Ahead of the March Local Government election in Edo State, PATRICK OCHOGA writes on how the governing APC is preparing for it amidst threat of boycott by the opposition PDP.
Ahead of the March 3rd elections of chairmen for the 18 local government councils and the192 wards across Edo State, uneasy calm has pervaded the party over what some party faithful and observers considered threats to internal democracy in the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The defunct Action Congress (AC) which was one of the parties that metamorphosed into APC rode to power on a popular sloganeering of ‘let the people lead’ in 2008, is currently facing the challenges of practicing what it preaches.
Prior to the coming into power of the ruling APC, it party criticised the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for f lack of internal democracy, impunity and glorifying godfatherism. In fact, former governor Adams Oshiomhiole throughout his eight years tenure sustained a vigorous campaign against any anti-democratic tendencies in the state.
Less than 10 years down the line, the APC in the state seems to have lost the basic democratic tenet and has now caught itself in the web of alleged injustice, political gangsterism, abuse of laid down constitution and party guidelines.
The initial party’s guideline that barred aspirants that had held political offices at the local government level as directed by incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki was considered by many as not only undemocratic but abuse of fundamental rights of citizens to participate in a popular democracy.
The decision was however greeted with strong resistance which saw the leaders of party’s caucus as led by Adams Oshiomhiole, dumping that decision thereby opening up the political space for all aspirants to contest.
Even as fear of imposition within the ruling APC continues to gain momentum, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, has headed to court and instituted legal action to challenge the proposed Edo local government election.
They hinged their reasons to approach the court over what the PDP described as illegality by the APC-led government over the amendment of the electoral law by the state assembly and the constitution of members of the EDSIEC. They last week announced their withdrawal is from the March Local Government election.
However, the conduct of the party primaries in some local government areas as observed by LEADERSHIP can best be described as a sham following the outright imposition of candidates by the some powerful forces within the party.
In Owan East, local government area, for example, leaders of the APC lambasted the Edo State Deputy Governor of Edo State, Hon Phillip Shaibu, for conducting parallel primaries in the locality for the March 3rd local government election.
The APC leaders insisted that the only recognized primary was the one conducted in Afuze, headquarters of the local council where Mr. Victor Ohiosumuan emerged as the party’s candidate, adding that the one presided allegedly presided over by Hon Shaibu at Warrake which produced Andrew Osigbe was a nullity.
As the said parallel primary was going on at Warrake, the two other members of the panel, Pastor Isigbe Kadiri and Yakubu Jarafu, security personnel, member representing Owan federal Constituency and Deputy Whip of the House, Rt. Hon Pally Iriase, and Majority Leader of Edo State House of Assembly, Hon Folly Ogedengbe, who is a member representing Owan East Constituency and other top party leaders from the local government were seated patiently waiting for Agbale but to no avail.
Speaking to newsmen in Afuze after the exercise, the Organizing Secretary of the APC in Owan East, Mr. Fred Uanzekin, said they were surprised that the Deputy Governor could hijack the Commissioner for Science and Technology, Barr. Emmanuel Agbale, who was assigned to conduct the primaries in Afuze.
Mr. Uanzekin said party executives from 10 Wards gathered at the venue of the primary waiting for Mr Agbale for over 10 hours before they heard that a ‘kangaroo’ primary had been conducted in Warrake.
He said it was a dishonorable thing for Shaibu to seek to take over the leadership of Owan East when he was yet to take full control of Estako West where he hails from.
Continuing he said, “You can see for yourself. We have been here and nothing is happening”, adding that the deputy governor saw to the conduct a parallel primary. “Our recognized leader is Pally Iriase”, he said.
“We held meetings where we agreed on consensus that Hon Victor should be the Chairman but only one ward disagreed. We said they should come for full primary but they ran away.
Barely 20 hours after, party leaders from Owan East local government staged a protest to the party secretariat in Benin accusing Shaibu of allegedly hijacking the primary election.
The Party Chairman, Roland Edeki stated “the said Andrew Osigwe has no result from his polling unit in the last governorship election which is in contrast with the guideline in eligibility for the LGA election. Again, the LGA caucus has earlier zoned the chairmanship to ward 03 which has never produce the chairmanship before and Hon Andrew is from ward 04”
“More so, at Afuze mini stadium 10 wards out of the 11 that made up of the local government were present. Only Warrake ward 11 was absent for a reason best known to them”.
“We are optimistic that APC as a party would put a stop to this undemocratic practice perpetuated by the Edo State deputy governor, Comrade Phillip Shaibu before our party is immersed into serious crisis. The impunity must not be allowed to continue”.
But the State Party’s chairman Hon Anslem Ojezua said the party is still receiving reports from local government areas of the state and had received several complained bothering on the conduct of the primary.
He said: “I want to say that the deputy governor is not one of those sent to supervise the primary. However, to a large extent the primary across the state was peaceful. I’m surprised this is coming from Owan East local government that used to be the most peaceful. I’m disturbed by this development.
As it is now, the parallel congress held and presided over by the deputy governor is tearing the party apart as majority of the party leaders are threatening fire and brimstones if what they considered as outright rape of democracy, abuse of due process and flagrant disregard to party guidelines is not urgently addressed.
The Chief Press Secretary to the deputy governor, Musa Ebomhena, however absolved his principal of any complicity in the alleged hijack of the primary and pointed out where the primary was held was the approved venue.
Meanwhile, the daughter of the late two-time former governor of the old Bendel State, Madam Eghe Ogbemudia, emerged as chairmanship candidate of the party in Egor Local Government Area.
She emerged as a concensus candidate of the party after the leadership of the party in Egor led by House of Assembly member, Crosby Eribo and former Deputy Governor, Chief Lucky Imasuen adopted her as their candidate.
The Edo state chairman of the Edo Football Association, Mr. Frank Illaboya was elected the party’s candidate for Owan West local government in a unanimous decision.
LEADERSHIP observed that majority of the candidates emerged through consensus apart from few Local Governments such as Akoko Edo and some Councils in Edo Central senatorial district where the aspirants were forced to go for primaries after their leaders disagreed on consensus candidates.
In Oredo, which is the governor’s Local Government, Jenkinns Osunde emerged chairmanship candidate after younger brother to the governor, Dr Tom Obaseki withdrew from the race to obey the decision of the leaders.
Ikpoba Okhai, where the Secretary to the Edo state Government, Osarodion Ogie is leader, Dr Eric Iyobosa Osayande, emerged as candidate while Destiny Enabulele emerged as chairmanship candidate in Ovia South West.
In Orhiomwon, home of former deputy governor, Dr. Pius Odubu, Mr Sylvester Okoro picked the ticket, Etsako West (Musa Yakubu). In Igueben, Mr. Josie Ogedegbe was elected through affirmation as the party chairmanship candidate while Ms. Patience Oboh was elected Vice Chairmanship candidate.
The state secretary of the APC, Lawrence Okah, hailed the exercise, saying that “APC has demonstrated that it is a peaceful party where even when leaders disagree on issues, they will definitely agree without carrying guns. We are happy with the process and we are set for the election”.
It was however gathered that some aspirants who lost out in the exercise are considering seeking redress in the law court over the way and manner the consensus arrangement was reached, a development that is heating up the party.
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