Members of the Edo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) are expected to elect the candidate to fly the party’s flag in the September 19 governorship election in the state, but FELIX NWANERI and CAJETAN MMUTA report that the exercise would be a mere endorsement of the candidacy of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu
t is coronation of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the September 19 governorship election in Edo State as the ruling party at the centre holds is primary election today.
The party is going ahead with the primary election despite the leadership crisis rocking it at the moment as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), on Wednesday last week, directed the 15 political parties the state to ensure that their primaries are conducted on or before June 27.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, who stated this during the second virtual meeting of the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES), warned that the commission would not extend the timetable for any party that misses out on the deadline.
His words: “Turning to the Edo governorship election, all political parties interested in fielding candidates for the election are reminded that they must conclude their primaries for the nomination of candidates in the next 10 days. The deadline is Saturday 27th June 2020. I must stress that the date is firm and fixed. There will be no extension of the deadline.”
The INEC chairman added that the parties must submit the details of their candidates for the governorship poll by 6.pm on June 29.
What would have been a legal impediment to the APC selection process was cleared last Thursday, when the Court of Appeal sitting Benin set aside an order of the Federal High Court restraining the party from holding the exercise through a direct primary mode.
While the APC NWC had opted for a direct primary that allows all members of the party to elect the governorship candidate, the Anselm Ojezua-led state exco of the party insisted on an indirect primary that will involve delegates.
The Federal High Court presided by Justice Mohammed Umar had on June 8, restrained APC from conducting the governorship primary election in Edo State using direct mode, but Justice Morenike Ogunwomiju who headed the three-man justices of the appellate court, ruled that the trial judge gave a problematic order that was not sought by the parties.
In the lead judgment in the suit by APC, delivered by Justice Ogunwomiju and backed by Justice Oseji, she said: “The trial judge (Justice Umar) gave a problematic order that was not sought by the parties to the suit. As at the date (June 8) the order was given, the political party (APC in Edo State) had 14 days to organise its governorship primary election. Every judge must be a democrat.
“The appellant (APC) was not given an opportunity to be heard by the trial court. The injunctive order of the trial court of June 8 is hereby set aside. The administrative orders subsist and the issue of jurisdiction should be determined by the trial court.”
Ordinarily, the Edo APC governorship primaries would have been a straight fight between Ize-Iyamu and Governor Godwin Obaseki, but the running battle, which the latter had with the National Chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole (now suspended), altered the political equation in the party.
The governor was billed to contest the party’s governorship primaries against Ize-Iyamu, Osaro Obaz, Pius Odubu, Matthew Iduoriyekemwe and Chris Ogiemwonyi, however, his dream of flying the APC governorship flag was dashed as he failed to scale the party’s screening hurdle.
The seven-man screening committee of the APC cleared Ize-Iyamu, Obazee and Odubu for the primary election, while disqualifying the trio of Obaseki, Iduoriyekemwen and Ogiemwonyi.
The panel faulted Obaseki and Iduoriyekemwen for dragging the APC and its national chairman to court in defiance to the provision of the party’s constitution. It also picked holes with the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) certificate and the testimonial of the Institute of Continuing Education Benin City, submitted by the governor.
With Obaseki leaving the APC for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which has already granted him waiver to contest for its ticket, it is a no contest today as Ize-Iyamu is expected to emerge as the candidate of the former ruling party in Edo State.
Ize-Iyamu, who is a former Secretary to the Edo State Government (SSG) and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2016 governorship election in the state, is the last man standing in the race for the APC ticket as Odubu, a former deputy governor of the state, poses no threat threat, whike Obazee has bowed out.
A man of many parts, Ize-Iyamu enjoys an overwhelming support of majority of APC members across the 18 local government areas and three senatorial districts of the state, little wonder his coming on board the slippery political terrain of the state sparked a lot of row at a time the incumbent (Obaseki) is seeking reelection for a second term in office.
The cleric turned politician also has the backing of Oshiomhole and members of the Edo Peoples Movement (EPM). Equally, he has been endorsed by all serving members of the House of Representatives elected on the platform of the APC in the state.
Ize-Iyamu was previously a member of the APC before his relationship with Oshiomhole went sour, but reunited with the fold in December last year. Consequently, the party’s NWC granted him waiver to contest for the governorship poll.
The man, who is expected to fly the APC’s flag in the Edo governorship election, is already looking beyond the primaries as he has expressed optimism that he has what it takes to defeat Obaseki, who trounced him in 2016, when he was the PDP candidate.
Reacting to Obaseki’s resignation from APC, Ize-Iyamu said: He (the governor) has now left the party, following his rightful disqualification. Many party members heaved a sigh of relief when he left and currently, we are closing ranks and unifying the party for the election. Should my party elect me at the primaries on June 22, all the issues you speak of will be resolved in no time because really, they are all political. As aforementioned, we are already reaching out to everyone involved now that the bad apple has voluntarily taken itself out of the bag.
“Whether in the APC or any other platform, as long as the contest will be determined by Edo people, I am confident of victory against Obaseki. If you drive around the state today and feel the pulse of the people, you will understand why I am that confident.”
“The verdict is out on Obaseki’s term as governor and in summary, the people are tired of his problematic leadership, which has focused only on personal battles and needless confrontations.
“These contentions are not unusual during election campaigns and processes. Nevertheless, there is a feeling of peculiarity with that of Edo State at this time due largely to desperation of the incumbent governor, who was determined to impose himself on the party in ways that were undemocratic before his exit.”
No doubt, today’s exercise is a mere ratification of Ize-Iyamu’s candidacy, however, there are indications that he might have hurdles to scale in his bid to fly the party’s flag come September 19 as the crisis rocking the APC in Edo State is far from over even with Obaseki’s resignation from the party.
The APC NWC had on Thursday constituted the primary election committee headed by Imo State governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma, but a faction of the party in Edo State led by Ojezua, immediately announced its rejection of the committee.
The factional chairman in a statement said: “Our attention has been drawn to reports that a primary election committee has been inaugurated by the Hilliard Eta-led faction of the National Working Committee of our party to conduct party primaries in Edo State.
“This purported inauguration is reported to have been done while a controversy is raging as to the proper officer to take over from Adams Oshiomhole.
“We have on good authority that Victor Giadom, the acting National Secretary, has been empowered by the FCT High Court in Abuja to act in that capacity.
“Besides, we have reservations with the entire process from the beginning because the National Working Committee has not first obtained the approval of the National Executive Committee of our party.”
Ojezua’s position is not unexpected as many had reasoned that his decision to remain in the party when Governor Obaseki left was to play the spoiler.
The factional party chairman had told New Telegraph in a telephone chat last week that he will remain in the APC to complete his tenure as according to him, he was elected as chairman of the state APC with a four-year mandate which elapses in 2022.
His words: “I won’t move. As you can see, I still have my mandate as the elected party chairman of APC in Edo State, which expires by 2020 and I intend to complete that mandate,” Ojezua said.