Less than 60 days before the Edo state gubernatorial election, suspicion and distrust spread in the camps of the two main contenders, Governor Godwin Obaseki, the candidate of the people’s Democratic Party (PDP), and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, the standard-bearer of the governorship of the All Progressives Congress(APC).
Both men will be meeting again for the second time in four years, although under different political parties.
While Obaseki contested under the APC in 2016, Ize- Iyamu ran on the platform of the PDP.
While Ize-Iyamu formally joined the APC in December, 2019, Obaseki switched allegiance to the PDP few weeks ago after he was barred from participating in the APC governorship primary over alleged discrepancies in his academic credentials.
Daily Independent findings reveal that while the two politicians are optimistic of victory at the polls, the situation in the two political parties is at best tricky owing to the refusal of their supporters to defect with them to their new abode.
In PDP, Dan Orbih, the immediate past state chairman of the party, refused to move to APC with Ize-Iyamu while Anselm Ojezua, a factional chairman of the APC and a key loyalist of Governor Obaseki, has refused to join him in the PDP.
There were reports that even though Ojezua and his excos remained in the APC, they would work against the interest of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, the party’s candidate in the election.
When our correspondent asked Ojezua whom he and his supporters would vote for or whether they would defect to the PDP at the last minute, he declined comment saying he was suspending all interviews till after the election.
“I am not granting any interview till after the election. We will talk after the election is over,” he said.
On his part, Orbih, who is the chairman of the State Campaign Council of the PDP, urged the electorate to vote for Governor Obaseki for sustainable development and growth of the state.
He also said that the governor defeated Ize-Iyamu in 2016 and was bound to repeat the victory on September 19.
Findings also reveal that since it was impossible to know the minds of humans, both Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu were cautious of the support they had been promised by lots of stakeholders, including governors from the APC and the PDP.
It was rumoured that even though he had left their fold, APC governors were sympathetic to the cause of Governor Obaseki and were ready to assist him win the election with the hope that he would decamp back to the APC after winning.
The governors, according to reports, believe that it was not Obaseki’s intention to join the PDP but that he was forced to do so by the former national leadership of the APC, led by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the party’s former national chairman, who is at loggerheads with him.
Speaking last month, Obaseki said even though he was now in the PDP, he still enjoyed the support and sympathy of his colleagues in the APC.
“I still thank God that I enjoy national support; not just support from my colleagues from the APC. I think the support is national.
“They are people who do not accept injustice. From what I have seen over the past several weeks and months, the support is across board. It is not just from APC governors alone.”
However, speaking with our correspondent, a source in the APC said, “Obaseki will be deceiving himself if he goes to bed sleeping thinking he has the support of APC governors. He must work extra hard if really he wants to win, otherwise the APC will sweep the state.
“The election is a battle of pride. Oshiomhole is like a wounded lion at the moment. Having lost his position as national chairman, which was orchestrated by Obaseki, he believes the governorship election presents an opportunity for him to get his pound of flesh at the governor.
“Forget the fact that he has lost his position as national chairman, Oshiomhole is still a force to reckon with in Edo politics.
“The crowd that received him last weekend when he returned to Iyamho, his hometown, is a testament to that fact.
“Don’t also forget that before he was sacked as national chairman, APC governors who were on Oshiomhole’s side were more than that of Obaseki.
“So, the governor will be making a mistake if he thinks that all the APC governors are sympathetic to his cause.
“There is high suspicion that both parties have ‘sleeper cells’ within them that will be activated on election.
“Also, there is this huge cloud of suspicion hanging over the head of a majority of APC governors who are friends of Obaseki.
“Some say the governors may not want to contribute substantial monies towards the election against Obaseki as a colleague but Ize-Iyamu has many people ready to contribute to his campaign,” our source said.
Also speaking, another source said two major albatross hanging on Ize- Iyamu’s neck are the issue of his ongoing trial with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over an alleged N700 million fraud and some of the statements made against him by Oshiomhole during the 2016 governorship election.
“These two major factors may work against Ize-Iyamu. It remains to be seen if the APC loyalists who are in Edo may want to vote for Ize-Iyamu based on what Oshiomhole revealed about him in 2016, especially on Edo treasury.
“Also, nobody can tell if President Buhari, who has anti-corruption as one of his main agenda, will like to campaign and endorse Ize-Iyamu.
“But I think the president is supporting him because if not, he would have called for a cancellation of the primary that produced Ize-Iyamu at the last NEC meeting,” our source said.
Speaking with Daily Independent, Crusoe Osagie, Special Adviser on Media and Communications to Obaseki, said polls conducted in the state showed that given a free and fair election, Governor Obaseki would win by a landslide as online polls conducted by the APC showed that the governor enjoyed up to 75 percent approval rating.
According to him, having realised that they stand no chance, the APC, working hand-in-hand with a prominent business mogul in the state, have been secretly recruiting thugs to intimidate people and cause violence on election day.
“Like I always say, Governor Obaseki will win by a wide margin. The people of Edo are waiting for September 19 to renew his mandate.
“However, the already jittery opposition, having realised they stand no chance, are already planning to recruit thugs from outside the state and cause violence.
“President Buhari will allow Edo people to exercise their franchise freely and we are confident that when that is done, Governor Obaseki is going to emerge the winner of the election.
“As we speak today, Obaseki has approval rating of not less than 75 to 80 percent. If the election were conducted today, Ize- Iyamu would not score up to 30 percent of the votes,” he said.
Also speaking, John Mayaki, Chairman of the Edo APC Media Campaign Council, said Ize-Iyamu was currently leading Obaseki in an online poll by Ripples Nigeria which, he said, was sponsored by the governor.
“I don’t need to issue a statement on what they said. The online poll speaks for itself. The work Edo people started with Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu during the APC primary, they will complete on September 19,” he said.