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EDO GOVERNORSHIP PRIMARY…How Presidency Arm-twisted APC Leadership, Others

Fresh facts have emerged how the national leadership of All Progressives Congress and other stakeholders were arm-twisted by the Presidency in the Edo governorship primary election.
Presidency and the National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress (NWC-APC) had toed different lines over the choice of the candidate of the governing party for the forthcoming gubernatorial election in Edo State slated for September, this year.
APC had scheduled the intra-party election to pick its flag-bearer for last Saturday, amidst divergent interests by critical stakeholders from within and outside Edo State.
Loyalists of the key players in the Presidency and NWC fought dirty in Benin City, the Edo state capital, on Saturday, as they pushed for the emergence of the preferred candidate of their benefactors to fly the flag of the ruling party in the crucial off season September 18 government election.
The ill-fated primary produced “two winners” in the persons of a member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Dennis Idahosa, who represents Ovia South/West-Ovia North/East in Edo South senatorial district of the state and Senator Monday Okpebholo, who is representing Edo Central in the 10th Senate.
LEADERSHIP learnt that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu had succumbed to pressures from his chief of staff, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, to endorse Idahosa in the countdown to Saturday’s election.
Gbajabiamila, the major promoter of Idahosa, after securing the presidential nod, recruited a former governor of the state, Senator Adams Oshiomhole, as the arrow-head of the deal to clear all hurdles against Idahosa at the state level.
Oshiomhole later set the stage for Idahosa’s emergence in the three senatorial districts of the state.
In the emerging scenario, Oshiomhole was compelled to abandon some of his lieutenants, who had shown interest in the election and touted their relationship with him as an asset to clinch victory in the intra-party election.
Besides, some of Oshiomhole’s loyalists, including his former deputy, Chief Pius Obudu, were tactically eliminated from the race, for lacking financial muscles to prosecute the general election.
Oshiomhole reportedly persuaded some of them to drop their aspirations since they could not withstand the financial war-chest, which Gbajabiamila had promised to deploy in aid of Idahosa to clinch the highest political office in Edo state.
One of our sources in the Presidency said Gbajabiamila, peddling presidential influence, also got some front-runners in the election to back out in order to pave the way for Idahosa. He promised some of them juicy federal appointments as reward.
The source told LEADERSHIP that the party’s NWC was oblivious of the game plan by the Presidency to install Idahosa.
LEADERSHIP was told that the NWC, since it was not taken into confidence by Gbajabiamila, was working to deliver Okpebholo, who hails from Edo central, an area which has been denied governorship seat of the state since the advent of the current political dispensation in 1999.
The tenure Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor, an indigene of the area, who was inaugurated on May 29, 2007, to succeed Chief Lucky Igbinedion (Edo South), was cut short by judicial pronouncement on November 11, 2008.
Osunbor’s fate paved the way for Oshiomhole’s (Edo North) governorship till 2016, and he was succeeded by the incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki, also from Edo South.
The Abdullahi Ganduje-led NWC was working on the permutation that it would only be fair to accord Edo central the deserving opportunity, more so that Obaseki was planning to pick his successor from the zone, on the banner of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
This, in the wisdom of Ganduje and his colleagues in the NWC, would engender healthy competition between two frontline political parties in the general election.
It was also gathered that Senate President Godswill Akpabio, in a bid to push Okpebholo through, also dropped the name of President Tinubu before the national chairman of the party, Ganduje, to help the cause of his colleague in the Senate.
Akpabio was quoted to have told Ganduje that Okpebholo was the person favoured by the president. One of our sources said Ganduje fell for Akpabio’s subtle blackmail.
The source said Akpabio’s revelation also strengthened the resolve of the NWC to back the Edo senator.
However, findings by LEADERSHIP revealed that Ganduje only got wind of Gbajabiamila’s clandestine plans less than 48 hours to the primary election, in the early hours of Thursday.
As the rumours filtered to him, Ganduje raced to Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja, for an audience with Tinubu, who was billed to travel to Addis Ababa, for clarification on the festering issue.
One of the sources told this newspaper that “as Ganduje struggled for recognition for a handshake, Mr. President sauntered forward, facing the national chairman frontally, he said ‘has Femi (Gbajabiamila) delivered my message on the Edo primaries to you? But if he has not told you, this is my position: go and deliver Dennis Idahosa.’
“The NWC had programmed all human and material resources in favour of Senator Monday Okpebholo and some of the arrangement could no longer be altered to accommodate the now glaring interest of Mr. President. The national chairman’s frantic calls and contacts to the various committees to change the course of action were futile. The committee members were either unreachable or they refused to budge and listen to the fresh order.
Already, the controversial intra-party election has produced three winners.
Imo State Governor and chairman of the APC governorship primary committee, Hope Uzodinma, announced Idahosa winner of the primary.
According to the governor, Idahosa polled 40,453 votes to defeat Okpebholo, who garnered a paltry 100 votes.
In another twist, the NWC-appointed returning officer for the election, Dr. Stanley Ugboajah, announced Okpebholo winner having polled 12,145 votes to defeat Idahosa who got 5,536 votes.
Meanwhile, the APC Critical Stakeholders Group has called on party’s national chairman, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje to disregard the declaration of Hon. Dennis Idahosa by Governor Hope Uzodinma as APC governorship candidate for the September 21 Edo State Governorship election.
The APC Critical Stakeholders led Hon. Emmanuel Godwin who made the call at a press conference in Abuja yesterday, insisted that Anamero Sunday Dekeri, popularly called Danco was the validly nominated candidate governorship at the party’s primary election held on Saturday.
Ganduje Succumbs to Presidency, Congratulates Idahosa
The National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Abdullahi Ganduje, has congratulated Rep. Dennis Idahosa (APC-Edo) over his emergence as the party’s candidate for the upcoming governorship election in Edo State.
Ganduje said this in a statement by Edwin Olofo, his Chief Press Secretary on Sunday in Abuja following the primaries.
He also commended Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State, who was the Chairman of the APC Edo State Governorship Primary Election and Appeal Committee, for conducting a credible exercise.
“At this point, I want to call on all the aspirants to bury the hatchet and work for the interest of the party so that our party will emerge victorious,” he said.
Ganduje also commended the state APC stakeholders and assured them that the party would do everything possible to ensure that Edo State was delivered.Ugboajah-led committee sent to the state was the one recognised by law as returning officers, adding that Governor Hope Uzodinma does not have the power to return any aspirant as elected.
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