With less than one month to the All Progressives Congress (APC) primary for the 2020 gubernatorial election in Edo State, there seems to be no let-up in the internal crisis rocking the camp of the state Governor, Godwin Obaseki, as some of his loyalists within the party are said to be plotting to dump him in the build up to the primary election.
Sources within the APC informed that there is an internal battle to stop the wave of exodus that is being planned by some of the people who were hitherto believed to be close to Obaseki but were clandestinely working against the second term ambition of the governor.
The new agenda by these set of ‘loyalists’, as discovered by our correspondents, is to activate their plan, which is to dump the governor and move en-mass to the opposing side led by the APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, when it is just one week to the APC primary.
The crisis took a dramatic turn during the week with the announcement of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu as a consensus candidate by the Edo Peoples Movement (EPM) ahead of the June 22 primary election.
With the release of the election timetable by INEC, the battle for the 2020 governorship position has become fierce than ever before, especially as the incumbent governor has discovered that he has a herculean task before him following the forces against his second term bid.
Saturday Telegraph sources argued that the majority of those loyal to Obaseki, having read in-between the lines that the battle is very uncertain, are now warming up to dump Obaseki for the National Chairman’s side, while confirming that there would be exodus of the people a week to the primary.
One of the sources said: “The Chief of Staff to the governor, Taiwo Akerele, had earlier resigned from his position, and many of his followers also left, given no reason for their action, that is an indication of things to come. “Few days after leaving office, many local government executives attempted to decamp to Oshiomhole’s side, but they were stopped.
“I must tell you that the SSG also had some undisclosed issues with the governor and wanted to resign, but he told him that they are in this together and that he can’t go anywhere.
“Though they have since reconciled, the general view is that most of them want to abandon him, they are just waiting for the last political whistle to be blown”, the source said.
Another source who is a serving member of the House of Assembly and who is believed to be loyal to Obaseki also spoke in the same vein, assuring that Obaseki is out of the race.
“Look, it is over for our governor. Ever since this fight started, I have always be on the side of the governor, but with the way thing are now, it is only a fool that will tell you that Governor Obaseki will survive this gang up.
“Can’t you see the situation on ground?
During the 2016 governorship election, APC defeated PDP with the support of the federal might, and this is the same person that EPM unanimously adopted to be their consensus candidate to fight against Obaseki.
“Do you think he can get away fighting against top APC party leaders including the head of the National Working Committee (NWC) and surviving it?
I think we get it wrong somewhere. As I speak now, five members of the state assembly have perfected plans to join forces with the National chairman to ensure that POI emerges.
“When it happens, it is going to be like a dream to some people by the time you see the calibre of people planning and waiting for the last day to dump ‘Wake and See’ for POI. Anybody who says that he is happy with this man style of leadership is only deceiving himself.
“I am in the system, we know how it was done during the era of Oshiomhole, and you cannot kill the doctor that cures you. Edo is in for a tough political war, but I know that God will deliver us from the hands of blood suckers as we approach the period”, he said.
Shaibu calls on Buhari to intervene However, the Deputy Governor of Edo State, Rt. Hon. Comrade Philip Shaibu, has appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene in the crisis while noting that Oshiomhole is bent on destroying the President’s anti-corruption legacy.
Shaibu, who stressed that there is ample evidence that Oshiomhole is not joining forces with the President on his anti-corruption crusade, but rather aligning with a man who has a pending corruption case to contest the governorship seat in the state.
“My message President Buhari, who is the leader of the party in Nigeria, is for him to intervene in the crisis rocking Edo APC. I urge him to provide leadership at this critical time as Oshiomhole wants to destroy his anti-corruption legacy.
“Oshiomhole is not joining the President’s anti-corruption crusade but rather bringing a corrupt person that has a N700 million case pending in court to contest an election. Oshiomhole called this man a thief; it is the same man he is bringing to Edo people.”
The Deputy Governor said Ize-Iyamu is not a registered member of Edo APC, and as such is not qualified to contest in the governorship election, noting, “Ize-Iyamu is not a member of the Edo APC because he is not registered in his ward.
The constitution is clear on who a member is. He agreed to the fact that he didn’t register at the ward and his ward chairman didn’t register him.
“The constitution says for one to be a member of the APC in the State, he or she must be registered member of the party in his or her ward.
“The Party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) said every state executive should decide on their mode of primary and submit to NWC.
We have done that and stand by that resolution. Oshiomhole is an interested party and can’t decide for us,” he added.
‘Contest direct primary to prove your popularity’ But the state APC faction loyal to Oshiomhole has replied Shaibu that Ize-Iyamu is qualified to be admitted into the party and to contest election, while challenging Obaseki to put aside all his fears and have the courage to participate in the forthcoming governorship primaries on June 22. Chairman of the faction, Col. David Imuse, who dared the governor at a press conference held in Benin the state capital, said Obaseki’s unwavering participation in the exercise would enable people show gratitude on whether or not he has done well for them. Imuse insisted that there was not going back on the direct mode method for the governorship primaries as already pronounced by the National Working Committee (NWC) whose constitutional duty it is to determine options for Presidential, National and State Houses of Assembly elections.
He reeled out various steps allegedly taken by the governor to Pastor Ize-Iyamu from joining the party, collection of his nomination/expression of interest forms and others, pointing out that his fears are self-induced. He said: “The responsibility of who decides the mode of election for the President, governor, national and state houses of assembly is the NWC. There is nothing anybody can do about it.”
Imuse who spoke against the backdrop of claim by chairman of chairmen of the party in the 18 local government areas of the state, Mr. Ben Oghumu, that Pastor Ize-Iyamu is not a member of the APC, said the party’s governorship registered online on the membership portal of the APC.
He explained that Ize- Iyamu’s foresight of registration was “in accordance with article 9.1 (ii) of the APC constitution, adding that the responsibility to validate online registration lines solely with the National Working Committee.” On waiver, Imuse stated that, “Article 31.1 (I) refers to someone who is not a member of the APC.
But even at that, article 31.2 empowers the NWC to grant a waiver to such a person if the need arises. In this instance, the waiver clause does not really apply to Pastor Ize-Iyamu”.
NWC divided over mode of primaries The issue has however divided the NWC as some of those who did not attend the last NWC meeting are questioning the rationale of their colleagues to adopt direct primaries for Edo State, while they adopted indirect for Kogi State in the last governorship election.
Arguing that they would not support Oshiomhole to foist direct primaries on the state against the sitting governor, the NWC members said the APC National Chairman would not be allowed to use the NWC to advance his fight against the governor of the state.
Leading in this argument is the Deputy National Chairman of APC North, Senator Lawal Shuiabu, who said the governor of Edo State is one of their best and should be given the right of first refusal. Speaking in favour of Obaseki, Shuiabu said, “Were you here when the President attended the last NEC meeting?
What did he say? He said any governor who has performed deserves a second term all over the world, even in America where democracy started. Among the members of NWC that stayed away from the meeting where the NWC adopted direct primaries for Edo State are; Shuiabu, Deputy National Secretary, Hon. Victor Giadom; National Women Leader, Hajiya Salamatu Baiwa; National Vice Chairman North East, Comrade Salihu Mustapha; and some others. But for the NWC members that support the direct primaries for Edo State, they have premised their argument on the fact that there are two state executives in the state, and that any primary election conducted with any of the state executives would jeopardize the chances of the party in the September election. This view was recently canvased in Nasarawa State by the APC National Vice Chairman North Central, Alhaji Wambai, who said: “A candidate can emerge either through consensus, direct or indirect primaries, depending on what the party decides in any given state. “The leadership of the party at the state level has been empowered by the APC constitution, to decide which mode of primaries to adopt in their state. If you allow any of the factions to select the governorship candidate for the party in Edo state, it can be quashed by the court, just like it happened in Zamfara during the 2019 elections. “So, to avoid the Zamfara experience, the party at the national level decided that direct primary is the only way out.”
Coronavirus as a reason However, the governorship aspirants and their supporters are adducing the coronavirus pandemic protocols as reasons for the support of their preferred choice of Primaries. For the Governor Obaseki and his supporters, it would be against the protocols of Covid- 19 for the party to adopt a direct election for the governorship ticket in the state, saying that about 400 to 500 thousands of party members would be drawn out to participate in the primaries with direct mode. However, his opponent, Pastor Ize-Iyamu and his supporters believe that the direct primary is more convenient and friendly to the Covid-19 protocols. According to the group, the indirect primaries would mean bringing about 2, 000 party members from different local government areas in the state together at a particular location and this would be unhealthy and violates social distancing rule of the NCDC. Also, some party members believe that the Direct primaries would give every member in the state a sense of belonging by participating in the Primaries.
Suffice to say that the two opponents and their supporters have said that they are home and dry with any of the mode adopted so long that it would not jeopardize the NCDC social distancing rule. I’m a bonafide APC member – Ize-Iyamu Meanwhile, the man in the eye of the storm, Ize-Iyamu has dismissed claims that he is not a member of the party, saying those disputing his membership of the party are only engaging in fruitless exercise.
Chairmen of the APC in the 18 LGAs of Edo state have challenged Ize-Iyamu’s membership of the party on the grounds that it fell short of the party’s constitutional requirements. A statement signed by Mr. John Mayaki, the Director of Communication and Media to Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu Campaign Organisation said: “Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu was one of those who not only formed the APC but drafted the constitution of the APC. It is quite unfortunate that many of these people don’t read; they have not sat down to even read the APC constitution.”
He said: “The APC apart from being a progressive party was deliberately formed to be a mass organisation and one of the things those who drafted the APC constitution (including Pastor Osagie 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 – politics is a game of number. Ideally, you would want to welcome people to your party.”
“If you look at the constitution of the APC, article 9, you will find out that, unknown to them, you can go to your ward and register or you can even do online registration – the essence of this is to ensure that nobody is deprived.”
“When Pastor Osagie Ize- Iyamu among others were putting the party together, the Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki was not there and nowhere to be found; so how do you expect a man who should be a beneficiary of a house that he helped to build be stopped from gaining access into the house?