Going into the 2016 governorship election in Edo State, the ruling APC should have a clear advantage. However, with the party constituting an opposition against itself, the road to victory in the election seems to be rougher writes EMMA ALOZIE
The ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in Edo State has all the advantages going into the governorship election to be conducted later in the year.
It is the ruling party in the state and controls the levers of power at the centre. The governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole can be said to be exceptionally close to President Muhammadu Buhari. Depending on who you choose to listen to, the governor in the last eight years can be said to have comparatively acquitted himself in terms of good governance.
However, signals emanating from the party in the state seem to show that due to the governor’s indiscretions in choosing his successor, the party and the governor could be making a false start that could be fatal going into that election.
Governor Oshiomhole is said to have directed all party faithful to queue behind his anointed candidate, Mr Godwin Obaseki, who is the chairman of the governor’s economic team. And this expectedly did not go down well with many party followers. They have been kicking and forewarning the governor of the disastrous consequences.
Disturbed by this development, a chieftain of the party in Ikpoba-Okha who did not want his name on print said the governor must be careful about his actions.
“This action is surprising to all of us because all of a sudden we are beginning to see Godwin Obaseki going about with state commissioners to political meetings even when embargo on campaigns have not been lifted.
“This is much so that we heard from the grapevine that the governor has directed that commissioners, council chairmen and other political appointees to work for Obaseki.
“We as party faithful are appealing to the governor to please stay clear of imposing any person. We are not saying that he cannot support a candidate but he should not force people to buy his product. That we will not accept,” the enraged APC supporter said.
He is not the only one kicking against the imposition of Obaseki. A group known as Ikpoba Grassroots Mobilisation Network has beckoned on the national chairman of the party, who incidentally is from the state, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun to please ensure that a free and fair primary election is conducted to choose who would emerge the party’s flag bearer.
Coordinator of the group, Comrade Osakpamwan Osato said while addressing reporters at Idogbo near Benin City that it had become imperative to speak on the issue amidst the controversy trailing the alleged endorsement of Obaseki, by Governor Oshiomhole from over 10 APC guber aspirants.
“We also use this medium to commend the national chairman of APC, Chief Odigie Oyegun for conducting a free and fair primary elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states; he should also create an enabling environment for Edo state APC to do the same.
“We strongly condemn this attitude of the Comrade Governor and we are using this medium to advice him to desist from such behaviour. We can still recall when Comrade Adams Oshiomhole came to power, his slogan was ‘No godfatherism and let the people lead’ but the reverse is now the case as the Comrade Governor has put himself up as the godfather of APC politics.
“We are also aware the governor is busy relieving many political office holders who are opposed to his endorsement of Godwin Obaseki and his selfish desire. We advise the governor to allow a level playing field for free and fair primaries and allow the Edo people choose the right person to govern them”.
The crisis on the perceived imposition of a successor by the governor has further polarised the party beyond the governor’s estimation. Factions and groups within the party have started emerging and are threatening to derail the party’s path to victory during the election.
For instance, the state vice chairman of the party and its leader in Edo South caucus, Gentleman Amegor was recently suspended by loyalists of the governor who see him as not towing the line the governor has directed every party member to follow.
But Amegor seems to remain unruffled and has vowed to oppose the imposition no matter who is pushing it and who is being pushed. He described those who purportedly suspended him as, “group of persons who have no powers to do so and for reasons that can best be described as flimsy and laughable”.
He said “it is a premeditated attempt to intimidate me and coerce me into accepting to help market an unsellable commodity in the name of a governorship aspirant, which they claim has been handed over to them by the state governor. I make bold to say that as a true Benin man I will not succumb to this intimidation and blackmail as I am aware of those that will best serve the interest of the Benin people in the next election.
“It is also important to let them know that the allegations of anti party activities arising from the last Presidential election are not only mendacious but a fabricated one intended to smear my political image”.
Even a serving council chairman under Governor Oshiomhole’s government is also sounding the warning seriously; warning against the impending dangers of imposing a candidate on the party. Mr Osaro Obaze, the chairman of Oredo local government council said the governor should not mistake the Edo of 2015 to the Edo of 2008.
“A proper primary election must be conducted to ensure that the candidate that will emerge will enjoy 70% – 80% general acceptance by the party followers in particular and appeal to the electorate in general. For the avoidance of doubts, let me remind our leaders of the danger of one person playing the role of godfatherism and trying to impose a candidate against the wishes of the members of the party.
“This is against the recent events in last year;s Presidential and National Assembly Election in which the party suffered huge losses as a result of wrongful imposition of candidates in Ovia Federal Constituency, i.e. Osahon vs Charity Amayamvbo.
“Let me also remind our esteem delegates that unlike previous elections, the Comrade Governor is not going to be on the ballot paper. It is therefore imperative that, we shun the antics of godfather and embrace the rule of democratic process, as the candidates that will emerge from the contesting political parties will be voted for on the basis of their antecedents.
“In the same vein I want to state categorically that nobody can force me out of the APC, because I was a foundation member of the ACN which changed its name to the APC.
“You will recall in my earlier interview I granted sometimes ago, I did say that unless the APC gets their acts together and do things rightly, I might be forced to vote against the party’s choice if he is imposed by a godfather. I still stand on that ground.
“No amount of intimidation irrespective of the quarters it is coming from. I am a beneficiary of the democratic process in the ACN (now APC) on whose platform I was elected chairman of Oredo local government council. Let me end this piece by saying to be forewarned is to be forearmed,” he warned.
It is very ironic that the APC in Edo State has constituted an opposition unto itself. The party is badly divided with divergent views and cacophony of voices heard from all quarters regarding the role the governor should play in choosing who will succeed him. There are those who believe that it is unthinkable for the governor not to have interest in who succeeds him. So also there are those who believe that Governor Oshiomhole possesses the sole and rare wisdom to anoint his successor.
Aslem Ojezua is the chairman of the party in the state. He denies what others call imposition but however is quick to remind those opposing the governor’s interference how naive they are.
“It is naïve and unthinkable that a seating governor will not have an interest in who succeeds him in the 2016 governorship election.
“At this very time political leaders are required to provide leadership for their followers. I have received several calls from members of our party and leaders of what they think we should do regarding 2016 governorship election in order to get a good candidate. It is not true that the governor took it upon himself not to conduct primaries or whatever processes that may lead to the emergence of a candidate. I took it upon myself and I told the governor that we cannot leave this process open without management and that is job of the state executive supposed to do and to ensure stability.
“Now we have almost 20 people parading themselves as aspirants in this party, any politician should know that that gives 20 potentials factions, if not properly handled,” he said.
Similarly, the party’s publicity secretary, Godwin Erhahon is advocating that the governor should be giving the benefit of the doubt and chance to declare his support for a candidate of his choice.
“There are so many aspirants. The process of the primary must be fair and fair. The party accepts lobbying. What is forbidden is an attempt to bend the rules. The governor has told some people and said this is my preference; so let us reason with him. He is not saying you must do it my way”.
According to Erhahon when Oshiomhole met a few party leaders recently, he told them why he was throwing up a particular aspirant and sought their support for the aspirant.
“But he has expressed his own opinion, so that at the end of the day, if the party chose another aspirant and he becomes governor and does not meet the expectations, you will not blame the governor that he did not guide the party.
“Nobody will dispute the credibility of the convention that threw up Buhari. But transparent as it was, nobody will dispute the fact that there was back-door campaign and members and leaders met and discussed.
“The governor will surely cast his vote because he is going to be a delegate. For as long as he is going to do so, he must have a preference. If he is open enough to express that preference to people, that does not amount to endorsement”.
From the foregoing, it does not need any power of clairvoyance to know that the party is headed to an unpleasant end in the forthcoming election. But it is still too early not to take corrections.