Edo Guber: As APC Primary Produces Two Candidates…

Edo Guber: As APC Primary Produces Two Candidates…

Adibe Emenyonu writes on the confusion that characterized the deadlock witnessed at  Saturday’s primary poll to choose a candidate to fly the flag of the All Progressives Congress in the September 21, 2024 governorship election.

The drama that played out in Edo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was envisaged because of the confusing feelers that pervaded the air before the commencment of the Saturday, February 17, 2024 governorship primary election. The tensed atmosphere showed that the process would most likely be manipulated to produce a predetermined candidate.

Before then, there were speculations that the Senator representing Edo North in the National Assembly, and leader of the party in the state, Adams Oshiomhole, had concluded plans to foist the candodature of Ovia Federal Constituency representative in the House of Representatives, Mr. Dennis Idahosa, on the party.

Twenty-four hours to the primary, a trending video by Oshiomhole, claimed that President Bola Tinubu had adopted Idahosa as the APC gubernatorial candidate for the September, 2024 poll in Edo state.

This, was however, debunked by the deputy Chairman of Edo state APC gubernatorial primaries committee and Governor of Cross River State, Senator Bassey Edet Otu, in a statement.

Otu who categorically dismissed the rumour that President Tinubu has anointed a particular aspirant for the Edo APC gubernatorial primaries, urged party faithfuls to disregard the lie by voting for their choice candidate last Saturday.

This perhaps fuelled counter narrative on the eve of the primaries that the Presidency had settled for an aspirant from Edo Central to be anointed for equity, justice and fair play, and that Senator Monday Okpebholo is the anointed candidate.

It was gathered that this same narrative of endorsement led to the withdrawal of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu from the race with a directive to his supporters to cast their votes for Senator Monday Okpebholo having contested the gubernatorial election twice in 2016 and 2020 on the platforms of the PDP and the APC respectively.

Besides, a letter purportedly written by one of the aspirants, Mr. Lucky Imasuen, also gave credence to the Presidency’s reported endorsement of Edo Central candidate. In his letter of withdrawal from the race which was widely circulated, Imasuen was quoted to have said: “I write to you today with a heavy heart to announce my decision to withdraw from the gubernatorial primaries of our great party scheduled for tomorrow, 17th February 2024 in the interest of peace and unity of our great party.

“I have come to the conclusion that since our national working committee(NWC), in their wisdom, have expressed their preference for zoning the governorship position to Edo Central Senatorial district, it’s wise to align with the decision of the party.

“I am immensely grateful for your unwavering support and belief in me throughout this journey. Your dedication and passion have been the driving force behind my campaign.

“While this decision was not made lightly, I trust that you will understand and continue to support our party as we work together towards our shared goals.

“From the foregoing, I’m ready to support whoever emerges as our candidate in the primary election scheduled for tomorrow.

“Thank you once again for standing by my side. Together, we can make a difference and bring about positive change for Edo state. With sincerest gratitude

H.E Lucky Imasuen.”

But on Saturday as Okpebholo was reportedly winning the primary election, the Chairman of the Primary Election Committee and Imo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma, announced Oshiomhole’s endorsed aspirant, Hon Dennis Idahosa as winner of the primary election with 40, 448 votes.

Other aspirants score, according to him, are as follows: Prince Clem Agba 100 votes, Monday Okpebholo 100 votes, Sunday Dekeri 2,030 votes, Osagie Ize-Iyamu 2 votes, Gideon Ikhine 700 votes, David Imuse 400 votes, Charles Airhiavbere 162 votes Oserhiemen Osunbor 180 votes, Blessing Agbomhere 50 votes, Dennis Idahosa 4,453 votes, Ernest Umakhihe 2 votes and Lucky Imasuen 2 votes.

Uzodimma who was flanked by the deputy chairman of the committee and governor of Cross River State, Senator Bassey Otu; Committee Secretary, Lawan Garba and other members, said: “This is the certify that Dennis Idahosa having scored the highest number of votes, is hereby declared winner of the primary election”, while explaining that members of the Committee arrived Benin on Friday and had critical discussions with all stakeholders and conducted the primaries.

Similarly at another parallel primary election, the Chief Returning Officer for the election, Dr. Stanley Ugboaja, at the end of the collation of results from the 18 local government areas, announced that Senator Okpebholo scored 12,194 votes to emerge winner of the election and to become the APC’s standard bearer in the scheduled September 21, 2024 governorship election while Hon. Dennis Idahosa scored 5,536 votes to emerge second.

“I hereby certify that Monday Okpepholo, having scored the highest votes, is declared winner and duly returned as APC candidate for the election” Ugboaja said.

It was however a bedlam at Lushville Hotel, Benin City, venue of the announcement of results by Dr. Ugboaja as suspected political thugs attacked and disrupted the process. The hoodlums beat up journalists, electoral officials and destroyed laptops and television cameras.

Prior to the disruption, Senator Okpebholo was leading in six out of the eight local governments that had been released.

The electoral committee had temporarily suspended the announcement to wait for other officials to turn in their results when the hoodlums struck.

At the resumed announcement at a private residence in uptown Benin, Dr. Ugboajah condemned the assault, adding that as the Chief Returning Officer, he has the legal right to announce election results, and declare a winner.

In the midst of double results, the APC NWC, in their confused state denied the announcement of results by Ugboaja, claiming that it is the Uzodimma-led committee that was authorised to announce result. The disclaimer titled: “Unauthorised Announcement of Edo APC Governorship Primary Election”, was signed by the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Felix Morka.

The statement read, “The attention of the National Working Committee of our great Party has been drawn to a live broadcast on major national television stations and online news outlets of results of the ongoing Edo State APC Governorship Primary Election by some unauthorized persons

“We wish to state categorically that only the Governor Hope Uzodinma-Led Edo State APC Governorship Primary Election Committee is duly authorized to undertake final collation and announcement of results of the Primary Election in the State.

“We urge all Party members, officials in the State, and the general public to disregard the said announcement of results by these unauthorized persons.”

At this point, the onus is on the party to come out clean on who has the authority to make pronouncement on the outcome of the primaries between Uzodimma and Ugboaja to avoid further confusion as the two were on legitimate duty. A letter cited by THISDAY, appointed Ugboaja as State Chief Returning Officer with 18 others as Local Government Area Returning Officers for each of the 18 local government areas of the state, and signed by the party National Organising Secretary, Sulaiman Mohammad Argungu.

Meanwhile, some stakeholders have said there was no voting in any guise across the 192 wards of the state. Party members including the National Women Leader,  Dr Mary Alile, and others across the 18 local government areas were stranded and couldn’t vote during the primaries.

As at Noon, all APC election committee members who should conduct the elections, sources said, were told to remain in Benin city based on instructions from above.

According to some ward chaimen, “Across the state, no election took place as no materials were deployed and officials were nowhere to be found”, saying over 50,000 party members were disenfranchised with fake results flying around on the social media allocating fake figures to aspirants.

Also, an observer who refused to disclose his identity said: “The APC leadership must take immediate action to rectify this situation and ensure that the primary elections are conducted in a fair and transparent manner. Anything short of this would be a betrayal of the trust of the people of Edo State and a mockery of democracy”, while urging relevant authorities in the party to investigate these serious allegations of misconduct and ensure that those responsible are held liable.

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