Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Benin City — Efforts by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to resolve grievances arising from Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki's late entry into the race for its governorship ticket, suffered a setback yesterday as Rivers State Governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike, withdrew from the reconciliation process.
Meanwhile, three PDP governors, including Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State and chairman of the PDP Governors Forum; Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State; Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, governor of Adamawa State are heading to Benin City to save governor Obaseki and plead with other governorship gladiators to give Obaseki a safe landing for the party's gubernatorial ticket tomorrow.
Wike, who is close to the leading aspirant of the party before Obaseki joined the race, Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, cited the allegation that he masterminded Monday's court injunction restraining PDP from allowing Obaseki to join its shadow poll, slated for tomorrow, for his withdrawal.
The court restrained Obaseki from participating in the PDP's primary pending the determination of the suit.
Ogbeide-Ihama had filed the suit at the Federal High Court, sitting in Port Harcourt, praying for the exclusion of Obaseki, among other reliefs, from the party's primary.
However, in a fightback, Obaseki's supporters yesterday secured an order of an Edo State High Court, sitting in Ekpoma, which stopped the party from excluding the governor from the primary.
The party's National Working Committee (NWC) also refuted Wike's allegation that those he described as tax collectors among the NWC members were behind the accusation linking him to the restrained order against the PDP and Obaseki.
THISDAY, in an exclusive account of the Port Harcourt ruling on Monday, had reported that Wike's action was an extension of the power tussle between him and his predecessor, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, who is seen as an ally of Obaseki.
Another Port Harcourt-based court had also granted the order stopping the political foes of Wike, led by Amaechi, from laying claims to the acting national chairmanship of the All Progressives Congress (APC) - a move that assisted Adams Oshiomhole, the embattled National Chairman of the ruling APC, and frustrated Amaechi in his bid to take control of the national structure of the party, ahead of the 2023 presidential election, which he is said to be interested in. .
Amaechi's protege, Chief Victor Giadom, was stopped by the Port Harcourt court from parading himself as the APC's acting national chairman, in an extension of the supremacy battle between Wike and Amaechi, that has now spilled over to Edo State where Obaseki was counting on the same Wike - a sworn political foe of his key supporter, Amaechi, - to assist him secure the PDP ticket.
In his reaction yesterday, Wike said he had pulled out of the ongoing efforts to broker truce among the aspirants and described some members of the NWC of the party as tax collectors.
The Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mr. Paulinus Nsirim, said in a statement in Port Harcourt that such members of the PDP NWC behind the allegations, were sycophants and tax collectors who would never tell the truth.
He said instead of the NWC to carry everybody along in Edo State, they resorted to using the media to blackmail him.
He said: "I told them that in Edo State, we must handle the issue carefully and carry everybody along. They must respect human beings and not behave like tax collectors.
"They said because an order was obtained from a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, then I am responsible.
"I have had sleepless nights to resolve the issue in Edo State. The Governors of Edo, Adamawa and Delta States know what I have done to resolve the issues in Edo State.
"As a result of this senseless accusation, I have pulled out of Edo State settlement. My integrity matter."
Wike also threatened to go to court over the allegation.
"They are tax collectors. Let them challenge me and I will come out with more facts. Nobody will rubbish me by raising false accusations against me. I will fight back," he stated.
Wike said he would no longer participate in any reconciliation and wondered why the NWC wanted to consult governors of the party.
He questioned why the NWC did not consult with governors in the case of Bayelsa State.
The governor warned that if PDP was not careful, the crisis in the All Progressives Congress (APC) would be a child's play.
"I am brought up not to accept injustice, and that is why I keep speaking out on national issues. Nobody in PDP can intimidate Rivers State.
"Nobody can threaten me because I said things must be done constitutionally. I will always continue to satisfy my conscience.
"From now on, I want to concentrate on the development of Rivers State," he added.
NWC Members Not Tax Collectors, PDP Replies Wike
In a swift reaction, the PDP said no member of its NWC sponsored any media publication to castigate and malign the Wike.
The party also refuted allegations by the governor that the members of the NWC are tax collectors.
The PDP, in a statement by the National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said it wished to place on record that none of its members has acted like a "tax collector" in whatever meaning the term represents, either in the process leading to the Edo primary, or any other state.
"Our party holds Governor Wike and indeed all our PDP governors, who, of course, have been the pillars of our great party, with utmost respect and had always consulted them on all party affairs," it added.
The PDP said that it appreciated the efforts and sacrifices of its governors and would not allow enemies of the party, who are out to cause disunity in the PDP.
"This time demands the unity of all our leaders in order to keep our political rivals, who are facing extinction, from importing their crises into our party," it stated.
PDP Reports Rivers Judge to NJC
The PDP yesterday petitioned Justice Emmanuel Adema Obile of the Federal High Court Port Harcourt, over his role against its governorship primary in Edo State.
Justice Obile gave the order restraining Obaseki from participating in the primary of the party.
But PDP, in a letter dated June 23, 2020, addressed to the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of the National Judicial Council (NJC), Justice Tanko Muhammad, and signed by Dakzel Longi Shamnas, demanded a probe into the judge's conduct.
In the petition entitled: "Petition Against Hon. Justice E. A. Obile of the Port Harcourt Division of the Federal High Court in Respect of Suit No: FHC/PH/CS/6, the PDP noted that "the plaintiff in the above suit at the behest of some external forces has surreptitiously filed an action at the Port Harcourt Division of the Federal High Court seeking to prevent the said Governor Obaseki from participating in the said election.
"In respect of the said suit, we note that Hon. Justice E. A. Obile did not approach the matter with circumspection."
The party alleged that the judge played into hands of unscrupulous politicians, notwithstanding the obvious red flags.
The letter read in part: "The subject matter of the suit is the gubernatorial primary election of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); therefore the PDP is the principal defendant as it would be most affected by any order to be made by the court. The headquarters of the PDP is in Abuja.
"The screening of candidates for the gubernatorial election, which the plaintiff is complaining of in the suit, took place in Abuja. The headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is in Abuja. On the other hand, the primary election is to take place in Benin City; and the 8th defendant (Governor Godwin Obaseki) sought to be restrained from contesting the primary election is also based in Benin City. Thus, there is no nexus between the facts of this matter and Port Harcourt.
"The plaintiff lives in Benin City. His address in the affidavits in support of his motions for substituted service and interim injunction is 14 Adesogbe Road, Benin City, Edo State. But he went to Port Harcourt to file the suit when there is a Federal High Court in Benin City. This should have made Hon. Justice E.A. Obile to be cautious.
"The headquarters of the PDP is not in Port Harcourt and the Rivers State chapter of the PDP is not involved in conducting the primary election in issue; so, the Port Harcourt Division of Federal High Court has no connection whatsoever with the subject matter of this suit but just chosen to make it impossible for the defendants to have an appearance before the court and to have a fair hearing in the matter."
The PDP urged the chief judge of the Federal High Court to "reassign the suit to a judge of the Federal High Court sitting at the Abuja Division of the Court; and immediate disciplinary action be commenced against Justice E.A. Obile of the Port Harcourt Division of the Federal High Court for invidiously assuming jurisdiction and taking sides in the political conflict in Edo State with a view to disrupting the political process."
Respite for Obaseki as Court Stops Exclusion from PDP Primary
But less than 24 hours after the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt stopped Obaseki from participating in the governorship primary of the PDP, an Edo State High Court, sitting in Ekpoma, has restrained the party from excluding the governor in the election.
Justice J. O. Okeaya-Inneh, ruling in a suit filed by Felix Irioh and Tom Irehobhude, equally restrained INEC from preventing Obaseki and any of the aspirants who had been cleared by the party for the primary from participating in it.
In the suit which has the Chairman of PDP in Edo State, Mr. Tony Azeigbemi, PDP, Andy Ikhajiangbe, Peter Akhimien and INEC as 1st to 5th defendants respectively, the applicants had sought an order of interim injunction restraining INEC from refusing to recognise or accept the name of any of the aspirants named in paragraph 2 above, especially Obaseki as lawful aspirants having been lawfully screened and cleared by the party to participate in the primary, pending the hearing of the motion on notice.
It said the aspirants screened and cleared by the party were Obaseki, Kenneth Imasuagbon, Ogbeide-Ihama and Gideon Ikhine.
In granting the orders, Justice Okeaya-Inneh said he found that the applicants satisfied the guidelines for the grant of the orders sought as enjoined in the landmark case of Kotoye v CBN (1989), 1 NWLR PT. 98, 419 at 441.
he judge added: "The balance of convenience is in favour of the 1st and 2nd applicants and there is no undue delay in bringing this application. It is in that light that I find merit in this application."
The judge adjourned the case till July 1 for hearing of pending applications.