•National chairman misguided, says Obaseki
Iyobosa Uwugiaren, Omololu Ogunmade and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The relationship between the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, and the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, has remained frosty despite the intervention of governors elected on the platform of the party yesterday.
Some of the APC governors, who met with the National Leader of the party, Senator Bola Tinubu in Lagos on Sunday, had also met with the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party in Abuja yesterday.
The NWC had adopted direct mode of primary for the June 22 gubernatorial primary in Edo State, which has been firmly opposed by the faction of the State Working Committee (SWC) of the party loyal to Obaseki.
The governors that held meeting with Tinubu included Chairman of Progressives Governors Forum (PGF) and the Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu, Governors Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Sani Bello (Niger), Muhammadu Abubakar (Jigawa), Adegboyega Oyetola (Osun), Simon Lalong (Plateau) and Obaseki.
However, the governors at the meeting yesterday are: Bagudu, Sanwo-Olu, Lalong, Akeredolu, Muhammad lnuwa (Gombe), AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq (Kwara), and Abubakar.
Bagudu told journalists yesterday that the meeting between the governors and the national leadership of the party was to discuss issues that have piled up especially since March 14 when the forum last met.
He confirmed that a delegation of the governors met with Tinubu to discuss the development in the polity particularly as it affects the party, but added that yesterday’s meeting with the NWC was not a continuation of the weekend meeting held in Lagos.
“This is a meeting with the national leadership of our party to discuss issues between the Governor’s Forum and party leadership that will lead to the progress of our party,” he said.
But indications that the governors have not resolved the issue of the mode of primary emerged when Oshiomhole said he had not received any formal letter from Obaseki, over his disagreement on the mode of primary adopted by the NWC of the party.
Briefing journalists alongside with the Bagudu at the party national Secretariat, Oshiomhole insisted that the reported disagreement with the governor over the mode of primary remained in the realm of speculation, adding that he had not received any formal letter from the governor opposing the method of primary approved by the party.
Oshiomhole stated: “We have since published our time table because, under the law, we are required to give INEC at least 21 days’ notice to monitor our primaries and to state the mode of our primaries and of course NEC has approved direct primaries for Edo. That of Ondo has not been discussed because that will come much later, because Edo will come about three weeks before Ondo.”
The national chairman stressed that the ruling party had commenced the sales of forms, stressing that as at last Friday, three people had picked the forms, while noting that the party is still selling forms to all those who wish to buy based on the guidelines of the party.
He said: “Even this morning we had a virtual meeting with INEC leadership, we will conduct primaries taking into account the protocols on COVID-19 by the PTF and NCDC. I think everything has been going fine.”
Oshiomhole said that the leadership of the party was honoured to host APC governors to discuss internal issues of the party, which he noted are basically to exploit ways and means of strengthening the party and ensuring that it continued to remain the most favoured party in Nigeria.
Oshiomhole added: “Obaseki is not here but issues of primaries are well spelt out in our constitution and we are following it as strictly as possible. So, there is nothing to worry about at all.”
Asked if the decision of Obaseki to kick against direct primary will not cause ripples in the party, Oshiomhole said: “You are speculating; I don’t have any letter or document to that effect. These are very formal matters. So, stop spreading rumours.”
However, an insider who attended the meeting told THISDAY last night that Oshiomhole told the governors that it was too late in the day to rally party’s leaders in Edo State to support Obaseki for a second term.
A visibly angry Oshiomhole also reportedly wondered why the governors could not persuade Obaseki at a time he did everything to reconcile him with the aggrieved party’s members in the state through many reconciliation committees, including the one headed by Ganduje.
He warned the governors not to impose Obaseki on the party’s members in Edo State, reminding them of the party’s experiences in Bauchi and Adamawa states in the last general election.
“Oshiomhole reminded the governors that in spite of resistance by APC leaders in Bauchi and Adamawa states, the party imposed candidates on party’s members in the last general election and consequently lost the states to the opposition party.
‘’He also told the governors that at a time he wanted to reconcile Governor Obaseki with the aggrieved members of the party in Edo State, the governor refused bluntly and was rather plotting with some APC’s governors to remove him from office.
‘’Oshiomhole also told the governors that it was too late in the day to talk about an automatic ticket for Governor Godwin Obaseki,’’ the insider said.
The APC’s chieftain further told THISDAY that the burning issue of whether to use Direct or Indirect Primary for Edo State did not come at the meeting, insisting that the party stands by the resolution of NWC to use Direct Primary,” he said.
‘’At the end of the meeting, the governors saw our national chairman’s challenges, with some of them saying that Godwin Obaseki mismanaged his political disagreement with many party leaders in the state.
But Obaseki yesterday stated that Oshiomhole was misguided to have chosen to support another aspirant for the position of governor, describing the decision as unfortunate.
The governor, who said he was ready to make a truce with his predecessor for the sake of peace and in the interest of the people of Edo State, added that his relationship with Oshiomhole had remained frosty, adding that he would not mind reaching out to him for a truce.
Obaseki, who made these disclosures while briefing State House correspondents after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in the State House, Abuja, to secure his blessing for his re-election, added that whatever could guarantee peace in Edo State, he was committed to it.
According to him, “It is unfortunate, the position he (Adams Oshiomhole) has taken. I believe that he was misguided, well not properly guided and as governor and his governor, it is my responsibility to seek peace for my state and with all my citizens.
“I will continue to strive for peace, I’ll continue to pursue peace, seek the interest of our people. I’m open; I will always call to say we should talk about how to move things forward. We cannot turn back the hands of the clock. So, there are certain things we just must accept and see how we can move forward and build on where we are.
“So, the relationship is still frosty. I’m doing all I can, doing my best to try and make it warm, try and meet just for the sake of Edo people. Whatever it will take to have peace, you know; whatever it will take not to lose lives in Edo, I am committed to it.
“Whatever I can do that is within the law; whatever I can do that is constitutional I will do.”
On why he chose to visit the president, Obaseki said he was in the State House to formally inform the president about his re-election bid.
The governor, who presented his re-election form to the president for his blessing, described Buhari as the father of the nation, and hence, would be wrong of him to take things for granted by assuming that it was unnecessary to inform him (Buhari) and ask for his blessing.
“Well, I came to see Mr. President to formally inform him of my desire and intention to seek re-election as governor of Edo State on the platform of APC in the forthcoming gubernatorial election. As the father of our country, as a president, you don’t assume or take things for granted. I just had to formally come to inform him and solicit his support in my gubernatorial bid,” he said.
Asked about the president’s reaction to his visit, he said Buhari warmly received him, looked through the form and assured him of his support.
“The president was quite warm. He was quite welcoming, when I showed him my special interest forms. He looked through it and attest to me that he would not have to go through this again and wished me good luck and assured me of his support,” he said.
He also said the support for his re-election from his colleagues was unanimous, saying it had been the collective resolve of APC governors that they would support any of their colleagues that is doing well, describing a situation where another aspirant is contesting against the incumbent as a disadvantage and a mark of disharmony within the party.
He was swift to add, however, that his remark did not mean that he was opposed to the conduct of governorship primaries in Edo State, noting that in a democracy, providing the platform for contests could not be undermined.
He also spoke on COVID-19 situation in Edo State, saying over 300,000 Edo indigenes had been screened on the disease, out of the 500,000 initial targets set by the government.