Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki, yesterday, said he would not appeal the outcome of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) screening exercise that disqualified him and two others from participating in the party primary election to pick its candidate for the June 22 governorship election.
A former national chairman of the party, Chief John Oyegun, faulted Obaseki’s disqualification, describing the findings of the Professor Ayuba Jonathan-led screening panel as a clear case of “a hatchet job” aimed at nailing Obaseki by all means.
But for Director of Communication and Media of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu Campaign Organisation, John Mayaki, the governor’s disqualification did not come as a surprise to party members, who, in the past few weeks, had raised alarm over the inconsistencies in his academic qualifications and how that could cost the party the governorship if he is presented for election.
A seven-member screening committee constituted by the party had disqualified Obaseki, Matthew Aigbuhuenze Iduoriyekemwen and Chris Ogiemwonyi from participating in the primary election.
The panel, however, cleared Osaro Obazee, Osagie Ize-Iyamu and former deputy governor to Oshiomhole, Dr. Pius Odubu, to vie in the election.
It explained that Obaseki and Iduoriyekemwen were disqualified for dragging the APC and its National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, the immediate past governor of the state, to court in defiance to the provision of the APC constitution.
The panel particularly picked holes with the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) certificate and testimonial of the Institute of Continuing Education, Benin City submitted by Obaseki. It further justified the decision to disqualify Ogiemwonyi on the basis that there were inconsistency in the names on the documents presented to the screening committee.
Oshiomhole, who received the report, expressed gratitude to members of the committee, adding that it behoves on aspirants dissatisfied with the findings of the committee to take their case to the appeal committee instituted by the party.
He argued that the decision to screen the aspirants was in tandem with the resolve of the party to deepen the tenets of democracy in the country.
Ogiemwonyi, who was sighted at the national secretariat of the party, was overheard, saying he would surely appeal the decision of the screening committee.
The development is coming against the backdrop of fears earlier expressed by Obaseki that he would not be fairly treated by the committee, with Oshiomhole at the helm of the party affairs.
The governor, who was visibly angry after the screening exercise, told newsmen: “The last time I came here, I asked that Oshiomhole to recuse himself from the process in the interest of peace and justice. But as a party man, I have had to go through the screening like everybody else.
“Since he is the Judge and the jury in this matter, I will just wait for the outcome of the screening. I have given them all the information they need; the controversial certificate from the University of Ibadan has been tendered.
“Like I said, as a party man, I have gone through the screening process, but I do not believe that I will get justice, because Oshiomhole is an interested party in the Edo process.
“One of the questions that was asked was why I issue a gazette that will prevent the party from performing direct elections in Edo, if I not see it as an anti-party activity? I just felt that if we put politics above the lives of the people of Edo State, we might be missing the point.”
Meanwhile, there was uneasy calm in Benin City, the Edo State capital, as supporters of Governor Godwin Obaseki expressed sadness over the outcome of the screening exercise.
News that the governor had been disqualified from contesting the election, which filtered into town around 2pm, did not go down well with his teeming supporters, as many looked forlorn.
Across major streets in the state capital, people were seen in clusters, discussing the development described as avoidable political suicide if properly managed, which they blamed on the prolonged rift between Oshiomhole and Obaseki.
The governor’s Special Adviser on Media and Communication Strategy, Crusoe Osagie, described as “unjust and a mockery of the democratic process,” the outcome of the evaluation and screening process, adding: “We have watched the mockery of democratic process, which Adams Oshiomhole is administering and superintending over in our party. 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’s no way the governor 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 election.
It is unfortunate that this open show of shame, illegality and travesty of justice, is the brand of democracy Oshiomhole has reduced the APC into. The situation is quite saddening, because this is a party supposedly reputed for change, equity and social justice.
“We have, therefore, decided that it would be effort in futility to appeal whatever the unjust outcome of the evaluation and screening process of the APC will be, especially when Oshiomhole has declared that he is the supreme court and ultimate determiner of the fate and future of our great party.
“We wish Oshiomhole luck and trust that the Almighty will help our country to find the path to true liberty, freedom and justice.”
Osagie called on all party members and Obaseki’s teeming supporters to remain calm and await further directives.
Oyegun, in a statement by his Public Affairs Adviser, Ray Morphy, said: “The disqualification of Obaseki by the APC screening panel is a hatchet job aimed at installing a stooge that will allow some people unfettered access to Edo treasury.
“While not a surprise, that disqualification is clear indication that internal democracy has been murdered in APC, a party we founded on the principles of fair play and good conscience.
“I daresay 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, not Obaseki. Oshiomhole is the one who is acting unconstitutionally, not Obaseki. I hope that Oshiomhole will not go down in history as the undertaker of APC.”
Mayaki, however, said in addition to the inconsistencies in Obaseki’s academic qualifications, the governor was dragged to court over indicting allegations of forgery and perjury, adding that the disqualification of the embattled governor from the race would serve the best interest of the party.
Mayaki, who was Obaseki’s acting Chief Press Secretary (CPS) in the early days of the administration and now one of his critics, said:
“Obaseki was deemed ineligible by the committee over multiple inconsistencies in his presented academic certificates, including a Higher School Leaving Certificate he claimed to have obtained from an Institute of Continuing Education in Benin City, which is unknown to the Nigerian education system, and the governor also admitted during the screening that he never received the certificate.
“Furthermore, his NYSC certificate indicated the name ‘Obasek,’ and while the committee acknowledged that this could be an error on the part of the issuing body, it flagged the governor’s failure to address the problem for years and thus solidified doubts on its authenticity.
“Obaseki also failed to supply additional documents solicited as proof of its claims. On these grounds, the committee, relying on the party constitution, ruled Obaseki ineligible for participation in the party primary.”
He added that Ogiemwonyi was also ruled ineligible over inconsistencies in the name contained in his submitted academic certificates, while Iduoriyekemwen, a loyalist of Obaseki, was also disqualified.
Mayaki quoted Ize-Iyamu as saying: “I wish to send my deepest gratitude to all the members of our great party for a joyful cooperation that led to a seamless, but thorough screening exercise.
“The progress made today by completing this exercise reveals the true spirit and character of our party premised on a bold insistence on fairness, accountability, and transparency.
“On my own part, having passed the screening tests, I want to state my consistent readiness to take the will of the party as the ultimate, regarding its laws and principles as the supreme guide for the execution of our affairs and assignments.
“I urge all the members of our party whose commitment, loyalty and cooperation has led to the success we experienced in recent times, to remain focused and committed to our general ambition as a party and in the same vein pursuant of our personal political dreams in light of our progressive philosophy.
“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.”