By Emmanuel Oloniruha, Abuja / Igbaugba Ehigimetor, Benin / Igbaugba Ehigimetor, Benin
June 20, 2020
Ahead of its primary election scheduled to hold on Thursday, June 25, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Saturday screened Edo Governor Godwin Obaseki, a new entrant vying for the party’s ticket to contest the Sept. 19 governorship poll.
Obaseki was screened at the party’s headquarters in Abuja.
This is as the Youth and Women wing of the PDP, Edo chapter, same Saturday, kicked against the waiver granted Obaseki by the national leadership of the party.
The waiver was to enable the governor who just defected from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state into the main opposition PDP on Friday to contest in the party’s primary scheduled for Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Chief Owere Imasogie, Edo South Senatorial leader of the PDP has said the party leadership in the state was not induced by Gov. Obaseki to join the party.
He stressed that the allegation of inducement was unfounded.
Speaking with newsmen shortly after he was screened by the Kingsley Chinda-led screening committee, Obaseki commended the party for the exercise, and expressed optimism that he would secure the PDP ticket.
“The screening exercise was fair and professional; I saw objectivity in it.”
Obaseki said he was not a divisive candidate, adding that he was “speaking with all the aspirants”.
“My hope and purpose for the PDP is to have a united and very strong party.
“Party primary should not be divisive because we, as a party, are focused on the same objective, but because we are individuals, our approaches may be different.
“So, party primary, in my view, should not be acrimonious and destructive. There are common grounds, common interests and I am very hopeful that I will get it even as there are quite a number of delegates for the exercise,” he said.
Asked of the credentials he presented to the committee, Obaseki said: “I presented all my certificates, my secondary school, higher school, university and my National Youth Service certificate, so that they can look at them and see if there are inconsistencies.
“You can ask the screening committee if there are any inconsistencies in any of them,” Obaseki said.
Also asked if he still enjoyed the sympathy of All Progressives Congress (APC) governors, Obaseki said he enjoyed national support, not just support from his colleagues from the APC.
“There are elder statesmen who are apolitical; there are traditional rulers; I have people from different spectrum of the society who come around on solidarity with me.
“I think Nigerians are generally fair minded people. They are people who do not accept injustice. From what I have seen over the past several weeks and months, the support is just across the board. It is not just from APC governors alone,” he said.
Obaseki, however, urged political parties, who were wooing him to their parties, to support his aspiration under the PDP platform.
“I believe they made overtures to me because they believe that we share something in common; that there is something I can offer their platform.
“So, my message is that those hopes and aspirations which they were hoping for, which was the reasons they wanted me to join their parties, can still be realised under the platform of the PDP.
“I will encourage them and woo them to join me in the PDP,” he said.
Chinda, speaking earlier, assured Nigerians that the screening committee would be fair, transparent and would do justice to whoever appears before it.
“We are not unaware that he is a serving governor, but that has nothing to do with us as members of the screening committee.
“We want to assure everyone that whatever our findings are, we shall report to the party. But be rest assured that we will be fair as human beings,” Chinda said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the party, on June 5, conducted a screening exercise for three aspirants – Kenneth Imansuangbon, Omoregie-Ogbeide Ihama and Gideon Ikhine.
The party on Friday granted waiver to Obaseki and his deputy, Philip Shuaibu, to enable them seek reelection under its platform, while it also shifted its primary election from June 23 to June 25.
The youths against the waiver, under the auspices of PDP Youths for Justice, stated their opposition in a press statement made available to newsmen in Benin.
The coordinator of the youth group, Musa Kadiri, warned the party leadership to reward loyalty instead of looking for opportunities.
Kadiri said the three aspirants; Ken Imasuagbon, Gideon Ikhine and Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, besides Obaseki, were capable of defeating any candidate the APC would present.
Kadiri stated that the PDP might witness implosion if Obaseki was given the ticket on a platter of gold.
“We, the youths on ground in Edo know that the PDP has positioned itself to win the forthcoming gubernatorial election.
“We do not need Obaseki who is chased out of the APC based on questionable credentials.”
Similarly the women wing of the party in Egor Local Government led by Mrs Imuwahen Osasu, said the Edo PDP did not need Obaseki.
They noted that the Edo governorship election slated for Sept. 19, provided another opportunity to reward those that have been loyal to the party for over 12 years that the party has been out of power in the state.
Meanwhile, some chieftains of the PDP in Edo Central senatorial district have backed the aspiration of Imasuangbon popularly known as ‘Rice Man’ to clinch the ticket of the party at the party primaries scheduled for June 23.
NAN reports that Imasuagbon had refused pressure to step down from the race for Obaseki.
The Edo Central PDP chieftains in a press statement said their support for Imasuangbon was based on the need for the party to reward loyalty and commitment.
Speaking on behalf of the PDP chieftains from the five local government areas in Edo Central, Mr. Solomon Eboigbe, urged Imasuagbon not to accept any offer to step down from the race.
Eboigbe said they have consulted widely across the state and the verdict from the people was the choice of Imasuangbon as their preferred candidate.
Chief Imasogie, who spoke to newsmen in Benin on Saturday on Obaseki joining the PDP, noted that Obaseki’s coming into the PDP was purely “strategic,”
describing the rumour of inducement as propaganda being spread by those who lost out in keeping the governor as their party member.
He noted that what transpired between the party and the governor was mutual, as the sitting governor certainly had his own qualities, selling points and attractions.
He commended the national leadership of the party on the decision to accommodate Obaseki, considering the fact that the party had to postpone its governorship primaries from June 20 to June 24.
According to him, any active opposition political party will certainly be excited having a sitting governor of a state being a party ruling at the centre, decamping to an opposition party.
“It shows, among other considerations, the valuable rating and respect the sitting governor has for that party.
“So, we in the PDP have accepted Gov. Obaseki into our fold and the leadership of the party has granted him and his deputy the necessary waivers to contest on the platform of the party.”
The PDP leader emphasised that the party had a “huge humane umbrella of protection for political like-minds.
“What kind of party will the PDP be if it does not provide shelter and comfort for a governor whose party has been tormenting with heavy acidic rains and thunderstorms?
“He is here with us now, safe and sound and henceforth, Edo has become a PDP state.”
He called on Nigerians to continue to support of the PDP “so we can bring Nigeria back to the path of true recovery and health.”
It would be recalled that Obaseki on Friday joined the PDP to enable him seek reelection following his disqualification from the Sept. 19 poll by the All Progressives Congress.