By Ehichioya Ezomon
Members of the All Progressives Congress (APC), barely one-week old as the main opposition party in Edo State, have elected Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu as the candidate in the September 19 governorship election.
The “direct primaries” held after APC’s National Working Committee (NWC) rejected Governor Godwin Obaseki’s craving as an “unopposed” candidate or be subjected to “indirect primaries.”
Disqualified from the June 22 primaries by the NWC, headed by then APC’s National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, Obaseki joined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and was returned as its “unopposed” candidate on June 25.
But this was before Obaseki left the Edo chapter, and its national headquarters in Abuja in chaos, as his alleged supporter and “former” Deputy National Secretary, Victor Giadom, took over the secretariat and declared himself the acting chair.
It’s unprecedented, and against the succession order in the APC constitution. Ironically, the reported “court-empowered” Giadom, called an emergency meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) for Thursday, June 25, and fixed it at the Presidential Villa, Nigeria’s seat of power.
As the saying goes in my Esanland of Edo State: “When the dove is dancing in the street, you should realise that there’s something elsewhere beating the drum for it.
Thus, Giadom’s action indicated acting a script by the presidency, which later, confirmed that President Muhammadu Buhari had accepted the meeting, and would grace the occasion.
Surely, the president presided over the meeting attended, among others, by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the APC leadership of the National Assembly and Governors on the platform.
And as speculated in the media, the NEC, the second highest organ of the APC, took far-reaching decisions, some with “immediate effect.” They include:
* Dissolution of the NWC * Setting up a Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Committee, to run for six months * Ratification of Pastor Ize-Iyamu as the elected candidate for the Edo poll * Fixing of Ondo chapter’s primaries for July 20 * Presidential directive for withdrawal of lawsuits relating to electoral processes in the APC.
The committee, led by Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State, mandated to reconcile the party, has written to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to introduce itself, and intimate it of the APC decisions on Edo and Ondo primaries.
The Ondo chapter of the APC, like its Edo counterpart, is factionalized, with its heavyweights flexing muscles against the second-term bid of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu.
The division has resulted in the Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi, defecting to the PDP, to realize his aspiration to be governor he felt he couldn’t get in the APC “controlled” by the governor.
Peace in the troublous Edo chapter is far from over; hence the big players that stood aloof or fanned the discord, should pick up the pieces that the Obaseki/Oshiomhole feud have caused.
The APC should worry about losing Edo it had ruled till Obaseki defected to the PDP that he once labelled “looters of Edo State’s treasury.” Yet, he’s flying its flag in the September poll.
Obaseki reasons for defecting are in the public domain, but the coming election is shaping up as in 2016: a straight fight between him and Ize-Iyamu, then of the PDP.
The battle is also similar to 2007’s, when APC (formerly Alliance for Democracy (AD), Action Congress (AC) and Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) fielded Oshiomhole, former president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), against PDP’s Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor.
Though INEC declared Osunbor the winner, the Courts reversed the declaration, and in 2008, Oshiomhole reclaimed his “stolen mandate.” The APC was in power until Friday, June 19, when Obaseki defected, after his disqualification from APC’s primaries.
Now unencumbered (he had alleged being hamstrung in APC), Obaseki is challenging his embattled political godfather to a “mud-fight between elephants.”
Recall it hasn’t been a “walk in the park” for the APC to defeat the PDP in those years – 2012 and 2016. It would have been herculean for the APC, battling internal crisis, to win the September poll under Obaseki. But having decamped, he appears formidable!
He’s the governor. He “seized” APC’s structures, to join those of the PDP. He moved with majority of elected and appointed APC officials, and members that matter in elections.
Importantly, he moved with Edo’s purse from which he’s certain to disburse for the electoral processes: from “smoothening his way” to the PDP, and scaling all hurdles to pick the ticket.
Perhaps, the “real” victory for Obaseki before the September 19 showdown is securing the ticket, aided by last-minute withdrawal by muscles-flexing aspirants of their desire to be governor.
So, on paper, and the frenzy his departure from the APC has generated, Obaseki is the candidate to beat. But the unforeseen could upset calculations the PDP places so much store.
The APC, temporarily weighed down by majorly self-inflicted injuries, could recover in time to match the PDP currently awash with cash, followers and sympathisers.
The tide could change easily with the least of “unforced errors” by either Obaseki or the PDP stalwarts he’s pinning his hopes of “disgracing” his traducers in the APC, mostly Oshiomhole.
The APC could get unexpected traction from several avenues: Cash flow. Decamping from dissatisfied PDP members. There could be “moles” in the PDP leaking strategic plans by the party to finally “take our mandate back” via the ballot box.
Above all, the APC could bounce back with the instrumentality of “Federal might” in all ramifications. Needless naming them! The PDP has always alleged “rigged elections” even where it won.
Indeed, the PDP Governors’ Forum, headed by Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, has subtly kicked-off such “interference in elections” by agents of government, “to aid the APC.”
In a congratulatory message to Obaseki, the Forum warned: “We admonish all organs of state, such as the security agencies and the Independent National Electoral Commission, to ensure a free and fair election in Edo state in September.
“We urge Nigerians, and the civil society, to be vigilant, to ensure that all votes are counted, and that all votes count in Edo State in September.” Sooner, these mostly unfounded allegations would be a daily ritual from the PDP headquarters in Abuja!
Yet, air-minded Nigerians will attest to Buhari’s disinterest in electoral shenanigans. To him, the creators of the APC crisis in Edo should fix it, to win the poll. Otherwise, the PDP would, by now, be gnashing its teeth despite Obaseki’s awesome powers.
So, the PDP leaders have nothing to fear, but their own devices of “imposing” new comers on long-suffering old members, “who do not partake in the “largesse new entrants normally bring along.”
The omens for APC aren’t attractive for the September poll! But it can retrace its steps, unite and work to achieve success, and truly fulfil the ideal of the founding fathers as a “vehicle for positive change,” which the party’s current pilots have failed to uphold.
It’s indisputable that the party is down politically, morally, and even financially, at least in Edo State where, save the crisis that engulfed the chapter, the state’s treasury is out of its reach.
Obaseki has long closed that conduit he claimed was the source of the bitter struggle with his famed political benefactor, Oshiomhole, though Obaseki says he’s, indeed, Oshiomhole’s backbone.
Thus, if the APC hasn’t proven its prowess in its Edo chapter since Oshiomhole’s suzerain in 2007, this is the time to demonstrate it by retooling its strategies, and mending fences with those sticking with the party. These majority loyal members, defectors and supporters mustn’t be neglected in favour of a rapacious few.
Mr. Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria