Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, will be allowed to run with his deputy, Philip Shaibu, on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party if he (Obaseki) emerges winner at the PDP primary slated for Tuesday, June 23, in Benin, Edo State, Saturday PUNCH has learnt.
It was gathered that this was one of the issues discussed at the meeting the governor had with leaders of the party and some of its governors in Abuja on Wednesday.
Sources at the meeting, who spoke with one of our correspondents, said Obaseki pleaded that he be allowed to run with Shaibu if he eventually won the party primary.
The governor was said to have described his deputy as a loyal friend and that he remained a pillar in what he described as the battle to rid the state of godfatherism.
The party leaders were said to have expressed support for the Obaseki/Shaibu joint ticket as the best for the coming governorship in the state.
The source said, “The meeting was held to iron out grey areas like waivers, who will become his (Obaseki’s) running mate if he wins, who will handle the campaign, funding and all that. But the governor pleaded that he should be allowed to run with his deputy if he wins the primary. And it was agreed.
“This is because we do not need to cause disaffection within the ranks of the two men. They have been together fighting the cause they believe in. Asking the governor to pick someone who has been a member of the PDP for long if he wins the primary could trigger a crisis in our party and in the ranks of the supporters of both men. So, if he wins the primary, he is free to run with his deputy.
“Apart from that, he is the one to govern with his deputy after winning the election. We do not need to impose a running mate on him if we do not want to witness a fight in Government House.”
The source added that Shaibu is also believed to be a “strong pillar behind the Obaseki government and there is no way you can remove him from the ticket they have been enjoying for four years now,” adding that “we will not progress if we say he should look for another running mate if he wins the primary.”
It was also gathered that the governor was asked if he would return to the All Progressives Congress should he win the election on the platform of the PDP.
Obaseki was said to have laughed at the suggestion, saying there was no way he would return to a house where he had been rejected.
“The governor asked us how we thought he would return to a house where he was kicked out without any reason, to which we all laughed,” the source added.
On funding, it was gathered that the governor promised that he had the capacity to mobilise his friends to raise funds for his re-election without bothering the party. This action, it was gathered, was discussed at length as the PDP was said not to be rich at the moment.
Obaseki was also said to have told the gathering that he still had friends among the governors elected on the platform of the APC who could also raise funds for him.
The source said, “We do not expect the governor to dip his hands into the government coffers to fund the election. That is not what we want. However, he told us how he raised funds for the re-election of a former governor of the state, Adams Oshiomhole.
“We trust him and we know that as the governor now, he should be able to do the same, if not more. But we did not promise him a ticket because only the people of the state can elect him.”
Speaking on whether the governor would be given an automatic ticket, the PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, told one of our correspondents that the party would not impose anyone on its members and the people of the state as its candidate.
“For us as a party, we will never impose anyone on the people and the electorate. It is for them to decide who they want as their governor. So, Obaseki is also going to compete with other aspirants,” he said.
Obaseki picks nomination form
Meanwhile, Obaseki has picked his nomination and expression of interest forms to enable him to take part in the PDP primary in the state.
The PDP National Organising Secretary, Col Austin Akobundu (retd), gave him the forms in Abuja on Friday.
Obaseki promised to abide by the party’s rules and regulations.
The PDP Chairman, Secondus, who earlier received Obaseki at the National Working Committee meeting at the party’s Legacy House in Maitama, Abuja, said the NWC members deliberated and approved his application for a waiver. He added that the governor’s deputy was also granted a waiver.
Secondus said that as a party that was guided by rules, the application came from the governor’s ward in Edo State and was recommended and endorsed by the other various organs of the party in the state.
A statement from the Secondus’ media office quoted him as saying the national chairman told the governor that by the waiver he and his deputy could vote and be voted for in the party.
Also, Secondus said the PDP had shifted the governorship primary.
He said, “The NWC has further shifted the Edo State governorship primary from an earlier slated date of Tuesday, June 23 to a new date of Thursday June 25, 2020.
“The shift is again predicated on exigencies of party activities.”
Obaseki, Shaibu defect to PDP amid jubilation, pick party registration cards
After days of speculations, Obaseki and Shaibu on Friday defected to the PDP in Benin City, Edo State capital.
Amid songs and dancing, his supporters said they were happy to return with him to the PDP.
The governor, accompanied by a large entourage, including some commissioners and local government chairmen, arrived at the state headquarters of the PDP along First East Circular Road at about 2.15pm.
He and his deputy then proceeded to the state PDP chairman’s office to receive their party registration cards.
Their action put to rest several days of speculations following Obaseki’s meetings with PDP governors across the country, as a result of his disqualification by the All Progressives Congress screening committee from contesting the party’s primary on June 22.
The governor had on June 16 announced his resignation from the APC after visiting the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), in Abuja, while his deputy also followed suit in Benin on the same day.
During their defection to the PDP on Friday, there was a massive crowd at the state office of the PDP, with some of their supporters defying the COVID-19 guideline on social distancing and use of face masks.
The governor and his deputy were received by members of the state executive of the PDP, including the state chairman, Dr Tony Aziegbemi; and the PDP Vice-Chairman (South-South), Chief Emmanuel Ogidi.
Shortly after his registration, Obaseki said, “I am here this afternoon to inform you that following my resignation from the APC, I have now decided, having consulted widely within the state and across the country, to become a member of the PDP.
“The Peoples Democratic Party, in my view, has demonstrated and shown that it is a party that is rooted in democratic practices, the party that believes in justice and fairness.
Following his speech, the state party chairman, Aziegbemi, immediately declared Obaseki the PDP leader in Edo State.
Speaking with journalists later, Obaseki noted, “I have mixed feelings with this action. First, one struggled to form a party and after forming that party, those that benefitted from the party took over the party and became tyrants.
“It is not always easy that after one helped to form and nurture a party, one individual would say he is an Adolf Hitler in the system and becomes undemocratic. That was what happened in the APC.”
Shaibu, however, expressed his loyalty to the Edo people, noting that their calls for the governor and his team to join the PDP had been heard.
PDP screens Obaseki today
The PDP has approved the continuation of the screening of aspirants for the election.
With this, Obaseki is to face the screening committee at the party’s secretariat in Abuja.
Earlier, three aspirants, Gideon Ikhine, Ogbeide Ihama and Kenneth Imansuangbon, had been screened by the committee.
I won’t step down for Obaseki, even in my dreams – Imasuagbon, PDP aspirant
Meanwhile, a PDP governorship aspirant, Mr Kenneth Imasuagbon, has vowed that he will not succumb to internal or external pressure to step down for Obaseki to secure the party ticket.
Imasuagbon said it would be absurd for him to abandon his political struggle for the past 16 years to become a governor by stepping aside for Obaseki who joined the party a few days to the primary.
He said, “The contemplation of me stepping down is preposterous. You can’t ask me to step down after my (political) struggle for the past 16 years. Why? How do I explain that to the people who laboured for me in the past 16 years? Even in the dream, I can’t have such a thought.
“Nobody should reach out to me. That is of no value to me. There is no advantage to him (Obaseki). Let there not be intimidation or any form of manipulation of the process by the leadership of the party at the national level,” he said during an interview with one of our correspondents on Friday.
Imasuagbon, who lost to Obaseki in the 2016 governorship primary of the APC, said the PDP would be making the biggest mistake by handing the governorship ticket to the governor because his administration left much to be desired.
He also described the crisis between Obaseki and Oshiomhole as the consequence for allegedly imposing the former on the APC in 2016.
He said, “It (Obaseki’s government) is a failed administration because he has not delivered on his promises. He promised 200,000 jobs but he has not been able to deliver them. Schools and hospitals are dilapidated. There are security concerns everywhere. The roads are still bad and some members of the House of Assembly have not been inaugurated.
“Nobody has the kind of appeal that I have. You can sample the opinions of Edo people about the ‘Rice Man.’ Ninety per cent of Edo people want me to become governor. But a few elite who are not up to 0.5 per cent are standing in my way. But God will remove them for me to pass. If they manipulate the results, they will face the consequence. I told Oshiomhole when he brought Obaseki in 2016 that God would fight for me.
Where are the godson and the godfather today? The crisis within the APC between the governor and Oshiomhole is as a result of the injustice they did to me. Nemesis has caught up with them. If the PDP does the same, there will be consequences.”
However, there were indications that one of the PDP aspirants, Mr Gideon Ikhine, may step down for Obaseki.
Atiku, Saraki, Wike, Okowa, Reps pledge support for Obaseki
Following his defection to the PDP on Friday, top members of the party have expressed support for Obaseki.
Those who welcomed the governor to the party include a former Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar; ex-Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki; Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike; and Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa.
Atiku, who was the PDP presidential candidate in the 2019 general elections, said he was happy that the governor had “finally exited the oppressive ruling party and joined the truly democratic party in Nigeria.”
Also, Saraki, in a statement by his media aide, Yusuph Olaniyonu, said the bigger commendation and appreciation should go to the leaders of the Edo State chapter of the PDP at the various levels for their “sense of sacrifice, patriotism and devotion to the progress of the party” in accepting Obaseki.
The ex-Senate President also mocked the suspended APC national chairman (Oshiomhole).
He said, “The truth is always constant and no matter how far falsehood travels, the truth will catch up with it one day. Oshiomhole can fool people for a long time but he cannot fool the people all the time. What is happening to him now is a moment of truth.”
Wike also expressed happiness with the defection of his Edo State counterpart.
Shortly after Obaseki joined the party, Wike tweeted a picture of the embattled governor flashing a copy of the PDP’s constitution, with the caption, “Welcome to the @OfficialPDPNig.”
In the same vein, Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, pledged to work for Obaseki’s re-election.
The Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Ndudi Elumelu, also welcomed Obaseki to the PDP.
Edo APC faction rejects Uzodinma-led committee
In a related manner, a factional chairman of the APC in Edo State, Anslem Ojezua, on Friday rejected the Hope Uzodinma-led committee constituted by the National Working Committee of the party to conduct direct primary in the state.
We won’t miss Obaseki –APC
Meanwhile, the APC has dismissed claims that the defection of the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, would affect its electoral fortunes in the forthcoming governorship election.
In an interview on Friday, APC National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, said the governor’s departure from the party was of no consequence to the APC.
He said, “It has not come to us as a surprise. We knew he had defected long ago because he resigned his membership of the party which we have accepted. So, you can’t defect twice. So if he is defecting again, we don’t know whether what he has just done now is news any longer.”