Today the gubernatorial primary of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Edo State, will hold to determine who will succeed outgoing Governor Adams Oshiomole.
The fight in APC is between five aspirants the deputy governor of the state, Dr Pius Odubu; Engr. Chris Ogiemwonyi; Osarodion Ogie; Godwin Obaseki and Gen. Charles Airhiavere.
Among the five, Governor Adams Oshiomhole, who cannot be taken for granted in this race owing to the fact that he needs to anoint his successor, is backing the Chairman of the state Economic Team, Obaseki.
And because Obaseki is not a known politician but a technocrat, the governor has been able to galvanise his foot soldiers to deliver Obaseki.
While, the four leading aspirants on the platform of the PDP are Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Chief Solomon Edebiri, Hon. Matthew Iduoriyekwmwen and Earl Osaro Onaiwu. The four aspirants during sensitisation tours of the party to various local councils earlier in the year, agreed to drop their personal ambition for the party’s interest. They agreed that any of them that gets the nod of the party to represent it would have the support of the remaining three.
They, like other PDP faithful in the state, agreed that the party must work assiduously to regain the governorship seat, which it lost to Governor Adams Oshiomhole of the Action Congress of Nigeria, CAN, which joined other parties to form the All Progressives Congress, APC. Ize-Iyamu, Onaiwu, Edebiri and Iduriyekemwen Oshiomhole first rode to power through the judicial process, which annulled the election of Prof. Oserhieme Osunbor of the PDP and later won a second term.
The Benin Leaders of Thought, BLT, a socio-cultural organisation led by the Enogie of Obazuwa, Prince Edun Akenzua, had recently endorsed five aspirants of the APC for the epic battle and there is doubt that any of the five will carry the day as it seems in the coming primaries of the party.
The BLT, in its recommendation, said the five aspirants “eminently satisfied the state 75 per cent cut off point.”
Odubu and Obaseki
Today, Ogie is the Director General of the Obaseki Campaign Organization. Ogie is a leader in, Oshiomhole political family and well-grounded politically to boost Obaseki’s chances. Of course, delegates loyal to him are today backing Obaseki.
As a matter of fact, Ogie coordinated the attack against a former member of the party, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, during the congresses of the state APC in 2014 which forced Ize-Iyamu out of the party. Meanwhile, Ogie and Odubu will be playing mind games ahead of the primary due to the fact that they both understand the delegates.
Most of the delegates have been under the control of Ogie who oils Oshiomhole’s political machinery and that was why his followers were bitter when his boss charged him to use his structure to deliver Obaseki. Exhibiting loyalty, Ogie painfully heeded the call and today he is in the field working for Obaseki. Ogiemwonyi and Odubu command respect in this battle because they have been preparing for it over the years.
On the side of the PDP can the four aspirants hold on to their promise of not jettisoning the party’s interest and support whoever emerges as its flag bear? This is the question that is agitating the minds of party faithful in the state as each of the aspirants is eminently qualified to fly the party’s flag, if chosen, as a peep into their profile reveals
Even as the Professor Tunde Adeniran led screening committee has said that the four candidates are eminently qualified for the seat.
Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu
After Oshiomhole seems to be the most favored to lead the fight against the APC This is because he is not only an insider he is about the most popular active politician in Edo State today. The Man has a very rich political resume.
A Benin-politician of Orhionmwon Local Government Area extraction, he was both a former Chief of Staff and Secretary to Edo State government during the Lucky Igbinedion (1999-2007) administration. After falling out with the then PDP leadership over the de-registration of some members of the party, he joined forces with others to form the Grace Group, a pressure group within the PDP that left the party to form the AD and the Action Congress in Edo State.
He was Vice Chairman South- South of the defunct ACN. He, however, returned to the PDP last year after falling out with Oshiomhole. Some APC lawmakers in the Edo State House of Assembly also followed him once he defected to the PDP. He was the Edo State Coordinator of the Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Organisation for the 2015 Presidential election.
Though the Redeemed Church pastor is still an aspirant, many people already see him as the PDP governorship candidate. He has political structures within the 18 local government areas of Edo State.
He is forceful and understands the politics of the state very well, he has been reaching out to different groups, galvanising support for his ambition.
While the war within the APC in the state rages with the candidates refusing to step down for Oshiomhole’s candidate PDP has no anointed one and will therefore be more united after the primaries.
Ogiemwonyi, who is the eldest in terms of age among the five APC aspirants, is said to be very close to Oshiomhole’s family, but because of Oshiomhole’s unwavering support for Obaseki, he decided to pursue his destiny without Oshiomhole’s support.
After spending 34 years in the oil sector and, being a former Minister of State Works, he, of course, has the financial muscle and the experience to see to the end of this race.
Additionally, it is rumored that he enjoys the backing of the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun. Ogiemwonyi is optimistic and roaring to go. Interesting, he has exhibited maturity in this race through his campaign for peaceful elections in the state.
Odubu is presumed to be the most loyal deputy governor in the country until things fell apart between him and his boss, Oshiomhole. Okakuo (warrior), as he is fondly called, is the greatest threat to Obaseki’s ambition just like Ogiemwonyi.
Odubu has been a staunch member of the Oshiomhole political family. As a result, he understands how that group operates. But the snag for him is Ogie’s presence in the Obaseki project. Odubu, Ogie and Philip Shaibu, who is now in the House of Representatives, run things for Oshiomhole.
It would have been better for Odubu if Ogie had remained aloof but the latter had decided to join his boss to deliver Obaseki. Unfortunately, for the two groups now, things have fallen apart and the centre can no longer hold; therefore, they are bound to clash in the field. Odubu’s confidence is rising from the fact that he understands the bulk of the delegates, besides there is always this saying in APC that whomever Oshiomhole supports in any primary does not always win. Odubu definitely has this in mind and is working round the clock to fix his boss and Obaseki.
But this is a different ball game, the governorship election and not any other election. Oshiomhole as it seems has learnt his political lessons and has reworked his political machinery to deliver Obaseki. But Oshiomhole and Ogie know Odubu’s weak points and they will surely capitalise on it. Odubu’s strength lies in the key veteran politicians such as the Political Adviser to Oshiomhole, Charles Idahosa, and Harrison Omagbon, but Oshiomhole has been able to infiltrate that group.
Some of the people in that group today are in the Obaseki project. Obviously, Odubu will not step down for anybody, but whether he will be able acquire the muscle to outsmart Oshiomhole and Ogie is another matter. However, he is enjoying the support of a former House of Representatives member, Samson Osagie.
They are hoping they will be able to garner the same delegates that voted for Osagie, during his senatorial primary for Odubu. Osagie defeated Oshiomhole’s Chief of Staff, Patrick Obahiagbon, in that senatorial race. They are basking on that confidence that because they gave the governor a shocker by ensuring that Igodomigodo is defeated in that race, that they are prepared to inflict same defeat to Obaseki in Edo South.
The battle between the two groups will be fierce but it is a contest that, at the end of the day, whoever carries the day, they will shake hands and move towards the main election.
Okakuo is surely a threat to the Obaseki project but his boss will surely unleash his eight years’ experience in politics on him. Airhiavbere ran against Oshiomhole in 2012 as the PDP candidate but later joined the APC. He enjoys close relationship with Oshiomhole and he is one man capable of entering into a deal with Oshiomhole.
However, considering Oshiomhole’s ruthless political machinery, it would have been better for Odubu and Ogiemwonyi to present one candidate to battle Obaseki who is Oshiomhole’s man. But that may not happen. Oshiomhole is mindful of the experience of former Delta State Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan who lost out in the power play to produce a successor.
Consequently, he is happy with this situation knowing full well that the duo are his problem. And while he is expected to garner block votes from the delegates from his Edo North for Obaseki, Edo South, where Oshiomhole also enjoys huge support, and Edo Central will be the battle field for all the aspirants including Obaseki.
Today’s APC primary will be a historic battle because whoever wins will be meeting Ize-Iyamu the likely PDP candidate, a political bulldozer in Edo backed by the likes of Chief Tony Anenih and co. Whatever happens it’s a fight between the odds and the evens.