•Intense horse-trading on for consensus candidate to tackle Obaseki
•Edo stakeholders petition, take case to Buhari
•Oyegun twisting facts, alleges Edo APC vice-chair
By Clifford Ndujihe, Ozioruva Aliu & Omeiza Ajayi
AN end to the steaming crisis in the All Progressives Congress, APC, especially in Edo State, is far from over. Concerned stakeholders of the party in Edo, yesterday in a petition to President Muhammadu Buhari, said that the National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole’s “unforced losses” and waging of “endless unprovoked battles against Edo APC” may hurt the party’s chances in the forthcoming governorship election in the state.
Also, a faction of the party in Edo has taken on a former national chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, urging him to stop acting as Governor Godwin Obaseki’s hireling.
The faction was responding to Oyegun’s claims that a reconciliation meeting was held where it was agreed that for the party to retain the state, its governorship ticket should be ceded to Governor Obaseki.
This is coming as many APC governorship aspirants desirous of stopping Obaseki from getting a second term have intensified horse-trading to present a consensus candidate against the incumbent at the APC primaries.
After what seemed like a ray of light in the APC crisis, the hornet’s nest was stirred on Wednesday when the Deputy National Chairman (North), Lawal Shuaibu, warned that the party risks disintegration, and losing the Edo and Ondo governorship polls, if the alleged arbitrariness and lawlessness of Oshiomhole were not checked.
Shuaibu, who faulted Monday’s inauguration of Waziri Bulama as the party’s Acting National Secretary by Oshiomhole queried his decision to personally constitute both the screening committees for the governorship and senatorial elections, as well as the final appeals committee, all in violation of the extant constitutional provisions of the party vesting the power in the National Executive Committee, NEC.
Why consensus must be built behind Obaseki – Oyegun
Yesterday, Odigie-Oyegun urged the APC to hand second term tickets to Governors Obaseki (Edo) and Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo) in line with a recent peace deal or ensure free and fair primary elections in both states by unbiased party leaders.
In an advertorial, he said: “I welcome most warmly the news that Mr. President has firmly endorsed the agreement reached to settle the disruptive leadership crisis at the national level that was threatening the very existence of the All Progressives Congress. The immediate relevant part of that agreement was that both the governors; Mr. Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki of Edo State and Mr. Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, SAN, of Ondo State, having performed creditably should be returned unless they do not so wish. This means that the party, in unity, should organize to support the return of both governors.”
Odigie-Oyegun hoped and prayed that a consensus could be built behind Governor Obaseki because “he has not offended any aspect of the APC’s constitution nor has he in any way brought the party to disrepute.
“He has performed in an exemplary manner. In his time, there has been peace and freedom for the ordinary Edo man and woman from harassment by official thugs. Through him, Edo State must prove that our democracy can only survive if we do not create a situation where an individual or a small group can make or unmake our governors or other elected officials at will.’’
However, he said if consensus could not be built behind the incumbent Obaseki, “everything must be done to ensure that the persons in the leadership of the party at the centre who are part of the contrived crisis in Edo State must not even remotely be allowed to plan, participate or supervise the primary election.
“It is of critical importance that the primary be seen, even by a blind man, to be free and fair, otherwise there could be political consequences. Allowing any member(s) of the national leadership who have been involved in the contrived crisis in Edo State would equate to making such person or persons judges in their own case. This is contrary to the principle of natural justice and will be naturally resisted.”
Don’t be Obaseki’s hireling, Edo APC faction tells Oyegun
Tackling Odigie-Oyegun, factional State Publicity Secretary of Edo APC, Mr Chris Azebamwan, challenged the former party chairman to name those he accused of contriving crises in the state chapter of the party.
He said: “It is not in our character, upbringing or culture to take an elder to task, especially an elder with the towering stature and credentials of Pa John Odigie-Oyegun who retired as a federal super-permanent secretary, has been a state governor and served as national chairman of a major political party. He celebrated his 80th birthday recently, and we wish him many more years of service to the nation.
“Against this background, one is at a loss to understand why Chief Odigie-Oyegun would make utterances that portray him as a mouthpiece or hireling of Godwin Obaseki. That the forthcoming primaries in Edo State would be credible is not in doubt.
‘’It is neither desirable nor in the interest of anyone to compromise the process, and in so doing, give room for the courts to intervene and upturn the results. The leadership of APC is determined to conduct credible primaries. In addition, one would have expected Chief Odigie-Oyegun to name or identify those he claims are contriving a crisis in Edo State.”
No automatic ticket
He also dismissed as untrue, claims by Chief Odigie-Oyegun that the party had agreed to offer an automatic second term ticket to Governor Obaseki.
His words: “The more worrisome part of Pa Odigie-Oyegun’s outburst is his claim that as part of the reconciliation process, an automatic ticket was promised to Godwin Obaseki. To the best of my knowledge, Chief Odigie-Oyegun was not at the meeting where reconciliation was discussed. He is no longer a principal officer of the APC, and is in no position therefore, to lay claims to the inner workings of the Party.
“One wonders why the National Reconciliation Committee headed by Chief Bisi Akande would have needed to be set up, if positions had been taken on crucial issues like the ticket for Edo State governorship elections.
“We operate a democratic dispensation and Pa Odigie-Oyegun should allow the process throw up the best man for the job instead of attempting to throw a spanner in the works by promoting his personal opinions and the desperate ambitions of Godwin Obaseki as decisions or resolutions of our party leadership.
“He is an elder statesman and should not allow himself to be dragged into the fray. That would be a tragic fall from the high pedestal to which we are accustomed to place him.”
APC may get hurt in Edo – Stakeholders
However, some APC stakeholders in Edo said Oshiomhole’s unprovoked battles against the party in Edo could hurt the party’s chances in the forthcoming governorship election
In a joint statement by Etiosa Ugiagbe, Chief Enakhare Odaro, Emmanuel Umweni, Mr Akhere Odion, Engr. Jude Okojie, Chief Edionwele Ikpea, Mrs Odia Abubakar, Mr. Greg Onimisi, and Dr. Omoruyi Graig, the concerned stakeholders, in an appeal to President Buhari, said: “We have come to the point where as leaders and members of the APC, we clearly see a similarity in the pattern of the attacks by Oshiomhole in Edo to other states hitherto controlled by the APC, but were needlessly lost to the opposition.
“We are now compelled to begin to put the numbers together and it is drawing us to a definite conclusion that the unforced loss of several states may actually be part of a conspiracy to gradually whittle down the spread and influence of our party as part of a grand plan to create an alternative platform for Oshiomhole and his co-travellers to pursue their ambitions at the national level in 2023, should they be unable to do so within the APC.
“The story and pattern of the losses of the APC under the leadership of Comrade Oshiomhole would amuse even the most taciturn individual and send the most critical of persons into extreme contemplation as to how these events can be correctly considered as mere happenstance.
“For instance, in Taraba State, the APC lost the governorship seat and could not even field a candidate because the person cleared for the position by the party under Oshiomhole’s leadership was indicted for forgery, a condition that could have been avoided were the necessary internal mechanisms explored to properly vet the candidates before they were confirmed to fly the party’s flag. The party also lost Bauchi and Oyo states due to the poor leadership displayed at the national secretariat of the party.
“In Zamfara State, the APC gifted the governorship, National and State Assemblies seats, and other elective offices to the opposition because of its inability to get it’s acts together. The cause: inability of the party to successfully conduct primaries that was acceptable by its stakeholders. It is noteworthy that the state used to be a traditional All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP)/Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) controlled state until the coming of Comrade Oshiomhole, who upturned the party structure in the state and undid years of toiling by party faithful, by helping to stoke the fire raised by some elements against the governor of the state at the time.
“Down South, what played out in Zamfara State repeated itself in Rivers State, where the inability of the party leadership to provide direction and harmoniously address the concerns of stakeholders set the state chapter of the party on the path of perdition, such that it could not also field candidates in the elections as a result of legal intrigues that surrounded the primary elections. Comrade Oshiomhole, it appeared, could care less, even if the state was crucial to the party in Southern Nigeria.
“For Bayelsa State, a classic case of what could be termed gross negligence or for lack of a better phrase, a calculated act of subterfuge delivered the state to the opposition, even after the APC won the governorship election. Interestingly, we won the battle, yet lost the war.
‘’For the objective-minded, the jury is out whether these unforced losses are mere coincidences or part of an elaborate scheme to reduce the strength of our great party and provide a somewhat viable alternative in the opposition as an option for desperate power seekers who sense that they may not be able to achieve their ambition within the APC at the national level in 2023.
‘’Since Comrade Oshiomhole became chairman of the APC, the party has lost its strategic territories, shedding off states to the opposition. While the APC’s territories receded to 20 from 23, the ranks of the opposition swelled from 13 to 16 states, with the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP with 15 and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) with one.
‘’Could these losses have been deliberate? How much more damage would come to the APC should the same fate befall the party in Edo State in September 2020. It would simply mean that the APC would have 19 states and the opposition, 17, in addition to the fact that the party would not be able to boast of a state in an entire region. Where then stands the claim of being a national party?
‘’Against this backdrop, if these losses suffered in Oshiomhole’s era were coincidental, how can he explain his decision to embark on the wreckage of the party in Edo State with the instrumentality of the illegal Edo Peoples Movement (EPM), which has been fighting to fracture the APC in Edo for over one year?’’
Intense horse-trading for consensus aspirant against Obaseki
Meanwhile the search for a consensus aspirant among seven persons vying to contest the governorship primary of the APC in Edo State has been continued after attempts to pick one among them ended in a deadlock a few days ago.
Former Deputy Governor, Pius Odubu, former Minister of State for Works, Engr Chris Ogiemwonyi, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Solomon Edebiri, Saturday Uwalekhue, Professor Ebegue Amadasun and Ehiozuwa Agbonayinma have indicated interest in contesting the governorship election on the plank of the APC.
The consensus arrangement is to give them a chance of defeating Governor Godwin Obaseki in the primary election. They have agreed to support the would be consensus aspirant instead of all of them going into the contest.
Governor Obaseki is also working to get his second term ticket which he has said is not negotiable.
Vanguard gathered that Obaseki and his handlers are also reaching out to party stalwarts, including fellow governors, to prevail on the leadership of the party both at the state and national level to support the second term bid of Obaseki who has gone back to the drawing board to re-strategise after the failed attempt to remove National Chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
Vanguard gathered that some unit leaders were recently invited for a meeting, asked to register their names, and submit their party membership cards.
“We are yet to be told what they are going to do with it. But we know it has to do with the coming primary election” one of the affected executive members told Vanguard.
The process of agreeing on consensus candidate was slowed down by the COVID-19 pandemic but activities are picking up, following the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, insistence on going ahead with the election timetable.
There is anxiety among supporters of the aspirants as the contest enters critical stages.
In trying to move ahead of others, it was gathered that Ize-Iyamu is already reaching out to some of the other aspirants to step down for him, while it was gathered that he is also already offering positions to the camps of some of the aspirants he feels may be reluctant to step down for him, with a view to weakening their influence.
Several groups are also drumming support for their aspirants.
A group, Concerned APC Youth in Edo Central Senatorial District, has also called for a fair and just process in arriving at a consensus candidate, andi n a joint press released by Comrade, Itua Otoide and John Isesele after a meeting in Irrua, urged that Engr. Chris Ogiemwonyi be adopted as consensus candidate.
Yet another group, the Edo Reformers said Ize-Iyamu remained the best option for the APC.
A statement by the Publicity Secretary of the group, Efe Wilson Omuemu, said: “There should be no dispute about who is most qualified for the job. Ize-Iyamu was selfless from the beginning, that is why I wonder when they say he just came from PDP.
“He was there from Grace Group which eventually became Action Congress and while people were preparing for election, he was looking for more people to come and join the new party.
“He was Vice Chairman, South-South of the now defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, he was the Vice Chairman, Constitution Drafting Committee of the APC is that the person you call a new comer?’’
Oyegun twisting facts, says Edo APC vice-chair
Similarly, Edo State APC Vice Chairman, South, Benson Edosomwan, accused Chief Oyegun of twisting facts, saying President Buhari never endorsed any agreement to give Obaseki and his Ondo State counterpart, Rotimi Akeredolu, to be returned as the party’s candidates in the forthcoming governorship elections.
‘’President Buhari subjected himself to party primaries in the build up to the 2019 general elections. He allowed other aspirants to contest with him, knowing that no portion of the APC constitution states that a President, governor that has performed should be given right of first refusal.
‘’If Governor Obaseki’s popularity has, indeed, grown tremendously across party lines as Chief Oyegun claims, then he should have no problem putting such rating to test with members of APC through direct primary so that Edo APC faithful can demonstrate their love and wide acceptance through their votes rather than seeking right of first refusal that is undemocratic and alien to our constitution.”