With the decision of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), currently led by the National Chairman of the party and former governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, to adopt direct primary for the coming governorship primary in Edo State scheduled to hold on June 22, the hope of getting a second term ticket by the incumbent governor, Godwin Obaseki remains uncertain. The development has thrown the ruling party into deeper murky waters since the loyalists of the incumbent have openly rejected direct primaries to pick the party’s flagbearer.
The Obaseki Mandate Forum (OMF) yesterday purchased the expression of interest and nomination forms for the Governor at the APC national secretariat in Abuja. He however, discounted insinuations that Obaseki was afraid of direct primaries as its Coordinator, Chief Nathaniel Momoh stated that the governor was comfortable with either modes of primaries but for the need to protect Edo people from Covid-19. He explained that Obaseki opted for the indirect primaries in line with efforts to check the spread of coronavirus in the state, insisting Obaseki had done well to deserve a second term in office.
However, a statement by John Mayaki, Director of Communication and Media for Ize-Iyamu Campaign Organisation, said Ize-Iyamu was the consensus candidate of the APC faction loyal to Oshiomhole and APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Ize-Iyamu, former Secretary to the Edo State government (SSG), who was the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2016 election lost to Obaseki and is seeking a rematch in the APC primaries. Obaseki would contest with Ize-Iyamu in the June 22, 2020 primary, ahead of the September 19 election.
But in a swift reaction, Special Adviser to Obaseki on Media and Communication Strategy, Crusoe Osagie said selecting the party’s candidate was the responsibility of the state’s APC in collaboration with national structure, and as such a consensus candidate to flag the party’s flag in the election could not emerge in Abuja. He said the charade in Abuja was not surprising, as it was hatched and executed by Oshiomhole and his Edo Peoples Movement (EPM), which he described as a frustrated dissident group of Edo politicians.
Political pundits in and outside Edo have noted that as long as direct primary holds, Obaseki like Ambode should forget having a second term on APC’s platform in the state. Oshiomhole, who has been at loggerheads with Obaseki, had on Thursday, May 22, through APC National Publicity Secretary, Lanre Isa-Onilu, announced the NWC has adopted direct governorship primary in Edo, barely a month to the election. It is what the former APC national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, had warned against, saying, “If the NWC eventually adopts a direct primary to decide who picks the party’s ticket for the governorship primary election Obaseki may likely not win, but that the development may also affect the chances of APC retaining Edo State come September.”
It would be recalled that Ize-Iyamu, who recently defected to APC at the instance of Oshiomhole, has since been cleared to participate in the party’s governorship primary and he is believed to be the favorite candidate of the national chairman, who may have been tipped to wrestle power from Obaseki.
Already, Ize-Iyamu has come out to fault the claim by Obaseki that the use of direct primaries would spread the Coronavirus in Edo state. Speaking to reporters shortly after procuring the expression of interest and nomination forms at the APC secretariat in Abuja, he dismissed Obaseki’s position on the issue as ridiculous, saying the indirect primaries would instead create the enabling environment for the spread of Covid-19; as it requires delegates to travel across Edo state to select the party’s flag bearer, thereby rendering the ongoing campaign against the disease fruitless.
Ize -Iyamu alleged that Obaseki was opposed to direct primaries because the process cannot be easily manipulated, asking rhetorically: “In any event, is the general election going to be indirect? Definitely not!” Ize -Iyamu who was a member of the APC constitutional drafting committee in 2014 argued that the decision by the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole led national working committee (NWC) to settle for the direct primaries mode was in line with the party constitution.
But Obaseki’s spokesperson, Crusoe Osagie, did not mince words when he said APC’s NWC couldn’t impose on the state what method of governorship primary to be adopted for the ticket. According to him, “The NEC is not the one that is responsible for picking the kind of primary that is used to determine the candidate of a party in a governorship election.”
Obaseki’s efforts to build a grassroots coalition to wade off the machinations of Oshiomhole received a boost after members of the legislative arm of Oredo Council Area pledged their support for his second term bid. The members also expressed confidence in the leadership of council chairman, Jenkins Osunde, for demonstrating his capacity as a grassroots leader. Speaking on behalf of the other eleven members when they visited Osunde, the leader of the legislative arm, Ewansiha Jeffery declared their total support for Obaseki and commended the council boss for complementing the governor for his development strides in the council.
Another APC stalwart and Deputy National Chairman (North), Lawal Shuaibu, like Odigie-Oyegun, has also raised the alarm against what he described as Oshiomhole’s lawlessness, which he said “would destroy APC.” He warned that the party stood the risk of disintegration should the alleged arbitrariness of Oshiomhole be left unchecked. He said with the way Oshiomhole was running the party, it was obvious that lessons had yet to be learnt from the reversal of its electoral fortunes in Zamfara State.
In his appraisal of what is currently happening in Edo a few months away from the primary and the governorship election, Shuaibu noted that the Supreme Court voided APC’s victory in all elections held in Zamfara State in 2019 after the court held that the processes enshrined in APC’s constitution were ignored in the conduct of primary which produced its candidates for the 2019 governorship, national and state Assembly elections.
In another reaction to the development in the party, a group that named itself Concerned Edo State APC Stakeholders, which comprises of Hon. Etiosa Ugiagbe, Chief Enakhare Odaro, Hon. Emmanuel Umweni, Akhere Odion, Engr. Jude Okojie, Dr. Edionwele Ikpea, Odia Abubakar, Greg Onimisi and Dr. Omoruyi Graig in a letter addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari titled: ‘Oshiomhole’s Unforced Losses and Fate of APC in Edo 2020 Gubernatorial Election’ said they consider it necessary to inform President Buhari and APC national leadership of the endless, unprovoked battles Oshiomhole has continued to wage against the Edo State chapter of the party.
The group expressed displeasure over the sorry pattern of APC losses under Oshiomhole. The statement reads: “For instance, in Taraba State, the APC lost the governorship seat and could not even field a candidate because the person cleared for the position by the party under Oshiomhole’s leadership was indicted for forgery, a condition that could have been avoided were the necessary internal mechanisms explored to properly vet the candidates before they were confirmed to fly the party’s flag. The APC also lost Bauchi and Oyo States due to the poor leadership displayed at the national secretariat of the party.
“In Zamfara State, the APC gifted the governorship, National and State Assemblies seats, and other elective offices to the opposition because of its inability to get its acts together. The cause: the inability of the party to successfully conduct primaries that were acceptable by its stakeholders… Down south, what played out in Zamfara State repeated itself in Rivers State, where the inability of the party leadership to provide direction and harmoniously address the concerns of stakeholders set the state chapter of the party on the path of perdition, such that it could not also field candidates in the elections as a result of legal intrigues that surrounded the primary elections. Comrade Oshiomhole, it appeared, could not care less, even if the state was crucial to the party in Southern Nigeria among others.”
Barely 24 hours after an attempt by a faction of the Edo APC to throw up a consensus candidate against Obaseki failed, party stakeholders insisted that time has come for Obaseki and Oshiomhole to resolve their differences in the interest of party unity. A former political aide to Oshiomhole, Charles Idahosa, said it was absurd for Oshiomhole to think that the incumbent government could be denied re-election for a second term by capitalising on the crisis that he (Oshiomhole) created.
Speaking at the backdrop of a flopped political meeting by the Edo Peoples Movement (EPM) faction of APC to nominate a consensus candidate, Idahosa said although Obaseki’s re-election was not negotiable, the best Oshiomhole could do was to reconcile with the governor, since he lacks the capacity to decide the governor’s fate. While maintaining that Oshiomhole’s support for the emergence of a consensus candidate from among his four shortlisted aspirants amounted to an exercise in futility, Idahosa condemned the continued effort to run a parallel structure ahead of the party’s primary, all in a bid to supplant Obaseki. Idahosa said only concerted support for Obaseki would guarantee victory for APC in the forthcoming Edo State gubernatorial poll, even as he called on the four governorship aspirants that took part in the disastrous factional primary to join the incumbent in providing good governance for Edo people.
But loyalists of the national chairman have to strongly insist that it was wrong for Obaseki to contend against the fingers that fed him. They stressed that if not for Oshiomhole, the incumbent governor in Edo wouldn’t have been where he is. It was also observed that the issue between Oshiomhole and the incumbent centres on party interests, which the governor’s opponents said he failed to give priority as against the desires and wishes of his predecessor in office.