By Dirisu Yakubu
ABUJA- Ahead of the governorship primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Edo state, embattled Governor Godwin Obaseki is set to run on the platform of the party following his disqualification from the race by the screening committee of the All Progressives Congress, APC, on Friday.
Obaseki who has since met with PDP chieftains including Governors Udom Emmanuel and Nyesom Wike of Akwa Ibom and Rivers states respectively has made up his mind to defect to the PDP this week, Vanguard gathered on Monday.
Although defection of a sitting governor is considered a big harvest by the receiving party in this part, Obaseki would settle for terms put in place by the PDP in a bid to push for the renewal of his tenancy of Osadebe Avenue, the Edo state Government House.
Until Obaseki’s ordeal hit a new height last Friday, the PDP had 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 would have to settle for another election cycle, if recent developments in the camp of Obaseki are anything to by.
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Findings by our correspondent reveal that though Obaseki would be no part of the July 22 primary election, the winner would pave way for Obaseki by way of substitution of candidate by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC 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 Edo state deputy governor, Philip Shaibu, with whom he had expected to run jointly for a second term. A member of the National Working Committee of the PDP told our correspondent in confidence that 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 twelve 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 Imansuangbon and Engineer Gideon Ikhine, also obtained the governorship nomination forms but Imansuangbon is tipped to run with Obaseki in the September 19 election. The major factor working in his favour is that Imansuangbon, 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 doubt over the choice of Imansuangbon 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 he can’t go to this contest with Mr. Shaibu. Everybody is talking about Kenneth (Imansuangbon) but it might end up being another person. There are reasons for this which I won’t disclose yet. Urged to disclose at least a reason, he noted: “Do not forget that the PDP Edo state chairman is from Edo Central, same Senatorial District as Imansuangbon. These things count and is going to count.”
It is not clear yet how Shaibu, the sacrificial lamb in the ensuing political chess game is taking the new permutations.