By Collins Omorege
Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and his associates in Edo All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftains must have been unhappy about the drama in the ruling party at the federal level that terminated his leadership.
But their sadness could be compounded if the APC does not deliver Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu in the state governorship election on September 19.
If Governor Godwin Obaseki is re-elected on that date, it will be double tragedy for the Edo APC chieftains.
It will be recalled that Oshiomhole and his die-hard supporters had helped Obaseki to succeed him as governor in 2016 against all odds.
But they soon fell apart, fought for the control of APC in Edo and the governor engineered the suspension of Oshiomhole at his Etsako West Ward.
Oshiomhole has now been sacked as APC National Chairman.
Both Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu went through a tough time to secure the governorship tickets of the two major political parties in the country to contest the Edo election in September.
Both men even had to switch parties as Ize-Iyamu moved dramatically from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to APC, while Obaseki left APC for the PDP.
In 2016, supporters of APC rooted for Ize-Iyamu before Oshiomhole turned the table against him, despite the fact that Ize-Iyamu led his 2012 re-election campaign.
Obaseki was considered an outsider in the APC but was recruited into Oshiomhole’s administration as a technocrat from the banking sector.
Obaseki, once a confidant, has now become Oshiomhole’s worst political enemy.
He was eventually disqualified from contesting in the APC governorship primary, a situation that forced him to defect to the PDP.
Securing the PDP ticket was not an easy task for the governor as some of the aspirants of the party vowed not to step down for him.
Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, who initially backed Obaseki’s defection to the PDP, angrily pulled out of the process while accusing some PDP leaders of trying to blackmail him because of the Edo governor.
Spokesman for Obaseki, Crusoe Osagie, however, insisted that his principal did not pay money to secure the PDP ticket.
This was a party that previously attacked Obaseki’s educational certificates as fake now kowtowing to the governor.
“He claimed he entered the university the year he left secondary school. How could he have gained admission with such result? The result was not even good enough for any form of preliminary studies”, Mr Orbih, the PDP leader in Edo, had said ahead of the 2016 election in the state.
“This can only mean that Obaseki forged the certificates to gain admission. It is obvious that the man has no academic qualifications as he had only three credits”.
APC, at the time, defended Obaseki’s certificates but has now effectively deployed the same claim to scuttle his re-election on its platform while praising Ize-Iyamu to high heavens.
“If you remember, Pastor Ize-Iyamu was my DG (Director-General of my campaign organisation) in 2012, (my) second term,” Oshiomhole proudly said in December 2019 after a rally to welcome Ize-Iyamu back to APC.
“I won in all the 18 local government areas. I won all the wards in Edo South. I scored 74.6 per cent in the total votes cast. In 2016, the man left us and stood against us, we only managed to defeat him with about 50,000 votes.
“So, if he is bringing on board, as he has done, his goodwill, his energy, his resourcefulness, and his electoral base to join the APC, I am much more confident now about APC continuous hold on the governance of this state than ever before”.
On the part of the PDP, the last of the three governorship aspirants to step down for Obaseki was Kenneth Imasuagbon, a legal practitioner who said he spent the past 16 years to work on his ambition to “serve” Edo people and it would amount to a political coup if Obaseki was given a waiver by the PDP to contest the election.
Imasuagbon said before the Edo PDP primary election: “If there is anyone who should step down for the other, it is Obaseki”.
He eventually stepped down at the venue of the primary, saying; “Obaseki is a performing governor, he has worked hard for the state, he was distracted by godfathers while he was in APC.”
The sack of Oshiomhole as APC Chairman could have been tagged an advantage for Obaseki in the forthcoming election but could propel Oshiomhole to fight with all his might and with everything he could possibly deploy to his candidate’s advantage (Ize-Iyamu).
Also, incumbency factor could work for Obaseki, but Ize-Iyamu would bank on the ‘federal might’.
Another big factor in favour of Ize-Iyamu is the statement credited to a former spokesman for the presidential candidate of the PDP in the 2019 general elections, Atiku Abubakar, Prince Kassim Afegbua, vowing to support Ize-Iyamu against Obaseki who, he said, the PDP had branded a failure only now to come round to appoint him as the leader of the party in Edo.
“We will join hands collectively with the APC candidate to ensure that Godwin Obaseki does not return. I am PDP member, but I will vote APC”, Afegbua was quoted as saying.
“A man with the humility of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu is better than a governor who fights everyone who disagrees with him.
“Edo has become too polarised over avoidable and needless battles. Let us have a new leadership that will usher in quiet and peace to everyone.
“The noises from the Obaseki aspiration have become too polluting and cannot be in the best interest of anyone”.
Afegbua, who earlier backed Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama for the PDP governorship ticket, said Ogbeide-Ihama ought to have stuck to his guns by running in the primary election.
“How can someone who did not buy nomination form, who came in when sale of forms had closed, screening had closed, congresses for the election of delegates had closed, and, all of a sudden, rules were bent to accommodate him and made to become the candidate?
“Only yesterday, Edo PDP scored Obaseki F9 in its sectoral analyses, and, today, the same man, who scored F9 all through in terms of performance, has suddenly become the head of the PDP corner.
“A governor who PDP challenged in 2016 for discrepancies in his submissions has suddenly become the candidate of the party. How do you explain such scenario? For me, I still hold the view that Ogbeide-Ihama had better opportunity to pull through if they had allowed Obaseki to settle for another party.
“It would have been a matter of three candidates and PDP would have had a better grip. I was shocked to see all three aspirants stepped down in the face of pressure.
“Even Kenneth Imasuangbon, who was shouting on top of his voice that he would pull through, buckled suddenly and swallowed his misplaced pride”.
Another factor against the re-election of Obaseki is the call for probe by a group in an open letter to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to investigate PDP/Obaseki on the primary election.
A non-governmental organization, in the letter, asked the EFCC to probe huge sums Obaseki allegedly deployed to get the PDP governorship ticket.
Political observers interpreted the alleged ‘huge sums’ as what Governor Wike was referring to when he tagged some people in the PDP leadership as “tax collectors”.
While some distant observers feel it is difficult to predict the outcome of the Edo election, many analysts say for Oshiomhole to regain relevance in APC, the Edo election is a must win for Ize-Iyamu who is also an experienced politician with a strong connection with voters across party lines.
- Omorege, a public affairs analyst based in Benin.