By Clifford Ndujihe, Johnbosco Agbakwuru & Ozioruva Aliu
Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, yesterday, intensified his re-election bid with a move to get his main challenger for the All Progressives Congress, APC, ticket, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, out of the contest via the law court.
This came on a day his Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr Paul Ohonbamu, resigned his appointment.
Meanwhile, former Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, has advised National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, and Governor Obaseki to put the interest of the party first as they go into the governorship election in Edo State. On the accusation that the party’s national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole unilaterally decided the mode of primary election, the party yesterday said that its National Working Committee, NWC, had taken a decision on the matter.
Court adjourns suit seeking to stop Ize-Iyamu to June 17
One of the strategies the Obaseki camp is working on is to get Ize-Iyamu out of the contest on the platform of the APC through the courts.
Meanwhile, journalists who converged on the court premises were yesterday prevented by security operatives from covering the suit, filed by Mr Benjamin Oghumu, a loyalist of the governor and chairman of Orhionmwon Local Government.
Oghumu is seeking an injunction to restrain Ize-Iyamu from parading himself as an aspirant to participate in the state APC primary election fixed for June 22 to select a candidate in the governorship election slated for September 19 because he is not a member of the party.
Members of the Public Work Volunteer, PUWOV, personnel of the Edo State Traffic Management Agency, EDSTMA, and the state special anti-robbery security outfit, Operation Wabaizigan had as early as 6:30 am cordoned off all entry roads to the state high court complex. The move created gridlock in parts of the city.
It took the intervention of the court registrar, Mr Idemudia Aziegbemhin before some journalists were later allowed to enter the court mid-way into the proceedings.
Joined as defendants in the suit are the APC, Oshiomhole, sued for himself and on behalf of the National Working Committee of APC, and Ize-Iyamu.
Pastor Kenneth Asekomhe on behalf of the factional state executive loyal to Governor Obaseki, Mr. Oghumu on behalf of himself and Executive Committee of APC in Orhiomwon local council and Mr Matthew Ogbebor, on behalf of himself and the executive committee of Ugbogbo Wards 5, (all plaintiffs/claimants) in the suit are asking the court for an order, restraining Ize-Iyamu from parading himself as an aspirant entitled to participate in the APC primary election fixed for June 22, 2020, to select a candidate to represent it in the Edo State governorship election fixed for September 19.
The claimants also prayed for an order of the court, restraining Oshiomhole from recognising Ize-Iyamu as an aspirant of the APC in its primary election scheduled for June 22 or any other date to select a candidate to represent it in the Edo State governorship election.
The plaintiffs/claimants, who were represented by Ken Mozia, SAN, and Santos Owootori, sought to know whether Article 31(2) of APC constitution is not in conflict with Section 177(c) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended, as it relates to qualification for election to the office of a governor of a state.
However, an argument ensued when defendants’ lawyers led by H. Ogbodu, SAN, and Victor Oyosuma appeared in the matter, demanded to be served the motion papers and originating summons.
Meanwhile, the trial judge, Justice Emmanuel Ahaomoje declined to grant the ex-parte motion but instead gave the defendants 10 days to file their response while counsel to the plaintiffs/claimants were given two days to reply.
Justice Ahaomoje adjourned the case to June 17, 2020.
Ohonbamu out, Stewart in
Meanwhile, Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr Ohonbamu, announcing his resignation, said: “I hereby tender my letter of resignation as a commissioner in Edo State to His Excellency, Mr Godwin Obaseki this June 4, 2020. Without setting a precedent, I have decided to step aside as cabinet member and operate outside it for the general good of Edo State and pursuit of happiness for the citizens.
“I remain eternally grateful to His Excellency, the governor for indulging me in his purposeful and sophisticated administration. I greet you sir and the ever loyal members of the state executive council. I am particularly delighted that His Excellency’s second term bid is firm and sure-footed,” Ohonbamu wrote.
Contacted, Ohonbamu confirmed his resignation but declined to make further comments.
However, Governor Obaseki has approved the appointment of Mr Stewart Efe as Edo State Commissioner for Communication and Orientation.
In a statement, Secretary to the State Government, Osarodion Ogie, said the appointment takes “immediate effect.”
Efe, until his appointment was the Public Relations Officer, Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Uselu, Benin City. He hails from Ward 9, Egor Local Government Area of the state.
He was a top contender as chairman, Egor LGA, in the last council elections, but stepped down for party interest.
Put party ahead, Yari advises Oshiomhole, Obaseki
Speaking to State House correspondents, former Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, who said he was at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on a private visit to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, called on Oshiomhole and Obaseki to tolerate each other no matter what their personal interests might be.
He said: “I think as a party man and pioneer party person, life is about tolerance.
“We have to tolerate one another and no matter what interest we have, we must put the interest of the party in our hearts. We should also look at the interest of the party as superior to any other interest.”
He said that there are laid-down procedures of the party, insisting that such procedures must be followed in resolving issues in the party.
“The laid-down procedure is there; the rules are there; the constitution is there. Let us respect the constitution of our party and let us respect one another because the issue of party is not about me, it is not about the chairman, it is not about the president. It is a collective responsibility.
“Therefore, I think it is important for both the governor and the chairman to fine-tune how they are going to work for the safety of this party and for the purpose of winning election in Edo State.”
It will be recalled that similar squabbles among party leaders cost the APC the governorship, state and National Assembly positions in Zamfara State in 2019. It also made the party’s candidates in Rivers State to be disqualified by the Supreme Court.
We can’t trust Oshiomhole – Idahosa
Meanwhile, Chief Charles Idahosa, a former Commissioner for Information in Edo, who is backing Obaseki, said those in support of the governor cannot trust Oshiomhole to mid-wife a free and fair primary because he is an interested party and major cause of the rift in Edo APC.
Commending President Muhammadu Buhari, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and some APC governors for their intervention in the political tussle in Edo State ahead of the June 22 primaries, Idahosa also commended Governor Obaseki for listening to wise counsel of party leaders and making peace moves.
Despite the peace moves, Idahosa, a one-time political adviser to Oshiomhole, said APC leaders in Edo State were not taking things for granted because the former labour leader and his loyalists in the Edo Peoples Movement, EPM, are determined to oust Obaseki, not because of non-performance but because he refused to share the state’s resources to them.
His words: “The issue is that Oshiomhole cannot be trusted and that is why we are not leaving anything to chance here in Edo. The governor has performed creditably well. Even those fighting the governor under the acronym of Edo Peoples Movement led by Oshiomhole have not accused him of non- performance. The only allegation they levelled against him was that he is not giving them money to share. If that is the only sin the governor has committed, not that he did not perform, we are very happy about that.”
“But the problem that we envisage and we are suspicious about is that Oshiomhole is not consistent; he will say something and do something else. For example, he told the whole world that he did not receive any communication from Edo State APC that they didn’t want direct primary. But available records showed the resolution of the whole party structure in Edo State, where they sent a letter to him. The letter was received in his office and signed by one of his staff with the mobile number on it. So, how do you trust such a man?
“He wrote INEC on May 19, saying the NWC has decided on direct primary. However, the meeting of the NWC took place on May 22, three days after he wrote to INEC. This means that Oshiomhole has decided on what he wants even before the meeting of the NWC. How can such a man be trusted?”
“So, when the Governor said Oshiomhole should excuse himself from the whole process, I totally agree with him. Oshiomhole cannot be a judge in his own matter.”
NWC okayed Oshiomhole’s letter to INEC – APC
The National Working Committee, NWC of the APC has exonerated Comrade Adams Oshiomhole of allegations of taking unilateral decision on the mode of primary election to pick the party’s standard bearer in Edo state.
While Comrade Oshiomhole had written a letter dated May 19 to the INEC intimating the electoral umpire of the decision of the party to conduct direct governorship primary in Edo on June 21, the NWC of the party had met on May 21 to ratify the decision on the mode of Primaries.
Idahosa and some party chieftains alleged that the APC National Chairman imposed the option of direct primary on the NWC having written INEC before the NWC meeting where the decision was formalized.
Contacted, APC National Vice Chairman, North-East, Comrade Mustapha Salihu declined comments saying he would try to get necessary briefings before he could comment on the matter. He added that the party was exploring a political solution to the situation in Edo State.
However, National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu in a telephone interview with Vanguard said the NWC had already taken a decision on the mode of primary before the May 19 letter and that it wrote a second letter to INEC on May 22 to affirm its first letter.
He said: “It was not a unilateral decision. That was not what happened. Our meeting of May 21 was actually to ratify the decision. Because of this COVID-19, we had had our formal assessment of what is on ground and it is best for us that we adopt direct primary. And for good reason, we had to write the letter immediately since we already had that conversation. We also know that if there are other issues that we have to amend, we can always amend but there is a time-frame to communicate to INEC before the time you are going to have your primaries. That is one.
“Two, many other parties are picking dates. If we delay, we may be forced to pick a date that is not convenient for us. So, we said put this letter since we had a provisional agreement on direct primary. Write the letter and let us now meet. In fact, that meeting was just to follow procedure because we already have been having conversations. In fact, with this COVID-19, you try as much as possible to reduce the time you have physical meetings. So, after that one when we were sure we were not changing anything, we now wrote another letter on May 22 to ratify and confirm what we had earlier written, but, people are not looking at that letter, it is the first one they are circulating. It is a non- issue”, he said.
The NWC also declared that the Edo State Governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki cannot hide under the guise of COVID-19 restriction of gatherings to not more than 20 persons to stop its direct primary.
It said the primary election is a constitutional obligation that is time bound and its conduct must override any local orders made by the state’s chief executive.
“The issue of the primary is a constitutional one. So, if we are implementing the Constitution as INEC has directed, there cannot be any order that can supersede that. That election must hold at a particular time and that a Government terminates at a particular time is a constitutional matter,” Issa-Onilu added.