By: Clifford Ndujihe, Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Omeiza Ajayi & Ozioruva Aliu
Edo State Governor and Governor-elect, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has extended a hand of fellowship to his opponents in last Saturday’s election, especially leaders and members of the All Progressives Congress, APC, to join hands with him to move the state forward.
However, he warned that there will be mercy for his predecessor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, if he creates problems in the state via negative remarks.
President Muhammadu Buhari and former President Olusegun Obasanjo had in their congratulatory messages to Obaseki, urged him to be magnanimous in victory and carry his opponents along to reduce passions in Edo.
Apparently heeding the advice, Obaseki, while receiving his certificate of return at the INEC office in Aduwawa, Benin City, yesterday, said the fight is over between him and the former chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole.
He called on the flagbearer of the APC, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, and other members to join in the administration of the state.
“I am using this opportunity to extend a hand of fellowship to my brother, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and other colleagues in the APC to join us and work with us so that we can move Edo forward.
“On a specific note, I want to use this opportunity to call on the former chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole that the fight is over and he should come and join in building the house where he was part of laying the foundation. We have no malice. The only thing we disagreed on is the approach in moving Edo State forward,” he said.
Obaseki added that both members of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP and APC are one family and cooperation is needed in moving Edo State forward.
“To our friends and brothers on the other side of the divide, we are one family in the pursuit to provide services and public goods for our citizens.
“Our citizens have decided that for now, they trust us more to provide the leadership. It does not mean that they do not have a role to play. It does not mean that they are not part of the family,” the governor stressed.
The electoral body had earlier issued certificates of return to Governor Obaseki, and his deputy, Phillip Shaibu at the INEC office in Benin City, the Edo State capital.
The National Commissioner, INEC in charge of Edo, Rivers, and Bayelsa, Mrs May Agbmuche-Mbu made the presentation and commended stakeholders including the security agencies for their role in the smooth conduct of the poll.
However, the governor while speaking on ARISE TV earlier in the day, said there would be no mercy for Oshiomhole if he creates problems for the state.
Obaseki spoke as the Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II , and former Edo governor and APC chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, congratulated him on his victory.
Also, the Edo governorship election tribunal set up by the Court of Appeal President has opened its secretariat to receive petitions just as the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, commended Edo people for their conduct during the poll.
Obaseki said Oshiomhole and APC National Leader, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu constitute a threat to Nigeria’s democracy.
Obaseki fell out with Oshiomhole in the build-up to the Edo governorship election.
Oshiomhole, who was instrumental to Obaseki’s victory in 2016, became the governor’s antagonist and threw his weight behind Ize-Iyamu, who was Obaseki’s major rival in 2016.
A few days to the election, Tinubu did a TV broadcast asking the people of Edo to vote out Obaseki on the grounds that he is a dictator.
Notwithstanding, Obaseki won the poll, beating Ize-Iyamu with a margin of 84,336 votes. He secured 307,955 votes across 18 local government areas while Osagie Ize-Iyamu, candidate of the APC, polled 223,619 votes.
Speaking on ARISE TV yesterday, Obaseki, according to online portal, The Cable, said if nothing is done to clip the wings of Tinubu and Oshiomhole, they will destroy the country’s democracy.
“The challenge with people like Oshiomhole and Ahmed Tinubu is that if they do not accept and change their style and attitude, they pose a big danger to our democracy because they are extra-constitutional players,” Obaseki said.
“They constituted themselves into what they say they are without any constitutional responsibilities and try to overlord themselves over people who have constitutional authority and if we allow them to continue, it will destroy our democracy.”
Continuing, Obaseki said there will be no mercy for Oshiomhole, if he creates problems in the state, adding that Oshiomhole’s negative remarks will no longer be tolerated.
“I don’t have any plans to (drive him out of town). But if he continues to behave the way he has always done, if he continues to be disruptive, if he continues to flaunt his lions and tigers in Edo State and tries to create problems for us here, then we would not have any mercy. So it is totally up to him,” he said.
Obaseki accused Oshiomhole of causing disharmony between him and Ize-Iyamu whom he described as a relative.
When asked if he would forgive the former governor for his conduct during the campaigns, Obaseki said Oshiomhole betrayed his trust, adding that he should maintain his lane.
“For Oshiomhole, I won’t want to say much here. But when you find that you have been deceived, you don’t share the same values, you don’t trust at all,” he said.
“It is his responsibility to rebuild that trust and to show if his values align with what we represent as a people. Clearly, I am not God but I will say he should stay on his lane while I maintain mine.”
Obaseki said he does not intend to run for senatorial office after the expiration of his second term as governor. He also said it will be unfair of him to leave the PDP which gave him a platform to be reelected.
“I won the election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party. I think it will be immoral and unfair to even have any other consideration at this point about leaving the platform that gave me the mandate.
“There must be morals in politics, people must be ethical. At this point in time, I do not think it is a proper thing to do, to jettison the party that has brought me into the party. Particularly, I have no issues or challenge with the party now,” he said.
Apart from Obaseki, the Bini monarch also commended President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Peace Committee chaired by former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar on the roles they played in ensuring a peaceful election. He he reiterated his position that the traditional institution remains non-partisan but would continue to ensure that the people are allowed to make their choice.
A statement by the Secretary, Benin Traditional Council, BTC, Frank Irabor said: “As His Royal Majesty said on numerous occasions, the Benin Throne is non-partisan, that on election day, let the people speak because the voice of the people is the voice of God.
“The Omo N’Oba N’Edo thanks His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari GCFR, President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, for ensuring that Edo State election was free, fair and violent free and also thanks all the candidates of the political parties for adhering to the advice for a violent-free election given them during the peace meeting in the Oba’s palace on 2nd September 2020 which has been widely acclaimed to have doused the tension that was building up before the election.
“The National Peace Committee headed by His Excellency, General Abdulasalami Abubakar (rtd) is appreciated for the signing of the peace accord among the gubernatorial candidates thereafter. Furthermore, Independent National Commission headed Professor Mahmood Yakubu is also commended for a successful and peaceful election in Edo State.”
He also commended the security agencies for the role they played in curbing violence during the poll.
Commending Edo people for their conduct during the election, Bishop Kukah said they have left a legacy of efficiency which the entire country can emulate.
“The way they conducted themselves and I think in every sense of the word, they left us a legacy of efficiency,” he said on Tuesday during an interview on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily.
The bishop who is also a member of the National Peace Committee, also commended the INEC, security agencies and civil society groups for their roles in the election.
“We worked very closely with INEC and I must commend the INEC chairman for his incredible leadership, zeal and enthusiasm. The Inspector-General of Police kept to his word on the promises he made to the people of Edo State and to the peace committee.
“Our commendation also goes to the people of Edo State. I have received quite a lot of messages from old friends that I haven’t spoken to in a long time, commending the work of the National Peace Committee but really this is not an honour that one individual should take. It is the people of Edo State, the way they conducted themselves,” he said.
Meantime, the Court of Appeal President, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, has established a Governorship Election Petition Tribunal Secretariat in Edo State.
Justice Dongban-Mensem equally constituted a three-member panel of justices to entertain petitions by parties and candidates that are aggrieved with the outcome of the governorship election.
A statement by Secretary of the tribunal, Mr. Sunday Martins, disclosed that the High Court Complex (Election Petition Court Hall), Sapele Road, Benin City, would be used for hearing of the cases.
It read: “The general public is hereby put on notice that the Honourable President of Court of Appeal of Nigeria Hon. Justice has established the Election Petition Tribunal Secretariat and accordingly constituted a Panel in respect of the Governorship Election conducted in Edo State.
“The Honorable Chief Judge of the State Hon. Justice B. A. Edig’m has graciously approved the use of High Court Complex (Election Petition Court Hall), Sapele Road, Benin City for the Tribunal Exercise. The Secretariat is now open.”
It is not clear if the APC Candidate, Ize-Iyamu will challenge the result. He said after Obaseki was declared winner that he was studying the situation and will meet with leaders of APC to take a decision on the way forward. Chairman of the Edo APC Media Campaign Council, Mr John Mayaki, said in a statement that the election was fraught with irregularities.
President Buhari had few hours after the results were announced, congratulated Obaseki and commended the election
On Monday, Chairman of the APC National Caretaker Committee, Mai Mala Buni, in a statement on behalf of APC lauded the peaceful conduct of the election, saying its outcome is a victory for Nigeria’s democracy.
Meanwhile, the Network for Best Practice and Integrity in Leadership, NEBPRIL, has commended the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, security agencies, political parties and voters on the successful conduct of the Edo governorship election, urging stakeholders to allow the electoral gains to be a benchmark for subsequent elections.
In a statement in Abuja on Monday, by its Chairman, Hon. Victor Afam Ogene, a former member of the House of Representatives, the CSO group said: “Without doubt, the Edo governorship poll was conducted in a manner that underlies the importance of electoral reforms and the entrenchment of democratic values. INEC was swift and decisive before and during and after the election; political parties kept to their promises of working for the promotion of peace, while the voters and security agencies created a positive and safe atmosphere during the period.
“This accounted for the reduction in electoral fraud and violent acts and ensured the promotion of a free and fair election as we witnessed.”
NEBPRIL added that almost all elections held since 2015 have largely fallen below acceptable international standards and have degenerated from mere thuggery and hooliganism to large-scale electoral irregularities and violence.
“Therefore, the relief and the success of the Edo poll should not be lost on all as to warrant a relapse to our old ways. The Ondo Governorship election is coming up on October 10, while the Anambra poll will be holding next year. We expect the same measure of success in the Edo poll to be recorded in subsequent polls, not just that of Ondo and Anambra polls, but in the presidential, governorship and local government elections.”
Factional chairman of the APC in Edo State, Mr Anselm Ojezua, has dismissed the purported resolution to expel Comrade Oshiomhole, saying no such decision has been taken.
On Tuesday, a message attributed to Ojezua had gone viral in the social media to the effect that he and chairmen of the party down to the ward level in the state had dispatched a petition to the national secretariat of the party demanding the “complete expulsion” of Oshiomhole.
In a telephone interview on Tuesday, Ojezua said the party was yet to do a post-mortem on Saturday’s governorship election which it lost to the PDP.
“We have not met. We are meeting on Thursday to review the entire situation. That is when we will make our decision known by way of formal briefing. We have not met. We shall meet on Thursday,” he said.
In the heat of the crisis in the APC, the party had been factionalized at the state level with Governor Obaseki supporting the Ojezua group while Oshiomhole, then national chairman of the party pitched tent with the Col. David Imuse, retd, faction. Obaseki later defected to the PDP.
In a statement, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun congratulated Governor Obaseki, on his re-election, saying: “Please accept my deepest congratulations, Mr. Governor on your re-election as Governor of our great Edo State.
“You and your exemplary Deputy have shown that with good work and principled leadership, the ills of overbearing and egocentric politicking in our nation can be overcome. Your very significant victory marks a watershed in Edo and indeed Nigerian politics and so places additional responsibilities on your shoulders.”