INEC yet to recognise any faction in PDP national leadership tussle
Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
Mr. Godwin Obaseki on Saturday emerged the governorship candidate of All Progressives Congress in Edo State ahead of the September 10 election to choose a successor to Governor Adams Oshiomhole. Obaseki beat 11 other contestants to pick the ticket of the state’s ruling party in the governorship primaries whose run-up was mostly tense.
But in the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, there was considerable uncertainty at the weekend about the party’s participation in the governorship election. This followed an escalation of the party’s leadership crisis, as the two men who laid claim to its headship readied to send different electoral panels to the state for the party’s governorship primaries scheduled to hold tomorrow. And the Independent National Electoral Commission said yesterday that it had “not recognised any of the factions” or taken a position on the PDP crisis.
Obaseki polled 1,608 votes. The other aspirants that took part in the APC governorship primaries were Dr. Pius Odubu (the deputy governor), Dr. Chris Ogiemwonyi, Kenneth Imansuangbon, Prof. Oserhiemen Osunbor, Prof. Ebegue Amadasun, Austin Emua, Comrade Peter Esele, Justina Agbara, Blessing Agbomhere, Gen. Charles Airhiavbere, and Arigbe Osula
A total of 2,582 delegates were accredited to vote at the primary election that was conducted by an electoral committee constituted by the national headquarters of APC, headed by Katsina State Governor Aminu Masari.
There was a frenetic pitch of activity in the camps of the various aspirants as they jostled for the endorsement of the delegates till the very last moment before the primary election. As early as 5:30am yesterday, heavily armed security operatives, made up of riot police, men of the Department of State Security, and officials of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, were deployed at strategic routes leading to the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin City, venue of the delegates election. Motorists were diverted to other routes.
The delegates queued at different locations according to the three senatorial districts in the state and were accredited before the commencement of voting. The delegates from Edo Central senatorial zone were accredited at the George Idah Primary School on Ihama Road, Government Reservation, and their counterparts from Edo North did theirs at Imaguero Secondary School on Sapele road. The Edo South delegates did their accreditation at Agbado Primary School along Akpakpva road.
Security was tight at the three accreditation centres. But as at 8.30am, when THISDAY visited George Idah Primary School, venue for Edo Central delegates, officials for the accreditation were yet to arrive with the materials. However, the exercise commenced early at Agbado Primary School.
It was gathered that the Masari-led committee adopted the scattered process for easy control of the crowds and to save time.
Accredited delegates were conveyed from the accreditation centres to the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium where the voting commenced about 5.15pm following the arrival of the electoral committee members about 4.59pm.
Speaking before the commencement of the election, Masari said his team arrived Edo State on Friday and had met with all the aspirants, the APC National Working Committee, and the state executive committee members of the party. The guidelines for the primary election were formally read out to all the stakeholders.
Masari stated, “We promised to be fair and just to all as umpires. The interest of the state should be the motive for the contest. We have advised the contestants.”
Meanwhile, INEC said it was yet to decide on the crisis rocking PDP. Chief press secretary to the INEC chairman, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, told THISDAY last night that the commission was still observing the situation and will at the appropriate time make its position known.
“The truth of the matter is that INEC has not taken any position,” Oyekanmi said by telephone. “INEC has not recognised any of the factions as at today. When we do, we will issue a public statement and we will state why we are recognising any of the factions. But as of today, INEC has not recognised any PDP group. Our prayer is that the warring parties will reconcile as soon as possible.”
The PDP crisis worsened last week when the ousted national chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, and Alhaji Ahmed Makarfi – leaders of the two warring factions in the party – set up separate electoral committees to conduct the governorship primaries in Edo State. Sheriff continued to lay claim to the chairmanship of the party, despite the dissolution of the National Executive Committee and the National Working Committee, which he led, during the May 21 national convention of the party in Port Harcourt. The Port Harcourt convention, which held amid a parallel meeting of some PDP leaders in Abuja, constituted a national caretaker committee headed by Makarfi.
As part of preparations for the Edo State governorship poll, the Makarfi committee set up an electoral panel to conduct the primaries. The committee advertised the nomination forms for sale at the cost of N16 million. The electoral panel, which has former Benue State governor, Gabriel Suswan, as chairman, had already conducted ad-hoc congresses to choose delegates for the governorship primaries.
Suswan said three aspirants had indicated interest in contesting for the PDP governorship ticket and had already signed an undertaken to abide by the outcome of the primary election scheduled for tomorrow in Benin City.
The Sheriff camp has also gone ahead to set up a committee headed by Senator Hope Uzodinma to oversee the Edo State governorship primary and congresses for the forthcoming election. Sheriff announced the membership of the election committee last Monday when he launched a comeback at the national secretariat after initially being denied entry by security agents. He insisted that the only people that will be screened by the committee were those with evidence of N10 million payment for nomination.
“We have also asked all interested PDP members to come and purchase nomination forms for the Edo State governorship primary. The forms for the primary election is N10 million and N16 million as was announced by the Makarfi-led caretaker committee”,” he said.
Spokesman of the PDP national caretaker committee, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, had alleged that the APC federal government was sponsoring Sheriff to weaken the former ruling party ahead of the Edo State election.
According to Adeyeye, “The APC has contracted Sheriff and his cohorts to scuttle the chances of the PDP in the Edo governorship election. We have credible intelligence that sheriff had a meeting on Sunday night with an APC governor from North-west, where it was finalised that he would be given full security and financial support to exacerbate the crisis in the PDP with the objective of preventing the PDP from presenting a candidate for the Edo governorship elections, or in the very least, to prevent the PDP from offering a serious challenge to APC whose electoral fortunes have continued to nose- dive.”
Nonetheless, Oshiomhole, who spoke to journalists after voting during the APC primaries, called the contestants “12 angels”, stressing that primary elections are a critical factor in governance.
There was a mild drama during the voting yesterday as two of the aspirants, Ogiennwonyi and Imasuagbon, accused Oshiomhole of trying to intimidate the delegates. However, a chieftain of the party from Igueben, Ken Ihenseken, engaged Imasuagbon in a war of words, which almost resulted in a physical combat before Oshiomhole intervened to calm the situation. Odubu also engaged one of the youth leaders, Tony Kabaka, in a fierce argument. When the altercation was going on, the angry deputy governor ordered the Commissioner of Police to arrest Kabaka, but Oshiomhole quickly intervened again and appealed to his deputy to calm down.
A leader of the party, Henry Idahagbon, described the aspirants who were complaining as distractors who knew they would lose.
Oshiomhole said the primaries were peaceful, explaining, “Those who have been peddling rumours about purchase of PVCs have been shamed…
“I had told the aspirants that this must be a brotherly affair and not war because at the end of the day we will all work for the party and support whoever wins the primaries. That is why I have been calm all these while when people make frivolous allegations against me and even malign my person.
“But I thank God things are moving smoothly and all those who predicted doom for APC today in Edo should hide their heads in shame.”