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Edo 2024: The Oshiomhole factor in Ize-Iyamu withdrawal from APC primaries



Edo 2024: The Oshiomhole factor in Ize-Iyamu withdrawal from APC primaries
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By Ehichioya Ezomon

Taking a final perusal of this article on Friday, February 16, the journalistic instinct to seek the latest news or what’s become known as “breaking news” prompted me to ferret for updates on the primary election of the All Progressives Congress (APC) the next day, February 17, to pick a candidate for the September 21, 2024, governorship in Edo State.

I wasn’t expecting anything spectacular other than reports on how prepared was the six-member primary election committee, headed by Imo State Governor Hope Uzodinma, to conduct a credible and transparent election acceptable to the 12 cleared aspirants, their supporters and members of the APC, especially in the Edo State chapter.

But what I got, as first reported by The Nation, was an unbelievable newsflash, entitled: “BREAKING: Ize-Iyamu withdraws from APC primary for Edo guber election,” with no cogent reason by Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu for his unexpected withdrawal from the race he’d run twice in 2016 and 2019 on the platforms of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and APC, respectively.

As reported later by Concord News Online, Mr Ize-Iyamu “bowed to pressures” from some top members of the APC to step down his decades-long ambition to be governor, and has subsequently “thrown his support” behind Senator Monday Okpebholo (APC, Edo Central) “in line with the party’s tacit decision to zone the governorship to Edo Central, which is yet to produce a governor since the return to democratic rule in 1999, after Senator Oserheimen Osunbor’s brief stint between 2007 and 2008.”

Though Mr Ize-Iyamu, a cleric of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), previously fell short to clinch the governorship, his prospects for a third attempt looked brighter in 2024, and he exuded that confidence when he dismissed as “rumours” the alleged disqualification of over 24 APC aspirants by a “screening and pruning committee” traced to the handiwork of Senator and former Governor Adams Oshiomhole.

Arriving at the Benin airport on January 20 from a parley with the APC leadership in Abuja, Ize-Iyamu told a huge crowd of supporters and some APC leaders that “there is nothing to worry about,” as he’d obtain the nomination forms the next week, and contest and win the primaries and the election.

“The highest organ of our party issued a statement, particularly on Edo governorship election, and specifically said that all those who have aspiration to run for governorship should go and collect the forms,” Ize-Iyamu said.

He noted that when you are contesting for an election, “there are bound to be intrigues and all kinds of rumours and stories,” adding that, “I know there were rumours that some people have been excluded but by that NWC release, that is not possible anymore.”

“The only people that can exclude aspirants is the committee set up by the NWC. Let me announce that by next week, I will collect the form. And I want to assure you that I will contest and win the election,” Ize-Iyamu said.

It took the intervention of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC to quell the ensuing angst, and restore the confidence of the aspirants, including Ize-Iyamu, who the “Oshiomhole committee” had “disqualified” in an alleged bid to foist an “anointed candidate” on members of the APC.


Ize-Iyamu, in his statement of withdrawal from the governorship on the eve of the primaries, obliquely referred to the alleged Oshiomhole scheming, and intervention of the APC leadership to right the wrong therefrom. It reads in part:

“I entered the contest as a progressive democrat, with an open mind to keenly contest and accept the result of a process that is fair, credible and transparent. I appreciate the commendable effort made by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC to correct the erroneous impression maliciously created by certain persons that some aspirants, including myself, had been disqualified from the gubernatorial contest.

“The NWC constituted the authentic screening committee and all twelve aspirants who purchased and completed the nomination forms were successfully screened and subsequently issued clearance certificates. This step was praise worthy and helped in restoring our integrity in the eyes of the public.

“Having been cleared to contest, I regrettably wish to announce my withdrawal from the race. Although painful, this decision has become imperative after an exhaustive consultation with my family, friends, political associates and supporters. I make this sacrifice in the interest of the peace and unity that the party desperately requires at both state and national levels.

“I humbly appeal to the good people of Edo state to accept my decision which is very personal and I promise to be there for them at all times.

“Thankfully, I acknowledge the fatherly role of President Bola Tinubu, GCFR, as well as the party’s national leadership for the fairness and commitment to the democratic process. Likewise, I remain grateful to the state working committee for their principled stand to allow a level playing field for all aspirants.

“I am extremely appreciative to my family, friends, supporters, well-wishers, and the extraordinary hardworking men and women of our campaign organization who were prepared to stop at nothing to see me fly the party’s flag. I salute your great works, your steadfastness and courage.

“Finally, as a loyal party man, I wish to pledge that I and my teeming supporters shall support any candidate that emerges in the primary election holding tomorrow.”

The poser: If the APC leadership had righted the wrong caused by the “Oshiomhole committee,” and Ize-Iyamu obtained the nomination forms, screened and cleared for the primaries he’d said he’d win, what influenced or induced his sudden withdrawal from the governorship race?

If the reported “tacit zoning” of the APC ticket to Edo Central were true – contrary to earlier declaration by the party – it means Ize-Iyamu’s seen as the aspirant capable of halting the process, and should be stopped from the primaries he’s primed to win!

Well, by Saturday when the primaries were supposed to be in progress, reports spoke of non-availability of APC officials and materials for voting, while another aspirant and former Deputy Governor Lucky Imasuen withdrew from the race, citing “the interest of peace and unity of our great party” as reason for pulling out of the governorship election.

In a statement, captioned, “My highly esteemed supporters,” Imasuen said: “I write to you today (February 16) with a heavy heart to announce my decision to withdraw from the gubernatorial primaries of our great party scheduled for tomorrow, 17th February 2024 in the interest of peace and unity of our great party.

“I have come to the conclusion that since our national working committee(NW), in their wisdom, have expressed their preference for zoning the governorship position to Edo Central Senatorial district, it’s wise to align with the decision of the party.


“I am immensely grateful for your unwavering support and belief in me throughout this journey. Your dedication and passion have been the driving force behind my campaign.

“While this decision was not made lightly, I trust that you will understand and continue to support our party as we work together towards our shared goals.

“From the foregoing, I’m ready to support whoever emerges as our candidate in the primary election scheduled for tomorrow.”

Now, back to my “original copy” – which bears a similar heading: “Edo 2024: The Oshiomhole factor in APC primaries, September poll” – before the Ize-Iyamu bombshell. Read and see if the article – abridged to accommodate the unfolding political drama – uncannily foretold the “breaking news,” and the mess of a governorship primary election, which four aspirants lay claims to winning. It runs as follows:

As you read this article, results would’ve been published for the direct primaries conducted on February 17, under the ambit of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC), to pick a candidate for the September 21, 2024, governorship election in Edo State. Imo State Governor Hope Uzodinma led the six-member primary election committee that supervised the poll.

The shadow poll became more intense when Senator and former Governor Adams Oshiomhole reportedly influenced the screening and pruning of the over 30 aspirants to six, thereby incurring condemnation from the “sidelined” aspirants and their supporters.

Intervening to douse tension, the national headquarters of the APC disclaimed the fathom “screening committee,” with the NWC re-asserting its authority to vet aspirants who’d purchased the Expression of Interest and Nomination forms of N10m and N40m each, for the primaries.

On February 10, the APC seven-man National Gubernatorial Aspirants Screening Committee, led by Prof. Taoheed Adedoja,  cleared all 12 aspirants that appeared before it – including six of the aspirants the

“Oshiomhole committee” disqualified: Hon. Anamero Dekeri, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Mr Gideon Ikhine, Maj-Gen. Charles Airhiavbere (retd), Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor, and Dr Blessing Agbomhere.

The other six cleared aspirants that earlier had the “Oshiomhole committee” blessing include Mr Clem Agba, Senator Monday Okpebholo, Mr Lucky Imasuen, Col. David Imuse (retd), Hon. Dennis Idahosa and Dr Ernest Umakhihe.

Yet, as the APC members went for the primaries on Saturday, speculations indicate that Oshiomhole hasn’t abandoned his quest to “impose” an “anointed candidate” from among his “chosen six aspirants.”

Oshiomhole may well have his way as a two-time governor, and senator, who’s become “the issue in Edo politics” since his entry into politics in 2007, such that he can determine where the political pendulum will swing for good and for ill of the APC in the state.

The bombastic former president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) is guaranteed block votes from his home base of Edo North, which he topped up with votes from Edo South and Edo Central to win two terms in office (2008-2016), and install a successor in 2016. Oshiomhole can also do damage to his party through unbridled actions, and unguarded utterances, such as happened from 2016 to 2020 that caused APC’s defeat in 2020. The party’s striving to reverse that defeat on September 21.


What Oshiomhole’s trying to do in Edo was virtually the preserve of a Police officer-turned politician, Chief Anthony Akhakon Anenih (1933-2018) – a political colossus nicknamed “Mr Fix It,” who grew in influence and the ways of “winning (fixing) elections,” that he couched a one liner: “There’s no vacancy in Aso Rock” (the presidency) or Government House at stake. (This is a story for another day in the Edo 2024 governorship.)

Meanwhile, Oshiomhole’s sudden rise, and Chief Anenih’s loss of influence in Edo politics is traced to Oshiomhole’s court retrieval of his “stolen mandate” from Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor, Anenih’s “anointed” PDP candidate for the 2007 elections.

There’re insinuations in the polity that having fallen out with Osunbor due to “irreconcilable differences,” Anenih offered Oshiomhole of the the dissolved Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the “political ammo” to use against Osunbor at the election petitions and appellate courts. Sadly, Oshiomhole’s to turn Anenih into a political punching bag throughout his eight-year tenure of office.

Oshiomhole accused Anenih and others of being “godfathers,” which he repeately vowed to stamp out in Edo State. The strategy worked to diminish Anenih’s political stature in the eyes of Edolites, while unwittingly promoting the “Comrade Governor” as the new “godfather” in the guise of a messiah.

Oshiomhole exhibited his “godfatherism” during the 2016 governorship election by unilaterally picking Lagos-based businessman, Mr Godwin Obaseki, as his successor, damning all opposition, even from his Deputy Governor Pius Odubu.

But the chummy relationship between Oshiomhole and Obaseki didn’t last, as Obaseki alleged that Oshiomhole’s scheming to extend his “godfatherism” to the running of his government. As a payback, Oshiomhole, as national chairman of the APC, denied Obaseki a re-election ticket in 2020, forcing Obaseki to defect to the PDP.

Ahead of the 2024 governorship poll, Obaseki, who’s also grown into a “godfather,” has ditched the ambition of his ally and Deputy Governor Philip Shaibu for a Lagos-based business associate, Dr Asue Ighodalo, even as Oshiomhole attempts to stamp his overlordship on the APC, regarding who bears the party flag at the September 21 election.

Barring attempts by Oshiomhole to throw another wrench in the works, Edo is again ripe for the APC to reclaim from the PDP the power it “freely” got in 2020 after 12 years (2008-2020) in the political wilderness! But having become “the issue in Edo politics,” Oshiomhole will yet determine the success or failure of the APC to return to power it lost via his powerplay with Obaseki in 2020.

Indeed, a video surfaced on social media on the eve of the primaries, showing Oshiomhole addressing APC members in Edo North, to vote for House of Representatives member, Hon. Dennis Idahosa, who the Uzodinma committee eventually declared as winner of the primaries amid disruption by aggrieved political thugs.

It’s a guessing game what next the APC leadership will do, as “the primary is not cast in stone,” as the national chairman of the APC, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje, told the Uzodinma committee at its inauguration in Abuja days before the primaries.

Ganduje said any aggrieved aspirants could apply to the primary appeals committee for review of the election, for possible redress of observed anomalies, which were reportedly overwhelming during the balloting. If proven, it’d be a sad day for the Uzodinma primaries committee, the APC and democracy in general!

* Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria .



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