Ahead of 2016 guber poll, fear of imposition threatens Edo APC

Adams oshiomhole

Adams oshiomhole

The victory of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in last month’s legislative rerun elections in Rivers State has further confirmed the party’s dominance in the politics of the South-South geo-political zone.

Until 2007 when it lost Edo, through the courts, to the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) that later metamorphosed into the All Progressive Congress (APC), the PDP was in total control of all the six states in the zone.

Although Edo, and to a lesser extent Delta, is not perceived as a core Niger Delta state mainly because of historical political connections with the South West, the PDP will attempt to consolidate on its recent victory runs across the country by winning the state.

For a party that is repositioning to play opposition politics with the intent of returning to power in 2019, a win in Edo in the forthcoming September 10 governorship elections, would be a great boost.

While the APC, a party that has the double fortune of being incumbent at the state and federal levels, will not want to lose its only foothold in the South-South, it is facing the problem of managing its governorship aspirants and the major stumbling block appears to be the threats of imposition of candidates.

With the two parties running almost neck-to-neck in the race to the Government House, a crisis not well managed in either of the platforms will not only destroy its opportunity but buoy the chances of the rival.

As the PDP continues to strategise to cross the hurdles and reclaim the state, stakeholders within the APC are unanimous in saying that only a party primary election devoid of imposition or undue interference from the leadership can guarantee the party a good run in the September election.

According to the timetable already released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the conduct of primary elections to pick the candidates and resolutions of dispute that may arise from the exercise, will take place between June 2 and July 4 this year.

While the two parties are waiting to reap maximum political gains from the mistakes of the other, stakeholders, particularly in the APC, are calling for an open and transparent primary election without which the party may not go to the polls as a united front.

The calls came on the heels of allegations that the governor, Adam Oshiomhole, may have resolved to impose a particular aspirant as the candidate of the party, a development that has made many aspirants in the state to appeal to national leaders of the party for intervention.

Although the allegations were denied when the rumor first made the round last year, concerned party members raised alarms early this year when further allegations pointed to the fact that delegates who will determine the choice of the party are being wooed to vote for the particular aspirant who is said to be a senior member of the Oshiomhole’s administration.

Among the leading aspirants in the APC are incumbent Deputy-Governor, Dr. Pius Odubu, former governor, Professor Osarhiemen Osunbor, Kenneth Imansuagbon, a philanthropist and educationist, Commissioner for Works, Osarodion Ogie, former Minister of State (Works), Chris Ogiemwonyi and the head of the state’s economic team, Godwin Obaseki.

A spokesman of one of the aspirants told The Guardian on condition of anonymity that the threat on the unity of the party is real as recent happenings continue to point to the fact that one of the aspirant is indeed being groomed to take the ticket through the back door.

According to him, “From what we are seeing, it seems clear that the governor is trying to change the goalpost in the middle of the game. This is not acceptable to us. Everybody knows that the calibre of aspirants in the race for APC ticket today was made possible because the governor initially and openly promised to allow a level playing field, to ensure that only the best and most popular candidate would emerge APC flag bearer. If what we are seeing is real, someone is poised to breach that sustaining trust.

“So, why are the leaders folding their hands and watching this dangerous development, knowing the obvious consequence of destroying the party’s chances at the real governorship election?

“We all know that the governor came in with a populist ideology as a labour leader, but it seems he has turned out to be a capitalist. In his actions, especially on this issue of how his successor would emerge, he is not walking the talk.

“When he called Anenih, Ogbemudia and Igbinedion godfathers, Edo people believed him. Is he now the godfather? We are worried because of the likely effect of this action on the fortunes of APC and on the overall politics of the state. It will be better for all of us, including the party and the governor, if free and fair primary election is allowed in Edo and if the governor retains his father image for all the aspirants. This way, APC will remain united and strong.”

Already the PDP is waiting in the wings to cash in on the crisis that may be unleashed on the APC if a candidate is imposed on the party.

A leader of the party in Edo Central, Tony Edosoma, said, “We understand there are threats in APC that if some of their governorship aspirants confirm the governor imposed one of them on the party, then the rest will work against the party. For us in PDP, we have always known the celebration and the noise in APC in Edo State will not be forever.  Whether or not they fight amongst themselves, PDP will regain Edo State’s Government House this year. If they fight themselves over imposition, it will only make the task of dislodging them easier for us,”

He may, however, have a long time to wait as the APC leadership has denied that the governor was planning to impose any candidate on the party.

State Chairman of the party, Anselm Ojezua, was recently reported to have denied any plan of imposition of candidate saying, “the governor would never consider handpicking a candidate when he should be playing the role of an impartial arbiter in a most sensitive issue as a candidate to succeed him. All the over 20 candidates in the race are all Oshiomhole’s favourites.”

Speaking on the issue in a recent interview with The Guardian, Imansuagbon said, “Quite honestly I have my own fears. That is the Nigerian factor but I also have my hope and faith in the President Buhari factor. The Buhari factor will help to checkmate the Nigerian factor. I don’t think Buhari will want to see wrong primaries done in Edo State.

“The APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun is a man I have tremendous respect for and he has promised us that there is no zoning and that the party will organize a credible, free and fair primaries.

“Also the governor has resolved for us to have free and fair primaries. He is a man of integrity and it is clear that the strength of the party can only be seen in free and fair primaries.

“But if we allow the tyranny of the few, we will be going back to those dark ages and ugly past. It is only through credible free and fair primaries that Governor Oshiomhole will have a good and capable successor.

“My prayer for the party chairman, governor and the party is for them to have the courage to organize free and fair primaries. We will not negotiate free and fair primaries in Edo State. We cannot have anything less. It will help us to defeat a formidable opposition like the PDP. If anyone imposes an unpopular candidate on the party, the consequence of that will be seen at the general election.”

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