Nigeria: Edo - Buhari Wades in, Receives Obaseki, to Meet Oshiomhole

Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki, President Muhammadu Buhari, APC Chairperson Adams Oshiomhole
2 June 2020

To stop the crisis ravaging the All Progressives Congress, APC, especially in Edo State, from blowing out of control and hurting the party's chances at the September 19 governorship poll in Edo, President Muhammadu Buhari has agreed to wade into the matter.

The move, a source told Vanguard, was one of the decisions taken at a meeting between President Buhari and Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, who visited and informed the President of his decision to seek re-election, yesterday.

The source told Vanguard that following Obaseki's visit to Aso Villa, the President assured him of intervening in the crisis.

The source, who was at the meeting, said: "The President has intervened in the crisis between Governor Obaseki and Oshiomhole. The President equally promised to meet with the APC national chairman."

Governor Obaseki has been at daggers-drawn with his immediate predecessor and APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, over his re-election bid.

The feud has led to factionalization of the APC in Edo to two camps. The camp backed by Obaseki is in favour of indirect primary, while the other camp loyal to Oshiomhole is insisting on direct primary as approved by the National Working Committee, NWC, of the APC.

On Sunday, Governor Obaseki and seven other APC governors met National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, at State House, Lagos, over the issue. Sources at the meeting said the former Lagos State governor was in favour of direct primary. It would be recalled that Lagos APC backed by Tinubu, used direct primary to stop immediate past governor of Lagos, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, from getting APC's re-election ticket in 2019.

From the Lagos State House meeting, some APC governors met with the party's NWC, yesterday, where Comrade Oshiomhole insisted that the party would go ahead with the direct method of voting during its June 22 governorship primary in Edo State.

Oshiomhole spoke shortly after a closed-door meeting with seven governors of the party, an action party sources said is a continuation of efforts to resolve all disputes ahead of the forthcoming primary of the party in Edo State.

The Obaseki and Oshiomhole feud is threatening the party's chances of victory in the September poll. It is to be seen whether or not President Buhari's intervention will stem the tide.

Before President Buhari agreed to intervene both parties talked tough. While Oshiomhole insisted on direct primary to elect Edo governorship standard bearer, Obaseki said his relationship with Oshiomhole is still frosty, adding that the APC Chairman was being misled by some people.

Meanwhile, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, yesterday, asked parties that want to conduct direct primaries to submit their membership registers. Some of those opposed to APC holding direct primary in Edo and Ondo claimed that the party's membership register has issues.

APC Govs meet with NWC

The governors were led to the meeting by the chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum, PGF, Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State. Others at the meeting are Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Abdullahi Umar Ganduje (Kano), Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq (Kwara) and Muhammed Inuwa (Gombe).

Aside Oshiomhole, the National Organizing Secretary of the party, Emma Ibediro; National Vice Chairman North-East, Mustapha Salihu; Acting National Secretary, Arc. Waziri Bulama and others were at the parley.

Addressing journalists after the meeting, Oshiomhole said the party leadership had a "very helpful conversation" with the governors.

"We had a very helpful conversation. You know it is one APC. There are no two APCs. So, interacting and interfacing with our governors is something that is part of our tradition, it is not something we have just invented and today's discussion was particu-larly helpful.

"So, we are very grateful to the chairman and members of the Progressive Governors Forum who have come all the way. What binds us together is so strong that Coronavirus cannot put asunder.

Direct primary

"We have since published our time-table because under the law, we are required to give INEC at least 21 days notice to monitor our primaries and to state the mode of our primaries and of course NWC, had approved direct primaries for Edo. That of Ondo has not been discussed because that will come much later. Edo will come about three weeks before Ondo.

"We have commenced the sale of forms and I think as of last Friday, to my knowledge three people had picked the forms. I think by today more people would have picked the forms. So we are selling forms to all those who wish to buy based on the guidelines and of course as the chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum rightly said, we have ensured in our letter to INEC and even this morning we had a virtual meeting with INEC leadership, and we will conduct primaries, taking into account the protocols on COVID-19 by the PTF and NCDC. I think everything is going fine.

"You know that Governors are assets to our party and once a candidate emerges, we all work and ensure that we do our best to persuade the people in the respective states to favour us with their votes and I am sure that by the special grace of God, the Ondo Governor is here, he did well and the electorate are more sophisticated now. So we have no fear about that.

"Obaseki is not here but issues of primaries are well spelt out in our constitution and we are following it as strictly as possible. So nothing to worry about at all."

Asked to confirm whether he had received a letter from the Edo governor stating his preference for Indirect Primary, Oshiomhole said: "You are speculating, I don't have any letter or document to that effect. These are very formal matters. So, let us not spread rumours."

Chairman of the PFG and Governor of Kebbi state, Atiku Bagudu said "the meeting between the national leadership of our party with the Progressives Governors Forum was to discuss issues that have piled up especially between March 14 when the forum last met and agreed to meet with the national working committee under the able leadership of Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole to discuss issues of interest to our party."

"Within the intervening period, many things have happened. We had a virtual conference where we commiserated with Mr President because of the challenges caused by the COVID-19 situation. We also undertook that the delegation will visit Lagos to express sympathies with the Lagos people and our colleague for the able leadership he has provided. We met with Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and also met with our National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to discuss developments in the polity particularly as they affect our party. So, yes, a delegation was in Lagos but this meeting was not a continuation of yesterday's (Lagos) meeting. This is a meeting with the national leadership of our party to discuss issues between the Governor's Forum and party leadership that will lead to the progress of our party.

"On Edo, Ondo elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has rolled out a time table and the national chairman is in a better position to speak on that," he stated.

The person contesting APC ticket lives in Abuja --Obaseki

Speaking to State House Correspondents after presenting his Expression of Interest Forms to contest the APC primary to President Buhari, Governor Obaseki expressed optimism that he would thrash his opponent in direct or indirect primary.

The Governor also said that his relationship with Oshiomhole is still frosty, stating that the APC Chairman was misguided by some people.

Asked why he was at the State House, he said: "I came to see Mr. President to formally inform him of my desire and intention to seek re-election as governor of Edo State on the platform of APC in the forthcoming gubernatorial elections. As the father of our country, as our President, we should not assume or take things for granted. I have to formally come to inform him and solicit his support for my gubernatorial bid.

"I believe having been governor of the state for three years, you can check with the Edo people whether as governor I have served creditably. I have served the people of Edo.

"The consensus is that we have done well as a government and that people would like us to continue with the laudable programmes and policies which we have been undertaking in the last three years. If you recall, when I got into power as Governor, one thing Edo was noted for was human trafficking. We had over 30,000 of our citizens who were in Libya waiting to cross into Europe. In less than three years we have stopped that.

"We are celebrated globally, across the continent in terms of the reforms we have undertaken in basic education in this country. Those children, I can't abandon them, we can stock what we have achieved till date.

"Based on that we believe, because of the connection which we have created with our people, we have no doubt in our minds that we will win any elections, direct, indirect, general elections in Edo State."

He said that the crisis in the APC in Edo was engineered by people from outside the state. "The problem in Edo State is not from Edo but from outside. So the person I am contesting against is not in Edo, he is in Abuja," he said.

Asked to comment on the relationship with his predecessor who incidentally is the National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, he said that there was no love lost between two of them.

'Oshiomhole not properly guided'

According to him: "It is unfortunate that he is taking the position he has taken; I believe that he was not properly guided. As governor and his governor it is my responsibility to seek peace for my state and with all my citizens.

"I will continue to strive for peace, I will continue to pursue peace, for the sake and interest of our people and I am open. I have always said that we should talk about how to move things forward. We cannot turn back the hands of the clock, so there are certain things we just must have to accept and see how we can move forward and build where we are.

"So, the relationship is still frosty; I am doing all I can, I am doing my best to try and make it warm just for the sake of Edo people. Whatever it will take to have peace, whatever it will take not to lose lives in Edo, I am committed to."

Also asked if he was ready to make sacrifices to ensure warm relationship Oshiomhole, he said: "Whatever I can do that is within the law, whatever I can do that is constitutional, I will do."

On the reaction of President Buhari to his visit, he said "the President was quite welcoming when I showed him my expression of interest forms, he looked through it and teased me that he will not have to go through this again, he wished me goodluck and assured me of his support."

Stand of APC govs

Fielding question on the stand of APC Governors, Governor Obaseki said: "In terms of the support by APC Governors, it is unanimous. All APC Governors decided and agreed that as a party when you have an incumbent governor, particularly if he is doing well, they should run around and support him, it is a common practice all over the world.

"How many Republicans have come up to contest against Donald Trump? It shows a disadvantage for our party a disharmony and disunity within a party.

"However, that's not to say that in a democracy, there should be no contest. No, you know in fact that the essence of democracy is contesting. So it's important that we have a contest and I am not asking to walk through. However, it should be fair. It should be open, it should be transparent and people are entitled to endorse whoever they want to endorse."

Esele backs indirect primary

Meantime, against the backdrop of the in-fighting between supporters of Governor Obaseki and Adams Oshiomhole over whether direct or indirect primary should be adopted in the election of APC governorship candidate, former President of the Trade Union Congress, TUC, Comrade Peter Esele, has thrown his weight behind indirect primary.

Esele, who made his position known while speaking with journalists in Benin, yesterday, said that direct primary would not be possible now, insisting that the party has no authentic membership register, no accurate data, and no capacity to conduct direct primary because the infrastructure is not even there.

He said: "Now whether you like it or not what will give Edo people confidence in the process is an indirect primary. Why am I saying so? It was an indirect primary that brought Oshiomhole to power as a governor, he is a product of indirect primaries, Governor Obaseki was a product of indirect primaries, why suddenly do we have to shift the goal post when the match is already on?

"So if any person has anything against indirect primary let such person come up with his argument and let us look at what is wrong and they will correct it. For the direct primaries how many members do we have in Edo State in our register? There is none.

"Governor Obaseki just started conducting registration of party members in the last two months even if you talk about the authentic registration it is even the governor that has it.

"So even with the national headquarters when last did they authenticate the register, even INEC from time to time authenticate its register. When last was that done?.

On the seeming gang-up against Governor Obaseki, he said: "The first thing is you can contest against a sitting governor. It is democracy. If you feel you can do more you can contest against a sitting governor in a democratic setting. However, has Governor Obaseki performed or is Obaseki performing? One thing is very clear, nobody says Obaseki has not performed, everybody is saying Obaseki has performed which means he is a good product and in any qualitative and quantitative political setting, it is your good product that you put forward to win election. Right now Obaseki is that best leg for APC but if Ize-Iyamu says that he wants to contest against Obaseki, he is a member of the party. Ize-Iyamu also has the right to contest, there is nothing wrong with that."

Owan-West APC adopts Ize-Iyamu as candidate, factional spokesmen differ

However, the ambition of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu to clinch the APC ticket got a boost yesterday as the leadership of the party in Owan West Local Council adopted him as its candidate for the post.

Chairman of the APC in the area, Hon Lugard Alukpe who presided over the meeting that had the chairmen of the party from the 11 wards of the council; the senatorial woman leader of the APC, Mrs Angelina Aigbokhan, the local government Woman Leader, Chief Edith Ayeni and some selected leaders in line with social gathering as a result of COVID-19 said the area has been abandoned since the last administration and that they believe Ize-Iyamu would take the state to the next level.

He said: "Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu is a good man, we call him governor already and he will not be the kind of governor that will not have respect for the structure of the party and the leaders. We know him to be the right man he has ever been. We believe he will do well because he is a man of integrity he will perform and carry the party to the next level because it is where Comrade Oshiomhole stopped that we are still in, the current governor has stayed there for four years and we have been in one spot so we believe that when Pastor Ize-Iyamu comes, he will take the state to the next level."

Speaking on behalf of all the ward chairmen who were present, chairman of ward chairmen, Monday Omage said "We endorsed Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu because he is an elephant that can face the governor in the election. Obaseki has not done anything for us since we elected him into power, we went to Benin to vote for him as our candidate but since then, we have been abandoned here as if we don't exist. That is why we have adopted Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu as our preferred candidate and we are going to work for him and make him go to Osadebey Avenue as the next governor of Edo State."

Give us your membership register, INEC tells parties

Meanwhile, the INEC has asked parties desirous of using the direct primary election method ahead of the forthcoming governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states to avail it of their membership register or delegate list should they be considering using the indirect method.

This was as the commission again decried the rising cost of conducting bye-elections in the country, describing such elections as diversionary and distracting it from improving on the electoral process.

INEC had last week unveiled a policy document in which it said it would be working with relevant stakeholders to see how political parties can be asked to nominate replacements for deceased lawmakers rather than conducting bye-elections to fill the void.

INEC reads riot act to parties

Speaking at the first virtual consultative meeting with leaders of political parties, yesterday, Chairman of the Commission, Professor Mahmood Yakubu warned the parties against political thuggery as they go into their primaries.

He said: "Based on experience, it is also important to draw your attention to the necessity for rancour-free primaries. Party primaries form the foundation for the secondary election conducted by the commission.

"You must therefore avoid acts of thuggery, brigandage, vote-buying and other sundry violations of the Electoral Act. As we monitor the conduct of party primaries, we will pay particular attention to your compliance with the law and to consider sanctions so that the unruly behaviour of some party supporters is not carried forward to the main election.

"At the same time, I wish to appeal to political parties that opt for direct primaries to avail us with the register of members to be used for the election from Ward to Local Government and State levels for the effective discharge of our monitoring responsibilities under the law.

"Those that opt for indirect primaries should similarly make available to the Commission the list of delegates for the election. Doing otherwise will amount to going into an election without the voters' register.

"The commission makes available to each political party the complete register of voters before every major election. We expect political parties to reciprocate for their primaries," he stated.

Yakubu recalled that INEC had since 6th February released the timetable and schedule of activities for both elections, warning political parties to adhere strictly to the schedule as there won't be any extension of its deadlines.

He said: "Party primaries for the nomination of candidates for the Edo Governorship election begin tomorrow. Already, some political parties have invited the Commission to monitor their primaries which must be conducted from 2nd to 27th June 2020.

"This time around, the submission of nomination forms will be done online for which a dedicated portal has been set up. Let me therefore warn political parties that intend to field candidates for the election to strictly adhere to these dates as well as the new online procedure for filing of nominations.

"Any party that operates outside these dates will only have itself to blame. The portal will automatically shut down on the scheduled date and at the fixed hour. The Legal Department and ICT will brief this meeting on the new procedure".

The INEC boss also restated his earlier position on the need for a national conversation on the frequency of bye-elections in the country.

He said: "In addition to the Governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States, the Commission is also making preparations to conduct nine bye-elections. The details have already been made public. However, as we were preparing for this meeting, our office in Zamfara State informed us that a member of the State House of Assembly for Bakura Constituency passed on yesterday.

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