An attempt by the faction of the All Progressives Congress, APC in Edo State loyal to the national chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, to pick a consensus governorship aspirant who would confront incumbent governor, Godwin Obaseki at the imminent primary election of the party may have run into a hitch. Sources close to a meeting called Thursday by leaders of the party for the purpose of settling for one of the six aspirants jostling for the party’s ticket told the magazine that it ended in a deadlock.
Following the ongoing feud between incumbent governor and his predecessor for the soul of the party, governorship aspirants loyal to the former governor at a press conference sometime last year, said they were uniting against the governor to produce the aspirant that would contest with Obaseki for the party’s ticket in order not to lose out in the contest. The coalition of governorship aspirants included former deputy governor, Pius Odubu, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, former secretary to the state government, Chris Ogiemwonyi, former minister of state for works, and Charles Airhiavbere, retired army General. Two others later joined the group. They are Solomon Edebiri and Saturday Uwuilekhue, immediate past commissioner of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.
In a recent interview, Airhiavbere told the magazine that “We have agreed when we came up with the decision that Obaseki would be replaced by May last year that we should all bury all our personal interests then face a common enemy in Obaseki. And the reason is that if we all proliferate the political space just like we did in 2015, 2016, there will be problem. So, we decided that we would come up with a consensus candidate”.
However, emerging signal from the meeting indicated that it may not be easy settling for who should represent them. The meeting which was said to have been held at the residence of a former deputy governor of the state, Lucky Imasuen reportedly ended abruptly after four of the aspirants expressed reservation about the procedure to be adopted.
An unimpeachable source at the meeting told the magazine that there was indeed no meeting. It was gathered that trouble started when four of the aspirants protested against the procedure and the processes for selection of additional names to participate in the exercise. “So, they stated their protests and then left; and that was the end”, the source volunteered, adding that “after their departure, there was actually no other aspirant other than one so that was it”. The magazine learnt that the four aspirants who walked away were Odubu, Ogiemwonyi, Airhiavbere and Edebiri. Uwuilekhue, who had not been a serious contender as he has no known campaign office and had also not been active like others, was said to have arrived late, was left behind with Ize-Iyamu whom, it was believed, was set to carry the day. Another reason Uwuilekhue is not considered a serious aspirant is because he is also the protem chairman of the party in his Orhionmwon local government area and so cannot be a protem chairman of the party and then be an aspirant.
The disagreement at the meeting, it was gathered, was whether or not to allow the 14 elected House of Assembly members who are yet to resume sitting to vote. The decision to allow them vote, however, did not go down well with other aspirants as majority of them are believed to be Ize-Iyamu’s supporters. One of the aspirants was also said to be uncomfortable with the number of delegates from Edo North and Edo Central senatorial districts.
Apart from the issue of procedure, the magazine was also told that the protesting aspirants “complained that the list of the people to vote was sent to them only last night and between last night and this morning, they did not have sufficient time to interact with the delegates, talk with them and canvass for their votes. They said that the list ought to have been sent to them much earlier to enable all of them to be able to talk to them and sell themselves to the voters. There were also attempts to increase the number of the voters after the initial list was sent”. The magazine further learnt that the consensus arrangement was presided over by Julius Ihonvbere, a professor of political science and member of the House of Representatives before it was aborted by protests. The meeting, said a source, has been put off indefinitely, and “we will talk again on the phone and make consultations and fix a new date”.