What future for Edo APC?
The September 19 governorship election in Edo State, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), was won by Governor Godwin Obaseki of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in spite of the impressive performance of the standard bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
Obaseki polled 307,955 votes, while Ize-Iyamu had 223,619 votes, according to the Returning Officer, Prof. Akpofure Rim-Rukeh, who is the Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun, Delta State, while announcing the final results on September 20, at the collation centre, INEC’s state office on Benin-Auchi Road, Aduwawa, Benin.
In Ize-Iyamu’s Orhionmwon Local Government Area, APC polled 10,458 votes, while PDP had 13,445 votes. The results for Ward 7 of 7,600 votes and Ward 8 of 7,896 votes, totalling 15,496 votes, were cancelled by the collation officer, over alleged irregularities.
APC’s agent at the collation centre protested the cancellation of 15,496 votes in Orhionmwon LGA, but Prof. Rim-Rukeh promised that the complaints would be looked into, while it was not reflected in the final figures, which would have been one of the issues to be canvassed at the election petitions tribunal, but Ize-Iyamu declared that he would not file any petition.
The bloody election witnessed death of two persons, injury to many innocent residents, massive vote buying, thuggery and gunshots across the 18 local government areas.
The governorship candidate of APC in Edo, on October 5, in a press statement he personally signed, disclosed that he would not approach the election petitions tribunal on the declaration by INEC of Obaseki as the winner of the poll.
He revealed that he would rather continue with the two pre-election cases in court, against the PDP, Obaseki and his running mate, Philip Shaibu, challenging their eligibility to contest the election.
Ize-Iyamu, a senior pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), declared that the September 19 election in Edo was not free and fair, as claimed in some quarters.
He said: “Elections are far more than actual voting, just as democracy includes more than just elections. It is in this light that we draw attention to the fact that the PDP and its standard-bearers (Obaseki and his running mate, Philip Shaibu) have continued to pursue many pre-election suits in various courts against us, all totalling 13. One of such cases came up in the High Court, Benin on October 2, 2020, days after the election.
“On our part, we had filed two pre-election cases against the PDP and its standard bearers, challenging their eligibility to contest the election. These are all lawful and integral parts of the electoral process in any democracy, which we must all respect and acknowledge, as genuine democrats.
“The outcome of these pending cases have direct effect on the election. Consequently, we have decided to continue with our pre-election cases in full exercise of our legal rights, just as our opponents have considered it their prerogative to also continue with their pre-election cases against us.
“Our cause to uplift our state, using the democratic system, is a noble mission, from which we shall never waiver. As law-abiding citizens, we must all continue to believe in the electoral process as an important part of the democratic system, as it remains the best method of choosing who leads the people, devoid of violence and avoidable acrimony.”
Ize-Iyamu, a former Secretary to the Edo State Government (SSG), also recalled that the election process to determine who would occupy the office of governor of Edo state for the next four years began officially in June this year, with the unveiling of the election timetable by INEC.
He noted that to the glory of God Almighty, the election held on September 19, 2020, with the outcome later announced by INEC, while thanking the Lord for the relatively peaceful nature of the voting process in most parts of the state.
Governorship candidate of APC in Edo said: “Contrary to orchestrated media reports, the election was neither free nor fair. There were many episodes of violence, voter intimidation and falsification of results. In particular, there were unlawful cancellations of results particularly from Urhonigbe South and North in Orhiomwon LGA, while results were falsified from many polling units in Ofunama in Ovia Southwest LGA, and in parts of Ovia Northeast, Owan West, Oredo, Egor, Ikpoba-Okha, Esan Northeast, Esan West, Esan Southeast and Uhunmwode LGAs.
“Sadly, two persons were killed during the election, while gun-wielding thugs took over collation centres in many locations, without the intervention of law-enforcement agents. There were also many cases of malfunctioning of card readers, which disenfranchised duly-registered voters, in addition to many cases of unregistered voters voting with pre-purchased voters’ cards not collected by their actual owners.
“These malpractices could easily form the basis to challenge the election results. We have, however, decided not to commence an election petition. This is to avoid further tension in the state. We are also mindful that the leadership of our great party, the APC, and many well-placed individuals have made pronouncements endorsing the process, which we have chosen to respect.
“Let me, once again, wholeheartedly thank the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, for his statesmanship and support throughout the electioneering. We thank the national leadership of our party, led by His Excellency Mai Mala Buni, the Governor of Yobe State; our National Campaign Council, led by His Excellency Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, the Governor of Kano State, APC’s governors, leaders and members of the National Assembly and other leaders of our party at both state and national levels, for their immense contributions.”
Ize-Iyamu also sincerely thanked His Royal Majesty, Omo N’ Oba N’ Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, the Oba of Benin; the Otaru of Auchi, Alhaji Aliru Momoh, Ikelebe III; and other monarchs for their unceasing prayers for the peace of the state before, during and after the election.
He expressed appreciation to the religious leaders for their prayers and intercessions throughout the campaigns and even thereafter.
The former SSG commended the good people of Edo State for their peaceful conduct, despite the hostile and provocative actions of state officials, which he said remained unabated, while urging everyone to remain law-abiding, as responsible citizens.
The candidate of APC specially thanked his innumerable supporters for their steadfast support and tremendous show of love, while admonishing them to remain calm, while keeping faith alive for a better Edo state, which, according to him, all the stakeholders would be proud of.
PDP, Edo State chapter, however, claimed that the attempt by Ize-Iyamu to justify the legal actions against the governing party in Edo PDP, Obaseki, and his deputy, Philip Shaibu, was disingenuous and destined to fail.
It agreed that Ize-Iyamu had the right to approach the courts for whatever reason, but claimed that it was trite for him to allude to the 13 pre-election suits the PDP filed against him and his running mate, Mallam Gani Audu, as the reason for his legal actions.
Edo PDP, through its Publicity Secretary, Chris Nehikhare, said: “Hope is the currency of politicians. We are aware that the only currency left to share within the APC and Edo Peoples Movement (EPM) is the currency of hope. The futile pre-election matter is to act as oxygen for the few remaining Edo people still in APC/EPM bondage. They are to be fed hope as a strategy, so that the shackles fitted to their ankles and wrists can be maintained.
“The defeated APC’s governorship candidate in Edo stated that the election, which has been adjudged as one of the best in the history of the country, was characterised by violence, manipulation and disenfranchisement, among others, but he would not challenge it at the election petitions tribunal.
“Pastor Ize-Iyamu should know that he cannot retrieve what he lost at the poll at the court. The PDP, Governor Obaseki, Comrade Shaibu and other Edo people are waiting for him.”
The PDP in Edo also claimed that the reality was that the state had been reset, with all hands needed to sustain the alleged gains of almost four years of Obaseki’s administration, in order to move Edo to greater heights.
The factional Chairman of APC in Edo, Anselm Ojezua, who is an ally of Obaseki, but has refused to join his benefactor in PDP, thereby remaining in the opposition party (APC) to cause maximum damage, after the election, while congratulating Edo governor and his deputy, claimed that irresponsible leadership cost APC victory in the state, in spite of the massive vote buying across the 18 LGAs of Edo. He urged the governorship candidate of APC in Edo and other contestants to sheathe their swords and join hands with Obaseki to move the state forward.
Ojezua said: “We join President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Caretaker Committee of our great party (APC) to congratulate Governor Obaseki and his deputy, Rt. Hon. Philip Shaibu, on their victory at the just-concluded governorship election in Edo State.
“The election has been generally acclaimed to be peaceful, orderly and transparent. The people of Edo State have made their choice in a very clear and unambiguous manner.
“Our loss at the poll stems from the needless and avoidable crisis foisted on the party by a selfish, insensitive, arrogant and irresponsible leadership.
“While we begin to take steps to try and salvage the wellbeing of our party in the state, we call on the (Edo) governor to be magnanimous in victory, while we urge all the contestants to sheathe their swords and put the election behind them.
“We must all close ranks with the government, in order to ensure a seamless transition to the final lap of governance, for the benefit of our people, rather than subject them to further needless distraction and rancour.”
The factional chairman of APC (Ojezua) in Edo also stated that the establishment of a robust infrastructural base to guarantee economic growth, at this critical time, must be the paramount consideration and in the best interest of the good people of the state.
Ize-Iyamu, who maintained that Col. David Imuse (rtd.) remains the authentic Chairman of APC in Edo, however, debunked claims that he was under pressure from leaders of the party to accept defeat by Obaseki.
Edo governorship candidate of APC, through his Director of Communication and Media, Prince John Mayaki, declared that in all fairness to the national leadership of his party, they never mounted any pressure on him to accept defeat.
The senior pastor of RCCG also stated that dignity would manifest in how he and his teeming supporters bounce back from the minor setback.
With Edo APC and Ize-Iyamu’s two pre-election matters still in court, challenging the eligibility of PDP, Obaseki and Shaibu to contest the September 19 governorship election, it is not yet Uhuru for the two chieftains of PDP (Obaseki and Shaibu) in the state, even if they are inaugurated for a second term on November 12 this year.