There is fresh anxiety in the camp of Governor Godwin Obaseki following recent defections from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the rival All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State, reports ‘Dare Odufowokan, Assistant Editor
AS the governorship election in Edo State draws closer, anxiety continues to mount in the camp of the state governor, Godwin Obaseki, over some recent developments which pundits have described as possible threats to his re-election bid. After years of political upheaval between him and his erstwhile political godfather, former governor Adams Oshiomhole, Obaseki dumped the All Progressives Congress (APC) and pitched his tent with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in pursuit of a fresh term of four years.
Following the emergence of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu as the gubernatorial candidate of the APC, and the return of Oshiomhole to Edo State after his stint as the National Chairman of the APC, many allies and supporters of the governor have returned to Oshiomhole’s fold and declared their readiness to work for the victory of Ize-Iyamu at the polls next month. This is just as numerous supporters of the APC candidates are also dumping the PDP to join him in his new party ahead of the governorship election.
To add to the concerns in the governor’s camp, 17 members of the Edo State House of Assembly have declared support for APC’s Ize-Iyamu, leaving Obaseki and the PDP with only seven lawmakers as the governorship election draws nearer. During the week, the lawmakers, led by factional Speaker, Victor Edoror, warned that if the governor flouts any of their directives, he will be impeached. Though the governor, through his spokespersons, said the threat by Edoror and others are harmless, sources say there is concern over happenings in the Assembly among Obaseki and his men.
The Nation gathered that this development has not gone down well with the leadership of the governor’s camp, thereby leading to concerns being expressed by allies and loyalists of Obaseki on the need for urgent steps to be taken to forestall a disastrous outing at the polls. Our correspondent gathered that the governor’s loyalists fear the APC and Oshiomhole may have plans to outfox Obaseki at the polls, hence the effort to create the impression that the governor is hugely unpopular across the state.
The Nation also learnt that Obaseki recently charged his aides and other appointed government functionaries serving in his administration to work hard and deliver their various constituencies on Election Day or be prepared to quit. According to a very reliable source, the governor was addressing a gathering of frontline loyalists in Benin-City when he gave the directive. “The election is a war we must win. It is not true that the governor threatened to sack people who lose their area on Election Day; what he said is that for the PDP to remain in government, all of us must deliver our constituencies at all cost,” our source said.
Speaking to The Nation on Thursday, a council chairman in the Central Senatorial District, who is a loyalist of the governor, said many supporters of the governor are currently apprehensive over the developments. According to him, there are fears that the ruling APC at the federal level may be planning to rig the election. He claimed that there are ongoing efforts to lure supporters of the governor into supporting Ize-Iyamu on the pretext that the presidency has decided to stop Obaseki from being re-elected at all cost.
“We are aware of all that is going on and I can tell you that Edo people are worried. Supporters of the governor are worried and leaders of the PDP are anxious over some recent developments. There is a plot to deceive the world into believing that Obaseki is not popular in Edo. There is a plan to rig the election. APC members are using the name of Buhari to deceive our people. They are saying Buhari doesn’t want Obaseki to be re-elected. That is how they are getting some of these people joining the APC.
“They know that in a free and fair election, Obaseki will defeat both Oshiomhole and Ize-Iyamu in Edo. Now, they are deceiving and bribing people to join the APC. But we are ready to match them. We are meeting and strategising everyday on how to counter them. The people you see joining the PDP are doing so based on what they believe. Nobody is bribing them to join,” he said. The Nation also gathered that some prominent leaders of the PDP met with the governor and factional Speaker, Okiye, to discuss happenings in the state Assembly.
Another ally of the governor and a former state official of the All Peoples Party (APP) in the state, Daniel Osifo, said aside from luring supporters of the governor away ahead of the governorship election, opponents of the governor are plotting to scare away people from coming out to vote for Obaseki. According to him, the governor’s camp has discovered plans by APC to use thugs to scare people before and during the election across the state. “Our opponents are not ready for free polls. They are trying to scare away our supporters.
“They are planning a strategy to use the federal might to scare and intimidate us. Every day, we are told by very reliable sources that the opposition was preparing the ground for chaos and anarchy, as part of the grand plot to deceive the people of Edo State into believing that it is unsafe to come out and vote for the candidate of their choice on Election Day. The federal government should be interested in law and order in Edo during the electioneering. It should be the interest of everybody to see a peaceful and fair election,” he said.
During the week, a pro-Obaseki group, the Obaseki Field Marshal Campaign Group (OFM) also appealed to the federal government as well as the ruling party not to allow the governorship election to be militarised. The group also appealed to INEC and other relevant security agencies to ensure the election is free and fair. During a media briefing in Lagos, its convener, Don Olusegun Ugbo, said the forthcoming election is another opportunity for President Muhammadu Buhari to show the world he is an impartial leader.
The group said it is supporting the governor based on what it described as his sterling performance and commitment to the welfare of the people of the state. The group implored the players and stakeholders to allow Edo people make their choice for the continued development of the state.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of PDP’s National Campaign Council for Edo Election, Governorship, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, has given assurance that the party will thwart all plots by the APC to use security agencies to rig the forthcoming governorship election. Wike said APC’s confidence about winning the poll is because the party has plans to rig the election. In a press statement, signed by Paulinus Nsirim, Commissioner for Information and Communications, Wike stated that the PDP has gathered enough intelligence report about the unholy plan and would scuttle it at the appropriate time. The PDP tasked INEC to resist alleged attempts by the APC to prevent a free and fair election.
“We consider the comment by INEC to cancel or suspend the election because of violence as succumbing to the antics of the APC. All they want is violence because they cannot win the election. If the election is suspended, the implication is that Obaseki will serve out his tenure without election in November,” Wike said, adding that “for Oshiomhole, the election is a face saving, do or die venture having been treated badly in Abuja.”
But the APC has dismissed PDP’s allegations, insisting that President Buhari would not allow the military to influence the outcome of the forthcoming poll. The party also said all the people defecting into the APC from the PDP are doing so because they are tired of the government of Godwin Obaseki.
Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Yekini Nabena, wondered why the PDP is so panicky about the events of the past few days and concluded that Edo people are definitely ready to elect the man they want to govern them.
Nabena, who said the APC is constantly reiterating its appeal to security agencies to do everything possible to stop all forms of violence and malpractices before, during and after voting, boasted that victory is certain for his party at the September 19 poll. “Sensing the widespread acceptance and support the good people of Edo State have given the APC governorship candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, in the lead up to the forthcoming governorship election, the PDP is clearly panicked and has resorted to childish and comical conspiracies.
“Procurement of result sheets, cloning of PVCs, stealing card readers, vote buying, voter intimidation and other election fraud are the PDP’s stock-in-trade. For us in the APC, it is one person, one vote. Our people-focused development record is visible to all and the good people of Edo State are poised to make the right and progressive choice, come September 19. We reiterate that our security services must do everything to stop the PDP’s plan to unleash violence, intimidate voters and buy votes during the election. Come September 19, votes will count and the will of the Edo electorate will prevail,” Nabena said.