While major stakeholders in the Adams Oshiomhole-led faction of the Edo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress, APC, have been meeting in Abuja with a view to resolve the growing discontent amongst governorship aspirants who had formed a coalition against incumbent governor, Godwin Obaseki to produce a consensus candidate, there are strong indications that loyalists of some of the aspirants who suspect a particular aspirant is being tipped to pick the ticket, are ready to rock the boat. A meeting called last Thursday for the purpose of agreeing on a common aspirant ended even before it took off properly over issues of processes and procedures to be adopted. Four of the aspirants, who hurriedly met to come up with a common a position, had left the meeting immediately after presenting their protest. They are Pius Odubu, former deputy governor of the state, Chris Ogiemwonyi, former minister of state for works, Charles Airhiavbere, retired army General and former governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2012 governorship election in the state, and Solomon Edebiri, also a former governorship candidate on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP.
Feelers from the camp of the national chairman of the party indicated a seeming gang-up against Osagie Ize-Iyamu, former secretary to the state government, SSG, by other aspirants who suspected that he was being unduly favoured. The kernel of the groundswell of opposition against Ize-Iyamu, going by the virulent smear campaign against him on social media, is hinged on the fact that he just came into the party about five months ago and being positioned to pick the party’s ticket. After the botched meeting last Thursday in Benin, the magazine learnt that worried by the spate of personal attacks and campaign of calumny amongst the aspirants, of which Ize-Iyamu had been the worst hit, the party leaders summoned all of them to Abuja with a view to prevail on them to sheathe their swords. At the meeting in Abuja on Tuesday, leaders of the party reportedly appealed that the present exercise should be seen as a family affair and not a war.
However, from the attitude of supporters of some of the four other aspirants, it was clear that the meeting may not have achieved much. While Ize-Iyamu, through his campaign organization on Wednesday issued a statement calling his followers to order, cautioning them to refrain from castigating other aspirants jostling for the ticket of the party, a similar admonition is yet to emanate from the camps of his co-aspirants. Instead, there appears to be a pervading feeling of frustration and disillusionment.
In a statement by John Mayaki, the director of communication and media of Ize-Iyamu’s campaign organization, the Pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, reiterated his commitment to the accord by the aspirants namely Odubu, Airhavbere, Edebiri, Hon Ehiozuwa Johnson Agbonyinma, Hon Saturday Uwuilekhue, Fred Amadasun, and his humble self to conduct friendly campaigns. He said he was conscious of the fact that at the end of the day, a consensus aspirant would be selected that would enjoy the support of the other aspirants for what he described as the “more important task of rescuing our state from the claws of incompetence, intolerance, and reversal of growth and development.”
According to Ize-Iyamu, “Through the Directors of my campaign who remain active in our organization’s continuous efforts to offer relief to Edo people as COVID-19 restrictions bite harder, I have repeated my message to our followers across the state to refrain from attacking or castigating other aspirants vying for the party’s ticket. These aspirants, all of whom I have a cordial personal and professional relationship with, share our desire to bring growth and development to Edo State and undo these past few years of disorganization, confusion, and bitter politics that has poisoned our state and sadly relegated actual governance to the background.”
The former national vice-chairman, South-south of the defunct Acron Congress of Nigeria, ACN, said “Although the process of selecting a candidate may seemingly portray a sense and feeling of competition, at the end of the day, we remain members of the same party, tied by a common goal. I have previously communicated my readiness to back any of us who gets the assent of the party to fly our flag at the polls even if it’s not me, and I wish to restate that promise once again” adding that for him, “what is most important is that we offer true leadership to our people and reclaim the promise of our party”.
However, the same appears not to be the feeling in the camp of some of the other aspirants. A source close to Odubu’s camp told the magazine in utter frustration that “somebody just coming into the party, you now prefer him to those of them who have been in the party building it. We took bullet for him (veiled reference to Oshiomhole because of Obaseki and now this. But for some of us, we will withdraw from the matter. If push comes to shove, we will take more radical decisions. Me I’m tired of what is going on”.
One of the aspirants expressed similar sentiment. He told the magazine that “yes, all of us are shielding our swords to present a common aspirant. But it will get to that (rocking the boat) if a proper decision is not taken, and I pray that that will not happen“.
But reacting to the opposition to Ize-Iyamu’s likely emergence as the anointed one, a group by the name Edo Reformers insisted on Wednesday that he remained the best option for the party in the September 19, 2020 governorship election. A statement by the publicity secretary of the group, Efe Wilson Omuemu said “There should be no dispute about who is most qualified for the job. Ize-Iyamu was selfless from the beginning and that is why I wonder when they say he just came from PDP. He was there from Grace Group which eventually became Action Congress; and while people were preparing for election, he was looking for more people to come and join the new party”.
According to the group, “It was when Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was filling his form that he was shown his deputy governor for the first time and he went on to work for Oshiomhole for eight years. Is that a newcomer? He was Vice-Chairman, South-South of the now-defunct Action Congress of Nigeria; he was also Vice-Chairman, Constitution Drafting Committee of the APC. Is that the person you call a newcomer? Certain things happen that made him leave the party and he came back to APC when the crisis in the party was high with 14 lawmakers shut out of the house of assembly and he has been working to ensure the crisis is resolved”.
Omuemu admonished party members to be conscious of the damage the current administration has done to the party “and it needs a man of strong character that can attract the populace to get back the confidence the party once enjoyed during the time of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole”.
What also may have further ruffled feathers amongst the aspirants was the endorsement of Ize-Iyamu by Tony Kabaka Adun, a political thug and former revenue agent for the government whose multi-million naira hotel was demolished recently by Obaseki. Tony Kabaka, as he is popularly known, in a 12 minutes video posted on social media, said “Edo State APC leaders, I want you people to wake up from your slumber, I cannot fight for present government to come on board, and then, I will come and be fighting again for my party to stand. I’m begging you, we tired (sic) of crisis; we’re tired (sic) of dragging. If you don’t want us to fight, if you don’t want us to drag, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu should be the flag flier of APC. People will say pastor wey just newly come. My brother, even though dem say you newly come …It’s not by what you’ve got, it’s by your followers. And remember when we all join hand together to fight Ize-Iyamu, it was very difficult for us to succeed if not that abracadabra take (sic) place…When Obaseki was coming on board, we rob (sic) that mandate; we rob it and give (sic) it to Obaseki. Ize-Iyamu have (sic) come to take his mandate. ”
A chieftain of the party opposed to Ize-Iyamu believed Tony Kabaka was paid to do the job and promised other things. Another youth group was to counter Omuemu and Tony Kabaka, warning Oshiomhole against imposing anyone as candidate of the party. The group, Edo APC Youths for Justice and Development (AYOJD) in an open letter addressed to Oshiomhole and signed by its oordinator, Bagudu Momoh and secretary, Ephraim Erhunse, noted that all the aspirants have the requisite qualifications, acumen and charismatic traits to defeat Obaseki at the primaries. They urged Oshiomhole to consider “antecedent, integrity, compassion, party loyalty, work experience” amongst other qualities in supporting a consensus candidate among the four aspirants, adding that “the party does not need a candidate that would be bogged down by court appearances over corruption charges or have any ‘baggage” over past political activities”. According to the group, “To defeat Governor Obaseki at the primaries requires a candidate the large spectrum of the party believes in and not one with imaginary followership”.
But Washington Osifo, a lawyer and one of the 14 embattled members-elect of the state house of Assembly, said though he had heard that some people were ready to play the spoiler should Ize-Iyamu emerge, it shouldn’t be the case. H believed they could just be doing that because they want relevance so that their negotiating power can be enhanced. “I don’t think they are really going to rock the boat” he said. Osifo, however, disagreed with those claiming that they suffered for Oshiomhole to bring in Obaseki, and would not be ready to travel the same road again. According to him, “are they suffering for Comrade or they are pursuing their personal ambition? It has nothing to do with suffering for Comrade. It has everything to do with fighting for personal ambition. Assuming I become governor today out of the process, will I say it’s because I suffered for Comrade I was rewarded with governorship? Did Godwin suffer for Comrade to become governor? No; it’s the other way round. If anybody is suffering, Comrade is suffering because he had told Godwin he should carry people along who are members of his party and who supported him to be governor. If he had sat back and said it doesn’t really matter, Godwin would not have had problem with Comrade. He stood as a selfless leader”.