Abuja/ Benin City — -Governor to decide next line of action

-Mixed reactions trail exclusion from primary

The National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress yesterday upheld the disqualification of Governor Godwin Obaseki as a candidate for the party’s governorship election ticket.

Obaseki was disqualified on Friday by the party’s screening committee over alleged discrepancies in his personal and academic records while his main challenger, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, was cleared to contest the primaries scheduled for June 22.

Obaseki has said he will not appeal the decision.

On Saturday, the party’s national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, said in a live press conference in Abuja monitored on ARISE News Channel that Mr Obaseki had abused his powers as governor of Edo State.

He said Mr Obaseki orchestrated the inauguration of only nine out of 24 members of the State House of Assembly, and frustrated moves to resolve the crisis.

“Our democracy is founded on a tripod of executive, legislature and the judiciary,” he was quoted as saying. “When a Governor decides to muzzle the legislature, then democracy is dead.”

“Part of the duties and responsibilities of the National Working Committee includes organising primary elections for the nomination of its presidential candidate, governorship candidate, and candidate for election into the national and state assemblies.

“So the responsibility to carry out this exercise is fully vested in the National Working Committee. And we have exercised these responsibilities to the best of our ability,” Oshiomhole said.

Obaseki’s disqualification was earlier Saturday upheld by the party’s appeal committee.

The committee, at a press briefing, said it agreed with the screening committee’s position that it could not vouch for the authenticity of the NYSC Certificate presented by Governor Obaseki.

Meanwhile, the embattled governor, has said he was unfazed by his disqualification from the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship primaries last Friday and would therefore not give up fighting, because of the interest of the Edo people.

But the governor, who claimed to still enjoy the goodwill of a majority of the stakeholders in state, whom he said had rallied behind his resolve to fight off those angling to plunder the state’s treasury, also told his supporters he was still consulting on the next step to take and would communicate his decision as soon as he made up his mind.

Obaseki, who is though not certain yet about his next line of action, is billed to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari for the second time in less than two weeks as part of his consultations on the options before him.

But the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has intensified efforts on how to woo Obaseki to its fold to enable him run on their platform, with the Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, liaising between his colleagues in PDP and the Edo State governor.

Also, mixed reactions have continued to trail the disqualification of Obaseki and other APC aspirants from the party’s primary election with some stakeholders commending the move, while others showed outright aversion to it.

A statement by Obaseki’s Special Adviser on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, stated: “For Obaseki, it is Edo people or nothing. This is why he has remained in this battle thus far. Among many other reasons, each of the groups that form the governor’s support base have benefitted from Governor Obaseki’s stance against thuggery and extortion.

“The governor has enthroned probity and accountability in governance. For labour unions, regular salaries, clearing of over 20 months pension arrears and providing a conducive work environment is what is gearing them to support the governor. The pensioners are fully in support of his policies. The governor has not only cleared pension arrears accrued since 1999, but would soon commence the payment of gratuities.”

While reiterating that the governor’s loyalty lies only with Edo people, the statement added: “The governor’s loyalty rests with Edo people. He would not trade them away to those, who have decided to become godfathers and waging a war of impunity to subjugate the people.”

Continuing, the statement posited that, “The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki sincerely appreciates Edo people, Nigerians and our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora, for the outpouring of goodwill and solidarity since the announcement of his unjust disqualification by the All Progressives Congress (APC) Screening Committee from the Edo governorship primary election. He thanks them for keeping the faith.

“We are consulting widely with party leaders and members in the state and other stakeholders and we shall soon brief the public on the next steps we are taking, going forward.”

The statement noted that the governor’s insistence not to appeal his disqualification was informed by his stance to not kowtow to the wishes of a handful of politicians, who do not have the interest of the people at heart.

According to the statement, “The governor is unfazed, even as he would soon announce his next line of action. But at the moment, Edo people and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) are solidly standing behind the governor. They have declared unflinching support for him and the ideals he stands for.

“The market women, labour unions, clerics, women groups, the elderly, artisan groups, youths, among others, are strongly in support of the governor’s ambition and his stance to keep the state’s treasury sealed from those who have now resorted to disqualifying him from running under the APC in the gubernatorial elections, because of their selfish interests. But Governor Obaseki remains undaunted and unperturbed.”

PDP Poaches Governor as Okowa Liaises With Colleagues

However, in the PDP, several horse-trading is currently ongoing on the next step to be taken by Obaseki, a development that allegedly followed heated pressures from former President Goodluck Jonathan and PDP governors for the Edo governor to defect to the PDP.

Although the pressures had been on before he was eventually disqualified by the APC last Friday, THISDAY gathered that it was also why the PDP has yet to officially release the outcome of the screening of the three governorship aspirants that bought forms for the election of the party ticket.

A PDP source hinted that the last visit of Jonathan to Benin, where he had a closed door meeting with Obaseki might not be unconnected with the defection talks.

The source also said the embattled governor too has not given a committed answer but has continued to ask for more time to fight till the end of the road.

“What happened Friday is the end of the road. We expect him to decide fast,” the source noted.

Asked about the discrepancies in his entry qualifications to the University, which formed the basis of his disqualification, the PDOP source retorted: “Is it a must he presents a university certificate? He has school leaving certificates and that one is not in doubt. The constitution says the qualification to contest is school leaving certificate.”

But Okowa, who is coordinating the defection plans and liaising between the PDP governors and Governor Obaseki, THISDAY gathered, might lead a delegation of his colleagues to pay a courtesy visit to Obaseki on Sunday or Monday, where it is expected that the embattled governor would officially defect to the PDP.

Findings have also revealed that PDP is worried that the three aspirants that already bought the forms are not strong enough to stand election against any candidate from the APC, especially if it was Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.

The three PDP governorship aspirants screened are, Gideon Ikhine, Ogbeide Ihama and Kenneth Imansuangbon, who was screen through a virtually as he was outside the country due to restriction of flights in and outside the country.

Though the official result is not out yet, there are several petitions against their aspirations. It was on account of this, that the PDP has refused to release the results of the screening. It is even said that Ihama, who is from the same Federal constituency as Obaseki might concede the ticket to governor, if the PDP chooses him as its candidate.

THISDAY gathered that his second meeting with President Buhari later in the week is expected to give fillip to the choices before him as he finally decides his political future.

Besides, key PDP leaders in the state including the Igbinedion family and Chief Tom Ikimi, THISDAY learnt, were among those lobbying the national leadership of the party to give the ticket to Obaseki should he fail to get the APC ticket.

Also, two PDP senators from the state, Senators Clifford Ordia and Matthew Urhoghide as well as Hon Joe Edionwe, Hon Sergius Ogun Mike Ogiadome, Earl Osaro Onaiwu, immediate past Director General of the PDP governors forum and other prominent party stakeholders are in the chase for Obaseki to join the PDP.

When contacted, the National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan said, “If Governor Obaseki will join the PDP, it has to be from the bottom,” adding that the national leadership would only be informed of that decision.

Mixed Reactions Trail Governor, Others’ Exclusion from Primary

Meanwhile, while some leaders of the APC have continued to express misgivings about the disqualification of Governor Godwin Obaseki from participating in the primary election scheduled for June 22, others said the decision of the party has saved Edo APC from a major defeat in the coming governorship election.

A former National Chairman of the party, Mr. John Odigie Oyegun and a former of Minister of Information, Tony Momoh, recently warned that the ruling party might lose the governorship election in the state as a result of the disqualification of Obaseki by the party’s screening committee on Friday.

But, in a statement yesterday, some party leaders in Edo State, said the decision of the party has saved the APC from collapse and a major defeat in the September governorship election, saying there is “huge jubilation in the state over the good news, Obaseki’s disqualification.”

Explaining why Obaseki’s candidature would have been a ‘major disaster’ in the coming election, some chieftains of the party in the state in a statement said, there is no way the governor can be trusted with a second term.

They said the Obaseki-led government had made life difficult and almost unbearable for party members and the Edo people in the last three and a half years.

In the statement signed by Benson Edosonman (Edo South Senatorial Leader); Chief Francis Inegbeniki (Edo Central senatorial Leader); Chief Simon Omofuma LEADER); Hon David Iyoha (former Speaker, Edo House of Assembly); Hon Thomas Okosun (Former Chairman ACN, and former Speaker EDHA); Mrs Elizabeth Ativie (former Speaker EDHA); Prince Malik Afegbua, member APC, BOT) and Washington Osifo (member elect, EDHA), they accused the governor of maltreatment, illegal arrests and detention of chieftains and arrogant posturing in managing the affairs of the state.

“Those who are complaining about the disqualification of Godwin Obaseki don’t know what is happening in Edo State. The wide and huge jubilation that greeted the decision of the party on Friday is a testimony to the fact that majority of our party members are happy with the party.

“A candidature of Godwin Obaseki would have led to our party’s major defeat in the September governorship election. Here was a man, who said our national chairman and his predecessor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, must take permission from him before entering the state.

“Here was a man with his many atrocities, who refused to inaugurate 14 APC members of House of Assembly, stated arrogantly that his second term was not negotiable. It would have been a disaster if he was allowed to contest election under our party,” the party leaders said.

The party stalwarts also scolded the governor for the attack on state lawmakers by suspected thugs loyal to the state government, sacking of eight commissioners and special advisers loyal to Oshiomhole, litigation against the nomination of former Deputy Governor Pius Odubu as Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) chairman, and illegal removal of council chairmen.

The statement also mentioned how Obaseki sealed up a hotel belonging to one of the party’s youth leaders, Comrade Osakpomwan Eriyo, adding that he also ordered the seizure of his working equipment, including caterpillars and excavators.

Editorial chatObaseki’s Many Sins

Listing the “many sins” of Governor Obaseki, the leaders said on December 3rd last year, Obaseki ordered that the seats of 14 state lawmakers-elect should be declared vacant, advising INEC to conduct by-elections to fill the positions.

The statement said the governor also banned political rallies and gatherings by threatening to revoke certificates of occupancy of venues hosting such gatherings.

Other “sins” of the governor, they claimed, include confrontation to the defection of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu to APC, lying against Oshiomhole that he was pushing for his impeachment, instigating thugs to attack Prof. Julius Ihonvbere’s constituency office, threatening to deal with Oshiomhole and demolition of the hotel belonging to Comrade Tony Kabaka Adun.

They said Obaseki also revoked the Certificate of Occupancy of properties belonging to Dr. Odubu, Ihonvbere, Chief Elamah and other party leaders, saying there was no way APC members, leaders in Edo State and the electorate cannot forget in a hurry all these activities under the governor’s watch.

“If Godwin Obaseki thinks he is popular, let him go and contest election in other parties. With Obaseki out of our way, APC’s victory in the governorship election will be very sweet,” the statement added.

However, one of the cleared aspirants, Ize-Iyamu has expressed gratitude to the screening committee of the party for carrying out a thorough job.