Ahead of the September 10 governorship election in Edo State, there are indications that all is not well with the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State, as officials engage in verbal warfare.
Specifically, the State Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Godwin Erhahon, reflecting the deep division in the party before the governorship primaries last month, is accusing the State Chairman of the party, Barrister Aselm Ojezua, of plotting with powers that be to rubbish the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie Oyegun.
He said the action of Mr. Ojezua and others is seriously threatening the chances of the party in the forthcoming September 10 governorship election in the state.
Addressing journalists in Benin at the weekend, Erhahon exposed intrigues that played out before the party primaries and factors working against reconciliation after the primaries. This is even as he accused Ojezua as one of those making reconciliation impossible in the APC.
“I called you to hear my reactions to the content of the interview granted by my State Chairman, Mr. Anselm Ojezua which was published on page 38, of last Saturday’s Vanguard Newspaper in which he attempted, with obvious malice and naked falsehood, to discredit and disparage our able National Chairman and first Executive Governor of Edo State, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
“I waited this long because I expected Mr. Ojezua to deny some of the false assertions that were credited to him in the interview. Several group of Chief Oyegun’s loyalists and sympathizers approached me in protest against the interview and threatened street protests but I calmed them down with the promise that if Mr. Ojezua refused to correct himself within a reasonable time, I will react to put the records straight as an insider,” Erhahon said.
According to Erhahon, for the State Chairman of the party who “claimed to be seeking reconciliation of aggrieved parties within the party, to refer to Engineer Chris Ogiemwonyi and Barrister Ken Imasuangbon, the two aspirants who are seeking redress though due process, as mischievous, is in itself a wild demonstration of mischief and it rubbished the purported bid for reconciliation. It exposed the immaturity and bias of the State Chairman himself.”
The Edo APC spokesman stated that Mr. Ojezua’s accusation of the National Working Committee isolating the State Government and the State Executive Committee from the process leading to the primaries was uncalled for when Governor Adams Oshiomhole, openly expressed preference for a particular aspirant out of about fifteen of them.
“In fanatic pursuit of the governor’s preference, the State Chairman and some of the State Officials [of the party] became vicious campaigners for the ‘preferred aspirant’ with unbearable hostilities towards others. With such unprecedented bias and hostility from the officials who ought to be co-umpires in the process, the National Working Committee took the right decision to exclude the State EXCO and bypass the State Secretariat headed by those biased and hostile officials from the entire process.
“The hostilities of the State Chairman and his group were so vicious that till date, they still keep malice with those who visited the Deputy Governor, Dr. Pius Odubu, then the leading governorship aspirant, after some sponsored gunmen attacked his campaign rally at Auchi and shot six persons including one of his police orderly, an inspector, who lost an eye.
Erhahon queried: “The Chairman has not called or visited the Deputy Governor till date. Besides, soon after the ‘preferred aspirant’ came to campaign to the State Executive, the Chairman refused access to other aspirants to the State Secretariat to campaign. How then would the National Working Committee have allowed nomination form to be sold at the State Secretariat that had been declared a no-go-area to other aspirants?”
He revealed that till now, neither the Governor nor the State Chairman has discussed their preference of an aspirant with the National Chairman who hails from Edo State. Nor have they mentioned it to Prince Tony Momoh, another national leader of the party who hails from Edo State, just as he said the State Chairman never discussed it with the State Executive Committee either, adding that “they wanted everybody to obey the governor’s preference as law without questioning.”
Mr. Erhahon pointedly declared that “Mr. Ojezua lied when he alleged that Chief Oyegun mutilated the delegates register for the primaries. The National Headquarters, headed by Chief Oyegun only resisted attempt by the State Chairman and his agents to smuggle names of selected members of the campaign organization of their preferred aspirant into the register as replacement for those who have left the party as delegates, including party officials who were not supporting their preferred aspirant.
“This was after the State Working Committee resolved that there should be no replacement of delegates till after the primaries. I challenge Mr. Ojezua to show evidence, of any meeting where the State Working Committee reversed itself on the decision to disallow replacement of delegates”, he said.
The Edo APC spokesman accused the State Chairman of substituting the State Executive Committee with the Campaign Committee of the preferred aspirant, alleging that he never discussed with the Executive of the Party at any level except with the said Campaign organization even after the preferred aspirant has emerged candidate and when effort ought to have been made to bring all hands on deck.
“It is no longer secret to insiders that till this moment, Mr. Ojezua is still instigating most members of the campaign organization of the preferred aspirant, an organization that ought to have terminated with the primaries, to refuse reconciliation with the officers whom they mischievously suspended,” he further alleged.
Erhahon who further accused Ojezua of working against APC in the last Presidential election and summarily removing a ward Chairman, Ikhine and others who called for sanctions against party saboteurs from office wthout due process, observed that if Chief Oyegun were as petty as Mr. Ojezua, he would have dissolved the State Executive Committee since or suspended Mr. Ojezua.
“Is it not ridiculous for Mr. Ojezua to have confessed in that interview that he complained to the Deputy National Chairman on the way the preliminaries to the Edo State Governorship primaries were being handled by the National Working Committee instead of the National Chairman himself who is from Edo State? The fact is that, he was afraid to meet Chief Oyegun who knew all that he was doing wrong in Edo State.
“Mr. Ojezua was trying to hide the facts of how badly he has belittled the State Executive Committee of the Party when he boasted that he set up a reconciliation committee soon after the primaries whereas it was the Governor who set up the committee with a member of the Board of Trustees, Prince Malik Afegbua as Chairman and six members drawn mainly from the campaign organization of their preferred aspirants who were among those who caused the grievances.
“The committee was a still-birth because most members dare not meet the aggrieved aspirants and leaders whom they offended in different ways. If Mr. Ojezua expected them to succeed, he would not have condemned the most aggrieved aspirants whom they were supposed to appease as “mischievous” in his interview under reference”, he said.
Observing that his duties as party spokesman were being carried out from Government House, the APC Publicity Secretary stated that “today reconciliation of aggrieved leaders and officers is more complex than the campaign for the election itself as I rightly predicted because some persons are impersonating God and refusing to humble themselves and penitently apologize to those they have offended and whose support we now seriously need to win the election.
”I decided to bare my mind on these issues today because they threaten the chances of APC in the September 10 governorship election and I believe that the public deserve to hear the truth. I see the vicious outburst of Mr. Ojezua on Chief Oyegun as a part of attempt to discredit him. It seems to me part of a scheme to bring down those Benin leaders who have risen above state level. As I hinted earlier, I am aware that some groups from across the state are planning to protest against the unjustifiable attack on Chief Oyegun if by tomorrow, Mr. Ojezua fails to retract his statements. They see it as the voice of his master, not his.”
“As a Benin son, I will not keep silent while the heroes of my fatherland are being pulled down. Enough is enough!” Erhahon said.
When contacted, Edo State Chairman of APC, Barrister Anselm Ojezua queried if Erhahon was Oyegun, Ogiemwonyi or Imasuangbon, adding: “I can only comment if either Oyegun, Ogiemwonyi or Imasuangbon respond to my statement, otherwise I will be elevating Erhahon.”