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Edo: Why removal of Ogbeide-Ihama’s hurdles excites PDP, supporters

The battle line in Edo State’s off-season gubernatorial election was formally drawn on Monday, following the emergence of Osagie Ize-Iyamu as the standard bearer for the All Progressives Congress (APC). With that development, all eyes are now on the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Many had expected a war of attrition of a kind to break out in the umbrella organisation. The Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki had last weekend dumped the APC and declared allegiance for the PDP. Tongues wagged that the governor was going to face an uphill task picking the ticket of his new party, as the “landlords” may not be comfortable with him getting the ticket.

As expected, Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, one of those who nursed the ambition of contesting the primary, went to court, challenging Obaseki’s eligibility to contest the primary election, which holds today.  That was Monday. By yesterday, the story has changed.

For Governor Obaseki, the apparatchik in the PDP and their supporters, yesterday was a beautiful day indeed. The apprehension that appeared to have been high on the political turf, following the development is now diffused with the ruling by the court, allowing Obaseki to contest the primary slated for today.

This followed the out-of-court settlement of the suit filed by Ogbeide-Ihama at the High Court, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, seeking the court to exclude Obaseki from participating in the PDP primary election.

He had argued that only aspirants who purchased the party’s nomination forms and were screened within the stipulated time should be allowed to contest in the primary.

In the recent volte face, Ogbeide-Ihama said: “My action is not an affront to the party or its leadership as some people may decide to interpret it, but rather a last attempt to save the party from making a major blunder that could lead to series of lawsuits with a possibility of disqualification of the party from participating in the September 2020 Edo Governorship Elections.”

With the development yesterday, watchers of political developments in the country, say that Governor Obaseki is on his way to return to the Government House.

Although they speak in tandem that Ize-Iyamu is not a push over in Edo politics, noting that his outing in the 2016 gubernatorial election attests to his astuteness in politics, they strongly believe that Edo is a PDP state.

“2019 Presidential and senatorial election results favoured the PDP. For instance, whereas Muhammadu Buhari of the APC polled 267,842, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP scored 275,691,” an analyst pointed out.

They also noted that PDP won two senatorial seats out of the three seats in the state. The senators were re-elected to represent their various senatorial districts. The senators re-elected on the platform of PDP are Clifford Ordia, representing Edo Central Senatorial district and Mathew Orhoghide, re-elected for the Edo South Senatorial district.

The People’s Democratic Party was in control of Edo State from 1999 to 2017 when Adams Oshiomhole of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in alliance with the Labour Party (LP), through a court ruling took over the state. Oserheimen Osunbor had been declared winner of the gubernatorial election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which was upturned through legal processes.

The bickering and disturbances among the prominent political actors in the state since 2016 have riled many indigenes. The political impasse worsened last year when the gulf between Oshiomhole and Godwin Obaseki widened.

The rumpus culminated in the defection last Friday to PDP of Governor Godwin. He was screened weekend by the party’s leadership for the ticket to stand for the gubernatorial election. If the feelers are anything to go by, whatever the party machinery is doing appears to be a mere fulfillment of righteousness as the party is set to hand the flag to Obaseki. It is a fait accompli.

PDP is really hopeful to return to the Government House in Edo. The defection of Obaseki seems to have brightened that aspiration and the party would not mind to “sacrifice” anybody to pave the way for the governor. The thinking here is that he is bringing to the party great value.

“There was no progress without a sacrifice; that the governor joined the party was God’s great answer to the party and his aspiration,” Gideon Ikhine, one of the governorship aspirants on the platform of the PDP, who stepped down for Obaseki, said.

Observers say that Obaseki’s defection may have sealed the hope of the APC from returning to the seat of power on September 19.

A political analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “If you have been following developments in Edo, you will agree with me that it may be pretty difficult for the APC to win the election. For instance, unlike in the case of Ambode in Lagos where the entire state chapter of the party, all the local government chairmen, many of his commissioners and political associates abandoned him, Obaseki has with him all the local government chairmen, his cabinet and support of all his aids and those of the members of the splinter APC members.”

According to the analyst, “Don’t also forget that the governor, knowing the way his former party wins by force, he would have made his own plan to checkmate them. It is absolutely difficult to think that the APC would just run away with victory. I am not also saying that Obaseki will win on a platter. By the way, he has internal opposition from some of the aspirants.

“He needs to make strong promises to the aggrieved aspirants in the party. He must agree to offset whatever they must have spent, and also enter into accord on what they should get in the event he wins the election. It should be put in black and white, and the agreement witnessed and signed by the national leadership of the PDP, to avoid fight tomorrow.”

Recall that Ize-Iyamu, who has now emerged the APC standard bearer, switched party recently. He moved from the PDP to the APC. He had also encountered some resistance from some aspirants in the APC who have seen his coming as denying them the opportunity of picking the ticket. Despite the opposition, Adams Oshiomhole had his way, having insisted that it is Ize-Iyamu or no other.

Alex Okocha, who claimed to follow the Nigerian political development, said it was going to be a serious battle for the APC and PDP candidates.

“Although Governor Godwin Obaseki has not been handed the PDP flag for the election, we all know where the pendulum is swinging to. Already, Ize-Iyamu has emerged as APC candidate. I have followed the pattern of elections in the country since the APC came onboard. So, going by that pattern which began in Ekiti, tested in Osun, and made full blown in 2019 general election, and moved to a notch higher in the Kogi governorship election, I can tell you that Obaseki should not go to sleep,” Okocha said.

“On the other hand, with a President that is not interested in who becomes the governor of any state or who is voted for, he is not likely to command the deployment of tanks and machine guns to get the votes by force. I think with the level of anger in the state against Oshiomhole in the crisis that led to Obaseki’s defection, it may be a tough game for Ize-Iyamu. What I see is a difficult contest that can go either way, depending on how the parties play their cards now,” he added.

 

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