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Ize-Iyamu gets Edo APC ticket, taunts Obaseki to return to party

By Michael Egbejule (Benin City), Adamu Abuh, Terhemba Daka (Abuja) and Kelvin Ebiri (Port Harcourt)
23 June 2020   |   3:40 am
Following his emergence, yesterday, as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the September 19 Edo State gubernatorial election, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu taunted his arch-rival

Crisis engulfs Rivers State chapter as Buhari, govs’ forum parley over the stalemate

Following his emergence, yesterday, as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the September 19 Edo State gubernatorial election, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu taunted his arch-rival, Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki, urging him to return to the party.

In his victory speech after the primary election, Ize-Iyamu said: “I want to salute my brother, the governor of the state, Mr. Godwin Obaseki. I will like to appeal to him to return to the party. In every family, you have disagreements. Let it not be said that it was this disagreement that pushed him out.

“I made that mistake before and I have come to realise that it was a grievous error. And I will not want him, as a senior brother, to make the same mistake. So, I will like to appeal to him to set aside his anger and come back.

“In APC, he is recognised as a leader. But the new party you are going to, it will be difficult for them to accept you as a leader. So, it might be nice for him to come back. But certainly, we are ready to work with him and all well-meaning Edo people.”

Voters observing social distancing at the APC governorship election primary in Ward 5, Ikpoba-Okha Local Council in Benin City, Edo State…yesterday. PHOTO: MICHAEL EGBEJULE

Ize-Iyamu won the primary with 27, 838. Dr. Pius Odubu polled 3,776 to emerge, second runner-up, while Osaro Obazee scored 2,724 votes.

This came as a frontline aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Gideon Ikhine, stood down for Obaseki ahead of the PDP’s governorship primary scheduled for Friday.

Ikhine announced his decision at a ceremony in Benin attended by Obaseki, Edo State PDP Chairman Dr Tony Aziegbemi, and other party leaders. The aspirant also promised he would mobilise his supporters to back Obaseki’s candidacy.

WITH the September 19 contest between Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu almost certain, the crisis of who chairs the APC took a fresh twist, yesterday, as factional Acting National Chairman Mr. Victor Giadom faulted his purported suspension by the Rivers State chapter of the party.

Fielding questions from reporters at the APC national secretariat in Abuja, he described his replacement by Mr. Worgu Boms as new Deputy National Secretary as illegal.

He argued: “You cannot smuggle somebody into the National Working Committee (NWC) without an election. Anybody who wants to be a member of the NWC should present himself for a democratically conducted election. It is laughable and cannot work.”

He said: “The only way to get ourselves out of this mess that the party is in now is to convoke a National Executive Council (NEC) meeting. There is no other route to have peace and justice in this party except through an NEC meeting. NEC is the higher organ above the NWC. I do not see why they are afraid. You have to surrender this organ so that the right thing would be done and every other decision that has been taken by the leadership would be ratified by NEC.”

Similarly, a faction of the party in Rivers State, incensed by the suspension of Giadom by Acting State Chairman Igochukwu Aguma, announced Dr Sokonte Davies as alternate chairman yesterday.

The pro-Minister of Transportation Chibuike Amaechi faction, led by Senator Andrew Uchendu, accused Aguma of using his proxies, Dele Moses, and others, to secure an interim order that removed Giadom as a national officer and led to his suspension as a member of the party.

Uchendu told journalists in Port Harcourt that Aguma, without authorisation from the 38 statutory members of the state executive committee, nominated Boms.

Aguma, in a reaction, however, described his so-called suspension as of no effect. According to him, “As a party that respects the rule of law and enforces the same, it is not strange that when you wield the big stick to discipline any member of our party for any act of indiscipline, reactions of this sort will not be unexpected.”

About two hours before Giadom’s reaction on his purported suspension, hundreds of protesters had stormed the national secretariat demanding the immediate dissolution of the NWC.

Comrade Okpokwu Ogenyi, who spoke on behalf of the protesters, noted: “As a party, we must do away with the present NWC before it kills the party completely. We are calling on the highest decision-making body, the NEC to immediately call a meeting and dissolve the NWC.”

The protesters bore placards with inscriptions such as NWC Is Embarrassing Mr. President And The Rest Of Us; We Want NEC To Wade In, and NWC Has Failed Us, We Want It Dissolved.

In another protestation, a group, the League of National Patriots (LNP), accused the APC of plotting to “derail the continuity of good governance,” in Edo State, following the party’s earlier disqualification of Obaseki.

LNP’s founder and national coordinator, Prince Abdulkareem Ikharo, in a statement, described the move by the party as “clearly ill-conceived, deceptive, selfish and vindictive,” and vowed that the League would muster support for Obaseki and his deputy, Comrade Phillip Shaibu. A gender advocacy leader in the League, Miss Ladi Ochoala, also pledged the support of her group and Edo women for Obaseki.

But downplaying, the crisis rocking the party, the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), yesterday, refuted media reports of division within its ranks.

PGF Director-General Dr Salihu Lukman in a statement titled, ‘Crisis Merchants and Benefactors of Leadership Conflict in APC’, noted: “Given the current leadership challenges, it is not about support for or against sections of the NWC as is being projected. It is more about ensuring that the NWC functions as a united organ of the party.”

He expressed the Forum’s resolve to ensure a quick resolution of the crisis, stressing: “It will be downgrading to attempt to project Senator Ajimobi as a factional leader of the NWC.” He assured that Ajimobi, whom the NWC had chosen to replace the suspended Chairman Adams Oshiomhole, would enjoy the support of all the Progressive Governors.

In yet another peace move, the PGF, yesterday, met President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja, with PGF Chairman and Kebbi State Governor Atiku Bagudu promising that the crisis in the party would soon be reconciled.

“The President listened to us attentively and discussed with us as a father, as a party leader, and gave us all the assurance needed to know that resolution of contentious issues will soon be arrived at,” he said.

He added: “Whatever needs to be done, including the possibility of calling any of the organs of the party that is necessary for the resolution of lingering issues, will be done immediately. Let me again say that the party is never a perfect assembly. There will always be issues, and that is why we talk. But, yes, certainly, organs of the party need to meet. And Mr. President, without directing, is always supporting the necessity of party organs meeting appropriately.”