By Ismaila Chafe/ Deji Abdulwahab/ Emmanuel Oloniruha/ Wandoo Sombo
Abuja, June 1, 2020
President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday met behind closed doors with Gov. Godwin Obaseki of Edo at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The meeting, which was at the instance of the governor, came ahead of the governorship primary election of the All Progressives Congress (APC), scheduled for June, 2020.
Speaking to State House correspondents at the end of the meeting, Obaseki said he was in the Presidential Villa to formally intimate the president of his intention to seek re-election as governor of Edo on the platform of the APC.
The governor, who is at loggerheads with the APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, over his second term ambition, presented his Expression of Interest form to the president for blessing.
“I came to see Mr President to formally inform him of my desire and intention to seek re-election as governor of Edo State on the platform of the APC in the forthcoming gubernatorial election.
“As a father of the country, as our president I should not just assume or take things for granted – I have to come to inform him and solicit his support in my gubernatorial bid, and the president was quite warm and quite welcoming.
“When I showed him my Expression of Interest form, he looked through it and teased me that he would not have to go through this again and wished me good luck and assured me of his support,’’ he said.
On the political tussle in Edo, the governor stated that the crisis was being instigated from outside the state.
Obaseki also described the political misunderstanding between him and Oshiomhole as very unfortunate, saying however that he was ready to reach a truce with all aggrieved members of the APC.
“It is unfortunate that he (Oshiomhole) is taking the position he has taken. I believe that he was not properly guided.
“I am his Governor and it is my responsibility to seek peace for my State and with all my citizens.
“I will continue to strive for peace, I will continue to pursue peace, seek the interest of our people and 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 to lose lives in Edo, within the law, whatever I can do that is constitutional, I will do,’’ he stated.
According to the governor, he has the full support of his counterparts, all the governors elected on the platform of the APC, in line with the principles of the party, which encourages continuity.
Meanwhile, Oshiomhole, has said the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) has approved direct primaries for the Edo governorship poll.
Oshiomhole said this on Monday at a news conference shortly after meeting with APC Governors Forum led by Gov. Abubakar Bagudu of Kebbi, at the party’s National Secretariat in Abuja.
He added that the party’s NWC was yet to discuss and decide on the mode of primaries for Ondo Governorship election slated for July 20.
“We have since published our time table because under the law, we are required to give Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) at least 21 days notice to monitor our primaries.
“And to state the mode of our primaries and of course NWC had 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,” the party chairman said.
He said that the party had begun the sale of expression of interest and nomination forms, adding that other processes had also been going fine.
“We have commenced the sale of forms, I think as of last Friday to my knowledge three people had picked the forms.
“I think by today more people have picked the forms. So, we are selling forms to all those who wish to buy based on the guidelines.
“And of course as the Chairman of the Progressives Governors rightly said, we have ensured in our letter to INEC and even this morning we had a virtual meeting with INEC leadership.
“We will conduct primaries taking into account the protocols on Covid-19 by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) and Nigeria Commission for Disease Control (NCDC). I think everything has been going fine,” he said.
According to him, governors are assets to our party and once a candidate emerged, we all work and ensure that we do our best to persuade the people in the respective states to favour us with their votes.
“I am sure that by the special grace of God, the Ondo Governor is here, he did well and electorate are more sophisticated now, so we have no fear about that.
“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 nothing to worry about at all,” Oshiomhole said.
Earlier, Bagudu said the purpose of the meeting was to discuss issues between the Governor’s Forum and party leadership that would lead to the progress of the APC.
INEC, in another development, said that it has set up a dedicated portal through which political parties contesting the Edo governorship scheduled for Sept 19, will submit the nomination forms of their candidates.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed this on Monday, during the first virtual consultative meeting of the commission with leaders of political parties.
Yakubu, however, warned political parties against changes in the date for the conduct of their primaries for the election, as the portal would be automatically shutdown on the scheduled dates.
“Party primaries for the nomination of candidates for the Edo Governorship election begin tomorrow. Already, some political parties have invited the commission to monitor their primaries which must be conducted from 2nd to 27th June 2020.
” This time around, the submission of nomination forms will be done online for which a dedicated portal has been set up.
“Let me therefore warn political parties that intend to field candidates for the election to strictly adhere to these dates as well as the new online procedure for filing of nominations. Any party that operates outside these dates will only have itself to blame.
“The portal will automatically shutdown on the scheduled date and at the fixed hour. The Legal Department and ICT will brief this meeting on the new procedure,” Yakubu said.
The chairman advised parties on the need to conduct rancour-free primaries, and to avoid acts of thuggery, brigandage, vote-buying and other sundry violations of the Electoral Act.
Yakubu also directed parties that opted for direct primaries to provide the commission with the list of their registered members, while those going for indirect primaries must also provide INEC with the list of their delegates.
“The commission makes available to each political party, the complete register of voters before every major election. We expect political parties to reciprocate for their primaries,” he said.
Yakubu disclosed that the commission had already carried out the first out of the 14 activities it lined up for Edo governorship election, as the notice for the election (Form EC60A) had been pasted in its Edo state office.
The INEC chairman, who stressed the need for a national conversation around the frequency of bye-elections in Nigeria, said in the month of May 2020 alone, five members of State Houses of Assembly passed on.
He added that since December 2019, a period of six months, twelve members of the National and State Houses of Assembly had similarly passed on.
“This is in addition to the resignation of two Senators from Bayelsa who have since been sworn-in as Governor and Deputy Governor of the state.
“The cost of conducting these bye-elections to the commission, the security agencies, political parties and candidates, election observers, the media, litigations (both pre-election and post-election) and disruption of activities as a result of the restriction of movement on election day is enormous.
“There is no election season in Nigeria any longer. The commission is busy conducting elections all-year round between one general election and another.
“This often diverts our attention away from reform, innovation, peer learning and planning for the consolidation of our electoral process.
“The commission is going to open a discussion with stakeholders and the National Assembly for necessary reforms toward more cost-effective and democratic options,” he said.
Also, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has restrained the Edo Government and Gov Godwin Obaseki from arresting and prosecuting Oshiomhole.
NAN reports that a panel of inquiry set up by the state government 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, asked the court to stop his arrest and prosecution on account of the report.
The Edo government, however through its counsel Mr Alex Ejeiseme, SAN, 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.
After listening to arguments by parties, Justice Ahmed Mohammed ordered respondents in the matter not to take any decision on the matter pending the determination of the issue of jurisdiction.
”An interim order is hereby made restraining the prosecution of the applicant pursuant to the report submitted to the 1st to 3rd respondents or any white paper, pending the determination of the issue of jurisdiction raised in the 1st to 4th respondents’ notice of preliminary objection, the judge said.
The court also directed Oshiomhole’s counsel to serve all the respondents his processes within 48 hours.
Also named as respondents in the suit are the Attorney- General and Commissioner of Justice for Edo, Justice J.U Oyomire, Inspector-General of Police and the Department of State Services.
Justice Mohammed later adjourned the matter until June 17.