Edo 2020: It’s Obaseki vs Ize-Iyamu, Airhiavbere, Ogiemwonyi, and Odubu

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Time is ticking for the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State. The party is waiting for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to announce time table for the governorship election. Osagie Otabor writes on the impending contest for the governorship ticket of the ruling party.

It is now clear who Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State will be facing at the primaries for the governorship ticket of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). These opponents are individuals he defeated in 2016, unless there is a yet-to-be unveiled joker from the Adams Oshiomhole camp. The opponents of Obaseki are former deputy governor, Dr. Pius Odubu, Major General Charles Airhiavbere, Engr. Chris Ogiemwonyi, and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. They formally unveiled themselves at a press briefing held last week in Bénin City.

The quartet of Ize-Iyamu, Airhiavbere, Ogiemwonyi, and Odubu are currently a united block against Obaseki even though they have personal ambitions to get the APC ticket. They are former enemies who are now united with a common agenda to stop Obaseki’s second term bid. Another common feature among them is that they had all failed in the past at getting the governorship slot. In 2012, Pastor Ize-Iyamu stood against Odubu when he was to be renominated as Oshiomhole’s running mate. The reason was that he was the person that first nominated him in 2007 and the fears then was that Odubu would become too powerful to be stopped from seeking to succeed Oshiomhole if not stopped.

Oshiomhole, on his part, refused to accede to Ize-Iyamu’s request and picked Odubu in his second term but did not find him a worthy successor. Ize-Iyamu and Odubu also engage in political leadership tussle in Orhionmwon where both of them hail from. It was when Ize-Iyamu saw that the arrangement would not favour him that he left for the PDP. He was made former President Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Director in Edo State. This did not make Airhiavbere happy who felt a man that just defected to the party should not be given such a juicy position.

He was fingered as organising massive protest by youths against the PDP and Pastor Ize-Iyamu over sharing of mobilisation fund to attend PDP rally. When Ize-Iyamu and four others were arraigned over the N700m Diezani bribe money, Airhiavbere said PDP leaders used to tell them that no money came to the party. Airhiavbere said PDP leaders always claimed to be spending their personal money during election campaigns.

According to him, “It is a pure awareness for the people of this state. It is a new trend and new political development. People would always say in the past that they were spending their money. We are hearing today that money came and somebody sat on it. They are having to answer EFCC question now that money came from somewhere. It is unfair.”

Airhiavbere is also the ‘oldest’ contender among those gunning for the APC ticket. He first contested against Oshiomhole in 2012 but lost the election. He defected to the APC after the PDP lost power in the state. Airhiavbere contested again in 2016 but lost at the primaries to Obaseki. Odubu, a former deputy governor, first served as a member of the House of Representatives between 1999 and 2007. He came second in the APC governorship primaries in 2016. Ogiemwonyi, a former Minister of State for Works, defected from the PDP during the administration of Oshiomhole.

Ize-Iyamu is seen as a political heavy weight that can stop Obaseki at the primaries. In what is now regarded as the Orhionmwon agenda, Odubu, Ize-Iyamu and Ogiemwonyi last week held a strategic meeting where they resolved to be united and forge a common front ahead of the primaries. They all hail from Orhionmwon local government area. At the meeting, they emphasised on unity from the unit through the ward to the local government organs of the party. There was, however, no consensus on who to step down at the meeting.

However, the quartet of Odubu, Airhiavbere, Ize-Iyamu and Ogiemwonyi are finding it difficult to agree on a common candidate. Several meetings held since the last one month have not yielded any lead way as to who should be supported as the sole aspirant against Obaseki. Obaseki’s approach to governance has led to increase in revenue by over 500 percent at the local government level and such local government workers are not owed salaries. The agripreneur programme has empowered many farmers across the state, civil servants are not owed salaries even as pensioners are now paid and attended to. Where he scored upper hand in the crisis was the manner he ensured the House of Assembly is intact for him with 10 members.

The angst of some APC members against Obaseki is that he called them thieves, his refusal to carry party chieftains along, attempt to retire them from politics and employing individuals from outside the state. They also argued that Obaseki did not continue with some legacy projects of Oshiomhole. Speaking on behalf of other aspirants at a press briefing and critical stakeholders of the APC, Odubu said the party has been embroiled in needless crisis arising from the deliberate alienation of party leaders and members from the government the party worked hard to install in 2016.

Odubu stated that the inability of the state House of Assembly members to perform the responsibility of lawmaking for which they were elected since June 2019 was unprecedented and does not represent the progressive character of the Edo people. “We wish to place on record that Edo State and its people remain one of the most politically sophisticated, enlightened and pragmatic in the federation and we cannot sit back and allow our state slide into abyss. We the APC aspirants for Edo State 2020 gubernatorial election in consultation with other critical stakeholders state unequivocally that we wholeheartedly welcome the urgent intervention of the newly constituted Senator Ahmed Lawan’s reconciliation committee for the party.

“Indeed, we are prepared with our memoranda for presentation to the committee and we urge every genuine stakeholder of the party to cooperate with the committee. We collectively desire a party that is stable, virile and viable for us to realise our individual and collective aspirations so as to provide effective, efficient and productive leadership for our dear state. We also believe and quite rightly too, that the attempt to close the political space and shut the doors against potential contestants for the office of the Governor of Edo State by the incumbent governor is antithetical to the established norms of democracy. We must all be allowed to subject ourselves to the democratic process without let or hindrance.”

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