The main challenger to Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, for the ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the forthcoming election in the state, Mr. Osagie Ize-Iyamu, has cautioned against the adoption of indirect primary in the June 22 primary election of the party in the state.
Ize-Iyamu, who belongs to a faction of the party loyal to the APC National Chairman, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, said yesterday that indirect primary would fuel the spread of COVID-19 in the state.
APC National Working Committee (NWC) had chosen direct primary as the method to be adopted for deciding the party's governorship candidate in the state, a move that has degenerated into a controversy in the state, especially with an objection from the Obaseki camp.
Yesterday, chairmen of the party in the 18 local government areas of the state, who belong to the governor's faction of APC, rejected the endorsement of Ize-Iyamu as the consensus candidate of Oshiomhole's faction of the party and pushed for indirect primary to select the party's governorship candidate.
Ize-Iyamu, while featuring on the Morning Show, a programme on ARISE NEWS Channel, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers, also described opposition to Obaseki's second-term bid as self-inflicted.
He accused the governor of alienating APC leaders after he was elected governor.
According to him, Obaseki would be "miserably defeated" if he defects to the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He said: "The indirect option also means he (the governor) would mobilise members from every ward to Benin City, which is more dangerous and it appears they don't know the implications of an indirect primary.
"The party has the right to decide on what type of primaries we should have. It would be strange for a participant and an aspirant to dictate the rules. The reality is that it is the National Working Committee (NWC) that has the constitutional power and authority to organise primaries. And the primaries could either be direct or indirect.
"For me, whatever the national says, we would abide by it. Those that are with Governor Obaseki have tried to propose that because of the COVID-19 situation, the indirect primaries would be a preferred option to the direct primaries. And the direct primaries would mean that about 500,000 would converge on the state and that would be dangerous. But I think that they are misleading the public.
"APC members in Edo are not up to 500,000 and this primary is only for APC members. In fact, even the general election in Edo State, nobody has won the governorship election with 400,000 votes. So, when you suggest you can get over 500,000 people, you are just being mischievous."
He said Obaseki's decision to alienate himself from the party leadership the moment he got into office was the root of his problem, adding that the governor is only dragging Oshiomhole into the crisis because he has chosen to be neutral and not support any candidate.
Ize-Iyamu also accused Obaseki of using the Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF) to blackmail Oshiomhole to hand him the party's ticket on a platter.
He said: "By using the Governors' Forum and other groups, he has tried to blackmail the national chairman and the leadership of the party to hand over to him the ticket which has never been done. Even his colleagues who are doing the second term would tell you they went through the primary process. So, basically, the problem is self-created. And everything he has been doing since is geared towards that direction.
"Recently, I heard he constituted a judicial commission of inquiry to look into the state hospital. Funny enough, why wait to just some days to a primary election before that is happening and you are talking about something you have been part of as a member of the state executive council when Oshiomhole was governor of the state.
"The project you are talking of was discussed when you were a member of the executive. And based on the finding we have, even the 75 per cent upfront payment, which the commission is quarrelling with, you were the one who suggested it in the Exco meeting to ensure that there was no inflation based on foreign exchange escalation.
"And throughout this period, you have been governor, I am aware that you have approved projects and upfront projects that is above 60 per cent, which means if you want to use the procurement law that states it should not be above 25 per cent as you have said, you have also breached the law. And yet just because you must deal with those who are not ready to support you, you have pretended to set up a commission of inquiry that can even indict you in your past and present."
He cautioned Obaseki against defecting to PDP if he loses the APC primary, noting that he would suffer a miserable defeat if that happens.
"If Governor Obaseki loses and he decides to go to PDP or any party, it is his right and he can do so. But I want to say that as of today, APC is very well accepted in Edo State.
"The leaders are people who are very well grounded in their localities and if he goes outside APC, I think he would suffer a very miserable defeat," he stated.
LGA Chairmen Reject Ize-Iyamu's Consensus Candidacy
APC chairmen in the 18 local government areas of Edo State yesterday faulted the endorsement of Ize-Iyamu as the consensus candidate of the Oshiomhole faction of the party in the forthcoming governorship election in the state.
The chairmen, in a statement yesterday, also rejected APC NWC's decision to adopt direct primary to pick the party's candidate and advocated indirect primary as a replacement.
They restated their position that Ize-Iyamu is not a member of the party in the state, as he had left APC in 2014 to contest the governorship election on the platform of PDP in 2016, which he lost.
The statement was signed by Hon. Henry Ashofor (Akoko-Edo); Comrade Odion Olaye (Egor); Mr. Mike Anakaso (Esan Central); Hon. Ogbejiele Idogei (Esan North-east); Hon. Monday Osoh (Esan South-east); Mr. Ehikioya Onaburerkhalen (Esan West); Hon. Zakari Z. Ozizi (Etsako Central); Sir Sunday Adogah (Etsako East); Mrs. Ezolome Rabiat (Etsako West) and Hon. Sylvester Odia (Igueben).
Others are Kelvin O. Egharevba (Ikpoba-Okha); Hon. Godwill Alabi (Oredo); Benjamin Oghumu (Orhionmwon); Hon. Etinosa Ighodaro (Ovia North-East); Mr Peter Ajayi (Ovia South-west); Zuberu Kasim (Owan East); John Ojeikhoa (Owan West) and Mr. Justin Omoruyi (Uhunmwode).
They criticised the waiver granted Ize-Iyamu to vie for the APC's governorship ticket, noting that not only has he not met the conditions for such a waiver, but whatever he procured was gotten from the wrong body, NWC, as it is the National Executive Committee (NEC) that is empowered by the party's constitution to grant a waiver.
"The purported waiver granted to Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu by the National Working Committee of the party is ultra vires, null and void, as Article 31 of the party constitution confers that power on the National Executive Committee of the party. Besides, the conditions for waiver prescribed by the party's constitution have not been met.
"The truth is that Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu recently joined Edo Peoples Movement (EPM), which is a group organised by Mr. Adams Oshiomhole to destabilise APC in Edo State.
"The party has a constitution and the constitution makes provision on how things are done, including registration of new members," they said.
They urged President Muhammadu Buhari to call Oshiomhole to order, adding that "Article 21 of the constitution of our party tells us that factionalisation or creating parallel organs at any level within the party as Oshiomhole has done in Edo State is an offence against the party."
They reaffirmed their support for Obaseki to continue in office for another term, adding: "We expect to actualise this support for the forthcoming primary on the 22nd of June 2020, using the indirect mode, in accordance with the resolution of the State Executive Committee duly passed on the 22nd of May 2020 as authorised by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party in August 2018."