Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
But for the audacious expression of strong solidarity from some All Progressives Congress (APC) governors in support of Godwin Obaseki recently, the coast was almost becoming very clear for Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu to tactically wrest power from the incumbent after the September 19, 2020 Edo State governorship election.
From all ramifications, Ize-Iyamu had become the anointed APC aspirant with about seven other intending aspirants stepping down and endorsing him to contest against Governor Obaseki at the party primaries scheduled for June 22, 2020.
The former Secretary to the Edo State Government, may have also emerged the anointed aspirant for the party’s national leadership as he was not only magnanimously granted waivers to contest by the National Working Committee (NWC), but the same national leadership also opted for direct primaries considered very favourable to Ize-Iyamu and to the disadvantage of Obaseki.
Analysts believe the developments were a plot by the Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC and some disgruntled state party chieftains to ensure that Ize-Iyamu emerged the party’s candidate ahead of the incumbent for the September poll.
For understandable reason ostensibly connected with the lingering face-off between the political godfather, Oshiomhole, and godson, Obaseki, the party’s national leadership had continued to adopt programmes favourable to Ize-Iyamu in many ways. A case in point was the reception accorded him when he stormed the party’s national secretariat Abuja to collect the Expression of Interest and Nomination Forms.
On hand to receive him and his entourage in a brief mild ceremony was the APC’s National Organising Secretary, Emma Ibediro, who represented the party’s National Chairman, Comrade Oshiomhole.
Although the party assured that it will guarantee a free and fair, level playing field during the party’s primaries to ensure that the APC wades off any threat from the opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the reception given to Ize-Iyamu did not indicate that other aspirants may benefit from such promise.
He had stormed the secretariat with an intimidating convoy comprising a retinue of the highest galaxy of Edo State political heavyweights, ranging from Chris Ogiemwonyi, Gen Charles Airhiavbere (retd), E. J Agbonyima, Saturday Uwulekhue, Prof Ebegue Amadasun, to the Edo State National Assembly caucus.
Speaking after presenting the Expression of Interest and Nomination Forms to Ize-Iyamu in a brief ceremony, Oshiomhole through the Organising Secretary said: “APC is a party given to observing the rule of law, our constitution and the guidelines in all our activities, and I want to assure the aspirants that this party will offer every aspirant level playing ground. We assure the entire public that the selection is going to be free and fair. Everybody will be carried along and there shall be no sacred cow.
“Contrary to what people may think, I am very optimistic that the forthcoming primary will prove this party to be fair to all concerned. The processes leading to the primaries will be so transparent that whoever wins, we know has won and whoever loses, it will be obvious that he lost. I urge all of you to see this contest as a game. The aspirants should fight for the party to retain Edo State,” the party appealed.
However, the last may not have been heard considering the continued deployment of all manner of tactics, shenanigans by the gladiators, to scheme out each other from the contest.
Although the hostilities, actions and inactions of the party have been geared towards debasing Governor Obaseki to the inconsequential level of an orphan without any support, the governor and his political soldiers are ready for the battle ahead.
Beside the solidarity from his colleague governors, the Edo State APC State Assistant Secretary, Ikuenobe Anthony, in a statement titled ‘Ize-Iyamu’s waiver falls short of APC constitutional requirements’, faulted the actions of the NWC.
While citing relevant sections and legal portions, Ikuenobe, noted: “The waiver purportedly granted Ize-Iyamu by the APC NWC falls short of the constitutional requirement of our party in two fold. Article 31: 2 which deals with waiver states that: “subject to the approval of the National Executive Committee (NEC), the NWC may in special circumstances grant a waiver to a person not otherwise qualified under Article 31:1 of this constitution if, in its opinion such a waiver is in the best interest of the party. For the purported waiver to become valid, the NEC of the party must meet to approve of it.
“Secondly, Article 31:3 gives the conditions and procedures to apply for waiver. Article 31:3ii states as follows; ‘for anyone applying for waiver, he or she has applied for waiver in writing to the NWC of the party through his/her appropriate ward, Local Government Area/Area Council, State, Federal Capital Territory and Zonal Committee.
“As at today, Hon. Anselm Ojezua is the State Chairman of APC as Col. Imuse remains restrained by court. The State Executive Committee is not aware of Ize-Iyamu’s application. The Ward and LGA Executive Committee of the party are not also aware of his application. So, how can such a waiver stand? You can’t put something on nothing. Do-it-anyhow era is long gone. We must be careful not to go the Zamfara way,” he warned.
In a petition by the Deputy Governor, Comrade Philip Shaibu, sent to President Muhammadu Buhari, he appealed for his intervention in the crisis rocking the APC State chapter, claiming that Oshiomhole, is bent on destroying the President’s anti-corruption legacy.
Tagged; “Stop Oshiomhole’s plots’, Shaibu wrote: “My message to Mr President is 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.
“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 a registered member of the party in his or her ward.”
Earlier, the APC Deputy National Chairman (North), Lawal Shuaibu, had written a rather caustic statement warning against the impunity with which Oshiomhole is running the party and cautioning that the handwriting on the wall is becoming very bold that Edo State governorship election will go the way of Zamfara State in the 2019 general elections.
Issuing a battle cry to the chieftains to rescue the party from an impending doom, Shuaibu asked: “What are the leaders of the party doing in the midst of this anarchy? Are they all equally fed up with the seeming collapsing party in the hands of a politically injured person that seems to be nursing political revenge?
“The leaders need to take a stand so that the followers know whether the party is now either a jungle or that entity of our collective dream at the inception. Majority of the members of the party are already perplexed and disillusioned with some even weighing their options. A stitch in time, I believe, saves nine!
“I call on leaders of APC to urgently intervene to ensure the provisions of the party constitution are adhered to and not further compromised. With regards to Ondo and Edo primary elections, there is already absence of transparency. The regulations issued that will guide the processes are already in violation of Article 20 (v) on page 76 of the APC constitution as amended where NEC is the only organ that shall approve such guidelines and regulations which includes the mode of nominating our candidates. I am crying for APC inside me! Zamfara, here we come again,” he quipped in the statement he titled ‘APC and its future, let us exercise caution’.
Joining his voice to attempts to rescue Obaseki from the strong clutches of his detractors, the immediate past APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, demanded for automatic ticket and offer of first refusal for the incumbent governor, claiming that it was part of the agreement reached by concerned parties to safe Oshiomhole from impeachment shortly before the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic.
“They (Obaseki and Akeredeolu) have performed creditably and should be returned unless they do not wish. Again, my call for the support for the two governors was informed by the agreement reached to settle the leadership crisis at the national level that threatened its existence,” he was quoted to have said.
On the party primaries for the Edo governorship, Oyegun said: “It is of critical importance that the primary be seen even by a blind man to be free and fair, otherwise there would be political consequences. It will show Nigerians and indeed, the world whether APC is a party of truth, change, and progress driven by the principles of fairness, social justice, and equity or it has become a party that believes and promotes business as usual!”
“Everything must be done to ensure that the persons in the leadership of the party at the centre who are part of the contrived crisis in Edo State must not even remotely be allowed to plan, participate, or supervise the primary election.
“Allowing any member(s) of the national leadership who have been involved in the contrived crisis in Edo State would equate to making such person or persons judges in their own case. This is contrary to the principle of natural justice and will be naturally resisted,” Odigie-Oyegun warned.
However, despite the warnings and clamour to grant Obaseki a return ticket, the party’s national leadership and its anointed aspirant seem to be very adamant over what becomes the outcome of their actions and inactions eventually.
Dismissing the petition against the direct mode of primary election, Ize-Iyamu, claimed that the clamour for it by the Obaseki loyalists is simply because it has perfected strategy by the governor to manipulate the exercise in his favour with indirect primaries.
He strenuously argued that under COVID-19, direct primaries which will not involve the electorate converging at a central location in the case of indirect primaries, will be the antidote to the threat of the pandemic and in line with physical distancing rule associated with it.
“If they want us to do indirect so be it, if they want us to do direct, so be it. But, I think that the governor and his people are clamouring for indirect primaries because they want to manipulate the process.
“If you want to use the impact the Covid-19 situation is having on the conduct of election, what should be recommended really is direct because the direct decentralizes the system. Meanwhile, indirect will congregate people in one place in thousands to come and vote,” he argued.
Regardless of the side of the divide, one finds oneself, now is the appropriate time to re-echo the word of an English Philosopher and Writer, Aldous Huxley, who said that: “men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history.”
Huxley may not have imagined that decades later, members of the ruling party built and priding itself as progressive ideology would continue to repeat the mistake of the recent past and not the mistakes of those long gone before them.
The crisis rocking the Edo State chapter of the ruling APC assumes a familiar pattern of most of the crises that have afflicted most state chapters of party which denied it tickets at both state and national levels during the 2019 general elections especially in Rivers and Zamfara states.
When two brothers fight to death over the ownership of a parcel of land, the enemy will inherit the land, so says an Igbo adage. Like the Zamfara and Rivers 2019 general elections episodes, the Edo State APC has parallel executives still engulfed in legal contest that might nominate different candidates, which might deny the ruling party participation in the poll.
So, should the indicators remain unresolved and the gladiators allow the ugly crisis to deteriorate beyond this limit, there is every tendency that the opposition party, the PDP, waiting on the sideline, may become the biggest beneficiary to occupy the seat of power at the Edo Government House.
On the flipside of the battle royale, the party may be the biggest casualty because for one reason or the other, the alignment and realignment seems to have robbed the party of the funds it usually generated during sale of forms to run the primaries and other party activities.
While the party raked in billions of Naira from other states previously through the sale of forms, it is playing and singing an entirely different tune and song in Edo governorship election where the consensus arrangement reduced the contest to a two-horse race between the incumbent and the anointed aspirant.