•Fear of parallel primary in PDP
•Cost of nomination unsettles LP
By Ozioruva Aliu
There is a frenzy of activities among the various political parties jostling to take over the Osadebey Avenue Government House, Benin City from out-going Governor Godwin Obaseki and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
For now, there are three leading political parties out of which one is expected to win the 2024 governorship election in Edo State: PDP which wants to retain the seat, the main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) and Labour Party (LP).
Interestingly, the three parties are battling internal wrangling which could lead to the parties going into the election divided.
While some aspirants in LP are quarrelling with the National Working Committee (NWC) over the cost of the sale of forms and the national leadership crisis which also has its factional following in the state, PDP is battling for its unity with a fear of parallel primary election if the national leadership does not intervene.
For the PDP, the party is badly divided with some leaders on the side of the governor whereas some are siding with the deputy governor, Philip Shaibu, and the Legacy Coalition Group, which is made up of the members loyal to the former state chairman of the party and now the Vice Chairman, South-South of the party, Chief Dan Orbih. The Orbih group also has some members who defected with Obaseki in 2020 from the APC.
Meanwhile, if observers feel the APC would cash-in on the divisions in the other parties, its own internal crisis is threatening its unity which could lead to the party going into the election fragmented.
Firstly, the number of those who have indicated interest to contest in the APC is very large as about 35 people have shown interest to contest.
One of the dicey developments in the APC is that there are so many of the aspirants who are strong men financially and the fear has always been how the party would manage its post-primary election crisis.
Will anyone step down for another or could there be consensus among the aspirants? These were some of the questions that led to the leadership of the party in the state setting up a committee headed by the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Professor Julius Ihonvbere, with five other members picking two from each of the senatorial districts to prune down the number of aspirants.
The recommendation of the committee which was said to have first come out with 10 names and later six and four final names is responsible for the current heat in the party.
Even though the leadership of the party at the national and state levels has said every aspirant was free to buy nomination forms, analysts believe that the final four is where the interest of many of the leaders would be from where they would mobilise their followers and supporters to vote.
Those who made the final list as recommended by the committee are the incumbent senator representing Edo Central, Monday Okpebholo, the immediate past state Chairman of the party, Col (Dr) David Imuse (rtd), the incumbent member representing Ovia Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon Dennis Idahosa, and a former deputy governor, Hon Lucky Imasuen.
The uproar caused by the report of the committee forced the national leadership of the party to declare that nobody has been screened or disqualified from contesting the primary election and urged interested aspirants to buy nomination forms.
At the state level, the APC also said that no aspirant has been screened or disqualified from the governorship race.
The State Publicity Secretary of the party, Peter Uwadiae, told journalists that the Ihonvbere committee was only an advisory committee.
“There is no truth in the news making the rounds that governorship aspirants have been screened and about 25 have been disqualified”, he said.
“Based on the advice of the National Working Committee of the party, we set up a committee led by Julius Ihonvbere to interface with the aspirants on the need to reduce the number of aspirants to a manageable one.
“It is after the close of sale of forms that the NWC will set up a screening committee.
“The Committee also advised the Edo APC to be in a talking relationship with the aspirants so that those who know they cannot go all the way can exit the race. So no aspirant has been screened and disqualified”.
This position has led to some of the aspirants going ahead to purchase nomination forms.
The aspirants include Prince Clem Agba, Major General Charles Airhiavbere (rtd), Imuse, Anamero Dakeri, Professor Oserheimen Osunbor, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Blessing Agbomhere and Sen Monday Okpebholo.
The report of the committee brought the leader of the party, Sen Adams Oshiomhole, under media attacks as several individuals who are believed to be agents of some of the aspirants who were not comfortable with the report argued that the outcome was a reflection of where Oshiomhole’s interest lies in the contest.
But Oshiomhole’s supporters said the attacks were only doing that because they did not make the final list of recommended aspirants. They believe that their position would have been different if they had made the list.
However, all the local governments area chairmen in Edo had a meeting with Oshiomhole where they took several decisions affecting the party.
A communiqué from the office the chairman of the local government chairmen said, “On the issue of the 2024 gubernatorial election, the Distinguished Senator and Leader of the Party in the state reiterated the need for all party faithful to work together to ensure APC wins the forthcoming governorship election. He said the processes to this end shall be encompassing and acceptable to all.
“The Chairmen recommitted themselves to the leadership of Distinguished Senator Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole and his efforts to ensure victory for the party in the next gubernatorial election.”
The party has fixed February 17 for its primary which, it said, would be the direct mode of primary election where all card carrying members of the party would vote in their polling units across the state.