The brutal battle for Edo State’s leadership took a dramatic turn yesterday as the two major governorship contenders in the All Progressives Congress (APC) obtained their nomination forms.
A group, the Obaseki Mandate Forum (OMF), obtained a form for Governor Godwin Obaseki, who is seeking re-election.
Obaseki’s major challenger for the APC ticket, Pastor Ize-Iyamu, also obtained his form at the party’s secretariat in Abuja.
This was after a group withn the party adopted the 2016 Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate, who defected to the APC, as a consensus candidate.
But, Obaseki dismissed the adoption as a nullity, saying an APC candidate could not emerge in Abuja.
Ize-Iyamu, a former Secretary to Edo State Government (SSG), was chosen on Tuesday night in Abuja.
He was presented as the consensus candidate by the screening committee chairman, Senator Francis Alimikhena.
Members of the committee include a former Edo Deputy Governor, Lucky Imasuen, General Cecil Esekhaigbe, a former Edo House of Assembly Speaker, Thomas Okosun, a former House of Representatives Minority Whip Samson Osagie, a former House of Representatives member Patrick Obahiagbon and House of Representatives Deputy Leader Peter Akpatason.
Besides Ize-Iyamu, who was last week granted a waiver to contest the primary by the APC national leadership, the other screened aspirants were a former Minister of State for Works, Chris Ogiemwonyi, a former Deputy Governor Dr Pius Odubu and General Charles Airhiavbere. Solomon Edebiri withdrew from the race.
While the screening was ongoing in Abuja, the APC National Chairman and former Edo governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, was at his Iyamho hometown in Etsako West Local Government Area for Eid-el-Fitr celebration.
He returned to Abuja in the evening and addressed the aspirants. He congratulated Ize-Iyamu.
A chieftain of APC, who was at the screening, told our reporter that Ize-Iyamu was chosen due to his popularity and support base across the three senatorial districts.
Ize-Iyamu and Obaseki will contest the party’s primary on June 22.
Speaking after obtaining the party’s governorship nomination form, Ize-Iyamu said: “Many of us are very passionate about the development of the state and even though what we have is an APC government, we are not too happy with the pace of development.
“We are not happy with the rancour; we are not happy with the division and the insecurity in the state and that cannot augur well for development. We should change the incumbent and ensure that our party remains in office.”
Ize-Iyamu said the decision was a product of many months of discussions with the other seven aspirants.
“The process has been on for quite a while. Some even thought it could not work, but because of the calibre of those involved, it has worked.
“Some days ago, we had our last meeting and the remaining seven of us resolved that before picking the form, we should agree on one person and support the person, not just with our mouths, but with our pockets. So, we decided to put money together to support whoever we chose.
“I am happy to announce that at the end of the day I was chosen among this formidable group,” Ize-Iyamu said.
The aspirant said his selection was not Oshiomole’s making.
“The National Chairman cannot endorse me by the virtue of his office. He cannot take the risk of taking sides in matters like that. So, the National Chairman is clearly out of it,” he said.
Ogiemwonyi, in his congratulatory message, said he and Ize-Iyamu have a shared commitment and vision for accelerated development of Edo.
But, Governor Obaseki said Ize-Iyamu’s adoption was a nullity.
In a statement by his Special Adviser, Media and Communication Strategy, Crusoe Osagie, the governor said the Edo State chapter of the APC, responsible for the emergence of a governorship candidate, does not operate in Abuja.
“It is, therefore, hilarious to hear that a so-called consensus candidate for the party in Edo State governorship election was selected in Abuja.
“For us, this is a joke taken too far and clearly shows that Comrade Adams Oshiomhole once again has set the APC on a journey to perdition in Edo State as he did in Zamfara, Bayelsa, Rivers, Taraba and several other states.
“Under Oshiomhole, our great party did not lose elections due to unpopularity, but as a result of lawless conduct choreographed by Oshiomhole, which has placed the APC in dire straits one time too many.
“The last time we checked, the timetable release by Oshiomhole’s National Working Committee (NWC) fixed Edo primary election for 22nd of June, and it is expected to hold in Edo State.
“But, we now hear that they have conducted the primary three weeks before the set date in a jurisdiction far away from Edo State, making a mockery of our great party, the APC, President Muhammadu Buhari, the presidency and all other institutions and esteemed individuals associated with our party.
“Our conclusion on this matter is that like all other illegal actions taken by Oshiomhole, this too is a nullity and shall come to no-effect,” he said.
An Abuja group, Obaseki Mandate Forum (OMF), obtained the nomination form for Obaseki.
Its chairman, Chief Nathaniel Momoh, obtained the nomination form from the party’s national secretariat.
Momoh said party members from the 18 Local Government Areas, apolitical citizens and Edo residents in the state and Abuja pulled resources to obtain the expression of interest form.
According to him, their decision was informed by Obaseki’s sterling performance in the last four years.
Momoh said: “This form, willfully and freely purchased by the people represents the mandate of the Edo people – young and old, city-bred and rural dwellers, who are witnesses to the gradual transformation of their communities by the steady advancement of governance that touches the life of the people.
“This form represents the buy-in and acceptability of majority of Edo people, both at home and in the diaspora, who tasked themselves to ensure that their mandate is secured in the candidature of Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki, for the September 19, 2020 governorship election in Edo State.
“This form further signposts the will of the people and defeat of any kind of imposition plotted or being plotted against the Edo people.”