With less than 24 hours to its governorship election primary in Edo State, the People‘s Democratic Party (PDP) is engulfed in a crisis of confidence, with Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, declaring his withdrawal from the reconciliation process to ensure Governor Godwin Obaseki emerges as the party‘s candidate.
Wike who stated his intention to back out yesterday while speaking with journalists in Port Harcourt further accused some members of PDP National Working Committee (NWC) of being sycophants and tax collectors who will never tell the truth.
He also predicted that the looming crisis in PDP will make that of APC a child‘s play.
Obaseki was granted waiver and screened for the governorship primaries after defecting to the PDP last week.
However, when it seemed Obaseki had gotten the green light of key party stakeholders to contest for the governorship ticket on Thursday, an aspirant, Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, filed a suit in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, seeking to restrain the governor from participating in the primaries.
Miffed by a report in the media alleging his complicity in the matter, Wike accused some members of the NWC of instigating the blackmail against him, noting that he has had sleepless nights trying to resolve the thorny issues arising from Obaseki‘s defection to PDP.
He said, „Instead of the NWC to carry everybody along in Edo state, they resorted to using the media to blackmail him.
„I told them that in Edo State, we must handle the issue carefully and carry everybody along. They must respect human beings and not behave like tax collectors.
„They said because an order was obtained from a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, then I am responsible.
„I have had sleepless nights to resolve the issue in Edo State. The Governors of Edo, Adamawa, and Delta states, know what I have done to resolve the issues in Edo State.
„As a result of this senseless accusation, I have pulled out of Edo State settlement. My integrity matters.“
Noting that he has directed his lawyers to write the newspaper (not LEADERSHIP) that published the said report against him, he said he knew the members of the PDP NWC who connived with the newspaper.
„They are tax collectors. Let them challenge me and I will come out with more facts. Nobody will rubbish me by raising false accusations against me. I will fight back“, he stated
The governor who said he would no longer participate in any reconciliation wondered why the NWC now wants to consult governors of the party when they failed to do so in the case of Bayelsa State.
Warning that if PDP was not careful, it will make the crisis in the APC look like a child‘s play, Wike said, „I am brought up not to accept injustice, and that is why I keep speaking out on national issues. Nobody in PDP can intimidate Rivers State.
„Nobody can threaten me because I said things must be done constitutionally. I will always continue to satisfy my conscience. From now on, I want to concentrate on the development of Rivers State“.
It’s not true – Party
In a tepid response to Wike‘s outburst, members of the NWC said the accusation by the governor was not true, just as they blamed external forces for sponsoring the media publication that castigated him.
The party, in a statement signed by its national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, described the publication as the handwork of external forces and enemies of the PDP who are bent on sowing seeds of discord within the party.
The statement noted: „The NWC also wishes to place on record that none of its members has acted like a „tax collector“ in whatever meaning the term represents either in the process leading to the Edo primary election, or any other state.
„Our party holds Governor Wike and indeed all our PDP governors, who, of course, have been the pillars of our great party, with utmost respect and had always consulted them on all party affairs.
„The PDP appreciates the efforts and sacrifices of our governors and will not allow enemies of our party, who are out to cause disunity in our fold by sponsoring baseless publications against our leaders, to have their ways.
„This time demands the unity of all our leaders in order to keep our political rivals, who are facing extinction, from importing their crises into our party.
„The PDP remains one indivisible family and our members are at alert and will continue to resist every attempt by external forces to divide our ranks at this critical time“.
It was however gathered that some PDP governors will meet Wike over the matter to ensure that he doesn‘t pull out of the process.
Court Clears Edo Gov For Primaries
Meanwhile, respite came the way of Obaseki ahead of tomorrow‘s primaries as a High Court in Ekpoma yesterday restrained the PDP, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and others from removing, preventing or purporting to exclude him or any of other aspirant who had been cleared by the party from participating in the gubernatorial primary.
The Judge, Justice J. O. Okeaya-Inneh, in his ruling in a suit filed by Felix Irioh and Tom Irehobhude, said, „I find in my humble view that the applicants have satisfied the guidelines for the grant of the orders sought as enjoined in the celebrated landmark case of Kotoye v CBN (1989), 1 NWLR PT. 98, 419 at 441.
„The balance of convenience is in favour of the 1st and 2nd applicants and there is no undue delay in bringing this application. It is in that light that I find merit in this application.“
The defendants in the suit are Dr. Tony Aziegbemi, the PDP, Hon. Andy Ikhajiangbe, Peter Akhimien and INEC.
The applicants sought „an Order of Interim Injunction restraining INEC from however refusing to recognize and/or accept the name of any of the aspirants named in paragraph 2 above especially Mr. Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki as lawful aspirants having been lawfully screened and cleared by the 2nd Defendant to participate in the 2nd primary election scheduled to hold on the 25th June, 2020 in any report of the monitoring of the said primaries pending the hearing of the Motion On Notice.“
The judge adjourned the matter to July 1, 2020, for hearing of pending applications.
By the court ruling, Obaseki has been given the green light to participate in the gubernatorial primary.
In a related development, PDP petitioned a Federal High Court Judge, Justice Emmanuel Adema Obile over his role against its primary election.
A member of the House of Representatives and governorship aspirant on the platform of the PDP, Hon. Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, had in a motion prayed the court to bar Edo state governor, Godwin Obaseki from contesting in the primary election, citing many reasons including the time-frame in which the governor has been a member of the PDP.
As a result, Justice Obile, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, asked that the defendants, Obaseki, PDP and others, be served via newspaper publication and adjourned for Wednesday, June 24.
Reacting, PDP accused Justice Obile of not approaching the matter with circumspection, adding that His Lordship played into the hands of unscrupulous politicians.
In a letter dated June 23, 2020, addressed to the Chief Justice of Nigeria and chairman of the National Judicial Council, Mohammed Tanko, and signed by Dakzel Longi Shamnas, the party said, „The Plaintiff in the above suit at the behest of some external forces has surreptitiously filed an action at the Port Harcourt Division of the Federal High Court seeking to prevent the said Governor Obaseki from participating in the said election.
„In respect of the said suit, we note that Hon. Justice E. A. Obile did not approach the matter with circumspection. His Lordship thereby played into hands of unscrupulous politicians, notwithstanding the following red flags.
„The subject matter of the suit is the gubernatorial primary election of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Therefore the PDP is the principal defendant as it would be most affected by any order to be made by the court. The headquarters of the PDP is in Abuja. The screening of candidates for the gubernatorial election which the Plaintiff is complaining of in the suit took place in Abuja. The headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is in Abuja.
„On the other hand, the primary election is to take place in Benin City; and the 8th Defendant (Governor Godwin Obaseki) sought to be restrained from contesting the primary election is also based in Benin City. Thus, there is no nexus between the facts of this matter and Port Harcourt”.
Giadom Can’t Convene APC NEC, Ajimobi-led APC NWC Warns
Meanwhile, the Senator Abiola Ajimobi-led National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) yesterday dismissed moves by the Victor Giadom-led camp of the party to convene an emergency National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party, saying he has no legal backing to do so.
As part of moves to seize control of the party, Giadom, the suspended erstwhile national deputy secretary of the party had called for a virtual NEC meeting of the party anchored from the presidential villa tomorrow.
“However, in keeping strictly to the COVID-19 Guidelines, the postponed NEC shall proceed by virtual means. The codes would be sent by text to the phone numbers of all NEC members. Those to be physically present at the State House, Abuja, would also be communicated,” a notice from his camp stated.
But in countering Giadom, the national vice chairman (South-south), Ntufam Hilliard Eta, who is holding forte for the acting national chairman, Abiola Ajimobi, said, “It is not right to refer to 17 members, with 15 of them physically present and two who met with us physically as a faction. This is the National Working Committee NWC of the APC in Nigeria.
“I sit here on behalf of Distinguished Senator Abiola Ajimobi as the acting Chairman of this party. If Victor Giadom is arranging a NEC, I believe that it is your responsibility as a member of the fourth estate of the realm to investigate his locus to find out whether he has the legal, the constitutional backing to be able to call a NEC meeting.
“As we speak, the membership of Chief Victor Giadom has been suspended by a competent court of jurisdiction in Port Harcourt this afternoon. Not only is he not a member of the NWC from today, his membership of the APC has been suspended. So, when you call him factional acting Chairman, we wonder why”.
Article 25B(i and ii) of the APC Constitution (2014 as amended) states: „The National Executive Committee shall meet every quarter and or at any time decided by the National Chairman or at the request made in writing by at least two-thirds of the members of the National Executive Committee provided that not less than fourteen days’ notice is given for the meeting to be summoned.
“Without prejudice to Article 25(B)(i) of this Constitution, the National Working Committee may summon an emergency National Executive Committee meeting at any time, provided that at least seven days’ notice of the meeting shall be given to all those entitled to attend“.
Why We Sealed National Secretariat – Police
The Nigeria Police Force explained yesterday that its personnel were deployed to the national secretariat of the APC, located at Blantyre Crescent, Wuse II, Abuja strictly for peace purposes.
It said it was in a bid to avert a likely breakdown of law and order that the police sealed off the national headquarters of the governing APC.
The Inspector-General of Police, (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, had ordered the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja Command of the Nigeria Police Force to seal off the premises.
After staff had resumed and settled for the day‘s business, police men arrived and took over security of the premises, barring national officers from having access to their offices.
Soon after, staff and visitors were asked to leave the premises as the takeover turned into a proper lockdown.
LEADERSHIP however gathered that trouble started penultimate Monday when maintenance staff were ordered by one of the national officers to open the office of the national chairman for Chief Victor Giadom who is insisting that he is the acting national chairman.
The blockade was however lifted at about 4pm after a meeting between some NWC members and the police command.
Force PRO, Frank Mba, explained in a statement that the deployment was a proactive move by the Force to maintain peace and ensure there is no breakdown of law and order at the secretariat.
He noted that the presence of police personnel at the secretariat is not to seal-up the complex as has been reported in some quarters but rather to prevent any untoward situation within and around the secretariat
He further noted that members of the APC as well as staff of the secretariat are therefore at liberty to conduct their legitimate businesses, in and around the secretariat as always.
LEADERSHIP earlier observed that workers at the secretariat were discussing in clusters over what will befall them if the leadership crisis was not resolved before the month ends in light of their salary.
Ize Iyamu‘s Home Ward Authenticates His Membership Of APC
The controversy over the party membership of the APC Governorship candidate in Edo State, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, may have been laid to rest as party executives in his ward, Ugboko Niro, yesterday affirmed his membership of the party.
The party executive equally backed his candidacy assuring him of their support in the governorship election slated for September.
Chairman of the ward, Mathew Ogbebor, who led other members of the executives on a solidarity visit to Ize-Iyamu after his victory in the party primaries on Monday, dismissed speculations that the candidate failed to complete his registration at the ward level.
He affirmed that a membership card signed by him was issued to the candidate after the completion of his registration in accordance with the party’s constitution last year.
Ogbebor described Ize-Iyamu as a worthy and notable member of the party whose emergence as the candidate has united the party and provided assurances of victory at the polls.
In reaction, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu praised the executives of the ward for insisting on the truth despite pressure and intimidation from some persons seeking to cause confusion in the party.
He gave assurances of a resounding victory at the polls in September and urged them to continue mobilization efforts in rural communities to promote greater understanding of his simple agenda aimed at improving the socio-economic conditions of the state.
Litigations, conflicting orders threat to Edo, Ondo primaries – INEC
Meanwhile, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has expressed worry over the spate of pre-election litigations and conflicting orders emanating from Edo and Ondo states, warning that they are capable of harming the smooth conduct of party primaries and the upcoming elections.
A statement made available to LEADERSHIP yesterday in Abuja, signed by the national commissioner and chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, noted that the commission will obey all valid court orders.
On the Court Orders, Okoye noted that political parties should note that the organisation and scheduling of various activities and processes leading to the conduct of elections are complex and involve extensive and careful planning.
He said, “Political parties should note that the organization and scheduling of various activities and processes leading to the conduct of elections are complex and involve extensive and careful planning and any disruption of these processes comes at a huge cost to the nation.
“The spate and tenor of pre-election litigations and the conflicting orders emanating therefrom can harm the smooth conduct of primaries and the upcoming elections. The Commission is closely monitoring the cases arising from the administration of political parties, the conduct of primaries and nomination of candidates.
This notwithstanding, the Commission restates its avowed commitment to continue to obey all orders and judgements from properly constituted courts in accordance with the rule of law.”
On the Code of Conduct and Rules of Engagement for security officials on electoral duty, he said the commission also considered the report from the meeting of the Inter- Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES), which recently approved a Code of Conduct and Rules of Engagement for Security Officials on Electoral Duty.
He said, “The commission also considered the report from the meeting of the Inter- Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES), which recently approved a Code of Conduct and Rules of Engagement for Security Officials on Electoral Duty.
“The Code is signed by the Chairman of INEC, the National Security Adviser (NSA) as Co-Chairman of ICCES and the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) as head of the lead agency in election security”.