June 9, 2020

EDO: Confusion, drama trail legal tussle for APC ticket

Obaseki vandalised Edo Assembly complex — APC

Governor Godwin Obaseki (right) and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.

  • Journalists barred as Obaseki, Oshiomhole’s camps claim contrary decisions

  • Court adjourns suit to June 11

  • Furore, as Oshiomhole relocates party secretariat

  • APC displays credentials of 6 aspirants, says Obaseki had 3 O’level credits

  • Afegbua backs PDP’s Ogbeide-Ihama

  • Obaseki okays Ogbemudia Stadium for PDP primary

By Gabriel Enogholase, Ozioruva Aliu, Omeiza Ajayi & Dirisu Yakubu

BENIN —Confusion and drama reigned supreme, yesterday, in Edo, as Governor Godwin Obaseki and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole’s camps of the All Progressives Congress, APC, battled for a vantage position to pluck the party’s governorship ticket at the Federal High Court, Benin.

After a court sitting, where journalists were barred, both camps gave contrary accounts of what happened in the temple of justice regarding the mode of primary to be adopted for the June 22 governorship primary in the state.

While Obaseki’s faction is in favour of indirect primary to be staged in Benin, that of the National Chairman of the APC, Oshiomhole, wants direct primary in all the wards of the state.

Counsel to Oshiomhole’s camp, Rowland Otaru, told journalists that the court reserved ruling on the matter, after yesterday’s proceedings.

However, that of Obaseki’s camp, Ken Mozia, said the court stopped APC and Oshiomhole from adopting any method of primary.

Efforts to get the court clerk and registrar to clarify issues, yesterday, did not yield result.  When approached for clarification, the clerk referred Vanguard to the registrar, who in turn said the clerk was in a position to release the information.

This happened on a day the APC published details of Governor Obaseki and five other aspirants’ credentials, which showed that Obaseki had three credits in WASCE, a document that had been at the heart of controversies regarding his eligibility to secure a university admission, which required five credits.

Meanwhile, Obaseki has said that he does not have problems with Oshiomhole and pledged to support any of the other five aspirants that wins the APC ticket if he loses the primary.

Also, a group, Edo Collective Agenda of Nigeria, ECAN, has berated  Comrade Oshiomhole over his alleged statements against some prominent Benin chiefs, just as  former Commissioner for Information in the administration of Governor Oshiomhole, Prince Kassim Afegbua, has backed Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to succeed Governor Obaseki on account of the latter’s alleged poor performance.

Confusion, drama in court

The Federal High Court sitting in Benin City, yesterday, adjourned hearing on an ex parte motion to restrain the National Working Committee, NWC, of the APC and the party’s National Chairman, Comrade Oshiomhole, from using direct primary to elect Edo State governorship candidate of the party till Thursday, June 11.

Also joined in the suit marked FHC/B/CS/48/2020 filed by two chieftains of the APC, Kenneth Asekhome and Matthew Iduoriyekemwen, who is also a governorship aspirant, are the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and the Inspector General of Police.

Three other aspirants — Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Pius Odubu and Osaro Obaze — are seeking to join the suit as the fifth, sixth and seventh defendants through a motion on notice before the court, but the application was not heard because the court said it wasn’t ripe for hearing.

Justice Mohammed Umar adjourned the matter, yesterday, to allow the parties in the suit to be served the relevant papers.

He ruled: “The motion for joinder filed by the party seeking to be joined is not ripe for hearing. Party will be heard on joinder at the appropriate time.

“All parties in the suit are not to do anything contrary to the procedure and hearing of the suit, and parties are hereby directed to file all papers and exchange same within two days and suit adjourned to 11/08/2020 for hearing of all pending applications.”

However, there was mild drama before the sitting when all journalists were asked to leave the court room. Court officials claimed the presiding judge said he would not appear except not more than 20 persons were seated, including court staff, in line with COVID-19 regulation in the state.

Divergent accounts

At the end of court sitting, lawyers who spoke to journalists gave different accounts of what happened in the court room.

Counsel to the Applicants, Ken Mozia, SAN, said: “Several processes were filed and commenced arguments on the ex parte application for injunction. They were ordered to show cause why the injunction should not be granted today. Two of the parties did, two did not, so there were arguments about the proper procedure to be adopted.

‘’The court rose and wrote a ruling that pending the hearing and determination of the main case, APC, as a party, should refrain from taking any step to implement any decision with regards to the mode of primaries to be adopted.

The main case has been shifted to Thursday, June 11.”

On his part, Counsel to the 1st Defendant (APC), Henry Ogbodu (SAN) said: “The proceeding for today is okay, there is no problem, it said we should file all our papers in two days so that we will join issues and the court will take all the submissions.”

Also, the Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu Campaign Organization, in a statement by its Director of Communication and Media, Prince John Mayaki, said: “As court records show, Governor Obaseki failed today again at the Federal High Court in Benin. His interim injunction seeking to restrain the APC from conducting its primary, because he is afraid of losing, was refused by the court and a status quo was ordered.

“The court has said all sides involved should come and present their arguments on Thursday, June 11, and as people backed by the truth and legal facts, we confidently anticipate the date.”

APC displays aspirants’ credentials

In line with its election timetable, the APC has published the particulars of all its six governorship aspirants in Edo State, urging members of the party to raise any objection regarding the aspirants’ claims.

Those whose particulars were published were Governor Obaseki; his main rival, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu; Dr. Pius Odubu; Engr. Chris Ogiemwonyi; Osaro Obaze and Matthew  Iduoriyekemwen.

The publication showed that Obaseki had six passes and three credits in his O’Level certificate.

READ ALSO: Edo 2020: Ize-Iyamu is unqualified to contest ― Deputy Gov

In his 1973 West African Examination Council, WAEC, certificate submitted for screening, Obaseki scored as follows: English P7, Literature P7, CRK C6, History A3, Geography C6 and Chemistry P8. There was no Mathematics or Arithmetic in the certificate.

However, the governor had proceeded to the Institute of Continuous Education between 1976-1979 before gaining admission into University of Ibadan, where he studied Classics.

In an apparent move to rattle the governor and give spine to a certificate forgery suit instituted by one Edobor Williams and others against the governor, the Comrade Oshiomhole-led NWC had last week said it would publish the credentials and other particulars of all the six governorship aspirants in Edo to allow members of the public file claims and objections that would assist the work of its screening committee. The party had said:

“In our bid to ensure due diligence and transparency in the screening exercise and learning from our recent shocking experiences, we are determined to avoid any lapses in the process. Therefore, we are making the submitted information and documents of the governorship aspirants available to our party members and the public for verification of claims and to support the screening panel with information or any objection to the claims contained in the submission by the aspirants.

“Consequently, the various submissions will be displayed at the Party’s National Secretariat in Abuja and in Benin City, the Edo State capital from Monday 8th to Tuesday 9th June, 2020 for claims and objections.’’

Uproar over relocation of APC secretariat

Indeed, the crisis of confidence between Oshiomhole and Obaseki assumed a fresh twist, yesterday, following  relocation of the Edo APC secretariat.

The secretariat, originally located on 49, Airport Road, Oka, Benin was purportedly relocated to 18 Ighiwiyisi Street, off Airport Road, Benin City by Comrade Oshiomhole.

In a letter addressed to the INEC Chairman, Comrade Oshiomhole asked the commission to take note that all correspondences will now be directed to the new address.

“I wish to respectfully inform you that the All Progressives Congress has changed its address in Edo State to a new secretariat building at No. 18 Ighiwiyisi Street, off Airport Road, Benin City. To this end, we have duly notified the following; The commissioner of Police, Edo State command, Benin-City; The Director, Directorate of State Security (DSS), Edo State Command, Benin City; The Commandant, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Benin-City.

“Consequently, all correspondences, contacts and official dealings in Edo State will now be directed to the aforementioned location and we accordingly invite you to take note.”

The copy of the letter which was dated May 29, 2020 had not been officially “received” by INEC but party sources said another copy had already been despatched to the electoral umpire.

Oshiomhole’s faction confirms new party office

Chief Press Secretary, CPS, to the INEC Chairman, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi did not immediately respond to Vanguard enquiries. A factional Chairman of the party in Edo State, Col. David Imuse (retd) confirmed the development, saying that some political thugs had taken over the old party Secretariat hence the need to open a new one.

He said: “We have a party, we have a structure, we have a Constitution and we follow our constitution. So, Anselm Ojezua has been removed as chairman of the party and the secretariat has been relocated. The APC has moved to a new secretariat.”

Obaseki’faction kicks

Factional chairman of the party loyal to Governor Obaseki, Anselm Ojezua on his part described the action of the national chairman as contempt of court, vowing to seek legal redress.

In a text message to Vanguard, he said: “That letter is clearly in contempt of the Edo State High Court and I am going to take steps to arraign them before the court. Adams Oshiomhole does not have the constitutional powers to change or determine party locations, it is strictly the responsibility of party Executive and NEC as clearly spelt out below in Article 8 of the APC Constitution. It states that;

“The registered office of the party shall be located in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria while other offices in the State Capitals, Local Government Areas Headquarters, Wards and other places shall be determined by the appropriate Executive Committee and approved by the National Executive Committee NEC’.

“The NEC is the only organ of the party that can approve and not the NWC led by Oshiomhole.”

Happenings in Edo normal

Earlier, before he went in for a closed door meeting of the National Working Committee NWC of the party, Mallam Issa-Onilu said the situation in the state was normal.

He said: “I do not know about any crisis. Go from state to state, when you have politics you have conflicts and conflict to those of us who are practising politics is not crisis, it is contestation of interests, and if you go to any other state, you have things that are similar. The only difference this time is that you have the national chairman who happens to be from Edo. Otherwise, there is nothing strange in what is going on in Edo. What is important is that at the end of the day, whether the national chairman or governor, everybody is subjected to the same rule.”

I’m confident of victory – Obaseki

Meanwhile, Governor Obaseki is confident of winning the APC primary. The governor, who was a guest on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics said he has no reason to be scared of his rival, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. According to him, his chances of winning the election are not threatened if the people of Edo and APC members in the state are allowed to express themselves.

Ize-Iyamu, who contested the last governorship election on the platform of the PDP, defected to the APC in November 2019 to contend with Obaseki for the party’s ticket in the June 22 primary.

Asked if he was afraid of his co-contender, Governor Obaseki said: “Why should I be? The last time I contested, he (Ize-Iyamu) was my opponent from the PDP and the votes are there. I beat him (when I had no track record as a governor) and now with the track record as a governor, I don’t have any fears.”

‘No rift with Oshiomhole’

Obaseki also spoke on the lingering conflict with his predecessor and APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole.

His words: “Conversations are on so that we can build internal peace and harmony within our party; I do not have a rift with him as a person. I just do not agree with some decisions he (Oshiomhole) is taking as it relates to the party; they are not in the interest of our party.”

He recalled his recent visit to President Muhammadu Buhari and took a swipe at those who claimed that he does not have the President’s support to seek re-election.

“From the body language and relationship will the President take photograph with me and share my form with me if he is not happy that I’m seeking re-election?” the governor questioned.

Battle against Obaseki is battle against Bini Kingdom – Group

A group, Edo Collective Agenda of Nigeria, ECAN, has blasted Adams Oshiomhole over his alleged statements against some prominent chiefs in the ancient Benin Kingdom, warning him to be mindful of his actions.

In a statement by its National Leader, Chief Osarodion Ehizogie, in Benin yesterday at the end of its meeting, the leaders scolded Oshiomhole for insulting the former military governor of defunct Bendel State, Chief Samuel Ogbemudia and for embarrassing notable sons and daughters of the Benin Kingdom.

They said: “Adams Oshiomhole extended his hatred for the Bini people to Chief John Odigie Oyegun. He abused Chief Oyegun and hounded him from office as APC National Chairman for him to take over Oyegun’s seat.

“We are here today to say enough is enough. Oshiomhole can’t humiliate Obaseki. He was voted by Edo people and the people who voted him are not complaining, this is not a battle against Governor Obaseki but a battle against the sensitivity of the great Bini kingdom.’’

Afegbua backs PDP’s Ogbeide-Ihama, berates Obaseki

However, Prince Kassim Afegbua, who was Commissioner for Information during Oshiomhole’s administration, is backing Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama of the PDP to succeed Governor Obaseki, saying that the governor is dragging Edo State backward.

Prince Afegbua who disclosed this in an exclusive chat with Vanguard also predicted easy victory for PDP, owing largely to what he called the aspirant’s capacity to make a difference and the internal squabbles threatening to rip the ruling APC in the state apart.

He said: “Ogbeide-Ihama represents the younger generation of Nigerians who is driven by ideas and contents. He has the capacity to drive governance and deliver on his promises. 0

He flayed Obaseki’s handling of governance in the state, saying under his watch, gangsterism is becoming a way of life.

“We need to get our state back from the grip of selfish political merchants who see gangsterism as a virtue as opposed to subliminal humility that should propel governance in all its ramifications.

Obaseki okays Ogbemudia Stadium for PDP primary

Meantime, the Edo State Government has approved the PDP’s use of Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium for its governorship primary election fixed June 19 and 20 and this gesture has received commendation from the leadership of the party in the state.

The letter of approval was issued by the Secretary to State Government, SSG, Osarodion Ogie in a letter dated June 8, which he said was sequel to the application letter by the PDP in line with the state government’s regulation on COVID-19.

The PDP in the statement by its Publicity Secretary, Chris Nehikhare, said: “Edo PDP is pleased to report that His Excellency, Governor Godwin Obaseki has granted approval for our party to use the Samuel Ogbemudia Staduim for our Governorship Primaries. As a law abiding party and in compliance with the extant COVID-19 Regulations in the State, we applied for use of the stadium in line with Regulation 2(2) of the Dangerous Disease (Emergency Prevention) Supplementary Regulation dated  May 22, 2020 (gazetted vide Gazette No. 20 vol. II ).’’