THE battle for the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, governorship ticket in Edo State is panning out as a two-horse race between Governor Godwin Obaseki and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. The duo were the chief combatants in the 2016 governorship election won by Obaseki.
After several weeks of horse-trading and negotiations that nearly broke down, six governorship aspirants — Dr. Pius Odubu, Engr. Chris Ogiemwonyi, Major-General Charles Airhiavbere (retd), Johnson Agbonyima, Saturday Uwulekhue and Prof. Ebegue Amadasun, have stepped down for Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu as their consensus governorship aspirant for the June 22 governorship primary election.
A seventh aspirant, Solomon Edebiri, was said to have voluntarily withdrawn from the race. It was gathered that negotiations for the aspirants to agree on a consensus was reached Tuesday night in Abuja, and Ize-Iyamu was said to have come tops, after a screening by a committee set-up for the selection exercise.
The screening committee was headed by former Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Francis Alimikhena, while other members included former Edo Deputy Governor, Lucky Imasuen; General Cecil Esekhaigbe (retd); ex-Edo Speaker, Thomas Okosun; former Minority Whip of the House of Representatives, Samson Osagie; ex-member of the House of Representatives, Patrick Obahiagbon and Deputy Leader of the House of Representatives, Peter Akpatason.
Ize-Iyamu and incumbent governor, Godwin Obaseki, are now to square up for the APC governorship ticket on June 22. Sources said the negotiations and horse-trading almost broke down when Odubu complained of maltreatment, lamenting that he had been in the party without break since inception but was being side-stepped for Ize-Iyamu, who just returned after running as Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governorship candidate in 2016.
It was gathered that he was persuaded to step down eventually in the interest of the APC and in support of efforts to stop Governor Obaseki.
Confirming the development, factional State Secretary of the party, Lawrence Okah, said: “We are going with him to pick the form now. There is harmony in the family. We just have one common enemy. Obaseki should go, that’s all.” Aspirants pool funds to buy form for Ize-Iyamu It was learned that all the aspirants in the contest contributed funds to buy APC’s N22.5 million Nomination and Expression of Interest Form for Ize-Iyamu.
A statement by the Director of Communication, Ize-Iyamu Campaign Organisation, John Mayaki, shortly after he picked the nomination form, described it as “another stride in the quest to move Edo State forward.” He said: “By obtaining the form today, we have formally placed our name on the party’s ballot for our internal primary next month. It is another great stride and we are thankful to the other aspirants who have joined us here today to offer support. “There have been efforts to cause disunity in our party and pitch people against each other by those who have sadly embraced politics without principles and are openly rebelling against the leadership of our party, because they believe they have absolute power. But as it is clear from today’s event, Edo APC is united and these deviants may have a loud voice but they don’t represent the majority.