Edo 2024: Oshiomhole, Ize-Iyamu ‘show of power’ over APC guber candidates

Senator and former Governor Adams Oshiomhole (APC, Edo North)

Edo 2024: Oshiomhole, Ize-Iyamu ‘show of power’ over APC guber candidates

By Ehichioya Ezomon.

A tell-tale photograph from the secretariat of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abuja showed Senator and former Governor Adams Oshiomhole (APC, Edo North), beaming, and hugging the party candidate for the September 21, 2024, governorship election in Edo State, Sen. Monday Okpebholo (APC, Edo Central), for accepting to run with Rep. Dennis Idahosa (APC, Ovia Federal Constituency).

Read: OBASEKI/SHUAIBU: OSHIOMHOLE’S GODS ARE ALIVE. (2)

Self-assured Oshiomhole’s elated because he’s somewhat regained his mojo that’s lost over the scheming for the APC flagbearer – which he’d primed for Idahosa, but clinched by Okpebholo through the backing of two-time governorship candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. And he’s certainly losing out again to Ize-Iyamu in the running mate slot until President Bola Tinubu intervened to save him on his Edo State political turf.

But that photograph got X (formerly Twitter) users engaged on March 18, with a tweep pointing to Okpebholo’s awkward facial expression, as APC’s National Chairman, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje, presented Idahosa as Okpebholo’s running mate. “The look on the face of the governorship candidate says it all,” the tweep notes.

To which another replies: “Because Idahosa is not his choice. He’s imposed on him by the triumvirate of President Tinubu, Sen. Oshiomhole and APC Chairman Ganduje. Sen. Okpebholo’s choice is Ogbeide-Ihama of the PDP, backed by APC and PDP bigwigs in Edo South. We wait and see!”

A third poster warns: “False start! Rule n1 (no 1) in Naija politics; don’t ever have as your running mate a man who previously aspired for the same position you are contesting because he will never be loyal to you. When in office, he will scheme to actualise his ambition even if it means undermining your govt.”

Yet, an ecstatic Oshiomhole wouldn’t allow social media comments to impeach his “success” at delivering Idahosa for the joint ticket of the APC for the September poll. So, he belatedly congratulated Okpebholo for his “well-deserved emergence” as the party flagbearer. His words:

“Dear Senator Monday Okpebholo. I extend my heartfelt congratulations on your well-deserved emergence as the flag bearer of our esteemed party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), for the forthcoming Edo State governorship election. Your victory in the closely-contested primaries reflects the belief of our party members in your unwavering dedication and commitment to our party’s core values.

“As we embark on this crucial journey, I urge you to leave behind the intrigues of the primaries and extend a hand of fellowship to all those who contested with you for the ticket, as well as to all stakeholders of our party in the state. Together, we must forge a strong, united front that resonates with the electorate and secures victory in the governorship election on September 21, 2024.

“Your decision to choose Hon. Dennis Idahosa as your running mate, demonstrates great wisdom and foresight. Your joint ticket presents the people of Edo State with the best option to usher in a dynamic, progressive, and responsive government that aligns with the aspirations of our vibrant youth population.

“I am confident in your leadership abilities and believe that, with the support of all APC members across the state, we can restore Edo State to the path of progressive governance, sustainable socio economic growth and political inclusion in all its ramifications.

“Congratulations once again, as I eagerly anticipate our collective efforts towards achieving victory in the upcoming election. Yours in the struggle for the rebirth of a greater Edo State that works for all.”

As first reported by GWG.NG on March 18, it took Oshiomhole one full month (from February 17 to March 18) to congratulate Okpebholo for securing the APC ticket, defeating Idahosa, who Oshiomhole wanted to railroad in as the candidate for September 21.

Maybe Oshiomhole wouldn’t have congratulated Okpebholo if he didn’t yield to President Tinubu’s plea to accept Idahosa as his running mate, and shelve his preference for former Rep. Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, whom Okpebholo had introduced a few days earlier as his running mate, thus sending Oshiomhole into overdrive, as the “coup” was hatched and executed by the Ize-Iyamu camp of the Edo APC.

The harder part for Oshiomhole, going forward, is to justify the inclusion of Idahosa in the APC ticket. He can achieve that by dropping his hubris of “dominating Edo State politics.” Granted Oshiomhole can influence block votes from his homestead of Edo North, but the primary has discernable shown that he needs more votes from Edo South and Edo Central, from where Ize-Iyamu and his coalition mustered the votes for Okpebholo’s victory.

Oshiomhole’s Tinubu to thank for interceding on his behalf, as Okpebholo – backed by Ize-Iyamu, who shelved his long governorship ambition “for unity of the party” – would’ve paired Ogbeide-Ihama, who’d the support of most APC aspirants, and chieftains of the PDP in Edo South, and probably the legacy faction of Edo PDP, headed by the Deputy Vice Chairman (South-South) of the party, Chief Dan Orbih.

There’re speculations that the Orbih faction across Edo State would “defect” to APC should the Ogbeide-Ihama gambit materialise.

That can still happen if Oshiomhole plays his cards well and give the assurance to “dissatisfied” APC (and PDP) members that he’ll – or has actually – come down from his high horse on account of being a Governor, APC’s National Chairman, and a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Oshiomhole got to these positions with the help of party members – he now overlooks – from the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the APC in Edo State. So, he should give these members their due recognition, and a say and a place in the campaign to deliver the APC and its candidates, as President Tinubu promised on March 18.

Nothing else will suffice, particularly for Oshiomhole, who should strive to avoid a second consecutive defeat from his erstwhile political protégé-turned traducer, Governor Godwin Obaseki, who sponsors PDP’s candidate, Dr Asue Ighodalo, to succeed him in November 2024.

Senator and former Governor Adams Oshiomhole (APC, Edo North)
Senator and former Governor Adams Oshiomhole (APC, Edo North)

In his remarks at a gathering of party stalwarts during President Tinubu’s presentation of the APC flag to Okpebholo and Idahosa at the State House, Abuja, on March 18, APC’s National Chairman, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje, stressed the unity of purpose within the party toward achieving poll victory, saying, “Our candidate is soft-spoken, focused, and an achiever. He is a product that is highly marketable, and I am confident that with him as our flag bearer, we will bring Edo back to our party.”

Tinubu also sounded upbeat about the APC winning the governorship, and declared: “Distinguished senator and our flag bearer, we are putting you forward in order to hold the party in trust for us and achieve victory for us. You and your running mate have been described as ‘giant killers,’ and you have worked tirelessly with the party leadership.

“We are going to work with you. We are going to stand with you like the wall (Rock) of Gibraltar. That is all I can assure you. The party is supreme but victory is superior and very important.” The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) first reported the story.

As he invited the Edo APC Woman Leader, Lady Betty Okoebor, to speak on the party’s readiness for the election, the president noted the role of women in electoral contest, saying, “If the women say we are going to win, then we are good to go because they constitute the largest number of voters and the most dedicated,” even as he commended the Ganduje-led APC leadership, the Edo chapter of the party, “for their efforts toward the success of the candidates and the party,” and particularly Oshiomhole, “for his exemplary leadership.”

And there lies the problem of the APC in Edo State ahead of the poll. As first reported by The Nation, Tinubu’s flag presentation followed a March 17 prolonged meeting by stakeholders from Edo, the party leadership and Vice President Kashim Shettima.

This comes on the back of Oshiomhole’s antics to dictate the process and outcome of the primary on February 17 – which stretched into one week (February 17-23) – due to roadblocks he erected, in cahoots with the party leadership, including Ganduje and Imo State Governor and Chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum (PGF), Sen. Hope Uzodimma.

Pre-primary, Oshiomhole flaunted his closeness to Tinubu, quoting the president as against zoning of the ticket to a particular senatorial district (Edo Central), and countered those – also referencing Tinubu’s “subtle support” for zoning the governorship – to show proof, even as he attempted to shoo-in Idahosa as his “anointed candidate.” But twice, Oshiomhole’s disproved carrying out Tinubu’s “wish, directive or body language.”

In January, when the National Working Committee (NWC) wished a manageable size of aspirants for the governorship, Oshiomhole, as APC’s leader in Edo, named a “primary election screening committee,” which reduced the number of aspirants from 29 to six.

The agenda of the “illegal committee” was to enable Oshiomhole rubberstamp Idahosa as his “anointed candidate,” and weed out “formidable aspirants,” such as Ize-Iyamu, who Oshiomhole campaigned against in 2016, as he projected his then godson, Mr Obaseki, but ironically campaigned for in 2020, as he fell out with Obaseki.

Following protests by the 23 or more “disqualified” aspirants, the APC NWC disclaimed the “Oshiomhole committee,” and stated it’s the sole authority to screen the aspirants – 12 of whom it cleared for meeting the primary requirements, and fixed February 17 for a direct primary.

Despite the NWC rebuff, Oshiomhole put into action his “Plan B” to ensure Idahosa’s candidacy. He reportedly procured the services of Sen. Uzodimma, chairman of the APC Edo Governorship Primary Election Committee, who declared Idahosa as winner of the primary even as votes from only eight of the 18 local government areas had been collated, and Okpebholo won handily in six of them. The Chief Returning Officer for the primary, Dr Stanley Ugboajah, eventually declared Okpebholo as the “authentic” winner of the poll.

As local government returning officers on February 18 also declared Hon. Anamero Dekeri (APC, Etsako Federal Constituency), as the “primary winner,” there’s chaos in the Edo chapter of the APC, and at its Abuja national headquarters, where Ganduje had hurriedly “congratulated” Idahosa on February 17 without waiting for completion of the primary.

It took Tinubu’s intervention for the NWC to suspend the primary, and fix February 22 for its completion under Cross River State Governor Bassey Otu, who’s initially Uzodimma’s deputy. Sen. Otu finally announced the results on February 23, with Okpebholo returned as the duly elected governorship candidate, beating Idahosa to the second position.

Idahosa rejected the declaration, and vowed legal action should his appeal for remedy fail at the APC appeals committee, which dismissed his petition, and upheld Okpebholo’s plea, with the NWC issuing him a Certificate of Return and President Tinubu presenting him the party flag on March 18.

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But not before Oshiomhole played his last card! He withheld recognising Okpebholo as the APC candidate, and implored (“blackmailed”) Tinubu to enjoin Okpebholo to accept Idahosa as running mate, which the president obliged “to save Oshiomhole from failing the third time to push Idahosa’s candidacy.” This is hoping that Oshiomhole’s learned some lessons in “realpolitik” in Edo State!

Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria_ .

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