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Edo gov’ship: Uphill tasks ahead APC, PDP, LP after tumultuous primaries

The leading political parties for the September 21 governorship election in Edo State may have concluded their primaries in line with the timetable released by…

The leading political parties for the September 21 governorship election in Edo State may have concluded their primaries in line with the timetable released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), but tumultuous end to these primaries have placed uphill tasks ahead of them as the election draws nearer, Daily Trust reports.

While each party – the All Progressives Congress (APC), the Labour Party (LP) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) – has been having different internal crises before the primaries, observers had expected that the leadership of the parties would find a way around these crises, but these had only further complicated the issues as parallel primaries across these parties produce at least two candidates for each of the party.

Before the election, INEC had warned the 16 of the nation’s 18 registered political parties that had met the deadline to notify the commission of their dates and modes of primaries, to be wary of illegalities.

Sam Olumekun, National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC, had urged the parties to avoid unnecessary postponement, arbitrary changes of venues of their primaries, wholesale change of delegates’ list or the submission of names that did not emerge from valid primaries as candidates for the election.

He warned the parties to also avoid rancorous primaries that lead to the breakdown of law and order often as a result of non-adherence to the provision of their constitutions and guidelines.

“These are some of the issues that lead to a large number of pre-election litigation. The schedule (dates and modes) of primaries proposed by the political parties has been uploaded to the commission’s website and social media platforms for public information,” Olumekun said.

But if the leading parties in the election heard the warning from the electoral umpire, the processes and outcomes of their primaries have suggested otherwise, pundits said.

This is especially as top contenders in the race have refused to concede defeat and are considering various means of getting “justice” including the legal option, which many, including INEC, have said has become a major bane to the election process.

For the APC, the eventual of its fresh primary election on Thursday, Senator Monday Okpebholo is believed not to be the preferred candidate of a former governor of the state and erstwhile national chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, who is said to be the APC godfather in the state.

There are fears that if the fallout from the primary is not properly handled, Oshiomhole, his perceived anointed candidate, Dennis Idabosa and 10 other aggrieved aspirants might work against the APC in the election. Recall that the APC is angling to reclaim the state from the PDP after a similar internal crisis led it to lose control of the state in the run up to the 2020 election.

Recall that the APC had held its first primary poll on February 17, but the exercise turned out to be an embarrassment for the party as three candidates emerged from different locations of parallel primaries in Benin, the Edo State capital.

They were a member of the House of Representatives, Dennis Idahosa, Oshiomhole’s candidate, who was declared winner by the chairman of the APC primary election committee, Governor Hope Uzodimma, at Protea Hotel in Benin City.

Senator Monday Okpebholo was also declared winner by the Returning Officer for the election, Dr Stanley Ugboaja, at the residence of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.

Similarly, the local government returning officers for the APC governorship primary election declared Anamero Sunday Dekeri, winner of the contest. There was drama as each of them was demanding for a certificate of return until the APC top echelon rescheduled a fresh exercise for last Thursday.

Eventually, Senator Monday Okpebholo won the ticket at the primary chaired by Cross River State governor, Bassey Otu, who replaced Uzodinma after protests from stakeholders. But Senator Okpebholo’s emergence as APC candidate for the Edo election has triggered tension as other aspirants are not willing to support him.

Daily Trust had reported how Idahosa stormed the APC national secretariat in Abuja on Saturday, where he submitted his protest letter to the APC appeals committee saddled with the responsibility of looking into the grievances of various aspirants after the primary.

Addressing newsmen, Idahosa threatened to sue the party if he does not get “justice” and called on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to wade in.

He said, “I just want to go through the process, having exhausted the party’s resolve mechanism, I will go further, I will seek justice in the court of law and I will not allow this to stand.”

But despite Idahosa’s protest, the party’s national chairman, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, issued a certificate of return to Senator Okpebholo as the party’s candidate for the election on the same day.

Some APC stakeholders said the party’s top echelon must resolve issues with Oshiomhole, Okpebholo as well as the other aspirants for the party to go into the election as a united house.

PDP

The PDP primary was also characterised by drama as Governor Godwin Obaseki, the deputy governor, Philip Shaibu and other aspirants engaged in supremacy battle.

There were 10 governorship aspirants in the race – Shaibu, Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, Anselm Ojezua, Felix Akhabue, Martin Uhomoibhi, Hafia Hadizat Umoru, Omosede Igbinedion, Earl Osaro Onaiwu, Arthur Esene and Asue Ihgodalo.

For the party, which hopes to retain the governor seat, crisis started during the ward and local government congresses supervised by a three-man committee, led by Governor Peter Mba of Enugu State. After the congress, nine aspirants excluding Ighodalo petitioned the congress appeal panel, alleging irregularities.

Though Governor Obaseki didn’t deny or confirm Ighodalo as his preferred candidate, his actions and body language told the story, pundits observed. For instance, during the ward and local government congresses, party members loyal to Obaseki emerged as delegates for the primary.

On February 22, the party conducted two parallel primary elections with one held at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin City, while the second primary took place at the deputy governor’s lodge also in Benin.

Governor Dauda Lawal of Zamfara State who served as committee chairman and chief electoral officer, declared Ighodalo winner of the PDP primary at the Ogbemudia Stadium  with 577 votes, while Shaibu was declared winner of the primary by the local government returning officer, Bartholomew Moses, at the deputy governor’s lodge with 300 votes.

Observers noted that members of the party loyal to the deputy governor, who form the major block of PDP leaders that have been at war with Governor Obaseki for the control of the party, after they were denied entry into the Ogbemudia venue of the primary moved to another venue and elected Shaibu at a parallel primary.

But the deputy national publicity secretary of the PDP, Ibrahim Abdullahi, in a telephone interview with Daily Trust yesterday said the party recognised Asue Ighodalo as its only candidate for the election.

LP

The process leading to the emergence of the LP candidate was not in any way better than that of the APC and the PDP in terms of intrigues and drama.

Pundits have said, the party’s national chairman, Julius Abure, the state chairman Kelly Ogbalu, and the Senator representing Edo South Senatorial District, Neda Imasuen, were rooting for different aspirants.

The aspirants were Olumide Akapta, Kenneth Imansuangbon, Professor Sunday Eromosele and Sergius Ogun. But following the intrigues, two venues – Uyi Hotel and Bishop Kelly Centre – were announced for the primary election.

Imasuagbon and his supporters, it was learnt, went to the Uyi hotel for the election while the party executive and primary election committee from the NWC went to the Bishop Kelly Centre to conduct the primary.

Imasuagbon later made his way to the Bishop Kelly centre venue where Akpata emerged as candidate of the party after polling 316 votes.

Meanwhile, the Lamidi Apapa faction of the national leadership of the party, has submitted  to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Anderson Uwadiae Asemota and Monday Ojore Mawah, as governorship and deputy governorship candidates of the party for the September 21 election in the state.

But the leadership of the Labour Party (LP) has said a letter to INEC by a “dissident group and former members” of the party led by one Lamidi Apapa to recognise Anderson Asemote and Monday Mawa as the governorship and deputy governorship candidates does not emanate from the party.

National Publicity Secretary of the LP, Obiora Ifoh, said on Sunday in a statement that the letter in circulation is handiwork of “fraudulent and desperate” people seeking for recognition and also unrelentingly working towards obtaining by tricks from unsuspecting Nigerians as they have done in recent elections.

It’s a bad omen for democracy – Analysts

But reacting to the developments, a political analyst, Jackson Lekan Ojo, said what happened in Edo is shameful and a bad omen for the country’s democracy.

He said, “This is not good for democracy and it is making us become a laughing stock in the comity of nations. With all these happening, how do you expect America, the father of democracy, Britain and every other one to look at us? They won’t look at us to be doing anything meaningful.

“If the internal party democratic system is not there, then this is exposing us to the whole world what we are doing. It is a shameful act. If it were only one political party, in this case, we would have said maybe it’s the fault of the party. But this is across party lines; it’s a systemic problem.

“Honestly, it is a shameful thing and if the primary is a sham like this, what do you expect the general election to be? This is shameful!”

Similarly, a professor of political science at the University of Benin, Eddy Erhagbe, in a telephone chat with Daily Trust said what transpired is disturbing and not good for politics and the parties involved.

On his part, Dada Ayokha, a lecturer and media consultant, said the development shows lack of internal democracy despite efforts by INEC and electoral laws to sanitise the system.

 

From Usman A. Bello (Benin), Saawua Terzungwe, Abbas Jimoh & Baba Martins (Abuja)

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