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Edo Guber-Election: INEC is Ready, Who Else is Ready?

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The long wait for the electoral umpire’s readiness to conduct the Edo and Ondo States Gubernatorial Elections is over as the electoral body Last week rolled out its plans despite the subsisting COVID-19 pandemic.

Constitutionally, Political Parties have the legal rights and backings to showcase what they have got in their lockers to offer the society.

In a contest of it, it is what they perhaps believe will change the narratives following the recent affirmation of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to conduct elections in Edo and Ondo States.

Preliminary preparations had started before the blueprint set-aside by the electoral umpire.

Similarly, as expected, Parties have also provided or fixed dates to conduct its primaries to select from the pool of interested Aspirants cut across political affiliations.

Unarguably, two Political Parties, the Ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, and the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, seem to have announced its readiness to challenge the forthcoming elections in the two states.

The battle is seemly between the two rivalry parties despite the existence of over fifty registered political parties vying for the Governorship seats in the two states.

For INEC, a new Electoral Commissioner had been appointed to conduct the elections in the two states.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the country which has shown no sign of abating, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) disclosed that there was no going back on the conduct of both Edo and Ondo States gubernatorial elections to avert a constitutional crisis.

Professor Mahmood Yakubu - INEC Chairman
Professor Mahmood Yakubu – INEC Chairman

The electoral body also revealed that the timetable and schedule of activities for the two elections would be released on June 1, 2020.

The INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Voter Education and Publicity, Mr Festus Okoye, stated this while featuring on a telecast.

He stated categorically that it was not the electoral body that was insisting that the governorship elections in the two states to be conducted but it is the constitution.

Okoye said that if INEC fails to conduct the two elections within the constitutional time frame, it means the electoral body has lost its rights to fix the date for elections and that responsibility would now fall on the political authority under Sections 180 and 305 to fix a date for elections.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Thursday approved a new policy framework known as Policy on Conducting Elections in the Context of COVID-19 Pandemic.

These status taken by INEC, affirms its preparedness to conduct elections in the two states.

As part of preparations for the governorship election in Ondo and Edo states, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has released the timetable for the election of its governorship candidates in the two states, stating that sale of forms will commence on June 22 while a notice of election to the state will be issued on June 2.

On a flip side, The ruling All Progressives Congress APC had earlier announced Monday, June 22 and Monday, July 20 for its governorship primary elections in Edo and Ondo states.

This, however, Put to bed all insinuations whether the parties could come up with their electoral processes and guidelines.

THE CANDIDATES.

With the confirmation of the primaries by both leading parties, attention genuinely would have been shifted to who flies the party flag.

For the ruling party, APC, the incumbent governor, Godwin Obaseki is poised and highly seeking reelection to continue as Governor for the next four years.

His desire to retain his seat is seriously being contested first, by other aspirants within his party.

Those who are linning up against his request are Former Deputy Governor, Dr Pius Odubu, Two Former PDP candidates, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Major General Charles Airhiavbere and General Chris Ogiemwonyi.

Similarly, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Also has in its ranks, a serving Rep, Hon Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, Former House of Representatives Member, Hon Engr. Ifaluyi Isibor, Engr. Gideon Ikhine and unrelenting Barr Kenneth Imansuagbon, the Rice Man.

Most contestants have continued to push for the seat of the incumbent believing that they could wrest power from him.

Going by their antecedents, they are convinced of pulling strange strings in the coming days, trusting and probably relying on the will power of the National Chairman of their party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole whose body language is suggestive of pulling down the second tenure bid of the incumbent governor.

Since the last National and State Assembly elections, the romance between, Adams Oshiomhole and his successor, Godwin Obaseki have fallen apart, thereby, creating heightened tensions around the political space in the state.

The climax of their lingering disagreements was the proclamation of the Edo state House of Assembly which generated so much acrimony.

Oshiomhole, according to multiple reports, had asked the Governor to abate some of the already proclaimed members and conduct a fresh exercise to accommodate those elected members who reportedly refused to be commissioned.

This was vehemently turned down by the Governor who believed that the Constitution does not permit a second proclamation.

This further caused a crack in the wall leading to factions and the birth of Edo People’s movement, EPM, and Obaseki Shaibu Movement, OSM, in the party.

With some factions loyal to Oshiomhole and the other to Governor Obaseki, the battle for party supremacy became the trending sequence.

Majority of the EPM group had claimed in their agitations that they were neglected after fighting to secure the election victory process in 2015 to ensure the governor beat others in the election that made him succeeded the former governor Adams Oshiomhole.

But for Governor Godwin Obaseki, he says, he wouldn’t want to share the common patrimony of the state to idle politicians who only depends on largesse from the state to furnish them.

Consistently and repeatedly, the Governor had affirmed he will never part with it to serve them.

All attempts to wade into their differences by some party men and outsiders, couldn’t come to fruition but rather widened the gap of any relationship between the duo.

On its part, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, who is expected to pull a serious contention, seems to have a deeper crisis rocking them within its belts.

Observers would have believed that with the conduct of it state Congress that brought the emergence of Hon Tony Aziegbemi as the Party-state Chairman, aggrieved members would have shielded their swords.

Instead, however, some members are contending with the legitimacy of his leadership and currently challenging his election in court.

Despite Aziegbami admitting that he is doing everything to reach out to aggrieved members, the party is towing a self-isolation, as members had chosen to go to the leaders they have trusted.

One of those who contested against the now Party Chairman, Fred Okha said he doubted any serious moves as claimed by Aziegbami to reconcile the warring factions

Recall that in its recently conducted Congress, Fred Okha was visibly absent and no reason was attributed to that rather than his displeasures over the role played to oust him by the outgone Chairman, Chief Dan Orbih.

“It is a simple thing, they need to reach out to all because we all belong to the same party so that the issues can be settled but I don’t think much is being done in that direction. The chairman called me once after the state congress and promised to visit me but I have not heard from him since then,” he said.

When also Contacted on the numbers of those that have obtained interest form, the Publicity Secretary, Chris Nehikhare, said only two have obtained their forms.

For the umpteenth times, the party Publicity Secretary Nehikhare and other party leaders have denied any division in the party

He said, “Hon Ogbeide Ihama and Kenneth Imasuagbon (Rice Man) have so far obtained interest forms. I got to know because they told me. The forms can only be obtained in Abuja”. There’s no division in our party. We are preparing seriously for the primaries as well as the state elections”.

Multiple reports have it that, the party other than the court issues, is also perceived to be facing the challenge of Zoning the ticket to a particular senatorial district.

The transverse waves have especially taken the APC and PDP to different directions with its primaries less than a month and the supporters of both divides hoping better and transparent elections will be conducted.

PARTIES INDIRECT AND DIRECT PRIMARIES

Arguably and Ordinarily, primaries are the exclusive reservations of political parties which should have no business of the general public.

What this implies is that, during the primary elections of any party, assessment of individuals are carried out within the party frame to ascertain who will offer the best candidature to front the party without interference from those who are not card-carrying members.

However, in Nigeria, where internal democracy is vague, it is simplistic for the public to overlook party primaries that are ever deliberately created.

The ruling All Progressives Congress APC had announced Monday, June 22 and Monday, July 20 for its governorship primary elections in Edo and Ondo states

APC in a notice by its National Organizing Secretary, Emma Ibediro fixed the cost of its nomination and expression of interest forms for N22.5 million cumulatively.

While there is no separate charge for running mates, female and physically challenged aspirants, were however given a 50 percent rebate.

In the same vein, PDP also fixed Tuesday, June 23, for Edo primary, and Wednesday, July 22 for Ondo guber primary.

The announcement trailed the decision by the electoral umpire, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to stick with its initial plan amid coronavirus crisis.

Afterwards, the Edo state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) on Friday said it is adopting the indirect primary method for the emergence of the party’s flagship in the September 19, 2020 governorship election in the state.

The National Working Committee (NWC) had in the early hours of Friday said it has adopted direct primary option, where all registered party members will elect for the governorship flagships.

However, speaking recently to newsmen, Anselm Ojezua, Edo state chairman of APC, said the NWC lacks the power to impose the direct method on the state as the National Executive Committee (NEC) had clearly stated that each state is at liberty to adopt any method it prefers.

According to him, stakeholders in Edo APC just concluded a crucial meeting where they adopted the indirect or delegate primary method.

He said: “The NWC cannot decide the mode of the primary. The decision of the National Executive Committee (NEC) is very clear and that is, every state will choose the mode of primary it wants and notify the NWC for them to act on.”

“In that regard, we have just concluded our meeting here today, made up of the State Executive Committee and the statutory national delegates to the convention.

“We have adopted the indirect primary method as the preferred mode for the governorship election. We are preparing the resolution and very soon, we will prepare a statement to that effect,” he said.

With the overbearing interests, firing from all corners seeking the esteemed Governorship seat in Edo State, this is an appropriate time to reflect on the belief of, “INEC is Ready”, “Who Else is Ready?

Already, party primaries have been scheduled to determine its flagships for the contest.

This is thus a good junction to draw attention to the best way to handle the events as well as how stakeholders should function during the period.

For the records reflecting in some national dallies, the ruling APC evolved temperamental processes for primaries for the 2019 elections. In some states, the primaries were ‘indirect’ while they were ‘direct’ in others with similar circumstances.

In some other states, the party used what it called ‘consensus’ while a fourth method is known as ‘automatic ticket’.

In Ogun state, the case was decided differently, rejecting primaries not supervised by the national body thereby introducing a new terminology described as “Off-shore rigging” by former governor Ibikunle Amosun.

Reflecting on instances of electoral crisis within same political parties, many would want to raise onerous track with the possible likelihood of concealing where and when nomination forms are sold as well as when and where the party primaries would likely hold.

Going by the recurring decimal, if Edo State is not expecting what happened to Pat Utomi in Delta, Nuhu Ribadu in Adamawa and many other locations where election results were fabricated to happen, attention must be drawn to such permutations.

These illegalities would at the end snowball heavily on peace, tranquillity and choice of the electorate.

It would, therefore, be naïve for Edo delegates and voters to be unaware of the likelihood of electoral chicanery in the coming primaries and even the governorship election.

Going by the recent steps to conduct direct primaries and other related issues, Indeed, events are already showing the determination of the national leadership of the party to overwhelm the incumbent Governor, Godwin Obaseki.

The perception has led to actions and reactions from Obaseki’s camp.

They alleged that officials have already cancelled the prospects of both a consensus candidate and an automatic ticket which existed when other states had theirs earlier.

In fact, whether the primaries are direct or indirect, Edo would be no doubt, become an endangered environment for as long as issues are shrouded in national leadership discretion.

Recall that, the party’s Deputy National Chairman (North), Senator Lawan Shuaibu, revealed that whatever regulations are made for the process would violate Article 20 (v) on page 76 of the APC constitution as amended because the National Executive Committee which hardly meets is the only organ empowered to approve guidelines and regulations as well as the mode of nominating candidates.

This is as the immediate past national chairman, Chief Odigie Oyegun fears, equity, fairness and transparency appear unattainable.

In a recent publication by Tony Iredia, he queried the motive behind the division in the party.

In the statement ascribed to him, he said, “Sadly, APC may not avoid a repeat of Zamfara because while the Edo branch originally led by Anslem Ojezua is adopting the indirect method because the National Executive Committee grants to each state, the right to adopt its preferred method, Oshiomhole’s National Working Committee has approved direct primaries for the state. Therein lies the logjam sensed by Senator Shuaibu”.

Continuing, he reiterated that, the possibility of reconciling both sides appears quite slim as the party is yet to resolve the differences between the factions in the state.

However, Accordingly, it behoves the average party member and the electorate to use their initiative to save the state from disintegration. In reaching a patriotic decision, party members have several issues to consider.

First, to retain the state Should be an ultimate priority. With the way the formation of the party is fractioning, the leadership of the party must leave sentiments and follow a part reasonable enough for sustainability.

Like Governor Obaseki, most of the governorship aspirants are from Edo South understandably the district to which the position is currently zoned to.

It will be exceedingly illogical to twist Edo Central’s arm and expect to concede for another eight years, plus the four years of the present dispensation and vote for any candidate that is being prodded by an Edo North godfather.

Some observers believe Quite frankly that, these glaring permutations will be the worst to believe even though some prominent sons of Edo Central have yielded sheepishly to the perceived onslaught against the Governor.

For any kind of reconciliation, leaders of the ruling party must firm-up and implore serious practical intervention to restore peace if they must continue to dominate the political space for years to come.

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