Sunday, May 24, 2020 1:56 pm
By Jethro Ibileke
The outbreak of the Coronavirus disease that assumed a pandemic status as it ravages most countries of the world has temporarily shifted attention from all other important things. Before the dreaded disease took roots in the country, amongst the several activities in the front burner in Nigeria were the upcoming governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states, which had already been scheduled to hold on 19 September and 11 October respectively by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
Political parties in the two states were already strategizing on how to either retain their hold on power in or snatch power from the ruling party. In Edo, for instance, the administration of Governor Godwin Obaseki will come to its end on 12 November this year, and a newly elected one sworn-in same day.
Although there are indications that the country’s electoral umpire, INEC is considering a shift in the date of the elections, however, not even the dreaded disease will extend the lifespan of Governor Godwin Obaseki administration beyond 12 November. What that means is either a newly elected governor would be sworn-in or an interim government likely to be headed by the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, would be set up on that day.
While the election is important to all the stakeholders, many are of the opinion that the governorship election in Edo state will either make or mar the national chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. The vociferous and energetic chairman had been credited with the victories recorded by the party in Osun and Kogi states; and most recently in Imo state. But for the Supreme Court judgement that upturned the election of APC’s David Lyion in the 16 November 2019 Bayelsa governorship election in favour of the candidate of the APC, David Lyon in favour of Diri Duoye of the PDP, Oshiomhole would have added the feather of that victory to his cap.
With the scenario painted above, the case now is like that of Jesus who was told by his critics to perform the wonderful miracles they heard he performed elsewhere, to save himself. If truly Oshiomhole’s political sagacity had resulted in victory for the APC in other states, the stage is then set to prove it in his own state of origin; nothing short of victory is expected.
To political pundits, the governorship election in Edo state is between APC and APC, as it appears that the major opposition party PDP, which ought to have reaped the dividends of the internal crisis rocking the state chapter of the APC, is also swimming in the sea of internal wranglings. Hence, the election might just be between incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki on the one hand, and whoever emerges candidate of the faction loyal to Adams Oshiomhole.
Four aspirants loyal to Adams Oshiomhole, namely, Pius Odubu, a former Deputy Governor, Charles Airhiavbere, a retired military general, Chris Ogiemwonyi, a retired oil and gas expert and a former minister of state for works and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu who recently ‘came back home’ from his political sojourn to the PDP, had formed a common and formidable pact to ensure that Godwin Obaseki does not fly the party’s flag in the election, over his alleged sin of abandoning party leaders who helped him to power.
Each of these aspirants has always reiterate his readiness to work with whoever emerged as consensus candidate among them. But recent events have exposed a crack in their rank, latest among them being the recent mock primary election, allegedly organized under the directive of Adams Oshiomhole, to adopt a consensus candidate for the forthcoming governorship election.
The so-called ‘family political meeting’ which was held at the residence of a former deputy governor of the state and a frontline member of Oshiomhole’s infantry, Edo People’s Movement (EMP), Mr. Lucky Imasuen, failed to reflect a family affair, but a house already divided against itself. It ended in deadlock, over alleged non transparency on the part of the organisers.
A frontline member of EMP and a staunch supporter of one of the aspirants, Barr. Henry Idahagbon, told this magazine in a telephone interview that “in their attempt to choose a consensus candidate, the meeting ended in deadlock because the process leading to the meeting was not transparent. We have only asked that the leadership should go back to the drawing board to make it transparent.”
Idahagbon added: “This is like an association and members trying to reduce the number of the aspirants. If they are unable to do any reduction, then they go for the primaries and whoever wins at the primaries becomes the candidate of the party. There is no rancour, nothing to worry about, the party remains the same.”
On the other hand, members of the Edo APC Youths for Justice and Development, a pan political group fronting for Chris Ogiemwonyi, said it rejected the inclusion a former federal lawmaker, West Idahosa, as member of the screening committee of the mock primaries, describing his inclusion as an attempt to jeopardise the existing spirit of understanding among the governorship aspirants.
It said: “It is our strong belief that the process for the emergence of a consensus candidate must be based on fair play, equity and Justice. Any process that is devoid of these natural principles amounts to inviting further division and anarchy in the party.
“It is against this backdrop that we vehemently reject the inclusion of Hon. Ehigie West-Idahosa as a member of the Screening Committee. Our position is predicated on the following: Hon West Idahosa is an acclaimed supporter of Pastor Osagie Ize- Iyamu, who we reliably gathered, has promised to appoint him as the State’s Attorney-General, and also promised him the Edo South automatic Senate ticket for 2023, if given the party ticket and subsequently elected into office.
“The same Hon. Ehigie West Idahosa has been commissioned to write the guidelines for the screening committee and the criteria qualifying the aspirants. Given his political allegiance to Pastor Osagie Ize- Iyamu, Hon West Idahosa cannot in this circumstance, be an unbiased umpire. With Hon. Ehigie West Idahosa as the author of the guidelines for the mini congress, we are convinced that the process would be skewed in favour of his long time friend, Pastor Osagie Ize- Iyamu.
“We hereby call on the party leadership both at the national and state level, to do the needful by removing Hon. Ehigie West- Idahosa as a member of the Screening Committee and replace him with a more acceptable person to all the aspirants. We warn that failure to heed to our demand would be met with strong opposition . We have the capacity to create problem in the party, and no one should undermine our resolve to do so, if the need arises.”
Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, has, however denied report of crack in the ranks of the aspirants, describing it as a plot by ‘some persons paid to sponsor articles and other media contents’ to cause disaffection among them.
A statement by his campaign organisation said “some people terrified of the camaraderie between the aspirants, have commissioned writers and other bloggers to generate contents aimed at disparaging Edo APC aspirants. Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu holds in the highest esteem, Dr. Pius Odubu, Engineer Chris Ogiemwonyi, General Charles Airhiavbere (Rtd) and the other aspirants and remains committed to the agreed accord amongst them.”
One of the delegates to the botched mock primaries who spoke to the magazine on condition of anonymity, questioned the modalities used by the APC national chairman in selecting the delegate list.
According to him, “It was agreed that delegates would be nominated from all the local government areas, except Orhionmwon, because three of the aspirants are from there. But we were shocked when we arrived at the venue of the election, we discovered that many names of our members on the delegate list have been removed and substituted with Ize-Iyamu’s boys who defected with him. It was on that ground that we doubted the transparency of the organisers, and I personally told them that there would be no election because it lacked transparency.
The political family meeting however drew the ire of many, including the state government, the PDP and other groups who severely criticised Oshiomhole for organizing a mock governorship primary election when the nation and the world at large are battling to halt the ravaging effect of Covid-19.
The state government, in a statement jointly signed by the Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Communication Strategy, Crusoe Osagie, and the Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Paul Ohonbamu, accused Oshiomhole of serial violations of directives to halt the spread of COVID-19 and cause crisis in the state by organising political gatherings through his group.
It described the former governor’s actions as not only reprehensible but callous and selfish, adding that that the mock primary,’ did not only go against the directives of the federal and state governments, but also jeopardised efforts to contain COVID-19, thereby endangering the lives of Edo people.
“By organising the supposed mock primary on 30 April 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 the perpetuation of the wishes of their puppet master,” the statement added.
Also, the main opposition PDP and a group, the Governors’ Mandate Network, which berated the Obaseki administration for lacking the courage to bring the associates of the national chairman to book for breaching safety measures to combat the virus, called on the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, and the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to arrest those who took part in the primary.
With these reasons it is obvious that Oshiomhole may have his hands full with reconciling his loyal aspirants and also delivering his home state to his party