Edo 2020: Obaseki has not joined us, says PDP

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Edozie Udeojo,Abuja

THE Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has declared that embattled governor of Edo State, Mr Godwin Obaseki, has not joined its fold.

The opposition party’s declaration came on the heels of Friday’s disqualification of Obaseki ahead of the June 22 governorship primary of the APC to produce its candidate for the September election and speculations that he had moved to the opposition party.

The APC’s seven-man screening committee led by Professor Jonathan Ayuba has disqualified Obaseki from the process on the grounds of its inability to verify the authenticity of the governor’s National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) discharge certificate and what it called the governor’s defective Higher School Certificate (HSC).

But reacting to speculations that Governor Obaseki has joined the PDP to prosecute his ambition to contest the coming election, the PDP said that Obaseki has not joined its fold.

Speaking with newsmen on Friday, the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, said speculations that Obaseki had joined the party were not true.

“The PDP has principles, processes and procedure. Joining our party is a procedural issue. He [Obaseki] has to join the party at the ward level. As we speak, there is no information at the national secretariat that he has joined the party at the ward level. He has not,” Ologbondiyan said.

However, competent sources said that Obaseki had been under pressure to join the PDP in the wake of the cold war between the governor and his estranged godfather, a former governor of the state and currently the APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole.

“He has, however, been insisting on slugging it out in the APC,” the source said while wondering how Obaseki could think he would defeat “the principalities in the APC.”

The Professor Jonathan Ayuba-led APC screening committee had declared Obaseki ineligible to contest for the party’s ticket alongside Matthew Aigbuhuenze Iduoriyekemwen and Chris Ogiemwonyi.

The committee, however, cleared Pastor Ize-Iyamu, Pius Odubu and Osaro Obazee for the primary.

Presenting its report to the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee, Professor Ayuba claimed that his team could not verify the authenticity of Governor Obaseki’s National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) discharge certificate as his name was not properly written.

The team also claimed that the Higher School leaving certificate presented by the embattled governor was defective.

Matthew Iduoriyekemwen was axed for instituting a court case against the APC national chairman which the panel noted was an affront on the party’s constitution.

The panel cited inconsistency in the names on the documents presented to the screening committee by Chris Ogiemwonyi.

Professor Ayuba said his committee did a thorough job without undue influence from any party chieftain.

He said: “We are staking our integrity, the integrity of the process in this country, in order to arrive at what we have done. Mr Chairman, our report is conclusive. Every member signed and has agreed with what we have decided at the committee level. This is essential because we want to be judged by what we have done and what we are presenting.

“We were thorough in the manner in which we conducted the exercise. We recorded live the interaction with each of the aspirants. The unedited clip is what we are giving as part of our report. We want to be judged by what we have done and not by what a third party says or by rumour.

“The methodology we used is clear. It was evidence-based. All we did was an interaction.

“We screened six aspirants, three were eligible to contest and three were deemed ineligible to participate.”

Receiving the report, Oshiomhole thanked the committee for its diligence, while urging those disqualified to present their case before the appeal panel.

But in its swift reaction, Governor Obaseki said in a statement by his media aide, Crusoe Osagie, that he has been vindicated by his earlier stance that he would not get justice in a process supervised by his estranged godfather, Oshiomhole.

He vowed not to appear before the appeal panel to seek redress.

The statement reads in part: “We have watched the mockery of democratic process which Comrade Adams Oshiomhole is administering and superintending over in our great party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). It has been an unfortunate, disheartening and dreadful spectacle.

“We had initially asserted that going by the open display and enthronement of illegality by one man in the party that comprises several organs and eminent personalities, there is no way that Governor Godwin Obaseki would get a fair assessment in the run-up to the nomination of candidates to fly the flag of the party in the forthcoming Edo gubernatorial election.

“It is unfortunate that this open show of shame, illegality and travesty of justice is the brand of democracy which Comrade Oshiomhole has reduced the APC to. The situation is quite saddening because this is a party supposedly reputed for change, equity and social justice.

“We have, therefore, decided that it would be effort in futility to appeal whatever the unjust outcome of the evaluation and screening process of the APC will be, especially when Comrade Oshiomhole has declared that he is the Supreme Court and ultimate determiner of the fate and future of our great party.

“We wish Oshiomhole luck in his maladministration of the party and trust that the Almighty will help our country to find the path to true liberty, freedom and justice.

“We call on all party members and the teeming supporters of Governor Obaseki to remain calm and await further directives.”

Meanwhile, former Edo State governor and immediate past national chairman of the APC, John Odigie-Oyegun, described the disqualification of Governor Obaseki by the APC screening panel as “a hatchet job aimed at installing a stooge that will allow some people unfettered access to Edo treasury.”

He gave the warning that if the exclusion of the state governor in the primary is allowed to stand, the APC would be embarrassed in the forthcoming election.

“While it is not a surprise that the disqualification is clear indication that internal democracy has been murdered in the APC, a party which we founded on the principles of fair play and good conscience, I daresay that APC will suffer dire consequences in Edo State if this disqualification is not speedily reversed.

“As a matter of fact, Oshiomole is indeed the one who is guilty of anti-party, not Obaseki. Oshiomole is the one who is acting unconstitutionally, not Obaseki. I hope that Oshiomole will not go down in history as the undertaker of APC,” he added.

Factional chairman of the APC in the state, Mr Anslem Ojezua, said he was not in a position to comment on the action for now.

Ojezua, a loyalist of Governor Obaseki, said he would only issue a statement after a meeting of the party which is scheduled for today in Benin City, the state capital.

“I don’t know what to say now. We have a meeting tomorrow (today). I will only talk after the meeting. Wait till tomorrow,” he said.

A Federal High Court in Benin, presided over by Justice Mohammed Umar, had on June 8, ordered the APC not to go ahead with processes of the governorship primary, a decision that was promptly appealed by the party.

The Court of Appeal will consider the case on June 16. Parties will return to the lower court on June 17 for the hearing of an application by some APC members on whether the primary would be by direct or indirect mode.

Justice Umar said his June 8 orders would still subsist, an indication that parties to the suit must not take any action on the primary, pending the decision of the Court of Appeal.

Obaseki’s allies are seeking to restrain the APC National Working Committee (NWC) from using the direct mode for the primary.

The suit was filed by factional Edo deputy chairman of the APC, Kenneth Asekomhe, and one of the governorship aspirants on the party’s platform, Matthew Iduoriyekemwen.

They cited the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2018 resolution of the APC National Executive Committee (NEC) as grounds for their action.

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