The major aspirant of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, has said the voluntary exit of Governor Godwin Obaseki from the party will boost his chances of becoming the next governor of the state.

Mr Ize-Iyamu disclosed this in an interview with The Nation newspaper on Sunday. The interview was published a day to the party’s primary election where a candidate will be elected to represent the APC in the September gubernatorial election.

When asked about what he felt about Mr Obaseki’s defection from the APC to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), he said: “Interestingly, only a handful of people are exiting the party with the governor. The majority of party members and leaders in Edo State are happy to see his back because he has been a major barrier to achieving peace and unity. He was going about suspending people, even local council officials, for not supporting him or adopting his combative stance. All of these people are excited he is out.”

“His voluntary exit has given room for talks and fence-mending in a conducive atmosphere. Therefore, I do not think it is going to have any negative impact at all. On the contrary, it has helped the party to sharpen its focus, put its house together, and rally loyal and committed members ahead of the election.”

Speaking further, Mr Ize-Iyamu said the disqualification of Mr Obaseki from the party’s primary was not because Mr Ize-Iyamu was anointed by any godfather but because the screening committee could not reconcile the inconsistencies in the governor’s academic credentials.

“Even he (Obaseki) did not appear able to. We were all witnesses to how a similar situation cost the party dearly in Bayelsa State, and as they say, once bitten, twice shy. The leadership of the party learned from the situation and insisted on a painstaking, objective screening of aspirants without any form of bias or prejudice. We reasonably were not willing to take risks, not least because of a man who was neck-deep in anti-party activities, is unpopular in the state, and nearly jeopardized the status of the party with his incompetence and intolerance.”

“I had, and still have, no problems going up against Godwin Obaseki. On the contrary, he has been the one running away from a fair contest. Everyone saw what happened in December 2019 when the Edo State chapter of the APC organised a rally to welcome me back ceremoniously. You saw how Governor Obaseki abused the powers of his office, passed emergency laws banning rallies and other legal gatherings, and deployed both security agents and thugs to deny our members and followers access to the event. He tried to block my return because he was afraid.”

He also boasted that whether he runs under APC or any other party, he would defeat Mr Obaseki.

“Whether in the APC or any other platform, as long as the contest will be determined by Edo people, I am confident of victory against him. If you drive around the state today and feel the pulse of the people, you will understand why I am that confident. The verdict is out on Obaseki’s term as governor and in summary, the people are tired of his problematic leadership, which has focused only on personal battles and needless confrontations.”

Oshiomhole factor

When asked if he is comfortable being seen as an Adams Oshiomhole’s loyalist, Mr Ize-Iyamu simply said he has a good relationship with the embattled national chairman.

“I have a relationship with him that dates back to the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, so it is understandable if some people think that, as a result, we may have a special relationship that gives me an edge.”