Politics

February 22, 2024

Edo guber: NWC drops Uzodimma, appoints Otu to conclude primary today

Edo guber: NWC drops Uzodimma, appoints Otu to conclude primary today

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Ozioruva Aliu & Omeiza Ajayi

BENIN CITY— FOLLOWING complaints from aspirants, elders, and stakeholders, the National Working Committee, NWC, of the All Progressives Congress, APC, has dropped Imo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma, as chairman of its Edo State governorship primaries committee.

The NWC had late Tuesday night declared the Saturday primaries as inconclusive and fixed today for the conclusion of the exercise, and appointed Governor Bassey Otu of Cross River State to conclude the primaries. Other members of the committee include Mrs Titilayo Tomori, Hon. Umar Hassan, Lawal Garba, and a former Secretary to the Kano State Government, Rabiu Sulaiman who would serve as secretary of the committee.

A “Revised 2024 Edo State Gubernatorial Primary Election and Appeal Committees” issued by the National Organising Secretary of the party, Sulaiman Argungu, showed that Senator Bassey Out, governor of Cross Rivers State is now the chairman of the seven-man panel to conclude the APC governorship primaries.

Aspirants mobilise members, supporters

Some Edo State governorship aspirants on the platform of the APC, yesterday, returned to the drawing board, to mobilise their supporters and followers for today’s exercise. The three aspirants claiming victory in last Saturday’s exercise-Senator Monday Okpebholo, Rep Dennis Idahosa, and Hon. Anamero Dekeri, said they were sure of getting the APC ticket at the end of today’s exercise as they have directed their coordinators to mobilise members of the party.

Paul Ohonbamu, one of the coordinators for Senator Okpebholo, said they were optimistic that Okpebholo would emerge as the candidate because “he was already leading in the eight local government areas already announced and I believe he would continue in that trend” Dekeri in a statement directed “all LGA coordinators, Ward coordinators and Ward canvassers to immediately begin fresh mobilization ahead of another round of primaries scheduled for Thursday February 22, 2024.”

We’ve learned from APC’s primaries —Police

The Edo State Police Command described the APC’s Saturday’s primaries as an eye-opener, saying it would no longer treat such election as a party’s affair. The Command’s spokesman, SP Chidi Nwabuzor, stated this, yesterday, while briefing journalists on the preparedness of the Command ahead of today’s primaries. While the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, would be having its delegate election at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, the APC will also continue last Saturday’s governorship declared inconclusive by the party’s leadership. He said: “You could remember that we had just a little hitch of a particular party delegate election. That has been an eye-opener to Edo State Police Command, that we should no longer see it as a party affair,” Nwabuzor said.

According to him, “There are people with diverse interests, behaviour, attitude and character. So, this time around, we are not going to view it as party affairs, we are going to view it very seriously to ensure that the right thing is done and that the lives and properties of these party members are protected.” Commenting further on arrangements and deployment of operatives for the exercises, the Edo police spokesman said the Command is working with other sister security agencies to ensure that we do well in this exercise. “The Nigerian Police, Edo State Command is very ready to ensure that there is a peaceful, hitch-free delegate election cut across political parties in Edo State. We are ready to ensure that the lives and properties of these delegates, the party men and women are well protected and secure.

“The Commissioner of Police has adequately deployed officers and men for the exercise and we believe that the number of officers, the caliber of officers and men he had deployed for this exercise, we are not hoping to see any form of violence or civil disobedience,” he said. He however warned the participating political parties and their delegates to be of good behavior and conduct themselves in lawful manner, adding: “The Commissioner of Police, EdoState, CP Funsho Adegboye, is appealing to party members of these different political parties in Edo state who are conducting these delegate primaries to go about it in a lawful manner according to the rules of the game.”

Why Uzodimma was dropped

Before the APC NWC dropped Uzodimma, leading aspirants in the exercise rejected the Imo State governor as chairman of the elections committee and urged President Bola Tinubu to wade in. In a joint statement signed by Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Chief Lucky Imasuen, Senator Monday Okpebholo and General Charles Airhiavbere, retd, the aspirants, said Uzodinma did not observe the minimum requirements for compliance with the relevant provisions of the extant laws and regulations guiding the election as provided both in the Electoral Act and in the APC Constitution. In their statement, the aspirants said: “We strongly believe that whatever was responsible for his (Uzodimma’s) flagrant disregard for due process and unusual hasty declaration of unconfirmed fictitious results of the primaries outside the designated collation centre may not have abated from his mind, and therefore may be repeated if given the opportunity to play the same role as chairman in the process.

“In the circumstance, we are calling on Mr President to kindly use his good offices to replace Senator Hope Uzodinma with any other respected member of our great party, as chairman whom the President strongly believes will comply with the law, maintain internal democracy, protect and defend the integrity and goodwill of the President which he has attained over the years that endeared him to both national and international stakeholders.” Expectedly, the NWC obliged and took the decision late Tuesday after an emergency meeting in Abuja. Addressing newsmen after the meeting, which lasted for about three hours, APC Spokesman, Felix Morka, said: “The NWC resolves that the Edo State governorship primary election has not been completed and has now fixed Thursday, February 22, 2024 for the completion of the APC primary election process.”

Local Government returning officers for the primary election led by Babatunde Ojo had on Saturday declared Anamero Dekeri, a serving House of Representatives member, winner of the exercise. The development came after Senator Uzodinma had declared another federal lawmaker Dennis Idahosa winner of the exercise. On his part, returning Officer of the exercise, Stanley Ugboaja had declared Senator Monday Okpebholo as winner. The three “candidates” had since demanded that the NWC issue them a certificate of return.

Edo elders commend APC for replacing Uzodimma, warn against imposition

Commending the APC and President Tinubu for replacing Uzodimma, Edo APC Elders Stakeholders Forum in statement, yesterday, by their Chairman, Matthew Omoregie and Stephen Aigbe, Secretary General, decried last weekend’s primaries, which were supervised by Uzodimma, noting that it was flawed in many ways.

Commending the swift intervention of the leadership of the party and the rescheduling of the primaries, the elders advised the new chairman of the primary election, Governor Otu to remain steadfast to the tenets of true democracy, so that his name will remain on the fair side of history. The forum said: “During a similar primary when the people were denied the opportunity to choose their candidate, the process was hijacked and a candidate was imposed on the party by the erstwhile Governor Adams Oshiomhole.

“After winning the election, the imposed candidate (now Governor Godwin Obaseki) took party members through hell from 2016 and decamped to PDP in 2020.” The forum pledged its support for President Tinubu and his administration, and urged the party leadership and the NWC“to ensure that democracy

wins in Edo State as the party picks its governorship candidate for the September 21, 2024, governorship election.”

Tinubu not interested in zoning — Oshiomhole

Meanwhile, former Governor of Edo State, Senator Adams Oshiomhole, yesterday, said that President Tinubu was committed to free and fair primaries not based on zoning in the state Oshiomhole also kicked against the contentious zoning of the governorship slot in Edo State and queried the APC over its insistence on zoning in Edo but looked the other way in Kogi where the kinsman of former Governor Yahaya Bello took over from him.

He said that it would be unfair for the APC to implement zoning in today’s rescheduled primaries when it did not do so in Kogi and Benue states Oshiomhole, who is representing Edo North Senatorial District, stated this while speaking with State House correspondents after he met behind closed-doors with President Tinubu at the Presidential Villa Abuja. He said the Edo state chapter of the APC is not interested in “turn-by-turn democracy.” His visit to the president came on the heels of the controversy surrounding the emergence of three aspirants claiming to be winners in the last Saturday’s primaries. Hon. Dennis Idahosa, who is said to be the candidate of Senator Oshiomhole was declared by the chairman of the primaries, Senator Uzodimma. Edo APC stakeholders opposed to Idahosa said that he is from the same Edo South Senatorial District as the incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki who is completing his two-term eight-year tenure, advocating that power should move to a different zone. However, Oshiomhole insisted that after discussing the zoning question with President Tinubu, the president expressed his commitment only to free and fair primary.

He said Tinubu told him that the rescheduled primary should not be based on zoning but the will of the majority of APC. Oshiomhole contended that after allowing Kogi State Governor Usman Ododo to succeed Yahaya Bello even though they are from the same senatorial district, and also not stopping the Tiv’s from dominating Benue State governorship elections, the APC cannot single out Edo State for zoning. He said: “I came to see Mr. President and it is about the Edo governorship primaries. As I’m sure you know by now, the NWC had reasons of course to review the governorship primaries that were conducted last week as a result of controversies arising from the conduct of the primaries.

“So, today, as party member, and of course the leader of the party in Edo State, I came to discuss some of the issues that I think are relevant and also in order to ensure that the APC family in Edo State conduct themselves in a manner that Mr President will be proud of the outcome of the primaries, because at the end of the day, after the primary, we’re going to face the main election.

“They have a lot of rumours which I thought Mr. President should speak to and I needed some clarification from him because as the leader of the party, there are a couple of things that I want to be sure that I know where he stands. “One of them is the issue of zoning. The President has affirmed that he has no voting right in Edo State even though the Edo people have the right to vote for the president. Therefore, what matters to him is to ensure that APC members in Edo State participate in the free and fair primaries. “The president said that as far as he’s concerned, he is committed only to free and fair primaries not based on zoning because you don’t do zoning on the eve of the primary. “If there’s going to be zoning those involved in the decision will have to be so comprehensive that the people of the state understand it. And number two, if you have zoning, you will not allow people who are not from the particular zone to procure forms. “Now the national Secretariat of the party is on record as having issued the statement, which was widely used to the effect that the APC governorship ticket was open to anyone who is eligible to procure the nomination form which was why at the end of the day, we have 12 candidates that procured the form.

“So the key issue in my conversation with Mr. President is that the primary that has been rescheduled for tomorrow (today) to continue is not based on and will not be based on zoning, it will be based on free and fair primaries. “It is a continuation of the exercise that had some challenges arising from an individual proclaiming himself as a returning officer, which is completely strange to the rules of the party, which has led to what the media has widely reported as two factions, emerging. So that’s it.”

Oshiomhole said that he had the authority of the President to address the press on the zoning matter, alleging that there have been many lies and half-truths being peddled around. According to him: “Now what is fair in a democracy is not for any man including the president to single-handedly impose anyone. The fairness of the process is determined by whether or not the candidate that emerges is the true choice of the electorate, of the APC members. And that is where the President stands. “Now when you choose to single out Edo state, you are just being unfair. Is it not the same APC where recently, in Kogi State, you have back-to-back somebody from one senatorial zone succeeding the other? Why is Edo different? In Benue State, since 1999, you’ve had only people from one part, one particular language, the Tivs that have produced governor after governor since1999. Are you about to change the rules? In any case, who are you and I to dictate to Edo APC members where their candidate must come from? “If you impose a candidate, as some of you want to suggest when you go for the election proper, are you going to tell people to vote based on your own privileged elite consensus of turn-by-turn democracy? “We are not known for turn-by-turn democracy and I have been in Edo politics since 2007. I won the election against what PDPconsideredtobethepreferredcandidate. Only the people of Edo State, in this case, and at this stage the people of APC, can nominate the candidate. I have the authority of the President to clarify this. His name should not be used recklessly by people who are afraid of free and fair elections. “