The mode of picking the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate for the September 19 governorship election remained contentious on Sunday night.
There is yet no final decision on whether the shadow poll billed for June 22 will be conducted using direct primary or indirect primary.
While the National Working Committee (NWC) of APC has approved the use of direct primary, a system that will enable all card-carrying members of the party to participate in picking the candidate, Governor Godwin Obaseki and his supporters are rooting for indirect primary, in which delegates will pick the candidate on behalf of party members.
The governor has been lobbying the Presidency to overrule the NWC.
The President, it was learnt is in dilemma.
The rift over the mode of primary has shifted to the court as the camp of National Chairman Adams Oshionhole intensified its campaigns against Obaseki’s re’election bid.
Five aspirants will square it up Obaseki for the ticket. They are: Pius Odubu, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Chris Ogiemwonyi, Matthew Iduoriyekemwen and Osabo Obazee.
Edo Central APC leader, Chief Francis Inegbeniki, who is a loyalist of the former governor, has catalogued “50 sins” of Obaseki which are enough grounds to stop his renomination for second term.
He said majority of party members could no longer trust Obaseki and his deputy Philip Shaibu because of their infractions against the national chairman, other party chieftains and members of the House of Assembly.
A source said the governor’s camp, which is understandably jittery over the slim prospects of survival during the direct primary, is mustering all arsenals at its disposal to get a sympathetic ear of the Presidency.
The governor’s supporters have consistently pointed out the danger of a direct primary, which they claimed, does not permit social distance at this time of COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the source, the Presidency is contemplating compelling the party leadership to call a National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting.
However, to the anti-Obaseki forces, there should be no going back on direct primary because it more effectively guarantees social distancing.
They explained that, under the direct primary arrangement, party members are expected to vote in their wards, instead of travelling to Benin City, the state capital, for the shadow poll.
Apart from the advantage of inclusiveness and sense of belonging which the direct option can guarantee, collation of results which will reflect the general wish of the chapter on governorship standard bearer can be ascertained.
The pro-direct primary crusaders also fear that the indirect system will bring thousands of delegates together at a venue in Benin, thereby grossly violating social distancing in a congested venue.
The source said: “The generality of Edo APC, leaders and members have welcomed the directive of the NWC on direct primary. People are enthusiastic down to the wards. But the camp of Governor Obaseki is fueling the unfounded fear that a direct primary will violate social distancing.
“Now, the Presidency is contemplating a NEC meeting to discuss the Edo primary and take a final decision. The truth of the matter is that direct primary will enhance social distancing because party members will only vote at the wards and the results will be collated.
“This is a wide departure from indirect option whereby delegates in their thousands will converge on a hall in Benin. It will be congested and violate social distancing. But, as it is now, a final decision would still have to be taken on the Edo APC primary.”
Justifying why Obaseki cannot be trusted with a second term, Inegbeniki alleged that “in the last three and half years, the Obaseki government had made life difficult and almost unbearable for Edo people, and some party members victimised unjustly.”
He accused the governor of maltreatment, illegal arrests and detention of chieftains, imposition of candidate for state and National Asembly elections, non-challant attitude that led to electoral defeat at his ward, constituency and district, illegal suspension of Gen. Charles Ariabhere and other chieftains from the ruling party, and refusal to inaugurate 14 APC members of House of Assembly.
The party stalwart in an advertorial also flayed the governor for the attack on state lawmakers by suspected thugs loyal to the state government, sacking of eight commissioners and special advisers loyal to Oshiomhole, litigation against the nomination of former Deputy Governor Pius Odubu as NIger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) chairman, illegal removal of council chairmen, hostility to the Edo Peoples Movement (EPM), disruption of party meetings and lobbying for the removal of Oshiomhole as chairman.
Inegbeniki said Obaseki sealed up the hotel belonging to Comrade Osakpomwan Eriyo, adding that he also ordered the seizure of his working equipment, including caterpillars and excavators.
He said on December 3 last year, Obaseki ordered that the seats of 14 state lawmakers-elect should be declared vacant, adding the electoral umpire should conduct by-elections to fill the positions.
Inegbeniki said the governor also banned political rallies and gatherings by threatening to revoke certificates of occupancy of venues hosting such gatherings.
Other “sins” include resistance to the defection of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu to APC, lying against Oshiomhole that he was pushing for his impeachment, instigating thugs to attack Prof. Julius Ihonvbere’s constituency office, threatening to deal with Oshiomhole and demolition of the hotel belonging to Comrade Tony Kabaka Adun.
He said Obaseki revoked the C of O of properties belonging to Dr. Odubu, Ihonvbere, Chief Elamah and other party leaders.
Inegbeniki added: “Therefore, APC members, leaders in Edo State and the electorate cannot forget in a hurry all these activities under the governor’s watch. Affliction shall not rise up the second time. No second term for Godwin Obaseki in Edo State.”
But the governor’s camp has denied the allegations as tissues of lies that are baseless and unfounded.
Special Adviser to the governor on Media Crusoe Osagie urged residents to discountenance the infractions listed by the APC chief.
He described the allegation that the governor has no first-degree certificate as lame and baseless.
Osagie said the Edo People’s Movement (EPM), the platform opposed to Obaseki’s government, “is a dissident group created to destabilise the APC in Edo state.”
He said: “For the umpteenth time, we are saying clearly that the accusation is false. It is also a lie that Governor Obaseki did not win his ward during the last general election. Records don’t lie; people should substantiate their allegations with facts. His ward is Oredo Ward 4, they should go and check.”
On whether Obaseki obtained a first degree certificate, he urged the people behind the allegation to go and confirm from the management of the University of Ibadan.
He said: “The university has the records of its graduates. Governor Obaseki delivered the institution’s Alumni Lecture in 2018. Would they have invited him if he did not graduate from the university?
“These people should concede that they have lost power in Edo state and that will first be confirmed during the June 22 Primary Election and finally come September 19 governorship election. Governor Obaseki will win the elections.
“They just want to distract his attention with the allegations. We urged Nigerians and Edo people to discountenance the allegations by the EPM. There is no iota of truth in them.”