By Dapo Akinrefon, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Omeiza Ajayi & Ozioruva Aliu
If Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State joined seven of his colleagues to meet the National Working Committee, NWC of the All Progressives Congress, APC, on Monday, it might have gone a long way to end the feud between him and APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, Vanguard gathered yesterday.
With Obaseki’s absence, it was learned that the APC governors could not convince the NWC and Oshiomhole to grant the governor soft-landing in his re-election quest.
Sources at the meeting told Vanguard that the APC governors could not convince Oshiomhole to throw his weight behind his estranged godson, Governor Obaseki, for a second term, as he insisted on direct primary to elect Edo APC governorship candidate. Obaseki and his supporters want indirect primary.
Seven APC governors had met with Comrade Oshiomhole in his Abuja residence to reconcile him with Governor Obaseki. Oshiomhole and Obaseki have been at loggerheads for some time now.
The governors in attendance at the meeting were led by the Chairman of the Progressives Governors’ Forum, Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State. Other governors present were Simon Lalong (Plateau), Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Mohammed Inuwa (Gombe), Umar Ganduje (Kano), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), and AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq (Kwara).
Oshiomhole surprised Obaseki didn’t come
One of the sources told Vanguard that Oshiomhole, who welcomed the governors, was surprised that the Edo governor was absent. The source, however, told Vanguard that the APC chairman said he was not averse to reconciling with Obaseki.
It was further gathered that Oshiomhole, in an attempt to set the records straight, reeled out the genesis of the crisis between him and Obaseki, adding that the governor had botched many reconciliation moves made by him.
The source said: “When the governors came for the reconciliation meeting, Oshiomhole showed evidences of text messages he had sent to Governor Obaseki and his deputy on several occasions to settle the differences between them. Rather than come for the meeting, the governor failed to show up at every point in time and this makes it difficult for the comrade to do anything. It is on record that the governor has refused to patronize party elders and leaders, who will mobilize other members during the election.
“Oshiomhole made it clear to the governors that it is not about Obaseki but about the party in Edo winning the elections. Oshiomhole even expressed surprise that Obaseki was not at a meeting his fellow governors called to reconcile them.
“Obaseki and the governors visited Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the President but when it was time to meet with him, he refused to join the governors. That shows that the governor is not out for peace.
“After his remarks, the governors were shocked as they were not aware of all these details. In fact, the Kwara governor expressed shock at the meeting, saying that he was not aware of the moves made by Oshiomhole. You can see that the governor is not interested in any reconciliation move.”
The PGF chairman, Atiku Bagudu, said that the meeting became necessary to resolve many outstanding issues that almost consumed the party.
Why I wasn’t at talks with Oshiomhole – Obaseki
However, Obaseki said he would have been at the meeting of seven APC governors with the NWC and Oshiomhole but for the call from President Muhammadu Buhari.
Special Adviser, Media to Governor Obaseki, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, told Vanguard on phone that Obaseki’s absence was not deliberate, adding that the governor wants an end to the crisis but some people are busy stoking the fire of the problem.
His words: “Governor Obaseki was on the way with the other governors to the meeting with the NWC when the President called him. He had to turn from the convoy to go and see the President. It is not true that the governor is frustrating reconciliation moves. He wants to see an end to the crisis but some people are busy lying and fanning the embers of hatred.”
How soft-landing bid failed
Although Bagudu denied broaching the issue of the mode of primary election in Edo State, multiple party sources who were privy to the outcome of the meeting said the governors had wanted the party to sanction the indirect primary method for the state as being canvassed by Mr Obaseki.
Having listened to the governors, Oshiomhole had insisted that the mode of primary would be the direct method, hinging his action on the 2018 decision of a meeting of the National Executive Committee, NEC of the party.
Oshiomhole was said to have insisted that fielding the incumbent would incur losses for the party, saying the governor was not on good terms with political players in the state.
“There are 14 lawmakers who have not been sworn in until now by the governor. Oshiomhole told the governors who visited the party that those 14 lawmakers who were elected by their own people could go against Obaseki should he be given the ticket,” said a party source.
Another source said the party is not ready to lose the state and that the national chairman would, in the coming days, meet President Muhammadu Buhari on the Edo issue.
“Sure, he will be meeting with the president soon but of course you know that Mr President is a man who sticks to the law. He would want the party’s constitution to be respected.
“The NEC already took a position on the mode of primary elections and the president was part of that NEC meeting. If there must be indirect primary in any state, there are certain conditions that must be met and none has been met in the case of Edo,” he added.
Section 13 (v) of the APC Constitution (2014 as amended) stipulates that the NWC, “shall in particular, propose to the National Executive Committee NEC, Party electoral regulations, to govern the conduct of elections to all Party offices at every level and to govern the Procedure for selecting Party candidates for elective offices, subject to the provisions of this Constitution.”
And so it was that the NWC on August 30, 2018 proposed the direct method of primary to the NEC. The said meeting consequently stipulated how primary elections should be conducted. While it can be argued that the NEC resolutions were for the 2019 General Elections, it might be instructive to add that no further meetings of NEC have been held to invalidate its 2018 decision regarding the mode of primaries.
Court declines injunction on APC primary
The Federal High Court sitting in Benin City, yesterday, declined to issue a restraining order stopping the APC from adopting direct primary but rather reserved legal arguments on the motion seeking to prevent the National Working Committee of the party and the party’s National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, from using direct primaries to elect Edo State governorship candidate of the party till next week Monday.
Joined in the suit , is the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Factional State Deputy Chairman of the party, Pastor Kenneth Asemokhai and a governorship aspirant of the party, Matthew Iduoriyekemwen, who approached the court, are seeking to restrain the APC from adopting the direct mode of primaries.
They cited COVID-19 and 2018 APC NEC resolution as the ground for their action.
An argument however ensued when defendants’ lawyers led by H.O. Ogbodu (SAN), appeared in the matter and demanded to be served the motion papers.
The presiding judge, Justice M.D. Umar, declined to grant the ex parte motion but instead gave the defendants three days to file their papers to show cause why the injunction should not be granted and adjourned the case till next Monday.
‘Wait and see what I‘ll do in next 4 yrs’
However, an optimistic Governor Obaseki has assured the people of Edo State that there will be massive transformation in his second term of four years.
This is as a group of Edo indigenes in Abuja under the umbrella of Obaseki Mandate Forum, OMF, said it has made plans to mobilize indigenes of the state at the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, and other states of the federation to transfer their Permanent Voters Card, PVCs to ensure that the governor is re-elected.
Speaking when he received the OMF at the Edo Liaison Office, Abuja, Tuesday, Governor Obaseki said he was overwhelmed by the show of solidarity exhibited by the people towards his candidature.
He said that he was determined to cause a significant turn-around and change their fortunes in the area of agriculture and technical know-how of the people.
Speaking earlier, the Abuja-based group, Obaseki Mandate Forum asked the Governor not to allow the unfolding developments in the state distract him, as it was poised to return him for a second term of four years.
The group called on all Edo indigenes in Lagos, Delta, Ondo, Kogi, Abuja, Kaduna and other parts of the country to besiege the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and begin the process of transferring their PVCs to the state to facilitate the re-election of the governor as the candidate of their choice in the forthcoming governorship election.
Spokesman of the group, His Eminence Leslie Ebhotemhen, said the extended families in Owan, Afuze, Agenebode, Uromi, Ubiaja, Akoko-Edo, Evbuotubu, Erediauwa, Usen, Elele, Siluko, Udo and other parts of Edo State, with membership across all the local governments with branches in contiguous states, were ready to drive the process to ensure his return and that of his deputy, Philip Shaibu to Government House, Benin.
According to him, “make your findings at INEC, we have stimulated processes of Edos applying for transfer of their PVCs to Edo State for the purpose of the September 19 election. God sparing our lives, we will return you to power.”
Addressing journalists, the spokesman, accompanied by Chairman of the group, Chief Nathaniel Momoh, said the people whom the administration has touched their lives have already begun one of the most aggressive, massive mobilizations across the state to rally support for continuation of Obaseki/Shaibu ticket.
Ize-Iyamu remains APC consensus Gov candidate – Inegbeniki
Meanwhile, former senatorial candidate and leader of the APC in Edo Central Senatorial district, Chief Francis Inegbeniki, has insisted that Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu remains the chosen and consensus governorship candidate of the party ahead of the September 19 governorship election in Edo State.
Inegbeniki, in a statement yesterday in Benin, said the people of Edo State would experience the next level agenda of APC and good governance if Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu is elected.
He explained that other APC aspirants who had earlier endorsed Ize-Iyamu but have picked nomination forms did so for strategic reasons.
“With the candidacy of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, as APC Governorship candidate, certainly the APC victory at the September 19 Governorship election is sure, because Edo is APC and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu is a grassroots and popular politician in the state,” he said.
Ize-Iyamu welcomes new aspirants
Meantime, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu has welcomed the entrance of other aspirants into the race to clinch the APC ticket
Apart from Ize-Iyamu and Governor Godwin Obaseki, no fewer than four other persons have reportedly bought the nomination form to contest the June 22 primary.
A chieftain of the party in Igueben Local Government Area, Barr. Ken Ihensekhien said despite the number of persons buying the form, Ize-Iyamu remained the unanimous choice of party members for the ticket.
In a statement released by the Director of Communication and Media, Ize-Iyamu Campaign Organisation, John Mayaki, the aspirant described the emergence of more aspirants as a welcome development that would strengthen the party’s internal democracy.
He said: “I welcome the entrance of my fellow party men into the contest for the governorship ticket of our great party, the All Progressives Congress. As I have said before, I remain resolute on the fact that we are all driven by a shared desire of developing Edo State, improving the standards of living of our people, and offering a better alternative to an incumbent that has failed our party and state.
“I believe that their participation will strengthen the internal democracy of our party and help us demonstrate once again that ambitions can be pursued without rancor.”
Obaseki-Oshiomhole’s feud vindicates me, says Akerele, ex-CoS
As the crisis between Governor Obaseki and Oshiomhole continues, Obaseki’s former Chief of Staff, Taiwo Akerele, who resigned his position few weeks ago due to alleged administrative lapses has said that his position that dialogue and fence-mending were the way out of the crisis has been proven.
He told Vanguard on telephone yesterday that he has always maintained that the crisis between his former boss and Oshiomhole was political and could always be resolved through dialogue, “but at the end I was called all sorts of names by people who want to make money and enjoy themselves during the crisis.”
He continued: “My position has always been that we are one big family, Oshiomhole is our father, not just being a former governor of the state, but also the current national chairman of our party and that Governor Obaseki remains the leader of the party in the state. I said Comrade Adams Oshiomhole is our man anytime, any day, and he is best of friends with Godwin Obaseki and what was happening was a normal political disagreement which can be settled. Every other issue is subsumed under this sub issue.
“I had maintained that in any case, no matter the degree of war, dialogue and peaceful settlement remain the ultimate but rather than taking this step, I was vilified by some persons who believed that the only way to show loyalty is how much they attack somebody who is opposed to their principal and in any case you will now discover that what they do or say is for pecuniary interest and not necessarily to help the cause of their principal.”