Ahead of the September 19, 2020 governorship election in Edo State, Captain Hosa Okunbo, businessman and philanthropist has distanced himself from last week’s botched mini- primary of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
The exercise held in Benin City with a plan to produce a consensus aspirant to face Governor Godwin Obaseki ended in a deadlock.
The five aspirants who participated in the mock primary were Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Engr. Chris Ogiemwonyi, Pius Odubu, General Charles Airhiavere (rtd) and Chief Solomon Edebiri.
In a statement after the botched primary, Hon. Sebastian Okungbowa, a staunch loyalist of Dr Pius Odubu had alleged that Okunbo, APC National Chairman Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu were plotting to manipulate the process in favour of Ize-Iyamu.
He also claimed that Okunbo took one of the aspirants to Tinubu’s residence in Lagos, adding that pressure was on Oshiomhole to dump Odubu, who he had allegedly promised the ticket due to his loyalty, consistency and frontline role in the rescue of the party.
According to the APC chieftain, the narrative they are selling is that Tinubu and Captain Okunbo have already endorsed Iyamu and prepared to sponsor his election because the APC needs an aspirant who already has big sponsors, to win an election because money is needed to defeat Obaseki.
However, Okunbo, who is the Chairman of Ocean Marine Solutions Limited, dissociated himself from Okungbowa’s claim and said that he never promised to fund any governorship candidate.
In a statement he personally issued, titled ‘Edo 2020: Smear Campaign, Mudslinging And Character Assassination, Please Leave Me Alone’, Okunbo who described the allegations as lies, denied the report that he had pledged to fund Ize-Iyamu’s campaign and that he had already introduced him to Tinubu.
His words: “It is, from all intents and purposes, infantile, silly and odious. It is the height of mischief and evil to drag a man who has been quietly minding his business into the political arena, which he has chosen to distance himself from.
“One of such malicious write-ups sprang up in the aftermath of the alleged botched shadow primaries to pick a consensus candidate among APC aspirants, seeking to challenge the incumbent governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki.”
Okunbo noted that he was neither involved nor a participant in the process of picking aspirants in the Edo governorship 2020 election.
He noted that he had not promised “to bankroll any aspirant. I do not have free or idle funds to bankroll any aspirants. I am a businessman minding his business.”
Specifically, he disclosed that he maintained “a close relationship with all the aspirants in the Edo governorship race. First, the governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki, is a friend and brother. We are supporting him in the discharge of his electoral mandate.
“Dr Chris Ogiemwonyi is my elder brother. I organised a party for him in Benin City when he retired from the NNPC. So, he’s someone I have a relationship with. Dr Pius Odubu is a brother and friend. I also have a relationship with.
“Pastor Osagie is a friend and a younger brother also; ditto the other aspirants. So, it is absolutely nonsensical to say that I attempted to manipulate the shadow primaries for a preferred candidate. It is mischief taken too far.”
Okunbo debunked another claim that he led Ize-Iyamu to Tinubu’s residence, noting that he never introduced any aspirant to the APC national leader.
“The last time I saw Asiwaju Tinubu was at the birthday party of the Esogban of Benin kingdom, Chief David Edebiri in Benin City. When did this phantom visit take place? I wish to state that I am not a coward. I have never been. I do not hide behind a finger when I speak or take a position on any issue.
“In Edo race, I have chosen to stand aside from the fray for personal and private reasons. I do not want to get involved. I am not involved. From 1999 to 2015, when I got involved in the political process, I have learnt my lessons; sometimes hard lessons.
“I wish to urge merchants of mischief, fake news purveyors, character assassins and smear campaigners to please leave me out of their machinations in their dirty politicking”.
“In this era of rampaging coronavirus pandemic, I want to be left alone to face my family and business concerns. The COVID-19 issue has placed an enormous burden on many businesses globally, especially the oil and gas industry which is my forte, which I am presently engaged in seeking how to navigate the troubled waters. Political distraction is a luxury which I can’t afford at this critical time.”