From Tony Osauzo, Benin
The days leading to the party primaries of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the nomination of its governorship candidate for the September 10 gubernatorial election in Edo State, are indeed very pregnant, given the turn of events in the ruling party.
Leaders and committed top functionaries of the party are apprehensive that some of the party operatives may sell out to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the last minute, given their antecedents.
Of more concern to some of the party leaders is the perceived role of some executive members of the APC, who are overtly seen to be aligning with some aspirants against the collective decision of the party executive members to be neutral to allow a level playing field for all aspirants.
For instance, they point to an incident which happened on Wednesday, April 27, 2016, the day one of the aspirants, Dr. Pius Odubu announced his intention to run for the governorship ticket of the party.
According to the worrying leaders of the APC, both Odubu and another aspirant, Chief Matthew Atamah were scheduled to visit the party’s Working Committee members on that day and plans were concluded for the visit.
But suddenly, the visit was said to have been cancelled at the instance of the party leadership on the excuse that the Chairman, Barr. Anselem Ojezua had been invited by the South-South Vice Chairman of the APC, Mr. Etah, for a meeting in Abuja.
Checks by some of the party leaders reportedly confirmed that no meeting was called in Abuja and that the Chairman’s action in cancelling the visit of the two aspirants was allegedly as a result of a directive from above.
But in a swift reaction, Barrister Ojezua described those peddling the information as mischief makers.
He explained that on the day in question, the party had slated executive meeting to hold and that the party exco had planned to use the opportunity of the meeting to receive the two aspirants but unfortunately, he had to attend a meeting in Abuja.
He told Edo Guber Watch that some of the people even said he was blocking the aspirants from flagging off their campaign.
According to Barrister Ojezua, the party only postponed the visit of the aspirants and would give a new date before June.
Perhaps, one of the thorny issues the party may have to contend with at its next Working Committee meeting is the decision to expel two party chieftains, Mr. Gentleman Amegor, the Senatorial Leader for Edo South and Mr. Matthew Ehigie (a.k.a Ehisco), Chairman of the Orhiomwon local government of APC from the party.
Such decision, if carried out could prove very fatal for the electoral fortunes of the party, as both men are said to be of very high electoral value in their areas.
Gentleman Amegor, erstwhile State Secretary of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria and Mr. Ehigie were earlier suspended as the Senatorial zone and local government leaders, respectively.
Specifically, Amegor was accused of anti-party activities and failing to call meetings among reasons for his suspension. But in his reaction, he said his suspension was because he refused to support an unsellable aspirant being foisted on the party as the anointed successor to Comrade Governor Oshiomhole.
Some of the party leaders alleged that the two party chieftains were being treated in that manner because they are close to one of the aspirants who is not liked by the powers that be.
The State Chairman of APC, Barrister Anselm Ojezua while confirming that matter of the two men was slated for discussion in the last aborted Working Committee meeting, explained that it was stood down because some of the members appealed for it to be carried forward to enable them study the papers given to them on the issue.
Some party leaders have also pointed to the recent attack on the State Deputy Governor, Dr. Pius Odubu, one of the aspirants of the APC, and said the manner the state government reacted to the attack, has gone to complicate issues for the party ahead of its primaries.
They argue that unless the party arrests the seeming divisions among its members, it is heading for a situation in which it will find it difficult to get victory at the electoral polls in September.
Obaseki condemns attack on deputy governor
A Governorship aspirant of the All Progressives Congress, APC and Chairman, Edo State Economic Team, Mr Godwin Obaseki has condemned the attack on the Deputy Governor of the state, Dr Pius Odubu by unknown gunmen in Auchi, Etsako West Local government area.
In a statement in Benin City, Obaseki called on relevant security agencies to investigate the shooting.
He said the incident was not in the spirit of equity and fair play by which all political gladiators should align.
“It is with sadness and horror that we have received the news of the terrible shooting incident in Auchi, Edo State of the political entourage of HE Pius Odubu, an aspirant for the office of governor on the platform of the APC.
“The Godwin Obaseki Campaign organization strongly condemns this dastardly act. This is not in the spirit of equity and fair play by which all political gladiators should align.
“I, Mr. Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki, the Chairman of the Economic Strategy Team of Edo State and Gubernatorial aspirant of the APC (and my team) unequivocally condemn this senseless act of violence.
“We ask and encourage all politicians not to use violence of any sort as a tool for electioneering. We persuade all politicians to take heed and be mindful of incendiary comments and rhetoric that could encourage violence of any sort. We have hitherto made a call asking all those in politics to adopt a policy of non-violence. Our resolution on non-violence is unshaken and we ask again that all politicians embrace this policy.
“We call on the security agencies to investigate this incident thoroughly, unmask the culprits, expose their sponsors, ensure that all the perpetrators are brought to justice swiftly.
“Our prayers and best wishes go out to the victims, friends, loved ones and families of those that have been hurt in this horrendous affair.
“Finally, we enjoin all to refrain from using this unfortunate incident as a political capital tool.
“We ask our supporters and all indigenes to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity capable of disrupting the peace and harmony of the state”, the statement said.
Odubu’s tall ambition to succeed his boss
By Ndubuisi Orji
It is no more news that last Wednesday, April 27, the Edo State deputy governor, Dr Pius Odubu threw his hat into the ring for the September 10 gubernatorial election in the state. On that day, he formally declared his intention to contest the governorship poll on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
With the deputy governor’s declaration, the political temperature of the state has risen to an all time high. Based on his wealth of experience and for the fact that he is currently the deputy governor, Odubu’s ambition has generated so much interest in the politics of the state in recent times.
Just last week, the media was awash with alleged plan by the deputy governor to kill his principal, Governor Adams Oshiomhole, so as to smoothen the journey to the governorship seat of the state. The deputy governor has denied the allegation, describing it as the handiwork of his detractors.
Declaring his governorship bid, Odubu said “given the high level to which Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has taken Edo State, going forward, the state needs a governor that is game ready, one that will hit the ground running; I believe I am that person by the Grace of God.”
Last weekend, the deputy governor reportedly survived an assassination attempt. Odubu is not new to political contests. He was a member of the House of Representatives, representing Orhiomwon/Uhunmwonde Federal constituency from 1999 to 2007. He represented the area on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP).
In 2007, he was named as running mate to Oshiomhole in the governorship contest that year, even without showing interest in the position. Those in the know attributed his emergence as deputy governorship candidate to the support from Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who is currently a governorship hopeful on the PDP platform. Ize-Iyamu, an alter-ego of former Governor Lucky Igbinedion, was the leader of Grace Group, a political pressure group within the PDP that battled former chairman, PDP Board of Trustees (BoT) for the control of the state chapter of the party. Grace Group later became the nucleus of the Action Congress(AC).
But in the run-up to the 2012 governorship election in the state, Ize-Iyamu vehemently opposed the return of Odubu for a second term as deputy governor. However, Oshiomhole insisted on having him in the ticket. Eventually, Ize-Iyamu was pacified. And Odubu was allowed to run with Oshiomhole as his running mate in that election, thereby paving way for his return as deputy governor.
Ironically, in this year’s election, the governor and his deputy have become two parallel lines. Although Odubu has continued to pledge allegiance to the governor, the truth is that by declaring for the governorship seat against the perceived wish of his boss, he has invariably drawn a battle line between himself and his principal.
In Nigeria, it is not common to see deputy governors succeeding their principals. Since 1999, when the current democratic dispensation started, only three deputy governors have succeeded their governors. They are former Governor of Zamfara State, Mahmud Shinkafi, present Kano State governor, Abdullahi Ganduje and his Ebonyi State counterpart, David Umahi. While Shinkafi and Ganduje emerged governors through the support of their former bosses, Umahi had to wrestle his former boss, Chief Martins Elechi to the ground to be able to actualise his governorship ambition.
From events so far in Edo, it does not seem that the Edo deputy governor has the support of his principal in his bid to be governor. The calculation is that it automatically means he would have to fight his way through, starting from the APC gubernatorial primaries. Although Odubu is said to enjoy the support of a cross section of party bigwigs, he has an uphill task within the APC in the bid to pick the party’s gubernatorial ticket.
This is even as his supporters have always insisted that all the deputy governor needs is a level playing field in the APC and he would emerge the party’s flag bearer. But analysts say he needs more than that, especially as the governorship seat of the state would not be handed to him on a platter. They argue that to actualise his dream, Odubu must be able to take the war directly to the door steps of his opponents and beat them to their game. And for critical observers, that certainly would not be a tea party.
The permutation is that Odubu has a very rough road ahead of him in the journey to Osadebe Avenue. Would he be able to weather the storm like Umahi did in Ebonyi or will he fail by the wayside like many deputy governors have fallen? As the battle for the Edo governorship seat intensifies, the question on the lips of many is: How far can Odubu go?