Edo 2016: APC, PDP aspirants go for the broke

Godwin Obaseki

Godwin Obaseki

The Edo state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) holds its primary election to select its candidate for the September 10, 2016 governorship election today.

The primaries for the main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) come up on Monday, while other parties are waiting in the wings to reap from the expected fallouts from the APC and PDP as it is expected that some of the aspirants who may lose out would jump at any of the parties to contest the election.

This already played out last week when one of the aspirants of the APC, Don Pedro Obaseki, despite assurances from the leadership of his party that the governorship primary election would be free and fair, announced his withdrawal from the APC and hoped to contest the election under a new platform, which he is yet to disclose. He said he was still consulting and that in few days time, he would declare his next destination.

Obaseki is the nephew to one of the leading aspirants in APC, Godwin Obaseki and he told The Guardian that he has lost faith in the primaries process of the APC but insisted that: “I am undoubtedly running for, and shall contest the 2016 Edo governorship election slated for September 10, 2016”

He said it was becoming obvious to him that the outcome of the primaries was already pre-determined to favour a particular aspirant and that the delegates were just awaiting to rubber stamp the aspirant.

“I have therefore decided, upon wide consultations with my immediate and extended family, supporters, friends and well wishers, not to pay the unwholesome of N5, 500,000 for the expression of interest, and nomination forms of the APC”

He also claimed that the primaries of the APC would be the most expensive in the history of the state as he alleged that the about 3,000 delegates would be bribed with N200, 000.

Similarly, Human Rights activist and aspirant of the APC Casely Omon-Irabor, said he would not contest in the election.

He said he was surprised that some aspirants went ahead to pay N5.5m for the nomination and expression of interest forms when there were alleged evidences of plan to manipulate delegates for a particular aspirant. “Our collective decision after consultation with relevant stakeholders is to stay put in our party and chase the crazy bad heads out of town. We will not allow greed to take over the party.

“We, the radical elements within the party will team up together and prove to the reactionaries that the party can win or loss election in Edo State with or without the emperor in Osadebey’s House.”

As the clock ticks, several aspirants have been getting endorsements from various interest groups even as they continue to sell their manifesto to the about 2,300 delegates that would pick the candidate.

To date, the APC, in no particular order has the current deputy governor, Pius Odubu; chairman Economic Team, Godwin Obaseki; former minister of state for works, Chris Ogiemwonyi; Major General Charles Airhiavbere (rtd); former governor of the state, Prof Oserheimen Osunbor; former president of Trade Union Congress, Peter Esele; Kenneth Imasuagbon; Austine Emuan; and the only female aspirant Mrs. Tina Agbarha.

Popular opinion in the public domain tends to favour a choice from Benin (Edo South) as the candidate to succeed governor Adams Oshiomhole (Edo North) even though the Esans (Edo Central) are agitating to get the governorship slot. If the Benin agenda carries the day, which is most likely to be, Osunbor, Imansuagbon, Esele, Emuan and Agbarha may have been technical knocked out of the contest however, these five aspirants have been crisscrossing the state meeting delegates.

However, analysts believe that the APC contest would be a three horse race between Obaseki, Odubu and Ogiemwonyi.

Obaseki is supposedly being backed by the governor, and would most likely rely on the government machinery being oiled by his Political Adviser, Charles Idahosa, his commissioner for works, Osarodion Ogie and the member representing Etsako Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Philip Shaibu.

Odubu on his part is banking on his political structure that he has built over the years in Edo South and his support base in Edo Central, his historical root where he started his early life was growing with hope of attracting the sympathy of delegates.

On his part, Ogiemwonyi is believed to be trusting on the influence of the national chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun to see him through.

These three front-liners have been enjoying endorsements from various groups across the state and if endorsements were to translate to electoral benefits, then Obaseki could go and sleep as he has had more endorsements from the three senatorial zones than the other two aspirants. Virtually all the delegates have publicly endorsed him as their candidate.

On her part, the wife of Ogiemwonyi, Mrs. Joy Ogiemwonyi who equally subscribed to the call for peace and non-violent election, urged the women to come out en-mass to vote in favour of her husband.

The Coalition of Registered Political Parties (CRPP) led by Samson Isobor which endorsed Odubu, called for a level playing field for all aspirants.

For the APC, a level playing field is being canvassed but the alleged influence of the governor over the delegates through his appointees and several elected lawmakers both in the state and National Assembly remained a worrying factor for other aspirants.

The Guardian gathered that there have been overtures between the camps of Odubu and Ogiemwonyi to collapse their structures into one to fight a “common enemy”, the governor but it remains an uphill task as the two may have made up their minds to go the whole hog individually.

For the PDP, the challenge of leadership crisis at the national level may affect the party’s fortunes in the choice of candidates for the election but if all go well, the party may still have its kismets intact. There are four major contenders: Former NDDC Commissioner, Matthew Iduoriyekemwen; Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu who was formally of the APC and former Secretary to the State Government (SSG) under Lucky Igbinedion; Osaro Onaiwu, the Director General PDP Governors Forum; and Solomon Edebiri, a businessman.

It is easy for close observers to conclude that Ize-Iyamu already sees himself as the candidate of the party going by his carriage and utterances in various public functions. He has the structure, he has the resources but he is said to be battling to extricate himself from the snag of allegedly being a guest recently of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over 2015 election campaigns funds.

That notwithstanding, he currently looms larger than the other aspirants and appears to have the structure of the party on his side. Many members of the state executive of the party are backing him. These same people were influential in the election of delegates that would select the party’s candidate on Monday.

However, Iduoriyekemwen remained a force in the party with a very strong point of being consistent as he has been in the party from inception in 1998 and has continually funded it. He is charismatic and has large following across the three senatorial zones.

His ambition is believed to have the support of former Minister of Works, Mike Onolememen and this could make him have some inroads into delegates from Edo Central, the stronghold of former chairman Board of Trustees of the PDP, Chief Tony Anenih. But some persons see him as too independent-minded and may not kowtow to biddings of the leaders of the party. Supporters insisted that he is the kind of person fit to govern the state as exemplified by Oshiomhole who at times go against the wishes of the party leadership especially when such issues are pro-people.

Of all the aspirants, Edebiri seemed to be the “cleanest” as he has never held any public office but has operated in his private capacity. He is popular among the people and some leaders in the party including former Senate Chief Whip, Chief Roland Owie.

As Edo people await the outcome of the party primaries to know whom to queue behind at the main election, the CRPP call for equity and non-violence in the conduct of the primaries becomes apt.

The “Edo would be at the threshold of a glorious dawn, if all the parties involved in the selection and presentation of candidates to contest in the forthcoming governorship election were allowed a level playing field, transparent voting and a rancour-free primary election,” CRPP said in a statement.

Meanwhile the Governor at a meeting with the APC aspirants assured them that the exercise would be free, fair and devoid of violence.

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