By Dapo Akinrefon
Former governor of Edo State, Senator Oserheimen Osunbor, has advised leaders of All Progressives Congress, APC, in the state to tread with caution and not to fall into legal pitfalls after the governorship election.
Osunbor, in a statement on Friday, appealed to all warring party members to embrace peace before the primary scheduled for June 22.
The Professor of Law, who is also a member of the APC national caucus, said: “The crisis in Edo State chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC) which has simmered for about two years now threatens to boil over, as we draw closer to the party’s governorship primaries on June 22.
“This portends disastrous consequences for the party and the people of Edo State unless it is resolved promptly before the primaries.”
Osunbor added that “given my position in the party, I have made efforts outside of public glare towards bringing about reconciliation by speaking to the two leading protagonists: the National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, and the Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, as well as some of their supporters.
“I also tried to rally some elders of the party from the state to broker peace. It is common knowledge that our revered royal father, His Royal Majesty the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II made his own efforts including appealing to President Muhammadu Buhari to help broker peace among these two illustrious sons of Edo State.
“It is also believed that their mutual friend, Dr. Aliko Dangote, made repeated efforts at reconciliation to no avail. So did a number of others that I know.”
The reconciliation committee
He recalled that “when, therefore, the National Caucus of the party resolved at its meeting of November 21, 2019 to institute a National Reconciliation Committee to address the crises in various states of the Federation, which resolution was upheld by a decision of the National Executive Committee of the party the following day, there seemed to be light at the end of the tunnel.
“However, this has not happened till date as the National Reconciliation Committee, which was reconstituted in February 2020, has not yet completed its assignment.
“There is now a chance that the Committee may be confronted with a fait accompli and overtaken by events if the Edo primaries (and guber elections) are held before it concludes its assignment.
“That would be tantamount to medicine after death. It will be extremely risky and ill-advised for the party to conduct its primaries, talk less of going into the governorship election bitterly divided; hence it has become urgent and compelling to hasten the process of reconciliation of all aggrieved persons without further delay.
“The reason that reconciliation is imperative is that if the party conducts rancorous primaries and goes into the governorship elections divided, winning will become more difficult than it should be ordinarily, given the weakness of the opposition in the state.
“Even if the APC candidate wins the election, the victory will be tenuous because of the threat of litigation that is almost certain to follow. This is why we must as a party tread with caution.
“It is often erroneously thought that elections end when INEC’s Returning Officer announces a winner. But this has over the years proved not to be conclusive in all cases.
“At best, it can be likened to the end of the first half in a game of football. The second half, which is even more decisive, plays out in the election petitions tribunal and courts of law and way up to the Supreme Court where it involves governorship election.
“If and when that happens the matter moves from the political arena to the judicial arena and no one can ever predict with certainty what the outcome will be or what the courts will decide.”
Still cautioning APC leaders, Osunbor recalled that “examples are legion where the courts have shocked many by declaring a different result from what was announced by INEC because a political party had violated its own constitution, the Electoral Act and other laws including infringing on the rights of its members or engaged in one form of impunity or the other.
“Let us not forget so soon how in 2007 the Supreme Court punished PDP for the injustice they did to Ararume.
“It is unhelpful at this stage to dwell in polemics, apportion blame or argue as to whether it is best to adopt direct or indirect primaries which at any rate enjoy equal legitimacy (along with consensus) under Article 20 of the APC Constitution.
“There is no doubt at all that the APC candidate will win the forthcoming election but we must be mindful not to lose the victory in court because of a flaw in the process that produced the candidate.
“The pain of such a loss will be too agonising to bear. The leaders of the main opposition in Edo have been quoted in the media as saying that they are hoping and praying to benefit from the APC crisis so that they can recover through the court the governorship that they lost in the court. APC must not make the mistake of “gifting” them the governorship whether by act of commission or omission.
“For now the signs are not good. There is danger ahead. We must avoid pitfalls. I, therefore, make this clarion call on the APC national leadership to act urgently and decisively to put our house in order by fostering reconciliation before it is too late. We need to tread with caution.”
Recall that Osunbor was elected Governor of Edo State on the ticket of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in April 2007.
However, on March 20, 2008, Edo State Governorship Election Tribunal declared Osunbor’s election invalid and asked INEC to declare Oshiomhole of the then Action Congress (AC) the winner.
On November 11, 2008, a federal Appeal Court sitting in Benin City upheld the tribunal’s ruling and Oshiomole became Governor of Edo State for two terms, before the emergence of Obaseki.
Osunbor later dumped PDP for APC.