It’s sure a political brouhaha in Edo State over the disqualification of Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki from contesting the September 19 election by his party, the All Progressive Congress (APC) and the secret move to join the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and pick its ticket to contest the election has put the party in a dilemma.
Expatiating on reasons for Obaseki’s disqualification while submitting its report, the party’s screening Appeal Committee Chairman, Dr. Abubakar Fari, at the weekend said: “In the affidavit sworn to by Godwin Obaseki before the High Court Abuja, he stated under oath that he graduated from the University of Ibadan with a BA degree in Classical Studies in 1976. However, the university certificate he attached to his nomination form bears 1979 which is a material contradiction.’’
The committee also said it found it hard to believe Obaseki gained admission to study at the university with three credits without a proper A-levels or a diploma.
It added that the governor was in possession of two separate voter cards which is illegal. Fari added that the attestation letter of the Institute the governor claimed to have attended after secondary school, was not on the letter head of the school.
The committee said it found inconsistencies in the forms Obaseki submitted for scrutiny.
The PDP’s nomination process closed on June 2 while screening of aspirants closed on June 5. Three aspirants have been cleared by the party to vie for the ticket.
Legal pundits said last night that only those cleared within the stipulated time, are qualified to contest in the primary. “Obaseki was not screened and so cannot participate”, a renowned lawyer said.
The PDP primary will hold on Friday. The Independent Electoral Commission (lNEC) option only allows parties seeking to field candidates for the Edo governorship election to replace candidates not later than July 13, but with a caveat: the new candidate must have participated in the primary.
“PDP should forget about Obaseki or risk serious litigation over his eligibilty and breach of its own rules”, another lawyer said last night.
The PDP guidelines indicate the following timelines for its governorship primary election: Notice of election to state chapter (May 15); Sales of expression of interest and nomination forms(May 20 –June 01); Last day for submission of forms (EOI and NOI) June 02; Screening of aspirants (June 05); Appeals on screening outcome (June 08); and Ward Congresses to elect a three-man Ad Hoc delegates (June 09).
Others are Ward Congresses Appeals(June13); Local Government Congresses to elect National Delegates and persons Living with Disability per LGA(June 16); LGA congresses Appeals(June 18); Publication of delegates’ list(June 18); Gubernatorial primary(candidate nomination) –June 19-20; Appeals on governorship primary(June 23); Certification of Deputy Governorship candidate by NWC and compilation of documents(June 25); Last day for submission of names of candidate and deputy to the Independent National Electoral Commission (June 29); Last day for withdrawal and replacement of withdrawn candidates( July 13); and last day for submission of agents names to LGA offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (September 01).
The aspirants cleared for the governorship primary are a member of the House of Representatives (Oredo Federal Constituency), Hon. Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama(Edo South); Mr. Gideon Ikhine (Edo Central), an engineer; and a foremost Educationist, Kenneth Imasuagbon (Edo Central).
As at last night, none of the candidates had shown interest in stepping down for Obaseki.
A PDP source said: “We are in a serious dilemma and our party is facing integrity test. Obaseki is trying to have his way at all cost to secure the PDP governorship nomination ticket.
“This is a governor who has not formally defected to the PDP. The options available are to ask all the aspirants to step down for him or to allow the primary election to hold and ask the eventual candidate to step down.
“But are we going to be fair to all the aspirants, especially the winner of the primary? And Obaseki is overstretching his luck by seeking to retain Deputy Governor Phillip Shaibu as his running mate.”
Another party leader said: “The issue at stake is beyond meeting with PDP governors for our ticket. How about discrepancies in his documents.
Some leaders are saying he will be prevailed upon to plead only his secondary school certificate. Yet, he said he has lost the certificate.
“But there is another allegation of having two voter cards. Can we take this huge risk as a party? Is Obaseki bringing an asset or liability to the party? Some of our leaders are already warning the party.”
The aspirants have been on the field canvassing for votes for Saturday’s primary election.
One of the aspirants, Imasuagbon, said: “Obaseki is welcome to PDP any time.”
Asked if he is ready to step down for Obaseki, he swiftly added: “Step down for who and why? To step down for what? Are we in a jungle? Are there no rules and regulations guiding a party in a democracy? Forget it, my brother. I am on a campaign tour.”
Ikine said there is nothing wrong with Obaseki visiting his colleague governors but that he is not ready to quit, adding: “I have my eyes on the ball.”
He declined to comment further on Obaseki in his interview on Channels TV, because “he is not a member of the PDP.”
Deputy Governor Shaibu has been busy making frantic appeals to some PDP governors to allow him to be the party’s running mate.
But some leaders in the party were toying with the idea of Obaseki joining the party to assist it to defeat the APC instead of being the PDP governorship candidate.
A chieftain of PDP, Kassim Afegbua, a former Commissioner for Information, said: “The idea of having Governor Obaseki in PDP is already causing some ripples within the party because it will amount to political ambush.
“First, the purchase of nomination forms has closed. We have three viable aspirants running. I am supporting Hon. Ogbeide-Ihama for the primaries and hopefully he will emerge as the candidate.
“If a candidate emerges on Saturday, are you expecting the candidate to step down for someone who did not participate in the process, simply because he is a Governor? That will not only be an ambush, but an unfair reading of the situation.
“The governor is free to join the party. It is his constitutional right, but joining is one, becoming a candidate is another. He should join to support whoever emerges as the candidate, to face the APC candidate.
“Rather than be the candidate, which appears difficult at this injury hour, he should join hands with other party loyalists to ensure the APC is defeated. That would be like some kind of soft landing for him.
“Again, the Party has to understudy the report of the APC screening committee especially the obvious discrepancies in his submissions. You cannot have two certificates from one university bearing inconsistent dates with all manner of contradicting submissions.
“Beyond politics, the APC might have derived inspiration from the Bayelsa scenario, which the PDP must take notice of, so that we do not fall into another cul-de-sac. “Please tell Obaseki to drop his ambition, and join hands with whoever emerges on Saturday in PDP primary to give a good fight to the APC.
Making him a candidate will be an exercise in overkill, an ambush, and an abuse of process in terms of our party constitution, our rules and regulations.”