Eminent businessman Captain Hosa Okunbo has dissociated himself from the pre-primary meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) held in Benin city, the state capital, last week.
He said the rumours that he and other APC leaders were teaming up to endorse Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu because APC needs an aspirant who has big sponsors to win election and defeat Governor Godwin Obaseki is false.
The meeting was organised to discuss the possibility of producing a consensus candidate to face Obaseki at the shadow poll.
The five aspirants who participated at the pre-primary meeting were Pastor Ize-Iyamu, Chris Ogiemwonyi, Pius Odubu, General Charles Airhiavere (rtd) and Chief Solomon Edebiri.
In a statement after the partisan meeting, Hon. Sebastian Okungbowa, a staunch loyalist of Dr Odubu, alleged that Okunbo, APC National Chairman Adams Oshiomhole and other leaders were plotting to manipulate the process in favour of Ize-Iyamu.
He also claimed that pressure was on Oshiomhole to dump Odubu, who he had already promised the ticket due to his loyalty, consistency and frontline role in repositioning the party.
Okungbowa said many of them did not believe the sponsorship story, until they discovered that Oshiomhole had been silent on Odubu’s ambition.
He said Odubu enjoyed tremendous respect and followership in the chapter.
Okungbowa said:“It is sad that we are back to where we are coming from. This was the same politics they played in 2016 that led us to where we are today.
“They came to tell us that Dangote was for Obaseki and he was ready to bring billions for his election, and again this time, it is Captain Okunbo, whose name they are now using to ring the bell that he will sponsor Ize-Iyamu, if given the ticket. This is the dummy they have sold to many that made them to immediately start running after Ize-Iyamu.”
However, Captain Okunbo said the rumour that he and other APC leaders were teaming up to endorse Ize-Iyamu because APC needs an aspirant who has big sponsors to win election and defeat Obaseki is false.
Okunbo, who is the Chairman of Ocean Marine Solutions Limited, dissociated himself from Okungbowa’s claim , saying that he never promised to fund any governorship candidate in Edo State.
He said the rumours that he and other APC leaders were teaming up to endorse Ize-Iyamu because APC needs an aspirant who has big sponsors to win election and defeat Obaseki is false.
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 APC leaders.
He said: “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, Godwin Obaseki.”
Okunbo noted that he was neither involved nor a participant in the process of picking aspirants.
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.”
He said: “I have 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.
Okunbo added: “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 the APC national leader 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,”