Adams Oshiomhole’s firm grip on the structure of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State is facing its biggest opposition ahead of the governorship primary of the party slated for mid February.
The former governor and serving senator is regarded as leader of APC in Edo and he is expected to determine who becomes the governorship candidate of the party ahead of the off-season election in August.
Ahead of the primary, Oshiomhole constituted a committee to prune down the number of aspirants from 29 to six.
According to the Professor Julius Ihonvbere-led committee, two aspirants were selected from the three senatorial districts.
In Edo North, former ministers in President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, Clem Agba and Afolabi Ernest were shortlisted.
In Edo Central, Senator Monday Okpebholo and former state chairman of APC, David Imuse, were picked.
In Edo South, serving member of the House of Representatives, Dennis Idahosa and former deputy governor, Lucky Imasuen were endorsed.
Popular aspirants like Professor Oserhiemen Osunbor, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu were disqualified by the Oshiomhole committee.
Furious over the development, the National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC, rejected the moves and urged all aspirants to pick up nomination forms.
In a statement released by the spokesman of the APC, Mr. Felix Morka, the party said Expression of Interest and “Nomination forms for the Edo State Governorship Election is open, available for purchase and collection to ALL interested party aspirants.”
He said the screening and clearance of aspirants will be undertaken by a committee to be constituted by the NWC in accordance with the party’s constitution.
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“As stipulated in the released APC Timetable and Schedule of activities for the Edo State gubernatorial election, all interested aspirants are to make prescribed payments into the Party’s approved bank accounts, and collect their Expression of Interest and Nomination Forms from the Party’s National Secretariat,” the statement read.
Despite the position of the party, a defiant Oshiomhole, has allegedly further pruned down the number to four, yanking off names of aspirants from Edo North.
Report has gathered that many aspirants have vowed to go ahead and contest for the position. Osunbor, former senator and former governor, said he is picking his nomination form tomorrow.
In a message widely circulated to his supporters, Osunbor said his people were solidly behind him.
Similarly, Ize-Iyamu from Edo South, who was a candidate of the APC in the 2020 governorship polls, said he was not backing down and has vowed to go through with the process.
He said: “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. I want to assure you that I will contest and win the election.”
On his relationship with Oshiomhole, he said: “My relationship is cordial. He is my older brother and I respect age. We have worked together for many years. He is the leader of our party and a distinguished senator.”
A former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate, Charles General Charles Airhiavbere (retd), said he was not backing down either.
Meanwhile, APC leaders from Edo Central have threatened to abandon the party if it fails to zone the position to the senatorial district. The senatorial leaders said the region has been sidelined from State politics since 1999.
They said Edo South has produced two governors who would serve out 16 years by the end of the year, while Edo North has also had its share of eight years, leaving out Edo Central.
“Esan land has been sidelined. We’ve supported other senatorial districts and we had an informal agreement that the Esan zone will produce the next governor. PDP appears to have kept that arrangement. But Oshiomhole, who has never hidden his dislike for Esan people, is playing a dangerous game. We don’t know what his end game is, but if he goes ahead and undermines our people, we won’t have a choice but to abandon the platform,” a party leader told Daily Sun.
An aspirant from Edo Central, Gideon Obhakhan, said he would take a decision that will align with the aspirations of his people. “As events unfold, we shall decide on next steps to take for the overall benefit of our people. Let us keep our heads high, having given our very best up till this time,” he said.