National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Adams Oshiomhole on Monday said the party was not aware of Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki’s preference for indirect primary.
He made this known after a closed-door meeting he held with seven members of the Progressive Governors Forum led by Kebbi State Governor Atiku Bagudu.
Oshiomhole said Obaseki’s purported predisposition falls within the realm of speculation since the party is yet to be formally notified. He noted further that the party’s decision to use direct primary remains sacrosanct because it aligns with the APC’s constitution.
“Obaseki is not here but issues of primaries are well spelt out in our constitution and we are following it as strictly as possible. So, there’s nothing to worry about at all. You (reporters) are speculating; I don’t have any letter or document to that effect. These are very formal matters, so stop spreading rumours.”
On INEC’s guidelines on the Edo and Ondo primaries, he said: “We have since published our timetable because under the law, we are required to give INEC at least 21 days notice to monitor our primaries and state the mode. And, of course, NEC has approved direct primaries for Edo. That of Ondo has not been discussed because that will come much later because Edo will come about three weeks before Ondo.”
Bagudu, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues, admitted that the parley was aimed at discussing pending issues on the affairs of the party. He, however, faulted the notion that the meeting was aimed at persuading Oshiomhole to resolve his differences with Obaseki ahead of the Edo State governorship primaries.
According to him, “The meeting between the national leadership of our party with the Progressives Governors’ Forum was to discuss issues that have piled up especially between March 14 when the forum last met and agreed to meet with the national working committee under the able leadership of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole to discuss issues of interest to our party.
“This meeting was not a continuation of yesterday’s meeting. This is a meeting with the national leadership of our party, to discuss issues between the Governor’s Forum and party leadership that will lead to the progress of our party.”
Others at the meeting, besides Oshiomhole and members of the NWC, were Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Abdullahi Umar Ganduje (Kano), Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq (Kwara) and Muhammed Inuwa (Gombe).
This came as Obaseki yesterday visited the Presidential Villa, Abuja, where he presented his interest form for re-election to President Muhammadu Buhari.
Briefing State House correspondents on the purpose of the visit, Obaseki said: “I came to see the president to formally inform him of my desire to seek re-election as governor of Edo State on the platform of the All Progressives Congress in the forthcoming gubernatorial election.
“Even though President Buhari is a father of our nation, it will be wrong to just assume or take things for granted. So, I have to formally inform him of my intention to re-contest and solicit his support for my gubernatorial bid.”
Obaseki said: “I believe that having been governor of the state for three years, the jury is out. You can check with Edo people whether as governor I served creditably well.
“The consensus is that we have done well, as a government, and people will like us to continue with the laudable programmes and policies we undertook over the last three years. If you recall, when I got into power, as a governor, one thing Edo was known for was human trafficking. We had over 30,000 of our citizens in Libya, waiting to cross over to Europe. Today, in less than three years, we have stopped it.
“We are celebrated globally, across the continent in terms of the reforms we have undertaken in basic education in this country. Those children, I can’t abandon them. We can’t stop what we have achieved to date. So, based on that, we believe that because of the connection which we have created with our people, we have no doubt in our minds that we will win any election, direct or indirect, in Edo State.”
Describing the feud between him and the APC national chairman, Obaseki said: “It is unfortunate that he is taking the position he has taken. I believe he was not properly guided. I am his governor and it is my responsibility to seek peace for my state. I will continue to strive for peace. I will continue to pursue peace and seek the interest of our people.
“I am open, that we should talk about how to move things forward. The relationship is still frosty but I am doing all I can to try and make it warm, just for the sake of Edo people. I am committed to whatever it will take to have peace and not lose lives in Edo. Within the law, whatever I can do that is constitutional, I will do.”
Obaseki stressed that he has the full support of governors elected on the platform of the APC.
Also, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja yesterday restrained the Edo State government and Obaseki from arresting and prosecuting Oshiomhole.
A panel of inquiry set up by the state government and headed by Justice J. U. Oyomire had in a white paper indicted Oshiomhole and recommended that criminal proceedings be commenced against him.
Oshiomhole, in an ex parte motion, through his counsel, Mr. Ehiogie West-Idahosa, had asked the court to stop his arrest and prosecution on account of the report.
The Edo government, however, through its counsel, Mr. Alex Ejeiseme, went to the court with a preliminary objection to stop the ex parte order from being heard.
Ejeiseme argued that since he was challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the matter, the court must determine the issue of jurisdiction before entertaining any other application.
He agreed that he had not been served the applicant’s processes, but that he responded based on an online version he had printed.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed ordered the respondents not to take any decision on the matter pending the determination of the issue of jurisdiction and adjourned until June 17.
Meanwhile, ahead of the Ondo and Edo governorship elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday asked political parties to submit their membership registers or list of delegates (depending on their preference for direct or indirect primary).
INEC Chairman Mahmood Yakubu gave the directive at a maiden visual consultative meeting with the leadership of the nation’s 18 registered political parties.