…APC govs seek soft-landing for him; Imuse’s faction calls for Obaseki, Ojezua’s expulsion
By Clifford Ndujihe, Gabriel Enogholase, Egufe Yafugborhi, Omeiza Ajayi, Ozioruva Aliu & Dirisu Yakubu
Will Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State remain in the All Progressives Congress, APC, after losing re-election ticket? Will he defect to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, or another party to pursue his second term ambition?
These questions and more will be answered after his meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, the governor said, yesterday, as APC governors angled to get a soft-landing for him, following his disqualification for the governorship primary by the ruling party.
Apart from being disqualified, which has been upheld by the National Working Committee, NWC, a faction of the APC in Edo wants Obaseki; factional state chairman, Anselm Ojezua; and Dr Aisosan Amadasun expelled for alleged anti-party activities.
The polity has been abuzz with reports of Obaseki’s next move. The PDP elders and leadership have indicated their readiness to welcome Obaseki and hand him the party’s ticket, if he met some conditions.
Obaseki’s supporters are upbeat about his chances of being re-elected and are pressuring him to consider all options, starting with PDP, to realize his quest.
One of PDP’s hurdles for Obaseki is to drop his deputy, Phillip Shaibu. At one of the meetings with PDP stakeholders, sources said that Shaibu angrily walked out when the idea of dropping him as running mate was broached.
A source said: “The deputy governor disagreed with at least 50 per cent of the conditions set by the PDP for them to come into the party, one of which is that the PDP will choose the deputy for the governor. He walked out of the meeting.”
However, Governor Obaseki, who visited Governors Nyesom Wike of Rivers and Udom Emmanuel, said he will disclose his next step after meeting President Buhari.
Writing via his Twitter handle, yesterday, the governor described his disqualification as an act of injustice.
“I appreciate the sustained show of solidarity, support and goodwill from Edo people and Nigerians in the face of injustice by the @OfficialAPCNg screening committee,” he wrote.
“I will be making my next move known after I complete consultations with my supporters and meet with @MBuhari.”
APC govs seek soft landing for Obaseki
Governors of the ruling APC, on Saturday night, met via teleconference and agreed to work towards strengthening internal party mechanisms for the selection of candidates in the Edo and Ondo governorship primaries.
Although, a terse statement issued by the governors under the aegis of Progressive Governors Forum, PGF, was silent on the fate of Governor Obaseki, a source privy to the outcome of the meeting said there are ongoing engagements to resolve all issues in the Edo and Ondo states chapters of the party.
The source said: “I know there are several engagements still ongoing to resolve some of the controversial steps taken by the APC’s NWC. We might likely see a reversal of some of these decisions because the feeling is that NWC does not have the powers to do some of the things they did regarding Edo. So, the governors are still engaging with all concerned stakeholders.”
However, the governors in their resolution pledged to work towards the unity of the party.
In a communiqué signed by chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum and Governor of Kebbi State, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, the governors expressed confidence that the party will resolve its current challenges and emerge stronger.
They “unanimously reaffirmed the commitment of all Progressive Governors to work for the unity of our party; collectively agreed to work to ensure strengthening fair and democratic internal party mechanism for the selection of party candidates in all elections, especially in respect of Edo and Ondo states 2020 Governorship elections,” adding that “Forum members are confident that the party will resolve all current challenges and emerge stronger.”
Our decision on Obaseki final – NWC
The governors’ position nonetheless, the national leadership of the party said it has already taken a final position on the matter.
National Chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole made the announcement on Saturday night shortly after a meeting of the NWC.
The party also approved the expulsion of a governorship aspirant, Mathew Iduoriyekemwen and the deputy state chairman of the party in Edo, Kenneth Asakomeh.
The party’s Appeal Committee had moments before Oshiomhole’s announcement submitted its report to the NWC, explaining that it received complaints from only one of the aspirants.
In its report, the committee upheld Friday’s decision of the party’s Screening Committee which disqualified Mr Obaseki from the race.
“It is inconceivable that the same university will award two certificates with separate dates for the same graduate. We also find it difficult to vouch for the authenticity of his NYSC certificate, there is no indication as to where he served,” the committee held.
Led by Professor Abubakar Fari, other members of the appeal committee were Professor Sadeeque Abba, Gbenga Olubajo, Mohammed Idris, Esther Bepeh and Daniel Bwala who served as secretary.
Presenting the report, Fari said: “We looked at the grounds on which he was disqualified and I would like to say his disqualification was based on solid grounds.
“We found the Screening Committee findings on the other two as justified. In respect of Mathew, the appeal committee in the course of reviewing the report of the Screening Committee observed that it failed to make a finding and draw a conclusion of his prejudicial finding of filing a legal action against the National Chairman and the party itself. We reached the conclusion that such conduct runs contrary to Article 21 (D) 5 of the party’s 2014 Constitution as amended. Having failed to exhaust internal mechanisms for seeking redress in the party prior to instituting the action and pursuant to the same provision. As a result of that, we upheld the decision of the Screening Committee that he should be disqualified and he is so disqualified by the appeal Committee.
“The other candidate whose case we reviewed was that of Governor Godwin Obaseki. This committee finds that although the screening committee disqualified Obaseki on the evidence of the documents he presented, however, the committee did not take into account their contradictions in the various petitions submitted to the committee against Godwin Obaseki.
“We took the liberty to highlight these discrepancies. In the affidavit sworn to by Godwin Obaseki before the High Court Abuja, he stated under oath that he graduated from the University of Ibadan with a BA degree in Classical Studies in 1976. However, the University certificate he attached to his nomination form bears 1979 which is a material contradiction.
The Prof. Jonathan Ayuba-led Screening Committee had earlier on Friday disqualified Mr Obaseki, Engr. Chris Ogiemwonyi and Matthew Iduoriyekemwen.
Presenting the report of the committee to the National Working Committee NWC of the party in Abuja, Prof. Ayuba cited discrepancies in the names and certificates of the governor. For Ogiemwonyi, the committee also cited discrepancies in his names while it disqualified Iduoriyekemwen on the grounds that he instituted a suit against the party without exhausting all mechanisms of settlement in line with the APC Constitution.
The governor had immediately disclosed his resolve not to appeal the decision of the screening committee. In spite of that, the appeal committee said evidences before it made it uphold the decision of the screening panel.
Addressing journalists, Oshiomhole said the NWC reviewed the reports of the screening and appeal committees, adding that the decision of both committees were unanimous as none of the members had a dissenting opinion.
Oshiomhole specifically faulted the governor on his refusal to inaugurate 14 members-elect of the State House of Assembly.
The party chairman had at the inauguration of the committees described them as the “high court” and “appeal court” respectively, stating that the NWC as the “supreme court” has the final say on the reports of both committees.
APC faction calls for Obaseki’s expulsion
Also, the faction of Edo APC loyal to Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has called for the expulsion of Governor Obaseki, chairman of the faction loyal to Obaseki, Anselm Ojezua and Dr Aisosan Amadasun for alleged anti-party activities.
This is coming on the heels of a planned meeting between Governor Obaseki and some leaders of the PDP over his expected defection to the opposition party
Acting chairman of the faction, Col David Imuse, retd, while addressing reporters on the issue also said there are no factions in the party as being reported in the media, adding that Ojezua was duly suspended and removed as chairman of the party.
On why Obaseki, Ojezua should be expelled, Imuse said: “Godwin Obaseki, Anselm Ojezua and some other persons have gone to court in violation of Article 21, sub-section D5 of the APC constitution in several court cases at the Edo State High Court and the Federal High Court. They have shopped for injunctions and rulings to circumvent the process of the law and the provisions of our party constitution in defiance of democratic norms.
“In light of this, the SWC of the APC Edo State have recommended to the NEC that the following persons should be expelled from the party for violating the provisions of our constitution. Godwin Obaseki, Anslem Ojezua, Dr Aisosan Amadasun.
“It should be stressed that after the bitter experience of losing the governorship of Bayelsa State in court after a well-deserved victory in the elections, it would be foolhardy to allow a candidate with dodgy and faulty academic credentials to fly our party flag in the September 19th 2020 election. Even the Holy Book admonishes us that affliction shall not arise a second time.”
Reacting to the development, Ojezua said Imuse is an impostor who is facing contempt case in the high court. “First, Imuse is an impostor. He is already facing contempt charges in the state high court and this will just be an addition to it. However, it seems to me that they have entered the road of no return and the next step will be destruction. They say who the gods want to kill they first make mad,” he said.
Obaseki meets PDP
A source privy to the PDP arrangements told Vanguard, yesterday, that an obstacle to Obaseki’s defection to the party is the issue of his deputy as many of the party leaders said he should drop Comrade Philip Shaibu. But the governor is said to be insisting that the two of them should be accommodated.
There is sharp division among the ranks of the PDP over Obaseki’s planned defection. One of the leading aspirants told Vanguard, yesterday: “I will personally resist it. There are so many questions to ask. Did Obaseki purchase nomination form of his party? Did he appear before the screening processes of his party? The answer is yes. What happened? He was disqualified. Now when was closing date for the purchase of PDP form? Did Obaseki buy, did he appear before the screening? So the whole thing don’t add up and I will resist it. I learned he has met with the national leadership of our party but we are waiting for him.”
In another development, a staunch supporter of one of the aspirants who is the member representing Oredo Federal Constituency where Obaseki comes from, Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama referred to the case of Obaseki as that of a “rotten tomato that no one can buy. How can our party be thinking of giving him ticket? For me, it shows we are not serious. How can they be thinking of an aspirant who was disqualified by his party over issues that can be challenged in court?”
A source close to the Ogbeide-Ihama campaign team said he and his supporters are not disposed to agreeing on any compromise to bring Obaseki into the party.
It was gathered that about three PDP governors in the South-South who are said to have issues with Oshiomhole are ready to support Obaseki to win the election and bring Edo back into PDP.
We’ll be guided by what is right, just – PDP
Following the bad blood being generated by the issue, the PDP said its decision on Obaseki would be determined by what is right and just.
Although his defection to the PDP is likely to take place on Wednesday, according to Vanguard’s findings, National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, said talks on whether the party would hand Obaseki its governorship ticket are rather premature.
“The PDP is a big stakeholder in the Edo governorship election that will take place later this year. But it is too early for us to make any concrete statement other than we will be guarded by what is right, fair and just.
“We can’t be responding to rumours and Nigerians know that when we take a stand on any issue, it is always in the best interest of our people. The scenario playing out in Edo would not be different,” he said.
On whether Obaseki won’t cause the PDP needless litigation considering the reasons advanced by the APC screening committee for disqualifying him, Ologbondiyan said the PDP is studying the circumstances, adding “we won’t respond to guess work.”
Meanwhile a member of the PDP National Working Committee, NWC, has advised the party to tread carefully to avert the danger ahead.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the PDP official said it would be wrong for the party to give its ticket to Obaseki at the expense of those who have suffered and toiled for us “all these years.”
He continued: “Are we saying that we can’t get a candidate who can win the election for us? If the governor was disqualified by his party for alleged certificate scam, how does that make him the best candidate for us?
“Is there not a possibility that given the manner he was treated by his party, he would work with the PDP to spite the APC? I am in favour of him joining us but not to run for the governorship on our platform.”
Before Obaseki came into the picture, Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, a member of the House of Representatives and Chairman, Committee on Culture and Tourism was touted to fly the PDP ticket in the election slated for September 19.
Wike hosts Obaseki in closed-door parley
Yesterday, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State hosted his Edo State counterpart at the Government House Port Harcourt, Rivers over deliberations most likely connected to anticipated defection of Obaseki to PDP.
The Sunday meeting, first tweeted by Wike was said to have begun at about 4pm when Obaseki arrived the Rivers Government House to elbow handshake with his host. Wike hinted on his Facebook wall that “Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike receives his Edo State counterpart, Godwin Obaseki at the Rivers State Government House, Port Harcourt.”
Rivers Government is yet to disclose details of the meeting but Government House sources said the move was part of Obaseki’s swift consultation with power brokers in the PDP towards having a soft landing in the opposition party.
Indeed, Obaseki described the APC Primary Election Appeal Committee as a “gathering of jesters “that cannot uphold the verdict on a matter that was never appealed.
The governor, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, in Benin yesterday, said the appeal committee is acting out the script of their paymaster, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
“The charade of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and his puppet screening committees seems to know no end and their commitment towards the destruction of what is left of the smouldering integrity of our great party under Oshiomhole’s watch appears assured.
“As if the embarrassment which they brought to the party through the shameless and unjust disqualification of Governor Godwin Obaseki by the screening committee was not sufficient, they have now gone ahead to announce that the appeal committee has upheld the dubious disqualification.”
He added: “The question is how does an Appeal Committee claim to uphold an issue that was not appealed?
“The governor has been unequivocal in his stance that he was not going to appeal the so-called disqualification by a screening committee that can best be described as a gathering of court jesters, who congregated to massage the ego of their paymaster, who is Comrade Oshiomhole.
ALGON carpets screening c’ttee
Meanwhile, the Edo State chapter of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria, ALGON, has described the disqualification of Obaseki as a “profound affront” on decent democratic practices .
A statement by ALGON Chairman, Hon. Jenkins Evbareke Osunde, noted that the Screening Committee “violently desecrated the principles and the spirit of the APC Constitution regarding the procedural exercise for interested gubernatorial aspirants. The attempt to disqualify a popular and accomplished governor by the committee was a despicable mockery and shameful tragic comedy staged on behalf of an APC national cabal with a sinister agenda.”
Obaseki’ll contest, win in Sept – Shaibu
Edo State deputy governor, Comrade Philip Shaibu, has assured that Governor Obaseki will run and win the September, 2020 governorship election because the administration has made a mark in the development of Edo State.
The deputy governor in a statement in Benin yesterday through his Special Assistant on Media, Mr Benjamin Atu, said: “Godwin Obaseki has served to the best of his ability. He has served Edo State like a man who is serving in the vineyard of God, without eye-service. We are aware our opponents can’t praise us because our success is hurting them.
“Those who are saying Obaseki can’t be re-elected as Governor of Edo State are mere men and not God and their horses are flesh and not spirit. The re-election of Obaseki is sacrosanct and as settled as the the word of God.”
Governor won’t back out like Ambode – Idahosa
Speaking in like manner, Chief Charles Idahosa, a former Edo State Commissioner for Information said leaders of the APC are united with Governor Obaseki on any decision he takes on his political future.
Idahosa condemned Obaseki’s disqualification by the APC screening committee, adding leaders of the party were not surprised by the development as Oshiomhole had carefully planned the hatchet job from the onset.
“It didn’t come to me and many of us who are supporters of Governor Obaseki as a surprise. It is a hatchet job carried out by the National chairman of APC. I felt so sorry for APC. It was a charade and I’m happy that coincidentally, it happened on Democracy Day, June 12. On this day, we saw the exhibition of undemocratic actions by a man who doesn’t know his left from his right,” he said.
On suggestion that Obaseki should take the Ambode option and opt out of the race, Idahosa said what happened in Lagos during the governorship primaries is not the same with the situation in Edo.
According to him, Ambode bowed out of the race easily because he doesn’t control the APC structures in Lagos.
His words: “We’ve always said that Edo is not Lagos. What happened in Ambode’s case was that Ambode depended 100 per cent on Tinubu. All the structures of the party are in Tinubu’s hands. That was why on the day of the primary, the Deputy Governor, SSG all off them ran away from Ambode and he lost woefully.
“But in Edo State, the whole structure is under the control of Governor Godwin Obaseki . We control the whole 18 local governments, unlike Ambode who doesn’t have any control but was waiting for Tinubu to do everything for him. We control the executive of the party and all other apparatus of the party”.
“So, we are not afraid at all because the situation in Edo and Lagos are not similar. That is why you see Oshiomhole doing everything to stop the governor from contesting. Governor Obaseki is the one keeping us in APC, Obaseki is the one insisting on APC. Wherever he goes, we go. We are united on this, wherever Obaseki, Shaibu go, we go.’’
Group backs Obaseki’s second term bid
Meanwhile, a movement of young Edo professionals christened “I am Edo” has been launched in Lagos. The Movement, whose mission is to inspire a spirit of patriotism in Edo people, and mobilize citizen action for good governance, has endorsed the second term bid of Obaseki, pledging support for his candidacy under any party.
Speaking during the launch event, Tony Usidamen, convener of I am Edo Movement, noted: “For far too long, hard-working sons and daughters of Edo have distanced themselves from politics and governance in the state, and watched as a few entitled politicians, who are a demographic minority, call the shots in the affairs of the state, and brazenly plunder our commonwealth.”
On the choice of Obaseki as their preferred candidate in the September 2020 gubernatorial election in the state, Usidamen said: “The positive impact of the intervention programmes of the Obaseki administration across key sectors of the economy — including education, healthcare, agriculture, power, manufacturing and industry, roads and infrastructure, art and sports, law and order, and the civil service — is clear for all to see.”
‘Why Pastor Ize-Iyamu will emerge as APC flag-bearer’
However, a community-based group focused on development in Edo State, Etuno Rebirth Group, has expressed confidence that Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu will emerge victorious as the flag-bearer of the APC and win the September 19 poll.
In an endorsement signed by its President and Secretary, Dr Bello Mudashiru and Mr Balogun Segun respectively, the group praised Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu as a harbinger of hope and unity. He was described as a dutiful leader and a party-man willing to play by the rules and accept collective outcomes, irrespective of personal preferences.
The group said: “Our choice of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu is based on a very simple premise and it’s not only because he is a viable alternative to the present occupant of the office whose tenure has been distracted by avoidable political squabbles but due to his preparedness for the office. It is because, in and out of office, for decades, he has devoted himself to Edo State and preached a consistent, constantly revised message of development in key areas to improve outcomes for our people and raise the standard of living for all.”