No fewer than 28 aspirants are jostling for the jobs of Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, and his Edo State counterpart, Godwin Obaseki, in the forthcoming governorship elections in the two states. The electoral umpire; the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday released the elections’ guidelines stipulating the mode of campaign approved for contesting political parties, given the restrictive protocols of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on public gatherings amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The guidelines favored electronic campaigns and discouraged rallies that could lead to large gatherings that could endanger the health of the electorate.
As the race for the October 2020 election peaks, at least 20 aspirants have indicated their interest to challenge the re-election of Akeredolu. The major aspirants are from three political parties- the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the main opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the African Democratic Congress (ADC). However, only one person, Prince Eniola Onajuni, a native of Ilaje Local Government Area of the state has indicated interest to run on the platform of ADC.
In the APC, strong aspirants comprise those who contested the 2016 primary against Akeredolu and new entrants while the PDP has both the former candidate of the party and also new entrants. Prominent among the APC candidates is Olusegun Abraham, a Lagos-based businessman, who contested against the incumbent in 2016 and came second in the primary.
Abraham is from Ikare in Akoko North-East Local Government in Ondo North. A major obstacle against Abraham, who is close to the party national leadership, is the insinuation that he usually leaves the state after every election and comes back when another election approaches.
Although there are many political parties that are likely to field candidates in the governorship election coming up in Edo State on September 19, only the APC and the PDP are firmly on the ground. From the PDP end, three aspirants have so far indicated their interest to contest in the party primaries.
They are Hon. Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, the member, representing Oredo Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives; Kenneth Imansuangbon, a lawyer and Abuja-based school proprietor; and Mr. Gideon Ikhine, a retired senior staff of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC).
In APC, five aspirants have emerged namely: Obaseki and former Secretary to Edo State Government and 2016 governorship candidate of the PDP, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. Others are retired Executive Director (Upstream), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and former Minister of State for Works, Dr. Chris Ogiemwonyi; immediate past Deputy Governor of Edo State, Pius Odubu; and Maj-Gen Charles Airhiavbere (rtd), who was the candidate of PDP in the 2012 governorship election.
From the guidelines released by the national leadership of the two parties, APC fixed its primary election for June 22 while PDP slated its race for 23 and 24 of June. It’s on this premise that the battle of who clinches the party ticket, especially in the APC has become more fierce as the day draws closer because of the crisis in the party, which has led to factionalisation with one camp supporting the National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, and the other belonging to Obaseki. To achieve their quest of ensuring Obaseki is defeated at the primary election, some leaders of APC made a move to have a consensus candidate to face Obaseki, which ended in a deadlock as the meeting was postponed. However, it was gathered that consultation is still ongoing and a fresh meeting was rescheduled without any date given.
The meeting, which held at the residence of a former deputy governor of the state, Lucky Imasuen, was allegedly disrupted during the process of trying to agree on modalities to be used for the shadow election. It was learnt that trouble started when some persons queried the rationale behind the inclusion of the 14 members-elect of Edo State House of Assembly who are yet to resume sitting to vote in the meeting.
Eventually, when they were allowed to vote, another controversy erupted as most of them were said to be supporting Ize-Iyamu. It was gathered that the contest was fierce, especially amongst the trio of Ize-Iyamu, Odubu and Ogiemwonyi. It was also gathered that Ogiemwonyi left the meeting for his home shortly after the meeting was disrupted.
According to a source close to the meeting, “The consensus meeting was presided over by Prof. Julius Ihonvbere, member, representing Owan Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives.
“Another concern raised at the meeting was the number of delegates from Edo Central and Edo North some of whom were said to have stepped down for Ize-Iyamu to boost his chances while others raised the issue of sponsorship of delegates to the meeting that eventually led to its postponement to another undisclosed date.”