Abuja, Lagos, Benin, Kebbi — Some governors, who are members of the All Progressives Congress (APC), have thrown their weight behind Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State ahead of the party's governorship primary in the state slated for this month.
Obaseki and his predecessor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who is the national chairman of the APC, have been at loggerheads over the governor's second term bid and other issues.
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The feud between the Obaseki and Oshiomhole has polarised the party in Edo State.
Last Tuesday, the faction loyal to Oshiomhole endorsed Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, as its consensus candidate for the June 22 governorship primary election of the party.
Ize-Iyamu, widely seen as the preferred candidate of Oshiomhole, will now slug it out with Obaseki at the primary.
He was the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)'s candidate in the 2016 gubernatorial election and only returned to APC in December, 2019.
However, some governors and their trusted allies spoken to by our correspondents on Sunday, said whether using direct or indirect primary mode to elect a candidate, they will ensure Obaseki picks the APC ticket and win the September governorship election.
They said they will not allow a repeat of the Lagos State scenario, where the then governor, Akinwumi Ambode was edged out in the build-up to the general elections in 2019.
Our correspondents report that Ambode was denied the APC ticket following his rift with the National Leader of the party, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
One of the governors, who does not want to be named, said: "We will support Obaseki using direct or indirect options. We will definitely support him."
'Picking Ize-Iyamu as consensus candidate a slap on our face'
A credible source close to another governor in the North West said: "I can assure you that the governors will stand by Obaseki; what happened in Abuja last week is nothing but desecration of the norms.
"How can some people meet somewhere in Abuja and say they have anointed someone as the consensus candidate for Edo?
"This is a slap on the face of all members of the APC, including the governors who are working hard to salvage the sanctity of democracy.
"Under normal circumstances, the incumbent governor should be given the right of first refusal but democratic ideals dictate that primary election should be held," he said.
Another governor said, considering the restrictions of movement, they would ensure that they observe all the protocols of the moment during the build up to the elections in Edo and Ondo states.
"We will observe the COVID-19 protocols but whether direct or indirect primary, we will support Governor Obaseki to win in Edo.
"This is the only way we will respect the wishes of the people who elected him at the first instance."
"There is no two way about it, Obaseki is the man to beat... We will mobilise for him because he has performed," another governor said.
Asked if they would not offend Oshiomhole by their action, he said: "It is not about offending anybody; it is about serving the people.
"The people of Edo are with Obaseki and we don't want to lose the state."
On how to end confrontation in the party, the governor said: "The rule of law should be allowed to thrive, we have escaped many hurdles because of the actions and inactions of the national chairman.
"It is time for him to be retrospective so that the party would have peace.
"I think the fundamental thing is for him to think to rebuild the party or simply leave the scene," he said.
Attempts to speak to Comrade Oshiomhole on phone were not successful as he did not pick his calls.
He did not also respond to a text message sent to him at the time of filing this report.
Obaseki, Oshiomhole supporters at war
Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and Governor Obaseki have each paid for and obtained the N22.5m nomination and expression of interest forms, to contest the party primaries slated for June 22.
After picking his form last week, Pastor Ize-Iyamu denied claims that Oshiomhole had endorsed his aspirations.
According to him, Oshiomhole as the party leader could not afford to endorse an aspirant.
While responding to the claim that Ize-Iyamu has been adopted as the consensus candidate of a group of aspirants who were with him in Abuja, Obaseki's Director of Media and Strategy, Crusoe Osagie, said in a statement that the candidate of the party will emerge in Benin, the state capital and not Abuja.
According to him: "It is, therefore, hilarious to hear that a so-called consensus candidate for the party in Edo State governorship election was selected in Abuja.
"It is not surprising that the charade was hatched and actuated by Oshiomhole and members of his Edo Peoples Movement, a proscribed dissident group in the state.
"For us, this is a joke taken too far and clearly shows that Adams Oshiomhole once again has set the APC on a journey to perdition in Edo State as he did in Zamfara, Bayelsa, Rivers, Taraba and several other states," he said.
Daily Trust reports that while the National Working Committee (NWC) had proposed direct primary to pick the party's flag bearer, the camp of Obaseki has been pushing for indirect mode.
The strength of APC govs
There are 20 members in the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), a platform in which all the APC governors belong.
The forum is being chaired by Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu.
Members of the PGF are; Obaseki (Edo), Hope Uzodinma (Imo), Babagana Zulum (Borno), Abdullahi Umar Ganduje (Kano), Aminu Bello Masari (Katsina), Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Abdulrahman Abdulrazak (Kwara), Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Gboyega Oyetola (Osun) and Mai Mala Buni (Yobe).
Others are; Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Badaru Muhammad (Jigawa), Nasiru El-Rufai (Kaduna), Abubakar Sani Bello (Niger) Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Simon Lalong (Plateau) and Governor Inuwa Yahaya (Gombe).
Governors meet Tinubu ahead of primary
Some of the APC governors on Sunday met behind closed doors with the National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu over the September governorship election in Edo State.
The meeting, it was learnt, was informed by the lingering crisis between Obaseki and Oshiomhole over the forthcoming party primary.
Oshiomhole is a strong ally of Tinubu, and therefore the latter's intervention will make or mar the chances of Obaseki in winning a second term.
It was learnt that the APC governors had earlier planned to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari over the fate of their colleague.
But they decided to, first of all, seek an audience with the APC national leader in the last-ditch effort to save the incumbent governor from being denied the second term ticket.
It was learnt that the meeting was initially scheduled to be held virtually but some of the governors decided to come down to Lagos to meet physically with Asiwaju at the State House, Marina.
According to a source, the governors were concerned about the situation in Edo and they decided to make a move to save the face of their colleague who is seeking re-election.
The meeting, according to a source, was held behind closed doors with the only issue on the table being the forthcoming APC primary.
"Basically, the governors are looking for soft landing for Governor Obaseki in the forthcoming primary elections.
"This is why they have decided to pay a visit to Asiwaju to intervene in the matter.
"The outcome of the meeting is not known yet but be rest assured that by Monday, the resolution would be clear," a source said.
The Special Adviser on Media to the Kebbi governor, Yahaya Sarki, declined to comment on which camp his principal belonged, saying Governor Bagudu was away and for that he would not comment on the matter.
"The governor is not in the state, he has travelled to Abuja.
"For this reason, I can't comment on the matter," he said.
Edo ALGON backs indirect primary
Meanwhile, members of the Edo State chapter of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) said they will support indirect primary for the selection of the party's flag bearer.
Addressing journalists in Benin, the state ALGON chairman, Jekins Osunde, said the group supported the indirect primaries because it is the safest, humane and healthy alternative for 2020 governorship primaries of the party.