By Ozioruva Aliu
Chief Osaro Idah, the Obazele of Benin Kingdom, is Special Adviser on Political Matters to Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State. He speaks on the crisis in the Edo APC and way forward.
Adoption of direct primary by the NWC
It is not possible for the members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of APC to make such declaration because it is not within their rights. The Constitution of APC is very clear on who has the right to do so.
The party at the state level has the right to determine the mode of governorship primary election it prefers, which is subject to the last meeting (in 2018) of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of APC in Abuja, where the instruction was approved. Since then, nothing has been said by the NEC of the party. So, nothing has changed.
The NWC of APC met and recommended to NEC for approval in 2018. Since then, NEC has not met to change the decision. Members of NWC cannot on their own make an order that is compelling. To take such a crucial decision, members of NEC must meet.
To change the party’s National chairman and other vital decisions, there must be a convention, which is the highest authority. Last year when the governorship election in Kogi State took place, it was Kogi APC that took the decision on indirect primary. So, what has changed? Edo State Executive Committee (SEC) of APC has done the right thing by opting for indirect governorship primary election. Governor Obaseki is not scared of direct primary election because he will win fair and square, but we want the right process to be followed and the right thing to be done.
We do not want to expand anybody’s ego. We want the extant law to be obeyed. We have social media governorship aspirants in Edo who are making noise to entertain their friends. Our concern is that the rule must be followed. NWC of APC cannot dictate to Edo APC on the mode of governorship primary election to use. In this period of COVID-19, how will you put thousands of people in a place for direct governorship primary election? It is supposed to be a friendly exercise.
On the allegation that Obaseki wants to use Covid-19 as basis for indirect primary
The allegation was leveled out of ignorance, lack of deep thought and carelessness in playing politics. The state does not announce COVID-19 cases. It is purely the business of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19. The implication of the allegation is that the integrity of NCDC and PTF is being questioned. The man who made the allegation and his co-travelers ought to be invited by the Department of State Service (DSS) and other security agencies to prove the weighty allegation, because no sane person or government will play politics to that level.
NCDC and PTF on COVID-19 should also deeply probe the allegation and, if found to be true, all the people found culpable should appear in court. In the state, only the governor and the deputy governor have immunity against prosecution while in office. It is not everything that you play politics with because it affects the lives of the people. If the allegation goes out of Nigeria, it will affect the integrity of the country, which will indicate that we are playing pranks with the deadly coronavirus pandemic and that we are not serious people.
Which of the factions – Anselm Ojezua and Col David Imuse (rtd) – is authentic?
I am not aware of two factions in Edo APC. The state secretariat of the party is on Airport Road in Benin City, with Anselm Ojezua as the authentic and duly-elected Chairman. When you say a party, you should be referring to the Chairman and other members of the executive who were elected at the state congress of APC, not any other group. I know of a cultural group called Edo Peoples Movement (EPM). I am not aware of the recognition of EPM by leaders of APC at the national level. The EPM members are political pretenders. Are the EPM members registered as APC?
On the recognition of Imuse by the NWC as APC Chairman
Maybe the National Chairman of APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, went on a private visit to President Muhammadu Buhari. Can’t he visit the President privately? Maybe when the excited Comrade Oshiomhole was going to visit President Buhari in Abuja, he decided to go with some of his friends, not the duly-elected Chairman of APC in Edo, just for Nigerians and other people worldwide to know that he is very close to the President.
On the suspension of Anselm Ojezua
They cannot suspend Edo APC’s Chairman and members of his executive just like that. Can Comrade Oshiomhole be suspended as the national chairman of APC by two or three members of his executive? Do not forget that they (Col. David Imuse (rtd) and others) are in court for contempt.
The weighty letter they sent to the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, on COVID-19 was signed by the Secretary, Lawrence Okah. Does the Secretary have the right to sign the letter when the cultural group has a Chairman? It is just because the so-called Chairman of EPM knew that it would affect him in his contempt case in court.
So, the EPM Chairman refused to sign the letter containing weighty allegations against the focused and performing Governor Godwin Obaseki which are tissues of lies. If the EPM Chairman had signed the letter, it would have added value to the suit instituted by Barr. Anselm Ojezua. The EPM Chairman is a pretender. What kind of Chairman is that? Is that how to become a Chairman?
The last registration of party members was done during the era of ACN. So, we do not have proper register of APC members throughout the country. People have died, some have travelled out of Nigeria and some have left APC. We never bothered to have new register; while APC’s Constitution says that there must be update of members’ register every three or six months. Have we ever done that?
Where are they going to get the register from, for direct governorship primary election? Where will they get register of members within three weeks to conduct direct governorship primary election? Will they go and pack market women to come and vote during the party’s primary election?
Obaseki not afraid of direct primary
Governor Obaseki is very popular in Edo and beyond, and he has performed excellently. So, he is not afraid of direct primary election, but the right thing must be done. INEC has the records of the delegates for indirect primary election which will make the election very easy. Participants in indirect primary election will include ward, local government, state and national officials of APC and the statutory delegates. I am insisting that Edo APC has no faction. Governor Obaseki and his teeming supporters across the 18 LGAs of the state are not scared of direct governorship primary election.
We are still going to meet Edo people face-to-face during the September 19 governorship election, which Governor Obaseki will win and to continue in office beyond November 12, 2020. What we are saying is that the rule of law must prevail, not the rule of one man. APC’s Constitution is supreme. Let us operate the Constitution because we do not know who will come tomorrow. If we allow it now, tomorrow we may be victims. If they want Edo governor to go for direct primary election, they must first give us the register of members of the party in the state.
On the crisis between Obaseki and Oshiomhole
Well-meaning Nigerians are speaking with them (Oshiomhole and Obaseki) and I pray that both of them will find a common ground very soon. Whether some people like it or not, Comrade Oshiomhole remains our father. We will be so glad to have a happy home once again so that we can still flow as father and children.
My former boss, His Excellency Lucky Igbinedion, who appointed me when he was Edo governor as the General Manager of Bendel Brewery Limited, Benin City, gave me a piece of advice a long time ago. When I had a brouhaha with a certain leader of the party, and I was fighting the man with all my might, me, a small man, fighting a giant… Even my uncle, who was a leader in PDP, we had our differences. One day, then-Governor Igbinedion called me and he advised me that in life, never fight-to-the-finish, but to always leave a window for reconciliation.
I took the advice to heart and it is one of the principles that influence my thoughts in life. Chief Lucky Igbinedion’s wise counsel has greatly helped me. In spite of the face-off between Comrade Oshiomhole and Governor Obaseki, I still see a window of reconciliation.