Getting Set for the Impending ‘War’ in Edo

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Iyobosa Uwugiaren, Demola Ojo and Adibe Emenyonu write that Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State is going to face the toughest fight of his political life as personalities jostling to oust him rev the engine of their political machine

Seventeen years after he left political office as Secretary to the Edo State Government, many political players in the state said that Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu remains a political phenomenon and burning issue in the state politics. With little or no political patronage to distribute — a Nigerian political culture, which is a magnetism for political followers and supporters, his political structures across the state keep on swelling day after day.

A huge cult-like political followers, there appears to be a strong belief among his teeming supporters that his political decisions are always right; and wherever he goes they go.

‘’The most challenging job for a leader is to influence others to follow. It can only be conceivable if you inspire your followers by setting a good example. When the going gets tough, they look up to you and see how you react to the situation. Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu inspires his followers’’, Dr. Izebuwa Odigie, one of Ize-Iyamu’s supporters said.

Describing him as a ‘’great political leader, a man with progressive approach, always very calm under pressure’’ Dr. Odigie said Ize-Iyamu’s actions always inspire others to dream more, learn more and do more.’’

Ize-Iyamu’s movement from the opposition party, PDP to APC with huge followers — about three months ago, many people argued, is a mark of his political relevance and leadership qualities.

A leading contender in the Edo State governorship race scheduled for September this year — under the platform of the ruling APC, Ize Iyamu, recently obtained his governorship nomination form amidst celebration by his swarming supporters.

Accompanied by five other aspirants: Prof. Ebegue Amadasun, Gen Charles Airhiavbere, Engr Chris Ogiemwonyi, Hon. Ehiozuwa Agbonayinma and Hon Saturday Uwuilekhue and other leaders of the party, including members of Edo State APC caucus at the National Assembly — in a show of solidarity, Ize-Iyamu who described himself as one of the founders of APC, assured that the primary that would produce the party’s candidate, would be free, fair and credible.

A senior pastor in the Redeem Christian Church of God (RCCG), Benin-City, Ize-Iyamu told journalists after picking his form, that the other six aspirants, including the former deputy governor of Edo State, Dr. Pius Odubu, stepped down for him and gave their support in his aspiration to the number political position in the state to avoid a rancorous primary.

‘’There are issues in the Edo APC; but the leaders of the party are resolute that the state would not be lost to the opposition. Every one of us here may have personal ambitions.

‘’But we are bound together by the common desire to fast-track the transformation of our state through a transparent, effective, and accountable governance that will improve the living standards and social well-being of our people’’, the governorship hopeful added.

Although he was very reluctant to criticise Governor Godwin Obaseki while interacting with journalists at the APC National Secretariat, Abuja, he however said that even though APC is the ruling party in the state, majority of its members are not happy with the pace of development, rancour and the level of insecurity in Edo State.

He dismissed the purported endorsement by the National Chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole. ‘’Our National Chairman cannot not endorse any aspirant now in order not to compromise his integrity as the father of all the aspirants. Of course, by the time a candidate emerges, that person will enjoy his full support’’, he explained.

On the mode of the primary that is generating huge controversy, Ize-Iyamu explained that he no problem with the mode of primary to be adopted by the national body of the party. And promised to abide by the decision of the National Working Committee (NWC) – ‘’the organ that is empowered to fashion out guidelines’’ for the conduct of the primary.

“If they want us to do Indirect Primary so be it; if they want us to do Direct Primary so be it. But if you want to use the COVID-19 situation what should be recommended really, is Direct Primary, because the process decentralises the system. Meanwhile, Indirect Primary will congregate thousands of people in one place for voting. And that is not healthy for us.

“But the governor is insisting on Indirect Primary because it is easier to buy delegates. Those who are afraid of the Direct Primary are those who are afraid of free, fair and credible election”, he argued.

Earlier while speaking at the event, the National Organising Secretary of the party, Emma Ibediro, warned that the ruling party’s major opponent, the PDP, is praying for an implosion in the party, but assured that the opposition ‘’will wait forever and wait for nothing.’’

‘’With the way we are going to conduct our primary, it will leave no one in doubt that the APC is more united more than ever. Naturally, the social media have been awashed with a lot of comments; but I want to assure you that contrary to what people may think, I am very optimistic that the forthcoming primary will prove APC as a party that will be fair to all’’, Ibediro firmly stated.

He was very confident that the processes for the primaries will be so transparent that ‘’whoever wins will know that he/she has won and whoever loses, it will be obvious that he/she have lost’’, while urging all the aspirants to see the contest as a game

Speaking on behalf of other aspirants who stepped for Ize-Iyamu, former Minister of State for Works, Engr. Chris Ogiemwonyi, said that they share the same commitment and vision for accelerated development of Edo State — anchored on purposeful and effective leadership with Ize Iyamu, saying they will be leveraging on the abundant human and natural resources in the state to create a new Edo.

‘’We therefore commit ourselves to helping our brother realise his ambition and aspiration, which today becomes ours and to which we pledge our unflinching support’’, Ogiemwonyi said, calling on all members of their teeming supporters to join them in providing the needed support for Ize- Iyamu’s ambition and aspiration.

‘’The task of rescuing Edo at this time is more important than all political considerations and I know with our support, Pastor Osagie Ize- Iyamu will accomplish the task.’’

Former chief of staff and secretary to the Edo state government, Ize-Iyamu was the gubernatorial candidate of the Edo state PDP for the 2016 Edo state gubernatorial election; he was until that time a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the National vice-chairman, South-South Zone of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) – one of the party that formed APC.

He served as Director General of Adams Oshiomhole’s 2nd term Campaign Organisation; he was also the Coordinator of Goodluck/Sambo Campaign Organisation. He has been honoured by the Benson Idahosa University with an honorary doctorate degree in Public Administration.

Ize-Iyamu was born in Benin City on June 22, 1962. He is described as a descendant of an illustrious family ‘’deeply rooted in nobility and with an outstanding record of service to the community and society’’, Ize-Iyamu’s forefather, Chief Odia was the Iyase’N’ohenmwen (Prime Minister) of Benin in the reign of Oba Osemwende (1816 – 1848 A.D). His maternal heritage is also of notable repute: His mother’s father was the well-known Obasohan of Akpakpava.

A most significant aspect of the history of the Ize-Iyamu family is that it holds the record of building and owning the first storey building “Egedege N’Okaro” in the whole of the Mid-Western Region, Nigeria which is the present day Edo and Delta States. History indicated that it was built in 1906 by Osagie’s great grandfather Late Chief Iyamu, the Inneh of Benin Kingdom. And Ize-Iyamu has consistently said that it is in this revered historical house that he grew up under the shadows of inspiration.

Ize-Iyamu attended St. Joseph Primary School and Ebenezer Nursery and Primary School in Benin City. He had his Secondary education at Edo College — the premier secondary school in Edo State and passed out with grade I in his West African Examination Council (WAEC) examinations. He attended the University of Benin where he graduated with an LLB (Hons) and proceeded to the Nigerian Law School, Lagos where he bagged the Bachelor of Law (BL).

Osagie Ize-Iyamu is happily married to Professor Idia Ize-Iyamu, a Consultant Orthodontist with the University of Benin Teaching Hospital and University of Benin. They are blessed with four children

Jostling to Confront Obaseki

Gone are the days when the main threat to a Nigerian governor being re-elected came from an opposition party. The precedent set by the landslide defeat of erstwhile governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode, to a challenger within his party and now current governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, in the lead up to the 2019 elections, means sitting governors cannot rest on their oars come nomination time.

This is the case in Edo State, as preparations intensify for the gubernatorial election to be held September 19. Governor Godwin Obaseki knows he needs to first scale the hurdles within his party, before contemplating a re-election bid in September.

The All Progressives Congress under whose banner Obaseki contested and won elections in 2016, was also the party under which Ambode lost to Sanwo-Olu in the Lagos primaries late 2018.

Following Nigeria’s electoral body, INEC, expressing its readiness to go on with elections in September despite uncertainty due to the coronavirus pandemic, the APC, last week, fixed June 22 as the date for primary elections in Edo State. Sale of forms to governorship aspirants was scheduled between May 20 and June 2.

Back Story

Stakeholders and analysts are keeping a close eye on the APC primaries in Edo because of the glaring cracks within the party at state level, which has attracted widespread attention. For months now, Governor Obaseki has had a long-running fallout with APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomole.

Oshiomole is not only Obaseki’s predecessor as governor, he made sure – with much persuasion and lobbying – to sell his anointed successor to party faithful and supporters who were not convinced about Obaseki’s suitability for the job.

Despite the fact that Obaseki was the head of Oshiomole’s Economic and Strategic Management team for eight years, many of the state’s party members and supporters leaned towards the then deputy governor, Pius Odubu.

However, it didn’t take long for those with misgivings to feel justified. Obaseki accused Oshiomhole of meddlesomeness and an overbearing desire to influence his government.

He threatened to remove Oshiomole from the Edo State APC after instigating his suspension and was the protagonist of a plot that almost saw Oshiomole unseated as National Chairman of the APC early this year, but for the intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Following the narrow escape, Oshiomole struck a conciliatory tone, especially because influential ministers from the South-South region were involved in his travails. But this should not be misinterpreted as the power tussle being over.

In fact, Oshiomole is believed to be backing either Odubu or Ize-Iyamu as an alternative ticket bearer to the incumbent governor. Both lawyers are reputed to have the support to defeat Obaseki in a primary election and the grassroots following to successfully prosecute a gubernatorial campaign.

Apart from being deputy governor for eight years, Odubu represented Edo State at the House of Representatives from 1999 to 2007. A loyal party man to the core, Odubu was recently nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari as Chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and later confirmed by the Senate. The President however put this and other appointments on hold and approved an interim board to look into transactions under previous boards.

For many, Odubu’s large following, despite his preference for a low profile, and his aversion to conflict, make him a natural choice in what many see as a fait accompli in the battle to unseat Obaseki.

But Ize-Iyamu’s much publicised return to the APC in November last year, after a five-year sojourn in the PDP, has thrown all permutations into disarray.

Oshiomole encouraged Ize-Iyamu to return to the party in a bid to frustrate Governor Obaseki’s return ticket, and personally came to receive him in a planned mega rally that was derailed by the governor. Those in the know believe only the promise of the party’s ticket would have compelled Ize-Iyamu to return to the party he abandoned in 2014 to “go back home”.

The pastor is a foundation member of the PDP in the state and a staunch follower of former governor Lucky Igbinedion, who appointed him Secretary to the State Government during his eight-year tenure. He later pitted his tent with the Action Congress, which transformed into the Action Congress of Nigeria and later morphed into the APC.

Ize-Iyamu rose to become the National Vice Chairman (South-South) in the APC, until his departure to PDP in 2014 with hundreds of his loyal supporters. He was the party’s candidate in 2016 against Obaseki but lost at the polls.

Party Man versus Returnee

The question is, which one of these gladiators will step aside for the other? Those within the party believe Odubu’s loyalty has earned him the chance, while he also boasts a strong following that can sway elections his way. Despite misgivings about Ize-Iyamu’s devotion to the party’s cause, his support base across party lines might be a benefit during a general election.

But Ize-Iyamu is also seen as a polarizing figure within the party’s ranks, with a recent open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari by “Concerned Edo APC Stakeholders” which was published in the newspapers, highlighting his weaknesses.

Stating their concerns, the group loyal to Obaseki bemoaned the fact that Ize-Iyamu returned to the party “just three months ago,” as against others who stayed behind to help build the party. They doubt his capacity of having the financial muscle to prosecute a campaign and have misgivings over the fact that he served as SSG to Igbinedion.

They also drew attention to the fact that he was Director General of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign in Edo State, as well as that of Atiku Abubakar. They went as far as accusing him of being a PDP mole, with plans to return to the PDP if he becomes successful. The big picture they claim, is to capture Edo State and make the South-South a completely PDP region.

The “Concerned Stakeholders” described Ize-Iyamu as “a serial decampee who runs to different parties every year and runs out immediately he loses,” and pointed out that Oshiomole himself has campaigned incessantly against him and badmouthed him in the past.

Party faithful seem more receptive to the candidacy of Odubu, a doctor of jurisprudence and student of governance, who used his time at the National Assembly to push for projects in his state.

He has been recognized for his excellence at the House of Representatives where, as the only member from Edo State to serve in the appropriations committee from 1999-2003, he influenced projects like the Benin Outer Ring Road (Bye-Pass), the Benin-Warri Expressway and the rehabilitation of Benin-Abraka road, as well as initiating many other projects in several communities within his constituency.

The APC is still debating the type of primaries it will hold – direct, indirect or consensus – but there is no denying that if there is any chance of defeating the incumbent governor at the primaries, Odubu and Ize-Iyamu need to present a common front.

Contending with the PDP Challenge

Since the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, released a revised time-table for the governorship election in Edo State, the stakes over who get the party’s tickets is high.

The search for the right choice of candidate according to political watchers will certainly determine how far both the APC and the PDP will go in the general election.

The PDP as its stand today is positioned to harvest from the internal crisis rocking the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, if it puts its house in order.

While, the APC on the other hand is fractured, battered and divided between, the national chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and his predecessor, Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo state over the soul of the party.

Obaseki’s political foes under the platform of Edo Peoples Movement, EPM, and loyalists to Oshiomhole are currently at crossroad in search of a consensus candidate against him.

This is as all entreaties within and outside the party to allow peace reign among the two political warlords have failed thus leaving the PDP to harvest from the disbursement

Already, among aspirants seeking the PDP governorship ticket are Mr Kenneth Imansuangbon, Mr. Gideon Ikhine, Hon Ifaluyi Isibor, and member of federal house of representative, Hon Ogbeide Ihama.

Kenneth Imansuagbon

Kenneth Imansuagbon, popularly known as the ‘riceman’ owing to his yearly rice distribution joined active politics in 2004 and attempted to contest the governorship in 2007 under the defunct Action Congress. Imasuangbon could have joined the ruling PDP then but he opted for a party of the masses.

The AC had no structure but Imansuangbon gave it life by paying for its secretariat and providing furniture to be used by party members. He was however pressured to step down for Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.

Despite seeing the party to victory, Imansuangbon, who was not happy with the manner the party was run, left for the opposition PDP when the party was at its lowest ebb. He helped reconciled warring factions and put the party in strong shape. In 2012, Imasuangbon contested at the PDP primaries but lost to General Charles Airhiavbere at the behest of late Chief Tony Anenih. Not satisfied with the manner the primaries was manipulated, Imasuangbon returned to the APC

In 2016, he was among the aspirants that contested against incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki and also lost out at the primaries.

Imansuangbon returned to the PDP in 2018 to help campaign for his friend, Governor Aminu Tambuwal, who was gunning for the presidential ticket of the party. Tambuwal’s lost did not deter him to leave the party and he has been providing necessary financial support to make the party strong in Edo

He has again indicated interest to contest for the governorship ticket under the PDP and this time Imasuangbon is the right person the PDP can hope on to defeat Obaseki.

Imasuangbon is the only PDP aspirant that has not held any political appointment or elective positions. He has not received any contract from either the state or federal government. He has spent his money to finance the Edo PDP through troubled times and never cared to the paid back.

Across the state, Imansuangbon is a household name. He will not be a candidate that will need introduction. He has helped to pay medical bills for patients in several hospitals. Traditional rulers are abreast of his good gestures towards the people.

The Edo PDP needs victory and the man that can take the party’s flag to Osadebey Avenue is Kenneth Imansuangbon.

Engr Gideon Ikhine

Engr Gideon Ikhine, is considered a greenhorn politically. He is from Edo Central senatorial district, a district jostling for the PDP governorship ticket. Ikhine resigned from Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in 1997 to establish Nugi Limited, an Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC) company.

Within 10 years after its establishment, Nugi Limited grew to become a major player in the Nigerian construction industry employing hundreds of Nigerians.

Engr. Ikhine’s pioneering role and contributions to society, has earned him the privilege of sitting as a Member of The Provisional Council of Foundation Faith Church and a Pioneer Member, Board of Trustees, Salem University, Lokoja, Kogi State.

Engr. Gideon Ikhine’s first stint in Politics dated back between 1987 and 1988 and later went in the pursuit of his professional engineering career.

His political involvements and support for his party the PDP from the National through State to LGA and Ward levels, have seen him exhibit passion in the restructuring and repositioning of the party on several occasions. He has demonstrated commitment to the Party by supporting the aspirations of party members to the State House of Assembly and National Assembly on various occasions.

Hon Ogbeide Ihama

Hon Ogbeide Ihama, is said to be the preferred candidate to fly the PDP governorship ticket. He hails from Edo South senatorial district and the same Oredo local government area with incumbent governor Godwin Obaseki.

Analysts are of the view that fielding him against any of the APC candidate may be counterproductive. They argued what the party need a strong candidate whose popularity transcend his Oredo federal Constituency

Ihama in 2015, was elected under the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to represent Oredo Federal Constituency at the Federal House of Representatives, Abuja. His legislative interest includes youth and women empowerment, power generation and proper management of national resources.

He serves as Chairman of House Committee on Culture and Tourism. He is a member of the committees such as; Environment and Habitat Committee; Ports, Harbor and Waterways; Power; Basic Education; Housing; Capital Market; and Public Petition.

While, the PDP in principle may have zoned it governorship ticket to Edo south, a district that control over 50% of the voting population. It was learnt however that the move by the party’s leadership may boomeranged as historical political evidence had showed.

Some liberal minds of the party however have a different view. They are of the opinion that the central senatorial zone has always remained a PDP strongly hold against all odds since the current political dispensation and as such, denying them the ticket will be unfair.

Should this idea succeeds, it means the party primary would be a fight between Ikhine and Imansuangbon.

Already, there is a divided opinion amongst PDP supporters as to who among the two is imminently qualified to fly the party flag

According Osaro Idemudia, a PDP chieftain from Ovia Southwest local government area of Edo South senatorial district, Imansuagbon from Edo central senatorial is the only aspirants with huge political capital that can battle any candidate the APC will eventually present if it is serious in making any in road in the governorship election.

He posited that though zoning is unconstitutional, it is only strategic and tactical for the party to field a candidate whose acceptability cut across the three senatorial districts that can wrestle power from the incumbent.

Idemudia argued that history has showed that no opposition party had dislodged the ruling party by fielding a candidate from the same senatorial district and cautioned the party to change it strategy, noting that the central zone where Imansuangbon comes from is a predominant PDP dominated zone.

“Since 2012, the PDP has lost the governorship elections to the ruling party in the state twice. This time around, there is the need to rekindle that winning formula.

“From past records of events in Edo state, no opposition party could dislodge a ruling party by fielding a candidate from the same senatorial district with the ruling party.

“In 2003, the opposition ANPP fielded Senator Roland Owie against Governor Lucky Igbinedion, all from Edo South. The Opposition lost.

“In 2012, PDP in opposition fielded General Charles against Adams Oshiomhole’s second term and in 2016, Pastor Ize-Iyamu against Godwin Obaseki of the ruling party, all from Edo south.

“The embarrassing loses by the PDP cannot be forgotten. For two terms an Edo South candidate has been fielded in addition to the two terms as Governor under the Lucky Igbinedion/PDP led administration”

He further arguef that the only time power changed hands, was in 2007, when the opposition ACN fielded Adams Oshiomhole from Edo North against the ruling PDP’s Prof. Osunbor from Edo Central, “It is therefore clear, that fielding a candidate from the same senatorial district with the APC come 2020, does not necessarily translate to a win and will not favor the PDP. Besides Edo South has tried twice and not won the election”

“Since the governorship candidate of the APC will definitely come from Edo South, no matter who they decide on, the PDP should pick its candidate from the central district of the state where the part has strong supporters. Should they do so, Imansuagbon as its candidate from the zone stands a better chance of winning than whoever the party may field from the south senatorial zone to battle the APC candidate squarely.

Although leaders of the PDP like their APC counterpart are looking at the voting population of the south as against that of central and north put together, however, another political analyst, posited that it is time the part stop deceiving itself once again by the unproven voting population of Edo South against other senatorial districts, nothing that a check on the statistics of votes in the last governorship elections in Edo state has since disproved that

According to him, bulk of the winning votes came from Edo North. The South is a cosmopolitan city with different tribes who don’t vote one way because the number of Esan people and other tribes make up about 70% of the voting population in Edo South unlike Edo Central that votes one way. A change of formula, the analyst who preferred anonymity insisted will favour the PDP in this election

He added that the current crisis in the state’s All Progressives Congress has provided the leeway for the PDP to regain the power it carelessly lost in 2008 because Edo APC is seriously battered.

Another factor may alter political permutations in the choice of who emerged the PDP candidate.

This is because of the strong speculation that the incumbent governor and a strong aspirant of the APC, Governor Obaseki is being wooed by top hierarchy of the PDP to fly the party flag at the governorship election of September 19.

QUOTE 1

Obaseki’s political foes under the platform of Edo Peoples Movement, EPM, and loyalists to Oshiomhole are currently at crossroad in search of a consensus candidate against him. This is as all entreaties within and outside the party to allow peace reign among the two political warlords have failed thus leaving the PDP to harvest from the disbursement

QUOTE 2:

Former chief of staff and secretary to the Edo state government, Ize-Iyamu was the gubernatorial candidate of the Edo state PDP for the 2016 Edo state gubernatorial election; he was until that time a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the National vice-chairman, South-South Zone of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) – one of the party that formed APC. He served as Director General of Adams Oshiomhole’s 2nd term Campaign Organisation; he was also the Coordinator of Goodluck/Sambo Campaign Organisation