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Fear of postponement persists in Edo despite INEC’s pledge

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(Middle) Obaseki at the carnival-like march termed the Umbrella March. Photo; TWITTER/GOVERNOROBASEKI

At what point would the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) adjust its timetable for the September 19, 2020 gubernatorial election in Edo State? Apart from general apprehension that violence and voter apathy could mar the election, Nigerians were taken aback when Governor Godwin Obaseki sounded the alarm that the All Progressives Congress (APC), which is in opposition in Edo State, was experimenting with all manners of tricks to compel a postponement through INEC.
 
This is just as two heavy weights in the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and incumbent governor of Ondo State, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, who is seeking a second term mandate in the November 10, 2020 governorship poll in the Sunshine State, have settled their differences to ensure that the party retains control of the state.
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It would be recalled that midway into the election that brought him to power in 2016, INEC was forced to postpone the governorship election in Edo State citing security issues and threat to peaceful conduct of the poll.
 
That could explain why, while speaking to journalists on the general overview of the election environment in the state, Obaseki alleged the APC was instigating fear in the minds of the voters so as to prevent them from taking part in the civic exercise.
   
The governor, who is the standard bearer of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), also claimed that the opposition was behind the incidences of violence during the electioneering, explaining that the overall aim is to “create the impression that Edo State is not safe, such that the Federal Government could declare a state-of-emergency and postpone the election.”
 
While appealing to the opposition to give peace a chance, the governor asserted: “When they come out, they behave so lawlessly as if there is no law. The opposition party today understands how difficult it is for them to win election. Rather than trying to persuade people, they engage in all kinds of vicious propaganda.
 
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“They want to cause violence and anarchy so that the election will be postponed. We appeal to opposition party to allow peace reign in the land. We are in government. If they want to come in, they should do what the people want.
 
“We will continue to appeal to the Federal Government, we do not have the police and army.”
   
President Muhammadu Buhari had, in an interaction with stakeholders and leaders of Northeast geopolitical zone, explained that as the party in power, APC could have used the military and police to run over the strongholds of the opposition and win the votes in 2019.
 
He said his party could not do that despite the fact that he was a candidate in the election simply because there is need to show humane leadership, assuring that the governing party would continue to uphold fairness and justice in electoral competitions.

Fresh Anxieties
HOWEVER, despite President Buhari’s assurance of a level play field, new threats to the faithful observance of the INEC timetable emerged when the Court of Appeal in Abuja ruled that the electoral umpire displayed rascality in deregistering some political parties in the country.

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A panel of four justices led by the President of the Court of Appeal (PCA), Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, while upturning earlier ruling of the Federal High Court, held that INEC’s failure to adduce reasons for deregistering the parties rendered its action defective and therefore to no effect.
 
Dissatisfied with the Federal High Court ruling, which dismissed their suit No FHC/CS/444/2019 against INEC for deregistering them, the fringe political parties had approached the Court of Appeal to determine whether INEC had power to deregister 74 out of 91 registered parties in the country.
 
INEC had in February 2020, while deregistering the 74 parties based its action on the fact that the affected parties “failed to meet the criteria provided by Section 225(a) of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution as amended.”
 
But despite the Court of Appeal ruling that favoured the appellants, INEC explained that they would not participate in the Edo and Ondo states’ governorship polls.
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INEC Director of Communication and Voter Education, Festus Okoye, disclosed in a statement that the electoral body would take the matter to the Supreme Court for further judicial scrutiny.
 
Okoye noted that there was no way the deregistered parties could enjoy the fruits of the Appeal Court ruling, stressing that INEC was faced with two contradictory judgements, namely the judgement affirming INEC’s power to deregister parties and the one setting aside the de-registeration of ACD and the other 22 parties that went to court.
 
Throwing more light on the development, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said the deregistered political parties, which secured favourable judgment from the court will not participate in the Edo and Ondo gubernatorial polls.
   
He made the assertion while speaking at a webinar organised by the International Press Centre (IPC) for journalists in Ondo State preparatory to the November 10 gubernatorial election in the state.
 
Oyekanmi contended that since the time for conducting primaries by political parties under the election guidelines have elapsed, no new party would be accommodated anymore.

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Tinubu, Akeredolu Plot APC Victory
IN what many observers of the build up to the forthcoming Ondo gubernatorial election saw as an unexpected reality, one of the national leaders of the APC, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu and the incumbent, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, settled their differences in a bid to ensure victory.
 
Analysts had believed that the political ‘cold war’ between Governor Akeredolu and his estranged former godfather, Tinubu, would pose an insurmountable obstacle for his re-election.
 
Some commentators had maintained that the Ondo and Edo states governorship polls would determine whether APC would survive beyond the two-term administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, especially the uncertainty that dogs the party’s future.
 
However, going by the list of the APC Campaign Council, which contained 104 names and headed by Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwoolu, it is obvious that Tinubu is conscientiously involved in the Ondo project.
 
Most of the stalwarts on the list are pro-Tinubu bloc of the party, thereby explaining why many APC bigwigs in Ondo State, who are die-hard fans of the politician are making political U-turn to support the governor.

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Sources however said the development may not be unconnected to the presidential ambition of the national leader in 2023, even as it was gathered from reliable sources that the governor was in Bourdillon to straighten the perceived strained relationship.
   
Akeredolu had tremendously enjoyed the tutelage of the former Lagos State governor when he first made his political debut in 2012 as the governorship candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).  But they went their separate ways during the ACN National Convention in 2013, when Aketi sought the office of National Legal Adviser against Tinubu’s preferred candidate for the post.
   
Having fallen apart, Tinubu easily raised a candidate against the governor in the 2016, only for Akeredolu to win both the primary and main election with the support of Abuja mafia, who were bent on whittling down the influence of his benefactor.
 
Then, in the build up to the 2020 governorship, APC stalwarts, who cried foul of marginalisation in the Akeredolu administration cashed in on the disagreement between him and Tinubu and tried to build on Asiwaju’s influence to stop the governor.
 
Unfortunately for them, the national leader thought otherwise and threw his weight behind the governor’s reelection bid. It would be recalled that around July last year, Tinubu brokered peace between Akeredolu and his adversaries.

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New Thinking
TO the surprise of his opponents, a new thinking had come into the relationship between the former Lagos State governor and Akeredolu. Evidence of that came to light when the governor’s suspension by the APC national leadership was lifted by the immediate past National Working Committee (NWC) of the party led by Adams Oshiomhole.
 
Shortly after Oshiomhole was restored as the national chairman, about five months ago, a delegation of APC governors went to Bourdillon to pacify Tinubu over the reelection bids of Akeredolu and his Edo State counterpart, Godwin Obaseki.
   
Though Obaseki, who later decamped to the major opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), could not overcome the hurdles with Oshiomhole, it was learnt that the latter had approved direct primary option for Ondo State before he was finally sacked.
 
It was this sudden change in leadership that eventually nailed the coffin of the 11 governorship aspirants, who had vowed to send Akeredolu back to Ibadan, believing the party would consider their number and demand for direct primary option.

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The July 20, 2020 APC governorship primary was overwhelmingly won by Akeredolu and lost by other 11 contenders, though some made a U-turn few hours to the election to support his second term.
   
Waiting in vain for the gong of warfare to greet Akeredolu’s victory, to the shock of opposition parties, which had hoped to reap bountifully from the fallout of the election, all the aspirants, save Nathaniel Adojutelegan, collapsed their structures into the governor’s camp.
   
At a meeting of the APC Advisory Council held in Akure last Sunday, which was presided over by Tinubu through the former APC National Vice Chairman, South West, Chief Pius Akinyelure, all the aspirants pledged their support for Akeredolu’s re-election.
   
APC chieftains and aspirants that attended the meeting were: Chief Olusola Oke, Chief Segun Abraham, Isaac Kekemeke, B.I. Idowu, Chief Bode Summonu, Gen. Funso Oyeneyin, Bankole Oluwajana, Tayo Oluwatuyi amongst others.
   
It should be noted that as a sign of the new thinking also, Governor Akeredolu won the APC primary with a wide margin of 2,458 votes while his closet rival, Chief Oke, scored 262 votes
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Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Kekemeke, the pioneer APC state chairman and only aspirant adjudged to run the best campaign outfit for the election, said all aspirants have decided to work collectively for the success of the party.
   
Kekemeke, who is also the Secretary of the advisory council set up by Tinubu last July, said they would deliver massive votes for Akeredolu’s re-election. His words: “We have resolved that we have no other party than the APC. We have no other candidate than Akeredolu. We have decided to bury our differences and work for the victory of our party. What you are going to see from today is a bigger party, a re-engineered APC.
   
“All internal cleavages in our party have been put to rest. It is our party and we have one candidate. We are ready. We are united and we have resolved to work together in unison.”
   
Similarly, the state APC Elders Committee, which is membered by core-Tinubu loyalists, urged Governor Akeredolu to sustain his closeness with the committee as the party prepares for the November10, 2020 governorship election in the state.
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In a communiqué signed by its Chairman, Senator Olorunnimbe Farukanmi, the committee also commended the governor for uniting all aggrieved factions in the state, even as they congratulated him on his recent victory at the APC gubernatorial primary.
   
Farukanmi, while praising the other aspirants for their comportment, said the committee is full of numerous professionals that are ready to give useful ideas to enable the state achieve greater development in future.
   
The elders appealed to them to cooperate with the governor in all respects, particularly in his efforts to move the state forward in road development, water provisions, improvement of primary and secondary schools building projects among others.
   
They lauded Akeredolu for embarking on numerous development projects in his first four years, just as they expressed the hope of a greater performance within the next four years.
   
Part of the communiqué read: “The elders committee would continue to meet from time to time to consider all manners of useful development projects that will assist to move the state forward.
     
“All APC elders in the 18 local governments must continue to meet at the local goverment and state levels to work for the progress and development of the state. They will continue to mobilise the citizens to give the Ondo State government greater support.”
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However, there is said to be some reservations against the recent peace between Tinubu and Akeredolu as some elements are going about with the claim that the governor would renege on whatever promises he made to Tinubu.
 
It is not whether this negative sentiment would work against the governor, but many stakeholders said they expected the governor to pick his running mate from Tinubu’s camp. They point to Aketi’s 2012 running mate, Dr. Paul Akintelure, whom they believed to be the most suitable candidate among the rest for the job.

But, Akeredolu, it was learnt, after assuring all leaders that he had settled for Akintelure, who had all the political leverage to deliver the South District for APC, pulled a smart one and announced Lucky Aiyedatiwa instead.
   
Observers said the governor’s sudden change was to shut Tinubu out of the scheme of things, since both the go
vernor and Akintelure were products of Bourdillon’s benevolence in 2012.
 
Yet in a bid to convince all and sundry that he was not working against the Bourdillon bloc, Governor Akeredolu took his running mate, Aiyedatiwa, to Tinubu in Lagos State, ostensibly to seek the blessings of the godfather and explain the implications of his choice.

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