The altercation between Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, and the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, over the party’s governorship primary in the state raged on yesterday with the governor pointedly asking his predecessor to recuse himself from the June 22 process in the state.
The governor, after submitting his expression of interest and nomination forms at the APC national secretariat in Abuja, also described as absurd an insinuation that he had purchased another governorship form from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as a fallback should he fail to get the APC ticket to run for a re-election.
Obaseki and Oshiomhole have been at loggerheads for about one year, a crisis that has snowballed into the factionalisation of the state chapter of the party, and threatening APC’s chances at retaining the state in the September 19 governorship election.
To stop Obaseki’s second term bid on the APC platform, the Oshiomhole group drafted a PDP defector and former Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr. Osagie Ize-Iyamu, to run against him as the consensus aspirant of the group.
However, the consensus arrangement that produced Ize-Iyamu has fallen through as four more aspirants from the Oshiomhole group bought the party’s expression of interest and nomination forms to run against the governor who is the sole aspirant in his camp.
As of yesterday, which is the deadline for the submission of expression of interest and nomination forms to the party, six governorship aspirants returned their documents to determine their eligibility for the party’s governorship primary slated for June 22.
However, one of the aspirants, Mr. Chris Ogiemwonyi, gave an insight into why the consensus that produced Ize-Iyamu collapsed.
Speaking to reporters after submitting his expression of interest and nomination forms, Obaseki said despite the transformational reforms that his administration embarked on for the last three-and-a-half years, his first term of four years was not enough to crystalise all the reforms.
He said, therefore, he needed another four years to consolidate on what he had done, adding that this informed his decision to seek a second term.
On last Sunday’s meeting by a delegation of APC governors with the National Leader of the party, Senator Bola Tinubu, Obaseki explained that it was part of steps taken to resolve the crisis in the party.
“For me and my colleague-governors, we cannot see a party we built destroyed. We cannot see a ruling party be so weakened, and whatever it will take to secure peace, to secure harmony in the party, we are prepared to – I am prepared to make,” he said.
The governor noted that the meeting with Tinubu was to assure him that they are all working to build the party, adding that from 26 states, the ruling party now has 20 and that they don’t want to lose any more states.
Reacting to the APC National Working Committee’s (NWC) decision to adopt direct primary as a mode of picking the party’s governorship candidate on June 22, Obaseki said he was ready for any mode of the primary.
But he stressed the need for strict compliance with the constitution of the party in conducting the primary.
He said: “The basis of any democracy is rules; that is why the most important document in our party is our constitution. Our constitution is very detailed and it spells out clearly how we should undertake our affairs as a party.
“The constitution stipulates what mode of primaries allowed in our party and how decisions to the type of primaries you want to run should be arrived at. It is clearly stated in our constitution and so for me, I believe that our lawful party will do things according to the constitution of our party.
“So, direct or indirect, I’m certain I will win the primary but we have to respect our constitution.
“However, I am using this opportunity to call on Comrade Oshiomhole to recuse himself from the Edo nomination process because he is an interested party.
“It is against natural justice for a man to be a judge in his own case. So, I think the honourable thing to do is to recuse himself and let us have a free process and let us reconcile and build our party.”
On the reports making the round that he has obtained governorship form from another party, the governor said: “It is very absurd. I am someone that is very exposed. How can I collect forms from two parties when we have rulings in the past disqualifying people on that? I am a party man to the core.
“APC is my party because I come from a progressive political family. I believe in the ideals of APC; I believe in our president; I believe in what he stands for, so I am a party man to the core. I am not an old-styled politician. I represent a new direction of politics that is based on facts and truth, not lies.”
Responding to a question that he betrayed Oshiomhole, touted to be his godfather, he said: “In life, everybody gets helped; everybody gets assisted. The person talked about had no money when he left labour to contest (for Edo State governorship). We knew what we did to make him governor. I sacrificed eight years of my life pro bono; I collected no kobo to serve him in Edo.
“Today, we know what we have built because of where we started from. So, when you talk of betrayal, the biggest betrayal can be when people betray a cause; when they betray an idea. That is the greatest betrayal of all. It is like betraying God. When you said to God, this is what I stand for and then God gives you power then you turn around and do the exact opposite.
“There is no greater betrayal than that. So, when you talk about betrayal let us be very clear. I want to put it on the record that I am grateful. He assisted me just as I assisted him. I know the sacrifices we made to make him the national chairman. So, what are we talking about?”
Obaseki might have felt some relief yesterday as five other aspirants from the Oshiomhole camp submitted their forms for the June 22 contest, signifying the collapse of the consensus that had thrown up Ize-Iyamu as the group’s flag bearer.
One of them, Ogiemwonyi, explained why the consensus arrangement collapsed.
Speaking after he submitted his forms, he said even though he initially stepped down for Ize-Iyamu, he changed his mind because there were indications that the former SSG was inviting another person from outside.
He stated: “We started with consensus candidate where we think the candidate we elected to have one person, because we believe, with unity, we can remove the current governor. 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.”
Ogiemwonyi, however, opposed indirect primary being canvassed by some party members, saying it’s the greatest disservice to a politician.
He said: “I saw what indirect did to me in 2016. I nurtured so-called delegates for nine months – some little stipends. To make sure I was coming from outside, they believed in me. I was giving soft loans for them to run their businesses, but I received the greatest shock from the governor at the stadium.”
He said Obaseki was not a player in 2016, neither was he in equation of things, noting that the contest was between him and the then deputy to Oshiomhole, Dr. Pius Odubu.
He added that the delegates could not vote for him because they watched the body language of Oshiomhole, who was the governor then.
He added: “Godwin did not campaign. Godwin did not talk. Oshiomhole gave him so much gratitude and I believe Godwin has shown him much ingratitude. To answer your question, having done it once, it is the greatest disservice to a politician.
“I hate it, what they called indirect primary. What we are having today is go to the field, campaign, let card-carrying member have the privilege to choose their candidate.”
Ogiemwonyi said if elected, he would only do four years and would not seek another term.
He added that he was not against the perceived support Oshiomhole is giving to Ize-Iyamu, but warned against using state apparatus to suppress other candidates as it happened in 2016.
“I’m not against somebody loving somebody, but all I’m saying like what happened in the first case, don’t use the government apparatus to suppress one person,” he stated.
Another aspirant, Hon. Matthew Iduoriyekemwe, however, said adopting indirect primary was the most logical thing to do, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, six governorship aspirants, yesterday returned their expression of interest and nomination forms for the party’s governorship primary.
Ize-Iyamu was the first to submit his on Monday and former Chairman, Oredo Local Government Area, Hon. Osaro Obaze, returned his nomination form on Tuesday.
Obaseki, Dr. Pius Odubu, Iduoriyekemwe, and Ogiemwonyi submitted theirs yesterday.
The National Organising Secretary, Mr. Emma Ibediro, received the nomination forms from the aspirants on behalf of the party’s NWC.
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