•State insists on compliance with gazette on political gatherings
•My certificates duly earned, says Obaseki
•APC inaugurates screening, appeal committees
Chuks Okocha, Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja and Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday released the timeline for primaries for the 15 political parties contesting Edo State governorship election slated for September 19.
According to the timeline, all the parties must, between June 2 and June 27, conduct their primaries to pick their candidates for the election.
However, the state government warned all the parties to comply with its gazette that regulates political gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying there won’t be exemption for any of them.
The gazette provides that political gatherings above 20 persons must be approved by the Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, and must be held in a single facility in Benin, the state capital.
The governor also described as baseless, unfounded and diversionary, allegations of certificate forgery against him and urged
those raising eyebrows over the certificates to approach the issuing institutions to verify the documents’ authenticity.
As part of its preparations for the governorship election, the National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) yesterday inaugurated both the screening and appeal committees for its primary, slated for June 22.
INEC, in a statement yesterday in Abuja, said the release of the schedules and date was in accordance with Sections 85 and 87 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
It explained that of the 15 parties participating in the election, only APC would adopt direct primary to pick its candidate, while others would do so through indirect primary.
In the statement by the National Commissioner in charge of Voter Education and Information, Mr. Festus Okoye, INEC said 15 out of the 18 registered political parties had notified the commission of their intention to conduct primaries to pick their governorship candidates.
It added that by the timetable and schedule of activities issued by the commission on February 6, 2020, primaries for Edo State governorship election would take place between June 2 and 27.
Under the timeline, African Alliance (AA) would hold its primary between June 25 and 26 and the mode is indirect. AAC would hold its primary on June 25 and the mode is indirect. ADC would hold its on June 27 and the mode of election is indirect primary.
ADP is expected to hold its primary on June 25, while the mode of the election is indirect.
APC would hold its governorship primary on June 22 and the mode of election is direct election, while the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) would conduct its primary on June 25, using the indirect system.
Other political parties like APM would hold its primary on June 27 and the mode of election is indirect. APP primary would take place on June 26 and the mode is also indirect.
PDP would hold its governorship primary election between June 19 and 20.
Labour Party, NNPP, NRM, SDP, YPP and ZLP would conduct their primaries through indirect mode from June 14 to 27.
INEC appealed to the political parties to conduct their primaries in full compliance with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution and Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Political Party Primaries (2018) and the INEC Police COVID-19 Pandemic of 21 May, 2020.
The commission also warned the political parties to shun all acts capable of breaching the peace and unsettling the peace and order of the state and jeopardising the health and safety of party members, election officials and observers.
It warned against violence and impunity, vowing to prosecute offenders.
INEC said: “Sixteen case files arising out of the 2019 general election have been provided by the police (the lead agency for electoral security) on conclusion of investigation.”
It listed the cases to include those in Abia, Anambra, Bayelsa, Gombe, Kogi, Lagos and Niger states, adding that the offences range from snatching and destruction of election materials, disorderly conduct, unlawful possession of ballot papers and Permanent Voters’ Cards to canvassing for votes at polling units on election day.
“Two cases emanating from Bayelsa State governorship election and relating to snatching and destruction of electoral materials are also being prosecuted,” it stated.
State Insists on Compliance with Regulations on Political Gatherings
Edo State Government yesterday ruled out exempting any party from complying with its gazette that regulates political gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking yesterday while receiving the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Lawrence Ehwujakpo, who is in the state for his party, PDP’s ward congresses, Edo State Deputy Governor, Hon. Philip Shaibu, commended PDP for following the guidelines in the gazette and urged all other political parties to follow suit.
Section 2 of the gazette provides that for political parties desiring to field governorship candidates, gatherings of more than 20 persons may be allowed subject to written approved by the governor, “if such gatherings:
“(i) do not exceed 5,000 persons;
(ii) hold in Benin City and in a single location with a large seating capacity of not less than 10,000 persons;
“(iii) are provided with adequate health, safety and sanitary facilities, and
“(iv) are COVID-19 response compliant with social distancing policy, hand-washing and proper use of face masks fully observed.”
Shaibu said the regulations would help in curtailing the spread of COVID-19 and keep Edo people safe.
“We got a letter from your party, PDP, requesting to make use of the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium for its primary election. Governor Godwin Obaseki approved the request because the party obeyed the rules and regulations set by Edo State Government.
“I, therefore, use this opportunity to tell other political parties to obey the gazette in the state, which is now a law.
“Just as you have obeyed, we are asking and calling on other political parties to obey the law. Any political party that disobeys the law will not hold its primary election in the state as the gazette must be respected.
“The life of Edo people is more important than the political ambition of any politician or wishes of political parties. We need to be alive to play politics. We need to live to vote and be voted for in the election. The rules to curtail the spread of COVID-19 in the gazette must be strictly followed to keep Edo people safe at this period,” he added.
Shaibu commended Bayelsa State Government for the unity, progress and development the people are enjoying, noting that the Obaseki administration is also pursuing the development and progress of the state.
“Development does not have a political party, neither does progress. But parties exist to act as vehicles to actualise the wishes of the people in line with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“We would fight for the development and progress of Edo State. No element or person will stop our progress because Edo people come first in the agenda of this administration. We will stand against anything that will stop progress and development in the state,” he stated.
I Duly Earned My Certificates, Says Obaseki
Obaseki yesterday took on those accusing him of forging his certificates, saying he duly earned them.
He described the allegations as baseless, unfounded and diversionary, charging those raising eyebrows over the certificates to approach the issuing institutions to verify their authenticity or otherwise.
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, the governor said he duly earned his certificates from the different educational institutions he attended, adding that anyone raising issues about them is only being mischievous.
“The hullabaloo over the governor’s certificates is a lame and weak effort to cause crisis and stir unnecessary controversy. The governor’s displayed results are duly earned from the institutions he attended.
“If any individual or group of persons has issues with the results, they are free to approach the institutions to make enquiries as regards the authenticity of the particulars.
“They are free to go to St. Mathews Anglican Primary School; Eghosa Grammar School, University of Ibadan (UI) and others, to verify the results,” he stated.
On how the governor gained admission to University of Ibadan with his results, Osagie said: “The criteria for admission is the sole preserve of the institution and anyone with issues over the criteria can also approach the institution for clarification. It is not the place of a political party to query an institution over the requirement for admitting its students.”
APC Inaugurates Screening, Appeal Committees
The National Working Committee of APC has inaugurated both the screening and appeal committees for the June 22 Edo State primary.
At the inauguration yesterday in Abuja, the National Chairman of the party, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, said the committees were made up of learned, highly educated and political grounded members.
He said under the constitution of the party, NWC was expected to set up a screening committee before any election, adding that the responsibility of the screening committee is to interact and interrogate all the aspirants.
He noted that due to what happened to the party in Bayelsa State earlier in the year, NWC decided to approach the issue of screening with all seriousness and thoroughness.
The Supreme Court had stopped the party’s candidate in Bayelsa State, David Lyon, from being sworn in on the eve of his inauguration after it upheld a judgment of the Federal High Court that had barred his running mate from the election on account of inconsistencies in his documents.
Oshiomhole said: “In the past, we have always performed this role but maybe we didn’t give it the appropriate weight; maybe we had assume that people who aspire to certain office, particularly elective high office, a governor or deputy governor for example that no one who is aspiring at that level will submit document that may border on forgery or border on conflicting information that could possibly lead to disqualification.”
He urged members of the committees to take their assignments seriously.
“So, the screening is not a formality and we expect you to be very meticulous in every material in particular to protect our party so that let it not be said that we did not learn anything from Bayelsa.
“As you know, sometimes when things go wrong, everybody sees it that NWC did not do a thorough job.
“For me, the important lesson is if we have made a mistake in the past, we are taking the steps to correct it. I think this is what this exercise represents,” he added.
Responding, the Chairman of the Screening Committee, Mr. Jonathan Ayuba, said the committee would conduct its assignment transparently.
Other members of the screening committee are Prof. Agbo Mafaki, Mr. Fort Dike, Dr. Rabe Nasir (Secretary), Hon. Ibrahim Zailani, Dr. Jane Agbu and Senator Aisha Binalil.
The Chairman of the Appeal Committee, Abubakar Sari, equally assured the party that the committee would do a thorough job to justify the confidence repose in them.
Other members of the appeal committee are: Mr. Gbenga Olubajo, Mohammed Idris, Dr. Abubakar Fari, Esther Bepeh and Mr. Daniel Bwala as Secretary.
The ruling party would start its screening on Wednesday (today) and end on Thursday, while the appeal would be held on Friday in Abuja.
The party has pasted the credentials of all its six aspirants at the secretariat of a faction of the party in Benin City.
Those whose credentials were pasted are Obaseki, Ize-Iyamu, Mr. Chris Ogienmwonyi, Osaro Obazee, Dr. Pius Odubu and Matthew Iduoriyekenmwen.
Ize-Iyamu Faults Obaseki’s Call for Indirect Primary
An APC governorship aspirant in Edo State, Mr. Osagie Ize-Iyamu, has described arguments put forward by Obaseki to back his preference for indirect primary as illogical.
He said the direct primary, approved on May 21 by members of NWC of APC, was the most appropriate mode to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Ize-Iyamu, in a statement by the Director of Communication and Media of his campaign organisation, Mr. John Mayaki, dismissed claim by Obaseki that direct primary would pose a public health risk amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
He accused the governor of planning to rig the indirect primary, which he’s canvassing for.
He said: “Obaseki’s argument that conducting direct primary will aid the spread of coronavirus is most illogical. What will rather aid the spread of COVID-19 pandemic is indirect primary, his preferred mode, where over 5,000 delegates and officials, including journalists, will crowd Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin City, in total disregard to the social distancing precautionary measure, one of the protocols put in place to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
“The direct mode of primary, apart from being more democratic, as it involves all party members voting in their wards to nominate their preferred governorship aspirant, will take place in open fields or spaces in a disperse manner, with very few delegates, thus ensuring observance of social distancing.”