In about few weeks from now, the Edo State All Progressives Congress (APC) would hold its primaries to select its candidate for the September 19 governorship poll. Patrick Ahanor writes on the intrigues and political power-play involved in the process.
The intrigues and fierce horse-trading arising there from is largely because of the lingering face-off between the APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, and the Edo state governor, Godwin Obaseki.
For members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and political watchers particularly in Edo state, the anxiety over who eventually emerged the party’s candidate will be over on June 22, a day billed for the exercise.
Initially, over nine aspirants including Governor Godwin Obaseki, who is seeking a second term, had indicated interest to vie for the party’s ticket. However, seven of the aspirants stepped down Tuesday night and threw their weight behind Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu- an ally of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the embattled party national chairman.
The move, according to political watchers, no doubt was a big blow to Obaseki’s second term ambition as he had reportedly hoped for all the aspirants to partake in the exercise in the hope that the delegates’ votes would be split among them – thereby offering him some advantage.
The primary is particularly of keen interest to many as a result of the lingering political power tussle between the APC national chairman and the governor.
Faction and counter suspension
Before now, about eight commissioners and four council chairmen believed to be loyal to Oshiomhole had been shown the exit door in the Obaseki’s administration.
Besides, the face-off between the embattled “godfather and his estranged godson” has led to factions in the state chapter of the party. Whereas the Anslem Ojezua-faction is loyal to the governor, the retired Col David Imuse-led faction pledges its allegiance to Oshiomhole.
In an apparent show of strength, both factions have at different times announced the “suspension” of Oshiomhole, Obaseki, his deputy, Secretary to the State Government, Osarodion Ogie, and other political figures from the party.
On March 8, Governor Obaseki attended a meeting of some leaders of the South-South APC in Abuja ostensibly held as part of the scheme to oust Adams Oshiomhole as the party’s national chairman who was under suspension at the time. But the coup was abortive.
Oshiomhole’s planned pound of flesh
With no truce in sight between the duo, observers are of the view that the party’s primary could be an avenue for the national chairman to take his pound of flesh against the governor.
Some political observers feared the “Ambode treatment in Lagos state” could be melted on Obaseki at the primary whilst others are optimistic that the Edo governor has warmed his hearts to many- having initiated several laudable projects.
‘Ambode treatment’ is in reference to the immediate past Governor of Lagos state, Akinwunmi Ambode, who was denied a second term by the power brokers in the Lagos APC for his alleged high-handedness, betrayal of those who assisted him to power and for coming up with policies which gravely affected their economic ‘lifelines’.
Is Ambode treatment possible in Edo?
However, concerned political leaders in Edo have described as ignorant, those saying Obaseki will receive the ‘Ambode treatment’ when he decides to seek re-election.
Festus Etokhana , a chieftain of the APC in the state said: “there are many reasons why Obaseki can’t get Ambode treatment in Edo. One, the politics of Edo is very different from Lagos politics. Two, the governor enjoys the support of Edo APC leaders, Ambode did not. Even when Asiwaju Bola Tinubu wanted to pardon him, the leaders said they will revolt against him”.
And last week the seemingly rancour-free adoption of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu as the party’s consensus candidate by the Oshiomhole-faction of the APC is a pointer to the fact that the battle ahead of the governor could just be the one beyond his shoulder!
In one fell swoop, seven aspirants including a former deputy governor, Pius Odubu, a former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate in 2012, Gen Charles Airhiavbere (retd) and ex-Minister of State for Works, Engr Chris Ogiewmonyi, amongst others stepped down for Ize-Iyamu.
For them, (aspirants), any sacrifices that would see to the exit of the governor from Osadebey Avenue, the state seat of power, is worth making. That though was shortlist as the ex-deputy and former works minister had since rescind their support for Ize-Iyamu.
To this end, political pundits are of the view that the choice of Ize-Iyamu as a consensus may have unsettled the governor’s camp as it is believed that the cleric’s consistency in Edo’s politics since the nation returned to democratic rule in 1999, could be key to his success.
Ize-Iyamu served as Chief of Staff and later Secretary to Government between 1999 and 2007. The aspirant also reportedly mobilized men and resources in the election/court verdict that brought Comrade Adams Oshiomhole to power in 2008.
He served as the Director General of Oshiomhole’s re-election campaign in 2012 and fell out with the later in 2014 during which he defected to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) where he picked the party’s governorship ticket and contested with Obaseki, but lost.
His dramatic return to the APC alongside his supporters in December last year, came as a surprise to many. The thinking was having contested against the party three years earlier- a notion he has consistently dismissed saying “I would not have wanted to leave (PDP), but you must constantly ask yourself why you are in politics, he should have stayed put in the PDP.
However, he has insisted thus: “We are in politics principally to be able to represent our people in the political arena. And then of course, because we were in the APC before, there have been a lot of overtures at state and national levels that we should come back to the house that we had helped to build.
“When we found out that many of those appeals were very genuine and coming from very highly placed persons, we went back to our communities and also found out that our communities too were of the opinion that we should work with the APC.”
Split in Oshiomhole’s faction
However, just when the Oshiomhole faction were still basking in the euphoria of a united front to confront the governor, the 18 local government chairmen of the party disowned Ize-Iyamu’s consensus candidacy, saying he’s not a registered member of the party.
The forum chairman, Benjamin Ughumu, who hails from Orhiomhonwon local government like Ize-Iyamu but decided to disown his kinsman said: “Pastor Ize-Iyamu-led his followers out of the APC in 2004 and even contested the governorship election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2016 election, which he lost.
“The purported waiver granted to him by the National Working Committee (NWC) is ultra vires, null and void as Article 31 of the party constitution confers that power on the NEC of the party.
“He (Ize-Iyamu) recently joined the Edo Peoples Movement (EPM), a group organized by Adams Oshiomhole to destabilize the APC in Edo state.” Oghumu said.
Ize-Iyamu drafted APC constitution
Nonetheless, a statement issued by the Director of Communication and Media, Ize-Iyamu Campaign Organization, Mr. John Mayaki the aspirant was one of those who not only formed the APC, but drafted the constitution of the party.
According to him, “One of the thing those who drafted the APC constitution – including Ize-Iyamu- did was to make it easy for Nigerians irrespective of who they are, to be able to join the party like the APC without people like these renegades trying to put hurdles in their way.”
Be that as it may, the turn of events in the last one year indicates that the APC primary is a straight fight between the godfather and the godson. And unless the party’s National Executive Council and other leaders intervene in the crisis bedevilling it, the state may go the way of Zamfara and Rivers in the 2019 governorship elections.