The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is having a tough time in trying to get Edo State Governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki, to emerge unopposed during its primary slated for tomorrow. Despite sustained pressure on other contenders for the party’s governorship ticket for the September election, they have so far refused to budge.
The three governorship aspirants, Gideon Ikhine, Ogbeide-Ihama and Mr Kenneth Imasuagbon, have so far rebuffed pressures from leaders of the party for them to step down for Obaseki who formally defected to the party last Friday along with his deputy, Hon. Philip Shuaibu.
Before Obaseki’s defection, the PDP had screened and cleared the trio for the primary which was supposed to have been concluded by the weekend.
However, Obaseki’s defection, after a series of negotiations with the party leadership, turned out to be a game-changer, which prompted the party to delay the primary by three days.
Ahead of the Tuesday’s primary, Obaseki yesterday met with Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa; Chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, Hon. Aminu Tambawul and the Rivers State Governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike, in Port Harcourt to strategise on how to get him the ticket.
It was gathered that a meeting held Saturday night between key leaders of the PDP and the three governorship aspirants ended in a deadlock. This followed the refusal of Imasuagbon and Ogbeide-Ihama to yield to the pressure being mounted by party leaders and other groups for them to step down for Obaseki.
In furtherance of the bid to persuade the trio to step them for Obaseki, some governors of PDP-controlled states, led by Okowa, and the party’s National Assembly lawmakers arrived in Benin City yesterday, to join forces with the state chapter of the party to persuade the three governorship aspirants, including Ikhine, to step down in the overall interest of the party.
Imasuagbon, in a telephone interview with THISDAY yesterday, vowed not to step down for Obaseki or anybody, stressing that doing so will jeopardise his 16 years’ dream and financial commitment to the governorship project. Imasuagbon said he expected Obaseki to step down for him considering his years of aspiration, funds and psychological implications such exercise would have caused him.
“I cannot step down for Obaseki; he should be the one to step down for me. I am not going to step down for anybody. We have concluded ward and local government congress before Obaseki came.
“Action by those calling for a stepdown must be condemned by all; it is wicked and undemocratic. The military can’t do this; we don’t have democracy in Nigeria, what we have is autocracy. There is no morality in all this. He (Obaseki) can’t push my dream of 16 years away. Thank God for the position of Benin monarch, Oba Ewuare 11 who said he needs peace to prevail and that there should be no godfatherism,” he added.
On whether there is pressure coming from eminent personalities, key leaders and elders of the PDP, Imasuagbon said: “Yes, there is pressure from them. But it is not about pressure, but about doing the right thing in line with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, due process and the Electoral Act.
“It is disappointing and a big shame in Edo State and the entire nation and it portends danger for the country and the party. Nigerians should rise up against what is happening. We are not in the jungle; it is not a do-or-die affair, but about the process. It is totally unacceptable.”
However, when contacted, Ogbeide-Ihama said he was in a meeting and not disposed to making any comment.
On his part, Ikhine said he had resolved to make his position known today.
However, Obaseki yesterday met with Okowa, Tambawul and Wike in Port Harcourt to strategise on the party’s primary.
THISDAY gathered that the main purpose of the meeting was for Wike to prevail on the immediate past Chairman of the PDP in Edo State, Chief Dan Orbih, to prevail on his associates in the governorship race to step down for Obaseki. Wike and Orbih have very close ties.
A source privy to the meeting told THISDAY that both Ogbeide-Ihama from Edo South senatorial district and Imasuagbon from Edo Central are Orbih’s political associates. According to the source, it is believed that any pressure from Orbih would help soften the grounds for Obaseki to emerge as the consensus gubernatorial candidate of the PDP in Edo State.
In previous meetings between Obaseki and the aspirants, it was gathered that attempts to make them drop their governorship ambitions fell through.
THISDAY gathered that Imasuagbon and Ikhine demanded a concrete agreement that the governorship slot in 2024 should be a non-negotiable deal and that the PDP Edo Central senatorial district should produce the governorship candidate
Edo South has produced Lucky Igbinedion who governed Edo State for two terms of eight years while Edo North produced Obaseki’s predecessor, Adams Oshiomhole, who was governor for eight years.
The only time, Edo Central produced the governor of the state was through Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor, whose election was eventually invalidated by the election tribunal that installed Oshiomhole.
This time, the zone is insisting that before their sons who are aspirants should step down, they should extract a concrete agreement on this. Orbih is seen as a political leader in the zone in the capacity of a former Chairman, PDP Board of Trustees, the late Chief Tony Anenih.
Spokesman for the Ikhine Campaign Organisation, Edo Restoration 2020, Tony Okonigene, said in a statement that they had urged their principal to ensure that Obaseki was elected governor on September 19.
Okonigene in a statement, said: “We have advised our principal, Gideon Ikhine, accordingly and he will be making his position known to the public in a press briefing on Monday, June 22, by 12 noon in his campaign headquarters, Benin.
“In reaching his decision, Ikhine will take into consideration the overall interest of the party and the future wellbeing of Edo State above his personal ambition.”
Meanwhile, no fewer than 10,000 members of the APC in Igueben Local Government Area of Edo State, on Saturday defected to the PDP to join Obaseki and Shuaibu in the party.
The defectors who are from the 10 wards in Igueben LGA, were received by leaders of the PDP in the LGA.
It was gathered that the PDP LGA Chairman, Mr. Liberty Ugboh, while presenting party membership cards to the defectors, thanked them for their foresight in joining the PDP, and assured them of equal treatment like any bonafide member of the party.
Those who defected from APC to PDP include the Edo State Commissioner for Infrastructure, Mr John Osagie Inegbedion; Executive Chairman Igueben Local Govt, Dr. Josie Ogedegbe ll; member representing Igueben constituency in the Edo State House of Assembly, Hon Ephraim Aluebhosele; Edo State Deputy Chief of Staff, Kingsley Ehijamusor; Eson of Igueben Kingdom, Queen Sarah Eluojierior (SA gender).
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