Parties in last-minute rush to compile registers
•Governors stick with Obaseki, Odubu adamant
By Lanre Adewole
Two weeks to the much-anticipated primary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State, national party chieftains are worried the ruling party in the state may end up gifting the governorship election to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as major power interests deepen their strife over who should be the standard-bearer.
Already, the national leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, has given solid backing to the national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole on direct mode for the conduct of the party primary slated for June 22.
The embattled governor, Godwin Obaseki, is believed to be at a disadvantage going into a direct primary that would be conducted by the national leadership headed by his erstwhile godfather and now bitterest foe, Oshiomhole.
A top party source, however, told Sunday Tribune at the weekend that it would be too early to write the governor off in a direct primary, considering the reported resolve of his colleagues elected on the platform of the party to see to it that one of their own is not humiliated.
The APC Governors Forum has been at the forefront of getting the national leadership to provide the embattled governor, as well as his counterpart-governor in Ondo, Mr Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, with a fighting chance, through indirect primary. But Oshiomhole has been adamant.
What could pass for a battle line is now said to have been drawn between Oshiomhole and the self-styled progressive governors.
A source who is close to both the party chairman and some of the APC governors disclosed that the chairman had foreclosed the fact that he would need the support of the majority of the governors. According to the source, Oshiomhole believed that since he would not need the support of most of the governors again, there was no reason to consider their request this time.
That disclosure foreclosed the possibility of the former Edo governor and new APC strongman, seeking a second term in office at the expiration of his running tenure in 2022.
The silence from Aso Rock is, however, said to be a major worry for those seeking Obaseki’s scalp and despite not publicly endorsing any of the aspirants contesting on APC’s platform for the Edo ticket, there is a concern in Oshiomhole’s camp that the president may force their hands at the last minute, due to the influence of some powerful interests in the North, particularly a powerful businessman who is seen as Aso Rock’s darling and a known ally of Obaseki. Even those close to the party’s top echelons confided in Sunday Tribune that Tinubu warned some of those thick in the plot to stop Obaseki to be wary of the Presidential Villa. “Don’t trust those people” the APC national chieftain was said to have intoned of Aso Rock.
Tinubu’s position is also seen as throwing a direct challenge at the APC governors who would be major actors in deciding who gets the party’s presidential ticket for the 2023 poll.
The source agreed that the Edo imbroglio is further souring the relationship between the national leader and the governors.
It was learnt that the party membership registers demanded by INEC for the conduct of the primary elections in Edo and Ondo states are now being hurriedly put together and the compositions and contents could become another source of partisan litigation in days ahead.
The party, under the chairmanship of John Odigie-Oyegun, had attempted a computerised membership registration, but the exercise was caught in allegations and counter-allegations of fraud and deliberate exemption.
Sunday Tribune however learnt that the hurdle would be surmounted and the Edo register would get to the election umpire in good time, though it could not be established which of the two factions in the state would be favoured as the authentic party representatives.
Beyond the national politics of the governorship poll, the state local politics is reportedly giving the Oshiomhole’s camp, early jitters.
The camp is said to be shifting away from Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu due to his increasingly poor perception even among his Bini people, who are said to be more disposed to returning the governor, also a Bini.
The Bini, with the highest voting population in the state, are said to be united against Oshiomhole and the party chairman is reportedly aware of the groundswell of opposition against him, compelling his forced support for only the aspirants from the largest ethnic grouping.
But his earlier choice of Ize-Iyamu as a replacement for Obaseki appears to have run into a hitch with his choice said to have been greatly damaged by him when they were in opposing parties.
In 2016, when Ize-Iyamu was the candidate of the PDP, running against Obaseki, then Oshiomhole’s anointed, the APC chairman’s damaging allegations against Ize-Iyamu as the Secretary to the State Government in the administration of former Governor Lucky Igbinedion, were everywhere. Even the videos of them are now all over the social media
Those unflattering words are now being used against both Oshiomhole and his newly-found political heartthrob, Ize-Iyamu.
The reported decision of the Oshiomhole camp to look elsewhere for a battle-axe aspirant against Obaseki is also said to be meeting another brick wall.
Oshiomhole’s deputy when he was governor, Pius Odubu, is reportedly adamant, claimimg he can’t be overlooked again for another aspirant following the reported withdrawal of class-support for Ize-Iyamu.
Odubu was by-passed for Obaseki in 2016 and his appointment to the juicy NDDC was shortlived, due to intra-party clash among the heavyweights from the South-South zone.
PDP’s primary election is slated for the day after the ruling party’s and there are also calculations a last-minute intrigue could play out despite denials of planned defections.
Despite the 24-hour difference which appears to make last-minute jump impossible, a similar scenario had played out in Benue State in 2015 when the incumbent governor, Samuel Ortom, was denied the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party and had to move to APC within a day where he emerged the candidate.
Ortom went on to win the election but later returned to PDP, on whose platform he returned to the Government House in 2019.
…PDP yet to submit membership registers
As the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) concludes its screening of candidates for the Edo and Ondo states’ governorship primaries, attention has shifted to the party’s preparedness to mobilise its members for the race in both states.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had already informed parties which would want to use the direct primaries to elect their standard-bearers to submit their registers to the commission.
Chairman of the commission, Professor Mahmud Yaqub, who made the request said: “I wish to appeal to political parties that opt for direct primaries to avail us the registers of their members to be used for the election from ward to local government area and state levels for effective discharge of our monitoring responsibilities under the law.”
Although the PDP did not state that it is opting for direct primaries in either of the states, it is not clear if the party has submitted its membership registers to the commission as requested.
The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Kola Ologbondiyan, who spoke to Sunday Tribune over the matter said he would need an update from the party’s national organising secretary.
“I will find out from national organising secretary of the party today,” he said.
However, further calls made to him to get the outcome of the enquiry were not successful.