Ohonbamu, and Obaseki’s Special Adviser  on Media and Communication Strategy, Crusoe Osagie, alleged that Oshiomhole continued to violate directives to halt the spread of COVID-19 and causing crisis in the state by organising political gatherings through the Edo People’s Movement (EPM).

In the joint press statement, Ohonbamu and Osagie claimed that the “illegal” meeting did not only go against the directives of the state and federal governments, but jeopardised efforts to contain Coronavirus  Disease (COVID-19) in the state, thereby allegedly endangering the lives of Edo people.

They claimed that the national chairman’s actions were not only reprehensible, but callous and selfish, alleging that he continued his quest to cause crisis in Edo state and destabilise the chapter, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Edo government said: “It is not surprising that Comrade Oshiomhole has continued his doom-fated attempt to destabilise the Edo State chapter of the APC.

But what is most unconscionable is that he is propagating this move at the expense of the safety and wellbeing of Edo people.

“By organising the supposed mock primary on April 30, 2020, with more than 50 persons in attendance, he is undermining efforts of different stakeholders in containing the spread of the virus and also dishonouring all those who have died from this virus.

Those who organised the political gathering, initially held at Lucky Imasuen’s residence in Benin City, later moved to different locations to continue their inglorious show of shame, in perpetuation of the wishes of their puppet master.

“The antics of Comrade Oshiomhole are well-known, but it bears repeating that he is on a mission to re-enact what happened in Rivers, Zamfara and Bayelsa States in Edo State.

He has continued to perpetuate the factionalising of the party in the state, with an intent to cause the party to lose its opportunity to participate in the forthcoming governorship election.”

Obaseki’s administration also claimed that the actions of the former labour leader (Oshiomhole) had compromised Edo government’s efforts to halt the spread of coronavirus in the state, while urging President  Muhammadu Buhari and the leadership of the APC at the national level to call Oshiomhole to order, before he would destabilise Edo chapter of the party.

On May 7, the governorship aspirants on the platform of APC and some leaders of the governing party in Edo state decided to unite to field a consensus candidate during the June 2 primaries.

They also rose in defence of Oshiomhole, whom they described as a committed and focused leader, who should be adequately supported to succeed.

Besides the frontline aspirants: Chris Ogiemwonyi, Dr. Pius Odubu, Gen. Charles Airhiavbere (rtd.), and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who supported the decision, other leaders who identified with the strategic move were Saturday Idehen, Rev. Peter Obadan, Lucky Imasuen, Senaror Francis Alimikhena and Pally Iriase.

Other were Peter Akpatason, Johnson Oghuma, Prof. Julius Ihonvbere, Gen. Cecil Esekhaegbe (rtd.), Henry Idahagbon, Chief Francis Inegbeniki, Patrick Obahiagbon, Ken Ihiesenkhien, Thomas Okosun and Patrick Ikhariale.

The governorship aspirants and leaders stated that they were committed to the motto and slogan of APC: justice, peace, unity and change respectively, in order to foster a common purpose towards the success of the great party in the September 19 this year’s governorship election in Edo.

They said: “As aspirants seeking to contest the office of governor of Edo State, we recognise that only one person can be fielded and we hereby pledge to support whoever emerges among us, as the candidate of the party.

“We remain united in the pursuit of a common goal of ensuring that our party wins the governorship election in Edo State, coming up in September this year.

As loyal party members and leaders, we are committed to a free and fair process of selecting the governorship standard bearer of the party and we are all committed to abiding by the process.

“We wish to restate our unalloyed commitment to the leadership of Comrade Oshiomhole as the National Chairman of the APC and to warn the Governor of Edo State to desist from his unpatriotic activities of sponsoring attacks on him and financing his removal from office.”

The aspirants and leaders of the party also berated Obaseki and his allies on the “frivolous and wicked” allegations levelled against the former governor of the state (Oshiomhole).

They said: “Reports from Obaseki’s Secretary to Government, Osarodion Ogie, and Media Adviser, Crusoe Osagie, purporting to accuse our amiable and indefatigable National Chairman of APC, Comrade Oshiomhole, of masterminding the process of selecting a candidate through mock primaries, thereby breaching guidelines for the containment of COVID-19, are not only malicious, vexatious and untrue, but extremely irresponsible on the part of Edo State government that has failed abysmally to diligently address and implement the guidelines issued by the Federal Government through the Presidential Task Force (PTF) On COVID-19 and the Nigeria Centre For Disease Control (NCDC).

“There was never a time the members and leaders of the APC, Edo State chapter, engaged in any activity that contravened any guideline for the management of the COVID-19 pandemic and the National Chairman of APC has not visited Edo State since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in February 2020.

“Obaseki’s hypocrisy is legendary, as he has continued, even while on self-isolation, to hold meetings with politicians to campaign for his re-election and he may be possibly responsible for infecting some government officials who tested positive for coronavirus, as he refused to disclose his status, after submitting his samples for test. This is reminiscent of the lack of transparency in the governance of Edo State.”

The governorship aspirants and leaders of APC in Edo also accused Obaseki’s administration of unwittingly and without regard for the wellbeing and health of people of the state, allegedly lumped market operators into school premises, in gross violation of the social distancing policy.

They disclosed that as leaders of APC, they had individually and collectively offered palliatives, even in greater quantity than what Edo government gave to people of the state, despite claiming to have expended over N1 billion in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Edo governorship aspirants and leaders said: “As party members and leaders seeking to give Edo people responsible governance from November 12, 2020, we are deeply concerned about the gross violations of the fundamental human rights of citizens of Edo State, through the false declaration and stigmatisation of innocent persons, all in the pretence of combating the spread of COVID-19 and the near absence of basic Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for our medical personnel, which the Association of Resident Doctors in Edo has criticised the government for not providing for health workers

“We salute the gallant efforts of all health workers  in Edo State for putting their lives on the line, in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

The chieftains of APC in Edo also urged all their supporters to continue to engage in constructive campaigns that would promote the unity and cohesion of the party, so as to position it for victory in the governorship election in the state.

Leaders of the main opposition PDP are watching the fight to the finish in Edo APC and they are determined to capitalise on the mistakes of Oshiomhole, Obaseki and their allies, if they refuse to put their house in order, ahead of the crucial September 19 election, which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said would not be postponed.

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