Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State.
•Wike, Tambuwal list demands at talks with PDP leaders, govs
•Why he wants to run with Shaibu
•We’ll obey Obaseki’s COVID-19 law inn conducting primary -APC
•APC inaugurates Primary Election, Appeal C’ttees
By Soni Daniel, Clifford Ndujihe, Dapo Akinrefon, Omeiza Ajayi, Dirisu Yakubu & Ozioruva Aliu
After days of consultation and negotiations, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has cleared the way for the safe landing of Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State in the party.
Apart from picking, filling and submitting a PDP membership form in his ward in Edo State, the governor has met other conditions, and the PDP is willing to give him the opportunity of seeking a second term on its platform, a source told Vanguard, yesterday.
Indeed, the opposition party has shifted its governorship primary from June 19 and 20 to June 23, in what sources said, is to accommodate ‘’the interest’’ of the governor.
Obaseki was disqualified from the All Progressives Congress, APC, governorship primary scheduled for June 22, three days ago. He resigned from the party, and said he would announce the platform he would use to actualise his second term quest later.
In the last few days he has held series of parleys with PDP governors and stakeholders. On Wednesday night, he met with PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, and four PDP governors – Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), Seyi Makinde (Oyo), and Emmanuel Udom (Akwa Ibom) after which the PDP primary was rescheduled.
Meanwhile, to avert what they consider a plan to thwart the APC direct primary election on June 22, leaders of the party yesterday said they would obey Obaseki’s COVID-19 Gazette in conducting the exercise. The law prohibits gatherings of more than 20 persons in a place.
The APC stand came after Acting Chairman of the party, Ntufam Hilliard Eta, earlier warned that the COVID-19 law signed by the Edo State Governor, is unenforceable.
What Obaseki discussed with PDP leaders, governors
A top PDP official privy to the meeting told Vanguard that Governor Obaseki met with the governors to discuss his defection to the PDP and his second term re-election.
The source, however, said that the Deputy Governor of Edo State, Mr. Philip Shauibu was absent at the meeting.
It was also disclosed that a waiver will be given to Obaseki and the need to “prevail on the other PDP aspirants to step down for the Edo Governor during the party’s primary” was stressed.
Another source, however, told Vanguard that the 2023 presidential elections was also discussed at the meeting.
The source said: “Governors Tambuwal and Wike, who are interested in the presidential election in 2023, are trying to co-opt Obaseki into supporting their ambition. As you know, Tambuwal still wants to be President, while Wike wants to be his running mate, so, they are meeting with Obaseki to intimate him of their ambition and the need for him to support them when the time comes. That was another angle to the meeting Obaseki had with the governors. Aside his moving to the PDP, the 2023 presidential card was also laid on the table for him.”
Another source also told Vanguard that at the meeting, “the governors weighed the financial capacity of the PDP aspirants and felt Obaseki would be the best candidate to face the APC’s onslaught. That is why the coast is being cleared for him.
“Also contrary to insinuations that the Deputy Governor insisted on running with Obaseki, it was actually Obaseki that insisted that Shaibu should run with him, considering the fact that the deputy governor hails from the same area as Oshiomhole. The Deputy Governor has the capacity to get votes from his area because he is a grassroots politician.
What was discussed at the meeting – Ologbondiyan
Contacted, the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan told Vanguard that the meeting centered on Obaseki’s defection and the conduct of the Edo PDP primary.
Asked when the governor would defect, Ologbondiyan said: “That is left for him.”
On the possibility of the governor getting a waiver, the spokesperson said: “Until he joins the party, we cannot be discussing that. When he joins the party, we will take it up from there.”
The party spokesperson, however, refuted claims that the 2023 presidential elections were discussed at the meeting.
He said: “We didn’t even discuss 2023, people should stop peddling rumours. We didn’t discus 2023; what we discussed was the modality for the Edo primary election and we resolved to postpone the primary till Tuesday, June 23, 2020. That is all.”
PDP moves primary to Tuesday
Similarly, the PDP said its governorship primary, earlier fixed for June 20, has been postponed to Tuesday, June 23, 2020.
This is not unconnected with fresh permutations over the ordeal of the governor, who resigned his membership of the APC.
In its verified Twitter Handle, the party tweeted “@OfficialPDPNig has postponed its primary election in Edo state to Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020.
Governor Obaseki and his deputy governor, Philip Shaibu both resigned from the APC on Tuesday with the latter pledging to go wherever Obaseki goes.
Although, the coast was cleared for the duo to formally defect to the PDP, Obaseki is said to be holding on until the slightest of details is perfected.
Aspirants may step down for Obaseki
Vanguard gathered that PDP frontline aspirant, Mr. Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama believed to have been anointed for the ticket until the recent twist, has been approached to step down for Obaseki.
As of the time of filing this report, the lawmaker, who chairs the House Committee on Culture and Tourism, has neither picked his calls nor responded to messages sent to him on WhatsApp to confirm if he has agreed to step down or not.
Apart from Ogbeide-Ihama, the duo of Kenneth Imansuagbon and Gideon Ikhine had also obtained the PDP Expression of Interest and Nomination Forms to contest the primaries.
Party perfects strategies to pick embattled governor
However, Obaseki according to a highly-placed party source, has succeeded in reaching an agreement with them which would see him run for the September 19 poll on the PDP platform.
The source told Vanguard in confidence that “all that is left is the green light to do the needful. The governor and the deputy governor are now with the party but a formal announcement will be made.”
On how the governor was able to scale the hurdle, he said: “The biggest hurdle of course was getting the aspirants to yield the slot to him. Imansuagbon is not in the country and that makes it a bit easier as well. Others listened to his plan for the state and the people and they felt he deserves to slug it out with the APC and that is it.”
Obaseki to join PDP today
Meanwhile, after days of uncertainty, Governor Obaseki’s awaited formal defection to the PDP has been scheduled to take place at the party’s secretariat in Benin City, today, barring further developments.
Hundreds of PDP leaders and supporters had yesterday relocated to the secretariat of the party, expecting the governor’s arrival when information came that the event has been shifted till today.
The party’s National Vice Chairman, South-South, Chief Emmanuel Ogidi, confirmed this yesterday in Benin City and also reaffirmed that the party’s governorship primary originally scheduled for today and Saturday, has been shifted to next week Tuesday, June 23.
INEC deadline for primary: PDP at risk
Meantime, the PDP, appeared to be on its way to losing out of the September 19 Governorship Election in Edo State following its decision to reschedule its primary election without recourse to the guidelines released by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The party had earlier slated its primary election for Saturday June 20 but yesterday decided to shift it to Tuesday June 23.
While the Electoral Act requires political parties to give a 21-day notice to INEC for the conduct of their primaries, the election guidelines and regulations released by the electoral umpire require political parties to give the commission a seven-day notice of their decision to reschedule their primary elections.
They are required to notify INEC stating clearly the reason(s) for the rescheduling as well as the date, venue and mode of primary election, at least seven days before the new date.
Vanguard checks revealed that the PDP had written INEC on Thursday to reschedule its primary election in Edo State, ostensibly to be able to accommodate Governor Obaseki who had earlier in the week resigned from the APC.
The new date is two days short of the seven days notice as stipulated by INEC in its guidelines.
When asked to speak to the guidelines, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Barr. Festus Okoye told Vanguard: “Political parties that intend to sponsor candidates for election must give the Commission the mandatory 21 days notice of their intention to conduct party primaries. This accords with the intendment of Section 85 of the Electoral Act.
“Giving of the notice is what is mandatory. However, a political party can adjust or reschedule the conduct of its primaries but must remain within the Timetable and Schedule of Activities released by the Commission which ends on the 27th of June 2020. The Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Party Primaries issued by the Commission provides that the conduct of primaries shall commence at the time and venue provided in the relevant notice communicated to the Commission by a political party.
“Paragraph 7.2 of the Regulation and Guidelines provides that rescheduling of any scheduled primary shall be by a written communication to the Commission not later than 7 days to the new date, stating clearly, the reason for rescheduling,” he added.
However, PDP scribe, Ologbondiyan said the party is on the side of the law. Asked if INEC is aware of its new primary date, he said “yes.”
We’ll obey Obaseki’s COVID-19 law in holding primary — APC
To avert Obaseki’s hammer, the APC, which has inaugurated its June 22 Primary Election and Appeal Committees, has explained how it would manoeuvre its ways around the COVID-19 gazette put in place by Governor Obaseki which prohibits gatherings of more than 20 persons.
National Vice Chairman, South-South, Ntufam Hillard Etagbo Eta who inaugurated the committees with a host of other members of the National Working Committee, NWC, said he was standing in for the acting National Chairman, Senator. Abiola Ajimobi.
He urged the committees to ensure a credible exercise.
While Gov. Hope Uzodinma of Imo State chairs the Primary Election Committee, Prof. Mustapha Bello would serve as the Chairman of the Appeal Committee.
Members of the primary election committee are Senator Ajibola Bashiru (Secretary), Alhaji Abdullahi Abass, Hon. Ibrahim Sabo, Hon. Ocho Obioma, Hajia Amina Lantana Muhammed and Hon. Gbenga Elegbeleye.
Other members of the Primary Election Appeal Committee are Dr. Kayode Ajulo (Secretary), Hon. Umar Ahmed, Nasiru Ibrahim Junju and Hon. Rasaq Mahmud Bamu.
Addressing the committees, Eta recalled how the party had commenced the process of the Edo primary with the inauguration of Screening and the Appeal Committees.
He said: “So, we are almost at the culmination of that process. It is with deep humility that I want to announce to Nigerians that those we have selected to do this onerous and herculean job for the party were carefully selected, some of the finest and best amongst us. Their job is very simple – to carry out the process of selecting the flag bearer of the party in Edo State and we know that after that exercise, there may be concerns, disagreements, that is why we have constituted members of the APC Governorship Primary Election Appeal Committee.”
Speaking with journalists shortly after the inauguration, Governor Uzodinma explained how the party would conduct the June 22 primary election.
He said: “In their wisdom, I have been appointed to chair the committee to conduct the primaries. I have been given the guidelines to drive the exercise. You are aware there is also a global pandemic, COVID-19 and there are some local legislations in Edo State. There is a law that does not allow more than 20 people to gather at a place. That is the beauty of direct primary. When we get to Edo, we will deploy the necessary manpower to the various polling units with instructions that will not violate the local legislations that will enable our members not to gather more than 20 people at a place and by so doing, with a segmented approach, we will conduct a free and fair primary and our party will be happy with that.”
Why APC is in crisis
Uzodinma also urged party stakeholders to continue to work hard for its success, noting that APC is today dealing with several issues because of those who are envious of its electoral success.
“Events of the past few days have shown that some people are after us and we must buckle our seat belts. We will face the turbulence but I’m confident that our aircraft will get to the destination. We must field a candidate and our party must be run by those elected to run the party by us. And by the Grace of God, we will win the election in Edo.”
Obaseki’s COVID-19 law against direct primary dead, unenforceable – Eta
Earlier, APC Acting National Chairman, Ntufam Hilliard Eta, warned that the COVID-19 law signed by the Edo State governor is dead on arrival and unenforceable in any way.
Eta, who spoke at a media briefing in Abuja, said that the governor does not have the right to enact any law that is inconsistent with that of the Federal Government regarding COVID-19 protocols on safety.
This was as Eta also posited that the actions of both Governor Obaseki and Chief Victor Giadom were dictated by some unnamed powerful persons in the party, who had chosen to cause avoidable crisis so as to destroy the party for their selfish interest.
The Acting National chairman, who did not however mention the names of such powerful individuals in the party, said: “We really suspect that there are some powerful elements within the APC who are bent on destroying the party by hiding somewhere and beating the drums for Gaidom and others to dance.”
Coast clear for Ize-Iyamu as 2 aspirants step down
Osagie Ize-Iyamu, governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2016 Edo election, is set to emerge candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the September 19 poll.
Ize-Iyamu, who lost to Godwin Obaseki, governor of Edo, four years ago, is believed to have the backing of Adams Oshiomhole, suspended national chairman of the ruling party.
TheCable reported that Osaro Obazee, who contested a state assembly seat in 2019, and Pius Odubu, a former deputy governor of the state, have stepped down and endorsed Ize-Iyamu.