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Friday, March 5, 2021

PDP Aspirants Resist Pressure to Step down for Edo Governor

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•Wike, Tambuwal, Okowa, Obaseki meet
•Giadom didn’t resign for Rivers election, says NWC member
•Rivers APC suspends national chairmanship claimant 
•IG deploys riot police personnel in Edo as APC holds primary today

By Chuks Okocha, Deji Elumoye and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja, Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City and Ernest Chinwo

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is having a tough time in trying to get Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, to emerge unopposed during its primary slated for tomorrow.

THISDAY gathered yesterday that despite sustained pressure on other contenders for the party’s governorship ticket for the September election, they had refused to budge.

The three governorship aspirants, Gideon Ikhine, Ogbeide-Ihama and Mr Kenneth Imasuagbon, have so far rebuffed pressures from leaders of the party for them to step down for Obaseki who formally defected to the party last Friday along with his deputy, Hon. Philip Shuaibu.

Before Obaseki’s defection, the PDP had screened and cleared the trio for the primary which was supposed to have been concluded by the weekend.

However, Obaseki’s defection, after a series of negotiations with the party leadership, w turned out to be a game changer, which prompted the party to delay the primary by three days.

Ahead of the Tuesday’s primary, Obaseki yesterday met with Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa; Chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, Hon. Aminu Tambawul and the Rivers State Governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike, in Port Harcourt to strategise on how to get him the ticket.

It was gathered that a meeting held Saturday night between key leaders of the PDP and the three governorship aspirants ended in a deadlock.

THISDAY gathered that this followed the refusal of Imasuagbon and Ogbeide-Ihama to yield to the pressure being mounted by party leaders and other groups for them to step down for Obaseki.

In furtherance of the bid to persuade the trio to step them for Obaseki, some governors of PDP-controlled states, led by Okowa, and the party’s National Assembly lawmakers arrived in Benin City yesterday, to join forces with the state chapter of the party to persuade the three governorship aspirants, including Ikhine, to step down in the overall interest of the party.

Imasuagbon, in a telephone interview with THISDAY yesterday, vowed not to step down for Obaseki or anybody, stressing that doing so will jeopardise his 16 years’ dream and financial commitment to the governorship project.

Imasuagbon said he expected Obaseki to step down for him considering his years of aspiration, funds and psychological implications such exercise would have caused him.

“I cannot step down for Obaseki; he should be the one to step down for me. I am not going to step down for anybody. We have concluded ward and local government congress before Obaseki came.

“Action by those calling for a stepdown must be condemned by all; it is wicked and undemocratic. The military can’t do this; we don’t have democracy in Nigeria, what we have is autocracy. There is no morality in all this. He (Obaseki) can’t push my dream of 16 years away. Thank God for the position of Benin monarch, Oba Ewuare 11 who said he needs peace to prevail and that there should be no godfatherism,” he added.

On whether there is pressure coming from eminent personalities, key leaders and elders of the PDP, Imasuagbon said: “Yes, there is pressure from them. But it is not about pressure, but about doing the right thing in line with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, due process and the Electoral Act.

“It is disappointing and a big shame in Edo State and the entire nation and it portends danger for the country and the party. Nigerians should rise up against what is happening. We are not in the jungle; it is not a do-or-die affair, but about the process. It is totally unacceptable.”

However, when contacted, Ogbeide-Ihama said he was in a meeting and not disposed to making any comment.
On his part, Ikhine said he had resolved to make his position known today.

However, Obaseki yesterday met with Okowa, Tambawul and Wike in Port Harcourt to strategise on the party’s primary.

THISDAY gathered that the main purpose of the meeting was for Wike to prevail on the immediate past Chairman of the PDP in Edo State, Chief Dan Orbih, to prevail on his associates in the governorship race to step down for Obaseki. Wike and Orbih have very close ties.

A source privy to the meeting told THISDAY that both Ogbeide-Ihama from Edo South senatorial district and Imasuagbon from Edo Central are Orbih’s political associates.

According to the source, it is believed that any pressure from Orbih would help soften the grounds for Obaseki to emerge as the consensus gubernatorial candidate of the PDP in Edo State.

In previous meetings between Obaseki and the aspirants, it was gathered that attempts to make them drop their governorship ambitions fell through.

THISDAY gathered that Imasuagbon and Ikhine demanded a concrete agreement that the governorship slot in 2024 should be a non-negotiable deal and that the PDP Edo Central senatorial district should produce the governorship candidate

Edo South has produced Lucky Igbinedion who governed Edo State for two terms of eight years while Edo North produced Obaseki’s predecessor, Adams Oshiomhole, who was governor for eight years.

The only time, Edo Central produced the governor of the state was through Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor, whose election was eventually invalidated by the election tribunal that installed Oshiomhole.

This time, the zone is insisting that before their sons who are aspirants should step down, they should extract a concrete agreement on this.

Orbih is seen as a political leader in the zone in the capacity of a former Chairman, PDP Board of Trustees, the late Chief Tony Anenih.

Spokesman for the Ikhine Campaign Organisation, Edo Restoration 2020, Tony Okonigene, said in a statement that they had urged their principal to ensure that Obaseki was elected governor on September 19.

Okonigene in a statement, said: “We have advised our principal, Gideon Ikhine, accordingly and he will be making his position known to the public in a press briefing on Monday, June 22, by 12 noon in his campaign headquarters, Benin.

“In reaching his decision, Ikhine will take into consideration the overall interest of the party and the future wellbeing of Edo State above his personal ambition.”

Meanwhile, no fewer than 10,000 members of the APC in Igueben Local Government Area of Edo State, on Saturday defected to the PDP to join Obaseki and Shuaibu in the party.

The defectors who are from the 10 wards in Igueben LGA, were received by leaders of the PDP in the LGA.
It was gathered that the PDP LGA Chairman, Mr. Liberty Ugboh, while presenting party membership cards to the defectors, thanked them for their foresight in joining the PDP, and assured them of equal treatment like any bonafide member of the party.

Those who defected from APC to PDP include the Edo State Commissioner for Infrastructure, Mr John Osagie Inegbedion; Executive Chairman Igueben Local Govt, Dr. Josie Ogedegbe ll; member representing Igueben constituency in the Edo State House of Assembly, Hon Ephraim Aluebhosele; Edo State Deputy Chief of Staff, Kingsley Ehijamusor; Eson of Igueben Kingdom, Queen Sarah Eluojierior (SA gender).

PDP Raises Committee for Edo Primary

The National Working Committee (NWC) of the party has approved the nomination of Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed, as the chairman of the primary committee.

Other members of the committee are the Governor of Oyo State, Mr. Seyi Makinde; the Zamfara State Governor, Mr. Bello Mattawale and Senator Uche Ekwunife.

According to a statement by the National Organising Secretary, Col. Austin Akubundu, Hon. Solomon Bulus Maren is expected to serve as the secretary of the committee

The statement said that they would serve on the gubernatorial electoral committee.
The committee is to conduct the primary that will elect the party’s candidate for the upcoming 2020 governorship election in Edo State.

Giadom Didn’t Resign for Rivers Election, Says NWC Member

The North-east National Vice Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Salihu Mustapha, has faulted claims by the National Vice Chairman (South-south) of the party, Mr. Hilliard Etta, that the Deputy National Secretary, Chief Victor Giadom, resigned to vie to be the running mate in the 2019 governorship election in Rivers State.

Mustapha told journalists yesterday that on September 14, 2018, Giadom was granted a waiver by the NWC in a letter signed by the APC National Chairman, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole.

A copy of the letter made available to journalists read: “I am pleased to convey the decision of the NWC to unanimously approve your application for waiver under Article 31 of the constitutionof our party.

“By the decision of the NWC to grant your application for waiver, you can continue to discharge your official duties as the Deputy National Secretary while pursuing your political campaign activities. On behalf of NWC please accept our best wishes.”

According to Mustapha, “the deputy national secretary did not resign his position but was given a waiver to contest the deputy governorship election in Rivers State.”

He wondered why Giadom would have been allowed to carry out party functions and had been paid all the while if he had actually resigned.

Mustapha said Giadom was not the first national party official to be granted waiver to contest an election, adding that a former National Auditor, Chief George Moghalu, and a former National Secretary, Mai Mala Buni, were all granted waivers to contest governorship elections in their states.

Mustapha added: “Just like Giadom, Chief Moghalu came back as National Auditor when he lost the primary election of the party in Anambra State.”

On the replacement of Giadom with Mr. Worgu Boms, Mustapha said it had no place in law and vowed to resist it same way he resisted attempts to oust the national publicity secretary and the national organising secretary.

“I know some of my colleagues will not be happy with this submission, but this is how I am built. I will not be a party to any injustice irrespective of who it’s meted out to. The same way I didn’t support the ousting of the national organising secretary and the publicity secretary. I will not accept that of Mr. Victor. We are all colleagues we should be more focused on reconciliation and not baseless witchhunt,” he stated.

Mustapha said the party, through a letter written to Giadom by the Director of Administration, Abdullahi Yusuf Gashu’a, on May 24, 2019, accepted his resumption of office after the election.

The resumption letter signed by the former Director of Administration read: “Resumption of office as Acting National Secretary: “I write to convey the resolution by the National Working Committee reached at its 37 regular meeting of 24 May, 2019 accepting your request to resume office following the conclusion of the 2019 general elections, which you were granted waiver to contest as governorship running mate for Rivers State.

“The NWC has also approved your resumption as the National Secretary in acting capacity in line with Article 14.4 of the Constitution of our great party pending the election of a substantive National Secretary.

“Please accept the assurances of the members of the National Working Committee.”

However, Etta said notwithstanding Mustapha’s position, the ruling party’s guidelines stipulated that anyone going to contest an election must resign.

He said: “I’m saying that if it was done, it was done in errors. It is a human organisation, it is susceptible to error. If as acting national chairman I have discovered that errors were made, I have to correct them.

“If Chief Victor Giadom feels very bad or very strongly about the resolution of the NWC, of course, like he is always doing, like his likes are always doing, he can proceed to court, but that is the resolution of the NWC.”

Rivers APC Suspends Giadom

The APC in Rivers State has suspended Giadom for alleged anti-party activities.

A statement by Livingstone Wechie, Media Adviser to the Rivers State Acting Chairman of APC, Hon. Igo Aguma, said a fact-finding committee of the party recommended Gaidom’s suspension from the party.

The statement said the committee recommended “that Hon. Victor Giadom be immediately suspended from the party and every party activities for his numerous infractions of the party constitution and conduct, which have brought the party irredeemable disrepute.”

“The committee report which was presented to our state Executive Committee meeting was accepted and adopted as the position of the APC in Rivers State.

“That Hon. Victor Giadom should immediately write a letter of apology to the party and same should be published in three national newspapers,” he added.

Edo APC Governorship Primary C’ttee Releases Guidelines

The Edo State Governorship Primary Election Committee of APC, headed by Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State, has released procedures for today’s primary to make it comply with the state government’s COVID-19 regulations.

The committee, in a statement by its Secretary, Dr. Ajibola Basiru, said voting would commence simultaneously by 8am at the 192 wards in the state, and not more than 18 persons would be allowed to gather at the same time from the commencement of voting till the end of the exercise when results would be announced.

He said: “The process of election of the candidate of the party shall commence at 8 am on Monday, June 2020, at the various wards in all the local government with strict compliance with Edo State’s extant law prohibiting gathering of more than twenty persons.

“Not more than 18 persons, including presiding officers and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) observers shall be at ward voting centre at any point in time “There shall be simultaneous accreditation and voting in batches as aforesaid until all eligible members have cast their vote without violation of the state’s Covid-19 regulations.

“Not more than 18 persons shall be in attendance for the announcement of results at all ward centres and collation of results at all levels, including the state collation.”

IG Deploys Riot Policemen from Delta, Bayelsa

To ensure a hitch-free conduct of the governorship primary of the APC in Edo State today, the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, has deployed riot policemen from Delta and Bayelsa States in Edo State.

The deployment was on the request of the state Commissioner of Police, Johnson Kokumo, according to the Edo State Police Command Public Relations Officer, Chidi Nwabuzor, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP).

According to Nwabuzor, the state has received two detachments of policemen from Delta and Bayelsa States, noting that some were already in Benin City while others are being expected today.

The Edo Police PPRO who refused to disclose the number of policemen, said the deployment was to ensure a peaceful primary.

Similarly, the Head, Public Relations, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Edo State Command, Mr. Efosa Ogbebor, said the command would deploy armed and unarmed personnel for the primary without stating the number being deployed.

Edo Accuses APC of Violating COVID-19 Regulations

However, the Edo State Government has reiterated its resolve to enforce the laws and regulations emplaced to prevent the spread of COVID-19, charging political parties to restrict the conduct of their primary within the protocols and provisions of the state’s COVID-19 Quarantine Regulations and Gazette on political gatherings.

The Secretary to the State Government, Osarodion Ogie, in a statement, noted that the state would spare no expense in upholding the law and protecting the lives of the people.

He noted that the APC was acting in defiance of the law.

“However, we note with concern that all the political parties conducting primary elections in Edo State have notified the government of their readiness to comply with the extant laws and COVID-19 regulations, except the APC.

“The APC appears resolved to carry on with the conduct of their primary in violation of the Edo State COVID-19 Quarantine Regulations and the state government’s gazette on political gatherings in a pandemic,” he said.

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