Efforts of governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC, to secure a soft-landing for Governor Godwin Obaseki have hit a brick-wall, if outcome of party leaders’ meeting with Professor Ibrahim Gambari, Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, are anything to go by.
Obaseki, seeking a second term has been disqualified from participating in the June 22 primary of the APC. Some members of the APC National Working Committee, NWC, met with Gambari, yesterday and elected to go ahead with direct primary for the three governorship aspirants cleared by the screening committee.
Exiting the meeting, APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, said being an incumbent does not guarantee victory at polls, adding that APC will win the governorship election.
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He hoped that Obaseki, considered to be on his way to the PDP, will remain in the APC and allow the party conduct direct primary. Edo State COVID-19 law prohibits gatherings of more than 20 persons in a place. Oshiomhole said he should allow APC especially after allowing PDP to hold ward congresses.
This happened on a day elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, asked Obaseki to defect to PDP to continue his good programmes for Edo, just as the opposition party said Obaseki would not be given automatic ticket.
Incumbency doesn’t guarantee victory – Oshiomhole
Fielding questions on speculations that Governor Obaseki was planning to defect to the PDP
Comrade Oshiomhole, said that all was set for conduct of the party’s primaries for the three aspirants cleared by the Screening Committee on June 22.
Speaking to State House correspondents after a meeting between the National Working Committee, NWC, and Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Oshiomhole said that the party is optimistic that Governor Obaseki as a party member will allow conduct of direct primaries in all wards in the state next week.
Asked if the APC was not worried that Governor Obaseki might be given ticket by the PDP, he said, “All those who decamped with Saraki, all lost. Those who did not decamp, Bauchi, Adamawa, sitting governors lost.
“Even Governor Kayode Fayemi, as a sitting governor, was defeated by (Ayodele) Fayose so there is no evidence that being a sitting governor guarantees you victory; it all depends on the local sentiments in the state.”
Asked whether the party is prepared for the primaries, he said: “We have gone a long way. We have advertised the time-table, there was the stage of collection of forms and about six people collected forms. In that time-table we also provided for screening and we also provided for appeals arising from the screening.
“This is standard practice that the NWC has adopted since 2015 and in the case of Edo, we have completed the process of selling forms, we have also completed the process of screening, we have completed the process of appeals arising from the screening by those who wish to take advantage and the NWC has met and has reviewed the report of the screening committee.
“We were unanimous that the screening was thoroughly done and found that three people were eligible to contest, with regard to the provisions of our constitution.
“We have these three gentlemen on parade to contest the primaries, which has been slated for the 22nd of June, in line with the provisions of our Constitution, we will do direct primaries. It’s more democratic, less susceptible to corrupt practices and it makes the party to be membership-driven.
“It’s always for me something interesting that after you have picked your candidate by a handful of elites, you’ll now organise a rally to introduce to the members who is going to contest an election. They are supposed to bring the members to us and we can only achieve that through direct primaries.
“So we are doing everything possible, having completed the issue of screening and we have upheld the result of the screening committee, we are proceeding now to conduct the primaries, God willing, on the 22nd of June in Edo State.”
Asked if any of the disqualified aspirants appealed their disqualification, he said that one of the aspirants approached the Appeal Committee, but the disqualification was upheld but he declined to mention the name of the aspirant.
‘No repeat of Bayelsa error’
He said: “One person appealed his disqualification and he had ample opportunity to approach the Appeal Committee and even with the benefit of coming with his lawyer because this time, because of what happened in Bayelsa, we have decided that we have to be very strict.
“There are always two issues that lead to disqualification after elections, as you saw in Bayelsa, we won the election, but for technical reasons, we lost it at the Supreme Court.
“We have decided we should look at the composition of the committee, we have very senior lawyers, professors of law, we have various professors who should be familiar with the issues of certificate, because those are always the booby traps; whether there are impunities or contradictions or forged documents.
“Then we have lawyers who have handled election matters, they know the issues that people can raise. Once you have filed your nomination because the courts have said INEC cannot screen candidates, the power to screen candidates, is exclusively that of the party. So if the party mismanaged the process and they produce someone who has a fake certificate or multiple age or issues of spelling, those lawyers know what can lead to disqualification.
“So we have confidence in the report they gave us, but in line with our democratic practice and as stated in our Constitution, they also had an opportunity to make an appeal and that opportunity was provided. One of them took advantage of it, unfortunately he wasn’t successful. The appeal panel
Also asked if the APC was ready for Governor Obaseki’s exit, he said, “I don’t know about exit. What we see from your media, electronic and print, is that he visited a number of PDP governors.
“We read from electronic and print that those consultations may have to do with his plan and so on. But we are not here to speculate. Our party is not a party of big men. It is governed by rules. Both the small and the big are subjected to that rule.
“I’m sure you will agree that our President led by example when we conducted direct primary in the last presidential election. We still went to Eagle Square for affirmation. So, if the President did not have the right of first refusal because our Constitution does not provide for it, we cannot under any circumstances now bend the rules when it comes to some people and change the rule when it comes to others.”
‘Obaseki’ll allow us hold primaries’
On whether the law by the state government will not affect the conduct of the primaries, he said: “In the face of that law, we saw last week, and I’m sure you guys are very vigilant, that the PDP conducted ward congresses to elect their delegates that will go to the stadium.
“With that, you start to reason whether people can gather up to 5,000 in a stadium. Can you achieve social distancing with 5,000 people in one location? Can you rather have a situation where you don’t carry people from villages to the centre?
“If they vote in their respective wards, you will not have more than 100 to 150 persons queuing to vote and maintain social distancing, and wear face masks. So, we will find a way round it.
“He is our governor. We are law abiding. But if PDP can conduct activities across 192 wards with the same law, I don’t think our governor will discriminate against his own party. So, we are hopeful that everything will be peaceful.”
Present at the meeting with Gambari were National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu; National Treasurer, Adamu Fanda; National Vice Chairman, North Central, Ahmed Sule; and National Welfare Secretary, Ibrahim Masari; and Chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum and Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu,
No automatic ticket for Obaseki, says state PDP chairman
Barring last-minute change of heart, Governor Obaseki is expected to defect to the PDP tomorrow, in time for the party’s primary scheduled for June 19 and 20.
However, the opposition party insists that there would be no automatic ticket for Obaseki.
Speaking to Vanguard on telephone yesterday, Edo Sate chairman of the PDP, Mr. Tony Aziegbemi said there will be no automatic ticket for Obaseki.
“There is nothing like automatic ticket for anybody; it is like that in any democratic environment. There is a process as laid down by the constitution of the party and that we will follow.
“But I can confirm to you that the governor, his deputy and the entire All Progressives Congress structure in the state will be joining the PDP soon. We have been in touch in the last few days, by tomorrow (today), I will be able to confirm the exact date he will be joining with his team.”
On reports that Obaseki has obtained PDP membership form in his Ward 4, Oredo Local Government Area, Aziegbemi said: “I am not aware of that yet.”
Obaseki won’t leave APC, join PDP in secret
Indeed, a member of the governor’s kitchen cabinet picked holes in speculations that Obaseki had picked PDP membership form.
“The governor has not picked PDP membership form. He cannot belong to two parties at the same time. He has not resigned his membership of the APC. His resignation from APC and joining of PDP will not be done in secret,” the top supporter of Obaseki told Vanguard.
Obaseki welcome but must queue — Imasuangbon
Reacting to the development, a governorship aspirant on the platform of PDP, Barr Ken Imasuagbon, said he would resist any attempt to hand over the party’s ticket to Obaseki.
Imasuangbon, who spoke with newsmen in Benin, however, said the governor was welcome to join the party but that he must join the queue.
According to him, “any attempt to hand the party’s primaries would be met with serious resistance, in fact, there will be no PDP primaries or whatever if the party’s leadership tries it. This is not a military coup, nor are we in military rule. The governor must subject himself to the party’s primaries; he will need to queue with the other aspirants if he wishes to join, but certainly not handing him the ticket automatically.
“Have you heard before that somebody will join a party and within three days he will be given the ticket? Did he buy the party’s nomination form, was he screened?”
APC members brainstorm on next move
In a related development, some chapters of the APC have been strategizing whether or not to defect with the governor.
A member of the House of Representatives from Edo South yesterday met with party leaders in his local government and urged that nobody should defect to the PDP. “He has met with the leaders and he has told them that they should not leave the APC for any reason because they all worked to build the party”.
In Akoko-Edo local government area, it was gathered that the leadership of APC in Ward 1 had met and suspended some members of the party for alleged anti-party activities.
Fresh permutations favour Obaseki in PDP
However, if he joins the PDP, fresh permutations appear to be in favour of Obaseki picking the PDP ticket. Obaseki who has since met with PDP chieftains including Governors Nyesom Wike of Rivers and Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom, is on the verge of defecting to the PDP, this week, Vanguard gathered, yesterday.
Although defection of a sitting governor is considered a big harvest by the receiving party, Obaseki will have to settle for terms put in place by the PDP in a bid to push for the renewal of his tenancy of Osadebey Avenue, the Edo State Government House.
Until Obaseki’s ordeal hit a new height last Friday, the PDP had literally settled for Hon. Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, a member of the House of Representatives and Chairman, Committee on Culture and Tourism as their preferred flag bearer. However, it appears the lawmaker from Oredo Local Government may have to settle for another election cycle, if recent developments in the camp of Obaseki are anything to by.
Vanguard’s findings reveal that though Obaseki would not be part of the June 19 and 20 primary, the winner would pave way for Obaseki by way of substitution of candidate in accordance with the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC’s rules. However, this would come with a price as the party has come up with a strategy to appease its members, particularly those who obtained the nomination forms to participate in the primaries.
Obaseki, Vanguard gathered, would have to sacrifice his trusted ally and incumbent Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu, with whom he had expected to run for a second term. A member of the National Working Committee of the PDP told Vanguard that in order to reward loyalty, Obaseki’s running mate would be provided by the party “if things go as planned.”
He said: “The party would accept his defection and would let him run on its platform. The reason for this is partly because the party believes Adams Oshiomhole’s vindictiveness must not be condoned in this circumstance. Again, you would recall that this party once lauded the governor’s development strides sometimes ago. So, we believe he has something to offer the good people of Edo State.
“But the matter at issue is a bit sensitive. We have leaders who stayed put with this party and refused to jump ship when we lost power to the opposition. In the past 12 years that we have been in opposition, they stayed and helped provide a robust opposition to the Edo State governments of Oshiomhole and later, Obaseki. It is for this reason the party has told the governor some truths, which are being seen as conditions. He would have to pick a running mate from the crop of our eminently qualified party chieftains from Edo State.”
Apart from Ogbeide-Ihama, the duo of philanthropist, Kenneth Imasuangbon and Engineer Gideon Ikhine, also obtained the governorship nomination forms but Imasuangbon is tipped to run with Obaseki in the September 19 election. The major factor working in his favour is that Imasuangbon, who like Ikhine, hails from Edo Central Senatorial District, is a serial contestant for the office who has paid his dues.
However, a confidant of Governor Obaseki who also worked with Oshiomhole in the past has cast doubts over the choice of Imasuangbon as a possible running mate to the embattled governor. Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said, “The governor will make up his mind on a running mate if it is not possible for him to go to this contest with Mr. Shaibu. Everybody is talking about Kenneth (Imasuangbon) but it might end up being another person. There are reasons for this which I won’t disclose yet.
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