Edo PDP, APC, LP battle primary crises ahead of gov election

With the party primaries for the September 21 Edo State governorship election concluded, ADEYINKA ADEDIPE writes on the chaos generated by the exercise which may take some time to clear up

The just concluded primary elections by the major political parties in Edo State to choose their candidates for the September 21 governorship election were chaotic, at some point dramatic, and confusing. While some aspirants desired to win at all costs, the seeming bias to skew the election in favour of certain aspirants by party executives, brought tension into the race.

From the Peoples Democratic Party, and the All Progressives Congress to the Labour Party, the story was the same as disaffection among party executives, aspirants, and party members became the order of the day.

Events leading up to the primaries of all the political parties gave a hint of what to expect as party executives fell apart, aspirants bickered while party members and aspirants did not trust the executive to organise free, fair, and credible elections that would produce worthy candidates.

For the ruling PDP, the choice of who would become the party candidate damaged the cordial relationship between Governor Godwin Obaseki and his deputy, Philip Shaibu as both no longer see eye to eye. Shaibu has been kicked out of the Government House while the weekly devotion he organised at the chapel within the Government House no longer holds there as the chapel is undergoing renovation. He has since taken the prayer session to his new office.

Before their relationship hit the rock mid-last year, the bond between Obaseki and Shaibu could have passed them as brothers from the same parents. Shaibu referred to Obaseki as his elder brother and they were always together at different fora grinning from ear to ear. Such was the trust Obaseki had in Shaibu that he put his deputy in charge of the local government and sports in the state. Shaibu handled both jobs diligently with sports getting the needed development and the revenue generated from the state’s local government areas increasing over time.

They also battled a former governor of the state, Adam Oshiomhole, who was instrumental in their ascension to the “throne”. They felt that Oshiomhole was becoming overbearing and they needed to check his excess, which they did with all they had. In fact, Shaibu who is from the same area as Oshiomhole was more vocal, slamming Oshiomhole’s desire to play the godfather, which he fought against during his tenure as the governor.

With all these, it was shocking when Obaseki and Shaibu fell apart due to the ambition of the latter to succeed his boss as the governor of the state. The governor, on the other hand, preferred and backed a candidate from Edo Central and former Chairman of Sterling Bank, Asue Ighodalo, who eventually became the party’s candidate.

But before Ighodalo was declared the winner at the primaries conducted on February 22, at the Samuel Ogbemudia stadium, supporters of Shaibu held a parallel election and declared the deputy governor the candidate of the party. Shaibu’s aggrieved supporters said they were not accredited to take part in the congress at the stadium. Ighodalo got his certificate of return at the party secretariat in Abuja but this may not put an end to the crisis as Shaibu has vowed to pursue the mandate given to him by the “authentic party delegates”.

Speaking to the protesting delegates, Shaibu said, “I appeal to all of you to be peaceful. I don’t want anybody to be injured, I don’t want anybody molested and I am happy with the way you have conducted yourselves peacefully and have come to report to me that you were not allowed to be accredited but I want to tell you that no one man can determine the destiny of a people and by the grace of God they cannot disenfranchise you people.

“The law is clear that you people are the authentic delegates. Now that they have pushed you away, they want to go and replace you but I assure you that your vote must count; they cannot change and replace your names. I assure you that I will take your protest to the committee that is coming but you must remain peaceful in everything you are doing.”

Later that day Shaibu told journalists, “I saw the crowd outside and I asked who they were and they said they were delegates. I said they should be directed to the venue of the accreditation but they said they were protesting because they have been sent away from the venue of accreditation despite winning their delegate election at the ward level.”

However, the Edo State PDP chairman, Tony Aziegbemi told The PUNCH that what Shaibu did with his supporters was senseless and not worthy of his comment. He said, “What he did with his supporters was senseless. I don’t really know what he thought he was doing. Such action is not worthy of my comment,” he added.

Before the primary, the other PDP aspirants had expressed worry over the way the ward and national delegate congresses were done by the state exco in conjunction with the party’s National Working Committee to allegedly favour Ighodalo. And when he emerged with 577 votes with Shaibu and Anslem Ojezua getting a vote apiece at the primary held at the stadium, their initial fears may not have been misplaced.

While Omosede Igbinedion stepped down for Ighodalo on election day another top aspirant, Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama who withdrew from the race blamed irregularities and corrupt process by the party’s NWC for his decision.

The APC congress turned out to be the most cumbersome and chaotic as it took some kind of supernatural power to prevent the loss of lives. The initial election took place on February 17 across the 192 wards in the state. By mid-day, results had started coming into the Lushville Hotel and Suite designated for the collation and announcement of results. The returning officer, Stanley Ugboaja had announced results from eight local government areas with Senator Monday Okpebholo in the lead and House of Representatives’ member, Dennis Idahosa in second.

“As you can see, we are here in large numbers, youths, and women, to show our displeasure over the way the exco handled the election.

“I want to send a message to the National Working Committee that since the state Working Committee can disobey what the NWC wanted, they need to be suspended from the party and if that is not done, nobody will enter this secretariat again,” he added.

To ensure calm returns to the party in the state, the NWC ordered a rerun on February 22, with the Governor of Cross Rivers State as chairman of the Electoral Committee. The rerun produced Okpebholo as the party flagbearer. Idahosa came second. Idahosa is contesting the result and there have been protests in Abuja and Benin in support of Idahosa. In a swift U-turn, the youth leader of the party apologised for the disruption that took place on February 17 and expressed his support for Okpebholo.

The Labour Party primaries seem to be the most chaotic and full of drama with four people laying claim to the party governorship ticket.

While the Julius Abure faction was declaring a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Olumide Akpata, as its governorship candidate on February 23 after he defeated the like of Kenneth Imasuagbon and Sergius Ogun to the ticket, the Lamidi Apapa faction in a letter dated February 22 addressed to the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission submitted the names of Anderson Asemota and Monday Mawah as the LP governorship candidate and running mate.

However, in another twist on February 25, a United Kingdom-based legal practitioner, Hilton Idahosa announced himself as the party’s third factional candidate, stating that the election of February 22 under the Apapa faction was postponed till February 24, which he won.

Also, Imasuangbon who lost the Julius Abure-led faction ticket to Akpata on Tuesday accused the leadership of the party of skewing the primary in favour of Akpata. He also called on the leaders of the party to declare him the governorship candidate of the party.

He said: “I want to first of all use this opportunity to thank my well-wishers and staff of Pacesetters Schools for standing by me during my political sojourn. I also extend my thanks to the Edo people and my supporters across the state.

“My interest in politics is to change the narratives of Edo and improve the lives of the people. I want an Edo where jobs would be available, where food would be cheap, where our teeming unemployed youth would be meaningfully engaged but the godfathers refused democracy to strive in Edo.

“After 21 years in politics, I do not think it is proper or politically right for political parties to skew party primary to favour a particular candidate. I hope, one day, democracy will be allowed to thrive in Edo.

“I have worked hard in the last 21 years to impact on lives of our suffering Edo people with my hard-earned personal resources, unfortunately, anti-democratic forces will not allow the free will of the people to prevail. I am issuing a one-week ultimatum to the leadership of LP to reverse the recognition of Akpata as our party’s candidate. I should be declared winner,” he added.


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