By SIMON EBEGBULEM, Benin City
BARELY 20 days to the September 10 governorship election in Edo State, the two factions of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state have engaged in war of words over who is the authentic candidate of the party. The Ahmed Makarfi faction of the PDP produced Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu as its governorship candidate while that of Ali Modu Sheriff produced Matthew Iduoriyekemwen. Iduoriyekemwen is from Ikpoba Okhai, one of the largest local government areas in the state, while Ize-Iyamu is from Orhiomwon.
The factional crisis has allowed the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its governorship candidate, Mr Godwin Obaseki, to harvest more of the PDP leaders across the 192 wards of the state. Last Tuesday, Iduoriyekemwen addressed journalists in Benin City, where he accused the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, of ignoring court orders which affirmed Sheriff as the PDP National Chairman.
While insisting that he remained the PDP candidate in the September election, Iduoriyekemwen, who is also a former state representatives in the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, and a former Majority Leader of the state House of Assembly, alleged that the INEC was conniving with the Markafi faction to deceive the people of Edo on the issue of the PDP flag bearer. “INEC has been behaving in a manner that has shown clear partisanship in the internal affairs of the PDP, openly making comments that tend to rubbish the court process.
You will be surprised that while we are busy campaigning, reaching out to voters, to show INEC’s bias, on the 20 of June, one Deputy Director of Public Affairs said they won’t monitor Sheriff faction’s primary. In another event, the same man said INEC was yet to take a decision since Sheriff has gone to court. But the Electoral Act is very clear, it does not make it mandatory for INEC to be present in a primary. It said INEC may or may not attend,”he said.
“I read the other day, INEC published 19 candidates for Edo guber and my question is when did INEC monitored the primaries of other parties because I am in Edo State. And in that publication, the intent is to mislead Edo people not to vote for the PDP, because you could see that recently a lot of PDP leaders are moving to APC because they know that the candidate that is supposedly being paraded by the party is not the candidate that they know can deliver the party in the next election.
When it got to the party, they wrote Ize-Iyamu’s name relying on a court order. I am here to challenge INEC to tell us what they meant by that court order, which court order are they obeying because they are a lot of court orders which said INEC should only deal with the Sheriff faction but INEC has continued to play politics to deceive Edo people? But we are determined to get justice, I remain the candidate of the party and sooner or later the court will pronounce the truth”. Shortly after, Iduoriyekemwen’s statement, Edo Youths PDP Vanguard, a pro-Ize-Iyamu group, described him as a political prostitute.
The group, on a statement by its Chairman, Eghosa Osazuwa, alleged that Iduoriyekemwen was in a mission to hand victory to the Governor Adams Oshiomhole-led APC in the poll, describing Iduoriyekemwen as an unserious politician who must apologise to the PDP. However, another group in the PDP, which is pro-Iduoriyekemwen, under the aegis of Next Generation Foundation, says it is Ize-Iyamu that needs to apologize for his political prostitution and not Iduoriyekemwen, recalling that while Ize-Iyamu had left the PDP for the then ACN, Iduoriyekemwen had been a member of the PDP since 1999.
While the two PDP factions battle for the soul of the party ahead of the election, thousands of their members defect to the APC in droves. A total 4,536 aggrieved PDP members in Egor and Ikpoba Okhai LGAs decamped to the APC, just as the AREWA group in Edo, led by the President-General, Alh.Sahabi Aliu Umar, endorsed Obaseki as their candidate. Leader of the PDP defectors in Egor, Mr. Promise Igbinevbo, said the PDP had deceived them over the years and that the party was yet to shed its old ways in spite of attempts to rebrand it. He said: “We are here to bury PDP today. We were deceived by some political leaders of the PDP all these years. Today, they call them new PDP but I realized that old PDP remains. I later realized that they are like the leopard which doesn’t change its skin.
PDP leaders are conservative. PDP leaders cry for their parochial interest alone to the detriment of their followers. I have wiped off my tears because of the belief that I have in democracy. In democracy, it is said that the minority will have their say while the majority will have their way. Today, the majority are having their way from the PDP to APC. I want to let you know that myself, my chairmen here and women leaders and all executives are members of PDP across Egor Local Government Area, that we are here to team up with the Comrade Governor and his APC candidate, Mr. Godwin Obaseki. I want to let you know that I don’t bow down for people for nothing. I don’t bow down to people because of money. I want to let you know that I bow down to people with integrity. We bow before Oshiomhole because of his handwork in Edo State.”
Igbinevbo, who called out each of the 4,536 decampees from across the wards in Egor, said he and the new APC members will go out on their own to ensure total victory for the APC in the LGA. Receiving the defectors, Oshiomhole said he was impressed by the large number and quality of those who decided to join the APC.
“Today, I have seen people with a difference. When my brother came and said he didn’t want to come with APC members; he wanted to do it in a hall where only PDP decampees will be present, I didn’t quite understand him. I said he should allow APC members to come, and he said, no, if APC people come, he would not be able to call the number of PDP people that are decamping. So, when I entered this hall and I saw this sea of heads, thousands of PDP women and youths, leaving PDP to join APC, I said, and it is stated in the Bible, now for PDP, it is finished. There is nothing left.”
Also, Obaseki had interaction with members of the civil society organizations in Edo and the Dr Samuel Ogbemudia-led Edo Mass Movement (EMM) where he outlined his plans for the state if elected as governor.