Amid plot to debar Obaseki, court restrains APC, INEC
•Matter adjourned to June 11
•Chieftain tasks Edo gov on COVID-19 protocols
There are strong indications that Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State might face another hurdle in the June 22 governorship primary of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Sources within the APC headquarters and the screening committee set up by the party to examine the credentials of the aspirants, confided in The Guardian that the decision to disqualify Obaseki follows apparent discrepancies in the information he submitted to the party in 2016 and those contained in his current nomination forms.
However, Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, dismissed the plot as evidence of one man’s ambition to play god, stressing that his principal will challenge any attempt by the APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, to use powers he does not have.
This is just as a Federal High Court in Benin City, yesterday, adjourned hearing in a suit seeking to restrain the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from conducting governorship primary using the direct election method to select its candidate in the state.
Adjourning hearing to Thursday, June 11, the presiding judge, Justice Mohammed Garba Umar, said all parties in the suit are not permitted to do anything contrary to the procedure and hearing of the suit. He also directed parties to file all papers and exchange same documents within two days.
Joined in the suit filed by the factional state deputy chairman of APC, Pastor Kenneth Asemokhai, and a governorship aspirant of the party, Matthew Iduoriyekemwen, is the electoral umpire.
The two party chieftains had approached the court seeking to restrain the APC from adopting the direct mode of primary, citing COVID-19 and 2018 APC National Executive Council (NEC) resolution as the grounds for their action.
The mode of APC primary generated the acrimony between the governor’s camp and Oshiomhole’s loyalists shortly after the NWC of the party rolled out guidelines adopting direct primary.
The plaintiffs, who were represented by Ken Mozia (SAN) and John Odubela (SAN), argued that the APC constitution provides that the states should suggest mode of primaries to the NWC, adding that they have suggested indirect primary in which 4,000 delegates would participate with 500 delegates representing each ward.
However, defendants’ counsel, led by H. O Ogbodu (SAN), claimed otherwise, thereby prompting Justice Umar to direct parties in the suit to file their motion papers, while declining to grant the ex parte order.
He, however, gave the defendants three days to file their papers to show cause why the injunction should not be granted when the matter was first heard on Thursday, June 5.
While the legal disputations continue, it was gathered that Obaseki’s fate hangs in the balance over plans by the screening panel to disqualify him, following discoveries that information he supplied about his academic qualifications in 2016 differed from the documents and claims he made in the latest nomination forms.
Insisting that those discrepancies would turn out to be Obaseki’s Achilles heels, a highly placed source in the party singled out the governor’s claim that he graduated from the University of Ibadan with a B.A Degree in Classic in 1979 as against his earlier claim of graduating in 1976 as part of the justification for the impending action.
But, speaking with newsmen at the party’s national secretariat, National Publicity Secretary of APC, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, said the public display of aspirants’ credentials was necessary because of the party’s previous experience in Bayelsa State.
He said: “We have had experiences that are not so palatable. We have had experiences that are so shocking and we won’t be doing the right thing if we don’t learn from those experiences.
“Besides the fact that we have put it out here for anybody who has information to help the screening committee, we are also taking official steps to verify some of these documents to be sure that we do the right thing and come out clean.”
On whether the party will contact the institutions as claimed, he said: “By mere putting it on the board here, making it transparent, putting it before the public, it does mean that people who know them very well; school mates, acquaintances, friends and even enemies could come up with whatever they have. We are expecting help from whatever angle it could come from.”
Yet dismissing the claims, the governor’s aide, Osagie, said: “They are tired of talking about University of Ibadan, because they know that cannot fly, one day, one lie, one day, one story. University of Ibadan is a premier university such that before you can study there, you must have fulfilled all the admission conditions.
“Oshiomhole has sworn that over his dead body can Obaseki get a second term, but he has seen how the man is rising in political stature. All these institutions are there, let them go and verify.
“Nigerians are used to abuse that they think there is nothing anybody can do about it. If Oshiomhole tries to use powers that he does not have, there are many legal provisions to call him to order and we would not hesitate to call him to order.”