All Progressives Congress (APC) National Chairman, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, yesterday gave further insight into why the party failed to give Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, the right of first refusal in his re-election bid and why he was eventually excluded from the race for its ticket in the September governorship election in the state.
Oshiomhole, after a meeting of members of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) with the Chief of Staff to the president, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, described APC as a party governed by rules, insisting that the party could not have bent such rules to favour Obaseki.
The party last weekend disqualified the governor and two others from contesting the June 22 governorship primary.
Obaseki, who had said he would not appeal the disqualification, has started negotiations with the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on whose platform he planned to actualise his second term bid.
THISDAY gathered yesterday that barring any last-minute change in plans, Obaseki, his deputy, Hon. Philip Shaibu, and other top government officials, would defect to PDP this week.
Oshiomhole, while answering questions from State House reporters in Abuja after the meeting with Gambari, said APC was not a party of “big men” but an organisation where the same rule applies to all irrespective of status.
He said the party decided to be strict in screening contenders for the election to avoid a repeat of the loss it suffered in Bayelsa State where it lost the state to PDP after winning the governorship election only because it failed to do thorough screening.
APC candidate in Bayelsa State, Mr. David Lyon, was stopped from being sworn in on the eve of his inauguration as the Supreme Court, in a judgment, disqualified the deputy governor-elect, Senator Biobarakuma- Degi-Eremienyo, on account of inconsistencies in his credentials.
Under the 1999 Constitution (as amended), a governorship candidate and his running mate hold a joint ticket and their fate, until after inauguration, are intertwined.
According to Oshiomhole, APC could not afford to bend the rule for the governor, both of whom have been engaged in a war of attrition for about a year now, because it would be a big risk for the party to take.
On speculation that Obaseki is planning to quit APC, Oshiomhole said he was not prepared to speculate on his imminent exit from the party because no media report had suggested that.
To buttress the point that all party members are equal, he said even President Muhammadu Buhari had to subject himself to the rule of the party by having his consensus candidacy in the 2019 election affirmated at the presidential primaries.
“I don’t know about exit. What we see from your media, electronic and print, is that he visited a number of PDP governors. We read from electronic and print that those consultations may have to do with his plan and so on. But we are not here to speculate.
“Our party is not a party of big men. It is governed by rules. Both the small and the big are subjected to those rules. I’m sure you will agree that our president led by example when we conducted direct primary in the last presidential election. We still went to Eagle Square for affirmation.
“So, if the president did not have the right of first refusal because our constitution does not provide for it, we cannot under any circumstances now bend the rules when it comes to some people and change the rules when it comes to others.
“Our duty as the management board of APC is to ensure that we obey strictly the provisions of our constitution, which empowers the National Working Committee to conduct primaries for president, governors, National Assembly, and state Houses of Assembly,” he stated.
Asked if he did not envisage a revenge from Obaseki at the forthcoming June 22 governorship primary in the state by strictly enforcing the regulations prohibiting a large gathering and promoting social distancing in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, Oshiomhole said if the opposition PDP had successfully conducted congresses in the state last week, he would not expect the governor to frustrate his own party.
“In the face of that law, we saw last week, and I’m sure you guys are very vigilant, that PDP conducted ward congresses to elect their delegates that will go to stadium, and with that, you start to reason whether people can gather up to 5,000 in a stadium. Can you achieve social distancing with 5,000 people in one location?
“Can you rather have a situation where you don’t carry people from villages to the centre? If they vote in their respective wards, you will not have more than 100 to 150 persons queuing to vote and maintain social distancing, and wear face masks. So, we will find a way round it.
“He is our governor. We are law-abiding. But if PDP can conduct activities across 192 wards with the same law, I don’t think our governor will discriminate against his own party. So, we are hopeful that everything will be peaceful,” he added.
Obaseki, Edo APC Faction Set to Join PDP this Week
Edo State Chairman of PDP, Hon. Anthony Aziegbemi, yesterday said Obaseki and Shaibu would join the party this week.
He spoke to THISDAY while clarifying the status of the governor and the deputy governor who are currently members of APC.
Aziegbemi said Obaseki and Shaibu were about to conclude their membership of PDP and resigning from APC.
“Governor Obaseki and the deputy governor have concluded plans to join us in PDP and they are welcomed,” he added.
According to him, Obaseki would join PDP with all members of his APC faction and other well-wishers as well as stakeholders.
Aziegbemi said arrangements were in top gear for Obaseki to register as a member of PDP in his Oredo Ward 4 of the party in Edo South Senatorial district.
It was gathered that until Obaseki and Shaibu join the party, there are already plans for the National leadership of PDP to either summon the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party to grant him a waiver that would qualify him to run for election on the party’s platform despite not meeting the minimum number of years a new member must be in the party to be eligible to contest elections.
Alternatively, it was gathered that the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party would exercise the powers of a waiver on behalf of NEC.
THISDAY gathered that when the governor, who is currently consulting with critical stakeholders of the party, concludes the talks, that the party may push for a few days upwards review of the state congress earlier billed for between June 19 and 20.
As part of the consultations of the stakeholders, Obaseki is expected to reach out to the Chairman of PDP Governors’ Forum, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambawul of Sokoto State.
A source close to the governor confirmed plans by the governor and his associates to defect to PDP this week.
However, he said the defection would be preceded by the resignation of the governor and his loyalists from APC.
Reacting to a question on when Obaseki would meet with the president to consult him on his next move, the source said the governor was initially billed to meet Buhari yesterday but he doubted if that would be possible for now given some new developments. He refused to elaborate on the new developments.
Ganduje Backs Obaseki’s Disqualification
Kano State Governor, Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje, yesterday said the decision of APC to disqualify Obaseki from seeking re-election on its platform was the right one.
He was also optimistic that the ruling party would win Edo State poll without Obaseki.
Ganduje, at a press briefing in Kano, said “APC was guided by the party’s constitution, electoral laws and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria before arriving at the decision.”
“As far as the issue of Edo State is concerned, we are more worried about legality. We have to follow rules and regulations while conducting our affairs for the election.
“As far as Kano State is concerned, it is doing whatever it takes for APC to win Edo State election because all the right procedures have been followed. We will win the election,” he added.
Wike Knocks NGF for Abandoning Obaseki
Rivers State Governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike, has criticised the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) for not defending Obaseki’s interest.
He described NGF as a toothless bulldog that could only bark and not bite.
Addressing journalists at Government House in Port Harcourt yesterday, Wike said it was novel that a sitting governor would be disqualified from running for a second term by the same APC on whose platform he became governor.
“Ordinarily, I won’t speak about the challenges being faced by Obaseki because I have no business with APC. But I will speak because the Nigeria Governors’ Forum is now a toothless bulldog that can bark but cannot bite.
“It is most unfortunate that I belong to a forum that cannot bite. Nigeria Governors’ Forum died immediately APC took over in 2015. Before then, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum was very powerful. APC killed governors’ forum and whatever position the forum takes now is in the interest of the ruling party. Nobody seems to respect the Nigeria Governors’ Forum again because we have given ourselves out,” he stated.
Wike also said the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF) had become beggarly and could not defend Obaseki.
The governor said: “Governor Obaseki is a member of APC and I campaigned against him in 2016. How can you say that a sitting governor is disqualified because his certificate is defective? A sitting governor who was presented by APC national chairman. Has he (Oshiomhole) apologised to Nigerians? Has he apologised to Edo people? He should apologise to Edo people. How can a man who doesn’t have a certificate claim that the certificate of a sitting governor that attended Nigeria’s premier university is defective?
“APC governors call themselves progressive governors and their national chairman is also progressive. APC governors have refused to come out and say we can’t take this; they are only begging. Imagine, Governor Obaseki being disqualified by someone who does not have a certificate,” he said.
He explained that APC was basking in impunity but warned that the people of Edo State should not be taken for granted as they would react during the elections.
But reacting to Wike’s attack, the spokesman of NGF, Mr. Abdulrazaque Barkindo, said in a statement that Wike could not have referred to the governors’ forum as beggars’ forum as he’s a strong member.
“Governor Wike is an old member of NGF and a strong one at that. He could not have referred to NGF as a beggars forum,” Barkindo added.
According to him, the utterances of the governor should be blamed on Rivers State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Paulinus Nsirim, whom he said “could not distinguish between NGF and the Progressive Governors Forum which is the political platform of APC governors.”
“NGF has six core mandate areas and politics is not one of them. NGF is happy to state that Governor Wike is one of its strong members and has delegated his deputy governor to the forum and she has never missed any meeting,” he said.