The Edo governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Osagie Ize-Iyamu, has accused Governor Godwin Obaseki of ‘lying’ in his claim that he led a massive financial contribution to Adams Oshiomhole’s first election as governor of the state in 2008.
Mr Obaseki is running for reelection on the platform of the Peoples Democrtaic Party (PDP) after being denied renomination by the APC arising from his falling out with Mr Oshiomhole who was then the national chairman of the party.
Messrs Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu faced off on Sunday night in a two-hour debate organised by Channels Television ahead of the election coming up on Saturday.
They traded tackles on many issues, including the challenges facing the state and their individual plans to address them if elected in the election.
Mr Obaseki blamed his exit from the APC on Mr Oshiomhole, regarded until their fallout as his godfather.
He, however, said he first did Mr Oshiomhole a good turn when he ran for governor in 2008, before the former APC national chairman reciprocated by backing him for election as his successor in 2016.
Mr Obaseki said he not only supported Mr Oshiomhole’s governorship bid, but also drafted the the masterplan he used throughout his governorship.
He said this was the reason why Mr Oshiomhole went all out to back him for election as his successor.
“I was one of those people who helped Oshiomhole to become governor of Edo State. Having left labour, he had no money and did not even live in Edo State. Putting together a committee of friends, he was able to prosecute his ambition. We supported him, I put together the plan for his administration and for eight years, I worked pro bono to make sure he succeeded.
“Having succeeded, it was clear I could continue with the plan I gave him and that was why he was encouraged to support me in becoming governor.
“Having become governor, he thought I would become subservient, not as independent-minded I turned out to be. That must have angered him to think he can stop me,” the PDP governorship candidate said to applause from the audience.
However, in his reaction, Mr Ize-Iyamu dismissed the governor’s claim as false. He said Mr Obaseki did not contribute more than a hundred thousand naira to the almost N10 million raised for Mr Oshiomhole’s governorship bid.
Mr Ize-Iyamu, who has been criticised for not leading his campaign but leaving it to Mr Oshiomhole, also took a swipe at the incumbent governor, questioning his relevance in the state’s politics before his election bid in 2016.
“I am quite shocked that Governor Obaseki who had never voted in Edo State until his own election in 2016 would tell the world that he brought Oshiomhole to power.
“When I heard the claim that he raised the money, I laughed. When I first saw Oshiomhole after a long while, I asked.
“The reality is that the money Obaseki brought for Oshiomhole, his contribution was less than N100,000. We know how we raised money for Oshiomhole.
“I am surprised that in public like this, he will keep up with such lies for public acceptability. Oshiomhole needed to dress you up for public acceptability and gave the impression that you funded his election,” Mr Ize-Iyamu counter-punched.
But he did not explain how they sourced the rest of the campaign funds for Mr Oshiomhole in 2008.
Though the debate did not address the growing concerns on campaign finance violation, the exchange showed how loopholes in Section 91 of the Electoral Act are exploited by politicians.
The Act prohibits an individual or entity from making a donation above a million naira.
On Sunday, none of the candidates spoke on how they are financing their elections and how much they have received in donations. None of them has also made their campaign finance details public, although the Electoral Act only requires they submit the details to the electoral commission, INEC, latest, three months after the election.
Mr Ize-Iyamu was a principal official of Mr Oshiomhole’s government until he left the APC in 2016 and was nominated the PDP candidate but lost the election to Mr Obaseki then of the APC.
Both candidates have now directly swapped parties and the backing of Mr Oshiomhole.
The APC candidate explained that he left the APC in 2016 not because of ideological issues but due to the controversies around its governorship primary.