Indications emerged on Saturday that the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party has given conditions to the embattled Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, to fly the party’s flag in the state’s September 19 governorship election.
The offers came following Friday’s disqualification of Obaseki from the June 22 governorship primary of the All Progressives Congress by the party’s screening committee for the election. The governor had, however, vowed not to appeal the decision.
The screening committee, headed by Prof Jonathan Ayuba, said the governor was disqualified because of the discrepancies in his names and certificates and for suing the party in contravention of the party’s rules.
In the report received by the party’s National Chairman, Mr Adams Oshiomhole, Ayuba noted that Obaseki claimed to have obtained a Higher School Certificate from the Institute of Continuing Education in Benin City but didn’t produce the certificate and the document he produced only attested to his attendance.
He further said the governor’s National Youth Service Corps certificate reads ‘Obasek Godwin’ and that it could be an error from the NYSC, an anomaly he said the governor never took any step to correct.
“In our interaction with issues raised, we concluded that (the) HSC was defective; the NYSC certificate and the fact that the aspirant took the party to court. The above aspirant, His Excellency, Godwin Obaseki, therefore, is not eligible to participate in the election,” he added.
Apart from the governor, other disqualified aspirants were Chris Ogiemwonyi and Mathew Iduoriyekenwen.
Those cleared to take part in the primary were Mr Osaro Obaze, Dr Pius Odubu and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
Ize-Iyamu, who was the governorship candidate of the PDP in the last election, is believed to be the choice of Oshiomhole and some members of the National Working Committee after the former’s fallout with Obaseki.
The development peaked the lingering disagreements between the governor and Oshiomhole, who is also Obaseki’s predecessor.
Investigations by Sunday PUNCH showed that the governor made overtures to the PDP leadership on the possibility of contesting governorship on the party’s platform.
However, to realise his second-term ambition, a highly placed source within the PDP top hierarchy, told one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity that the governor had been in contact with the party. The source stated that the governor was asked to take some steps before he could be admitted to be the party’s candidate in the coming election.
The source added that chief among the conditions was the directive that he (Obaseki) should meet with the three PDP governorship aspirants screened by the party’s screening committee for the primary.
The three screened PDP aspirants were Gideon Ikhine, Ogbeide Ihama and Kenneth Imansuangbon.
Sunday PUNCH gathered that one of the aspirants insisted that he would not step down for the governor.
Though the party had yet to release the screening result, it was learnt that the three aspirants were likely to be cleared for the primary.
It was further learnt that the governor was also directed to meet with the party leadership in the state to seek their support and understanding.
The source said there was no way the national PDP would support the governor without the approval of its officials in the state, including the aspirants.
Investigations showed that the party leadership was afraid that if leaders in the state were not carried along in the arrangement, it could boomerang and lead to the defection of aggrieved members to either the APC or any other political party after the primary.
The source said, “We at the national level are not interested in imposing the governor or anyone on the party in the state. He is going to be their governor and the people of the state are the voters. Our own is to campaign for him and our party.
“The governor is not yet a member of our party. We have laboured to remain relevant in the state and our popularity shows that we are going to win the forthcoming election.
“We are talking to the leaders of our party in the state. They have the final say on whether the governor should join or not. The governor had been directed to speak with the state leaders, the members of our party’s National Executive Committee in the state, members of the Board of Trustees and also members of different caucuses.
“When that is done, we can talk to him and the people. The governor will also have to meet with the aspirants who have picked our nomination and expression of interest forms and agree on modalities.
“When they agree, we will come in and iron out what to do. For now, we are watching from the sidelines.”
The source added that whatever agreement the governor reached with the party leaders and the aspirants would form the basis of whether he would join the party or not.
Besides, a close aide to Obaseki also said though some political parties were reaching out to the governor to contest governorship on their platforms, he had yet to take any decision.
The aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity in a telephone interview with SundayPUNCH on Saturday, disclosed that some leaders of the APC at the national level had also reached out to the governor, promising to intervene in the screening crisis.
He said, “I know that several consultations are ongoing. Between me and you, not just the PDP, but several political parties are with the governor. But he has not given any hint that he is talking to any one of the parties.’’
APC appeal committee backs gov’s disqualification
The APC Screening Appeal Committee on Saturday upheld Obaseki’s disqualification. The decision followed a review of the report of the party’s screening committee.
Chairman of the appeal panel, Dr. Abubakar Fari, who submitted the committee report to the Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee said only one out of the three disqualified aspirants appealed the decision.
Fari said, “We looked at the grounds on which Obaseki was disqualified and I would like to say his disqualification was based on solid grounds.”
He said the committee reviewed the screening committee report on the other two.
Fari added, “We found the screening committee’s findings on the other two as justified. In respect of Mathew, the appeal committee in the course of reviewing the report of the screening committee observed that it failed to make a finding and draw a conclusion of his prejudicial finding of filing a legal action against the national chairman and the party itself. We reached the conclusion that such conduct runs contrary to Article 21 (D) 5 of the party’s 2014 constitution as amended. As a result of that, we upheld the decision of the screening committee that he should be disqualified and he is so disqualified by the appeal committee.” He noted that Obaseki’s case was also reviewed.
Fari said, “This committee finds that although the screening committee disqualified Obaseki on the evidence of the documents he presented, however, the committee did not take into account their contradictions in the various petitions submitted to the committee against him. We take the liberty to highlight these discrepancies.
“In the affidavit sworn to by Godwin Obaseki before the High Court Abuja, he stated under oath that he graduated from the University of Ibadan with a BA degree in Classical Studies in 1976. However, the university certificate he attached to his nomination form bears 1979 which is a material contradiction.’’
The committee also said it found it hard to believe he gained admission to study at the university with three credits without a proper A levels or a diploma.
It also noted that the governor also had two separate voter cards which were illegal, adding that the attestation letter of the institute the governor claimed to have attended was not on the letter head of the school.
The committee also said it found entry inconsistencies in the forms Obaseki submitted for scrutiny.
Atiku woos embattled gov, protesters demand end to godfatherism
Former Vice President and the PDP presidential candidate in the 2019 election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has reached out to embattled Obaseki, persuading him to join the PDP for his second-term ambition.
TheCable reported that Atiku contacted Obaseki on Friday and was working on giving him a soft landing in the PDP should he defect to the party and utilise the platform.
The online medium noted that a source close to Atiku disclosed that Atiku discussed Obaseki’s likely defection to the party with some governors in the PDP.
The source said, “The Waziri (of Adamawa Emirate which Abubakar was turbaned in 2018) is wooing Obaseki on behalf of the PDP. He spoke with him yesterday and encouraged him to join the PDP. He also spoke to some of the PDP governors and urged them to give him a soft landing and access to the party.”
Meanwhile, a coalition of civil society groups in Edo under the aegis of Edo Civil Society Coalition for Peace and Development on Saturday staged a ‘peace walk’ for promoting peace and an end to godfatherism in the state.
The groups further expressed worry over the rising political tension in the state, noting their displeasure about Obaseki’s disqualification.
Speaking on behalf of the coalition, Batholomew Okoudo, frowned on the political crisis among the ruling party’s stakeholders, calling for peace and unity in the state.
Okoudo, who condemned the party’s decision for a direct primary, called for an end to godfatherism in the state, saying the lives of Edo people were more important that the ambition of any politician.
He added, “Those in position of authority must ensure that the interests of the people are considered. Those in charge of the primary election should be peaceful rather than hijack the situation and process and put the lives of Edo people in danger.”
Also, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr Crusoe Osagie, said on Saturday that stakeholders had rallied round the governor to end godfatherism.
In a statement, Osagie, said, “The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, sincerely appreciates Edo people, Nigerians and our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora, for the outpouring of goodwill and solidarity since the announcement of his unjust disqualification by the All Progressives Congress screening committee from the Edo governorship primary election. He thanks them for keeping the faith.
“We are consulting widely with party leaders and members in the state and other stakeholders.’’
Osagie also stated that Obaseki had said there must be ‘strict enforcement of regulations’ on gatherings spelt out in the state’s gazette to reduce the infection and transmission of COVID-19.
He said the governor stated this on Saturday while addressing journalists in Benin City, warning that the government would publish the names of COVID-19 patients who refused to stay in the isolation and treatment centres.
APC punishing Obaseki for nothing, says Babatope
Commenting on the governor’s travail, a chieftain of the PDP, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, on Saturday said the APC wasn’t fair to Obaseki.
Babatope, a former Minister of Transportation, spoke in a telephone interview with the News Agency of Nigeria.
Saying though he was not a member of the APC, he viewed the disqualification as humiliation of Obaseki.
He said the disqualification was punishment meted out to the governor for doing nothing.
Babatope, “You know I am not a member of the APC but I must say what the party has done to the governor is not fair.
“We should have got to a stage in this country where politicians look at issues dispassionately and not because they belong to a particular party.
“They are just punishing him for doing nothing really. The governor contested and won on your platform the first term, nothing was wrong. Are you just seeing all the issues with his certificates? Too bad.
“Personally, I am not happy with the way he is being treated because we are talking about fairness and justice here, and that does not mean I support him to win against my party, the PDP.’’
He said the APC should have given the governor the opportunity to defend himself, adding that he would be the happiest person if the embattled governor joined the PDP.
INEC fixes June 29 deadline for parties to submit candidates’ names
The Independent National Electoral Commission has told political parties partaking in the state governorship election to submit names of their candidates latest by 6pm on June 29.
The commission told Sunday PUNCH on Saturday that since parties had been given sufficient time to prepare for the primaries fixed for between June 2 and 27, any party that failed to conduct primaries on the date cannot approach it with any list.
The commission said it would not issue any access code to any defaulting party for the purpose of filing the nomination of candidates.
INEC said all the parties which indicated their intention to conduct primaries for the nomination of candidates must conclude the exercise and resolve all disputes arising from the exercise on or before June 27, 2020.
The commission said, “Every political party that conducted valid party primaries shall complete and upload the nominations forms on INEC nomination portal, INEC political party nomination web portal in the manner prescribed by the commission and the last day for this is on June 29 2020.
“The documents shall be uploaded not later than 6pm on the last day for the submission of the forms. The portal shall no longer be available after the specified time.”
Sunday PUNCH reported that 15 out of the 18 registered political parties had notified INEC of their intention to conduct primaries.
The parties are Action Alliance, African Action Congress, African Democratic Congress, African Democratic Party, All Progressives Congress, All Progressives Grand Alliance, Allied Peoples Movement and the Action Peoples Party.
Others are Labour Party, New Nigeria Peoples Party, National Rescue Movement, Peoples Democratic Party, Social Democratic Party, Young Progressive Party and Zenith Labour Party.
Our correspondent observed that out of the 15 parties, only the APC would be using direct mode for its primaries, while others opted for indirect primaries.
But in an interview with Sunday PUNCH, INEC National Commissioner and chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said the June 29 deadline remained unchanged.