BY SIMON EBEGBULEM
The adoption of consensus candidates during last weekend’s local government primaries of the Action Congress of Nigeria , ACN in Edo State has liberated Comrade Adams Oshiomhole from the hold of factional leaders of the party in the state. Whether it has liberated the state from the godfathers or enthroned another godfather is another issue.
For most of the first term of the Adams Oshiomhole era in Edo State, the two dominant factions in the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN fought one another in a bid to get the ascendancy.
One group led by erstwhile secretary to the government of the Lucky Igbinendion administration, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and the other led by a former member of the House of Representatives who became deputy governor to Oshiomhole, Mr. Pius Odibo.
Ahead of last year’s governorship election, it was not surprising that the Ize-Iyamu group practically held Odibo to ransom, refusing to accept his nomination for a second term until Oshiomhole practically moved in to beg for his embattled deputy.
After the deputy governorship saga, the latest issue between them is the contention for supremacy in the forthcoming local government elections.
Remarkably, where the two factions had clashed in the past and held almost everyone else hostage to their political whims, a third and probably more decisive factor inspired by Oshiomhole has now emerged.
It was no news that the nomination for candidates for the local government elections raised eyebrows within and outside the ACN. Given the party’s past struggles against godfatherism, it turned into an issue when many party patrons including the governor were alleged to be also playing the game once associated with the PDP leader, now on political exile.
Governor Oshiomhole had suggested to the leaders during a meeting at the residence of the former Foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Tom Ikimi, the option of adopting consensus candidates to the effect that only primaries of affirmation would be held in the primaries that held throughout the state last Saturday.
Though his suggestion was adopted, but crises still broke out in several of the 18 local government areas.
Given the high stakes involved it was no doubt a reflection of Oshiomholefs growing political stature and wisdom that he was able to nip the crises in the bud. In several local government areas including his own Edo North base, many leaders expressed dismay over what they alleged to be the politics of imposition of candidates.
Defending the affirmative primaries, the member representing Owan Federal constituency in the House of Representatives, Pally Iriase and the Political Adviser to the governor, Charles Idahosa said it was done for the best interest of the party. They reasoned that a more democratic primary would have disenfranchised members who joined the party from the PDP few months to the governorship election.
“It is not the best because parties must work very seriously towards internal democracy but that is the best we can get for now due to the situation of things in the party in the state,” Iriase told Vanguard.
Prior to the primaries, there was a lot of tension in the party as to how the two power blocs in the ACN represented by Ize-Iyamu and Odubu would battle themselves.
That is because Oshiomhole had in the past left it for the leaders of these two blocs to decide.
But apparently thinking of how to ensure that he produces a successor of his choice, Oshiomhole moved in this time to enthrone his personal choices as chairmanship candidates in many of the local governments.
Though he did it in collaboration with the factional leaders, but everyone knew who had the final say.
Unknown to the two blocs, Oshiomhole moved in to neutralize the Odubu/Ize-Iyamu groups with the emergence of a third bloc earlier called Peoples Mandate for Oshiomhole (PMS) which later metamorphosed to Edo in Safe Hands led by his former Chief of Staff, Osarodion Ogie and the Majority Leader of the state House of Assembly, Philip Shuaibu.
PMS was the group that first promoted the Oshiomhole gubernatorial candidacy before the first term and comprised mainly Oshiomhole enthusiasts from labour, civil society, the All Nigeria Peoples Party, Labour Party among others.
Prior to the last gubernatorial election the group metamorphosed into Edo in Safe Hands (ESH) with a singular mission of checking the ethnic propaganda of the PDP to put a Benin man ahead of Oshiomhole.
The group backed Odubu’s return as deputy governor when the Ize-Iyamu group fought against it but in this recent battle for the soul of the councils, the group detached itself from Odubu’s group with the intention of positioning its own members in the 18 local governments for reward for standing by Oshiomhole.
In the consensus arrangement that was ratified during the affirmative primaries last weekend the result inevitably showed the group now having the ascendancy over the two more known factional groups led by Ize-Iyamu and Odibo.
At least eight of the chairmen who emerged as ACN candidates in different councils are members of the Edo in Safe Hands, while Odubu and Ize-Iyamu each had two council chairmen.
The remaining six chairmanship candidates were firmly conceded to strong loyalists of Oshiomhole among who was the former Woman leader of the PDP, Mrs Lucy Omagbon who clinched the chairmanship ticket in Ovia North East.
The state coordinator of the Edo in Safe Hands Morrison Okungboro emerged the ACN candidate in Ovia South West.
And Vanguard was reliably informed that the group also has about five Commissioner nominees in the list to be sent to the state House of Assembly for approval.
Edo in Safe hands has remarkably put a check to the once intimidating presence of the two factions around Oshomhole.
It is not surprising therefore that the rumour all over the state is that the group will back an Ogie/Shuiabu ticket for governorship in 2016.
The implication of their success in the chairmanship tickets is that when eventually they emerge as chairmen and councilors in their respective councils, they would be saddled with the responsibility of funding the party at the local level and by that giving more strength to the group at the grass root level.
Besides, these chairmen and councilors will be delegates for the state congress where Oshiomhole’s successor is expected to emerge in 2016.
The Odubu and Ize-Iyamu loyalists may now have to reappraise their confrontational strategies towards one another and perhaps turn attention towards the lurking and now more formidable enemy.