In the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, it’s been a day and a story since the governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, was on Friday June 12, 2020, disqualified from participating in the September 19 governorship election on the platform of the party. A screening committee set up by the party’s National Working Committee, NWC headed by Pro. Jonathan Ayuba had ruled that Obaseki was not eligible to contest because of discrepancies in the certificates he submitted.
On Saturday June 13, the NWC of the party ratified the disqualification of Obaseki, Chris Ogiemwonyi, former minister of state for works, and Mathew Iduoriyekemwen, former majority leader in the state House of Assembly and one-time commissioner in Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC. The NWC also announced the expulsion of Iduoriyekemwen and the factional deputy state chairman of the party, Kenneth Asekhome, from the APC for alleged anti-party activities. The former lawmaker had been disqualified by the screening committee for the same reason. The duo had taken the party to court over its choice of direct mode of primary to elect the candidate of the party.
And on Sunday June 14, the State Working Committee (SWC) of the party recommended to the NWC, the expulsion of Obaseki, Anselm Ojezua, the factional state chairman, and Aisosa Amadasun, the factional state woman leader, from the APC, for violating its constitution.
Addressing journalists, the acting factional state chairman of the party, David Imuse, a retired army Colonel, said “Governor Obaseki, Anselm Ojezua and some other persons have gone to court in violation of Article 21, sub-section D5 of the APC Constitution in several court cases at the Edo State High Court and the Federal High Court. They have shopped for injunctions and rulings to circumvent the processes of law and the provisions of our Party Constitution in defiance of democratic norms.
“In the light of this, the SWC of the APC, Edo State, has recommended to the NWC that the following persons: Godwin Obaseki, Anselm Ojezua and Dr. Aisosa Amadasun, should be expelled from the party for violating the provisions of our constitution”. Imuse, who appreciated the state APC governorship aspirants Screening Committee for doing a thorough job, asserted that “after the bitter experience of losing the governorship of Bayelsa State in the court after a well-deserved victory in the elections, it would be foolhardy to allow a candidate with a dodgy and faulty academic credentials to fly our party flag in the September 19, 2020 elections. Even the Holy Book admonishes us that affliction shall not arise a second time. Wisdom, we are told, profits to direct”.
He commended members of the APC in the state for their resolute determination to uphold the mantra of the party, especially in the face of the oppressive and draconian administration of Godwin Obaseki in the last three and half years.
Recall that the state governor had on November 13, 2019, been suspended from the party along with his deputy, Philip Shaibu, and secretary to the state government, Osarodion Ogie for allegedly perfecting plans to defect to the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) ahead of the coming governorship election. The now rested Edo Peoples Movement, EPM, a faction of the APC, had announced the suspension at an enlarged meeting and press briefing which took place at the Benin residence of Charles Airhiavbere, a retired army General and a governorship aspirant.
Patrick Ikahriale, a former member of the House of Representatives, who read the speech on behalf of EPM said, “Governor Obaseki, his deputy, Phillip Shaibu; Anslem Ojezua and Osarodion Ogie (SSG), from available information from top leaders of the PDP, have concluded plans to defect from the APC and seek re-election on that platform. For us the authentic APC stakeholders in Edo State, we wholeheartedly denounce such. ..Consequently, we hereby suspend Governor Godwin Obaseki, Hon. Phillip Shaibu, and Barr. Osarodion Ogie from the party for anti-party activities and urge the National Working Committee to set machinery in motion for further disciplinary action against them”.
Though no action had been taken since then, the party now felt it was high time Obaseki was expelled following his now open romance with the PDP as he desperately shops for an alternative political party platform to realize his re-election which is now under serious threat. The embattled governor and his handlers had been pursuing various options like the Social Democratic Party, (SDP) Action Alliance, (AA) Accord Party, (AP) and the PDP, a most preferred choice. The magazine however gathered that Obaseki’s overtures to the PDP had sharply divided its ranks as many of its leaders were not favourbaly disposed to admitting him into their fold, especially if the objective is to pick the party’s governorship ticket. Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, and immediate past Edo State PDP chairman, Dan Osi Orbih, were said to be vehemently opposed to Obaseki joining the party. In his desperation however, Obaseki has decided to lobby Wike. The video of his Sunday visit to the PDP strong man in Port Harcourt had been trending on social media. It is believed that if he’s able to win Wike’s sympathy, he is home and dry with his re-election bid.
But getting Wike’s endorsement, if at all, may however be just one river crossed. Investigation by the magazine revealed that the three aspirants already cleared by the party may resist any attempt to impose Obaseki as the candidate of the party. The aspirants namely Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, a member of the House of Representatives representing Oredo Constituency, Kenneth Imasuangbon, a lawyer and educationist, and Gideon Ikhine, an engineer and business man, may not easily give up their ambition to accommodate that of Obaseki.
Long before now, Imasuangbon had sent a strong message to the party leadership not to impose any candidate on the party, warning that any such attempt would be stoutly resisted. According to him, “Even though I am far away in the United States, what it means is that Edo youths want the state to be better. They know that only a popular candidate can win election in Edo and my advice to the Edo PDP is that those who want to impose a candidate will be resisted. Such a candidate will not be accepted”.
Though one of the leading aspirants, Ogbeide-Ihama was not available to comment on the development, Kassim Afegbua, one of his handlers, said he had no problem with Obaseki joining the party. “Obaseki can join as a member but not as a candidate. We have finished selling our forms now. If they want to give him waiver to buy a form, they can, but he will face the primary. This is not a cash and carry scenario; it has to be due process. There are viable candidates in PDP. Ogbeide-Ihama who is my own candidate, is a strong material that can defeat anybody in any election”.
However, the permutation is that should the governorship ticket be conceded to Obaseki, one of the aspirants from Edo Central senatorial district, Imasuagbon or Ikhine, would be pacified with the deputy governorship slot since one of the conditions given to Obaseki was that his present deputy, Philip Shaibu, would have to be dropped. But when the magazine spoke with Ikhine on the likelihood of pairing with Obaseki, he wouldn’t even want to hear of such suggestion. Ikhine, who said he was on consultation tour of his senatorial district to interact with delegates, said he was not aware that Obaseki was making moves to join the PDP. “I am not aware; he has not told me that. You are the one telling me; nobody has mentioned that to me. Asked if he would accept to be Obaseki’s running mate if prevailed upon by leaders of the party, Ikhine said “I don’t understand what you are talking about. I’m not contesting for running mate; I am contesting for governorship. I am running for the governorship seat of Edo State. Did I say I am contesting for deputy governorship position? Okay, if I am contesting for the deputy governorship position, what am I doing this afternoon gong from local government to local government? Has Obaseki told you he’s coming to PDP? I’m not aware”.