By Simon Ebegbulem, Benin City
The governorship ambition of Mr Godwin Obaseki, governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo state received a great boost last Tuesday, when APC women led by the First lady of the Federation, Aisha Buhari stormed Benin City in solidarity with his ambition. Apart from that, Obaseki received an overwhelming endorsement of all the traditional rulers from Edo North senatorial district of the state, led by the Otaru of Auchi, Alhaji Aliru H. Momoh, Ikelebe III last Sunday.
Apart from the endorsement from the Royal fathers, they also donated to his campaign, noting that it would only take an ingrate not to support Obaseki after all the governor Adams Oshiomhole led APC had done across the state.
And coincidentally all cannot be said to be well with the PDP in the state, as the factional candidate from the Modu Sheriff faction of the party, Matthew Iduoriyekemwen, declared that he would flag off his campaigns next week.
Iduoriyekemwen who briefed journalists last Monday, said Ize-Iyamu was campaigning for him as he remains the authentic candidate of the party. Apart from that, majority of the leaders of the PDP in the state led by Samson Esemuede, Senator Ehigie Uzamere, the state representative in the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr Peter Eneguero, I.K.Ebomoyi, Johnson Abulagba, and many other leaders across the 18 Local Government Areas of the state have left the party for the APC.
To make matters bad for Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, the governorship candidate of the PDP, two other aspirants of the party at the primaries, Iduoriyekemwen and Chief Solomon Edebiri had since abandoned him after they alleged that the leadership of the party led by Chief Tony Anenih and the state chairman of the party, Chief Dan Orbih skewed the primaries in favour of Ize-Iyamu.
While Edebiri resigned from the party with the strong rumour that he may soon join the APC, Iduoriyekemwen who felt slighted that he was deliberately schemed out in the primaries despite his loyalty to the party since 1999, moved to the Sheriff faction of the PDP and secured the ticket of the party.
As it is now, the situation is that of a party with two candidates. This may partly account for most of its members who left for the APC. Though PDP leaders such as Chief Anenih, the Esama of Benin, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, Chief Tom Ikimi, Alhaji Yisa Braimoh are solidly with Ize-Iyamu, the fact remains that the PDP may not match the foot soldiers across the 192 wards already deployed by Adams Oshiomhole’s political structure.
They are found in the 192 wards of the state. Another top leader of the PDP in the state, Senator Rowland Owie, who has been a critic of Ize-Iyamu’s style of politics has remained aloof in this campaign.
The hopes in Ize-Iyamu camp that there could be cracks in APC that could turn the tide against Obaseki have not materialised. Rather, the Obaseki camp is getting stronger since all the aspirants who participated in the primaries have all joined forces with him.
Initially, Dr Chris Ogienwonyi and Kenneth Imasuagbon kicked against the result of the primaries, but after the national leadership of the party certified the primaries as free, fair and credible, they all directed their supporters to work for Obaseki. While Obaseki enjoys this good will, Ize-Iyamu is yet to savour it. And in the APC, Oshiomhole has deployed his political machinery, surrounding some of the leaders being suspected of alleged anti party activities with his core loyalists in the affected Local Governments and wards.
Oshiomhole’s good will and developmental strides have made this campaign easier for Obaseki who is currently enjoying the support from different groups. Just last Monday, while Ize-Iyamu and his supporters stormed Abuja to ensure that his name is retained by the INEC as the governorship candidate of PDP, Obaseki received the endorsement of APC women across the country.
First lady of the nation, Aisha Buhari, who was represented by the APC Woman leader in the Federal Capital Territory Abuja, Mrs Hailmary Aipoh, said “Governor Oshiomhole is our great brother who has done us proud in Edo with his developmental projects, so we are always with him. APC has done well for Edo people and that is why we are talking about continuity. Obaseki is a quiet gentleman that is tested and trusted and we believe that on September 10, Edo people and all women will rally round him and by the special grace of God, he has won already”.
The South South zonal woman leader of the APC, Mrs Racheal Akpabio, who commended the wife of the President for her assistance in the provision of writing materials and food stuff for the IDPs, equally expressed joy with the concern shown by the First Lady as regards Edo state election, declaring that the women will give all necessary support to ensure that Obaseki emerges victorious.
According to her, “winning in the Edo election is none negotiable because this is the only state APC controls in the South South and we intend to get more states in this region, so we are not giving this one out to anybody. Our women must go back home and talk to their husbands, children and tell them what APC has done in Edo state for them”.
Edo North traditional rulers pleasantly shocked Obaseki as they donated undisclosed amount of money to his campaign. Speaking on behalf of the traditional rulers who converged in his palace, the Otaru of Auchi, Alhaji Aliru H. Momoh, Ikelebe III said their support for Obaseki stemmed from the fact that he was introduced by their son, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who performed creditably well as Governor.
He said: “this meeting is under the auspices of Edo North traditional rulers. The reason for it is that we have had one of our sons who has transformed Edo State in various aspects of human life. And from Edo Central, South and North, there has been a transformation of un-surpassing dimension.
“So, we want to demonstrate in no small sense that the whole of Edo North traditional rulers are behind him and the candidate that he is presenting for this governorship election in Edo State. Basically, that is the mission. And I want to say this, that Edo State traditional rulers have further committed themselves to this campaign by saying that whatever money you gave to traditional rulers at meetings at various locations of this nature, we donate it to the campaign that is on.
I now wish to thank you for what you have been able to do in this state and Nigeria right from the time that you have been president of the NLC, and I am particularly proud that in 2002, the title I gave you was truly inspired, truly divinely inspired. I want to say that we are proud of ourselves. Traditional rulers in Edo State will make history all round, and will continue to make history all round. So, on their behalf, I want to specially congratulate you for what God has made you do for us in this state and Nigeria, and what he is going to make you do for Nigeria right from Abuja. My congratulations, sir.”
He turned to Obaseki: “To the man you have asked us to support in this election, we say, may God give you every support. Now, it is necessary for us that He alone who is the majesty of the heavens and the earth, and the all-powerful, and the all-wise, Almighty God will go with you, and will guide you, to also add to what heritage that you have inherited.
This time you are going to inherit, and we say inherited because it has already been destined. What is destined by Almighty God, nobody can alter it, nobody can violate it; nobody can overtake it. So, we are happy to make that statement today because there is no doubt about the fact that the one who is propelling you and giving you to Edo State is a man that God has chosen for that assignment. And because of that, we are assuring you that we will continue to pray for your success in this exercise.”
Expressing his gratitude to the Royal fathers, Obaseki who couldn’t hide his emotions at the royal endorsements said: “If I say that I am not truly humbled by what I have seen here today, I am not telling the truth. I feel truly humbled, but more importantly, I feel immensely challenged because what is happening here today is that someone is asking your royal highnesses to trust someone and that is me.
The next four years will be one in which we will go out to attract investors into our various domains; to get investors, we have to guarantee security of the investments and who can do that more than our royal fathers, the custodian of the traditional institutions and the ones closest to the people?” He assured the royal fathers that he will justify the confidence reposed in him and take Edo to a higher level, saying “whatever we have started, we will continue and improve on it”.