There appears to be panic in the faction of ruling All Progressives Congress loyal to embattled Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki as his main challenger in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party during the 2016 governorship election, Osagie Ize-Iyamu returns to the APC setting the stage for a titanic battle for APC ticket vis-a-vis the soul of the state in the main election.
Given the unfolding political drama playing out in Edo State, there is no gainsaying that the state is living up to its sobriquet as truly ‘The Heartbeat of the Nation’. Indeed, for the two leading political parties in the state, what happened Thursday, November 21 did not come as a surprise. For some months now, the state had been on tenterhooks with intra-party crises rocking the ruling party with the incumbent governor and his predecessor in the eye of the storm. Not even the leading opposition party is immune from internal wrangling. Both the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, therefore knew that the switch in political platform by Osagie Ize-Iyamu, a pastor of the Redeemed Church of God, RCCG, and candidate of the PDP in the 2016 governorship poll, was a fait accompli. It was clear to all that it was not a matter of whether he would dump the PDP for the APC, but when given the fact that speculation had been rife of his impending cross-carpeting. Given the frosty relationship between him and the chairman of the party, Dan Osi Orbih, as well as some other chieftains of the party which culminated in his being suspended from all the party’s activities, Ize-Iyamu smartly interpreted the body language of the party’s leadership to mean that he had overstayed his welcome. He was suspended indefinitely Tuesday, November 12 for refusing to acknowledge, accept, and address the issue of his rumoured defection to the APC. So, if he was hitherto prevaricating on whether to move or not, he was fired up by the punitive suspension to fast-track the plot for his exit. The end result was his carnival-like resignation from the PDP along with thousands of his supporters across the 18 local government areas of the state.
For Ize-Iyamu, it was a return of the “prodigal son” who was welcome with much music and dancing having strayed away from “home” given the pivotal role he played in birthing the APC not just in the state, but in Nigeria. The import of the event, however, goes beyond that as it portends grave implications for both the PDP which he walked away from and the APC where he has chosen to once again pitch his political tent. Indeed, one fact that Ize-Iyamu cannot run away from is the fact that like a citizen with dual nationality, both parties are home to him for the basic reason that it was in the PDP that he gained robust political relevance and stature having served as chief of staff and secretary to government, while the then ACN which later metamorphosed into APC provided him refuge when he was thrown out in the cold from the party he joined to build.
Be that as it may, it goes without saying that by his action, Ize-Iyamu has caused a political tremor in Edo’s political landscape that is bound to alter the dynamics of politics in the state ahead of the 2020 governorship election. No doubt, his return to APC would have ripple effects that would inevitably bring about political re-engineering and re-alignment in the polity as the two leading parties strategise to take control of the state at the governorship election next year. A sagacious politician that he is, Ize-Iyamu’s brief speech at his resignation from the PDP was cautious and guided. He did so being careful not to rock the boat or appearing to be ungrateful for the opportunities and privileges he had enjoyed in the party while the going was good. He even advised his supporters to avoid “throwing stones at the house we once inhabited, a house we have many friends and many associates”.
Ahead of his arrival, his fore-runners had prepared the ground for their formal resignation with representatives of the three senatorial districts namely Festus Ebea, (Edo Central) Emmanuel Momoh, (Edo North) and Tawa Idubor (Edo South) moving a motion to that effect. Joining Ize-Iyamu to dump the PDP were some chieftains of the party which included a former speaker of the state House of Assembly, Bright Omokhodion, former deputy speaker, Festus Ebea, former state chairman of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Tony Omoaghe, Tawa Idubor, Blessing Agbomhere, Etinosa Ogbeiwi, Emmanuel Momoh amongst others. Omokhodion blamed their leaving the party on “the political wrangling and demise of internal democracy in the Edo State chapter”. According to him, the present leadership of Edo PDP lost its political directions and all attempts to suggest ways of redirecting the fortunes of the party were resisted by the leadership of the party, adding that the action of suspending top leaders of the party on spurious allegations were undemocratic and has reduced the morale of members to its lowest.
The former speaker further explained that “as a result of leadership failure, Edo State PDP no longer commands the electoral sentiment of the Edo people. We therefore in our numbers collectively resolve that Edo state PDP has failed in its objective mission to the people and we have this day resigned our membership of the PDP and have resolved to join the All Progressives Congress”.
Affirming Omokhodion’s pronouncement, Ize-Iyamu said they agreed to move to the APC “in order not to allow for any vacuum; not to allow room for speculation, and not to give the impression that we are retiring from politics which we are playing for the betterment of our people and our communities”. According to the former PDP gubernatorial candidate, “in our resignation document which we all signed, we made it clear we have no intention of throwing stones at the house we once inhabited, a house we have many friends and many associates. Many of them have left to come and join us on this journey, some for tactical reasons will remain, and there are some who are still undecided but who understand why we have to go”. Admonishing his co-travelers on the need to maintain decorum, Ize-Iyamu said “PDP or any other political party for that matter are not our enemies; please refrain from any attack that suggests that we are leaving PDP in anger or in bitterness. What is important is our primary objective in politics. What is important is why we chose to be in politics. Many people have different reasons for being in politics; but for most of us in this group, we see politics as an opportunity to represent our people. We see it as an opportunity to assess government and bring the dividends, the benefits of government to our people and we cannot be fulfilled if we play politics without being able to achieve these goals”.