Tension was thick in Edo State, on Saturday, as Governor Godwin Obaseki considered his next steps after being screened out of participation in the June 22 primary election of All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of the September governorship election in the state.
Obaseki had, on Friday, been stopped from being part of the primaries alongside two other aspirants for the APC ticket: Chris Ogiemwonyi, a former Minister of State for Works, and Matthew Iduoriyekemwen, a former Majority Leader of Edo State House of Assembly.
The governor, according to the APC leadership, was stopped on the grounds of flawed High School Certificate (HSC) and National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) certificates.
The development was the climax of the battle of supremacy between Obaseki and the National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who is also Obaseki’s predecessor in office.
The disqualification of Obaseki from the Edo APC primary election had triggered the speculation that he was headed to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to seek re-election ticket.
However, the governor did not confirm whether he was headed to the PDP or remain in APC, on Saturday.
He said: “We are still consulting widely with party (APC) 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.
Obaseki, who spoke through his Special Adviser on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, said he was unfazed by his disqualification by the APC Screening Committee for the party’s primary election.
“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,” the statement added.
It noted that the governor’s insistence not to appeal his disqualification is informed by his stance not to kowtow to the wishes of a handful of politicians, who do not have the interest of the people at heart.
The statement added: “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.
“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.”
The statement added that the governor’s loyalty lies with Edo people, adding “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.”
PDP may grant waiver
Meanwhile, there were strong indications, on Saturday, that PDP may grant Obaseki a waiver to fly the party’s flag in the September governorship election in Edo, if he chooses to defect to the party.
Vanguard was also reliably informed that leaders of the party were ready to plead with other aspirants, vying to get the party ticket, to step down for the governor.
A top party official, who spoke in confidence, narrated how some top party leaders, including the PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, and the National Organising Secretary, Col Austin Akobundu, brokered a deal with the Edo governor on the need for him to fly the PDP ticket.
The source, however, disclosed that Secondus, Akobundu and other party leaders were in a dilemma on how to prevail on other aspirants to step down for Obaseki and present him as the PDP candidate.
The party official said: “The move has been for a long time and it was in anticipation that Adams Oshiomhole may not give Obaseki the ticket. The game was only between Secondus and Akobundu, it was not open to anybody.
“As a matter of fact, one of the Screening Committee members confided in me that four aspirants collected the forms but only three of them were screened.
“The fourth aspirant could not be screened because he is currently holed up outside the country due to the coronavirus pandemic. They conducted his screening virtually via zoom.
“Secondus is now in a dilemma on how to play the joker to give Obaseki the governorship ticket.”
The party official hinted that a waiver may be given to Obaseki just like Senator Ademola Adeleke was given during the Osun PDP governorship primary in 2018.
The official said: “You know when money is involved and Obaseki is ready to bankroll the campaign, he will be given a waiver.
“Some members of the party may not be positively disposed to that idea. The problem we have now in the PDP is that the party does not give any state financial assistance during elections, except the candidate is financially buoyant, which was the reason Ademola Adeleke was given the ticket in 2018 in Osun.”
On the possibility of some aspirants dumping PDP if Obaseki is given waiver, the PDP official said: “APC is already in crisis and it is not an option. So, members will prefer to remain in the PDP.
“It is unfortunate for those who have nursed the governorship ambition to be left out. That is politics. Also, the way the APC is going about it, it may not win the election in Edo because of the crisis.”
… as ADP woos Obaseki
In a related development, the Action Democratic Party (ADP) said, on Saturday, that it was ready to accept Obaseki into its fold.
The National Publicity Secretary of ADP, Mr. Adelaja Adeoye, who was reacting to the disqualification of the governor, said the ADP was operating an open-door policy and that the party would gladly admit and accord him every respect as a sitting governor.
Adeoye noted that Obaseki would have to follow the party’s rules and abide by its principles should he decide to join the party to contest on its ticket.
His words: “Yes, if Obaseki decides to join ADP today, the party will welcome him with open arms. The party runs an open-door policy. So we will gladly receive him.
“He is the sitting governor, so we may give him waivers and accord him all the respect as the occupier of the number one office in the state.
“However, we will expect the governor to follow laid-down rules and abide by the principles of the party should he decide to join us to seek our ticket.”