With less than six weeks to the Edo State governorship primary, events in the Peoples Democratic Party suggest that Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu is the man of the moment in the governorship race slated for later this year. Iyobosa Uwugiaren, who has been monitoring developments, writes

All things being equal, all political parties contesting the 2016 Edo State governorship election are expected to produce their standard-bearers on or before May 22, while the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has fixed September 10 for the main election.

Already, aspirants in the all the political parties especially aspirants of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) are upping their games for the battle ahead, even as tension is soaked ahead of the appointed date.

Expectedly, conflicts of interests are very pronounced within the two major political parties: PDP and APC. This appears to be tearing the parties apart, going by the unfolding political events in the last few weeks, while leaders of the parties are taking panicky measures to manage the emerging situations.

For the APC, it appears the battle must be fought and won at all fronts. An insider very conversant with the party’s strategy at the state level told THISDAY that while the leadership of the ruling party “are ready to overwhelm all enemies within the party” in order to produce its preferred candidate, they are in the same way fighting very hard to ensure popular candidates do not emerge in other parties, especially within its main rival party, the PDP.

Apparently conscious of the huge challenges “a PDP formidable candidate” may pose to the APC, political followers and friends of Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State had in the last few weeks consistently advised him to go for “acceptable candidate” within the APC if he is ready to “install” a successor.
For example, Chief David Edebiri, the Esogban of Benin Kingdom, was said to have admonished Oshiomhole recently that he and his supporters would “swim, and if necessary, sink” with him in the political decision he is about to take – in the September governorship election.

Although considered by many not to be politically relevant in the politics of the state, Chief Edebiri, who like many of the governor’s aides, is not comfortable with Godwin Obaseki, Oshiomhole’s alleged preferred candidate, but said he had no option than to “swim and sink” with him.

Similarly, THISDAY gathered that a two-time governor of old Bendel State, General Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia, had also advised Oshiomhole recently to “consult very well’’ before deciding on who to support among the APC aspirants for the governorship race. And like many others, the respected elder statesman appears not to be comfortable with Obaseki’s candidature.

But, against all the good counsels, a close aide of the governor said Oshiomhole might have settled for a little known Godwin Obaseki, and he is ready to do everything to have him emerge the APC candidate on May 22.

On what he is doing to manage the huge opposition against his preferred candidate, the aide said, “The Comrade Governor believes Obaseki will win at a heavy cost”, saying “part of the strategy is to ensure Pastor Ize-Iyamu does not emerge PDP’s candidate. Ize-Iyamu is his greatest fear. And the Comrade believes once the pastor is stopped, the system can be managed.”

Although APC may dismiss this, THISDAY gathered that the state government had allegedly reached out to some aggrieved PDP members in the state for help and already, some self-styled chieftains of the party are said to have since deployed to work, an insider said.

Mr. Nosa Adams, a PDP strategist, said the recent dressing down of one Okharedia Ihimekpen, a member of the PDP in Edo State that the “strident but timely criticism” of the policies, programmes and projects of the Oshiomhole administration would not make Pastor Ize-Iyamu the party’s candidate, is parts of APC’s deal with some party members.

“It exposes the desperation of one whose only abiding project is to run down and besmear Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who to all intents and purposes is perceived as the stumbling block to the election of his aspirant as PDP’s candidate in the forth-coming election,” the PDP chieftain stated.

“Ihimekpen had fired the first salvo in his concocted tale, early this year that the pastor re-bagged rice purportedly allocated to Edo State by the pro-Jonathan Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN) – an allegation that was found to be untrue, ridiculous and non-existent. Ihimekpen went back into his cocoon.”

The Oshiomhole’s former aide said, “The childish assertion” by Ihimekpen that Pastor Ize-Iyamu will not be handed the PDP flag on account of his criticism of Oshiomhole’s governance style, may not be unconnected with the political scripts handed him.

“Well-meaning members of the PDP and keen observers of the party’s affairs will remember vividly that the relay of problems and controversies that culminated in the party’s defeat in 2007, had its roots in the ugly activities that ruined the party’s re-registration processes and threw many members into political wilderness through deft manoeuvres, positioning and artificial scarcity of membership cards.

“Pastor Ize-Iyamu was not the only victim. Thousands of PDP members were structurally demobilised. If for political expediency, Pastor Ize-Iyamu and others, who suffered the same fate with him assembled in a half-house and insisted on being reabsorbed, why did the Ihimekpens of this earth continue to harbour the angst and resentment of the past, when the political wounds have been healed and soothed?’’
He described Ihimekpen as one of the “discreet moles in the PDP with ties to people on the other side of the political divide (APC).”

Pockets of intra-party opposition nevertheless, political analysts said the emerging political scenario both in Edo State and the national secretariat of the PDP have suggested that it is a settled matter for Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu – he is the state PDP candidate for 2016 gubernatorial race.
Arguably, the former Secretary to the Edo State Government is one of the constructive talk-about today in the emerging politics of Edo State, especially in the Edo South. Believed to be having a wide and strong political network across the three senatorial districts, some of his huge followers have described him in different ways: “very generous”, “well-organised”, “level headed”, “experienced administrator” and “good listeners.”

Like many of his colleagues in the race, Pastor Ize-Iyamu had consistently told his followers that he is in the race to Denis Osadebe House to serve.
“At times people tend to give the impression that it is a crime to have an ambition and prepare for an office. I think it is desirable that those, who aspire for public office, should not be those who were drafted in, had no plan and were not prepared for the office. It should not be a situation, whereby someone felt he could use them and conscript them into the race. Political offices are very challenging. Anyone aspiring to occupy political office must show proof that he is prepared for it.”

The PDP governorship hopeful said he had lived in the state all his life, and that what people call political structure is what he calls goodwill, saying, there is no part of the state, ward or local government that he does not have personal friends.

Ize-Iyamu added, “I’m talking about people I could stay in their houses and eat based on long term relationships. So, when people talk about political structures, it does not necessarily mean control of political parties, but being able to have credible men and women, who are close to you in all parts of the state.

“That, to me, is a credit. As for my ambition, I have had the opportunity of serving in government and I know the workings of government more than a lot of people. I also thank God for good education. I cannot see my state being misled and mismanaged and be indifferent. It is natural and patriotic to have an ambition under such circumstance.”
Insisting that he has a clear vision of how the state should be administered, he said his vision is a product of widespread consultation and experience in governance that he had gathered all his life, sector by sector.

According to him, “You can’t operate government focusing only on education as if you don’t have anything to do with health, people will die. You can’t focus on health and education and you have no time for business, if the economy does not grow, people will die. Government must be handled from a very holistic point of view, not something you decide that you forget about security, armed robbers will hold sway.

“So, you have to be able to use available resources in a manner that these areas are dealt with, while still able to focus on certain priority areas; you don’t kill certain areas. It’s like in a family, you say, well, because I go to school, people will not eat anymore. No, they will still eat, you must still pay rent, you must still pay medical bills and you still look for a way to pay your education bills.”
The Director-General, former President Goodluck Jonathan Presidential Campaign Organisation (2015), Edo State, said he is contesting the governorship position as somebody, who understands the system.

“And don’t forget that I am a man who is accessible. I think one of the problems that Governor Adams Oshiomhole has is that he is not accessible. Most of the time, he is not even in the state, and when he is in the state, he might not even be in the capital because he is in his village. And when he is in the capital, it is difficult, even for his own commissioners to access him. So, there is a lot of disconnect.
“I believe I have the experience.

I believe I am passionate. A lot of people have been elected into offices and they have no interest in the state. How many of them have interest in the state? A man wants to rule you but he has no interest in the state, he who does not even believe in your state, how can he rule you?”
Dr. Clement I. Alile, a political leader in Edo State, also cautioned recently about who becomes the next governor of Edo State.

“We are talking of who is to govern Edo State; we are talking of people who have been exposed to governance, who have served the government at different levels and had experience from management of men and materials with humility, dignity, respect, candour and comportment. That is what we want,” the seasoned retired public administrator stated in an interview with a national daily.

“We don’t want charlatans, we don’t need ‘babies’ that are being fed with baby milk; we want mature, self-confident people. I will prefer among all of them to have a confident man that is one who has self-confidence, who has been exposed.”

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Arguably, the former Secretary to the Edo State Government is one of the constructive talk-about today in the emerging politics of Edo State, especially in the Edo South. Believed to be having a wide and strong political network across the three senatorial districts, some of his huge followers have described him in different ways: “very generous”, “well-organised”, “level headed”, “experienced administrator” and “good listeners.”