- Governor, deputy on warpath over campaign funding delay, it’s not true Gov’s spokesman
Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City and Adedayo Akinwale and Udora Orizu in Abuja
There were new twists in the lead-up to the September 19 governorship election in Edo State at the weekend, as families of the two leading candidates, Governor Godwin Obaseki of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), traded support against their own sons.
Some prominent members of the Obaseki family endorsed and pledged support for Ize-Iyamu, while notable members of the pastor’s family also threw their weight behind the governor as their choice candidate.
That was as the deputy governor, Philip Shaibu, was alleged to be on the warpath against Obaseki over delay in the release of campaign funds barely six weeks to election.
The endorsement of the APC candidate by Obaseki’s family occurred during a meeting at Ize-Iyamu’s private residence in Benin City. One of the governor’s cousins, Victor Obaseki, while speaking at the meeting, admitted that although the Edo State helmsman was his kin, he would not get the support of the family.
Victor stated, “I am here today in company of my cousins to support Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki, the executive governor, is our cousin. Generally, the Obasekis have their own way of doing things. We are a different branch of faith.
“We are supporting our brother, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, with an unalloyed support fully for him. I have supported him before, and I would continue to support him. We would do all our campaigns for him without let or hindrance, fully from the bottom of our hearts.”
Ize-Iyamu expressed his delight at the support of the Obaseki family, stressing that it is a confirmation of the poor administration that Godwin Obaseki has given to Edo State in the last four years. He also praised the Obaseki family for not allowing sentiment becloud their judgment in the choice of the right person to lead Edo State for the next four years.
Ize-Iyamu told the Obasekis, “Let me thank you for the endorsement. I have known some of you for many years and I am very happy that politics has not strained our relationship.
“It is true, as Osaro said, that far away in New York, I had the opportunity of meeting with him and other Edolites, where I shared my ambition. Osaro has been a good gentleman and humble man, and has always declared his support.
“He came out this morning to say, Godwin has not done well, and he would not because they bear the same surname continue to support him and go through the very poor performance that we have seen in the past four years.
“They will not allow the sentiments or even deceit of brotherhood make them vote for somebody they know is not qualified for a position.”
In addition, Edo Leaders and Patriots in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) endorsed Ize-Iyamu as their preferred candidate in the September 19 governorship election. President of the group, Hon. Isaac Ehigiator, disclosed this while addressing a press conference on Saturday in Abuja.
Ehigiator said while members of the group worked and lived in the FCT, their hearts remained with Edo and they would not allow distance rob them of the opportunity to participate in all that was happening back home. He said it was against this background that Edo indigenes resident in the FCT decided to participate in the election campaign process throughout the six area councils of the federal capital, for the purpose of mobilising Edo sons and daughters to return home for the election with zeal and vote Ize-Iyamu
He noted that the group believed Edo deserved better, adding that the task of repositioning Edo State should be holistic and driven with sincerity of purpose, emotional intelligence and respect for the traditional as well as all other leaders involved in the greater Edo project for the good of all.
According to Ehigiator, “Going forward, therefore, I want to affirm on behalf of the committee of Edo Leaders and patriots that the manifesto as presented by Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the APC, as vividly captured in the SIMPLE Agenda programme for the greater Edo project, represents the true desires and aspiration of all Edo sons and daughters irrespective of where they reside anywhere in the world.
“We have, therefore, come to the conclusion that Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu is the right person to lead Edo State in the next dispensation from November 2020 to November 2023, so that our dear state can take its rightful place in Nigeria.”
Ehigiator disclosed, “That the Committee of Edo leaders and Patriots in FCT does adopt Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and endorses him as preferred candidate for the September 19, 2020 governorship election in Edo State.
“That the committee with other Edo sons and daughters shall undertake visitations to the six area councils to mobilise and present the SIMPLE agenda to Edo people in those areas councils starting from 31st August, 2020 to 15th September, 2020.”
Director-General of Ize-Iyamu Campaign Organisation in Edo South, Hon. Mathew Osagie, said in the last four years, contrary to the media propaganda of Obaseki and his government, a lot was undone in the area of governance and its impact on the people. Osagie added that when the governor was elected in 2016, the expectation was high, but he deviated when he waged war against his own party members.
Meanwhile, as part of the political twists in the state last week, many aides, appointees, and other government officials resigned their positions to back Ize-Iyamu. The governor and his deputy were also alleged to be on a collision course over delayed campaign funds.
Shaibu was said to have engaged in a war of words with Obaseki at a leadership meeting on Thursday following what insiders described as the governor’s failure to release funds for the election. Apart from the governor and his deputy, who were at the meeting, others present, sources said, included the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Osarodion Ogie, Charles Idahosa, and Senator Domingo Obende.
It was gathered that trouble started, when the governor commenced the meeting by saying all hands must be on deck to be able to defeat APC. But Shaibu raised his hands to speak, and the governor recognised him to speak, a decision Obaseki was said to have regretted later. The deputy governor, allegedly, told his boss point-blank that he was not serious about winning the coming election. He reminded the governor that different committees were set up in the past two weeks but the governor had refused to fund them, lamenting that the APC has been in serious campaign while nothing has happened regarding the PDP campaign.
Tension heightened, it was further gathered, when he allegedly accused the governor of luring him to fight his godfather, Oshiomhole, and then showing no commitment or seriousness in funding the forthcoming election.
Shaibu was alleged to have said, “We have been sitting here doing nothing while Oshiomhole is all over the town. We are losing members every day and all we do is setting up committees every day without funding. I will not take this, you pushed me into fighting a man that made me what I am today, yet all we are seeing everyday is committees with no funding.
“Mr. Governor, I see you don’t understand what this election is all about. You are not serious about it. Do you think it is the little boys carrying laptops here that will do it? If you don’t want to fund the election, then, I have no business being here. I will back out.”
Attempts by Ogie to stop Shaibu were said to have further infuriated the deputy governor, who allegedly told Ogie to shut his mouth and sit down.
But Idahosa, a leader from Uhumwonde, allegedly, stood up and backed Shaibu, expressing his fear that Oshiomhole would send all of them to jail if they lose the election. He urged the governor to release money for the campaign.
Obaseki, whom a source close to the meeting said looked visibly confused at that moment, requested for the budget of each of the six committees. This request by the governor, the source said, further infuriated Shaibu, who thundered that he was still asking for the budget when APC had been campaigning day and night. He warned the governor that if nothing serious was done, he would walk back to his APC, which he said he left in pains.
However, the chief press secretary to the deputy governor, Mr Musah Ebomhiana, denied any such altercation, saying: “It is a wicked rumour, there is no iota of truth. I really don’t know where that is coming from. It is street talk with nothing to it. The relationship between my boss and his boss, that is the governor, is very cordial. The committees have since been inaugurated and campaign is going on. So there is no truth in it. It is a figment of the imagination of those peddling it.”
Equally reacting, special adviser to Obaseki on media and communication strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, denied any clash between Obaseki and Shaibu. He said in a statement that the story could only have emanated from the APC.
He stated, “The lie that there was a clash between the governor and his deputy should be dismissed in its entirety. Whatever incident they allude to only exists in the imagination of the purveyors.
“There was, indeed, a meeting with key stakeholders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which ended with everyone in high spirit. There was a spirit of cordiality and everyone shared their ideas and inputs on how to deliver the party in the September 19 governorship election.”
Osagie advised the general public to disregard such claims and other similar tales some dishonest people might spin in the days ahead as the election draws near.