COVID-19 and challenge for Edo APC governorship primary
With the unfolding events happening in Edo State and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, in the last couple of weeks, it is clear that while the Federal and State Governments are doing all they can to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and reduce fatalities, politics is set to ruin the gains. Politicians in the state are not in one accord in the management of the political space in a COVID-19 environment. Those in the camp of former Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, are not thinking along the line of taming Coronavirus. Otherwise, the clamour by them for the direct primary option, where social distancing will be breached should have been muted.
The first affront on efforts to contain COVID-19 took place on April 30, when Comrade Oshiomhole organised a mock All Progressives Congress (APC) primary election to select a candidate from the Edo Peoples Movement (EPM) to contest in the 2020 gubernatorial elections, against the regulations on public gatherings.
In its response, the state chapter of the APC condemned the action of Oshiomhole and his minions, even as members of the EPM came out to deny that such a meeting ever held. The EPM twisted the tale into different versions with intent to obfuscate the fact and rubbish the protestations by the state government and other critical stakeholders who were appalled by the desperation to anoint a consensus candidate.
Right-thinking members of the public and key stakeholders in Edo took umbrage at the actions of Comrade Oshiomhole and called on the President, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), and other stakeholders to call Oshiomhole to order and make him see reasons that life is sacred and should not be sacrificed for political ambition.
As if the indiscretion of April 30 was not enough, it was reported that the Comrade Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee of the APC had on May 22, 2020, allegedly adopted the direct primaries method for selection of a candidate to flag the APC flag in Edo gubernatorial election in September.
This decision by the NWC confirmed fears that some may be working actively to reverse the gains made in the fight against COVID-19. This is because the activities required for direct party primary puts not less than 500,000 persons at the risk of congregating in different locations to cast votes, which increases the risk of the spread of the virus.
There is no denying the fact that Comrade and his team are working from answer to question and the intentions are clearly spelt out in the statement announcing the type of primary to be adopted. More than anything, it is clear that his insistence on this mode of primary is self-serving, as he is on a mission to actualize his ambition of ousting the incumbent in the state and is ready to damn whatever consequences to do this, even if it means exposing half a million people to COVID-19 and further compromising Nigeria’s healthcare system in the process.
It is imperative to note that, knowing the adverse implications of large, uncoordinated public gathering this period, the state chapter of the APC, following the precedent set in previous gubernatorial elections conducted by the APC and approved by the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC), adopted the indirect primaries option, with arrangements that align with the regulations set by the NCDC, the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The option, which is also democratic, would ensure that not up to 10 percent of 500,000 people that would be put at risk in the alternative, will be exposed.
While the stakeholders in the party in Edo wholesomely subscribe to the indirect primary method as against what just one man wants, it is important to state that the Comrade, by his actions, seem not to bother much about public safety, and the sensibilities of the people. This is because he is attempting to carve himself into a soulless godfather, who continuously tramples on the graves of those that have passed from COVID-19 pandemic, no less a person than the Chief of Staff to the President, Late Abba Kyari, among others, that died from complications after contracting the virus. While Oshiomhole’s political ambition continues to disrupt COVID-19 containment efforts, it would be a disservice to Edo people and Nigerians if he continues in his quest to conduct a primary election in a manner that rubbishes the sacrifices of frontline workers and jeopardises the chances of speedily coming out of this difficult period in our country’s history.
It is indeed disturbing that one man is scheming to undo the wishes of millions of Edo people and is vigorously pushing to undermine the several months of work put in by relevant stakeholders to safeguard the people, all for massaging his ego and settling his political minions, whose interests and ambitions are at variance with the aspirations of the people.
Comrade Oshiomhole will be vehemently resisted in Edo State, and his plans to grow his forsaken empire on COVID-19 dead bodies would be vigorously rejected. Edo people value human life and as most reasonable and rational people would agree, the gubernatorial elections in September and the processes leading up to that event, would not be prosecuted by placing party members and the electorate at risk.
It is heartwarming that President Muhammadu Buhari and the Progressives Governors Forum (PGF) have stepped in to bring everyone on the dialogue table, but that should not be end of it. These persons should ensure that they make parties to the dispute see the implications of why individual interest should not supersede the health and wellbeing of Edo people in particular and Nigerians at large. They shouldn’t take their feet off the pedal until a resolution is reached to protect Edo people from the dreaded virus and also allow the wishes of Edo electorate to prevail.
• Osamede writes from Benin City
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