No fewer than six members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State have shown interest in the governorship ticket of the party.
Before the end of June 3, the slated deadline for the submission of the party’s forms, the six aspirants had filled and submitted their nominations and expressions of interest forms, both sold for N22.5 million to each aspirant.
This pegged the total money generated by the ruling party from its sale of form at N135 million.
The six aspirants that went through the party screening process include the incumbent governor of the state, Godwin Obaseki; former chief of staff and secretary to the Edo government, Osagie Ize-Iyamu; a former minister for works, Chris Ogiemwonyi; a former deputy governor, Pius Odubu; Matthew Iduoriyekemwe and Osaro Obazee.
However, at the end of the screening process chaired by Jonathan Ayuba, a professor, only three aspirants were declared eligible. The other three were disqualified based on ‘anomalies’ observed in their credentials.
The qualified ones are Messrs Ize-Iyamu, Odubu and Obazee.
As envisaged by different analysts, Messrs Obaseki, Ogiemwonyi and Iduoriyekemwe were the three aspirants ineligible to partake in the Edo APC direct primary election slated for June 22 to determine the party’s flag bearer in the September 19 governorship election.
They are believed not to enjoy any support from the party’s national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, who is also a former governor of the state. Mr Oshimhole is currently on suspension and Mr Obaseki later defected to the opposition PDP.
In this analysis, PREMIUM TIMES essentially explores individual aspirants’ political history alongside the party’s internal wrangle and other factors peculiar to them as they contend for the party’s ultimate ticket.
Mr Ize-Iyamu, a former chief of staff and secretary to Edo government, is considered one of the founding fathers of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the state, a party that evolved to become the APC.
Mr Ize-Iyamu, from Orhionmwon Local Government Area, was the candidate of the PDP in the 2016 Edo state gubernatorial election, an election he lost to the incumbent governor.
Mr Ize-Iyamu garnered 41.28% (253,173) of the total votes cast against the 52.09% (319,483) the incumbent who contested under the platform of the ruling APC.
He is marked as Mr Oshiomhole’s preferred candidate for the party’s ticket this time.
His defection back to the APC in November 2019 further exacerbated the wrangle in the state branch of the party, as it narrowed Mr Obaseki’s chances in his previous party.
In the wake of the jostle for the party nomination form, seven aspirants stepped down to endorse Mr Ize-Iyamu as the faction’s consensus candidate, an agreement that was terminated by three of the aspirants that later went ahead to purchase the party form.
“We started with the consensus candidate because we believe, with unity, we can remove the current governor, ” Mr Ogiemwonyi, told journalists as he picked up his forms.
“However, there were some indications that the consensus aspirant was inviting another person to join and because I was number two, I told him that was unacceptable to me. If at all somebody will come, I should be the person because I was number two; that was why I said it was a moral issue.”
Until the disqualification of some of the aspirants, there were speculations that the three candidates action in purchasing the forms was aimed at dividing Mr Ize-Iyamu’s votes in the primary.
Just like the three disqualified aspirants, Mr Ize-Iyamu had some glitches with his presented credentials but was cleared by the APC screening panel on the ground that the attestation issued by the National Population Commission (NPC) has “killed the anomaly in the tendered documents which is why he cleared.”
This decision, to a great extent, has enhanced the chances of Mr Ize-Iyamu, Mr Oshiomhole’s alleged preferred aspirant.
Arguably the most certified aspirant currently in the race, Mr Odubu served as the deputy governor of Edo State between 2012 and 2016 under the leadership of the former governor, Mr Oshiomhole.
He is a lawyer and a former lawmaker who represented the Uhunmwode/Orhionmwon Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives.
Mr Odubu worked as the Director of Logistics of the Buhari Campaign Council ahead of the 2019 presidential election, a position many believe could muster some support for him in this contest.
He was recently confirmed by the Senate as the chairman of the 16-man Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) board reconstituted by President Muhammadu Buhari.
While serving as the incumbent deputy governor, he contested for the APC governorship ticket in 2016.
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He came a distant second with 471 votes as against the 1,618 votes garnered by the Mr Obaseki, who the then governor, now estranged ‘godfather’, Mr Oshiomhole, picked as his preferred candidate.
Some days before the APC declared its sale of form, Mr Odubu alongside six aspirants declared Mr Ize-Iyamu as their consensus candidate, an agreement that crumbled.
The Jonathan Ayuba-led APC screening committee in its observations also noted that Mr Odubu’s credentials had an inconsistency but the “anomaly was cured in the affidavit deposed to by his father and our recommendation is that Pius Odubu is eligible to participate in the election.”
Even though a staunch loyalist of Mr Ize-Iyamu, Mr Obazee is the incumbent governor’s kinsman, as they both hail from Oredo local government.
He is the youngest of all the aspirants as he was born on February 23, 1970.
Mr Obazee, a former chairman of Oredo Local Government Area, had declared his intention to run for the Oredo Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, but was compelled by the party’s leadership to step down for the Majority Leader of the House of Assembly, Osaigbovo Iyoha, and instead go for the House of Assembly, instead.
Having joined other six aspirants in endorsing Mr Ize-Iyamu as the faction’s consensus candidate, Mr Obazee breached the agreement when he opted for the form, a decision many believed was taken in due consultation with Mr Ize-Iyamu.
He was the first aspirant to be screened and cleared by the APC panel. There is a speculation that Mr Obazee would likely opt-out of the primary in favour of Mr Ize-Iyamu.
Threats, twists, turns
Just as the battle between Messrs Oshiomhole and Obaseki led factions in Edo continues to get messier, so is the party’s chance at winning the September 19 governorship elections.
As it stands, the three aspirants cleared to contest for the APC’s governorship ticket are arguably from the Oshiomhole-led faction while the Anselm Ojezua-led faction in the state has enjoined the embattled governor to join another party and contest which he has since done.
Many believe his supporters left in the APC may further polarise the party more so as Mr Oshiomhole is currently under suspension and the tussle for who leads the party intensifies at the national level.
Governors from the main opposition party, PDP, have already granted Mr Obaseki a waiver to contest for the party’s ticket.
All things being equal, the three cleared aspirants of the ruling APC in Edo may lock horns in June 22 for the party’s ticket. However, a source within the party’s NWC, said there are ongoing plans to ensure that Mr Ize-Iyamu emerges as the lone aspirant.
Some analysts believe Mr Obaseki would eventually win the PDP ticket after the expected horse trading. That, by all indications, will likely leave the contest eventually between the two arch rivals, Messrs Ize-Iyamu and Obaseki, who ironically have now switched to the parties they individually contested against in 2016.