•Why I withdrew from Edo guber race-Pedro Obaseki
By Simon Ebegbulem, Benin City
Political tension heightened last Monday among the All Progressives Congress, APC, governorship aspirants in Edo state following allegation that some of the contestants were buying Permanent Voters Card (PVCs) of some of the delegates ahead the June 18 governorship primaries of the party One of the aspirants, Dr Ogiemwonyi has even called on the Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase to arrest a member of the House of Representatives representing Etsako Federal constituency Philip Shuaibu for allegedly buying up the Permanent Voters Card (PVCs) of some of the delegates of the party in his area. It was alleged that the PVCs were being purchased for N10,000 –N20,000 each. Ogiemwonyi who made the allegation through his Director of Planning, Strategy and Operations, Akemokue Lukman, said they have in their possession a video evidence to back up their claim.
According to him, the plan was to disenfranchise the voters who are scheduled to take part in the forthcoming primaries, asserting that “we have told the delegates to go back to their wards and LGAs and retrieve their PVCs because that is their voting ticket”. This allegation led to accusations and counter accusations in the party as another aspirant, Gen.Airhiavbere confirmed that “PVCs were actually being sold like tomatoes in the field describing it as unacceptable.
But the deputy governor of the state, Dr Odubu viewed the situation differently, saying that if the allegation is true, those purchasing it will be embarking on wasteful exercise since there are other forms of identification of delegates. He however condemned the act and warned those indulging in it to have a rethink.
The allegation had pitched the camp of Ogiemwonyi against that of Obaseki who is believed to be enjoying the support of Governor Adams Oshiomhole and other members of the state executive council, a situation which Ogiemwonyi equally frowned at. The aspirants expressed fear that the alleged buying of PVCs was geared towards giving Obaseki an edge in the forthcoming primaries.
But the lawmaker, Shuaibu who was fingered said it was Ogiemwonyi who should be arrested, alleging that they had it on record that Ogiemwonyi had been paying some of the delegates for the past seven months and wondered why he should be crying foul. Shuiabu who challenged Ogiemwonyi to provide the video evidence of the alleged purchase of PVCs expressed shock also that Ogiemwonyi would be accusing members of the state Assembly of abandoning their duties to escort Obaseki to Abuja to submit his form. He added that “Ogienwonyi is displaying ignorance of happenings in the state since he does not know that the House of Assembly was on recess”.
Shuaibu said, “ I am surprised that he will be making such an allegation. When I heard it I said no, he is more intelligent to even think such a thing exist. If a person that wants to be a governor of a state do not know the difference between PVC and party card in a primary then it is unfortunate. I have contested election more than four times, no INEC card is used to conduct primaries. It shows he does not know what party politics and party primaries is all about. And for him to also engage in this kind of blackmail, forgetting that I am also a super delegate in this election shows that he is not prepared for the election. How can somebody who says he wants to be governor also accuse the state Assembly of abandoning their duties to escort an aspirant to submit his form.
Those state legislators are also super delegates and they will vote that day. And for him not to know that the state Assembly are on recess also shows that he is not current about the activities in the state he wants to govern. It shows obviously that a man like that is not to be taken seriously. Nobody contest primaries with INEC PVC and nobody can buy PVC for the purpose of general election, how many PVCs can you buy. Ogienwonyi has sent people to me and I said that this election you are talking about I have already endorsed a candidate, I do not play double game but because of frustration he wants to blackmail. This meeting that he is talking about is the seventh of its kind that I am holding, to put all my delegates together. I am a super delegate and other delegates are with me in the project of Obaseki. We have endorsed Obaseki and I have a right to endorse any body.
He sought for that opportunity but I refused. Now I am moving to vote for Obaseki as a delegate and I am moving my own delegates from my Federal constituency and they gave me the mandate that we are all supporting Obaseki and we have no regrets. That I am coordinating them does not mean that I am dictating to them. It is a collective agreement. We have collectively endorsed Obaseki and nothing is going to change that. We are only mobilising delegates to support Obaseki and not buying PVCs. I feel that he lacks the moral standi to even talk about this, he is even the one that has been paying delegates for over six months. He has deep pocket, I want to assure him that we have deep knowledge. He should stop blackmailing us and face his campaigns”.
Reacting also, Abbass Braimah who is the coordinator of Obaseki’s campaign in Edo North, described the allegation as untrue. Braimah who also is a former House of Representatives member said “I am surprised and shocked with his allegation. Let me make it clear that I was present in that meeting and I challenge him to produce the video evidence he said he has to back his claim otherwise the party should discipline him for this cheap blackmail, embarrassment and harassment. “As we speak the House of Assembly members are on recess and we thank them very profoundly for coming to Abuja to support the adoption of Obaseki”.
As the aspirants engaged in war of words over PVCs, one of the aspirants, Mr Don Pedro Obaseki announced his withdrawal from the race last Monday, saying he has lost faith with the scheduled primaries of the party. Pedro who is a nephew to Godwin Obaseki, another aspirant of the party, said he hopes to still contest the governorship election under another platform which he said he will make public after consulting with his supporters. He declared to journalists that he does not believe that the primaries of the APC will be free and fair, asserting however that “I am undoubtedly running for, and shall contest the 2016 Edo governorship election slated for September 10, 2016”.
He said: “I have lost faith in the primary process. Unfortunately I was in Abuja on Thursday and I stumbled on a document that I cannot divulge to the public for security reasons that makes it obviously clear that all those who are buying or who have bought their forms to contest the primaries of the APC are wasting their time. As an academic and someone who is guided by thesis, antithesis and syntheses, I elected to withdraw my intention to contest the primaries of the APC, I will not tell you that I am no longer a member of the APC but I am more interested in being an E.D.O. (Empower, Develop and Opportunities) man than an APC man, I will rather be an EDO man than being a PDP. I am not running for the election as an APC candidate anymore I am running for the election as EDO candidate on September 10.
I have therefore embarked on wide consultations with my immediate and extended family, supporters, friends and well-wishers and I won’t advise any of the aspirants to pay the N5,500,000 for the expression of interest, and nomination forms of the APC. The coming primaries of the APC will be the most expensive in our history because there are plans to bribe the about three thousand delegates with N200,000 each. As a progressive, this is a painful decision for me. But I will rather sacrifice my APCness, so as to raise the banner of my EDOnes. Edo is my life and lifeline. Edo is in my DNA. I call on our youths, women, elders, traditional and religious fathers to aid us in this herculean task of making Edo truly great”.
It will be recalled that twelve governorship aspirants of the All Progressives Congress (APC) were screened last Wednesday and Tuesday by the national leadership of the party in Abuja ahead the June 18, governorship primaries of the party. The aspirants include the Deputy governor of the state, Dr Pius Odubu (Okakuo), Dr Chris Ogienwonyi, Mr Godwin Obaseki, Gen.Charles Airhiavbere, Prof.Osarhiemien Osunbor, Blessing Agbomhere, Prof.Federick Amadasun, Emmanuel Arigbe-Osula, Arch.Austin Ilenre Emuan, Comrade Peter Esele, Kenneth Imasuagbon, and Mrs Agbarha Justina. The aspirants purchased the N5million nomination form of the party.