Following his disqualification by the All Progressives Congress, there are indications that the embattled Governor of Edo State, Mr Godwin Obaseki, may consider running on the platform of another political party to realise his second-term ambition, natiinalsketch.com has learnt.
The screening committee of the party, headed by Prof Jonathan Ayuba, while presenting the committee’s report to the party’s National Working Committee, said the governor was disqualified from participating in the party’s June 22 primary because of the discrepancies in his names and certificates and for taking the party to court in contravention of the party’s rules.
In the report received by the National Chairman of the party, Mr Adams Oshiomhole, Ayuba noted that Obaseki claimed to have obtained a Higher School Certificate from the Institute of Continuing Education in Benin but that he did not produce the certificate and that the document he produced only attested to his attendance.
He said further that the governor’s National Youth Service Corps certificate reads ‘Obasek Godwin’ and that while this could be an error on the part of NYSC, the governor never took any step “to correct the anomaly.”
Obaseki and two other aspirants, Chris Ogiemwonyi and Mathew Iduoriyekenwen, were disqualified from participating in the party primary ahead of the September 19, 2020 governorship election in the state. Those cleared to take part in the primary were Mr Osaro Obaze, Dr Pius Odubu and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
Obaseki and Oshiomhole had been at loggerheads over the governor’s re-election bid.
Sequel to the disqualification, the national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party has declared the party’s doors open for the governor. It was, however, not clear if the governor would get automatic ticket in the party if he decides to run on its platform.
Authoritative sources close to the leadership of the party however said the governor might be considering joining the PDP given that it is the only party that has the structure both in the state and at the national level.
The source said, “We will not send him away if he wants to join us. We will welcome him like every other defector if he wants to take refuge under our umbrella. That is what I can tell you.”
Asked if the governor could still be accommodated in the party’s primary slated for June 23 and 24 in the state, the source declined to give a definite answer.
The three aspirants who were screened were Gideon Ikhine, Ogbeide Ihama and Kenneth Imansuangbon.
While the first two aspirants were physically screened, Imansuangbon was screened virtually.
One of our correspondents gathered that the PDP could replicate in Edo State the consideration it gave Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State in 2019 when the APC denied him its ticket to contest for a second term.
Ortom, who was then having a running battle with his political godfather, Senator George Akume, was received by the PDP when the former governor allegedly used his connection with the national leadership of the APC to deny Ortom the party’s ticket.
Meanwhile, PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, told one of our correspondents in a telephone interview that the PDP was big enough to accommodate anyone who showed interest to be part of it.
He said the party was not going to deny the governor membership of the PDP if he decided to join it.
He added, “He is a sitting governor who ought not to be treated that way. If he contested four years ago and was allowed to fly the flag of the party, what has changed between then and now?
“For now, we are not against anyone who wants to join us. Our doors are open and if he decides to join us as an individual, we will welcome him. That’s the only thing I can say for now.”
Asked if the governor could be considered to be the party’s governorship candidate, Secondus said he was not competent to speak on such an issue, but stressed he was confident the party would win the governorship election.
“The PDP ticket is not won on the pages of newspapers. Our members decide who will be their governors or representatives,” he added.
Citing the outcome of the 2019 governorship election, Secondus said the outcome of the 2019 presidential election was an indication that the state belongs to the PDP.
“Remember that in that election, the PDP had 275,691 votes representing 49.17 per cent of the total votes while the APC got 267,842 votes. That just represents 47.77 per cent of the votes,” Secondus added.
Also, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan said the party would readily accept Obaseki if he desired to join the party.
He told one of our correspondents, “We are open to anyone, including Obaseki, The party is open to him and anyone who wants to join. Mind you, it is not all the members of the party who are interested in contesting election. Therefore, membership does not mean interest. We will welcome Obaseki with open hands, just the way we do for other.”
APC panel disqualifies three, clears three
While submitting the report of the screening to Oshiomhole, Ayuba said the report was conclusive.
He added, “Every member signed and has agreed with what we have decided at the committee level. This is essential because we want to be judged by what we have done and what we are presenting.
“We were thorough in the manner in which we conducted the exercise. We recorded live the interaction with each of the aspirants. The unedited clip is what we are giving as part of our report. We want to be judged by what we have done and not by what a third party says or by rumour.”
He said out of the six aspirants screened, three were eligible to contest while three were deemed ineligible to contest.
Giving details of Obaseki’s disqualification, the panel chairman said, “Though His Excellency, Godwin Obaseki, in his nomination form claimed to have obtained a Higher School Certificate from an Institute of Continuing Education, Benin. It was observed however, that no educational certificate such as HSC is known in Nigerian educational system. Even then, the same HSC was never presented in the course of the screening exercise. The aspirant admitted that he has never collected it.
“The attestation from the Institute of Continuing Education, Benin from where the alleged HSC which was indicated in the field of attendance as obtained is of no consequence, as it only attests that Obaseki was a student of the institute. So, what we had was just an attendance, it was not a result.
“Although, the committee received a petition on his University of Ibadan Bachelor of Arts Classics certificate which he submitted to INEC in 2016, when he first contested as governor. The committee on further probing was presented with original certificate issued by the university and the original was sighted.
“On the NYSC certificate dated 6th August 1980, the committee observed that he bears the name ‘Obasek’ Godwin. While this may be an error on the part of the issuing authority, we observed however that the aspirant has not taken any step ever to have the anomaly corrected by the issuing authority.
“In our interaction with issues raised, we concluded that (the) HSC was defective, the NYSC certificate (too) and based on the party’s constitution, this has made us to recommend that Obaseki is not eligible to participate in the election.”
While receiving the report on behalf of the APC NWC, Oshiomhole expressed gratitude to the panel and urged all those who were unsatisfied with the report to approach the appeals panel.
No law stops party from screening Obaseki again — Oshiomhole
When asked for his reaction to Obaseki’s disqualification during a programme on ‘Democracy Day’ on Channels Television on Friday, Oshiomhole said no law stopped the party from screening someone already occupying a political office, noting that the APC was just following its constitution to ensure that nothing was being taken for granted.
He said, “We are following our party constitution and we have a screening committee that turned in a report, which is subject to the Appeal Committee.
“If it is assumed that anybody who has been screened before or who has contested election before should not be screened again, then it would have been so expressly stated in our constitution.
“We have a sitting senator who contested as deputy governor in Bayelsa State and we all assumed that having passed screening and being a sitting senator, the requirements of being a senator is exactly the same with any other office. But the Supreme Court found out that there were discrepancies that were not observed and for which the man was disqualified and we (APC) lost the state.”
I won’t appeal, says embattled gov
Meanwhile, Obaseki has said he will not appeal the his disqualification, saying it will be an effort in futility.
The Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Communication Strategy, Crusoe Osagie, in a statement said, “We have watched the mockery of the democratic process which Mr Adams Oshiomhole is administering and superintending over in our great party, the All Progressives Congress.
‘‘It has been an unfortunate, disheartening, and dreadful spectacle. We had initially asserted that going by the open display and enthronement of illegality by one man in the party that comprises several organs and eminent personalities, there is no way that Governor Godwin Obaseki would get a fair assessment in the run-up to the nomination of candidates to fly the flag of the party in the forthcoming Edo governorship election.
“It is unfortunate that this open show of shame, illegality and travesty of justice is the brand of democracy which Mr Oshiomhole has reduced the APC to.
“We have, therefore, decided that it would be an effort in futility to appeal whatever the unjust outcome of the evaluation and screening process of the APC will be. We wish Oshiomhole well in his maladministration of the party and trust that the Almighty will help our country to find the path to true liberty, freedom, and justice.”
Obaseki also called on his supporters to remain calm and wait for further directives from him.
Shortly after he was disqualified, he tweeted, “We call on all party members and our teeming supporters to remain calm and await further directives, in the light of the announcement of my unjust disqualification to participate @OficialAPCNg primary election in Edo State by the screening committee.”
‘No shaking, Obaseki’ll contest, win election’
Another aide to Obaseki confirmed to one of our correspondents that the governor would “certainly” contest the forthcoming elections, but declined commenting on the platform he would use.
The aide, who asked not to be named, said, “I don’t know whether he is going to PDP or not, but I know that he will contest the election. That is the much we are sure of. He will contest the election and win.”
APC’ll suffer dire consequences for barring incumbent — Odigie-Oyegun
Meanwhile, former National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, has said the party will suffer “dire consequences” in Edo State for disqualifying Obaseki. He described the outcome of the screening as a hatchet job to instal a stooge that will allow some people unfettered access to Edo treasury.
In a statement by his media adviser, Chief Ray Morphy, in Abuja, on Friday, Odigie-Oyegun said, “While not a surprise, that disqualification is clear indication that internal democracy has been murdered in APC; a party which we founded on the principles of fair play and good conscience.
“I dare say that APC will suffer dire consequences in Edo State if this disqualification is not speedily reversed. As a matter of fact, Oshiomhole is indeed the one who is guilty of anti-party (activities), not Obaseki. I hope Oshiomhole will not go down in history as the undertaker of APC.”
Let’s close ranks, Ize-Iyamu urges
One of the aspirants cleared by the screening committee, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who is believed to be the preferred candidate of Oshiomhole, has urged members of the party to put the disqualification of Obaseki behind them.
In a press statement by the Director of Communication and Media of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu’s Campaign Organisation, Mr John Mayaki, on Friday, he said, “As we prepare for the primaries and the election itself, it is time we bind together and close ranks, remembering that the greatest goal is the progress of Edo State, the moving forward of our great homeland and the betterment of life for all of its people.”
Obaseki will be reelected as governor — Ojezua
The APC Chairman in the state, Anselm Ojezua, has called for calm among party members and supporters over the outcome of the screening exercise.
Speaking to journalists in Benin City after the announcement by the committee, Ojezua said, “I want to appeal to leaders and members of APC in Edo State to remain calm. The validity of the screening committee has not been established. A proper response to the report has yet to come as the leadership of the party in the state will meet tomorrow (today) and at the end of the meeting give an appropriate response.
“They didn’t say he will not contest the election but that he will not contest under the platform of the APC.”