How Edo APC primary was won and lost
Edo State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would today, select its gubernatorial candidate who would slug it out with the Chairman, Edo State Economic Management Team, Godwin Obaseki in the September 10 governorship election.
Obaseki emerged in the early hours of yesterday when chairman of the election committee, Aminu Masari, governor of Katsina State announced him as the winner of the governorship primaries of All Progressives Congress (APC).
He said Obaseki polled 1,618 delegates’ votes to defeat Governor Adams Oshiomhole’s deputy, Peter Odubu who scored 471 votes in the primaries, which campaign was by intrigues, name-dropping, violence and shooting.
Other aspirants and their votes were: Kenneth Imansuagbon 247; former Minister of State for Works, Chris Ogiemwonyi 137; Major General Charles Airhiavbere (rtd), 11 votes; Blessing Agbonmeire, five votes; Professor Frederick Amadausn, eight votes; Emmanuel Arigbe-Osula, 10 votes; Peter Esele eight votes; Austin Emuan, four votes; Professor Osarheimen Osunbor, nine votes; and Mrs. Tina Agbarha three votes.
But even before the official announcement of the results by Masari, observers and Obaseki’s supporters could guess where the pendulum was swinging as the stadium was erupted with the repetition of Obaseki, Obaseki, Obaseki, like, the historic and famous PDP primaries at Eagles Square in 1998, where the name Obasanjo, Obasanjo and Obsanjo resonated. But the supporters also believed that one thing was sure, ‘change’ has come to stay in Edo.
However, there was tension and anxiety within the camps of the various governorship aspirants jostling for delegates who were to decide their fate in the party primaries ahead of the September 10 governorship race in the state.
Heavily armed policemen, soldiers, men of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and the Department of State Security (DSS) took over Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, venue of the primary as well as adjoining roads as early as 5.30 am on Saturday.
The party also adopted a process of decentralised accreditation in three strategic venues; Imaguero College, Agbado Primary School and George Idah primary school where the 2,873 delegates from the three senatorial districts were screened to avoid congestion and clumsiness in the stadium. The delegates were then ferried to the stadium in buses straight inside the main bowl of the stadium amidst tight security.
Motorists were cordoned off the stadium road as they made detour to most available exit and entrance roads within and out of the area.
The delegates from Edo central senatorial were accredited at George Idah Primary School on Ihama, Government Reservation road (GRA), their counterparts from Edo north took their turns at Imaguero Secondary School on Sapele road while the Edo south had theirs at Agbado Primary School along Akpakpva road, all in the state capital.
As at 9am when The Guardian visited George Idah prmari school venue for Edo central delegates, officials for the accreditation were yet to arrive with their materials but the exercise was speedily going on and successful too at about 2.02pm when the reporter arrived Agbado Primary School.
The congress which started peacefully, became frenzied around 9 pm as Ogiennwonyi and Imasuagbon accused the governor of allegedly trying to intimidate delegates. It was observed that Imasuagbon who has been restless and the campaign Director of Odubu, Samson Osagie complained aloud to whoever cared to know that the governor was moving around allegedly influencing delegates.
But a chieftain of the party from Igueben, Ken Ihenseken engaged Imasuagbon in a war of words and queried why the governorship aspirant would be threatening everybody as if he was the only aspirant in the APC. He told Imasuagbon to sit down and stop disturbing people and threatened to ‘teach him a lesson’ if he continued to raise unnecessary issues.
As if that was not enough, the deputy governor also engaged in another war of words with an APC youth leader, Tony Kabaka who squared up to the deputy governor. An angry Odubu ordered the Commissioner of Police to arrest Kabaka, but Oshiomhole quickly intervened and appealed to his deputy to calm down.
However Oshiomhole described the exercise as peaceful saying that “ those who have been peddling rumours about purchase of PVCs has been shamed today (Saturday) because you can see that everybody who came here to vote came with their PVCs. But I am happy with the arrangement today whoever wins will fly the flag of our party.
“I had told the aspirants that this must be a brotherly affair and not war because at the end of the day we will all work for the party and support whoever wins the primaries. That is why I have been calm all these while when people make frivolous allegations against me and even malign my person.
“But I thank God things are moving smoothly and all those who predicted doom for APC today in Edo should hide their heads in shame” he stated.
It was obvious however in the entire exercise that the contest was between the governor and the other aspirants as Obaseki rode on the structure of the governor and his associates to win the election. Obaseki has never held any elective position and up to the time he indicated interest in the governorship race, he more or less remained largely apolitical.
Observers see the development as an indication that contrary to insinuations, Oshiomhole was still very popular within the party because there had been a gang-up by supporters of one of the aspirants to teach “Oshiomhole a political lesson that he cannot lord it over us. He cannot give us a goat and still hold on to the rope”. It was an apparent reference to the alleged agreement to cede the next governorship position to Edo South senatorial district (Benin) and then still decide who would fly the flag.
Obaseki was seen as a neophyte in politics, which many believed he was and worked to use it to frustrate the governor.
There was initial disaffection in the Oshiomhole camp because the current commissioner for works, Osarodion Ogie was the name in peoples’ lips as the aspirant that Oshiomhole was backing but suddenly Obaseki appeared on the scene.
Ogie was able to drop his ambition and join the governor to deliver Obaseki after several discussions and evaluation of situation report and together with Oshiomhole’s Political Adviser, Charles Idahosa who contested the then Action Congress (AC) with Oshiomhole in 2006 and former president of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and now a member in the House of Representatives, Philip Shaibu using the Edo Solidarity Movement and Edo is in Safe Hands, to re-establish Oshiomhole’s political structure which many now argued, would remain very relevant in the politics of the state in many years to come.