Edo APC ward congress: Inside story of how Oshiomhole’s consensus gospel failed in Edo South on April 12, 2014 / in Politics 12:37 am / Comments
Tension in Bini land as Odubu, Ize-Iyamu loyalists battle for the soul of APC Cancelled ward congress holds today
By SIMON EBEGBULEM, BENIN CITY
The much awaited ward congress of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo state held last Tuesday in Edo state but the echoes of the congress is still giving the party members a great concern ahead the 2015 general elections in the state.
The congress was postponed last Saturday to Tuesday April 8, 2014, due to what the State Publicity Secretary of the party, Comrade Godwin Erhahon explained as the late arrival of materials and officials of the Congress committee from Abuja to the State. Besides, he said that “the leadership of the party also agreed that leaders should harmonize the list of their executives before Tuesday so as to avoid a rancorous primaries”.
The top hierarchy of the party were jittery over the congresses because it is coming at a time that is very close to 2015 general elections. There won’t be governorship election in Edo state until 2016 but those eyeing the position are preparing grounds to make their ambitions a reality.
Having considered the situation and what a crack in the party will mean for the PDP, Governor Adams Oshiomhole went around the three senatorial districts prior to the congresses, appealing to party leaders to make the exercise a family affair. He succeeded in his native Edo North senatorial district and Edo Central but met a brick wall in Edo South senatorial district known as the Benin area.
In order to show leadership in the harmonization process, the governor who already was locked in a political battle with a leader of the party in his Etsako West Local Government, Alhaji Usman Shagadi conceded positions to Shagadi. They both hugged themselves and laid down their arms. The same thing happened in other local governments in the North and Central districts. The consensus in these areas made the Tuesday congress a mere formality.
But in Edo South, Oshiomhole’s gospel of consensus was shot down by the former South South Vice Chairman of the party, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu who preferred that the candidates emerge through a pure congress. But the governor disagreed, sensing the bloodshed that may be experienced if they are allowed to go for a full blown congress.
Ize-Iyamu, the Deputy Governor of the state, Dr Pius Odubu are both from Orhionmwon Local Government Council and it is no longer a secret that their governorship ambitions have factionalized the party not only in Edo South but in the entire state. The situation would have been worst if Oshiomhole has not been using different groups such as the Edo in Safe Hands led by his Commissioner for Works, Osarodion Ogie and the Edo Solidarity Movement (ESM) led by his Political Adviser, Charles Idahosa to check their excesses.
Oshiomhole held series of meetings prior to the Tuesday primaries to reconcile the two groups but as usual, his Deputy Odubu will always listen to his boss but Ize-Iyamu saw it differently and disagreed with the issue of consensus, insisting it will be better for people to test their popularity at the grass root rather than embarking on consensus which he believes is undemocratic.
Having failed in his effort to ensure that they concur with the consensus, Oshiomhole had no choice than to allow them go for full blown congress in the South, but with a proviso, “there must be no violence”. The governor vowed that if anybody is killed in the process, he was going to treat whoever was involved like a murderer. The two groups signed undertakings of no violence and went to work.
On the said day of the congress, there was a large turnout of party members in Edo South, including Orhionmwon where the duo came from. It was actually like a carnival as party members danced and drank, awaiting to be counted. There was presence of soldiers, mobile policemen and armed vigilante groups in Orhiomnwon monitoring the exercise.
Unfortunately, the exercise was marred with paucity of materials and lack of presence of officials from the National Secretariat and result sheets. A leader of the party told Saturday Vanguard that “there was actually no result sheet, what we were told was to conduct the exercise and write down the results in a sheet of paper with the supervision of the INEC representative and party officials from the state.
However, at Urhonigbe North where the deputy governor of Edo state, Pius Odubu voted, there was wild jubilation by his supporters just as he described the exercise as very democratic”. Asked why they refused to harmonize like his boss pleaded, Odubu said that “everybody tried to harmonize but it was difficult. Certain persons didn’t want that so we have to come to the field.
Congresses will come, it is one ingredient of democracy. People must be allowed to choose whoever they want in whatever capacity. We are aware that one person must be the preferred one and as a party that thrives in democracy, we encourage those who participated to rally round the victor. Win, lose or draw, we remain party faithfuls. I want to commend governor, Adams Oshiomhole for providing a level playing field for those that participated in the congresses.
The ward congress was peaceful, no violence of any kind was recorded and the people came out in their numbers in no mistakable terms to express their preferences for their candidates. I want to commend the governor for making the people come out to choose their preferred candidates. He should be commended for making adequate arrangement for security. We have come to the field now and the result is so loud and clear.
You can see the crowd celebrating and do you know why? Because from the results, we have won in the entire 11 wards. This is not the noise they make in Benin, this is practical politics in play”. Reacting in his ward 5 ,Ugboko Niro said they voted and a chairman and other executive members emerged in his ward but there was no result sheet to record the scores.
He said,“the only unfortunate thing was that when the other people saw the massive crowd, they decided to announce the result that they have won. But we have the INEC woman, the police and the representative of the party. So, we asked them to count and they have the records. This same thing happened in all the wards and the other side said they have won and for me, it is funny. But I hope the party will address the abnormality. If we are talking democracy in the party, we must show that we can do that internally,” he stated.
At Ikpoba Okhai, the exercise was also peaceful. A party leader in the area attributed the delay in the arrival of materials to the harmonization of positions across the wards in the state. “I can rightly tell you that most ward executives of the party have been harmonized by the party.This was achieved after series of meetings involving the party chieftains and the Governor of the state.This issue of harmonization became necessary to avoid rancour or crisis in the party”.
Following what was regarded as victory for the Odubu group in Edo South, loyalists of Ize-Iyamu stormed the NUJ Press conference to call for the cancellation of the exercise. The protesters led by the Eson of Benin Kingdom, Chief Amos Osunbor warned that they may seek an alternative party if the exercise was not cancelled.
But the party in a swift response, through its Publicity Secretary, Godwin Erhahon,declared that the party is ready to entertain genuine complaints but it would not succumb to blackmail when the aggrieved members are threatening to pull out from the party.
However, the protesters including Nosa Adams, Mrs Evelyn Igbafe and three members of the state House of Assembly, called for the dissolution of the committee sent from Abuja to handle the congress, asserting that “the committee members became invisible, no committee members were seen even when we were asked to send names. And due the absence of the congress committee members, no material was on ground to record the results.
“As if the whole exercise was designed to fail, they sponsored violence, armed thugs beat up and unleashed mayhem on fellow party members. So, we called for the immediate cancellation of the purported congress and dissolution of the committee incharge of the exercise” Chief Osunbor declared.
Erhahon asserted that, “it is too early for any member of the party to begin to threaten. Congresses were held yesterday, if there are complaints, such could only be received today. So, it is too early for people to threaten. So if anybody is threatening that he is pulling out, you will know that even before the congress he or she has made up his mind to pull out because it is too early. On our part, the party is following due process in receiving and considering appeals and where there are good cases, it will be addressed and reviewed but we shall not succumb to blackmail”.
Worried by the protest, Oshiomhole summoned a meeting of all the leaders of the Edo South Wednesday night and it lasted till about 1am. After reviewing the situation, he faulted the process and reiterated the need to adhere strictly to democratic tenets in order to avoid crisis in the party. He therefore ordered that a fresh congress should holds today Saturday 12th April.